Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Matthew Pawlikowski, a holy Priest, Army Chaplain, a Blessing

Last Sunday evening, on the television program, EWTN Live, two Franciscan Friars of the Renewal interviewed Father Matthew Pawlikowsli. Father Matthew is an Army military chaplain with the rank of Colonel - and may I say, a holy priest. My parish was blessed to have Father Matthew as a parochial vicar for three years. His guidance and presence in our parish had everything to do with my own vocation as permanent deacon.

I posted the video of the program below. If you can make some time, get yourself a cup of coffee or tea, sit down and enjoy the program. It is inspiring. And no commercials!  God bless.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

The Annunciation

Ave Maria, gratia plena, Dominus tecum.
Benedicta tu in mulieribus,
et benedictus fructus ventris tui, Iesus.
Sancta Maria, Mater Dei,
ora pro nobis peccatoribus,
nunc et in hora mortis nostrae. Amen. 

Drawing by Daniel Mitsui

Sunday, March 23, 2014

The Most Reverend Bernard A. Hebda "OPINION"

On March 17th, NORTHJERSEY.COM printed a very good "opinion" piece written by Archbishop Bernard Hebda, coadutor of the archdiocese of Newark. It is well worth your reading.


AS I READ Jeff Green’s article (“Lifestyles of the Newark archbishops stand in stark contrast,” March 9) I was disappointed that The Record would have so quickly equated a difference in residence with a difference in lifestyle.

I wish the article would have focused on what Archbishop Myers and I have in common: namely, a commitment to serving the people of the archdiocese and advancing the generous work that has for so long been undertaken by this local church, particularly in support of those who are economically disadvantaged.
In the six months since I was named the coadjutor archbishop of Newark, I have been especially delighted to learn of all that the archdiocese has been doing under Archbishop Myers’ leadership to support elementary and high school students, particularly in our inner-city communities, and to provide needed social services and spiritual support to those most in need throughout Essex, Hudson, Union and Bergen counties. It is largely due to his vision, personal investment of time and talent, and fiscal management that the archdiocese continues to be in a position to put flesh on the Gospel.

While The Record has been quick to criticize Archbishop Myers for the expenditures related to the construction project in Clinton Township, no mention has ever been made of the far greater savings that have come from his decision to live in the Cathedral rectory on Ridge Street these past thirteen years, rather than to maintain a full-time residence of his own. I admire his willingness to forego personal privacy in order to live in community with four or five other priests and I am inspired by his commitment to live in the intensely urban setting of inner-city Newark. While Green notes my three rooms in the dormitory at Seton Hall, he never mentions that Archbishop Myers has only two in the cathedral rectory that he can call his own (a bedroom and an office) or that they are in a zip code that few would consider enviable.

Lifestyle and square footage

My own experience tells me that the lifestyle of a bishop has little to do with square footage. I am the same bishop now as I was in northern Michigan, even though there I lived by myself in a diocesan-owned house on 40 acres with five bedrooms and three fireplaces. The demands on a bishop’s time are such that he is seldom home and rarely has time to develop attachments to creature comforts.

All in all, episcopal ministry would be a poor choice for someone seeking a comfortable lifestyle. Barring a health problem, bishops are expected to work full time until they reach the age of 75 and then to serve generously even after retirement. The hours are ridiculous and the pressures and public scrutiny immense. I chuckle when I think that when I graduated law school in 1983, as inexperienced as they come, I earned more than Archbishop Myers earns today with more than 45 years of priestly ministry under his belt and all the pressures that come with leading some 1,000 priests and deacons, close to 5,000 employees, and 1.5 million faithful.

While there are incredible spiritual benefits to episcopal service, it’s not a reasonable option for anyone looking for the proverbial Easy Street.

Even a bishop’s retirement is complex. While the idea of returning to parish life in retirement may sound appealing, it would take an incredibly generous pastor to welcome into his rectory the disruptions that would accompany a retired bishop or archbishop. A move into a residence for retired clergy could be fraught with similar challenges — perhaps more for the other residents than for the bishop (while the analogy is far from perfect, try to imagine what it would be like if you had to spend your remaining years in the easy chair next to your boss).

A generous shepherd

In the time that I have been in New Jersey, I have come to know Archbishop Myers as a generous shepherd who works tirelessly for his flock, wholly dedicated to the archdiocese of Newark. I have seen no resemblance to the unfair caricature of him that has been drawn in recent weeks.

He knows well the struggles that are being faced by our parishioners and neighbors in today’s difficult economic and social climate and has agonized with them as changing demographics have made it necessary to close some of the schools and parishes that have been so much a part of their lives. His lifestyle, like the lifestyle of any good bishop, has been totally shaped by the demands of his office and a deep desire to serve.

As Archbishop Myers prepares for his eventual retirement, I sure hope that people will get beyond the recent sensationalism and recall the great good that the archdiocese has accomplished under his direction in the past 13 years. There is far too much work that remains to be done for us to succumb to distractions.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Second Sunday of Lent "A"

Today, the Second Sunday of Lent, we hear the story of the Transfiguration. John Paul II chose this story as his fourth Luminous Mystery, introduced in his October 2002 Apostolic Letter “On the Most Holy Rosary”.  The Holy Father said that the Transfiguration is the “mystery par excellence” the encounter between history, which is built every day – and the blessed inheritance that awaits us in Heaven”, where we will be in full union with Christ. It is a story of Hope in the midst of despair, light in the midst of darkness. 

There was a woman whose name was Susan who would frequent the soup kitchen in Newark – for food, for warmth – for friendliness. Susan had long black hair, maybe it was a wig –it was unkempt.  Her face was masked in mascara and lipstick – her clothes were tattered – and she wore slippers in the summer and the winter. She approached me often to have some conversation, but honestly I could not understand a word she said – her speech was babble. Susan lived on the streets as so many others do.  A few weeks ago, during a “polar vortex”, a chilling night, Susan sought comfort on a mound of snow not far from St. Augustine Church, where I serve when time allows.  This mound of snow in Newark was her mound of Calvary. On this mound - she was found in the morning, lying there, frozen. Her suffering on the street was over. It is a tragedy – where was that “light”, that hope in Susan’s life.

Our story begins with Jesus bringing his most trusted friends, Peter, James and John, to the top of a mountain. Why to a mountain? Mountains have always been considered “Holy places.” In Greek Mythology Mt. Olympus was the home of 12 gods, beginning with Zeus. Many Old Testament stories we are familiar with take place on mountains – where Moses received his vocation, where the ark rested after the flood. It is a place close to heaven. Mountains are quiet places - where the wind is the only voice heard – where we go for retreat, to seek a clear vision. I remember my first trip to the Rocky Mountains of Colorado – at 12,000 feet. The sky was steel blue, you could see for a hundred miles – and at night the stars covered the sky, tightly woven as a blanket. You never forget that experience of peace.

When Jesus and his disciples reached the top of the mountain, something mysterious happened. Jesus was transformed, transfigured, and changed. His face was like the sun, his clothes white as light. Let’s reflect on this aspect of the story a bit. JESUS shown like the sun, He is the “Light” of the world. Now, if we are made in God’s image – if we are to be “like” God, we too must be that “Beacon of Light” that shone on the mountain. We are reminded of this at the Easter Vigil Mass. The Church is dark – as our world is today. The altar servers distribute the lit candles - then we turn - with our candle, light our neighbor’s candle -  a sign that we, the mystical Body of Christ,  is called to be Jesus’ light in the world, the very face of Christ.

 Now Jesus, in His mercy, allowed the disciples to see “in Him”, the form of future glory, at the Resurrection. This was a preparation; not only for the cross that Jesus would bear, but for the cross his disciples – and the many crosses you and I will bear.

 The Transfiguration is a sign of Christian Hope – as Pope Benedict XVI said in his Encyclical “Saved by Hope“, even if life is arduous, it can be lived and accepted if it leads towards a goal.” This goal is Eternal Life. Through the testimony of the disciples – Jesus revealed to us what WE will become when we leave this earthly life. In the words of the Beloved Disciple John “We have seen His glory, the glory of the one and only” (John 1:14).

Then the disciples see Moses and Elijah. Moses, represents the law, Elijah, represents the prophets. The law AND the prophets point to Jesus, who is the fulfillment of the law and the prophets. The disciples hear the voice of the Father “Listen to Him.” They are frightened.  The disciples do not immediately understand the meaning of all that is taking place – “Remember, at the crucifixion, John will be the only apostle at the foot of the cross – all the others will be hiding in the hills. It will all become clear after the resurrection – when Jesus appears to them in His Glorified Body. 

In this Second Sunday of Lent, let us ask Jesus to lead you and me to a transfiguration moment, a moment where we can see clearly, as if on top of a mountain – from that height we will see the incomprehensible injustices and sufferings in our world. From that height we will come to understand OUR role in inserting God’s love, his “light” in these dark places – not only the places where the children of God, such as Susan, roam the streets - but also in the dark places of troubles families, of addicted individuals – of the lost and lonely.  Let us share the good news with our brothers and sisters by acts of love and kindness, being the face of Christ in our world – sharing our Christian Hope.
God our Father, you have saved us and called us to a holy life.  In the transfigured glory of Christ your Son - strengthen our faith by confirming the witness of your prophets and by showing to us the splendor of your beloved Son. Help us to become heirs to eternal life with Him. Amen.

Deacon Brian J. Murphy

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Christ's Temptation and Ours by Fr. George Rutler

The Temptations of Christ, 12th century mosaic at St Mark's Basilica, Venice

Christ was tempted three times as an act of love to prepare his Church for three temptations which would assault her in every generation. 

The Spirit that "drove" Jesus into the desert to be tempted by Satan (Mark 1:12) is the Third Person of the Most Holy Trinity, the bond of love between God the Father and God the Son. Christ was tempted three times as an act of love to prepare his Church for three temptations which would assault her in every generation.

Satan tested Christ to figure out if he truly was divine: "If you are the Son of God . . ." So Satan also tempts the Church, not to discern her holiness as the Body of Christ, but to test whether Christians will be faithful to that holiness.

Satan first tempts the Church to turn stones into bread: to reduce the Church to a human creature devoid of supernatural charisms. The Church is the world's greatest feeder of the poor, but unless she feeds souls, she is redundant in a materialist culture. Satan wants to replace Communion lines with bread lines, as if the Body of Christ were nothing more than temporal sustenance. But Christ is Our Saviour and not Our Philanthropist. "Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, you shall not have life in you" (John 6:53).

Secondly, Satan tempts the Church to mock herself, as he wanted Jesus to jump from the pinnacle of the Temple and survive. This test will see whether Christians will take up the daily crosses of life with Christ in a broken world, or engage grace as a kind of New Age energy arrogated to ourselves without moral obedience to natural law. To fly against nature is to live in an unreal world, claiming to be Catholic without living as Catholics. Satan wants us to "take Communion" on our terms rather than "receive Communion" on Christ's terms. St. Paul would not fly that way: "He who eats and drinks without discerning the body, eats and drinks his own condemnation; and for this reason many of you are weak, and ill, and some have died" (1 Cor. 11:29-30).

Thirdly, the Church is tempted with earthly power. Cardinal Consalvi reminded Napoleon that the Church's power is not from earthly rulers. Pius XII said that Stalin would be able to count the Church's divisions only after he died. The two Thomases, Becket and More, made similar remonstrances with their own blood. In the history of the Church, Judas was the first to accept a government grant in exchange for doing evil. The Church is entering a time of severe testing, and she will be crucified in ways more tortuous than nails, for she will be jeered by journalists and patronized by politicians and menaced by false messiahs, but in the end the Church's despisers will hear severe words: "You could have no power at all against me, were it not given you from above; so he who delivered me to you has the greater sin" (John 19:11).

See HERE a biography of Father George Rutler

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Photo Of The Day

Ukrainian servicemen make the sign of the cross as a priest reads a prayer for peace in the village of Belbek Photo: Thomas Peter/Reuters

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Merton on Ash Wednesday

“the liturgy of Ash Wednesday is not focused on the sinfulness of the penitent but on the mercy of God. The question of sinfulness is raised precisely because this is a day of mercy, and the just do not need a savior.”   Thomas Merton