Thursday, June 26, 2008

Latest from Rome: Pope to give communion the Old-Fashioned Way

Word came today from Rome that the new Master of Ceremonies for the Pope, a mere Monsignor, has "ruled" that the Pope will now only distribute Communion to the faithful if they are kneeling, and only on the tongue. No mention of communicating the faithful with both holy species is mentioned.

It looks like another major "step backwards" for things liturgical, by this little monsignor who has absolutely no academic credentials in liturgical studies, but who enjoys the favor of B16.

Anyway, this means absolutely nothing for the way we distribute holy commuion in our parishes in the United States in 2008. Our Bishops have dictated that the normal way to receive Holy Communion is to be standing, to extend our hands , and to receive the Body of Christ, and then to proceed to the next minister, who will minister the Blood of Christ.

Don't worry folks, Rome doesn't "control" the Catholic World the way it used to!

This Sunday's Solemnity

This Sunday, the solemnity of St. Peter and Paul trumps the 13th Sunday of Ordinary Time. So, don't be surprised when you see all white vestments instead of green. As you know, this weekend, I'm celebrating my 15th Anniversary of Ordination with a Mass and our parish picnic/barbecue/kegger.

Since my dad and aunts and uncles will be here for this mass and celebration, I'll have to wear my white ordination vestments, (designed by my mom and dad with the Trappist Monks at Spencer, MA) and I'll have to use my chalice and paten (given to me by my parents). I'm looking forward to the presence of so many family members at the mass and picnic, as it's a good, positive time to get together. During the past few years, we've only gathered for sad occasions like funerals, so this should be a fun time to get together.

I'm especially grateful to our parish-life committee who have been so enthusiastic in putting this party together, and volunteering to cook, and host my family. I'm sure that my family will be duly impressed and will truly be welcomed by the entire family of St. Anselm.

Now, we just need some decent weather for Sunday.

Notre Dame, our Mother....tender, strong and true.....make the skies on Sunday....clear and dry and blue....

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

The Infant Baptism Process

Tonight, our Baptism-Preparation team hosted the last in our four-part preparation process with a Reflection session for 10 families who've recently celebrated the sacrament of baptism for their babies. Just so you know, the babies were all there, and were welcomed. That's a key part of the process.

I made it known that now that they are baptized, they are full members of the community of faith, and that they had a right to join us each Sunday for Mass and to take part in the life of the church in our parish. No cry-rooms here!

The most important part of our baptism process is to make known to the new parents that they are now part of a community of faith, and that they are welcome. So, we put a lot of emphasis on welcoming people, introducing them to other parishioners, introducing them to the activities and ministries of our parish, and inviting them to take part in reaching out to others. Right from the start, we emphasize that baptism is initiation into the community of faith that does good works. We invite young parents to take this opportunity to get more involved in the life of the faith community.

We also had a special invitation tonight to bring the babies, and their siblings to the Parish Picnic/Barbecue/Kegger we'll have on Sunday afternoon to celebrate my 15th annivesary.

Hey, whatever works!

I remember way back in my college days, when we had a regional meeting of college campus ministries, and campus ministers....we had a discussion of "best practices" for getting new members....and I distinctly remember one of my comrades talking about having a "kegger" after mass to attract new folks. It worked then, it works now.

Make the folks feel welcome. Meet them where they're at. Feed them a little. Give them something to drink. Pray a little, but celebrate the Love that's ALL GIFT!

Let's party and give thanks!

Monday, June 23, 2008

Deanery Study makes the Asbury Park Press

Today, a front-page story in the Asbury Park Press discussed the growing priest-shortage and the closure, merging, and clustering of parishes in the Diocese of Trenton. Parishes in Ocean and Monmouth counties were highlighted, and the reactions of parishioners were also highlighted.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Getting ready for an Anniversary

This coming Sunday, we're celebrating my 15th anniversary of ordination. The actual date was May 15th, but May is such a busy month with graduations, ordinations, weddings, and First Communions and Confirmations, I asked that we celebrate at the end of June when things settle down a bit, when the weather is warmer, and when we could all use a Sunday to gather as family and friends.

I'm personally grateful to our Parish Life Committee who've been tremendously supportive of this celebration. They've been very enthusiastic about having a great celebration next Sunday. It should be a great party with everybody bringing a dish to share with everybody else.

I have to assure my family that, yes, I will do a batch of my barbecue meatballs, and that there will be lots of pasta salad, beer, and burgers to tide us all over. The back door of the parish house will be open, and the air will be on, so everybody can be comfortable. It's been a while since we've gathered as a family, so let's have a great time catching up on the kids and where everybody's at.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Anointing the Sick and Suffering

This weekend, we will anoint any person who comes forward for the Anointing of the Sick. We will offer this anointing at all of the Masses.

This weekend is also our weekend to have coffee and donuts, or light refreshments after all of the masses.

Our Human Concerns/Social Justice committee members will also speak briefly to us at the start of all liturgies about this important ministry in our parish.

We will also baptize some new children into our faith community at Mass this weekend.

For many parishes, all of this "activity" would seem overwhelming. For St. Aneslm, it's business as usual. Welcome newly baptized and their families! Welcome the newly anointed with the Oil of the Sick. Welcome visitors looking for true Vatican II style worship! Welcome all who are seeking a spiritual home in the midst of the desert!

Volunteer Appreciation!

Last night, we had our annual Appreciation Dinner for all of our parish volunteers. Just a small, intimate gathering of 155 people!

And, that's not nearly all of the parishioners who volunteer their time, talent, and treasure each day here at St. Anselm. There are so many people who go out of their way to build up all of the wonderful ministries of this parish community. We have much to be thankful for!

I think it's very important to do something fun like this dinner. I just feel a little badly that not all of our volunteers and ministers couldn't join us for the evening. However, I know that the Lord will bless all who give themselves in His name!

Thank you, everyone, for ALL that you do to share with our faith community!

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Deanery Study Update, June 2008

Tonight, we had the most recent meeting of the Central Monmouth County Deanery Study. We gathered at the Church of the Nativity in Fair Haven. Tonight, more than ever, we spoke about possible consolidations, twinnings, and combinations of parishes. It was an important night. I could feel the prayerful support of many people guiding our deliberations this evening.

I was personally struck by how many of the participants were still stuck in using imprecise terminology that did not help or further the conversation of helping the Church in our particular area. Too many of the participants are still talking about "maintaining my church" or "our church doesn't need to change" or "My church has always...."

Well, I had to step in at one point in our discussion to point out to all of the participants that we've been charged to look at the ministry of THE Church in this area. We've been charged to discern how The Church's Mission can better be served by better utilizing clergy, staff and physical resources in this area. And that requires CHANGE!

We need to look forward! I have a problem with people who seek to lead by always looking in Rear-view mirrors!

Let's continue to pray for each other in this area as we seek to become a more vibrant, forceful Catholic presence in this area in the future!

Stay tuned for more information about an Open, Town-Hall meeting at St. Anselm to keep you informed about the recommendations we hope to make to the Bishop in the very near future.

Monday, June 16, 2008

A Catholic Funeral today.....some thoughts.

Recently, in our diocese, we've had some interesting celebrations of funerals for priests and other "high profile" members of the diocesan administration.

I've been regularly disappointed with the lack of knowledge by some of our diocesan leadership with the beautiful elements of the renewed rites of our Catholic Rite for Funerals.

This may be somewhat strange, but I think that it is very important to celebrate funerals well, with all of the symbols of our Catholic faith utilized to their fullest extent.

That means:

-Let's sing songs and hymns that shout our faith in the Resurrection! Let's not sing sappy, over-emotional songs that celebrate the deceased's nationality of origin.

-The funeral mass is for the living, not the deceased. I really don't care what the deceased wanted as a favorite song or reading. Let's look to what the Church today recommends as appropriate readings, intercessions or hymns.

-Funerals for priests should look very similar to funerals for lay persons. Why do we "gussy up" the rites for a priest, and not for lay people? Why do we need at least three "Eulogies" at a priest's funeral, yet we "FORBID" eulogies at the funerals for lay persons?

-Let's use the Rite for Christian Funerals as the main guide for our funeral celebrations.

-Bishops who forbid "eulogies" at Funeral Masses should attend to that policy when they celebrate, preach at, or preside at funerals for priests or other bishops! If a bishop doesn't know the difference between a homily and a eulogy at a funeral, then draw your own conclusion!

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Deadly Silence

What a cluster bomb looks like when it doesn't explode:

What a cluster bomb looks like when it does explode:

Editorial from the June 13 2008 National Catholic Reporter

Shameful silence on cluster bombs

Cluster bombs, an efficient way of spreading the deadly horror of land mines, are such a repugnant weapon that 110 countries, representing well over half the world's governments, met in Dublin, Ireland, in late May to sign a treaty banning the production, use and export of the sinister devices. Regrettably, U.S. leaders refused to join the consensus.

Not only did the Bush administration refuse to sign, it boycotted the negotiations that fashioned the treaty and used its muscle to try to convince others to hold off.

Cluster bombs, which can be dropped from a variety of airplanes, each contain about 200 "bomblets," according to Handicap International, which cofounded the International Campaign to Ban Landmines. Handicap International won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1997.

Each bomblet is the size of a soft drink can and, depending on the flight of the bomb, can be scattered over wide areas. It is the equivalent of dropping, as one description, as one description put it, "a shower of tiny hand grenades," all capable of exploding and sending lethal shrapnel flying.

One particularly insidious characteristic of the weapon is that many don't explode when first deployed and, as is the case with conventional land mines, they can appear to the unaware as toys or other benign devices. Because they stay deployed over large stretches of land they have become deadly to thousands of civilians long after hostilities cease. Tens of thousands of civilians, including many children, have been killed or maimed because of innocent curiosity or by happening unawares upon one of the weapons.

U.S. insistence that these barbaric and indiscriminate weapons remain a necessary part of the 21st-century arsenal puts us in league with China, Iran, Syria and Russia, among others. With CHina and Russia, the United States is one of the principal manufacturers and exporters of the weapons, a fact that hardly boosts our already seriously eroded moral authority. It's difficult to claim the high ground of spreading freedom when your weapons maim children and prevent populations from using huge sections of a country.

The United States, in this case, has felt little pressure from the Catholic community to counter that coming from the military and weapons manufacturers. Pope Benedict XVI voiced support for the treaty effort in mid-May, but if the administration can ignore repeated papal condemnations of war (while simultaneously taking sound-bie advantage of the church's "culture of life" language), who could expect it to pay attention to papal protest against bombs used to make war?

Our bishops, too, have been noticeably quiet. Bishop Thomas Wensky, chairman of the U.S. bishops' Committee on International Justice and Peace, was the lone signatory from the U.S. conference to an April letter in which international religious figures appealed for an international treaty.

Archbishop Wilton Gregory, now of Atlanta, commented in 2003, on the eve of the latest phase of the war against Iraq: "Any decision to defend against Iraq's weapons of mass destruction by using our own weapons of mass destruction would be clearly unjustified. The use of antipersonnel land mines, cluster bombs and other weapons that cannot distinguish between soldiers and civilians, or between times of war and times of peace, ought to be avoided."

His protest, mild at best, meant little. The war was undertaken, the cluster bombs were dropped and we've heard little from the bishops since.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Deanery Study Continues

Monmouth Central Deanery Update

March, 2008

MCDS delegates identify parishes' strengths, weaknesses and 'hopeful goals'

Delegados del MCDS identifican las fortalezas, debilidades y 'esperanzadoras metas' de las parroquias (72k. pdf)

An examination of the questions -- "Where are we now as faith communities?" and "Where do we want to be?"-- has been the main focus for representatives of the 15 parishes currently engaged in the Monmouth Central Deanery Study.

In study sessions held in February and March, parish delegates worked in two regional groups, or clusters - north and south - in order to develop a snapshot of those regions by identifying the mission, strengths and limitations of its parishes, individually and then collectively, as well as the external opportunities and challenges that exist beyond the parishes in the local communities. Observations were based on the surveys taken by parishioners in the fall, demographic and financial reports provided to the study group and input from the parish leadership team (wider group of parish leaders in each community who are reviewing and informing the work of the study group).

The study group members also spent time sharing what have been called their "big, hopeful, audacious goals" for their parishes. Delving into their respective dream lists, group members cited the following goals for their parishes and clusters:

good working relationships with pastors
youth ministry beyond Confirmation
outreach to senior population
having their own pastor
outreach to non-participating Catholics
encouragement of vocations
having every parishioner involved in parish life
By identifying strengths and weaknesses, the study group positioned itself to begin the planning process in order to achieve some of the most important goals articulated.

Included among the strengths

growing Catholic population
available resources through the stewardship efforts of parishioners, particularly in the area of dedicated staff and strong volunteer base
variety of ways to get involved in the liturgy and other Church activities
diversity within the Catholic population
strong commitment to social concerns; sense of outreach
focus on evangelization; sense of welcoming and hospitality
solid facilities
influx of seniors
commitment to youth
uniqueness of each parish community

The weaknesses or limitations identified in the deanery (two clusters) were:

youth ministry programs need to be improved
encouragement of vocations lacking
inability to reach out to inactive Catholics and unchurched
lack of communication and support between parishes
need for expanded facilities, such as parking, accessibility for persons with special needs, as well as community or parish centers
lack of support for Catholic schools
need for more financial resources and a better understanding of how it's being spent

During the March meeting, the group explored the opportunities that exist in the extended communities. They pointed to the growth in the Latino and other ethnic populations as well as those in the 55 and over age group as examples. They also cited the student population at Monmouth University and Brookdale Community College, as well as the significant number of non-practicing Catholics as potential growth areas for the Church through outreach efforts.

Among the obstacles that would need to be overcome in the extended community are an anti-Catholic culture; evangelization efforts by other faiths; breakdown of the family unit; growth in the trends of consumerism and secularism; the high cost of living coupled with the loss of jobs, and the proliferation of Sunday morning sports programs for children.

Speculation on the future of the Army base, Fort Monmouth, was also considered in the context of both an opportunity and a threat. If the base were to close in the future, military personnel would leave the area, which would have an impact on the economy. However, the land would likely be redeveloped, which could mean more housing and more people.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Tim Russert: 1950-2008

Tonight, we learned that we've lost one of the best, if not the best of political journalists, Tim Russert.

I'm touched by the powerful words of the many famous people who are truly shocked and grieved by this sudden loss of one so respected for his search for truth.

Here's a typically touching story reported by the NBC workers out of the DC bureau:
This afternoon, soon after he heard about Tim's untimely passing, Cardinal Ted McCarrick, who was in Washington, drove over to the NBC studios to comfort the folks over there. He went to just "be with" those reporters, writers, producers, and the folks that had weekly worked with Tim, to just be supportive. I'm told that he offered a prayer that began with this phrase: "Tim is now home." Typical "Uncle Ted."

While we wish that he could still be here with his beloved family and friends, we do celebrate this new entrance into the next and everlasting chaper of his life....his everlasting life with his Savior and all the saints in glory.

"Well done, good and faithful servant!"

Peace forever, Tim!

The Language of the Liturgy

The U.S. Bishops are currently meeting in Florida. One of the "hot topics" that they are discussing and voting on is the recent translation of the Roman Missal. A new English translation from the Latin has been in the works for many years, and the U.S. Bishops are at a point where they can approve it as is, or suggeest some further translations and changes.

Here's what John Allen from the National Catholic Reporter has to say:

USCCB: Dramatic debate, cliffhanger result on liturgy
Posted on Jun 13, 2008 06:23am CST.
Print Friendly Version

Orlando, Florida

Perhaps it’s only fitting that a meeting held in Florida, the state that made the hanging chad famous, should feature a bitterly contested cliffhanger vote, which, as election day ended, remained inconclusive.

Heading into the U.S. bishops’ spring meeting in Orlando, it didn’t seem likely that a proposed new translation of the Proper of Seasons, part of the prayers and other texts for the Catholic Mass, would stir up much dust. Following a decade and a half of impassioned argument over such texts known colloquially as the “liturgy wars,” many bishops privately expressed fatigue and a desire to move on – suggesting to most observers that approval of this text ought to be more or less a given.

In one sign of that mood, only seven bishops out of 250 Latin Rite prelates in the United States even bothered to propose amendments to the text, a clear sign that most felt the handwriting was on the wall. Like it or not, many concluded, Rome has made clear that the new translations must be closer to the Latin, both in structure and word choice, thus producing a more “sacral” language sometimes remote from ordinary English usage.

All that changed this morning, however, when Bishop Victor Galeone of Saint Augustine, Florida, rose to oppose the proposed text -- despite, he said, fear that doing so may be "in vain." A former Latin teacher who still reads Thomas Aquinas in the original language, Galeone made a forceful argument that the new translation is simply too unclear and awkward to be effectively used in American parishes.

Among other things, Galeone cited the text’s use of the phrase “the gibbet of the Cross.”

“The last time I heard that word was back in 1949, during Stations of the Cross in Lent,” Galeone said.

“I challenge anyone to proclaim what’s given here at Mass,” he said. “It’s very difficult.”

“A good translator has to understand not just the original language, but also one’s own into which these texts are being put,” Galeone said. Despite assurances to the contrary, he said, the new texts are “slavish” with respect to the Latin originals.

“I’m an obedient son of the church, and if these texts are passed as they stand, I will pray with them,” Galeone said. “But I feel that the vernacular has been a blessing to our people.” Galeone added that with “all due respect” to the recent ruling from Pope Benedict XVI authorizing wider celebration of the old Latin Mass, he hasn’t celebrated the old rite since 1970. If he were asked to do so today, he said, he would instead celebrate the new rite of the Mass in Latin.

Galeone’s speech seemed to open the floodgates, as other bishops rose to voice reservations about the new translations.

Auxiliary Bishop Richard Sklba of Milwaukee, for example, said, “If I have trouble understanding the text when I read it, I wonder how it’s going to be possible to pray with it in the context of worship.”

Sklba warned that if the proposed text were adopted, “our priests and our people” will press the bishops to come back to it “again and again” to remedy perceived defects. “This is not yet mature,” he said.

Bishop Donald Trautman of Erie, Pennsylvania, a longtime critic of the new translations, said the texts contain a number of “archaic and obscure” terms, pointing to words such as “wrought,” “ineffable,” and “gibbet.” He also said that the text’s preference for mimicking the sentence structure of Latin, featuring long sentences with a large number of dependent clauses, impedes understanding in English. Trautman cited one prayer in the new Proper of Seasons presented as a single 12-line sentence with three separate clauses.

“John and Mary Catholic have a right to have prayer texts that are clear and understandable,” Trautman said. “The document before us needs further work.”

Bishop Robert Lynch of Saint Petersburg, Florida, thanked Galeone for giving him the “courage for this moment.” Lynch then told the bishops that he had recently taken the new Mass texts back to his presbyteral council, composed of 26 priests. Two were in favor of the translation, he said, and 24 were opposed.

He reported their reaction as, “Bishop, do whatever you can, because we can’t pray these texts.”

“It’s a good thing that we’re supposed to pause before the orations,” Lynch joked, “because we’ll have to gather enough breath to pray the prayers.”

Other bishops, however, argued that aditted imperfections in the text don’t justify further delays in the process.

“It’s an imperfect sacramentary for an imperfect people, to be prayed by a celebrant who is also imperfect,” said Archbishop George Niederauer of San Francisco. “I respect those who say let’s move forward and get a new sacramentary, before they all fall apart in the sacristy.”

Archbishop Oscar Lipscomb, the retired archbishop of Mobile who sits on the Vox Clara Commission that advises the Vatican on liturgical translation, said that he doesn’t find the new texts “unacceptable or unproclaimable.”

“Our genius in celebrating,” he said, will make up for any deficiencies. Further, he said, the average Catholic will receive the new texts “with the eyes of faith,” rather than focusing on its problems “like an English teacher or a Latin teacher.”

Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of Galveston-Houston said that “with all its difficulties, the translation should go forward,” adding that he believes the new Mass texts “become stronger after Advent, into Lent and Easter.”

Responding to the “let’s move on” argument, Archbishop Daniel Pilarczyk of Cincinnati warned that it “depends on what you’re moving forward to,” arguing that the new texts would be “a linguistic swamp.”

Archbishop John Vlazny of Portland made another argument in favor of the text, noting that four other English-speaking bishops’ conferences have already approved it. If the Americans reject it, he said, it could jeopardize the goal of a common text.

“Admittedly, we’re the big ones, but that doesn’t allow us a terribly privileged position,” Vlazny said. “We need a measure of humility in this.”

Echoing a point made by others, Vlazny also argued that today’s texts may seem more “proclaimable” simply because they’re familiar. With time, he said, the new texts will also become familiar, and the issues of syntax and word choice cited by critics “will be a non-problem.”

Bishop Arthur Seratelli of Paterson, New Jersey, chair of the U.S. bishops’ Committee for Divine Worship, defended the texts.

“On whole, the translation is a marked improvement,” Seratelli said. “As we use it, as we ourselves and our priests become more familiar with the new language of the liturgy, it will not pose as great a problem as we fear.”

After all that the bishops were unable to reach a decision, largely because of the electoral math.

The rules of the conference require that the text be approved by two-thirds of its members, not just those physically present. Since there are 250 Latin Rite bishops in the United States, 166 “yes” votes are required to approve it, while 83 “no” votes are necessary to reject it.

As it turns out, the Orlando meeting was sparsely attended – one headcount yesterday found just 178 voting members. As a result, this morning’s ballot failed to get enough “yes” votes to approve the text, or enough “no” votes to block it.

As a result, Cardinal Francis George of Chicago, president of the conference, announced that bishops who were not present will receive ballots in the mail in order to settle things one way or the other.

The bishops did reach a decision on a couple of other points.

If the text is rejected, they decided, all members of the conference will have the opportunity to submit observations and proposals, not just those who have already expressed concerns.

Further, if the text does have to go back to the drawing board, the bishops decided not to send it to the International Commission on English in the Liturgy, a translation agency which is a joint project of 11 English-speaking bishops’ conferences, for comment. Since ICEL was restructured under Vatican pressure several years ago, some bishops feel the agency has not been receptive to proposed changes to its texts. In a voice vote, the bishops opted this morning to bypass any reaction from ICEL and simply bring a new version of the Proper for Seasons back to the U.S. conference.

That, however, assumes that the text does not pass once all the mail-in ballots are counted. Some veteran conference observers believe that once all the votes are in, the new text stands a good chance of being approved – noting that a number of likely “yes” votes, such as Cardinals Justin Rigali of Philadelphia and Edward Egan of New York, were among those absent in Orlando.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Can you hear me now?

Today's Scriptures tell us the answer to the question: "What does God want of me?"

That's a question we often wrestle with, whether we're wondering about a life's vocation or even trying to decide a path of action in a difficult circumstance.

The answer comes from Hosea: "I want mercy, not sacrifices." Mercy, forgiveness, love...that's what the Lord wants from us.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Joe and Megan, Paul and Regina: Blessings!

Today, I had the privilege of presiding at two weddings. One, for the son of my former boss at St. John Vianney High School, and the second, for some wonderful new friends who blessed our parish with the new experience of celebrating a wedding with Fillipino traditions and practices.

We pray for Joe and Megan, and their wonderful families. We pray for Paul and Regina, and we look forward to sharing many wonderful years together with these very generous souls.

Check out RealFaithTV

Please check out one of my links to RealFaithTV. RFTV is produced by the young people of the Diocese of Trenton, and covers topics of interest to young people. If you look closely at the opening credits, you can see Fr. Gene celebrating Mass with the cast and crew of RFTV. I really enjoy doing that once a year with the young people, on the last day of taping the shows.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

'Tis the Season for Baccalaureate Masses

This morning, I was invited to concelebrate at the Baccalaureate Mass for Red Bank Catholic High School (RBC). SORRY, LANCERS! YOU KNOW I LOVE YOU MORE! Some of my parishioners and some old friends were graduating from RBC today. I went to help them celebrate this great milestone in their young lives.

Thursday evening, I'll preside and preach at the Baccalaureate Mass for my friends at St. John Vianney High School. This Mass is one of my favorite things to do each year. I try to offer some original thoughts and reflections to each year's graduating class. Best of all, (I'm told by the students) they like how I keep the homily to an interesting 7 minutes.

Congratulations to all the graduates this year. It's a privilege to be a small part of your wonderful accomplishments!