Monday, May 31, 2010

Sorry for the Delay…

Sorry for the long gap in posting—between graduation, spending some time with my family, driving from south Florida back home to New York, and attending a friend’s Ordination and first Mass, it’s been a busy month! But, I hope to resume my regular posting now that the academic year is over.

I did finish my Master’s thesis, titled: “What Does It Mean to Be ‘Dedicated to the Service of the Church?’: Understanding the Call to Service in the Restored Order of Virgins.” We have until the end of the summer to turn in a final copy, and so I am unfortunately still finding myself proofreading, fixing footnotes, tweaking my bibliography, ect.

So for those of you who have written requesting a copy of my thesis—this is what is taking me so long, and I have not forgotten about you! (And if anyone else wants to read my thesis once I have it completely in order, send me an e-mail at: [at] gmail [dot] com). Now that I’m finished traveling, I really and truly do hope to have it done in the next few weeks!

On a side note, my trip up north this year took a little longer this year, because I actually began it on Pentecost weekend by heading south of Miami! I was able to attend the baptism of a family friend’s first child on Key West, which is the southernmost city in the continental United States (even though it’s an island—I guess it’s considered part of the continental U.S. because it’s in the state of Florida, and Florida is obviously part of the North American mainland).

The baptism was celebrated at the beautiful, historic Church of St. Mary, Star of the Sea, which is the oldest parish in south Florida. Although it is now a part of the Archdiocese of Miami, because Key West is geographically closer to Cuba that it is to the American mainland, it was originally under the auspices of the Diocese of Havana. (You can read more about St. Mary Star of the Sea’s fascinating history here, on the parish website.)

(Here’s a photo we took of the interior of St. Mary, Star of the Sea)

(And here’s one of me holding the Church’s newest member!)

Despite—or perhaps because of?—Key West’s reputation as being a somewhat of a “colorful” or a “party” city, St. Mary Star of the Sea struck me as being home to an especially vibrant Catholic community, with a school, a convent, and a twenty-four hour Adoration Chapel. (I suppose the only thing better than a Perpetual Adoration chapel is a Perpetual Adoration chapel located on a tropical island!)

On my way up north, I was happy to have the chance to visit other family friends in the Orlando area, a seminarian-friend from the Diocese of Raleigh, NC, and to spend a day at the Visitation monastery in Washington, DC. I was also able to visit the Apostolic Sisters of St. John in New Jersey when I stayed with them on the last leg of the long trip. But even after having had an overall very enjoyable journey (minus the part where I got completely, horribly lost in the “interestingly-arranged” streets of Washington yet AGAIN this year), I honestly say that I couldn’t be happier living anyplace other than right here in New York!

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Seven New Priests for the Archdiocese of New York!

This past Saturday morning, May 15, at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City, seven men were ordained for the Archdiocese of New York. The new archdiocesan priests are Fathers James Ferreira, George La Grutta, Steven Markantonis, Fredy Patiño Montoya, Thomas A. Roslak, Enrique Salvo, and Daniel Tuite.

Three were also ordained for the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal (the CFR’s), who are based in the Bronx and serve in the archdiocese, in other U.S. dioceses and overseas: Fathers Albert Karol Maria Osewski, C.F.R., Charles-Benoît Rèche, C.F.R., and Isaac Mary Spinharney, C.F.R.

You can read their vocation stories here, on the website for the archdiocesan newspaper, “Catholic New York.” For more pictures, see here and here on Dunwoodie seminarian Paul Zalonski’s blog, “Communio.”

Let’s all joyfully remember these new priests in our prayers!

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

“A Ph.D. in Scandal”

No, this is not my reference to the theology program I just completed, but rather a memorable phrase from Archbishop Dolan’s timely and thought-provoking column in the most recent issue of our archdiocesan newspaper, “Catholic New York”:

(Emphases, in bold, and comments, in red, are mine.)
Jesus Is Still With Us

Did you happen to see former Governor Mario Cuomo’s letter to the editor of the Wall Street Journal of April 8, 2010? (N.b., it was actually in the April 14, 2010 issue.)

In the ink spilled over the recent fury about the sexual abuse scandal in the Church, Governor Cuomo’s remarks stand out for insight and balance. Simply put, he states that Jesus Christ—not sinful priests or negligent bishops—is the cornerstone of our faith. The governor reminds us that the leader of the apostles, the first pope, St. Peter, was far from some radiant saint, but an awful sinner, who actually denied even knowing Jesus three times on the night of His passion.

The Church is sinless, concludes Governor Cuomo; members of the Church, even her sisters, priests, bishops and popes, are not.

Our Catholic faithful, like Mr. Cuomo, are savvy, intelligent, perceptive women and men. Are they shocked, saddened and angered by daily, unrelenting reports of immorality of decades ago? Yes! Are they tempted to lose their faith? No!

Because they know it's all about Jesus Christ, the Son of God, our Savior, the way, the truth and the life. He remains with us in His Church, whose members are big sinners.

So, thank you, Governor Cuomo! You are right on target: our faith is not in the Church, but in a Person, the Second Person of the Most Blessed Trinity, Jesus Christ, who promised us He would be with us in the Church until the end of time, and that not even the “gates of hell will prevail against her.”

A reporter recently asked me, “Are you shocked and scandalized in the newest round of publicity about decades-old sexual abuse?”

“Well, yes,” I replied, as I would hope such nauseating immorality would always sadden me. But, I went on, “I happen to have a Ph.D. in scandal, so it doesn’t shake my faith. I have my doctorate in Church history, which is one long tale of sin, scandal and shock, always redeemed by the grace and mercy of God.”

And the apostles, our first priests and bishops, serve as the best example of how God’s wisdom trumps stupidity, His mercy erases sin, His grace is victorious over hard-headedness.

Last Monday, the Feast of Sts. Philip and James, two of the apostles, provides a good example. Ignorant Philip asks Jesus to “show us the Father.”

Poor patient Jesus! You can detect the exasperation in His response: “Philip, come on now, I’ve been with you every day for three years and you still don’t get it? Whoever sees me sees the Father.” Stubbornness, ignorance, right from the start.

A bigger blooper will come at the Ascension. Jesus had taught them so well, and right before He’s to return to heaven, His apostles reveal how dense they are, as they ask one of the sillier questions in the Gospel, “Lord, now will you restore the kingdom of Israel?”

What dolts! How often had He told them His was not a political agenda, yet they never got it!

And of course nothing was worse than the night of His passion: of His twelve best friends, one betrayed Him for thirty pieces of silver, one denied even knowing Him three times, and nine ran off like scared jackrabbits. Only one, the youngest, stuck with Him.

Not a good track record. If the survival of the Church depended upon the brightness, the virtue, the courage, the holiness of her bishops and priests, the Church would have collapsed only hours after the ordination of her first ones, the apostles.

So, a tort attorney can brag, “I’m not resting until there’s a ‘going-out-of-business’ sign in front of every Catholic Church.”

So columnists can say that this scandal only shows that the Church has to conform her “paleo-teaching” on faith and morals to this “enlightened, liberated” era, forgetting that the scandals hardly came because of Church teaching but because people ignored it.

So commentators will predict that the Church will now obviously collapse under the pressure of this scandal, and the days of the Church having any normative say in the lives of her people or in culture are numbered.

Wrong... We’ve been through it all before, starting with our first batch of priests and bishops.

Pardon the Latin, but, ecclesia semper reformanda: the Church always needs reform.

Actually, the sin and scandal in some—a very small minority—of Church leaders really shows that the Holy Spirit is in charge. As the British historian Lord Macaulay observed, “No mere human institution could have survived a fortnight!”

Which is another reason we need Sunday Mass, what I’ve been writing about lately. To quit going to Sunday Mass because of the sin and scandal among a few priests, sisters and bishops is like refusing to vote because we’re fed up with Washington, or like refusing to go to a doctor because there have been some real quacks.

Most spasms of scandal, sin, embarrassment and shock—like now—lead to renewal and purification in the Church, making her stronger and more effective.

That’s not natural. It’s supernatural.

Ask St. Peter...ask Philip...ask our resilient Catholic faithful...ask Mario Cuomo.

In the end, it’s not about us anyway. It’s all about Jesus.

He assured us that “the gates of hell will not prevail against the Church.” He didn't assure us they wouldn’t keep trying.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

In Memoriam

Last week, the father of Fr. Luke Sweeney—Vocations Director in the Archdiocese of New York and creator of “”—entered into eternal life. As I was blessed to have known Mr. Sweeney personally (and in honor of this feast of St. Joseph the Worker, foster father of Jesus), I thought I would re-print this article as a tribute. It was written by Fr. Luke about a year ago for “Fathers for Good,” an initiative of the Knights of Columbus.

“Father of the Father”

My dad loves to recall a defining moment of his becoming a father late in life, at age fifty. His habit was to come home and read the newspaper, but when I was a toddler, I must have come over and swiped the paper out of his hands. The light went on in his mind and he realized that in my childlike way I was asking my dad to play with me. He took the hint and threw his heart into doing things with me then and throughout the years.

The presence of a father is invaluable in a boy’s life. As a vocation director I witness the wounds left when fathers are physically or emotionally distant from a young man. There can be anger that builds up, problems of relating in an appropriate masculine way and difficulties in school.

I have been blessed with my dad’s continued active presence in my life.

While my mother was more vocally and explicitly Catholic, praying with me at bedtime and listening to Christian radio, my dad’s presence was always quiet, but clearly there. At different times he offered words of wisdom. He taught me how to golf, threw the football with me, and even once dug up grass from the backyard for a history project.

A short while ago I asked my dad if he had ever stopped going to church over the years. He said never. What a wonderful job his family and the priests and religious sisters did for him when he was young! They set him on a good path and he never strayed.

My father has recalled for our family on numerous occasions his days in the U.S. Navy during World War II, and how incredibly quiet and focused the crew was before a battle. Most were deep in prayer, begging for grace and preparing for death. Perhaps his trust and reliance on God during those years deepened his commitment.

My dad’s presence and practice in the faith was never lacking. I always felt encouraged to get involved with the Church through his example. He was involved as an usher, volunteer for the Cardinal’s Annual Appeal, and as a parish trustee. He went to Mass, stayed afterward for the rosary each week and would go to Stations of the Cross during Lent. We also did these things as a family.

I began talking about the possibility of a priestly vocation in the sixth grade, and my dad took me to the seminary to meet the rector when I was a senior in high school. His words of wisdom were, “No matter what you decide to do in life, your mom and I will love you and support you!” What a sense of freedom to follow God’s will and not be forced to live out a parent’s preconceived plan for my life.

My mom died of a brain tumor right after I was ordained a deacon. My dad and I were present at her passing. Now that I am a priest, my dad has become a person that I talk to about how things are going (he constantly tells me to pace myself), but also someone I now pray with. We pray the rosary when driving together in the car, and sometimes I have the privilege of offering Mass in a hotel room when we travel together. Whatever the occasion, my dad is prouder than anything to be the “Father of the Father.”

Recently, we both went to confession while on vacation. Without missing a beat, he took from his bag a little old military prayer book from the 1940’s which he had used all these years to prepare himself for the sacrament. His strong and basic faith had seen him through battles, and it continues to guide, renew and nourish him daily. His love and devotion to Jesus and the Blessed Mother have had a great effect on my life, and there is little mystery that I was able to hear God’s call.

(photo: Fr. Luke Sweeney, his father Mr. Luke Sweeney, and Archbishop Dolan)