Tuesday, August 15, 2017

My "Summer of Hell"

Well unfortunately, it turned out to be the "Summer of Hell," for me. Of course that term was coined to express mass transit delays for NYC transit, because of train and station repairs and I thought when I first heard it, that's very negative. Well, I didn't think it would affect me personally, since I don't commute daily.  And for the first half of my summer, all was well. And then out of nowhere, bad news came. Everyone is OK but I don't like dealing with a crisis but there it was. My son was suppose to get married in two weeks but the wedding was postponed, just like that. One day all was well, plans were going great, the Church was set, the priest was wonderful who would preside, the reception and everything seemed splendid, until it wasn't. Just like that a crisis. The "Summer of Hell" unfolded.
Well, this is why I pray, why I belong to a prayer group and have friends and family members who pray for me and my family. Because out of nowhere, problems can surface, in a moment. Just when everything seems fine, it's not.
I can't imagine life without prayer. I wouldn't survive it. There is just too much uncertainty in life.
So I pray for my son, for the nice girl he was going to marry and pray that everything unfolds from here according to God's plan. It's in God's hands now.
But I would have preferred a nicer, calmer summer. I didn't want all this drama. Of course people have it worse and I hate to even complain.  My relationship with God is always the anchor in my life. Thank God for that! My prayer life is always there to save me, for whatever unexpected things happen.
NJA

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

The Warning from the "Benedict Option" Unfolding in Real Time

In my last blog post I asked if Rod Dreher's book, "The Benedict Option," was too dire. I still don't know the answer to that but a question that haunts me is, "Do young people feel they need God or religious services or Mass?" I would hope they do. I certainly do, but young people have grown up in a different world and that world is changing quickly and drastically. Young people certainly need their smartphones, they can't live without them. I think of the strange cases I've read in the news.  A young woman who was recently electrocuted in the bathtub while charging her phone, while using an electrical cord. Sadly she died. Or teenagers who have thrown fits if their parents take away their phones even for a short time. Other young people have jumped into rivers trying to retrieve their phones. It's a crazy world. And no one can predict where it's all going.

Rod Dreher predicts that unless something changes, our churches will suffer greatly in the future. Yesterday in the New York Times was an article entitled, "Eighteen Shuttered Catholic Churches May Soon Be Up For Sale," by Luis Ferre-Sadurni. It tells of the deconsecration of churches in the Archdiocese of New York, churches that were closed in 2015. "Fifteen of the churches were closed in 2015, when the archdiocese consolidated more than 140 parishes and closed nearly 40 churches. Ten of the 18 deconsecrated churches are in Manhattan, three are in Westchester, two are in Duchess County, two in the Bronx and one is in Sullivan County." Some of the churches might be sold to make way for luxury apartment houses or hotels, as has been done in the past. Manhattan real estate especially, is very valuable. It is estimated that the property that St. Elizabeth of Hungary (UES of Manhattan) sits on is worth more than $25 million.
The revenues from sale of church property would go to the parish that owned it. It's still sad for parishioners who become very attached to their churches and many try to fight the closing.
But as dedicated, long time parishioners die, the reality is young people are not taking their place. If you go to Manhattan on a Sunday morning, you will see lines of young people waiting to have brunch,  some may have gone to Church beforehand but not enough.
NJA



Thursday, July 13, 2017

"The Benedict Option," Is It Too Dire?

The Summer Book Club that I facilitate read, "The Benedict Option-A Strategy For Christians In A Post-Christian Nation," by Rod Dreher. The book has received so much press, so many reviews and I was curious what the fuss was about, so I thought it was a good choice for the book club. I heard Cardinal Dolan talking about it on "Conversations with Cardinal Dolan," I saw a panel discussion about it on TV, with notable people including Rod Dreher, the author, discussing "The Option," so what's all the hype about.
Dreher who is a journalist, author and blogger who coined the expression, "The Benedict Option," has a rather dire assessment of modern culture and the West. He thinks we are about to enter another Dark Age (similar to what happened to Rome after the Roman Empire fell) and just as St. Benedict of Nursia in the 6th century withdrew from the chaos and maintained the Christian faith, building a community based on "principles of order, hospitality, stability and prayer," he thinks serious Christians will have to do the same.  He suggests that Christians of all denominations, consider withdrawing from the "fallen" society and forming intentional Christian communities based around monasteries, churches etc, to be in the company of like-minded, serious Christians.  He thinks the culture and all the ills associated with young people's obsession with modern technology (most especially their phones and the internet), and all the negative influences that abound in society along with the fact that young people are turned off to institutions (including organized religion) demands a new and creative response.
He thinks that most priests, ministers, pastors, religious and the hierarchy don't realize the perilous situation we're in. He wrote, "I have written "The Benedict Option," to wake up the church and to encourage it to act to strengthen itself, while there is still time."
He makes the startling claim that if current trends continue, our churches will soon be empty. Sounds like the apocalypse is coming or creeping in without too many noticing.
I'm not sure what to make of it. I do think he's onto something in that the Church needs new and creative ways which are practical (and work) to evangelize young adults and teens. They are the future of the Church and the Church needs to listen to them.
I've visited the community of Ave Maria in Naples, Florida many times. I've spoken to young adults there. They like it there. They are surrounded by like-minded young people and faith filled families. Its the only community I've ever visited that is close to what Dreher is suggesting. A lot centers around the beautiful Church and town square. (There is also a Catholic university there-Ave Maria University). According to what the young adults told me, some of the Catholic families have large families, with lots of children, so there is a lot of energy.
Is withdrawing the answer? Or do faith filled Catholics have to stay near their churches trying to build them up, make them more appealing to young people and newcomers. I'm not sure what the answer is but I do know that the book gave us a lot of interesting things to discuss.
NJA

Friday, July 7, 2017

"Summer of Hell" For Some Commuters But Also For Those Who Love the Church

The phrase "Summer of Hell" has been coined to describe delays, derailments, inconveniences and chaos caused by unreliable transit in NYC. But it also describes what will take place this summer as Penn Station in NYC will reduce the number of trains to repair old tracks, causing commuters to take alternate routes and causing stress for people just trying to get to work. Sad.
I started thinking about that phrase-"Summer of Hell," while reading a scandalous report on AOL today about a supposedly lurid news report coming out of Vatican City. I can't even get into the details, it would be too upsetting.
First there was the recent accusations against George Cardinal Pell. He was charged with multiple counts of sexual abuse of children. Of course, he is innocent until proven guilty, but considering his high position in the Church, it's terrible news. The Church in Australia has suffered enough.
Now this damaging report from the Italian newspaper, il Fatto Quotidiano, which claims a top priest was arrested, on drug charges. And that's only part of it.
I feel sorry for Pope Francis. I don't know what he can do. I'm not sure what the Cardinals can do. But someone is going to have to stand before God and give an account.
This hurts the Church. It hurts the people who love the Church, like me. It hurts all the good, honest, holy priests. I know so many of them, admire them, they work hard and do the right thing.
But this One, Holy, Apostolic Catholic Church needs to be purified. Someone is going to have to give an account before God.
NJA



Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Five Priests Ordained for Diocese of Rockville Centre-An Extraordinary, Holy Weekend on Long Island

This was Catholicism at its best. Five men (Fathers Michael Bissex, Liam McDonald, Michael Plona, Christopher Sullivan and John Wachowicz) ordained at St. Agnes Cathedral, the first priest ordination for Bishop Barres on Long Island. I watched it re-televised in the evening on Telecare. But as I watched I knew I had made a mistake. I was invited to the ordination but had previous plans. I should have tried to change my plans. But in any event, I watched it in its entirety on TV that evening and probably had a much better seat than I would have had at the Cathedral. It was very moving. I was especially moved when Bishop Barres sincerely thanked each set of parents.  Also, when Bishop Barres bestowed the sacrament of ordination during the laying on of hands and then every priest in attendance (it looked like at least 75 or more of them) placed their hands on the heads of the newly ordained priests to give them a blessing and to show solidarity with them. Catholicism at its best!

The next day on Sunday I attended the first Mass of Fr. John Wachowicz at St. Mary's Parish in Manhasset, where he is from. The Mass was too awesome to put into words. Fr. John had us all crying as he spoke to his father and mother from the pulpit, it was very emotional for him and us.

Fr. Nicholas Zientarski gave the homily at the Mass and noted that St. Mary's lost a beloved pastor, Msgr. John McCann who retired and then suddenly died last year and yet we were blessed to have another Fr. John come from our parish to strengthen the Church. Msgr. McCann was instrumental in encouraging John Wachowicz to become a priest.

The party afterwards was well planned with good food and plenty of parishioners and clergy to enjoy it.
We all waited in line for Fr. John's first blessing on each of us. And there was a long line.
Fr. John knows he is greatly blessed. His first assignment is St. Rosalie Parish in Hampton Bays, a very vibrant parish whose pastor, Fr. Edward Sheridan is a wonderful priest and pastor. Fr. Ed, as it turns out,  also happens to be presiding at my son's wedding this summer at Queen of the Holy Rosary in Bridgehampton. All good.
NJA


Friday, June 9, 2017

St. Hildegard of Bingen-Catholic Summer Reading Group Keeps Us Engaged

     During the late spring/summer I am involved with facilitating a book club in my parish. It's a good way for me to keep up with my reading. We've read biographies of two women Doctors of the Church over the last two years and this year we are tackling St. Hildegard of Bingen. She was named a saint and Doctor of the Church in 2012 by Pope Benedict who wanted to see the process completed during his pontificate. It took the Church over 800 years to canonize her. She was a very unusual woman mystic. Hildegard lived in the Middle Ages (1098-1179) and was a remarkable and influential woman, who is most noted today for her music. She was a German Benedictine abbess, composer, musician, expert in herbs and using them for healing,  philosopher and polymath.
     I didn't read the biography before suggesting it to the Church readers' group. I should have I might have considered a different biography.....don't want to go into the details here but she used herbs for all sorts of medical problems and I didn't realize what this would entail. Oh well, I figured she's a doctor of the church, how can I go wrong,  but secular writers highlight different things in saints' lives then theologians would. But anyway, everyone seems to be enjoying the book. I didn't know much about Hildegard which is why I was happy to read about her. I find the saints' very inspiring. We've read about St. Catherine of Siena, St. Teresa of Avila and now St. Hildegard. Since there are 4 women Doctors, next summer (God willing) we will read about the youngest doctor of the Church, St. Therese of Liseiux. I know the most about her, I've taken a course about her, with a Carmelite expert and have a great devotion to her besides, so I saved her for last.
     The next book we are reading this summer is a much discussed book (I've heard Cardinal Dolan and others speak about it on TV), titled, "The Benedict Option-A Strategy for Christians in a Post-Christian Nation" by Rod Dreher. Probably my next post will be about that book.
NJA

"Let us always invoke the Holy Spirit, so that he may inspire in the Church holy and courageous women like St. Hildegard of Bingen, who developing the gifts they have received from God, make their own special and valuable contribution to the spiritual development of our communities and of the Church in our time." Pope Benedict

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Holy Oil and Miraculous Weeping Icons From St. Paul's Greek Church Can Soothe and Help

When people get bad news about their health, they often become worried and filled with despair. It puts family members in a difficult situation, as doctors are consulted and the best course of action is planned by medical doctors, the patient and the family. At times like that, people need faith, belief and prayer. It helps in more ways than one.
Some time ago my friend called to tell me her son who was newly married and his wife were quite upset as his wife's mother was given a terrible cancer diagnosis. It was very sad, it didn't sound like she had long to live, but with excellent medical care and cancer treatment she has been doing OK. Her cancer is not in remission but its not getting worse and she's "holding her own."
This family of the bride is Jewish and I attended the couple's interfaith marriage ceremony and reception so naturally I felt very sorry for them.  The reality was and still is that soon after their marriage they had to deal with this difficult situation as the bride's mother became very sick.
I told them about holy, blessed oil that I had from a Greek Orthodox Church on Long Island, NY, from, The Cathedral of St.Paul Greek Orthodox Church on Cathedral Avenue in Hempstead. I offered to mail it to them and I suggested she place a drop of holy oil on her mother's forehead every night before she went to sleep and to say a prayer. I've recently made another trip to the Church to get more oil for them....the second trip I've made for them....Not a miracle but she is doing OK which is better than anyone expected as her prognosis was very grave.
I'm telling this story because whether or not the blessed oil is helping I"m not sure. I'd like to think so. Of course, she's had the best treatment available as well. Is it a combination of the two as well as all the prayers? Whatever it is, the daughter who places the holy oil on her mother's forehead each night is able to do something, to have some control, to say a prayer, to comfort her mother.
The history of the Church, the miraculous weeping icons in the Church and the blessed holy oil is very interesting. The holy oil is free, it comes in little containers and people are encouraged to give a donation to the Church when taking the oil. The Church itself with its magnificent mosaics is worth seeing just for the beautiful, religious mosaics in the Church. There are also many saints' relics in the Church.
The Rosary Society from my parish visits the Greek Church at least once a year and the parishioners there welcome us. It's always an inspiring trip.
If you know someone who is ill, you might consider getting some of the blessed oil. It helps on many levels.
NJA