Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

The Patron Saint of Plan B

Tuesday, May 14th, 2013

One of the many reasons I love these days of the liturgical year is that we get to revisit the Acts of the Apostles, not just on Sundays, but throughout each week as well. Even if you are unable to go to Mass every day, look at the readings from the Acts. You can find them at the U.S. Bishops’ website.

Attributed to the author of the Gospel of Luke, this book is fascinating and should provide a measure of comfort to those who worry about today’s Church. Right from the beginning, the Church – the community of believers – faced and overcame many obstacles and challenges, both external and internal.

Today’s reading shows us how the disciples of Jesus found themselves making decisions after his ascension. This is the feast of the apostle Matthias who, according to Msgr. Robert Ritchie, rector of St. Patrick’s Cathedral, should be known as “the patron saint of Plan B.” If you read Acts 1-15-17, 20-26, you’ll see why.

Judas, who had been selected  by Jesus as one of the 12 apostles, betrayed the Lord and hanged himself.  Peter knew he had to find a replacement and brought this to the brothers and sisters.  Jesus wasn’t going to make this appointment directly, so they had to come up with an alternate plan. They nominated two candidates, all prayed, and then they cast lots. “The lot fell upon Matthias, and he was counted with the eleven apostles.” Plan B.

Certainly Msgr. Ritchie is dealing with Plan B himself these days during the Cathedral’s restoration. He’s probably on Plan K. We in the Archdiocesan Catechetical Office certainly find ourselves having to change plans, too.  In fact, everybody has to go to Plan B or beyond at some point in his or her life.

The next time you find yourself in such a position, don’t forget to ask St. Matthias for help.

Francis and Ignatius: connections

Tuesday, April 30th, 2013

This post  from Thinking Faith, the British Jesuits’ website, is very timely and not just because our Jesuit pope took the name of St. Francis of Assisi.  You may already know that Ignatius of Loyola esteemed Francis of Assisi.   Father James Hanvy, S.J., explains that affinity through his examination of  the philosophies of these two great saints and the communities they established.  I hope you enjoy this as much as I did.

Father Hanvy’s article has a particular relevance for me because of a place where I was yesterday.  I wish you could have been there.

I’ve just returned from a wonderful experience at Mt. Alvernia in Wappingers Falls, N.Y. This spirituality center, situated south of Poughkeepsie, is a ministry of the Franciscan Friars of the New York Province of the Immaculate Conception and offers a range of retreats and other spiritual experiences in the Franciscan tradition. The retreats are primarily for Catholics but those of other beliefs are warmly welcomed.

While I was at Mt. Alvernia, I had the pleasure of spending the day with my colleagues and with Fr. Roch, the retreat director, who led us through Francis’ Canticle of the Sun. It really opened my mind to Francis and how his relationships with his brothers and with Clare, with all of creation actually,  enriched his life and ministry. I began to see the origins of the Ignatian call to find God in all things.  The more Fr. Roch spoke of Francis, the more I understood why Ignatius was drawn to him and why our new Bishop of Rome chose his name.

I had to leave early and could not stay another day but when I returned home, I checked the Mt. Alvernia website.  I suggest you take some time and do likewise. There are retreats upon retreats. Some are overnights. Some are one-day experiences.  There is an experience for almost every need, all delivered with the matchless Franciscan hospitality.  As the Franciscans say, peace and good.

“From Ashe to Amen” at the Museum of Biblical Art

Monday, April 15th, 2013

The recent Tiffany exhibit at the Museum of Biblical Art on Broadway and 60th Street, in the headquarters of the American Bible Society, was enthusiastically received by New York art critics. As they say in another art form, it was tough act to follow.

However, MOBIA, as the museum is familiarly known, has come up with another  beautiful and inspiring show, this time examining the religious art of African Americans and its relationship to Sacred Scripture.  The exhibit is called “From Ashe to Amen: African Americans and Biblical Imagery” and will be open until May 26.  The term ashe is a Yoruba word from Nigeria and is familiar to Africans and African Americans; it means inspiration. However, someone else used an even more descriptive definition: an inner eye. Amen, of course, means “so be it.”

The exhibit features about 60 pieces, among which are some that especially fascinated me.  Horace Pippin’s “The Holy Mountain” appears at first to be a depiction of the peaceable kingdom in a lush green forest.  A closer examination reveals that hidden in the trees are tanks and other symbols of war and violence against people.  It is startling and disturbing. Pippin, a World War I veteran, painted this in 1945 at the close of the Second World War.

Clementine Hunter’s “Baby Jesus and the Three Wisemen” re-imagines the Magi’s visit in Louisiana.  Another piece, a magnificently carved door, also features the Magi, who are carrying gifts of a more practical nature than gold, frankincense and myrrh, but also inspired by Scripture.

Joan M.E. Graham’s “My Spiritual Family” contains over a hundred small portraits on a mixed media quilt.  Charles Alston’s “Midnight Vigil,” painted in 1936, is a deathbed scene with a community raising prayers to heaven for the dying person.

The pieces and media, including video, are so varied that it would be hard to pick a favorite but, if pressed, I might opt for a beautiful fan, the mainstay of  women in the days before churches were air conditioned. The fan features the face of the great jazz singer and song writer, Billie Holiday.

One of the most appealing aspects of the Museum of Biblical Art is that its size, one large gallery room, almost guarantees that every piece in an exhibition is going to be special. There’s room only for the best of the best.  A visitor can take in an exhibit during an evening after work or on a few lunch hours.  Of course, it would take more than single lunch hour to enjoy the current exhibit. Unlike most of other museums in the city, it is free.  You can read more about MOBIA and its exhibits here.

 

Evangelization begins with hospitality

Thursday, April 4th, 2013

Evangelization has been the responsibility and joy of every Christian ever since Jesus himself gave us our direction in Matthew 28: 18-20. Making disciples of all peoples, baptizing them (even if we ourselves are not actually doing the baptizing) and teaching them are our responsibility.  Jesus also gave us powerful examples of how to make disciples. He was friendly; he approached people.  He listened to them.  He didn’t demand they come to him, although he could have. He personified hospitality. The only people who feared him were the hypocrites, the despots and the unkind.

Last night, I witnessed a wonderful event, the confirmation of eight young adults who, for one reason or another, had not had the opportunity to receive the Sacrament of Confirmation. This evening came about because several wonderful people evangelized and catechized them with hospitality. The Rev. Bartholomew Daly, MHM (Mill Hill Missionary), administrator of Our Lady of Peace parish in Manhattan, offered the homelike atmosphere of his rectory for their preparation and the beautiful church, with all its Easter flowers, for the Eucharistic Liturgy during which they were confirmed. Oscar Cruz, director of adult faith formation under the leadership of Catechetical Office director, Sr. Joan Curtin, CND, prepared them, meeting with them in the evening for several weeks, when most other people had left work and gone home. Bishop Gerald Walsh, vicar general of the archdiocese, concelebrated with Father Daly and confirmed these young adults with great attention and care.   Nothing was careless or rushed. The atmosphere was deeply spiritual.

Afterwards, Fr. Daly invited the eight newly confirmed Catholics and their guests back to the rectory dining room for cookies and coffee. People lingered there, chatting and making plans to stay in touch. I kept thinking to myself, this is how ministry should be all the time, everywhere. And it could be, couldn’t it?

By the way, if you are a Catholic adult seeking Confirmation or you know someone who is, there will be another opportunity for preparation and reception of this sacrament. A Confirmation preparation class will begin on April 25 at Holy Family parish in New Rochelle.  Details are here.  Be sure to read the online brochure for what you need to provide, including permission from your pastor.

Prayerful Discernment

Wednesday, March 20th, 2013

Last week, I posted a link to Sr. Patricia’s McCarthy’s wonderful column in Rhode Island Catholic, marking the 50th anniversary of Pope John XXIII’s encyclical for the world, Pacem in Terris (Peace on Earth). Like many other Catholics, I was feeling a little out of sorts. Uncertainty will do that.

What a difference a week makes. Yesterday most of my catechetical colleagues and I were up at the crack of dawn to watch the inauguration (am I the only one who smiles at that term?) of our new pope, Francis. When we got to work, albeit a trifle bleary-eyed, we couldn’t talk of anything else. Those of us in ministry were not the only ones mesmerized.  Everybody wanted to know everything that was happening in Vatican City. The media were positively giddy with excitement.

Watching our gracious, gentle but determined Pope Francis being driven around St. Peter’s Square, stopping periodically to kiss children and climbing down to hold a man with cerebral palsy, I couldn’t help smiling about all the speculation that had gone on about who would emerge from the conclave as pope. Very few pundits had Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio on their “A” lists. He looked a little surprised himself, standing on the balcony of St. Peter’s last Wednesday.

Yet, in retrospect, everyone realized that no one else could have emerged.  No one else would have been the right one. That was because the Holy Spirit had the vote that counted. The cardinals just had to figure out which man the Spirit had in mind.  That’s called prayerful discernment.

You don’t have to be a cardinal to practice prayerful discernment.  You don’t have to sit in what looked like rather uncomfortable chairs in the Sistine Chapel.  And you certainly don’t have to be selecting a pope.  You might be wondering about a relationship much closer to home, which school to choose for your child, what to do about a job offer that might force you to uproot your family or a decision you have to make for someone who is dependent on you.  Very little in life is not important enough for prayerful discernment. It’s a good habit to develop.

Just for curiosity’s sake, I Google-d the term and came up with some interesting results. Here’s something from Joe Paprocki  on the Loyola Press website.  That seems appropriate, considering we have our first Jesuit pope here. However, you can find many other resources on prayerful discernment.  Try it. You know it works.

Picture the world we could have

Wednesday, March 6th, 2013

Think about this. A world at peace. A world where justice rules and peace reigns.  A world where no one is forced to go to bed hungry or homeless or powerless. A world where the threat of annihilation by weapons of mass destruction is no more. Impossible?

No, as a matter of fact, it is not impossible. We actually could be living in such a world right now on March 6, 2013, had people heeded 50 years ago the wisdom of  Blessed John XXIII in Pacem in Terris (Peace on Earth), the encyclical he published on April 11, 1963, as he struggled with the cancer that would take his life a few months later. There is nothing in this encyclical that could not become a reality if our generation only had the heart to live by the kind of ethic it calls for. It’s not an impossible dream.

Sr. Patricia McCarthy,  CND, who writes a monthly column for The Rhode Island Catholic, has permitted me to share her reflections on Pacem in Terris with you as  the world waits and the cardinal electors try to discern who has been called by the Holy Spirit to lead the Church.

I invite you to read or reread  Pacem in Terris itself along with Sister Patricia’s article,  which I have printed below. You will discover that a just and peaceful world does not have to remain an unfulfilled hope.

 

Mite boxes — not just for children

Friday, February 22nd, 2013

Haven’t see mite boxes in a while?  I hadn’t myself, so I was pleased when Sr. Pauline Chirchirillo, PBVM  Director of the  the New York Office of the Society for the Propagation of the Faith, offered the boxes, along with coin cards and envelopes, to the directors and coordinators of our parish religious education programs.

During Lent, the children in the parish programs will have an opportunity to help other children around the world through the Missionary Childhood Associationformerly called  the Holy Childhood Association.  At the same time, they will be learning a lesson about sacrifice by giving up something for Lent and putting the money they would have spent into the mite box or one of the other holders. At the end of Lent, their monies will go to the Sr. Pauline’s office and from there to the Missionary Childhood Association for distribution.

There’s nothing to stop us grown-ups from doing something similar.  In the Archdiocesan Catechetical Office, we decided that we could help Sr. Pauline and the Association ourselves simply by dumping our excess change into a Holy Childhood collection bucket, which Sr. Pauline was happy to supply.  We are not a large staff but we all seem to have a lot of change.  That bucket is filling up.

What about doing the same thing in your home? Yes, of course, many people already dump their change into a box or vase and then take it to the bank. You could do that. Then you might write a check for the amount to the Missionary Holy Childhood Association and mail to Sr. Pauline at this address:  The Office for the Propagation of the Faith, 1011 First Avenue, 17th floor, New York, NY 10022.

Or, you (and we in the Catechetical Office, too!) could emulate the children. Choose something to give up and add the price of that to the spare change in your container.  Maybe this doesn’t seem like much of sacrifice but it’s do-able. That’s important to keep in mind. Taking on a big sacrifice that you won’t be able to sustain or that will drive everyone around you crazy is not such a good idea. An uncle of mine used to give up alcohol for Lent each year. By the First Sunday after Ash Wednesday, his wife was ready to give him up.

The mite box idea is something any of us – from the youngest to the oldest – can do.

A blessed Lent.

A busy week begins with a big shock

Monday, February 11th, 2013

Well, the pundits will be having a field day with the news of Pope Benedict’s resignation.  However, I think Father James Martin, SJ, has produced a thoughtful reaction to this event in America Magazine’s group blog, “In All Things”  He believes the Pope’s greatest legacy will be in his writings and I agree. I just reread the Holy Father’s encyclical  Caritas in Veritate for a catechist formation online course I facilitated last month. I commend it to you.  And then there are his volumes on Jesus of Nazareth.

Certainly, the Holy Father has earned a peaceful retirement. However – and I know I am being selfish- I hope he has one more book left in him to write.

Lent is upon us.  It’s not even two months since Christmas. But while the rest of us were catching our breaths from the holidays, the Catechetical Office’s intrepid webmaster, Jim Connell, has been busy creating a Lenten calendar titled “In Today’s Gospel”  on our website. Each day contains a small reflection and offers a question for us all to ponder.

This coming Sunday, Cardinal Dolan will accept as the elect hundreds of catechumens from all around the archdiocese, who are seeking Baptism and the other Sacraments of Initiation at the Easter Vigil. The Rite of Election is reserved to the Ordinary of a diocese, so all the catechumens  should be gathering at St. Patrick’s Cathedral. Keep them in prayer and, with them, those candidates for continuing conversion, already baptized, but seeking full initiation in the Roman Catholic Church, also at the Easter Vigil.

Finally, many thanks and best wishes to Bishop Dennis Sullivan, vicar general of the Archdiocese, who becomes Bishop of Camden, N.J. on Tuesday, Feb. 12. He is a true pastor, as those of us who live downtown can attest, and he will be sorely missed here at the Cardinal Cooke Center.

Thanking Catholic Teachers in Public Schools

Tuesday, January 29th, 2013

Whenever I see a Catholic who teaches in a public school, I am reminded of that saying attributed to St. Francis of Assisi: “Preach the Gospel at all times. If necessary, use words.”

Of course, teachers from any religious tradition, not just Catholicism, are not permitted to preach the faith verbally in public schools.  Understood.  However, many of our Catholic teachers preach, not by words, but by their witness, that is, by the values that they exhibit in the classroom.  These values include fairness, dedication, going the extra step, taking time for a student who is floundering, keeping an eye open for signs of trouble at home,  and simply maintaining a positive and caring climate in the classroom.

Many of these teachers also volunteer as catechists in their own parish catechetical programs.

Each year, the Archdiocesan Catechetical Office thanks these heroic educators at a special Liturgy and Brunch. This year, it will take place on Feb. 2, from 9:30 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. at the Riverview in Hastings-on-Hudson, N.Y., overlooking the Hudson River. Auxiliary Bishop Gerald Walsh, vicar for clergy, will celebrate the Mass.  Sr. Loretta Knapp, R.J.M., a veteran teacher in both Catholic and public schools, will be the guest speaker. Her theme is “I can’t help singing…sometimes.”

The word on this day is already out in the parishes.  However, you might have a friend or relative or perhaps you know some Catholic in the public school system. May it’s your child’s own teacher. Why not treat that teacher and bring him or her as your guest to the Liturgy and Brunch. The price is just $25.00 per person.

Call Helen Doon at the Archdiocesan Catechetical Office, 646-794-2822. She’ll accept  your reservations through Thursday, Jan. 31 or email her at helen.doon@archny.org.

Confirmation for Youth with Disabilities

Wednesday, January 9th, 2013

It has been nearly 35 years since the United States Catholic Bishops issued their guidelines for the reception of the sacraments by persons with physical or developmental disabilities.  But for some reason, many families still are not aware of them.  Too many Catholics with disabilities have not received sacraments beyond that of Baptism and sometimes First Eucharist.  The Sacrament of Confirmation is a more remote possibility, perhaps because it is frequently perceived as a sacrament of completion rather than what it actually is: a sacrament of initiation.

Here is what the bishops say about the sacraments and persons with disabilities:

“It is essential that all forms of the liturgy be completely accessible to persons with disabilities, since these forms are the essence of the spiritual tie that binds the Christian community together. To exclude members of the parish from these celebrations of the life of the Church, even by passive omission, is to deny the reality of that community. Accessibility involves far more than physical alterations to parish buildings. Realistic provision must be made for persons with disabilities to participate fully in the Eucharist and other liturgical celebrations such as the Sacraments of Reconciliation, Confirmation, and Anointing of the Sick (Pastoral Statement of U.S. Catholic Bishops on Persons with Disabilities, November 1978; revised 1989).”

Nearly 30 years ago, the late John Cardinal O’Connor, a tireless advocate for and friend to persons of all ages with disabilities, began a custom both his successors have continued: that of conferring the Sacrament of Confirmation upon youth with disabilities during his Sunday Pontifical Mass in St. Patrick’s Cathedral.  He was setting an example for all pastors and parishioners to welcome, prepare, and provide the sacraments to these young people in their parishes.  However, whether by design or by accident, he also established one of the most beloved and impressive rites on the Cathedral’s calendar.

This coming April 14, Timothy Michael Cardinal Dolan will confer the Sacrament of Confirmation to youth with disabilities at the 10:15 Mass in St. Patrick’s.  If you know of a Catholic young person with physical or cognitive disabilities, who has not yet been confirmed, please tell his or her parents, family members or caregivers to e-mail Mrs. Linda Sgammato, director of special religious education for the Archdiocesan Catechetical Office. Better yet, give her a call at 212-371-1011, ext.  2852. Mrs. Sgammato will be delighted to provide more details on having this young Catholic confirmed. She will be happy to meet the candidate and his/her family in their homes, too.

Says Mrs. Sgammato: “A home visit is an opportunity to meet the candidates and families in a relaxed, informal atmosphere, to hear their stories, to share their excitement, to present the red Confirmation gown and, of course, to learn how each candidate is prepared – by a catechist in a parish program adapted to his or her needs or by faith-filled parents, family members or caregivers. It’s my honor and joy to meet them and help make possible their great day of Confirmation at the Cathedral.”