Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Bishop Arthur J. Serratelli's Letter On the Recent Supreme Court Decision

Most Reverend Arthur J. Serratelli
Bishop of Paterson, New Jersey
Dear brothers and sisters in the Lord,

The recent Supreme Court decision “Obergefell et al. v Hodges” has now redefined the legal definition of marriage in our country.

Responding to the cultural trends of the last sixty years, the judges have made a decision that will affect not only those individuals who decide to enter same-sex unions, but every citizen and institution within the nation.

This decision rejects the understanding of marriage that has been held across the millennia by people of every race and religion. The consequences of this decision will have long-range effects in politics, economics, education, and, in no small way, religious freedom. The adverse consequences of this decision will become more and more evident in the days and months ahead in terms of our Catholic schools, universities, hospitals, charitable institutions and churches.

As your bishop, I take serious my responsibility to safeguard and pass on to you the teaching of Jesus that has been handed down to us by the apostles in the deposit of faith. Therefore, I ask you to always keep in mind, as faithful Catholics, the following truths of faith.

First, as believers, we abstain from judging the consciences of those who choose to live in lifestyles contrary to the teaching of Jesus. Only God sees the heart and judges rightly each human person. As a consequence, we speak charitably and compassionately of all people, even those who disagree with us on fundamental truths of the natural law.

Second, precisely because we are people of reason and faith, we hold that there is objective truth about the human person and the world. Objective truth is founded on God’s design for creation and independent of the political and cultural trends of any age.

Third, without a doubt, the objective truth about family, as intended by God, is a most fundamental, objective truth for the good of all society. From the very first pages of Genesis, we learn that God created us in his own image and likeness, male and female, he created us. (cf. Gn 1:27). In the beauty of God’s creative design, marriage is based on the complementarity of man and woman. As Pope Francis has said, “the removal of difference, in fact, creates a problem, not a solution.”

Courts and constitutions may change the legal definition of marriage. But, they cannot alter God’s loving plan inscribed within the natural law.

As Catholics, therefore, we are committed to the teaching of Sacred Scripture faithfully handed down to us by the Church that marriage is, by God’s design, a union between a man and a woman, open to life, in a lifelong commitment of fidelity and mutual love. That is God’s gift of marriage that we cherish and seek to protect.

Fourth, the laws of a nation are good or bad only insofar as they are in accord with God’s plan for his creation. Human laws are fallible and change. In 1857, the Supreme Court of this nation upheld slavery. Clearly, a bad decision condoning an evil. Because a court tells us something is good does not make it good. We, as believers, are ultimately responsible to a higher authority.

While accompanying, with patience and love, others, even members of our own families, who do not accept the Church’s teaching on marriage, as believers, we cannot cease to support and promote God’s sacred plan for marriage. Please keep in mind that, by our own fidelity to what is good in God’s eyes and by the witness of our lives, we are of invaluable benefit for all of society.

In the days ahead as we face many challenges to our faith and, perhaps, even persecution, I pray that “the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit” (Rm 15: 13).

Invoking God’s blessing on each of you and your families, I remain,

 Sincerely yours in Christ,
Most Reverend Arthur J. Serratelli, S.T.D., S.S.L., D.D.
Bishop of Paterson
* This letter is out of the DIOCESE OF PATERSON website. Well worth the read !

Friday, June 26, 2015

Catholics Must Maintain Witness to the Truth of Marriage

Out of EWTN

Catholics are called to witness to the truth of marriage despite the Supreme Court of the United States recognizing a legal right to same-sex marriage, the nation's bishops said on Friday.

“Regardless of what a narrow majority of the Supreme Court may declare at this moment in history, the nature of the human person and marriage remains unchanged and unchangeable,” said Archbishop Joseph Kurtz of Louisville, president of the U.S bishops conference, in a June 26 statement for the conference.

“Jesus Christ, with great love, taught unambiguously that from the beginning marriage is the lifelong union of one man and one woman,” Archbishop Kurtz added. “As Catholic bishops, we follow our Lord and will continue to teach and to act according to this truth.”

In a 5-4 decision on Friday, the Supreme Court ruled in Obergefell v. Hodges that under the Fourteenth Amendment, states must grant marriage licenses to same-sex couples and recognize same-sex marriages conducted in other states.

The Fourteenth Amendment protects the rights of all citizens to “life, liberty, or property” under due process, and guarantees them “equal protection of the laws” in the states. In this case, the court ruled that state laws defining marriage as between one man and one woman deprived same-sex couples of their right to legally marry.

The ruling overturned a November decision by the U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals that upheld traditional marriage laws in Michigan, Ohio, Kentucky, and Tennessee. Same-sex marriage is now legal in all fifty states.

Although the Court recognizes a legal right to same-sex marriage, Catholics must teach and bear witness to true marriage, the bishops insisted.

“The unique meaning of marriage as the union of one man and one woman is inscribed in our bodies as male and female,” Archbishop Kurtz reflected.

“Mandating marriage redefinition across the country is a tragic error that harms the common good and most vulnerable among us, especially children. The law has a duty to support every child’s basic right to be raised, where possible, by his or her married mother and father in a stable home.”

Despite the ruling, Catholics should continue to preach the truth about the nature of marriage with “faith, hope, and love” for all persons, and asked “all people of good will” to join Catholics in supporting this proclamation and respecting Catholics’ “freedom to seek, live by, and bear witness to the truth”


“It is legitimate and necessary to ask oneself if this [same-sex marriage] is not perhaps part of a new ideology of evil, perhaps more insidious and hidden, which attempts to pit human rights against the family and against man.  -  St. John Paul II

Lake George New York

"Lake George is without comparison, the most beautiful water I ever saw; formed by a a contour of mountains into a basin thirty-five miles long and from two to four miles broad, finely interspersed with islands, its water limpid as crystal and the mountainsides covered with rich groves of silver fir, white pine, aspen and paper birch down to the water, here and there precipices of rock to checker the scene and save it from monotony. An abundance of speckled trout, salmon trout, bass, and other fish with which it is stored, have added to our other amusements the sport of taking them."

—Thomas Jefferson

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Mother Teresa’s Successor, Sister Nirmala Joshi, Home to God at 81

OUT OF CNA - Catholics around the world are mourning the death of Sister Nirmala Joshi, who passed away Tuesday. Sr. Nirmala had succeeded Blessed Teresa of Calcutta as superior general of the Missionaries of Charity, serving in that capacity from 1997 to 2009.

Sr. Nirmala, who was 81, had suffered ill health for some years, and was hospitalized and then brought home a few days ago, dying at a Missionaries of Charity home in Kolkata in the early hours of June 23.

“All people in India and especially the Archdiocese of Calcutta is saddened with this great loss of Sr. Nirmala Joshi, who was very close and dear to us,” Fr. Dominic Gomes, vicar general of the Archdiocese of Calcutta, told CNA.

“She was simple, humble and emanated a strong spirituality of faith,” Fr. Gomes added. “Her exemplary life was an inspiration to the younger generation in the congregation and to people around the world.”

The body of Sr. Nirmala is lying in state at St John's Church in Kolkata's Sealdah district, and will be taken to the Missionaries of Charity's Mother House in Kolkata tomorrow. The funeral Mass will be said at 4 pm local time on Wednesday, and then interred at St. Johns cemetery.

Archbishop Thomas D’Souza of Calcutta, who had visited Sr. Nirmala a fortnight ago when she had regained consciousness, has expressed his deep sadness and grief at her death, saying, 'she was a great soul.”

He praised her work, noting that “she never talked about herself; she was more about how to support peace, to be helpful to the poor … she had a deep union with Jesus and she was a gentle apostle of peace until the end.”

Sr. Nirmala was in born in 1934 in Ranchi, capital of what is now India's Jharkhand state, to a Hindu brahmin family from Nepal who were serving the British during colonial rule. Her given name was Kusum, meaning “flower,” and she was the eldest sibling among eight girls and two boys. Her early education was at Christian schools.

She was inspired by Mother Teresa's humanitarian work, and was baptized. She later entered the Missionaries of Charity and took the name Nirmala, meaning “purity” in Sanskrit. She completed a master's degree in political science, and studied law as well. In the 1970s, she became head of the congregation's contemplative wing.

Sr. Nirmala was elected as superior general of the congregation just a few months before Mother Teresa's death in 1997, and pursued the founder's cause for beatification.

The West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee stated, “Saddened at the passing away of Sister Nirmala, who headed the Missionaries of Charity after Mother Teresa. Kolkata and the world will miss her.”


** I was privileged to meet Sister Nirmala on two occasions. Once, during her visit to the Missionaries of Charity mission in Newark, New Jersey, and on another occasion at the MC House in Washington, DC. She was a wonderful sister, a holy instrument of God. May God bless her forever.    

Deacon Brian Murphy

Saturday, June 20, 2015

12th Sunday in Ordinary Time - Mark 4:35-41

Today’s Gospel from Mark brings to mind an event a number of years ago, when my family and I were on vacation in Ireland. My son bought the family tickets for a ferry ride to Clare Island, off the coast of County Mayo. Clare island is where Grace O`Malley, the tyrant of the ocean, resided and was buried in the 16th century. There is a lovely old abbey there, St, Bridget’s, that dates from the 13th century. That day was very windy, and I was hesitant, because - I do not like boats!  but I gave in. 

After boarding the ferry and taking our top deck seats, we began to move towards the island. Very soon this little ferry was in the midst of chaos – riding huge waves, one minute seeing the sky, next minute looking at water. The captain told us we would not sink, but best to go below and put on our life jackets. That was just great. On the bottom deck of the ferry were sitting two elderly nuns, who gave me a nice smile. They were calm; I was in a panic, thinking my life was all over…. “Oh you of little faith.”

Our story begins with Jesus, who is tired after a long day of preaching and teaching. He leaves with his disciples by boat – moving across the Sea of Galilee to the other side.

He sleeps soundly in the stern of the boat. As the boat moves out to sea, a violent storm comes up – the sea is rough - the winds are strong - the waves are high – they begin to break over the boat. I CAN imagine the terror the disciples were experiencing during the storm. Mark uses good symbolism here. The boat or bark - is an ancient Christian symbol of the Church, the vessel of salvation. You can find carvings of boats on the walls of the catacombs in Rome. Early Christians needed to disguise the cross. Since the ship's mast forms a cross in many of its depictions - it made for a good sign. The Boat holds the Disciples, and symbolically, all of Christ's Disciples, you and me. Jesus is also in the boat with us. Church Father St. Hippolytus wrote, "The World is a Sea - in which the Church, like a Ship, is beaten by the waves, but not submerged" in fact it has an expert pilot, Christ.” 

The boat, the Church, is being tossed around on the sea of disbelief, secularism, and persecution, martyrdom, institutional corruption, and scandal. Our American Church today is experiencing a perfect storm, a lack of priestly and religious vocations, attacks on the Sacrament of marriage, religious freedom, and attacks upon the dignity of the human person. Still, in the midst of the storm, the boat moves towards the other side, to that eternal safe harbor - with its cargo of human souls – a fulfillment of Christ’s promise.

The storm is raging. Jesus lies in the stern - asleep on a cushion. The storm seems to have no effect on him. More symbolism - the sleeping Christ stands for the power – and the presence of God within the Church. He is always the source of peace and serenity in the midst of the greatest storms. How many of us here today are in the midst of a perfect storm? I am sure many of us, myself included. Here we are together - in our Church – in our boat – and there is Jesus behind the altar in the tabernacle – resting in his humanity, the same as he was in the boat on the Sea of Galilee. He is our peace. He is what St. Teresa of Avila called our “Interior Castle.” Our place of safety.

The disciples are in a panic – anxiety is taking hold. They wake up Jesus and say to him “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing.”?  Jesus woke up, rebuked the wind and said “Quiet, be still.” Here we witness the great display of power. Once Christ is awakened, He has the power to calm the storm. If Jesus can calm the storms of the sea with one word, he certainly can calm the storms in our lives.

Jesus said to the disciples “Why are you terrified, do you not yet have faith.”?

The disciples' persistently failed to grasp our Lord's teaching. It must have been a great source of trial and frustration for Jesus. How many of the disciples were at the foot of the cross? As far as faith goes, the disciples are a lot like us.

Our faith is shaken because we lack Trust in God. Trusting God can be extremely uncomfortable, even painful. The events this week in a Charleston, South Carolina shake us to the bone. Nine Christians shot and killed ... violence for the sake of violence. Where is God? Is He sleeping?  We don’t always know the ways of the lord, his mind, why his providence unfolds the way it does in the midst of suffering, hardship and loss.  We just don’t know. So, just like a child who does not understand what his parents are all about – the child trusts them, we must learn to be like children in our Trust of The Lord. The prophet Isaiah says “They who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength.”  Isaiah 40:31

 Faith will lead to Trust. Have we fallen asleep in our faith? We must learn to wake up Jesus in ourselves. At baptism we became temples of the Holy Spirit. He resides in us – the problem is – we let him sleep. The storms in our lives bring on a fear that stops us in our tracks. Pope Francis says “A person who is afraid “does nothing, doesn’t know what to do.” He is focused on himself, overly concerned that nothing bad will happen.” Fear brings you to a self-centered selfishness and paralyzes you.” “A fearful Christian is a person who has not understood the message of Jesus.”

We must move from fear to faith, then to Trust. A strong faith allows us to trust in God and His providence. Renew our  life of prayer, read the scripture, the sacraments, a readiness to serve others out of love.

Our gospel story corresponds well with our first reading. Job was enduring a ferocious storm - he lost everything – children, home, health– When Job's life fell apart, he still found reasons to praise God, reasons that we also should embrace.

    That God is good and loving. (Job 10:12)
    That God is all-powerful. (Job 42:2; 37:5, 23)
    That God notices every detail of our life. (Job 23:10; 31:4)
    That God is in control. (Job 34:13)
    That God has a plan for every life (Job 23:14)
    That God will save us (Job 19:25)

Job held on to God's Word. He said, "I have not departed from the commands of his lips; I have treasured the words of his mouth more than my daily bread." (Job 23:12, NIV).
Job's trusting in the Lord was his vindication.

We are all going to endure storms in this life. Let us always know that God dwells within us in the person of Christ. He lives in us. 


Monday, June 8, 2015

The Watering Trough

Let the end of all bathtubs
be this putting out to pasture
of four Victorian bowlegs
anchored in grasses.

Let all long necked browsers
come drink from the shallows
while faucets grow rusty
and porcelain yellows.

Where once our nude forebears
soaped up in this vessel
come, cows, and come, horses.
Bring burdock and thistle,

come slaver the scum of
timothy and clover
on the cast-iron lip that
our grandsires climbed over

and let there be always
green water for sipping
that muzzles may enter thoughtful
and rise dripping. 

"Watering Trough" by Maxine Kumin

Photo by Brian J. Murphy, Ned O'Neill's Farm - County Kerry

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Something about a Horse

 Where in this wide world
Can man find nobility without pride,
Friendship without envy,
Or beauty without vanity?
Here, where grace is served with muscle
And strength by gentleness confined
He serves without servility;
He has fought without enmity.
There is nothing so powerful,
Nothing less violent.
There is nothing so quick,
Nothing more patient.

~Ronald Duncan, "The Horse," 1954