Thursday, December 25, 2008

Pope Benedict's Christmas Day Message to "ALL"

Each year on Christmas Day, the Pope usually issues a major address to the world. It's officially called the "Urbi et orbi" address, Latin for "To the City and to the World." Today's address is Benedict's meditation on the state of the world today, and he shows an incredible insight into the difficult times we all face today, but his message is ultimately one filled with hope. He especially urges us ALL to work together to face the future.

The official English-language translation of the text follows:

"The grace of God our Saviour has appeared to all" (Tit 2:11, Vulg.)

Dear brothers and sisters, in the words of the Apostle Paul, I once more joyfully proclaim Christ’s Birth. Today "the grace of God our Saviour" has truly "appeared to all"!

It appeared! This is what the Church celebrates today. The grace of God, rich in goodness and love, is no longer hidden. It "appeared", it was manifested in the flesh, it showed its face. Where? In Bethlehem. When? Under Caesar Augustus, during the first census, which the Evangelist Luke also mentions. And who is the One who reveals it? A newborn Child, the Son of the Virgin Mary. In him the grace of God our Saviour has appeared. And so that Child is called Jehoshua, Jesus, which means: "God saves".

The grace of God has appeared. That is why Christmas is a feast of light. Not like the full daylight which illumines everything, but a glimmer beginning in the night and spreading out from a precise point in the universe: from the stable of Bethlehem, where the divine Child was born. Indeed, he is the light itself, which begins to radiate, as portrayed in so many paintings of the Nativity. He is the light whose appearance breaks through the gloom, dispels the darkness and enables us to understand the meaning and the value of our own lives and of all history. Every Christmas crib is a simple yet eloquent invitation to open our hearts and minds to the mystery of life. It is an encounter with the immortal Life which became mortal in the mystic scene of the Nativity: a scene which we can admire here too, in this Square, as in countless churches and chapels throughout the world, and in every house where the name of Jesus is adored.

The grace of God has appeared to all. Jesus – the face of the "God who saves", did not show himself only for a certain few, but for everyone. Although it is true that in the simple and lowly dwelling of Bethlehem few persons encountered him, still he came for all: Jews and Gentiles, rich and poor, those near and those far away, believers and non-believers… for everyone. Supernatural grace, by God’s will, is meant for every creature. Yet each human person needs to accept that grace, to utter his or her own "yes", like Mary, so that his or her heart can be illumined by a ray of that divine light. It was Mary and Joseph, who that night welcomed the incarnate Word, awaiting it with love, along with the shepherds who kept watch over their flocks (cf. Lk 2:1-20). A small community, in other words, which made haste to adore the Child Jesus; a tiny community which represents the Church and all people of good will. Today too those who await him, who seek him in their lives, encounter the God who out of love became our brother – all those who turn their hearts to him, who yearn to see his face and to contribute to the coming of his Kingdom. Jesus himself would say this in his preaching: these are the poor in spirit; those who mourn, the meek, those who thirst for justice; the merciful, the pure of heart, the peacemakers, and those persecuted for righteousness’ sake (cf. Mt 5:3-10). They are the ones who see in Jesus the face of God and then set out again, like the shepherds of Bethlehem, renewed in heart by the joy of his love.

Brothers and sisters, all you who are listening to my words: this proclamation of hope – the heart of the Christmas message – is meant for all men and women. Jesus was born for everyone, and just as Mary, in Bethlehem, offered him to the shepherds, so on this day the Church presents him to all humanity, so that each person and every human situation may come to know the power of God’s saving grace, which alone can transform evil into good, which alone can change human hearts, making them oases of peace.

May the many people who continue to dwell in darkness and the shadow of death (cf. Lk 1:79) come to know the power of God’s saving grace! May the divine Light of Bethlehem radiate throughout the Holy Land, where the horizon seems once again bleak for Israelis and Palestinians. May it spread throughout Lebanon, Iraq and the whole Middle East. May it bring forth rich fruit from the efforts of all those who, rather than resigning themselves to the twisted logic of conflict and violence, prefer instead the path of dialogue and negotiation as the means of resolving tensions within each country and finding just and lasting solutions to the conflicts troubling the region. This light, which brings transformation and renewal, is besought by the people of Zimbabwe, in Africa, trapped for all too long in a political and social crisis which, sadly, keeps worsening, as well as the men and women of the Democratic Republic of Congo, especially in the war-torn region of Kivu, Darfur, in Sudan, and Somalia, whose interminable sufferings are the tragic consequence of the lack of stability and peace. This light is awaited especially by the children living in those countries, and the children of all countries experiencing troubles, so that their future can once more be filled with hope.

Wherever the dignity and rights of the human person are trampled upon; wherever the selfishness of individuals and groups prevails over the common good; wherever fratricidal hatred and the exploitation of man by man risk being taken for granted; wherever internecine conflicts divide ethnic and social groups and disrupt peaceful coexistence; wherever terrorism continues to strike; wherever the basics needed for survival are lacking; wherever an increasingly uncertain future is regarded with apprehension, even in affluent nations: in each of these places may the Light of Christmas shine forth and encourage all people to do their part in a spirit of authentic solidarity. If people look only to their own interests, our world will certainly fall apart.

Dear brothers and sisters, today, "the grace of God our Saviour has appeared" (cf. Tit 2:11) in this world of ours, with all its potential and its frailty, its advances and crises, its hopes and travails. Today, there shines forth the light of Jesus Christ, the Son of the Most High and the son of the Virgin Mary: "God from God, light from light, true God from true God. For us men, and for our salvation, he came down from heaven". Let us adore him, this very day, in every corner of the world, wrapped in swaddling clothes and laid in a lowly manger. Let us adore him in silence, while he, still a mere infant, seems to comfort us by saying: Do not be afraid, "I am God, and there is no other" (Is 45:22). Come to me, men and women, peoples and nations, come to me. Do not be afraid: I have come to bring you the love of the Father, and to show you the way of peace.

Let us go, then, brothers and sisters! Let us make haste, like the shepherds on that Bethlehem night. God has come to meet us; he has shown us his face, full of grace and mercy! May his coming to us not be in vain! Let us seek Jesus, let us be drawn to his light which dispels sadness and fear from every human heart. Let us draw near to him with confidence, and bow down in humility to adore him. Merry Christmas to all!

PHOTO: AP/Alessandra Tarantino

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Why no Mass at Midnight?

There's been a small change at St. Anselm this year. We'll celebrate our Mass at Night on Christmas Eve at 10:00 p.m. instead of Midnight.

I've gotten lots of great positive comments about this move. Our musicians and other liturgical ministers have been most enthusiastic about this decision. It seems that previously, singing and ministering at the Mass at Midnight was a huge inconvenience, and hurt their celebration of the Nativity of the Lord.

Realizing that it's most unrealistic to expect a Midnight Mass in a suburban parish with only one priest, we've gone to a more manageable schedule...that won't kill anyone....clergy or musicians, or other liturgical ministers.

I'm sure there will be many people who will interpret this move as "another example of going backwards." Not so. Pay no attention to those "prophets of doom."

I think this is a move forward, and being more realistic, and more sensitive to the real nature of our parishioners, many of whom are elderly. I think it's also more family-friendly. I also think it's more sensitive to the fact that more people want to celebrate Christmas with a Christmas Eve liturgy so that they can focus Christmas Day on their family celebrations.

Come to Mass, and pray well. Sing the liturgy, and join in the prayers, the wonderful Words of the Gospel, and join in the fellowship of the people who have been renewed, redeemed, and envigorated in living the Gospel of the Lord, who came to live with us always, as "God with us," Emmanuel! Come Lord Jesus.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Gaudete Monday

Let's share the joy of these last days before Christmas. Let's share favorite pieces of music, favorite images of the season, and favorite readings and pieces of literature!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

My favorite video for this time of year

This is my favorite video for this time of year. It features an "a capella" group called, Straight, No Chaser.

Good news! They've reunited after ten years, and they've been signed by Atlantic Records to do a new Christmas CD. I, for one, am going out to the stores tonight to buy it.

Enjoy this fun romp through one of the most beloved Christmas songs.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

John, the Forerunner

Thanks to our friends over at The Deacon's Bench:

This Sunday, after a week of turkey sandwiches, turkey casserole, turkey a la king, turkey burgers, turkey pot pie and turkey surprise… locusts and honey is starting to sound pretty good.

We are here in the second Sunday of Advent – in the desert, with a strange and disheveled figure dining on strange food and proclaiming that we need to make ourselves ready for the Lord.

We tend to think of John the Baptist as The Voice – the forerunner, the prophet, the one crying in the wilderness.

And he is.

But I’d like us to think of him another way this particular Sunday. This man is a figure of great hope. More than an ominous, fearsome figure, he is also, to my mind, the Saint of Second Chances.

He wanders into the desert of our lives and invites us to start over.

Appropriately, we are entering into a liturgical cycle where we will be reading the gospel of Mark – the gospel most scholars believe was the very first one written. And we start with the same words that start the book of Genesis:

“The beginning.”

And the message from the beginning? Make yourselves new. Begin again. Something is about to happen that will change everything. This is your chance at a fresh start, to make things right with God.

That is John the Baptist’s message – the message of the Saint of Second Chances.

And like second chances, he doesn’t necessarily appear when or how we expect him to. This preacher isn’t Joel Osteen in a silk suit and an air-conditioned arena. John the Baptist is rough and wild and frightening, yelling in the desert.

But then again, God doesn’t always enter into our lives when or how we want him to.

The other day I read the story of a 16-year-old Korean boy named Philip Kim. During the Korean War, he was one of many boys rounded by and arrested for refusing to join the People’s Volunteer Army of North Korea. They took him to prison and were going to execute him. Philip Kim stood there, lined up with other boys, facing a wall, and he closed his eyes, waiting for the gunshot that would end his life.

But at the last minute, an officer yelled for them to stop. The soldier noticed that one of the other boys lined up against the wall was holding a rosary, and was praying. The execution was called off. The boys were spared.

That moment changed everything. Philip wasn’t a Christian. But he never forgot what happened, what had saved his life. Not long after, he converted, and came to America. He married, raised a family, became active in his local Catholic church. He settled in San Antonio, Texas, where he opened his home to other Korean immigrants to hold mass. Those masses led him to help found the first Korean Catholic church in San Antonio.

His love for the church led him eventually to being ordained a deacon. Several years later, his wife died after a long battle with breast cancer. Before she died, she gave Philip her blessing to become a priest. And he did. He was ordained at the age of 72. Last week, tragically, Fr. Philip Kim died in a car accident. He was 76.

He owed his remarkable life to a second chance nearly 60 years ago. And he didn’t let it get away. He made his life matter.

What about the rest of us?

During this season of Advent, John the Baptist calls out to us, imploring us. You have another chance, he tells us. Seize it. Repent. Prepare. To paraphrase Isaiah: level the mountains and fill in the valleys. Make what is crooked straight.

Like that boy facing a wall, and facing death…we can start over.

So, think of those mountains and valleys, those winding roads that cut through every life. And think of the wild and untamed man in the desert. He tells us it’s not too late to change.

He is the saint of “I’m sorry. Let’s talk.”

He is the saint of “Where did I go wrong?” and “How can I make this right?”

He is the saint of “I’m addicted and I need help.”

He is the saint of “Bless me, father, for I have sinned…”

He is the saint of the slammed door being re-opened…the phone being picked up…the fences being mended…the wound being healed.

Last week, we began not just the season of Advent, but a new liturgical year. So consider this a time for making New Year’s resolutions. For resolving to live differently. Resolving to make room for God.

Listen to the Saint of Second Chances – and take hold of every one that comes your way.

The dark days of December, after all, are not an ending.

As Mark reminds us, they are “the beginning.”

Friday, December 5, 2008

St. Nicholas Day

Tomorrow, the 6th of December, is the Feast of St. Nicholas. Here are some prayers:

hear our prayers for mercy,
and by the help of Saint Nicholas
keep us safe from all danger,
and guide us on the way of salvation.

Grant this through our Lord Jeus Christ,
your Son, who lives and reigns with you
for ever and ever.

S. Nicholas, pray for us.

St. Nicholas Parish, Plumstead, UK

Almighty God,
who in your love gave to your servant Nicholas of Myra
a perpetual name for deeds of kindness on land and sea:
Grant, we pray,
that your Church may never cease to
work for the happiness of children,
the safety of sailors,
the relief of the poor,
and the help of those tossed by tempests of doubt or grief;
through Jesus Christ our Lord,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.

Contemporary Eastern Orthodox

Advent Sights and Sounds

O come, O come, Emmanuel
And ransom captive Israel
That mourns in lonely exile here
Until the Son of God appear
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

O come, Thou Rod of Jesse, free
Thine own from Satan's tyranny
From depths of Hell Thy people save
And give them victory o'er the grave
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

O come, Thou Day-Spring, come and cheer
Our spirits by Thine advent here
Disperse the gloomy clouds of night
And death's dark shadows put to flight.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

O come, Thou Key of David, come,
And open wide our heavenly home;
Make safe the way that leads on high,
And close the path to misery.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

O come, O come, Thou Lord of might,
Who to Thy tribes, on Sinai's height,
In ancient times did'st give the Law,
In cloud, and majesty and awe.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

Monday, December 1, 2008

World AIDS Day

Today, December 1 is World AIDS Day. Here on the Jersey Shore, we will commemorate this day with a prayer service at the Center in Asbury Park at 6:30 p.m., followed by a candlelight march to a nearby church.

Please join us in honoring the memory of all who have suffered from AIDS.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

1st Sunday of Advent, 2008

Today, the First Sunday of Advent, we begin a new year of grace.

We begin the year with readings from old friends and prophets, with our old friend Mark, the earliest evangelist.

We've changed our vesture from the greens of ordinary time to the blue-violets of Advent.

I offer the above image for your reflection about the colors of Advent. Look into the skies to see a hint of our vesture, and to what this season is all about.

Some people have a hard time with our priests' vestments of midnight blue. Some people think that I should be wearing purple.

This year our "Advent Wreath" is located behind the altar, in relation to the Crucifix sculpture on the back wall of the sanctuary.

I really hope this Advent season may be a time of grace, in the face of changes and new ways of doing things, for all of us!

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Thanksgiving 2008

Tomorrow will be full of all sorts of activities, Mass at 9:00, High-School Football games, a great parade in NYC (best viewed from a HD TV at home), and then the travel to the homes of relatives for great food and conversations, and the renewal of relationships.

It's a day filled with all sorts of activities. We have much to be thankful for.

Enjoy the day, and let's stretch it out as long as possible!

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Bring Sean Home

A local friend, David Goldman, has been in the news recently. He's on a noble quest to regain custody of his son, Sean. Sean is now about 8 years old. When he was just 4 years old, Sean was abducted by his mother and kidnapped to Brazil. You can read the whole story here at this website: http:/

If you can help get news about this tragedy around, your help will be much appreciated. Please try to contact our congress people to enlist thier support to help David to get Sean back home.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Family Promise

Thanks to everybody who volunteered this past week to help host the families who stayed with us as part of the Family Promise program. We had several new volunteers helping us this time, and everybody did a wonderful job.

It never ceases to amaze me how our parishioners rise to the occasion and strive to treat our guests with the utmost respect and dignity. Everybody works very hard to provide an environment full of peace, security and dignity for the families who are enduring very difficult situations.

I'm reminded of the words of scripture: "Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some people have entertained angels without knowing it."

Keep up the good work gang!

Thursday, November 13, 2008

News from Long Branch

Long Branch parishes to merge in first decision of Monmouth Central Deanery study
Sunday, November 09, 2008

The first decision resulting from the Monmouth Central Deanery Study was announced by Bishop John M. Smith in a letter read to three Long Branch parish communities at Mass Nov. 8 and 9.

Our Lady, Star of the Sea; St. John the Baptist, and Holy Trinity Parishes, which were twinned in June, 2007 as three separate communities under one pastoral administration, will become one parish community as of July 1, 2009, according to the bishop's announcement. Father Sam A. Sirianni, pastor of the twinned communities, has been named pastor of St. Robert Bellarmine Parish, Freehold, effective Dec. 1, 2008, replacing the late Father Thomas O'Connor who died earlier this year. Bishop Smith named Father Daniel Peirano, who has served the twinned parishes as parochial vicar, to be the administrator of the merging communities during this transition period, with the intention of taking over as pastor after the merger becomes effective.

The bishop's letter states that the merged parish will be given a new name and will be asked to act collaboratively with the other parishes of the Monmouth Central Deanery, especially nearby Precious Blood Parish, Monmouth Beach, to support expanded ministry opportunities. The bishop established Our Lady Star of the Sea Church as the principal worship site. A soon-to-be named implementation team, which will have representation from all three parishes, will manage the details of the merger and determine the use of the other buildings and properties. Set to begin its work in December, the team will also elicit input from parishioners on suggested names to present to Bishop Smith for his decision.

The recommendation to merge the three parish communities was one of several different scenarios submitted in August by the Monmouth Central Deanery Study Team, which represented 15 parishes in the region. In receiving the recommendations, Bishop Smith emphasized that the work of the study was dedicated to the goal of keeping the Catholic community vibrant well into the future. He cited the challenges of meeting the ministerial and pastoral needs created by demographic and vocations trends, such as shifting population from small towns and cities to sprawling suburbs, a decline in the number of priests and religious available to serve and the arrival of new Catholics in the area, as well as growth in the senior citizen population.
Bishop Smith is expected to announce decisions related to other recommendations before the end of the year.

The Catholic community in Long Branch, which includes about 2,500 families, has a long and dramatic heritage. Once home to national political figures, corporate tycoons and their entourages, Long Branch became known as a cultural center in the mid-1800s. The town's first church, later dedicated for Our Lady, Star of the Sea Parish, was built in 1854. Holy Trinity was established in 1906 as a national parish for Italian-speaking Catholics, and St. John the Baptist was dedicated in 1978 as a mission of Immaculate Conception Parish in Eatontown. St. John Parish was established in 1984 as an independent parish serving the growing Hispanic and Portuguese population of the area.

In announcing the Long Branch merger, Bishop Smith expressed his gratitude to Father Sirianni for the leadership he has shown and his service to the three parishes as their pastor. Acknowledging that "change is never easy" especially in relation to matters of faith and spirituality, Bishop Smith writes, "These changes will certainly require all of us to work together in a spirit of faith, to develop the implementation plans and to assist the pastor in forming everyone into a new worshiping community. I ask that you join together with optimism, confidence, expectation and dependence on the presence of Christ who is always with us, so that our Catholic life in Long Branch will be vibrant well into the future."

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Sun. Nov. 2 - All Souls Day

This Sunday's liturgy celebrates the Commemoration of All Souls. We remember and pray for (and with) all of the souls who have gone before us. Our prayer is always directed to the Father, through the Son, and in the Holy Spirit, but our theology of our communion of saints tells us that our prayer is always with the entire church, living and deceased in the Lord.
Below is a wonderful piece of liturgical music, the Kyrie by Tomas Luis de Victoria, from his wonderful Requiem.

May their souls, and the souls of all the faithful departed, rest in peace. Amen.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Halloween and All Saints

This humorous video from our friends over at is a nice explanation of the roots of Halloween. With All Saints Day coming up on Saturday, and All Souls Day coming up Sunday, this should help to refresh our theology of these feast days.

The narrator of the video is Fr. Jim Martin, S.J., the author of a great book entitled "My Life With The Saints."

Fr. Martin is coming to our diocese for the annual Spirituality Day at Georgian Court University in Lakewood next weekend! On Saturday, Nov. 8, he'll be speaking at the conference. He's a very entertaining speaker, so if you can join us for the conference, I guarantee you'll have a great day, and you'll come away with lots of new insights.

International Craft Fair

This weekend, we'll have our annual International Craft Fair. It's always a good way to start some Christmas gift shopping. All proceeds go back to Third World countries, and the folks who fashioned the crafts.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

FDLC - The Final Report

As you know, I attended the recent meeting of the Federation of Diocesan Liturgical Commissions (FDLC) held in Milwaukee a few weeks ago. During that meeting we received the results of a survey by CARA (Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate) studying recent Mass-attendance data for American Catholics. The final report of that FDLC meeting has recently been released to the press. Some excerpts:

From the survey of 1,007 self-identified Catholics, 20 percent attend Mass every week, 11 percent attend almost every week, 10 percent attend once or twice a month, and 3 percent attend more than once a week. Thirty two percent attend rarely or never.

"We've seen an erosion in the faith life of people because of that lack of practice," Bishop [Blase] Cupich, a member of the U.S. bishops' ad hoc committee on liturgical translations, said in an informal discussion with participants on current liturgical issues.

The statistics force the church nationwide to ask what people are searching for in the liturgy, but the church cannot let the discussion be driven solely by people's desires, Bishop Cupich said. Respondents to the CARA survey placed higher importance on feeling the presence of God at Mass and receiving the Eucharist as opposed to the homily, music and environment.

Reasons for missing Mass ranged from 51 percent of those attending Mass at least once a month being too busy, to 48 percent of the same group citing family responsibilities. From the CARA survey, 68 percent of respondents believed they could be a good Catholic without going to Mass every Sunday and 57 percent believed that it was not a sin to skip Mass.

Bishop Cupich cited the upcoming revisions to the Roman Missal, which contains the texts used in the celebration of Mass, including the responses by the congregation, as a perfect opportunity to create enthusiasm and renewal in the church. (See related sidebar outlining coming changes.)

"How do we use this moment, this opportunity and be a teaser, inviting people?" Bishop Cupich said. "Something new is coming. Americans love that theme."

"The way the church is calling us to pray is going to deepen the lives of people," Bishop Cupich said. "We are a church always in reform. We are a church mining the depths of our tradition. This is a mine that is very deep and we should be excited about this.... We're pliable. We can stretch our lives. This is a moment for us to ask, how are we being renewed?"

Another trend noted by the CARA survey was the lack of belief in the real presence in the Eucharist. Only 57 percent of respondents said they believed that Jesus Christ was truly present in the Eucharist.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

The Bishops' Synod on the Word of God

Synod Presents 55 Propositions to Pope

Assembly Approves Every Proposal

VATICAN CITY, OCT. 26, 2008 ( The work sessions of the world Synod of Bishops on the Word of God concluded at midday Saturday, with the approval of 55 propositions that the synodal assembly presented to Benedict XVI.

The proposals were voted on electronically by the 244 synod fathers present in the hall. To be approved, each proposition needed a two-thirds majority.

All of the propositions that were presented were approved, confirming the evaluation of this synod as exhibiting perhaps more consensus than any synod since the Second Vatican Council reinstituted this assembly.

Part 1

The first part includes propositions on the Word of God in the faith of the Church. The proposals in this sections include suggestions so that Catholic communities better understand and live their deep relationship with the Word, Jesus Christ, who can be found in the reading and meditating Scripture.

They highlight the role of the Holy Spirit, the Church and tradition, as well as the intimate relationship between Scripture and the Eucharist.

Three propositions present the Word of God as a Word of reconciliation, a Word of commitment in favor of the poor, and the base of natural law. This section also considers the relationship between the Old and New Testaments.

Part 2

The second part of the document (propositions 14-37) considers the Word of God in the life of the Church. Among other things, concrete ideas are offered to improve homilies, a revision of the Lectionary is suggested, and lectio divina is promoted. It is suggested that women be allowed to be instituted lectors.

This section also urges overcoming division between exegetes and theologians, or exegetes and pastors.

Proposition 37 has a historical value, because it takes up the contribution make by Orthodox Patriarch Bartholomew I of Constantinople.

Part 3

Propositions 38-54, on the Word of God in the mission of the Church, speaks of the Word in relation to art and culture, and the translations and availability of the Bible.

This section also considers the transmission of the Word in the media, as well as the fundamentalist reading of the Bible and the phenomenon of sects. It also takes into account proposals on interreligious dialogue, the promotion of pilgrimages and studies in the Holy Land, dialogue with Judaism and Islam, and the relationship between the Word and protection of the environment.

The concluding proposition is dedicated to Mary, and invites a promotion of the Angelus and the rosary -- contemplation of the Word though the eyes of the Mother of Christ.


The propositions were prepared by a team led by the relator-general of the synod, Cardinal Marc Ouellet, archbishop of Quebec and by the special secretary, Archbishop Laurent Monsengwo Pasinya of Kinshasa, Congo.

The team spent the entire night working so as to present the propositions for vote.

Normally the propositions are not made public, but Benedict XVI has asked the secretariat of the synod to publish a provisional, non-official Italian translation.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Bishop Smith and his Pastoral Council

Today, Bishop Smith came here to St. Anselm to celebrate Mass and to be part of the regular meeting of the Diocesan Pastoral Council. The topic of the day was to gain input into the process of devloping a Pastoral Plan for the Diocese of Trenton.

Once again, we provided excellent hospitality and a warm welcome to representatives of all of the other parishes from throughout the diocese. Everybody commented on how "welcomed" they felt. And, of course, the food from "Hills of Tuscany" was first-rate, and there was plenty of it!

A big word of thanks to our Music Ministry and our Director, Mike Zorner, for putting together a wonderful choir for this morning's Mass. Even the Bishop commented on how well, and how easy it is to sing here at St. Anselm! That's a great complement....if the Bishop thinks it's easy to sing, then we've hit a home-run!

Although the Bishop didn't speak directly to me about his thought-processes for the upcoming Deanery Study, a representative from another local parish told me that the Bishop holds us up as a "model parish" and as a community that truly "gets it".

That's nice to hear. I hope that translates into me continuing as Pastor here for at least another 9 years (6 years, followed by a renewal for another 6!). But, knowing that the Bishop and the diocese are getting desperate for qualified pastors to lead larger parishes, I won't be surprised if the Bishop calls me up some day to ask to "chat with me."

Maybe I should change my cell-phone number!

Anyway, THANKS FOLKS to everybody who helped to host Bishop Smith and the Diocesan Pastoral Council today here at St. Anselm.

Notre Dame 33, Washington, 7

Well, the Loyal Sons of Notre Dame creamed the poor guys from Washington. A great game....

Maybe ND will get into the top 20...who knows? It could happen!

Go Irish!

Young Catholics

However one views the cleavages, one report bound to garner some chatter is the recently-released Faith in Public Life poll on the preferences and views of young churchfolk across the religious spectrum.

CNS runs the numbers from the Romish crowd:

The survey indicated that younger Catholics are less traditional than older Catholics. More young Catholics identified themselves as Democrats than as Republicans -- 54 percent to 35 percent -- whereas older Catholics were almost evenly split between the two political parties.

Only 28 percent of young Catholics said they are politically conservative, compared to 42 percent of older Catholics.

The survey showed that young Catholic voters are the most pro-government among voters of any major religious group, even more pro-government than other surveys show the rest of the young population is. Sixty-seven percent said that they prefer government play a larger role, offering more services to the public, compared to 41 percent of the older Catholics surveyed.

Of those surveyed Catholics had the highest support for government involvement of any religious constituency.

Young Catholics said they are more likely to support legalized abortion and same-sex marriage than older Catholics; 60 percent of young Catholics believe that abortion should be legal in all or most cases, compared to 51 percent of older Catholics who believe that.

On the issue of same-sex marriage, young Catholics resemble other young adults on the issue, with 44 percent saying that same-sex couples should be able to marry if they are in a committed relationship; 46 percent of the general young adult population shares that view. Twenty-six percent of older Catholics said they approve of same-sex marriage.

The majority of young Catholics, however, were less likely to believe that abortion or same-sex marriage were significant issues in this election.

However, a majority of most older and younger Catholics agreed that a candidate's stance on abortion is not the deciding factor in their vote. More than half agreed that they would vote for a candidate who disagreed with them on abortion.

Fifty-five percent of young Catholics said they prefer the Democratic presidential candidate, Sen. Barack Obama [against 40 percent for McCain], compared to 59 percent of all young adults who say they prefer Obama [to 35 for the GOP ticket]. Among older Catholics, 45 percent said they are for Obama and 46 percent said they are for his rival, Republican Sen. John McCain.

Monday, October 20, 2008

A Vestment for Christmas

Today, a parishioner made a nice donation toward a new vestment especially for use during the Christmas/Epiphany season. A photo of the new vestment is pictured at left.

The total cost of the vestment is about $900. I think that it would be nice to list the names of those to be remembered in a memorial label for the vestment. This way, all of the "donors" can be remembered each time the vestment is put on by the presider.

If you, or your family, would like to make a donation toward the "Christmas vestment", please drop me a line and let me know the name(s) of those you'd like to be remembered on the label. Please know that we are all grateful for your very generous donations! May God bless you all!

Saturday, October 18, 2008

A great day for the Parish Retreat

Last night and today, we had a very good retreat for our parish. We had several guest speakers, including Grace Conte and Fr. Pat Connor. People were very pleased with the workshops, the talks, and the prayer services. Last night, we concluded with an experience of Taize prayer, with a full complement of our music ministry. Taize was a wonderful service of prayer with music, candles, icons, and it gave us all a deep feeling of peace and recollection.
The goal of any retreat is to renew people in their relationship with the Lord. I personally give thanks for the wonderful ways in which the Lord renewed his relationship with all who came last night and today.

Friday, October 17, 2008

FDLC....until next year

I'm back home in New Jersey. Fresh from a good meeting of the FDLC in Milwaukee. We did a lot of good work this week. We reflected on how participation in the Liturgy forms our Catholic identity.

We also spoke about, prayed about, and dreamed about how we, as U.S. Church leaders, were going to help the rest of the Church to accept the new translation of the Roman Missal, set to come to our shores in 2010. Some sources in the popular media have given some pretty bleak sketches of the new Missal. Some church leaders spoke to us this week about their perceptions of the new language of the liturgy. Let's just say that there are still lots of questions all over the place....

Let's pray for the future, and trust the Holy Spirit will help us all.

Thursday, October 16, 2008


Yesterday, the FDLC was welcomed at the Cathedral of St. John by the Archbishop of Milwaukee, Archbishop Timothy Dolan. Archbishop Dolan presided and preached at the celebration of the Eucharist for the FDLC in the beautiful cathedral. Music for the Eucharist was led by the wonderful Diocesan Choir.

During business yesterday, we heard 3 wonderful presentations on the state of the Catholic Church in the US today. We heard about the current stats on church attendance, including a survey on Catholic beliefs in the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist. The later presentations helped us to reflect on our current liturgical theology and pastoral practices to help celebrate the Liturgy.

More updates to come.....

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

FDLC in Milwaukee, 2008

Here at the annual FDLC National meeting, the days can seem like the meetings of the Second Vatican Council...people speaking all sorts of languages, not really understanding each other, but trusting that the Holy Spirit is guiding the proceedings.

We trust that the Holy Spirit is leading us beyond our differences towards a more positive understanding and direction for the Liturgy in the United States.

One big news item from today's events: Msgr. Tony Sherman of the BCDW urges us all to: Check out the USCCB website for the latest, official news of the BCDW developments. Don't trust the "bloggers" out there, who just throw out grenades toward the Liturgical Movement. Check out what the Bishops' really have to say on the Liturgical Renewal

Sunday, October 12, 2008

You're Invited!

Today's Gospel reminds us that all are invited to come to the feast! How do we respond to the invitation?

That's the question of the day.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Good Voting

This just in from AMERICA's current issue:

Conscientious Election
A moral guide for Catholics entering the voting booth
By J. Brian Bransfield | OCTOBER 13, 2008

The only difference between the voting booth and the conscience is that we usually have to wait in line to get into one of them. Apart from that, the same thing is supposed to happen in each place as that small cubicle reveals me to myself.

Morality bears upon conscience, which must judge between the right and wrong of various positions. Conscience weighs a range of subjects, many of them deeply moral: the plight of immigrants, affordable education, the scourge of war, homeland security, neighborhood violence, access to health care, the inviolable right to life for the child in the womb, care for the hungry and homeless, preservation of the environment, the inhumanity of torture, the exploitation of human life through human embryonic stem cell research, the dignity of marriage between one man and one woman, and economic inequality among nations.

In order for men and women to engage in the political debate, their consciences must be formed. Only then can they discern the common good. The U.S. bishops emphasize the role of conscience in Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship: A Call to Political Responsibility, a guide for Catholics as they prepare for the 2008 elections.

Looking Within and Without
Judgments of conscience are not the result of a determinative moral gene. They are not preprogrammed, but spring from a place within that I do not create. This region is more than superego or social convention. A common misunderstanding is that conscience amounts to what I think on an issue. Conscience is not just what I think, but it is me in the act of thinking about what is just and true. Conscience is that part of me that is bigger than I am. It is at least three inseparable movements at once:

First, conscience is the turn inward where I find a norm that obliges me. Catholic tradition calls this synderesis. This awareness of the inner moral sense is the capacity of the person to hear the voice of God within: “Conscience is the voice of God re-sounding in the human heart, re-vealing the truth to us and calling us to do what is good while shunning what is evil” (Forming Consciences, No. 17). The “turn within” finds more than simply “my view” on a proposal. Consci-ence is founded upon truth. It therefore looks to God as the author of truth revealed through right reason and the teaching of Jesus as proclaimed through the church.

This is where the second dimension of conscience comes into play. Synderesis (the turn inward) exists in tandem with the turn outside the self, called intellectus. To make a decision in conscience is to consult the truth of the nature of things in themselves. Conscience begins “outside-in”: the objective reality summons accountability from me and forms the central coordinate of conscience. Conscience is based on a truth not of my own making (No. 17). To know the truths of basic embryology and basic logic, for example, leads me to know that the child in the womb is not a potential person, but a person with potential. Therefore, no one may ever participate in a procured abortion. Logic then instructs that the nature of privacy, upon which the supposed right to an abortion is legally based, cannot change the right to life.

Third, conscience is the last, best judgment as to the good action based on the turn inward and the turn outward (No. 17). Conscience is a virtuous fitting together, an enlightening and a resilience to act upon the truth of things within which exists the region of the norm, and beyond which humanity fails. Synderesis, intellectus and the judgment—these three cannot be separated.

The abbreviation of conscience to only one-third, or two-thirds of its entirety is an all too common danger. The inner moral sense is not a partial appraisal or even a sum total of what we think, but is a manifestation of truth itself rather than our own preferences. If we rely only on the synderesis and reduce the intellectus, we simply judge between what is happy or sad, but not between what is good or evil; our inner sense of right and wrong does not appeal beyond ourselves to the truth of things in themselves. If we rely simply on intellectus and condense the synderesis, we may become a rather dangerous robot: we are not concerned with our internalization of the truth of things in themselves.

Conscience emerges as a voice, greater than one’s own, from the center of two sources: right reason and the teaching of the church. Conscience communicates the difference between right and wrong, good and evil, based not on the truth of circumstances, my top values or best intentions, but first and foremost on the truth of things in themselves accessed by faith and reason. To ensure that each aspect of conscience thrives, we have an obligation to form our consciences: “a well-formed conscience…perceives the proper relationship among moral goods” (No. 34).

Forming One’s Conscience
The formation of conscience entails first the clearing away of sin and its effects: concupiscence, ignorance, weakness, ideologies, microscopic self-concerns, lingering justifications, anger and prejudicial impulses. In the process of being freed from sin, our minds more easily grasp, and our hearts more easily accept, that which is true. The Holy Spirit seeks to build up, throughout our lifetime, the virtue of prudence within us (No. 19). Prudence is not simply my subjective deliberation, but the work of the Holy Spirit in the believer to apply moral truth correctly. The truth of faith is God’s gift to clear away the debris we can accumulate and to follow God’s original word faithfully. If my judgment of conscience diverges from the truth of faith, the difference between the two is the knock on the door to enter more deeply into the formation of my conscience.

Thus, the formation of conscience thrives on our openness to hear the voice of God in Scripture, in the teaching of the church and the prayerful discernment of the true dimensions of the concrete choice before us. Even with our best efforts, our judgments of conscience may, at times, be only partially correct. God continues to seek inroads to our heart to clear the blockages that impede a mature moral vision.

The properly formed conscience does not allow a citizen to forget he or she is first a person. It tells me I am a person, and, as such, I must look at a quandary according to a certain order: How does this act here and now, in and of itself, fit with being human, and not simply lower gas prices? Conscience insists that human dilemmas are moral concerns long before they are political points of view. Conscience tells me that to be free I must admit the truth that some acts are inescapably evil and no manner of circumstances or intentions can make them somehow good. The formation of conscience invites me not just to change my point of view, but to grow through conversion and to witness my own transformation.

Conscience discerns the moral dilemmas in size order and sees the resemblance: Marriage, racial equality, the environment, adequate distribution of resources and the right to life are not competing events. They are cousins, if not siblings. Each participates in “the dignity of the human person” and “the sacredness of human life,” respect for the inviolability of which resides at the “center” and “core” (No. 10) of conscience. To fail to uphold the dignity of human life in every circumstance is an affront to conscience itself. Conscience refuses to let one of these become an isolated issue that I may simply pick and choose.

Careful Deliberation
The seeming opposition of two perceived goods is not a roadblock or a barricade for stubborn resistance. There are times when it seems difficult to apply a judgment of conscience. We may judge some policies of one candidate to be correct, but dislike other policies that seem to be morally erroneous. Rather than stubborn resistance, this calls me deeper. The basic principle the bishops put forth is, “Those who knowingly, willingly and directly support public policies or legislation that undermine fundamental moral principles cooperate with evil” (No. 31). At the same time, it may be possible to “restore justice only partially or gradually” in the face of existing unjust laws (No. 32). But if we find ourselves on the brink of having to support a platform that undermines moral principles, we must take a step back to a new longitude and latitude and renew our efforts to form our conscience in a context of faithful citizenship.

One of the basic difficulties is that our limits have been eroded. In the modern era, a numbing progression has led our consciences from being the organism by which the human person makes choices, to being the rubber stamp for a trend, to being the prisoner of a lifestyle. Formation in a robust personalism is needed in order that we may say yes to all that the human person is.

The mature conscience winces when it hears a candidate claim that he can fix health care but still argues that a child in the womb can be killed. Conscience knows that if a candidate chooses in favor of human embryonic stem cell research, which always includes the killing of a human person, then our neighborhoods can never be free of violence—because the candidate just voted for violence. The moral sense knows that if you treat the environment any way you like, sooner or later you will need treatment because of the environment. Conscience realizes that if you support torture, you have just paid the deposit on a war 20 years from now.

No magic contortion of moral truth can turn what is intrinsically evil from ugliness to beauty: “A Catholic cannot vote for a candidate who takes a position in favor of an intrinsic evil, such as abortion or racism, if the voter’s intent is to support that position. In such cases a Catholic would be guilty of formal cooperation in grave evil” (No. 34). At the same time, conscience cannot be blind to its own splendor and allow another person to decide in its place: “…a voter should not use a candidate’s opposition to an intrinsic evil to justify indifference or inattentiveness to other important moral issues involving human life and dignity” (No. 34).

The application of conscience is often difficult: “There may be times when a Catholic who rejects a candidate’s unacceptable position may decide to vote for that candidate for other morally grave reasons. Voting in this way would be permissible only for truly grave moral reasons, not to advance narrow interests or partisan preferences or to ignore a fundamental moral evil” (No. 35). It should be exceedingly rare that a person discerns, after continued guidance, “grave moral reasons” to vote for a candidate who holds an unacceptable position. Evidence of “grave moral reasons” to vote for such a candidate must be overwhelming. To resort to such a measure means that the voting booth itself becomes an agony, reflective of society in no small way, and is left moist with the tears of one who could otherwise find no way through.

On a political coastline where the waters run shallow, it is not uncommon that in a particular contest each candidate on the ballot holds a position that favors an act of intrinsic evil. Against such shoals, “The voter may decide to take the extraordinary step of not voting for any candidate, or after careful deliberation, may decide to vote for the candidate deemed less likely to advance such a morally flawed position and more likely to pursue other authentic human goods” (No. 36). The focus on “careful deliberation” cannot dwindle to a minimal criterion by which one can squeeze past the core issues, much less justify support for intrinsic evil; it is a summons beyond our vision to a new junction, where we are called to embrace a new vision.

Conscience sees broadly. It brushes back the curtain, pries down the lever, and by the leverage of honest truth is able not simply to change, but to transform the world.

Rev. J. Brian Bransfield is a moral theologian with the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Secretariat of Evangelization and Catechesis and its incoming executive director.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Get ready to campout by the Bonfire!

Calling all campers! Come out to the church grounds on Saturday to join us for our Bonfire, Bonfire Mass, and Campout!

The Mass will start at 8:00 p.m. Just remember to bring your own folding chairs. There will be plenty of marshmallows and hot chocolate for the kids, and remember to bring a good sweatshirt!

Thursday, October 2, 2008

The Word of the Lord

Every month the Vatican publishes the prayer-intention of the Holy Father for the coming month. For the month of October, the Holy Father asks us to join with him in this prayer:

That the Synod of Bishops may help
the pastors and theologians, the catechists and promoters
who are engaged in the service of the Word of God
to courageously transmit the truth of faith
in communion with the entire Church

The Synod of Bishops that B16 refers to is a meeting coming up in a few days of Bishops, Scripture Scholars and Theologians meeting in Rome this month. Their topic:
The Word of God in the Life and Mission of the Church.

Thanks to my friend, A Concord Pastor, I am reminded of a wonderful piece of music by Leonard Bernstein. Specifically, it is one "movement" entitled "Epistle" from the 1971 theater-piece he entitled "MASS." Remember, back in the early 1970's we had just received the first round of translations of the Mass in English, and there was little to no concern about inclusive-language. So, the words of the song may sound sexist to us today, but the underlying meaning of the words of the song/psalm/epistle are timeless. Check out this video with contemporary images to go along with this glorious song:

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Getting ready for St. Francis Day

This Saturday, October 4 is the Feast of St. Francis of Assisi.

We will have the annual blessing of animals at Noon. We'll gather with our pets near the Peace Garden.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Liturgy Planning for Advent and Christmas

Tonight, we had a great meeting of our Liturgy Committee for the parish. We've sketched out our plans for the Advent/Christmas seasons, with a special eye to hospitality to all of the visitors to St. Anselm during these "Candled Seasons."

I really appreciate the fine eye for details that the committee members show in their deliberations and planning. They know very well that attention to the details of environment, hospitality, and ritual will help us to celebrate well, and will help the entire parish practice good stewardship.

Monday, September 29, 2008

A very historic day....for DOW

Wow! What a day.

The Bailout vote failed.

Wall St. holds its breath.

Main St. fears for its future! Main St. fears for the next payroll!

The Republicans are blaming the Dems for the holdup.

The Democrats blame the last 8 years of the Bush years for the crisis.

Wow! What a day.

Hang in there, gang!

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Time and Talent....keep them coming!

Last weekend, we distributed the Time and Talent Surveys at all of the masses, and we made them available on our parish website as well.

We encourage all parishioners, visitors and even one-time visitors to fill out a form. Who knows? Maybe the Lord is calling you to a new volunteer activity to build up the Kingdom of God through this survey!

We seek to raise the number of volunteers involved in the many-faceted life of the Parish of St. Anselm.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Bonfire Mass is OFF .... again!

Sad to say, our parish campout and Bonfire Mass, is postponed AGAIN due to the bad weather.

Check out the announcements at Mass and in the bulletin, and on the website for new info on these events.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Getting Ready for Catholic Charities "Awards Night"

This coming Friday night is the night when our parish will be recognized by Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Trenton with the "Ray of Hope" award.

People throughout the area of Monmouth County have come to recognize the very unique ways that our parishioners and staff have reached out, throughout the years, to those most in the alienated, the oppressed, the forgotten, the suffering in this area. You, the community of St. Anselm, have helped to make a real difference by your generosity!

It will be my honor to represent you this Friday evening at this very formal dinner dance. I'm sure that there will be many pictures don't be surprised to see me all "gussied-up" in the collar and suit. I'll get dressed up to honor all of the families of our parish who are being recognized for this award. And, I'll pose with the Bishop and the "muckety-mucks" for pics....but my heart will be with you guys wearing blue jeans, and cooking chile for "folks" in Asbury who truly need our help.

I think I'll make a couple of pans of Kielbasa for the International Dinner AND for the clients at The Center in Asbury a rememberance of this award from Catholic Charities. I think it's cool that we get this award....I also believe it's vital that we share with those most in need...and so I'll cook up some extra food for the folks....

Monday, September 22, 2008

Parish Campout and Bonfire -- coming up!

Remember! Our parish campout is this Saturday evening!

Our Bonfire will be lit, and warming us all at about 7:00 p.m. We'll celebrate Mass at 8:00 p.m.

Please bring folding chairs and sweaters and sweatshirts!

We'll provide hot chocolate, marshmellows, and fixin's for S'MORES!!!!

The collection at the 8:00 Mass will benefit the Tinton Falls Firefighters and our Administration of Properties folks, who have several big projects coming up.

We look forward to seeing everybody at the campout. Let's be safe, happy, and peaceful!

Time and Talent Surveys --- get 'em in!

If you missed Mass at St. Anselm this week, you missed our annual Time and Talent Survey and our Time and Talent well as Coffee and Donuts Sunday!

But, not to worry! We still want you to fill out a Time and Talent Survey for the coming year.

You can even do it online! Check out the front-page of our Parish Website!

There will even be a drawing for a prize for those members completing their survey online! We did the same drawing after all of the Masses this weekend, for all who filled out their survey and turned them in right away! We awarded Gift Cards from American Express for $25 to one person after each of the Masses!

We'll have the same prize for all who complete their form online....another chance to win a $25 AX Gift Card!

We ask all parishioners to prayerfully consider how they will practice good stewardship of our time, talent and treasure in the coming year. I ask everybody to be REALISTIC in what you sign up for. If you're too young to drive yourself to Mass, then maybe you can volunteer to do things around the parish that don't require a driver's license. If you're on a fixed income, be realistic about your monthly donations. If you're a busy parent, balancing work, school, and realistic...maybe you can only help with one event this year.

The Lord doesn't ask for the impossible, but rather for a realistic sacrifice to build up the community.

Let's help each other be good and true stewards!

International Dinner and Fish-Fry

Mark your calendars for Saturday evening, Oct. 4! That's when we'll have our annual International Dinner and Fish-Fry.

Come, bring your family's favorite ethnic dish or dessert to the dinner. Be sure to prepare enough to share! If you can print up your recipe, it would be nice to have several copies to share with the rest of the parish.

Also, if there's someone special in your life, in your family, that's really attached to this recipe, share that story!

Encourage your neighbors and friends to join us on the 4th!


Check out the Youth Group tab on the parish website for the Fall calendar of our high school youth group activities and meetings.

Friday, September 19, 2008

I can't make this stuff up.....!

Thanks to Rocco over at Whispers, here's an interesting story about the current Archbishop of Newark, John Myers:

The photo above, however, isn't of an RNA veteran who mistakenly landed at the Star Trek convention... but Archbishop John Myers of Newark, who (as longtimers will recall) penned a sci-fi novel, Space Vulture, alongside his boyhood best-friend Gary Wolf (better known as the scribe behind Who Framed Roger Rabbit?)... and, yep, that's Myers' coat-of-arms on the helmet.

With the book now on the shelves, Jersey's metropolitan -- recently named by B16 to the Pontifical Council for the Interpretation of Legislative Texts -- got his close-up courtesy of local God-scribe Jeff Diamant of the Star-Ledger:

"You have to admit, I'm being a good sport about this," says the archbishop of Newark.

John J. Myers, the spiritual leader of 1.3 million Catholics, a man who wears well the stateliness of his high church office, who goes through life addressed as "Your Excellency," who is revered in Catholic circles as a canon lawyer and a proud, conservative rock of his church, is, at this moment, speaking through the face hole of a costume space helmet he has donned at the request of his guests. In a few minutes, standing in the grassy yard of his summer residence in Hunterdon County, he will even don pointy Spock ears and a pair of alien antennae.

The bespectacled archbishop is doing this to promote and discuss a fun and uncanonic part of his life -- his love of science fiction and, specifically, Space Vulture, a sci-fi novel he published in March with childhood friend Gary Wolf, who decades ago went off to his own kind of fame as a novelist and creative mind behind long-eared 'toon Roger Rabbit. Their book, a fastpaced 333-page tale of intergalactic fantasy, is colored with invented species (lizardos, bulbos and Bictosian arthropods) and fictional planets (Verlinap and Medusker) that provide the setting for a heroic marshal, Victor Corsaire, to team up with a widow, her two sons and a con man to battle the notorious Space Vulture. "Obviously it's an image-changer," said Myers, who is better known for writing pastoral letters against abortion. "People think of archbishops as always super- serious, and all the burdens-of the- world type stuff. The fact that we could come up with stuff like that just is not what people would expect."

It's hard to argue with John J. Myers. He is being a good sport. Now, the space helmet is off, the Spock ears and antennae are on, the camera is clicking, and the photographer, taking these things seriously as photographers are paid to do, is pondering the scene. "I'm going to try a couple without the ears," he says. "With the antennae." The archbishop obliges, with the same type of aplomb that impressed Wolf six years ago when the pair decided to write the book. "I had a number of conversations with him," Wolf recalled. " 'Are you sure you really want to this?' Because writing a book like this ... for John, this could've been a career-ender. John could have opened himself up for horrendous criticism for doing this, both in the lay Catholic community and certainly in the Catholic hierarchy. 'I asked John, 'What's the pope going to say when this comes out?' John said, 'I don't know. I guess we'll find out.' "...

Unfortunately, at least for readers looking for what might lurk in the inner depths of the archbishop's mind, neither author said he could recall much about who came up with what. Myers said Wolf did most of the writing, and that he pitched in with plot, themes and character development. Wolf remembered that at one point, "John was talking about how neat it would be to have some really horrific kind of space alien. He didn't come up with the flesh-eating monster, but John was the one who got me thinking in that direction.... We both had a really good time with that one."

The book has sold decently, according to the publisher, though its ranking is low. Reader reviews online are almost all positive. Myers said he plans to use his share of money from the book deal, probably tens of thousands of dollars, for college funds for his nieces and nephews.

The publisher, Tor Books, loved the idea of promoting a book written by an archbishop and a 'toon creator. And in what somehow seems fitting for this eclectic project, the editor was a guy named Moshe. That's Moshe Feder, who enjoyed editing a Catholic honcho almost as much as Myers enjoyed writing the book. "There's a slight incongruity: 'Moshe Feder, graduate of yeshiva for 12 years, editing the archbishop,' " Feder joked. "It's like if I went to Notre Dame and was editing a famous rabbi."

Pope Benedict XVI has been predictably silent on "Space Vulture". The closest thing to a response from Rome? A Jesuit astronomer at the Vatican Observatory, quoted on the book jacket, called the book a "rollicking good time with a spice of high camp and a moral underpinning far more sophisticated than the original space operas were ever capable of attaining."

PHOTOS: The Star-Ledger

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Election 2008: Faith and Politics

Today's New York Times had a wonderful article about the role of the "Catholic Vote" in the upcoming elections.

Abortion Issue Again Dividing Catholic Votes

Published: September 16, 2008
SCRANTON, Pa. — Until recently, Matthew Figured, a Sunday school teacher at the Holy Rosary Roman Catholic Church here, could not decide which candidate to vote for in the presidential election.
He had watched progressive Catholics work with the Democratic Party over the last four years to remind the faithful of the party’s support for Catholic teaching on the Iraq war, immigration, health care and even reducing abortion rates.

But then his local bishop plunged into the fray, barring Senator Joseph R. Biden Jr. of Delaware, the Democratic vice-presidential nominee, from receiving communion in the area because of his support for abortion rights.

Finally, bishops around the country scolded another prominent Catholic Democrat, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California, for publicly contradicting the church’s teachings on abortion, some discouraging parishioners from voting for politicians who hold such views.

Now Mr. Figured thinks he will vote for the Republican candidate, Senator John McCain of Arizona. “People should straighten out their religious beliefs before they start making political decisions,” Mr. Figured, 22, said on his way into Sunday Mass.

A struggle within the church over how Catholic voters should think about abortion is once again flaring up just as political partisans prepare an all-out battle for the votes of Mass-going Catholics in swing-state towns like Scranton.

The theological dispute is playing out in diocesan newspapers and weekly homilies, while the campaigns scramble to set up phone banks of nuns and private meetings with influential bishops.

Progressive Catholics complain that by wading into the history of church opposition to abortion — Mr. Biden brought up St. Thomas Aquinas, Ms. Pelosi discussed St. Augustine — Democratic officials are starting a distracting debate with the church hierarchy.

“Getting into Augustine and Aquinas — it is just not helpful,” said Chris Korzen, executive director of Catholics United, a progressive Catholic group running television commercials that emphasize the church’s social justice teachings. “It would be wise for them to focus on how policies they are going to implement as leaders are going to move forward the church teachings they say they believe in.”

Catholic conservatives, in turn, until recently had worried about a resurgence of the progressive forces in the American church. Now they are reveling. “The Democrats have actually given back some of the progress they had made,” said Deal Hudson, a Catholic conservative who worked with President Bush’s campaign and is now advising Mr. McCain’s.

Once a reliable Democratic voting bloc, Catholics have emerged as a pivotal swing vote in recent presidential races. Evenly divided in a New York Times-CBS News poll over the summer, Catholics make up about a quarter of the national electorate and about a third in the pivotal battleground states of Michigan, Missouri, Ohio and Pennsylvania. “Whoever wins the Catholic vote will generally win our state and, most of the time, the nation,” said G. Terry Madonna, a political scientist at Franklin & Marshall College in Lancaster, Pa.

And Scranton, a city dominated by the kind of white working-class Catholics who have often defected from the Democrats in presidential elections, is a focus of special attention this year. Senator Barack Obama of Illinois, who generally underperformed with Catholics in the Democratic primary, lost the surrounding Lackawanna County by a margin of three-to-one to Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York, who has family in the area. Now, the Obama campaign often highlights Mr. Biden’s local roots — he was baptized and spent his early years in Scranton — in a bid for Pennsylvania voters.

Dozens of interviews with Catholics in Scranton underscored the political tumult in the parish pews. At Holy Rosary’s packed morning Masses on Sunday in working-class North Scranton and the Pennsylvania Polka Festival downtown that afternoon, many Clinton supporters said they were planning to vote for Mr. Obama, some saying they sided with their labor unions instead of the church and others repeating liberal arguments about church doctrine broader than abortion.

“I think that one of the teachings of God is to take care of the less fortunate,” said Susan Tighe, an insurance lawyer who identified herself as “a folk Catholic, from the guitar-strumming social-justice side” of the church.

But more said they now leaned toward Mr. McCain, citing both his experience and his opposition to abortion. Paul MacDonald, a retired social worker mingling over coffee after Mass at Holy Rosary, said he had voted for Mr. Kerry four years ago and Mrs. Clinton in the primary but now planned to vote for Mr. McCain because of “the life issue.”

The choice of Gov. Sarah Palin of Alaska as Mr. McCain’s running mate had clinched it for him, Mr. MacDonald said. “She is anti-abortion, anti-gay-marriage, anti-Big Oil, a lifetime member of the N.R.A., she hunts, she fishes — she is the perfect woman!”

One parishioner ruled out voting for Mr. Obama explicitly because he is black. “Are they going to make it the Black House?” Ray McCormick asked, to embarrassed hushing from a half dozen others gathered around the rectory kitchen. (Five of the six, all lifelong Democrats who supported Mrs. Clinton in the primary, said they now lean toward Mr. McCain.)

Mr. Madonna, the political scientist, said of the Catholic vote in white, working-class Scranton, “This is a tough area for Obama and some of it is race.”

Both campaigns have dispatched teams of operatives and high-profile allies to help fire up like-minded Pennsylvania Catholics. The McCain campaign also disclosed last month that the senator was meeting privately with Cardinal Justin Rigali of Philadelphia. He met with Archbishop Charles J. Chaput of Denver shortly before the Democratic convention. Both were outspoken critics of Ms. Pelosi and Mr. Biden.

Former Gov. Frank Keating of Oklahoma, a director of Catholic outreach for the McCain campaign, said the meetings Mr. McCain has held with bishops around the country were “strictly ceremonial.” But the campaign welcomed the bishops’ comments about the Democrats and abortion, Mr. Keating said, as “statements of affectionate support” for Mr. McCain.

Both sides say that Mr. Obama has a broader grass-roots turnout operation than Mr. McCain. In Pennsylvania, the campaign has trained organizers to talk about Catholic doctrine on abortion and other issues, held about two dozen “brunch for Barack” events after Sunday Mass and organized what the campaign calls “nun banks” to call lists of Catholic voters.

Catholic Democrats outside the campaign have also worked hard to avoid repeating the experience of 2004, when a small group of outspoken bishops dominated news coverage of the church with criticism of Democratic Senator John Kerry focused on the single issue of abortion.

Many parishes distributed a voter guide, produced by an outside conservative Catholic group called Catholic Answers, which identified five “nonnegotiable” issues for faithful voters: abortion, embryonic stem-cell research, human cloning, euthanasia and same-sex marriage.

After the 2004 election, progressive Catholics started to organize and appeared to win some victories. In 2006, the bishops’ conference all but banned outside voter guides from parishes. And last fall, the bishops revised their official statement on voting priorities to explicitly allow Catholics to vote for a candidate who supports abortion rights if they do so for other reasons. And it also allowed for differences of opinion about how to apply church principles. The statement appeared to leave room for Democrats to argue that social programs were an effective way to reduce abortion rates, an idea the party recently incorporated into its platform.

Their revisions set the stage for a clash of voter guides. Catholic Answers is again promoting its “nonnegotiables” voter guide; a new group, Catholics in Alliance for Common Good, has produced a chart comparing the candidates’ views on the war, taxes, the environment and other issues as well as abortion.

The same debate is already playing out almost every day in the letters section of Scranton’s newspaper, said Jean Harris, a political scientist at the Jesuit-run University of Scranton. “It is a running debate between Catholics saying ‘abortion is the only issue’ and others saying ‘you have to look at the whole teaching of the church,’ ” she said.

Also, further South, the Archbishop of Miami has written a wonderfully balanced, and thoughtful, and practical letter to the faithful of his archdiocese. I share that letter with you:

With a GOP-leaning lobby aiming to lead a pre-election charge on the nation's pulpits in defiance of the rules on tax-exemptions for churches (i.e. no endorsements), Archbishop John Favalora of Miami fired back as follows late last week:

My dear friends,

A group called the Alliance Defense Fund is urging pastors across the country to join their Pulpit Freedom Initiative by preaching a sermon “that addresses the candidates for government office in light of the truth of Scripture.”

The group’s goal is to challenge the Internal Revenue Service’s restriction on tax-exempt organizations “by specifically opposing candidates for office that do not align themselves and their positions with the scriptural truth.”

Needless to say, none of our Catholic churches or priests will be participating in this initiative. For one thing, we can do a lot for our communities with the money we save by being tax-exempt. That is why we accept that status and agree to abide by IRS rules that ban religious organizations from becoming involved in partisan politics.

For another, “scriptural truth” is not that easy to attain. Which is more “true” in terms of scripture: The Old Testament passage that says “an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth” or Jesus’ admonition to “turn the other cheek”?

The problem is that people often quote selectively from Scripture in order to back their own opinions. The other problem is that rarely, if ever, does an individual candidate or political party embody the gamut of “scriptural truth.”

The Catholic Church values Scripture, but we also value 2,000 years of oral and written tradition handed down from the apostles and their disciples, and another 2,000 years of ongoing theological reflection by some of the greatest thinkers and saints.

When we teach on a particular moral issue, we rely on the whole of that tradition rather than on any individual’s opinion or interpretation of Scripture.

That is not to say that we are not involved in politics. Catholics do not give up their right to vote or take political sides when they are baptized.

But the role of the church is not to be like the “party boss” who goes around telling people how to vote. Our responsibility is to remind people to vote wisely; to reveal to them the wisdom of Scripture, the wisdom of the church’s moral tradition, so that they can base their votes on solid moral ground.

Too often, people vote based on their feelings, or on the partial sound-bites of candidates pushing a particular point of view. More often than not, decisions based on feelings or partial information turn out to be wrong.

That is why it is especially important for voters to study all sides of an issue — or candidate — and examine that information in light of their own beliefs and values.

When church leaders speak on issues such as immigration, poverty, health care, abortion, war or embryonic stem cell research, we are not telling people how to vote. We are reminding them of the moral teachings that should inform their lives, and as a result, their votes.

We will not speak on behalf of individual candidates or parties. But we will speak in support of legislation that we consider to be morally sound and beneficial to the whole community — regardless of which party or candidate proposes it — and we will speak against legislation that we consider harmful to individuals and society as a whole.

In the coming weeks, you will be hearing from the bishops of Florida regarding important issues that we believe will impact the future well-being of all the people in our state.

That is our duty as teachers and successors of the apostles.

Your duty as Catholics is to listen to those teachings before making rational, informed, conscientious decisions regarding whom or what to vote for.

+ John C. Favalora,
Archbishop of Miami

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

The Grotto

This past weekend, while at the campus of the University of Notre Dame, I made my regular visit to the Grotto, the most popular place on the campus. Once again, I was moved by the large numbers of people gathering at that special space to pause, pray, light a candle, and to just sit in that graced place. If you've ever been to the Grotto, you know how, at any hour of the day or night, you can find at least one young person in prayer.
May our Lady of Lourdes continue to shower graces on all who visit that holy place.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Forever "Father Ted"

When I first stepped foot on the campus of the University of Notre Dame back in the fall of 1979 as a "candidate" for the Congregatio Sancte Cruce (CSC), I was, with my other first-year seminarians, introduced to the current President of the University of Notre Dame....Fr. Theodore M. Hesburgh, CSC. I remember quite clearly Fr. Ted wanting to know all of our names, and telling us to call him "Ted", but not a single one of us, ever, dared to call him anything other than "Father Ted."

Today, some 20-something years on, and just having met with him two days ago, I still, and always will call him "Father Ted." Fr. Ted is now 91 years old...God bless him!

Here's a little video with a brief glimpse into the life of this extraordinary man, this priest, this gift from God, this loyal son of Notre Dame:

Hail to the Victors.....NOTRE DAME....yo!

To say that I'm happy with the results of this past weekend's event is....well, um.... understatement!

Many of you know that I made my annual pilgrimage out to Notre Dame for the weekend. And what a weekend!

The above clip is only a small portion of the great events I experienced this weekend! (Apologies to all of my "friends" who've been berating Notre Dame for the past few years.....but I have two words for you....NOTRE DAME!)

I got to campus on Thursday, stayed at Moreau Seminary, where I was treated to typical Holy Cross hospitality, and then I had a great weekend of meeting with old friends, teachers, and mentors, and even meeting some new seminarians who were "fascinated" by this Diocesan priest who spoke of the most wonderful parish in New Jersey called St. Anselm!

Friday was a rainy day, but that didn't keep me from meeting with friends old and new. A trip to Holy Cross House had me meeting with my former Dean of Students at King's College, Fr. Al D'Alonzo. Fr. Al wanted to know all about what was going on at "the shore".....(the Jersey Shore, of course). He had recently visited his family in Lavalette, and wanted to know about the "deanery study" for the future of the parish configurations!

Then I popped in on Bro. Rich Kyle, CSC, who's also in residence at Holy Cross House. Br. Rich was the steward at Our Lady of Good Counsel parish in (Bed-Stuy) Brooklyn, when I was a very young seminarian in 1984. Then I went across the hall to visit another mentor, Fr. Ted Hesburgh, CSC. It was a wonderful visit, and I've got a warehouse full of stories to share!

And on top of all of that great stuff of visits to old and new friends....despite the torrential rains in the second half....the Notre Dame football team defied all of the odds, and BEAT Michigan 35-17. GOD IS SO GOOD!