Sunday, August 12, 2018

Nineteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time - August 12, 2018


Monsignor Richard McGuinness, a priest from Newark, was the rector of Mount St. Mary’s Seminary during my days as a student. Msgr. McGuinness was a very talented priest, but also a humble man who had a simple way of expressing himself. One of his pieces of advice was to include food at every gathering as a way of keeping things friendly and community-oriented. He gave that advice with the very simple phrase, “When you meet, eat.”
                 
 I would like to turn that advice around. “When you eat, meet.” That doesn’t work in as universal a way as Msgr. McGuinness’ advice, but I think it can apply to today’s subject. Next week we are going to have a special opportunity to eat. Next Sunday is our annual Parish Picnic at Fairhaven Park. I want to offer a special word of thanks to all who are contributing their talents and efforts to make this picnic a success. That goes particularly for the Pastoral Council, who are coordinating our efforts, and for the Knights of Columbus, who are taking care of the hamburgers and hot dogs (and other picnic food) with their usual flair. Having experienced these picnics on an annual basis, I am confident that this will be another rousing success. We will begin with Mass at 1:00 at the picnic grove. After Mass, in addition to the good food, there will be games for the kids and for the adults (with Sandy Vaught leading us in bingo). It should be fun for all.
 
But while we have good food and good fun, we also are planning this as a time to meet. This year we are opening the picnic to our partners in our new grouping of parishes. We have included an invitation to the people of St. John of God and Holy Trinity parishes to join us. As I write this, I don’t know what kind of response we may get, especially since I am writing well in advance. (I wanted to get a couple of August columns written before going on my vacation in July.) But I am hoping that quite a few of our new neighbors will join us. We are coming together as one community, and a good way to approach that goal is to come together in a social setting, with good food and good fun. It helps that we are also starting with Mass, as is our custom, so that we can remember that we are joining together through the most important source of unity we have, the Eucharist. In the informal setting of a picnic, that gathering can be a chance for us to share that Eucharist with one another.
 
The poet William Butler Yeats once said, “There are no strangers here; Only friends you haven’t yet met.” I hope we can keep that attitude as we move forward with the implementation of On Mission for the Church Alive. We have a common purpose of building the kingdom of God as we form this new grouping. And we have a common bond in the Eucharist that holds all Catholics together. We can obviously offer some very serious reflections on that idea. But when it comes down to daily life, we live that goal by forming friendships and enjoying one another’s company. One good way to reach that goal is to share together an afternoon of good food, fun and (I hope) sunshine. I like to think that Msgr. McGuinness (God rest his soul) would approve. He would remind us, “When you meet, eat.”                                                       
                                                                                                                     Father H 

Saturday, August 4, 2018

Eighteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time - August 5, 2018

When I was growing up, we often heard the saying, “Build a better mousetrap, and the world will beat a path to your door.” In truth, nobody will come unless they hear about our mousetrap. Sometimes, people do not hear about the best advances. For instance, when we first started hearing about devices for recording TV shows, the experts claimed that Betamax was better than VHS. But it was VHS that became the standard (until DVDs and streaming came along).

As Catholics, we have a “better mousetrap.” We know that other Christian churches share a good deal of our faith, and there are many people who try to live good lives without the help of faith. Yet that good life becomes so much better when we find the help that God offers. Without denigrating other Christian communities, we know that we Catholics, have the fullness of His revelation. Christ established the Church with the promise, I am with you always, until the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:20) He promised the Holy Spirit to guide the Church to be certain that we are following His teaching. Therefore, one of Bishop Zubik’s goals in On Mission for the Church Alive is to bring us together so that we can more effectively show the world that we have that “better mousetrap.”

One way we get the message of the faith to people is through the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA). This is the process the Church has set up for those who wish to join us. It began with adults who were never baptized and includes those who were baptized in other Christian communities but who wish to become Catholic. It can include anyone who was baptized Catholic but who did not grow up in the faith, and it can even be open to those who simply want a way to learn about their faith more deeply.

This process is an important way of learning about our faith, but the RCIA is not a “class” in the sense that we turn our faith into an academic subject. But we do bring together all the teachings of Christ and try to apply them to our daily lives. Thus the first part of the RCIA is always the stage of “inquiry.” It is at that point that people who think they may be interested in the Catholic Church bring their questions and concerns. There is no pressure; there is no commitment to join the Church at that stage. Those who want to learn about the faith may do so, and at any time they may decide that they are not ready. While we do teach the academic part of the faith, we try to appeal mostly to the heart. Thus there is no pressure to continue unless the person in the program truly feels ready to continue. There is, in fact, no need for any pressure since we are confident that we offer something better than the world around us does.

At this time we are discussing what form the RCIA will take this year. I have been the main catechist of the RCIA since being here, and I’m not sure whether our new priests will take over themselves or will rely on the team that has helped me the last few years. So if you know of somebody who is not Catholic but who may want to be – a spouse or other family member, a neighbor or anyone who may be interested – feel free to give this information to that person and invite him or her to join us. And for anyone who is interested in joining the RCIA, feel free to call the rectory. We have something of great value to share. We can offer the “better mousetrap.”                                                       
                                                             Father H 

Saturday, July 28, 2018

Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time - July 29, 2018

Last week I told you about my tour of New York City, with my plans to watch both the Yankees and the Mets. Since then I have moved on to the second half of my trip, with two main stops. This is usually the more restful part of my vacation, but even here I have a lot of things to do.

One of my favorite places to visit is Cooperstown, New York, home of the Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum. I have also visited the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio, and (most recently last summer) the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto. Both are great, but there is something special about baseball’s museum. The football Hall of Fame is right on an interstate. You come out, get in your car, and you’re gone. The Hockey Hall of Fame is right in the heart of downtown Toronto. You come out, and you are immediately jostled by people rushing by, many of whom probably do not even recognize the significance of the building they are passing. The Hall of Fame is in an old bank building and is easy to miss. But in Cooperstown, you can walk down the three blocks or so between the Hall of Fame and Doubleday Field, and at least two out of every three storefronts are baseball related. You can get baseball memorabilia, team clothing for any team, and even many of the restaurants have pictures of famous ballplayers all over the walls. In Cooperstown, you are immersed in baseball.

The issue with my schedule this year is that if I were to go to Cooperstown right from New York, I would be there during their big Induction weekend, when they officially recognize the newly elected members of the Hall of Fame. That would be exciting, but the normally small village of Cooperstown is usually swamped with people. As exciting as that could be, it’s a little too much of a crowd for someone just coming from riding the subways in New York City. So before going to Cooperstown, I am going to spend a few days up in Montreal. That is where I will be when you read this column (assuming you read it on Sunday).
Montreal is a fascinating city that I have seen a few times before. I hope to see some religious sites, particularly the Oratory of St. Joseph, built by St. AndrĂ© Bessette, who was known as “the Miracle Man of Montreal.” I also look forward to doing the same thing I did on my last trip here. I will go to Mass twice. I will attend the Mass at the English-speaking St. Patrick’s Basilica on Saturday night, but then I will go to Mass in French on Sunday morning at the Cathedral Marie La Riene du Monde on Sunday. Visiting Montreal always reminds me of how long it has been since my high school and college French classes, but I like to see how much of the liturgy I can follow.

Lest you think this is just a busman’s holiday, I will also do some other touristy things. My second-favorite hockey team, after the Penguins, has always been the Montreal Canadiens, back to the days of Jean Beliveau. The last time I was in Montreal, I made plans to take a tour of the Canadiens’ arena. When I arrived at the appointed time, there was a sign taped to the door that the building was closed and the tours canceled because of a power outage. So I hope to make up that tour this time.

I will be returning to the parish on Friday evening. I look forward to being back with you (refreshed by my time away) next weekend.                                                       
                                                            Father H  

Saturday, July 21, 2018

Sixteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

This is the first of my two weekends of vacation. As you read this, I am in New York City. I might actually be in New Jersey when you read this, because I am staying in the parish of a seminary classmate whose church is a fairly easy commute into the city. Actually, my friend is not here. After we made the arrangements for me to stay with him, he got an offer to take a cruise. But he said I could still stay in his rectory, and I offered to cover Sunday mass for him.

I have been to New York for baseball twice before. In 1988 I stopped to see another classmate and planned on just staying overnight on my way to see my sister, who at the time lived in Rhode Island. When I got there, he told me that he had tickets for a game at the old Yankee Stadium. Then in 2004, I took a week to tour New York while getting to see the Mets at Shea Stadium. This year I am going to do some more touring. I will see three Yankees games at the new Yankee Stadium and three Mets games at Citi Field.

So since this is a vacation reflection, let me just give you a trivia question. Do you know why New York is called “the Big Apple”? One theory is that the Latin word for apple is malus. Malus is also a Latin word that means evil. At a time when our nation was still mostly rural, many people looked at the big cities as places full of evil and temptation. And since New York was the biggest city, it was also the biggest source of temptation. Thus it became known as the big malus, the Big Apple.

That same bit of trivia should also explain why our image of Adam and Eve generally has them eating an apple. The book of Genesis does not specify a particular type of fruit from the tree in the center of the garden. But since they gave in to the temptation of the serpent, they brought evil upon themselves. The apple then became a good visual reminder of what they had done.

All of this has nothing to do with the apples that are on the handles of the doors of our church. Those refer to the idea that our patron, Saint Malachy, had helped his people during a famine by planting apple trees, making him Ireland’s version of Johnny Appleseed. Notice that the statue of St. Malachy in our church shows him holding an apple. I do sometimes tell people that there is a different reason for that symbolism. I said that the architect had planned a church with a lot of windows, but he suspected that someday there would be a pastor whose preference of computers would lead him to use an Apple instead of a Windows computer. (No, I am not being paid for that advertisement.)

I hope that little bit of trivia about “the Big Apple” does not get you worried about what I am doing while in New York City. Rather than looking for any sort of temptation, I will see such things as the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Ellis Island, and St. Patrick’s Cathedral. Of course I will also be watching the Mets and the Yankees .                                                                         
                                                                                               Father H 

Saturday, July 14, 2018

Fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time - July 15, 2018

The last two weeks I have been using this column to catch up on some of the basics. These are things we see so often in church that we take them for granted or don’t give them much thought. Last week I wrote about the meaning of the priest’s vestments, but I ran short of space to write about the colors of the vestments. So today I will continue with the colors.

Currently we are wearing green. Green is simply the color of “Ordinary Time,” the time when we have no special seasons and no particular feasts. There is a good meaning to green for Ordinary Time, for it is the color of creation in bloom. Trees and grass give us a vibrant green that speaks of life that God gives us in nature. As the color of nature shows God in the world around us, so Ordinary Time speaks of the unfolding of God’s plan in our everyday lives.

All of that talk of nature is very helpful, but it’s probably not the original reason for using green in Ordinary Time. Originally it was a more simple reason. When cloth was colored with natural dyes, green was least expensive. It would therefore be used for the most commonly used clothing. As for liturgical vestments, green would be what was most frequently used. But I prefer the more symbolic version.

In the earliest days, probably all vestments were white. I wrote last week that the vestments are based on the everyday clothes of the first century. A Roman gentleman would wear white for special occasions. As white is the color of holiness, as I explained last week, we use white for the most important times. The great feasts of Easter and Christmas, along with the feasts of the saints, call for white vestments. We do sometimes dress the white up with shades of gold to show the importance of a feast, but even then the basic color is white.

Red is the most obvious color. Most frequently, red is the color of blood. So along with the celebration of Christ’s Passion, we wear red for the feast of any martyr. In addition, red is the color of flame. Thus we wear red for Pentecost and for any celebration of the Holy Spirit, who came to the Apostles at Pentecost as tongues of flame.

That leaves purple (or violet) as the fourth of the common colors. We use that for the penitential season of Lent and for the anticipatory season of Advent. When I show the children the colors, they often ask why purple should represent those seasons. I’m never quite sure how to answer, for I’ve never seen a real explanation. I suspect that purple is simply a darker color, and those are “darker” seasons. That explanation does go along with the two days during the year when we have the option of wearing a fifth color, rose (or pink). On the Third Sunday of Advent or the Fourth Sunday of Lent, we brighten up the season just a bit with the slightly brighter color of rose. Those rose vestments offer a sign of hope that the season will come to an end, that the waiting of Advent or the penance of Lent will soon be complete.

There was one other color that was used in former days. In funeral masses, we used to wear black to show our mourning for the deceased. While that color has never been rescinded, it is common today to wear white at funerals as a sign of our hope in the Resurrection.

On a final note, I am soon beginning my vacation. I will be away from this Wednesday through Friday, August 3.                                                                           

                                                                 Father H  

Saturday, July 7, 2018

Fourteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time - July 8, 2018

One day I was showing some CCD students around the church. When we got to the sacristy, I showed them the vestments that the priest wears. That led one young girl to ask a question she had apparently been wondering about for some time. She asked, “Why do you wear a dress at Mass?” From that point on, whenever I would visit her CCD class, she would tell me that she like the dress I wore at Mass. So last week I said I may take some time to use this column to write about things that we “cradle Catholics” take for granted. Sometimes it can be good for those of us who know these things to review them, and it can be a good introduction for anyone who may not understand but who found that there were more important things to ask about. So let me start with one important point: I am not wearing a dress.

The first point we need to understand is something I referred to in last week’s column. The vestments we wear take us back 2,000 years, to the time when Jesus walked the earth in His human body. Specifically, whenever we celebrate the Mass, we are taking part in what Christ did at the Last Supper, the night before He offered His life for us on the cross. If you think of the images of Jesus that you have seen, He is generally wearing a long, flowing robe, often of white. So the first vestment that the priest puts on in an alb, a white garment that hangs down to the floor. It is important that this garment be white, and in fact the very name comes from the Latin word alba, which means “white.” White is a color of cleanliness, and so it represents holiness in the sense of being clean from the stain of sin. The alb relates to the white garment that our parents put on us at our baptism. In that sense, it is not only a reminder that the priest is to be holy; it is also a reminder that every other vocation of our lives begins with our baptism. Notice, then, that the priest’s alb is essentially the same thing that our Altar Servers wear at Mass.

On a side note, you may notice that our Servers are no longer wearing crosses with their albs. I had always thought that there would come a time when they would start wearing out, and that I would not replace them. The alb itself is a sign of our baptismal dedication to Christ, and so the cross on top of the alb does not really add to the significance of the Servers’ vesture.

On top of the alb, a priest wears a stole, a piece of cloth that goes around the back of the neck and hangs down the front on two sides. The stole comes from a kind of mantle that people in Christ’s time would wear to show a particular role that they would have. So the stole is the sign of the office of priesthood. A deacon shows his ordination by wearing a stole over his left shoulder, hanging down diagonally in front and back, with the two sides joined together on his right. You will see an example next week when Deacon Tim Killmeyer, who will be part of our grouping in October, comes to visit and assist at all of the Mass.

When talking to the children, I sometimes tell them that the stole is kind of like a necktie that a man might wear to something important. That means that the outer garment is something like the suit coat. The chasuble was the outer coat that someone would wear. It shows that we are celebrating something of great importance when we celebrate Mass. I should also say something about the colors of the chasuble, but I am already at the bottom of the column.                                                                           

                                                                 Father H 

Sunday, July 1, 2018

Thirteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time - July 1, 2018

As “cradle Catholics,” we who have been part of the Church all our lives sometimes take some things for granted. I know that I sometimes assume that everyone knows what everything is all about. Sometimes the experience of working with the RCIA helps me remember that I have to explain things that the newcomers to the Church are not as familiar with. So as we move into summer and things slow down, I found myself wondering what to write about. I thought it might be helpful to take some time (perhaps a few weeks if I don’t come up with any other important topics) to look at some of the basic things that we see in church.

As Catholics, we are accustomed to seeing candles in church. But do we ever think of why we have candles? There are several types of candles, and the most important are the ones by the altar. Candles in church are there to remind us of Christ, who told us that he is the Light of the World. In a dark place, we cannot see where we are going. We need light to be able to go anywhere. So without Christ and His resurrection, we would be stumbling about in the dark. We could not find our way to heaven without Christ. Thus, the candles represent Christ’s presence upon the altar.

We could then ask why we still use candles in an age of electricity. We could imagine updating the liturgy so that we put an electric lamp by the altar. For one thing, the liturgy takes us back to the days when Jesus was among us in the flesh, 2,000 years ago. As the vestments that the priest wears are designed to remind us of the clothing of the first century, so our candles harken back to the time of the Last Supper. Beyond that, there is more symbolism in the candles. An electric light looks just the same until the bulb burns out. You cannot tell by looking how much life a light bulb has. As a candle burns, on the other hand, we see it getting shorter. While Christ’s resurrection is what gives us the light, leading us to having the special Easter Candle as our most fancy candle, we also remember that He gave Himself for us on the Cross. As a candle gives light, it gives of itself. As we see it grow shorter, we know that it is “sacrificing” itself for our light. That candle is then a visual reminder of Christ’s sacrifice on Calvary in order to lead us to new life.

In addition to the candles at the altar, I would like to remember the candles in the back, near the statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary or by the statue of St. Anthony. We see these candles as a way of remaining in prayer. If I have some special favor that I want to bring to God, through the intercession of Mary or the saints, then I want the help of all who share our faith. There may be a case where I would want to ask everyone who comes by to pray for my special intention. It would not be practical for me to stay in the back of church throughout the entire day, just so that I could stop anyone and everyone who comes in and ask for their prayers. So I can light a candle, and the candle remains when I depart. We call those “vigil candles” because they remain to keep vigil in our place. Thus, if I can stop and say a prayer at the statue of the Blessed Mother, then I am praying for all those who have lit candles in that area. I include their prayers, and I know that those who come after will include my needs in their prayers.

When we come to church, we see candles. I hope that this reminder of the candles will help us see Christ as the Light of the World and will help us offer our prayers for one another in all our needs.                                                 
                                                         Father H