Saturday, December 25, 2010

Christmas Homily

One of my parishioners, Patrick Sweeney, videotaped last night's homily at Midnight Mass. My prayers for a Blessed Christmas for you all! God bless.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Corpus Christi in 2009

Someone suggested that the 2009 Corpus Christi Procession video should also be posted here

Woodside Memories

The profile of St. Sebastian Parish on You Tube brought me this e-mail.


My sister just sent the YouTube video for the City of Churches profile of St. Sebastian’s. It brought back a lot of memories.

As a 1961 graduate of St. Sebastian’s School, I’m from the generation of the wooden church and iron parishioners… no AC on a crowded Sunday morning.

I don’t know if you’re collecting “living history,” but the message I forwarded to my kids with the video is below,

Wow! That sure brings back some memories!

Back in the day… in the early mid-50’s… I went to Sunday mass in the old wooden church with nanny Gleason… no AC in the summer… it was the 1950’s version of a steam bath; when I started fidgeting, nanny pinched me ‘til I settled down… I had my first communion either in the wooden church or the school chapel because the big church wasn’t ready. Nanny never liked the new church because she felt like she was going to mass in a movie theater. I think my class was one of the first to be confirmed in the big church… that would have been 1958.

Nance! You may remember this… every Wednesday we got out of school early, at 2PM, for Novena in the school chapel… the nun’s taught catechism to the Catholic kids who were in PS 11. When the new church was almost done, I remember Fr. Moran waving down at us kids lined up along 58th street & Woodside avenue from one of the church towers.

The side chapel was where I went to the 6:30 mass every morning… I had those stained glass windows memorized.

Where the parish center is now, was the school yard. It was segregated by gender… the boys were in the front near 57th street and the girls were in the back by 56th street… heaven help the boy whom the nun’s caught on the girls’ side… the girls spend a lot of time jumping rope and the boys just hung out… there was a little, separate school yard in the front on 57th street where the first graders went… when it was time to go into school, one of the nuns rang a hand bell… we all shut our mouths, lined up in double file, and our nun would lead us into school… showing up late—after the bell—or talking in line was usually good for a noogie or a dope slap.

Of the many gifts given to me by the church, which for me is St. Sebastian’s and Maryknoll, two are a love of learning and psychically surviving two years in Viet Nam. I feel blessed not to have been one of the names on Ed Fowley’s Vietnam Monument on 57th & Woodside, but I knew a lot of those guys from the school yard. I was told that originally the monument was supposed to go into Doughboy Park, but the city objected to the reference to God in the inscription; so, the parish allowed it to be set up on its present site… you got to love secular progressives.

Best wishes from a Woodsider exiled in the hinterlands!

Ray Gleason

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

The Buzz about St. Sebastian School

This is a great series of photos of St. Sebastian School, a Catholic School of Excellence!

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

The City of Churches

This is a great piece done by our diocesan TV studio, NET, New Evangelization Television.

Monday, June 14, 2010

The Spirit of the Lord

There was a mighty wind!

The Lord walks the streets of Woodside with His people!

The Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Jesus

The procession stretches all the way back to 58th street.

Fr. Joy Alookaran's 30th Anniversary

Fr. Joy's celebration of his 30th anniversary of priestly ordination on May 23, 2010, the Solemnity pf Pentecost. His brother Fr. Charley Alookaran is concelebrating immediately to his left as you look at the picture.

Group Wedding Reception

Myrna Avendano & Francisco AƱonuevo, Emelys Rivera & Lito Guerrero, Marivic Desquilla Cuello & Jose Cuello, Veronica Miyahira & Raul Diniz, and Jose Caguana & Laura Fernandez and Msgr. Michael J. Hardiman, pastor, at the reception the parish held for the couples in the school auditorium after the wedding in church.

Group Wedding, Feast of the Immaculate Heart of Mary

From the left: Joel Cuello & Marivic Desquilla Cuello, Francisco AƱonuevo & Myrna Avendano, Lito Guerrero & Emelys Rivera, Raul Diniz & Veronica Miyahira, and Jose Caguana & Laura Fernandez celebrated the Sacrament of Matrimony on Saturday, June 12, 2010 at St. Sebastian in Woodside, New York.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Corpus Christi

We had a wonderful procession last Sunday for the Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Sunday, April 18, 2010

A Fitting Memorial

A tribute and Memorial Mass for the Firefighters who were killed in the 2001 Father's Day fire in Astoria.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

The Great Vigil

This was the scene at the Easter Vigil last night at St. Sebastian, thanks to Patrick Sweeney.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Maureen Dowd and the NY Times: Anti-Catholic together

I am appalled at Maureen Dowd’s two recent columns. Op-Ed pieces need to be accurate in their presentation of the facts. I suggest that  and be required reading and that appropriate action be taken to redress the factual errors Ms. Dowd has advanced in her recent columns. I have cancelled my subscription to a newspaper that I have read faithfully since 1965. It is clearly no longer the "newspaper of record." Ms. Dowd's piece today was the last straw; I should have done it years ago!

Monday, March 8, 2010

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

The Way of the Cross

A Scriptural Way of the Cross
First Prayed by the Venerable Pope John Paul II in 1991

Before each station: We adore you, O Christ, and we bless you. All: Because by your holy cross you have redeemed the world.

First Station

Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane

Then Jesus came with them to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to his disciples, "Sit here while I go over there and pray." He took along Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, and began to feel sorrow and distress. Then he said to them, "My soul is sorrowful even to death. Remain here and keep watch with me." He advanced a little and fell prostrate in prayer, saying, "My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me; yet, not as I will, but as you will." When he returned to his disciples he found them asleep. He said to Peter, "So you could not keep watch with me for one hour? Watch and pray that you may not undergo the test. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak." (Mt. 26:36-41)

Second Station

Jesus is betrayed by Judas and arrested

While Jesus was still speaking, Judas, one of the Twelve, arrived, accompanied by a crowd with swords and clubs, who had come from the chief priests, the scribes, and the elders. His betrayer had arranged a signal with them, saying, "the man I shall kiss is the one; arrest him and lead him away securely." He came and immediately went over to him and said, "Rabbi." And he kissed him. At this they laid hands on him and arrested him. (Mk. 14: 43-46)

Third Station

Jesus is Condemned by the Sanhedrin

When day came the council of elders of the people met, both chief priests and scribes, and they brought him before their Sanhedrin. They said, "If you are the Messiah, tell us," but he replied to them, "If I tell you, you will not believe, and if I question, you will not respond. But from this time on the Son of Man will be seated at the right hand of the power of God." They all asked, "Are you then the Son of God?" He replied to them, "You say that I am." Then they said, "What further need have we for testimony? We have heard it from his own mouth." (Lk. 22: 66-71)

Fourth Station

Jesus is Denied by St. Peter

Now Peter was sitting outside in the courtyard. One of the maids came over to him and said, "You too were with Jesus the Galilean." But he denied it in front of everyone, saying, "I do not know what you are talking about!" As he went out to the gate, another girl saw him and said to those who were there, "This man was with Jesus the Nazorean." Again he denied it with an oath, "I do not know the man!" A little later the bystanders came over and said to Peter, "Surely you too are one of them; even your speech gives you away." At that he began to curse and to swear, "I do not know the man." And immediately a cock crowed. Then Peter remembered the word that Jesus had spoken: "Before the cock crows you will deny me three times." He went out and began to weep bitterly. (Mt. 26: 69-75)

Fifth Station

Jesus is Judged by Pontius Pilate

Reader: The chief priests with the elders and the scribes, that is, the whole Sanhedrin, held a council. They bound Jesus, led him away, and handed him over to Pilate. Pilate questioned him, "Are you the king of the Jews?" He said to him in reply, "You say so." The chief priests accused him of many things. Again Pilate questioned him, "Have you no answer? See how many things they accuse you of." Jesus gave him no further answer, so that Pilate was amazed.... Pilate, wishing to satisfy the crowd, released Barrabas... [and] handed [Jesus] over to be crucified. (Mk. 15: 1-5, 15)

Sixth Station

Jesus is Scourged at the Pillar and Crowned with Thorns

Then Pilate took Jesus and had him scourged. And the soldiers wove a crown out of thorns and placed it on his head, and clothed him in a purple cloak, and they came to him and said,"Hail, King of the Jews!" And they struck him repeatedly (Jn. 19: 1-3)

Seventh Station

Jesus Carries the Cross

When the chief priests and the guards saw [Jesus] they cried out, "Crucify him, crucify him!" Pilate said to them, "Take him yourselves and crucify him. I find no guilt in him." ... They cried out, "Take him away, take him away! Crucify him!" Pilate said to them, "Shall I crucify your king?" The chief priests answered, "We have no king but Caesar." Then he handed him over to them to be crucified. So they took Jesus, and carrying the cross himself he went out to what is called the Place of the Skull, in Hebrew, Golgotha.
(Jn. 19: 6, 15-17)

Eighth Station

Jesus is Helped by Simon the Cyrenian to Carry the Cross

They pressed into service a passer-by, Simon, a Cyrenian, who was coming in from the country, the father of Alexander and Rufus, to carry his cross. (Mk.15: 21)

Ninth Station

Jesus Meets the Women of Jerusalem

A large crowd of people followed Jesus, including many women who mourned and lamented him. Jesus turned to them and said, "Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me; weep instead for yourselves and for your children, for indeed, the days are coming when people will say, ‘Blessed are the barren, the wombs that never bore and the breasts that never nursed.' At that time, people will say to the mountains, ‘Fall upon us!' and to the hills, ‘Cover us!' for if these things are done when the wood is green what will happen when it is dry?" (Lk. 23: 27-31)

Tenth Station: Jesus is Crucified

When they came to the place called the Skull, they crucified him and the criminals there, one on his right, the other on his left. Then Jesus said, "Father, forgive them, they know not what they do." (Lk. 23: 33-34)

Eleventh Station

Jesus Promises His Kingdom to the Good Thief

Now one of the criminals hanging there reviled Jesus, saying, "Are you not the Messiah? Save yourself and us." The other, however, rebuking him, said in reply, "Have you no fear of God, for you are subject to the same condemnation? And indeed, we have been condemned justly, for the sentence we received corresponds to our crimes, but this man has done nothing criminal." Then he said, "Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom." He replied to him, "Amen, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise." (Lk. 23: 39-43)

Twelfth Station

Jesus Speaks to His Mother and the Beloved Disciple

Standing by the cross of Jesus were his mother and his mother's sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary of Magdala. When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple there whom he loved, he said to his mother, "Woman, behold, your son." Then he said to the disciple, "Behold, your mother." And from that hour the disciple took her into his home. (Jn. 19: 25-27)

Thirteenth Station

Jesus Dies on the Cross

Reader: It was now about noon and darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon because of an eclipse of the sun. Then the veil of the temple was torn down the middle. Jesus cried out in a loud voice, "Father, into your hands I commend my spirit"; and when he had said this he breathed his last.
(Lk. 23: 44-46)

Fourteenth Station

 Jesus is Placed in the Tomb

When it was evening, there came a rich man from Arimathea named Joseph, who was himself a disciple of Jesus. He went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus; then Pilate ordered it to be handed over. Taking the body, Joseph wrapped it [in] clean linen and laid it in his new tomb that he had hewn in the rock. Then he rolled a huge stone across the entrance to the tomb and departed. (Mt. 27: 57-60)

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

The Privatization of Religious Belief

Whispers mentions Archbishop Charles Chaput OFM Cap. of Denver. It seems he has weighed in once again in the area of religion and politics with some great thoughts with regard to Catholics and public life. Does anyone remember the Notre Dame speech given by then Governor Mario Cuomo of New York? Same thing also missed the mark on Church teaching and beliefs. What a shame.

Sleeping Disciples

That's it, the disciples sleep a lot. And they sleep at important moments. In last Sunday's Gospel, St. Luke's account of the Transfiguration (Lk. 9:28-36), St. Luke tells us that they fell asleep and only began to wake up as the Transfiguration was almost finished. In the account of the Agony in the Garden (Lk. 22:39-46) and in St. Mark and St Matthew's versions as well, we find the disciples described as having fallen asleep. If it happens to them then it must to us as well; what does it mean?

Remember being in graduate school at Columbia and after a full day of work, riving to Morningside Heights to take two courses. More than once I remember starting to doze and snapping back to life, afraid that I may have started to snore -- didn't happen, thank God. That's the sleep of being tired. St. Luke's gloss on the disciples in the garden is that they were sleeping from "grief". Overwhelmed by this feeling they fled the conscious world. I think it's a metaphor for what I would call "inattention". They weren't paying attention to what was really going on; they didn't realize what was happening. How could they have missed it? Other things cloud the mind, and Jesus seems not to be the focus of their attention. If it can happen to the disciples who were physically in His presence how much the more likely it will happen to us?

Monday, March 1, 2010


Yesterday was a very busy day. It was the announcement Sunday for the Annual Catholic Appeal which benefits the mission of the in Catholic Schools, Faith Formation, Catholic Charities, Seminarians, and so much more. The parish gets to keep every dollar over goal so it also benefits the parishes, some obviously more than others. So, there was a video to be shown after the homily with a little introduction and commentary afterwards by the pastor, which meant that I had to be at and speak at all the Masses Saturday night and yesterday. By the 6 PM Mass last night I had memorized the video and it was playing in my sleep last night. I had dinner at a parish with a group of other priests and I think I was the only one who played by the rules and showed the tape.

A question to ponder: what do we frequently find the Apostles doing in the Gospels? See the title of this post for a hint and check back here tomorrow to find out what I'm talking about.

Saturday, February 27, 2010


Today I had the Noon Mass in Spanish. We prayed especially for the victims of the earthquake in Chile. What was truly amazing to me, and I never really noticed it before, was the two Korean ladies singing in Spanish along with some Filipinos, and at least one man from Ireland. I've dreamt about this but never really seen it for real. What a tribute to these people and to our identity as Church, the one Mystical Body of Christ!

Friday, February 26, 2010

Snow II

I love books. I always have. A day like this is ideal for reading but somehow the day just slipped away from me. I never know just where the time goes.

The Seven Penitential Psalms:

Psalms 6, 31, 37, 50, 101, 129 and 142

Since the days of Pope Innocent III (1198-1216), these psalms  have been suggested to be prayed during the Holy Season of Lent. Some would suggest the be prayed on each day in Lent or they can at least be prayed on Lenten Fridays (or one could pray one prayer on each of the 7 Fridays of Lent.).

Psalm 6

For the leader; with stringed instruments, "upon the eighth." A psalm of David.

Do not reprove me in your anger, LORD, nor punish me in your wrath.
Have pity on me, LORD, for I am weak; heal me, LORD, for my bones are trembling.
In utter terror is my soul-- and you, LORD, how long...?
Turn, LORD, save my life; in your mercy rescue me.
For who among the dead remembers you? Who praises you in Sheol?
I am wearied with sighing; all night long tears drench my bed; my couch is soaked with weeping.
My eyes are dimmed with sorrow, worn out because of all my foes.
Away from me, all who do evil! The LORD has heard my weeping.
The LORD has heard my prayer; the LORD takes up my plea.
My foes will be terrified and disgraced; all will fall back in sudden shame.
Psalm 31
For the leader. A psalm of David.

In you, LORD, I take refuge; let me never be put to shame. In your justice deliver me;
incline your ear to me; make haste to rescue me! Be my rock of refuge, a stronghold to save me.
You are my rock and my fortress; for your name's sake lead and guide me.
Free me from the net they have set for me, for you are my refuge.
Into your hands I commend my spirit; you will redeem me, LORD, faithful God.
You hate those who serve worthless idols, but I trust in the LORD.
I will rejoice and be glad in your love, once you have seen my misery, observed my distress.
You will not abandon me into enemy hands, but will set my feet in a free and open space.
Be gracious to me, LORD, for I am in distress; with grief my eyes are wasted, my soul and body spent.
My life is worn out by sorrow, my years by sighing. My strength fails in affliction; my bones are consumed.
To all my foes I am a thing of scorn, to my neighbors, a dreaded sight, a horror to my friends. When they see me in the street, they quickly shy away.
I am forgotten, out of mind like the dead; I am like a shattered dish.
I hear the whispers of the crowd; terrors are all around me. They conspire against me; they plot to take my life.
But I trust in you, LORD; I say, "You are my God."
My times are in your hands; rescue me from my enemies, from the hands of my pursuers.
Let your face shine on your servant; save me in your kindness.
Do not let me be put to shame, for I have called to you, LORD. Put the wicked to shame; reduce them to silence in Sheol.
Strike dumb their lying lips, proud lips that attack the just in contempt and scorn.
How great is your goodness, Lord, stored up for those who fear you. You display it for those who trust you, in the sight of all the people.
You hide them in the shelter of your presence, safe from scheming enemies. You keep them in your abode, safe from plotting tongues.
Blessed be the LORD, who has shown me wondrous love, and been for me a city most secure.
Once I said in my anguish, "I am shut out from your sight." Yet you heard my plea, when I cried out to you.
Love the LORD, all you faithful. The LORD protects the loyal, but repays the arrogant in full.
Be strong and take heart, all you who hope in the LORD.

Look for the rest. They make for great comfort.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Snow attitude

Lent is flying by and can easily pass without our realizing it. Even with Lenten practices and "giving ups" it's been known to happen that the person even forgets it is Lent. Consider the scene from earlier today here at St. Sebastian. The moisture had fooled the sensors in the school fire alarm into tripping and the children, most in shirtsleeves, evacuated the building by going out into the snow and cold to assemble as classes in the Parish Center. The custodial staff, alerted by the bell-code that the rooftop air-duct sensors were to blame thoroughly checked the school before sounding the all-clear. The students evacuated the building in no time and remained orderly throughout. When they were returning, one of the men who was parked in the Center lot was intent on leaving and tempers flared. It happens. It just happens.

Lent is really about changing our perspective on life and seeing what is really important. My cousin Matthew (28 years old) died almost a month ago and his death changed the perspectives of many in his family and of his friends. But time passes, and we forget.

Every day in Lent can be Ash Wednesday as we start again and remember what the season is all about and who the season is all about.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

A Citizen of Freising

Many people think our Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI is not as warm as his predecessor the late beloved, Venerable Pope John Paul II. I have never shared that feeling and in fact, in some ways he is warmer and more personal in his writings and addresses. On January 16, 2010 His Holiness was made an honorary citizen of the City of Freising, the city of his seminary days. He spoke extemporaneously to those present in the Clementine Hall and used a phrase that I found especially touching: "In my life biography -- in the biography of my heart, if I may -- the City of Freising has played a very special role." The notion of a "biography of my heart" is just so moving for me.

He shares some memories of his time in the city but the following recollection struck and especially sweet chord with me as a fellow priest. About the day of his ordination to the priesthood he writes:

"Three moments are particularly deeply impressed within me.

First of all, lying stretched out on the ground during the litany of the saints. In lying prostrate on the ground, one becomes newly aware of all one's poverty and asks oneself: am I truly capable of it? And at the same time the names of all the saints of history and the entreaty of the faithful ring out: "Hear us; help them".

In this way the awareness grows that, yes, I am weak and inadequate but I am not alone, there are others with me, the entire community of the saints is with me. They accompany me and thus I can make this journey and become a companion and guide for others.

The second moment, the imposition of hands by the elderly, venerable Cardinal Faulhaber who laid his hands upon me, upon all of us, in a profound and intense manner and the knowledge that it was the Lord who was laying his hands upon me and saying: "you belong to me, you do not simply belong to yourself, I want you, you are at my service"; but also the awareness that this imposition of hands is a grace, that it does not only create obligations, but above all is a gift, that he is with me and that his love protects and accompanies me.

Then there was also the old rite in which the power to forgive sins was conferred at a separate moment. It began when the Bishop, pronouncing the Lord's words, said: "No longer do I call you servants... but... friends". And I knew we knew that this is not only a quotation from John 15 but a timely word that the Lord is addressing to me now. He accepts me as a friend; I am in this friendly relationship; he has given me his trust and I can work within this friendship and make others friends of Christ."

He also shared the memory: "...I was able to pass a further unforgettable three and a half years with my parents at Lerchenfeldhof. Thus once again I could feel completely at home. These last three and a half years with my parents were an immense gift to me and truly made Freising my home. I am thinking of the celebrations, of how we celebrated Christmas, Easter and Pentecost together; of our walks through the fields together, of how we would go to the woods to gather fir-tree branches and moss for the crib, and of our outings to the fields on the banks of the Isar. Thus Freising became a real homeland to us, and as a homeland it lives on in my heart."

Pope Benedict's memories, personal as they are to him, resonated in me as well in the "biography of my heart."

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Tony, Tony Come Around

Pope Benedict XVI's General Audience Catechesis on St. Anthony of Padua is worth reading in full but try this part on prayer on for size:

"...St Anthony speaks of prayer as of a loving relationship that impels man to speak gently with the Lord, creating an ineffable joy that sweetly enfolds the soul in prayer. Anthony reminds us that prayer requires an atmosphere of silence, which does not mean distance from external noise but rather is an interior experience that aims to remove the distractions caused by a soul's anxieties, thereby creating silence in the soul itself. According to this prominent Franciscan Doctor's teaching, prayer is structured in four indispensable attitudes which in Anthony's Latin are defined as obsecratio, oratio, postulatio, gratiarum actio. We might translate them in the following manner. The first step in prayer is confidently opening one's heart to God; this is not merely accepting a word but opening one's heart to God's presence. Next, is speaking with him affectionately, seeing him present with oneself; then a very natural thing presenting our needs to him; and lastly, praising and thanking him. (Italics mine)

In St Anthony's teaching on prayer we perceive one of the specific traits of the Franciscan theology that he founded: namely the role assigned to divine love which enters into the sphere of the affections, of the will and of the heart, and which is also the source from which flows a spiritual knowledge that surpasses all other knowledge. In fact, it is in loving that we come to know.

Anthony writes further: "Charity is the soul of faith, it gives it life; without love, faith dies" (Sermones Dominicales et Festivi II, Messagero, Padua 1979, p. 37). "

Venerable Pius XII

The Vatican has agreed to make available through the Internet over 8,000 pages, more than  five thousand documents of the Vatican Secret Archive for the years 1939 - 1945. This was done at the request of Gary Krupp, founder and president of the Pave the Way Foundation, which, among other things, is interested in setting the story straight on Pope Pius XII's wartime record especially his relationship to the Jews.

Monday, February 22, 2010

The Chair

Today is the Feast of the Chair of St. Peter, one of the very few times during Lent that we recite the Gloria. The cathedra or chair is the symbol of the authority of the bishop of a diocese, in this case the Pope as the Bishop of Rome. Remember that the First Vatican Council solemnly defined the authority of the Pope to formally teach infallibly on issues of faith and morals. This has happened only twice, both teachings of the Church with regard to Our Blessed Mother, her Immaculate Conception and her Assumption.

So today we are invited to spend some time thinking and praying about the role Our Holy Father plays in the life of the Church as institution and as the People of God. The late beloved Venerable Pope John Paul II was a prolific author, and Pope Benedict XVI has also written quite substantially. Many of their writings are available at the Vatican website. Great reading for Lent!

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Freedom from Hunger

Pope Benedict XVI's message for Lent “The justice of God has been manifested

through faith in Jesus Christ” (cf. Rm 3, 21-22) is worth reading if you haven't already seen it.

On the First Sunday of Lent every year we hear the story of the Temptation of Christ in the Desert. This year, Cycle C of the Sunday readings, we read St. Luke's account (4:1-13) which tells us that "Jesus, filled with the Holy Spirit" spent 40 days in the desert and was tempted by Satan. Temptations to material success and comfort, to the illusion of power in this world, and to the abuse of God's gift of life, are ways to look at what the Tempter suggested to Jesus. What are the temptations we experience and how do we ask the Holy Spirit to help us resist them?

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Sinners who follow Jesus

That's who we are: sinners who follow Jesus. The Gospel today, Luke 5:27-32, presents Jesus as preferring the company of sinners; isn't that good news. Somehow or other we may not want to be identified as sinners yet that is who Jesus came to save.

What does it mean to be a sinner? What does it mean to be a saint? At least in Jesus' book it appears that, here on earth at least, they are two sides of the same coin. Each of us is both much of the time and we can easily flip from one to the other. Consider the two men shouting at each other in the St. Sebastian parking lot immediately following the Good Friday services last year. I'm sure each of us has the experience of seeing something like that all the time, either in others (much easier to recognize their sins and sinfulness) or in ourselves (harder to accept, I know, but it's there nonetheless). The need to forgive and to be forgiven is a part of our human nature that God uses to transform us. Lent is an opportunity to plead for that transformation!

Friday, February 19, 2010

Here I Am!

Today's First Reading is from the Book of the Prophet Isaiah, 58:1-9a. It's another stunner! God Himself is speaking to His people about their religious practices. "This, rather is the fasting that I wish: releasing those bound unjustly, untying the thongs of the yoke; Setting free the oppressed, breaking every yoke; Sharing your bread with the hungry, sheltering the oppressed and the homeless; Clothing the naked when you see them, and not turning your back on your own." Some definition of fasting, right. It's God's part of a dialogue with His people who are complaining that they fast and God doesn't see it and appreciate it. He says to them "On your fast day you carry out your own pursuits and drive all your laborers...your fast ends in quarreling and fighting...." On this third day of Lent, when we abstain from meat, it's time for a quick check of our Lenten practices. Ask yourself how you are doing?

When you saw the title of this post you probably thought of the story of Eli and Samuel and Samuel's response to God. The reference is from today's reading, and it's God who utters the words. "You shall cry for help, and he will say: Here I am!"

Lent is about crying to the Lord for help as we try to turn back to Him. By the way, as one who hears confessions, some people only think of the "Big Ones" when it comes to sin. Deadly or Mortal Sin isn't the only kind. Venial or light sin can abound and divert our attention from He who is the Source of Life. Those everyday distractions to which we can so easily fall prey, turn us away from Him and we need that constant reminder to turn back. It's so nice to know that no matter what, He says "Here I am!"

Thursday, February 18, 2010

So it begins ...

After all the intensity of yesterday, with more than 6,000 people here for ashes, the work of Lent begins today.

The First Reading, from Deuteronomy (30:15-20) sets a theme for Lent this year. It's all about choices!

In the verse before the selection, Moses tells us that the law that God has for us is not remote and far off; "No, it is something very near to you, already in your mouths and in your hearts; you have only to carry it out." Then he speaks of the choices we have: "life and prosperity, death and doom". Moses says it's simple: obey the commandments of the Lord, love Him, walk in His ways, and you will have life and be blessed. "If you turn away your hearts and will not listen ... you will perish. Now obedience is rooted in the Greek work for "hearing" and really is a kind of truly attuned and sensitive hearing that allows us to change and be changed as we listen to the Word of the Lord already present in out hearts. It's simple! And yet, year after year we are called to strive to do this thing so simple that eludes us (oops, me) all too easily. It's about choices!

"Today I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse.... Choose life!"

In the Gospel today (Luke 9:22-25), Jesus invites us to deny ourselves, and follow Him. It's about choices!

Choose Life!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Ashes to Ashes

Once again the Lenten season is an opportunity for all of us to spend some well deserved "retreat time" praying, fasting, and giving charitably to those less fortunate than we. Once again this year this daily blog will be my penance (and yours as well, perhaps).

Thousands of people are passing through the doors of St. Sebastian today. Some faces are very familiar and some are new. Some people are or will be with us every day for Lent and others are just passing through.

The phone has been ringing off the hook at the rectory and the staff will fall asleep tonight repeating the Ash Wednesday schedule over and over after so many calls inquiring about the ashes.

I love the A & P Catholics! They arrive every year because their faith leads them home. I just wish they'd stay with us and my prayer every year is that some will.

The fragility of our lives is on my mind these days as I continue to mourn the loss of my cousin Matthew Cahill, who died on his 28th birthday. My heart and prayers go out to his Mom and Dad and his two sibs. He has been lead by his faith and theirs to his true home and ours as well.