Monday, December 5, 2016

Marian Symposium at the Seminary of the Immaculate Conception in Huntington, NY

I have been an active friend of the "Friends of the Seminary" for many years. I was also a Vice President and President of the volunteer organization that helps fund- raise and plan events for the "friends." We help the Seminary and we help the seminarians who now study at Dunwoodie in Yonkers at St. Joseph's Seminary. Yesterday on Dec. 4th, the Spirituality Committee planned a great day of prayer, theology, art and music, with the rector's permission and advice. Msgr. Richard Henning is a great rector and he has been an asset to the Seminary. He is making improvements and is very involved in making sure the Seminary remains vital to the surrounding areas of Long Island and the Diocese of Rockville Centre and the Diocese of Brooklyn. Since St. Ignatius Retreat House on the North Shore of LI in North Hills sadly closed and was demolished (the magnificent property will be used to build luxury houses), the Seminary in Huntington has become more important as a place for retreats, education and days of prayer.
The day began with Mass in the Main Chapel and Bishop Massa presided and the Rector, the Associate Rector and Fr. Hugh Gillespie concelebrated.  
At the Marian Symposium the Keynote Address was given by Bishop James Massa (Auxiliary Bishop of Brooklyn and Moderator of the Curia). His lecture was well thought out and fascinating. He spoke about "The Nursing Virgin Mary (Madonna Lactans) in Christian art, devotion and "its theological purpose to honor the sacred humanity" of Jesus. He also spoke about Mary as the Mother of God (Theotokos) and many other fascinating aspects of Marian theology. He highly suggested the book, "The Splendor of the Church" by Henri de Lubac which I am going to try to read this winter. We were all impressed.
His talk was followed by another extraordinary presentation by Fr. Hugh Gillespie, SMM, who is a well known presenter on Marian devotion. He managed to mix deep theological (and challenging) thoughts with an entertaining presentation. It was very good.
That was followed by a powerpoint presentation by Angela-DeLessio-Morrisson who is a local artist and she discussed icons and in particular Our Lady of Perpetual Help icon. Angela is a graduate of the Master's Degree Program at the Seminary. She gave a wonderful presentation. And if that wasn't all enough, we did manage to fit in lunch and a musical interlude by the Cathedral Seminary Schola by the Pre-Theologians studying at Cathedral Seminary House of Formation in Douglaston, Queens. That was heavenly.
The day ended with Solemn Vespers and though I very much wanted to stay, I don't like driving on the North Shore of LI roads in the dark and so I had to leave before darkness fell.
What a great spiritual day, filled with knowledge of God and Mary. All so good for the soul.
NJA

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Guided By the Holy Spirit, Open To The Spirit, During the Holiday Season

For all those who celebrate the great holiday of Thanksgiving, I wish you a Happy Thanksgiving! I'm getting ready to host my family and some of my sons' friends. One of our guests will be coming from England so it will be special! She is  coming for a long weekend to visit my sons' fiance, and we've invited her, of course.

In addition to that I am preparing for a talk I will give during Advent. This is a special talk for me because I have never spoken about this topic before or even thought too much about it. So why would I chose this topic especially during the holiday season with so much to do?.....I could of expanded on a topic I've done many times in Advent but this year would be different. I didn't know that when I agreed to give a talk during Advent, (which I am doing for a second year in a row), that my talk would be entirely different. The reason is, this year I was given the title of the talk and the topic by the Holy Spirit. Sounds a little strange....I would imagine you think it's strange. You see, God's word as we believe, as Christians is living and active, it should be transformative as well. As Christians, we should be open to the movement of the Holy Spirit, so if the Spirit does move in our lives, we should be thankful for that and not hesitate or be too surprised.......Well, at first I have to be honest I wasn't thankful because it was a lot of work to prepare for this talk and actually I'm going to finish it today because I want it completed before Thanksgiving. And at first, I was perplexed because it was very obvious that God's word "spoke" to me and this was the topic. So now that you're curious and wondering what the topic is, I'll tell you. The topic of my talk is about the Reign of God. The Scripture verse that "jumped" out at me at a Bible Study talk was, "The Kingdom of God is at hand." I knew in that instant I would speak about the Reign of God but still wasn't sure where to go with it....that kept me up one night as I tried to discern that. But it's all OK now, because the talk is mostly written, I got through it, today I will put the finishing touches on it and present it next week.
That's my story. Once again, Happy Thanksgiving!
NJA

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

President-Elect Trump Make Good on Your Promise To Rebuild Inner Cities

One promise that I heard President-elect Donald Trump make in the early morning hours, after winning a stunning and close election was to say he was going to rebuild American inner cities. I was sleepy, like most Americans who stood up to see the election results but I didn't miss that.  He has the know-how to do that. Poor people who live in inner cities deserve better, they deserve decent housing, playgrounds, good places to shop and good schools. The children and teens in our inner cities have suffered too long with a a lack of good opportunities, part-time and summer jobs, and decent community centers where they can have access to after school programs, sports programs, tutoring,  life coaches and mentors as well as positive role models who can inspire them (and keep them away from temptations and vices  that can ruin their lives).
I hope President-elect Trump can do that for our inner cities, for the young people who deserve good opportunities so they can realize the American dream and believe in themselves.
Let's see if he makes good on that promise and lifts all Americans, so that all people have a chance to climb the ladder of success and realize the American dream.
NJA


Friday, October 28, 2016

Finishing Up The Year of Mercy-A Talk By Msgr.P. Vaccari

I have been privileged to be a part of my parish Year of Mercy Committee. Under the direction of Fr. Jude Dioka, Parochial Vicar of our parish, we have planned many events, which helped our parishioners as well as others. I previously blogged about our visit to the St. Pius X Residence for elderly priests on Long Island, where we brought dinner and had prayer and  fellowship with them. That was a great evening.
Last evening we invited a speaker, Msgr. Peter Vaccari, the Rector of St. Joseph's Seminary in Yonkers, NY to give a talk and take part in Eucharistic Adoration with us. As usual, Msgr. Peter gave an excellent talk, he is a gifted speaker and a great intellect. Besides all that he is a genuinely good priest, and a great rector.
He gave us many good insights into the Queen of Mercy, Mary our Mother. He spoke of her as the new "Ark of the Covenant." He spoke about the tenderness of Mary and Jesus and how Mary can accompany us on our faith journey at each moment. We should be open to the maternal embrace and tenderness of Mary. Through Mary and with Mary's help we can find our joy, our life and our peace in Christ.
He spoke about Pope Francis and how he says we need to be cheerful, knowing we are gifted and blessed and  vessels of mercy, like Mary. Like Mary we need to be filled with peace, joy and enthusiasm. We must turn our gaze to Mary, she intercedes for us. Through Mary and with Mary's help we can find the peace of Christ in our lives.
Msgr. Vaccari spoke about the importance of Eucharistic Adoration, which occurs at the Seminary in Yonkers on Thursday evenings from 7:00-10:00 PM and on other nights as well. He also spoke about the power of the Rosary. How important it is to say it regularly as it's such a powerful prayer as St. John Paul II often wrote and said. The Rosary marks the rhythm of life.
Though it was raining outside, it was a good evening. Msgr. Vaccari is such an inspiring speaker. I told him it's time they made him a Bishop!! He laughed. He's very gifted intellectually and spiritually (and remains down-to-earth) and that's what the Church needs now, (in my humble opinion).
NJA

Friday, October 7, 2016

Young People Leaving Organized Religion-The Perfect Modern Storm

Sadly, according to a new study, a quarter of Americans do not belong to any religion and many of them are young people. The Public Religion Research Institute published a study recently entitled, "Exodus: Why Americans are Leaving Religion-And Why They're Unlikely To Come Back."
The study shows that Americans are increasingly identifying as being "nones." Nearly 40 percent of those are between the ages of 18-29. More disturbing is that fact that the Catholic Church has the most that are leaving.
I've been suspicious for awhile that part of the problem is modern technology. Of course there is a lot that is good about modern technology and I certainly use it everyday and find it helpful and necessary. But I keep it in perspective and use it as a tool for study and learning as well as a way to communicate. But I suspect that because young people are constantly checking their Facebook page, their e-mails, text messages, Instagram, Twitter accounts etc., it is very time consuming.
In a NY Times article today titled, "Intimacy For the Avoidant," it quotes a British study which reported people check their phones on an average of 221 times a day-about every 4.3 minutes. I assume that's true though its hard to believe and I'm sure that number is higher for young people. How can there be time for reflection on life's big questions? How can there be time for God? Or time for prayer? Is the need for  God being replaced by cell phones, gadgets and computers. I'd hate to know the real answer to those questions. It's a bit scary.
As David Brooks wrote in the article, "A decade ago almost no one had a smartphone. Now the average American spends five and a half hours a day with digital media and the young spend far more time. A study of female students at Baylor University found that they spent 10 hours a day on their phones."
At a recent prayer group meeting, someone asked, "If people don't have a prayer life, what can they hold onto to? I replied, "Their iphones." We all laughed but there is some sad truth to it.
NJA

UPDATED on Saturday morning..... I realized the above entry is too negative...it might be true to some extent but....Christians must always have a positive view.... we must have Christian hope....... and know in the words of Julian of Norwich that "All will be well." We should pray for young people that they will come to know the importance of a relationship with Jesus Christ and how it enriches one's life!

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

The Beautiful Nuptial Mass at St. Peter's in Great Barrington, MA

My son was married last Saturday at St. Peter's Church in Great Barrington, Massachusetts. He married a wonderful girl whose family is active in the Catholic Church where they live in Westchester County. The married couple wanted to get married in the country which is why the wedding took place in Great Barrington. Having wedding receptions in barns is a big craze. And so it was, a reception in a large country barn that has been converted to a restaurant and wedding venue. It was lovely, it was a beautiful day. There was love in the air.....
Fr. William Murphy of St. Peter's and St. Teresa's officiated at the Mass. He gave a fantastic homily. He is a very nice priest, who just happens to have the same name as other prominent priests (Bishop William Murphy of Rockville Center). He told me he had his picture taken with Bishop Murphy as well as another priest named William Murphy. Fr. Murphy of Great Barrington is the pastor of two parishes and he is taking care of his elderly mother as well. A very good man!
All is well. One married son and one to go.
NJA

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Mary's Birthday and the Great St. Teresa's

I consider it a great blessing that I was born on the same day that the Church celebrates the birth of Mary. I never knew it as a child, just never came up and when I did realize it as a teenager I was most appreciative to have such a wonderful day to celebrate my birthday. As I get older, birthdays are not quite as exciting as they once were, but time goes on......
September 8th was a special day in the life of Mary and also I would find out as an adult, that it was a very special day in the life of a saint I greatly love and admire- St. Therese of Lisieux (the Little Flower). She would profess her vows on September 8th and wed her "divine spouse." St. Therese took her vows so seriously that she sent out wedding invitations. Jesus was very real to Therese. She loved him deeply, the way we should all love God.
Another great Teresa was canonized on Sunday in St. Peter's Square. St. Teresa of Calcutta was a saint that lived in our lifetime, a modern saint who knew how to put "flesh and blood" on the gospel message. With the determination of a saint, she answered the "call within the call" as she called it, and went out into the slums of Calcutta and never looked back. She had such courage and single minded focus on her love for Christ and the poor.  The "dark night of the soul" she experienced did not stop her, nothing could stop her as she followed the promptings of the Holy Spirit.
May we all hear and follow the Spirit as Mary did, as St. Therese of Lisieux did and as the newest saint of the Church, St. Teresa of Calcutta did.
Amen!
NJA