Monday, September 18, 2017

A Grandmother's Disappointment With a Religion Program Change

A friend of mine called to express her frustration with a church in Queens, NY where her grandchildren attend C.C.D. classes. Her daughter told her that when she went to register her 8 -year- old son, who received his First Communion last year, for 3rd grade religion classes she was told, that there wouldn't be any classes for him until he's ready to receive Confirmation, which is many years from now.
My friend, his grandmother was confused and upset by this action. She asked me why they would do such a thing. I've heard about this type of religion program happening in other parts of the country but I didn't know it was catching on here.
I don't understand either. I've spent my whole adult life studying Scripture and books on Christianity. The Catholic faith and knowing as much as I can about it, is a passion for me. Less is not more when it comes to studying the faith. The more knowledge you have about Scripture and the teachings of Jesus, the better off you'll be in life, is what I truly believe. (And of course others would agree.)
I gave my friend a simple solution. Buy a Children's Bible and read Bible stories with your grandson over the next few years....and of course take him to Church on Sundays. But keep him in touch with stories about Jesus. Keep Jesus alive for him.
That's a suggestion the DRE (or pastor) could have given to the parents of these children, who were just told to come back in a few years or so. (I assume what I was told is accurate.) Buy a Children's Bible, these parents could have been told. Keep the faith alive with your children by reading these stories with them and discussing them at home, as a family. The Bible is filled with wisdom and faith stories, which are good for discussions and building good character.
The Church misses so many opportunities to evangelize.

I also read this weekend on AOL of mega churches evangelizing to young people and holding Sunday morning services in rented music venues in Williamsburg, Bushwick (Brooklyn) and the Lower East Side of Manhattan. More missed opportunities for the Church. Very frustrating for those of us who love the Church.
NJA

"If Catholics in the U.S. are going to be healers of our wounded culture, we"re going to have to learn to see the world through lenses ground by biblical faith. That form of depth perception only comes from an immersion in the Bible itself." (George Weigel- Tablet article- 5/21/16)

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

The Feast of the Most Holy Name of Mary and My Creative Spirit

I pray on this Feast of the Most Holy Name of Mary that people in the Caribbean who are suffering because of catastrophic damage from Hurricane Irma and people in the Southeastern U.S., who are living without electricity and some with damaged homes, will quickly find hope, help and relief.
This feast of Mary began in Spain in 1513. The holy name of Mary is powerful because Mary is the Mother of God and has a special motherly bond with Jesus. Mary is the holy, receptive vessel which brought forth the Christ-child into the world. Her purity, holiness and goodness was the perfect channel for God. Richard of St. Laurence wrote, "There is not such powerful help in any name, nor is there any other name given to men, after that of Jesus, from which so much salvation is poured forth upon us, as from the name of Mary."

It is on this day, a few days after the Nativity of Mary, that I finally completed my book. A book years in the writing, a book that was difficult for me to write, but I did it anyway. I am self-publishing the book because at this time, in modern history, I can do that. It makes it easier for me, though more costly, since I needed some help with the formatting and cover etc. It will be published through CreateSpace.
 I edited it myself which was tedious. It is taking some courage to have this published. It's about my spiritual journey.  In a few weeks, hopefully, I will have a completed copy in my hands and it will be available on Amazon. I was born on the Nativity of Mary and so it is fitting it would be finished in the month of September. The book is entrusted to Mary, under her title of "Our Lady of Mt. Carmel."
NJA

Monday, August 28, 2017

Catastrophe in South Texas-Turns "Hellish" in Texas

The catastrophic flooding and destruction in South Texas from Hurricane Harvey and its aftermath is heartbreaking.  The images of people being rescued from their flooded homes or on top of cars are horrific.  People leaving their flooded homes with one or two bags or nothing, running for their lives from a freak, horrific hurricane, that swirls on and on. Worse than that, some people have sadly died. It's like a never ending nightmare for the people of Houston. When you hear expert meteorologists saying the words 'unprecedented, unusual, the worst its ever been, historic', it should be a wake-up call. Hell is suppose to be filled with fire and demons, but in this case, a "hellish" event is filled with water, falling from the sky in record-breaking amounts. Meteorologists, shaking their heads in disbelief, is not a good sign.

Many years ago I read that climate scientists believe that because of global warming, some parts of the world will experience drought while others will have increased rain. Oh and then there are the storms. They predict more frequent, more intense storms and hurricanes from the warming of the oceans or in this case, the Gulf of Mexico.
I feel compassion for the people of Texas, no one should have to go through what they are going through.
Sometimes a thought enters my head that upsets me. (I do think too much!) What if we are screwing up the earth's atmosphere so much that there is no turning back? I think it's called the tipping point and climate scientists have brought up the idea.  At some point we could destroy the earth's ecological balance to the point of no return. And what if, at that point even God doesn't intervene. What if it just unfolds, just like this hellish nightmare is unfolding in Texas, because God's beautiful creation wasn't cared for, appreciated or respected by human beings.
Christians are suppose to be people of hope. But August wasn't a good month for me, or for others. I can't wait for it to be over.
NJA

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

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