Sunday, February 19, 2017

Jesus That

Revenge.   For New England Patriots’ fans – and that’s most of us (not all) – the expression “Roger that” is the two-word expression aimed at NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell that originated from Tom Brady’s 5th Super Bowl ring and his commercial for Shields MRI.  When putting his fifth ring in a locker, the young lady helping him, said he needed a bigger locker, to which Brady responded, “Roger that.”

This not-so-subtle bit of revenge for that 4-game suspension at the beginning of the football season is now repeated by fans wearing Pats clothing emblazoned with “Roger that.”  It gets the point across. 

And so does our first reading from Leviticus: "You shall not bear hatred for your brother or sister in your heart.  Though you may have to reprove your fellow citizen, do not incur sin because of him.  Take no revenge and cherish no grudge against any of your people. You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”  Perhaps the “Roger that” is not revenge but is simply a way of “reproving”  Commissioner Goodell.    

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Ash Wednesday is Wednesday, March 1 Ready, Set, LENT!

The  Evolution  of  the  Practice  of  Penance,  and  the  Season  of  Lent: While specific customs in regard to the practice of penance have evolved over the centuries, one thing that has remained the same and is true to this day in that Christians have understood the absolute necessity of periodically examining their consciences and confessing their sins, and they have readily accepted and accomplished the penances assigned to them as satisfaction for their sins.

Beginning in the early days of the church up through the 11th Century, it was common
that the practice of penance was public, in that only mortal sins were confessed but these were told to the bishop or the priest in front of the entire congregation. Following their public confession, the penitent was assigned to a period of penance, the length of which depended upon the severity of the offense(s). During their time of penance penitents were excluded from the Eucharist  as  they  sat  in  a  special  section  of  the  church  known as the penitent’s box and they may have worn distinctive clothing, i.e., “sack cloth and ashes”. After fulfilling their obligation to do penance, the penitents were often absolved and restored to  full  communion  during  Holy  Week,  in  particular  on  Holy  Thursday,  in  time  to  fully
participate and take communion at the Evening Mass of the Lord’s Supper.

Lent is the only vague remnant that we have of this form of public penance because
it  was  customary  for  Christians  to  confess  or  be  “shriven”  on  the  Tuesday  before  Ash Wednesday, then on the next day they would step forward to be marked as public penitents – by being signed with ashes – then they would prepare to embark on their 40 day period of penance during which they would strictly fast from meat, eggs and other dairy products, devote themselves to spending more time in
prayer and accept the responsibility to make sacrifices through self denial in order that they might accumulate something substantial to give as alms for the relief of the poor.

Hence – prayer - fasting - and alms giving is still the threefold character of the discipline we accept during the 40 days of Lent. Having completed their penance at the end of Lent, the faithful would receive absolution during the day on Holy Thursday and be restored to full communion in time to fully participate in the sacred Triduum. This is obviously different from what has happened with the practice of private penance – because absolution is now given before the penance is even started rather than after its completion. While it would be unrealistic to bring these customs in their entirely there is still some valuable  truth  that  is  perhaps  more  clearly  expressed  in  these  than  in  our  present  approach to penance and Lent. Embarking on Lent without a sincere examination of conscience and an acknowledgement of sin makes no religious or spiritual sense what so ever. Receiving ashes – the outward sign that one is inwardly repentant – without first appreciating what specific sins one is repenting risks the even greater sin of hypocrisy – which in Greek means “play acting”.

Giving up sweets and treats for Lent without first confessing one’s sins can be more like a Spring diet than an authentic act of penance. Soon the opportunity to live Lent more meaningfully will be before us all, and in order to do so, we will all have some soul searching to do, some decisions to make and some penance to plan.

Confessions Before Ash Wednesday: 
Monday, February 27th, 3 PM – 6 PM
“Shrove” Tuesday, February 28th, 9 AM – 12 Noon

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

We Gain Our Sight Only In Stages

Mark 8: 22-26.

Throughout the gospels we hear stories about Jesus healing the deaf and giving sight to the blind. But Mark is the only gospel writer who tells this particular story. In today’s gospel Jesus puts spittle on the eyes of a blind man and he is able to see only outlines of people walking around. Then laying his hands on the man’s eyes a second time he could see everything distinctly. This miracle is unique. It is the only one which can be said to have happened gradually. All of Jesus’ other miracles generally happen suddenly and completely. In this one, the blind man’s sight comes back in stages.

There is a major symbolic truth that Mark imparts to us in this miracle, that no one sees all of God’s truth at once. Very few of us have one defining moment in our life that we can point to where we can say “I fully knew God from that moment on.” We aren’t just suddenly born again. I can think of only one person who was knocked off a horse by lightening (actually scripture says there was a flash from the sky and there was no horse mentioned) and had an instant transformation that changed the rest of his life – St. Paul. There may be others of us who can point to one moment in time that change their life but I would venture to say that there are very few us.

And yet, we can usually point to defining moments in our faith journey that do change our lives. In my life I would count our wedding at the moment we said “I do”, the birth of our children, Marriage Encounter, Cursillo, and my Ordination. Those were major conversion times I will never forget. At those times I strongly felt the Holy Spirit present in my life. They were powerful life-changing events.

But then there are all the daily conversions – a series of conversions with small realizations and fresh insights. They are new and sometimes renewed awareness of God in my life. They represent further and deeper revelations my relationship with God.

Monday, February 13, 2017

Mary Magdalene: Apostle of the Apostles

In a recent blog I described the difference between an Apostle and a Disciple. A disciple is one who learns from a teacher. The twelve disciples mentioned in the Gospels chose Jesus as their “rabbi” or teacher. Apostles are disciples who are sent to preach or teach. Therefore, before one becomes an apostle, one has to be a disciple. Jesus had many disciples. At one point Jesus send out 72 disciples to proclaim the Good News, in other words, he sent them as apostles. But normally we think of the Apostles as the 12 disciples that Jesus chose to be his inner group of disciples.

Another person who was considered a member of his inner group was Mary Magdalene or Mary of Magdala. She is the person that Luke in his Gospel said that seven demons had gone out of her. She is also often associated with the repentant sinner mentioned in Luke who anointed the feet of Jesus although this is unlikely. It was during the Middle Ages that this invention was created but has since been mostly rejected. Mary is, however, mentioned several times in the Gospels which indicates that she was an important disciple of Jesus. In fact, she was at times considered as important as the apostle Peter. In all of the Gospels she is the first one, or one of the first group of women,  to witness the risen Christ and to inform the other apostles. Therefore she is called the “Apostle of the Apostles,” the one who was sent by Jesus to announce his resurrection.

On June 10, 2016, The Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments issued a decree which elevated Mary's liturgical commemoration from an obligatory memorial to a feast day, like that of most of the Apostles, which puts her a par with them. The reason why was to honor her as being the first witness of the Lord’s resurrection. Pope Francis’ decision to elevate her memorial to a feast during the Jubilee of Mercy was done in order to emphasize the importance of this woman, “who so loved Christ and was so greatly loved by Christ.” The decree says, “Thus, as already indicated she becomes an evangelist, that is a messenger who announces the Good News of the Lord’s resurrection or, as Rabanus Maurus and Saint Thomas Aquinas say, she becomes the “apostolorum apostola” (Apostle of the Apostles) because she announces to the apostles what in turn they will announce to the whole world.”

“I have seen the Lord.”

Mary Magdelene's Feast day is July 22.

Deacon Greg Beckel

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Snow Day/ Sabbath Rest

One prominent aspect of life in Israel as an officially Jewish State is the weekly observance of the Sabbath.   Indeed Friday afternoon until about 3:30PM there is an air of anticipation as many people are out and about doing last minute errands in preparation for the Sabbath evening meal. For the religiously observant, the food that will be taken for breakfast and lunch on Saturday must also be prepared as no such work is permitted on this weekly day of holy rest, which begins at sundown on Friday and ends at the same time on Saturday.    The arrival of the Sabbath is greeted with joy, with the blowing of the trumpet in Jerusalem and with displays of flowers and fruit and wine amidst lit candles in hotel lobbies.  Most extended families come together at home or in hotels to celebrate with a special evening meal on Friday followed by a day of rest and recreation on Saturday.   Indeed - all is hustle and bustle and then in a moment most traffic disappears and quiet descends on the streets, as shops close and no more business as usual is conducted for the liturgical day from evening to evening.  God created the Sabbath, and God mandated its observance and so there is a saying that more than Israel has kept the Sabbath, the Sabbath has kept Israel.   Whenever I go to the Holy Land this observance is something that I admire and envy, because it's been a long time since my childhood days of Sunday breakfast at a diner after Mass and early afternoon Sunday dinners with family and visits later on to or from  extended family or going out for a Sunday ride and ice cream.  Sadly our culture has lost sight of the value of the Sabbath, maybe even its absolute necessity and that is to our detriment no doubt!   Gone indeed are the days when Christians worked on Saturdays to allow their Jewish neighbors their day of rest and then they on Sundays to allow Christians our day   the original purpose of a weekend.   Now our culture has become so commercialized that shops don't close on any day of the week and we've become so sports obsessed that our children have competitions or practices for them even on Sundays.  Road races are all the rage now on Sundays and are scheduled such that streets are blocked often preventing those who would rightly want to worship from even getting to or from their Church!   Yet every once in a while the heavens drop the snows in such measure that everything closes down and there is no traffic and nowhere to go and nothing to do but to stay put for a day.  These are often the most glorious of days, an unplanned but true day of rest from usual labors during which we feel ourselves being restored.  Might the Lord himself be subtly reminding us of what we have lost by forgetting our need for a weekly Sabbath rest?  O Lord, thank you for the snowstorms that remind us that You know better than we what we truly need!

Fr. Edward Healey

Monday, February 6, 2017

Contentious Issue of Immigration

No original thoughts but many worth considering:

Find here food for thought in the thoughts of church leaders and in the content of church documents, which bear upon the ever contemporary and almost always contentious issue of immigration. All Church teaching harkens back to the 25th Chapter of St. Matthew - when Jesus himself says "I was a stranger and you welcomed me" which is a concept deeply rooted in the prescriptions of Old Testament Law.

It seems essential to the integrity of our claim as Catholics to be solidly "pro-Life" that we have concern for the lives and well being of those who are in the most difficult of straits, especially those who have no hope of a future for themselves and their families in war torn lands or economically impossible circumstances.  These are the same reasons most of our ancestors migrated from the old world to the new so how can we help but to sympathize with those who have no choice but to leave their homelands seeking the hope of a life lived with some measure of  security and the prospect of economic survival if not prosperity?

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Assumptions Turned Upside Down ~ Fr. Edward Healey

January 29, 2017 Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Readings for today's Homily

To watch Mass in its entirety click The Mass

11 Years of Community: Catholic Schools Week

Happy Catholic Schools Week!  This week, January 29 - February 4, we mark the annual celebration of Catholic Schools Week.  This year's theme is Catholic Schools: Communities of Faith, Knowledge, and Service.

Having benefited from Catholic Education for the past 11 years, I find my heart full of gratitude during this week.  I am the person I am today because of the education received at St. Francis Xavier Preparatory School, St. John Paul II High School, and now St. Joseph's College.  I have grown as a person, as a student, and as a disciple as a result of my time at these places.  With graduation only 3 months away, I find myself looking back at these past 11 years quite often as of late.

In middle school, we marked Catholic Schools Week with visits from the Bishop, ice cream socials, dress down days, spirit days, and school-wide volleyball tournaments.  Everybody looked forward to Catholic Schools Week!

However, I think the word "communities" stands out to me the most in this year's theme.  I can't help but look back at the different communities I have been apart of over the past 11 years.  Groups of friends, clubs, teams, production casts, prayer groups, classes, RA staff, professional staff members, and much more.  I think of the numerous teachers, professors, administrators, pastors, and chaplains I have had.  It is truly amazing how many people make a lasting impact on your life, and how the memories and lessons learned stay with you forever.

This week, I give thanks to God for the past 11 years.  I am a better person for having known all of those along the way, and for being given this gift of Catholic Education.  I am grateful for the challenges I faced (and continue to face) - they have made me stronger as a person.  I am grateful for the friends who have stuck by my side and have helped me to grow.  I also look forward to the journey ahead and continue to have communities by my side.

For those reading this blog, I ask you to ask yourselves three questions.  Which communities are you most grateful for?  Who has helped get you to where you are today?  Lastly, how has your education formed you as a person?

These three questions can provide food for thought during this Catholic Schools Week.  Thank you to all who support Catholic Education.

Chris Hughes

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Ethic Of Care

What’s bothering our conscience today?   Perhaps the way we treat God’s creation.   Helping us answer this question is Elizabeth Johnson, C.S.J., who wrote the 2009 article, “An Earthly Christology: ‘For God so loved the cosmos,” published in the celebratory issue of America – The National Catholic Weekly: 100 Years.  Here we are a bit more than 7 years later, and it worthwhile pondering the claim: “For God so loved the cosmos” especially because Pope Francis has given us his 2015 “Encyclical on Climate Change & Inequality: On Care for Our Common Home.”

Johnson begins with the following: “When the noted U.S. naturalist John Muir came across a dead bear in Yosemite, he wrote in his journal a biting criticism of religious people who make no room in heaven for such noble creatures: ‘Not content with taking all of earth, they also claim the celestial country as the only ones who possess the kinds of souls for which that imponderable empire was
planned.’ To the contrary, he believed, God’s “charity is broad enough for bears.”

Few in Muir’s day agreed.  The rise of ecological awareness in our day, however, provides a pressing context for new reflection on this question.  Does the creative love of God embrace bears, the salmon and berries they eat, the rivers where they fish and their hibernation dens with compassion for their mortality and the promise of redemption?  If not, then ruining their habitat and driving them towards extinction has little religious significance.  But if so, then the value of their lives and all of nature should become explicit in the church’s teaching and practice.”

Friday, January 27, 2017


Lent is not really that far away.   March 1 is Ash Wednesday.   Let’s ease our consciences by spending some time preparing for that special time of the year with a focus on learning more about the death of Jesus.   I suggest we go to the website: and take a free mini-course offered by Boston College.

Go to this site: (1) click on “mini-courses;” (2) scroll down to “The Death of Jesus: Four Gospel Accounts;” (3) look right and click on “Passion Narrative Commentaries;” and (4) you are off and running.

Also, click on the photo of books labeled “Free Resources,” and see where that takes you.  There will be many options.  Try scrolling down to “America Media on Youtube.”  Pick the upload “Be Kind” – a short and special Lenten message offered by Father Jim Martin.   Also, Stephen Colbert professes his Catholic faith to Father Martin (hysterical!).

Thursday, January 26, 2017

The Fox And The Woodcutter

Here’s a fable from Aesop.   A fox, running before the hounds, came across a Woodcutter felling an oak and begged him to show him a safe hiding-place. The Woodcutter advised him to take shelter in a hollow log, so the Fox crept in and hid himself.

The huntsman soon came up with his hounds and inquired of the Woodcutter if he had seen the Fox.  He declared that he had not seen him, and yet pointed, all the time he was speaking, to the log where the Fox lay hidden. The huntsman took no notice of the signs, but believing his word, hastened forward in the chase.

As soon as they were well away, the Fox departed without taking any notice of the Woodcutter: whereon he called to him and reproached him, saying, “You ungrateful fellow, you owe your life to me, and yet you leave me without a word of thanks.”

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Sacrament of Anointing and Visits from Eucharistic Ministers

Anyone who is scheduled to be hospitalized - especially for surgery, should request  to  receive the sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick here in the parish before the day of admission/surgery. If you find  yourself or a loved one hospitalized unexpectedly, please notify the Catholic Chaplains’ Office in  the  hospital so  that they may receive the Sacrament of Anointing and visits from Eucharistic Ministers and pastoral care workers during your stay. Due to strict privacy laws, you cannot assume that the Chaplains’ Office is aware of your admission, so please take  the  initiative in informing them in order to help them serve you. Please remember that the Catholic Chaplaincies in our local hospital and throughout the Diocese are completely  dependent  upon  the  funds  raised by the Annual  Catholic  Charities  Appeal, so please remember to be generous to the Appeal which does so much good in this and so many other ways. Should you, a family member or neighbor be confined to home or an extended care facility for an extended  period  of  time  after hospitalization or for reason of sickness, advanced age, or infirmity, please don’t assume that we know the reason for your absence or where you were placed after being discharged, rather please take the initiative to contact the Church office if visits from parish clergy and Eucharistic ministers are desired.

Voice Of God

I’ve always wondered about the word “conscience.”    What is its derivation?    At first, I thought it meant “con-science” or “with science.”  Perhaps it does, and if so, then what is the link to science?  

Being a scientist, I find it curious that science would be linked to that which is so important to our Catholic faith and behavior – conscience.   According to Darlene Weaver in her C21 Resources article (Understanding Conscience): “Thus on the one hand, conscience refers to a moral law outside of us that we must obey, and on the other hand, it refers to the voice of God echoing in the deepest part of ourselves.”  Is the voice of God “science?”

This is an intriguing question.  Anyone familiar with science – physical, biological, and chemical – cannot help but answer “yes.”   Scientists hear the voice of God as they apply their knowledge and understanding of such things as our immense universe with all its stars, galaxies, gases, black holes, and emptiness.