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.