Thursday, December 28, 2017

Bono-We Are To Be Grateful For Everything!

I read an online article titled, "Bono Complains Modern Music 'Has Gotten Very Girly'" and it makes the point that in a recent interview with "Rolling Stone," U2 frontman Bono remarked (among other things), that, "You know people of faith can be very annoying, like when people on the Grammys thank God for a song and you think, 'God that is a shite song. Don't give God credit for that one, you should take it yourself!'" Obviously he doesn't think artists should thank God unless its a remarkable, fantastic song (in his opinion).  I respectfully disagree. Perhaps the noted artist didn't get the song, "directly from the mouth of God," but certainly artists get inspiration (in varying amounts) from God, as Bono well knows. And anyone who makes it to the Grammys or any other awards show and wins an award, should definitely thank God. (Actually they should be on their knees!) I thank God for the smallest accomplishments, in my life, knowing that all is gift and I would not have made it this far in life, were it not for God's inspiration and guidance.
God indeed has great taste, as the world is filled with natural beauty, inspiring artwork and writings, music and beautiful things. When we unite our will to the will of God and ask God humbly to bless our work, whatever that work may be, creativity shines forth. So much to be thankful for as this year ends and another one begins.

In all circumstances, give thanks, for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus. 
First Letter of St. Paul to the Thessalonians (1Thes 5:18)

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Merry Christmas 2017-Blessed New Year

I hope and pray that you have a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year! How blessed we are to believe in God, worship God and have Jesus near. There is no better gift, no greater advantage in life than to have the living God as friend, Savior and Redeemer.
As I get older and take stock of all I have been given, as I have followed the spiritual journey with and in Christ, I am amazed. I have been greatly blessed, on many levels. Of course, I have also had to suffer trials, be misunderstood, suffer terrible losses but I have always remained in hope.  I have never stopped praying or believing that God would turn things around. And God has in God's time and in His way.
The words  of St. Faustina, "Jesus I trust in you," that she was told by Jesus to have painted on the bottom of the painting of Divine Mercy are  a great comfort and words that should never be far from the lips of a Christian.
During trials in my life, I always knew that God would help, would strengthen me and be close to me. I always knew that God is full of mercy and compassion. At times waiting for God to act can require patience, and I like things to happen quickly. But that's not God's way.
When God does move, when the Spirit moves, you can get glimpses of the genius of God. As a person of deep faith but also as a person who likes to observe and analyze, I'm amazed by God's creative action. God will not be outdone. God is a God of justice and great mercy.
How blessed I am to know God. How blessed you are too!

I thank you Lord, with all my heart, you have heard the words of my mouth....I thank you for your faithfulness and love, which excel all we ever knew of you." (Psalm 138:1-3)

Friday, December 15, 2017

Advent 2017-Doing the Will of God

This has been an unusual Advent for me. All I have to do, (with just some effort) is watch God work in God's mysterious and powerful way and let things unfold according to God's will and plan. The Spirit is moving.....As you can see, (from the ad on this site), I have published a book on mysticism, on a mystical experience I had many years ago, when I was a young mother, living in the Marine Park section of Brooklyn. I had great fears about publishing this book and telling this unusual story.  I finally did it, as I became convinced that it was God's will and it is what God wanted me to do. Having read the saints over the years, I knew that they continually say that doing God's will and finding out what God's will is for your life, is crucial and of most importance on the spiritual journey. Doing the will of God will ultimately bring peace, fulfillment and depth of meaning to one's life. And of course it is necessary to trust in God.
However, before I actually put the finishing touches on the book and sent it off, a fear overcame me. Friends tried to calm me but I didn't know how the book would be received and that concerned me.  And of course, there can still be some doubt and negativity. But amazingly, my family and Church friends who have read the book (and even some reviewers on Amazon), like the book and find it inspiring.  Praise God!
So the fear has left me because what I have come to understand is that you will always be taking a risk when you do the will of God, it will never be easy and you just have to go with it and pray, which is what I did. And as people have positive reactions, I see that the fear was probably from the "evil one," trying to stop the process or dare I say, a lack of trust in God. (Sorry about that God!)
But God's holy will is in progress, everything is unfolding according to God's plan and for that I am very grateful this Advent.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Wake Up! It's Advent!

On Sunday I attended a beautiful Marian Day at the Seminary of the Immaculate Conception in Huntington, Long Island. The Celebration of Mary provided a faith-filled spiritual day for the "Friends of the Seminary" and all those invited from parishes around Long Island. Mass began at 10:00 AM and the amiable Auxiliary Bishop--Bishop Andrzej Zglejszewski-of Rockville Centre presided. It was the first Sunday of Advent and the readings spoke of being alert, being watchful.
Jesus said to his disciples: 'Be watchful! Be alert! You do not know when the time will come.'

Bishop Andrezej walked around the magnificent main chapel during the homily saying simply-Wake Up! Be alert! Wake Up! He said other things of course but "Wake Up" stuck in my mind, because it's so true, so many people are not alert enough, aren't watchful and we should be in a state of wakefulness, especially during Advent. People are driving crazy, no one is watching and everyone is in a rush. Besides that people (myself included) should wake up and realize what's really important during the holy season of Advent. It's a beautiful thing to give and share and prepare and eat a meal with your family, but it's so important to live each day with meaning and purpose, to pray to do God's will in your life, whatever the cost and to grow closer to God each day.
Besides the beautiful liturgy, there were two interesting lectures, one by Fr. Michael Whalen, CM and  the other by Brother Timothy Driscoll, SM., (who interestingly had taught (many years ago) Msgr. Richard Henning-the rector). Then to end the perfect day, Ms. Theresa Bissex sang beautiful Christmas hymns, and Scripture readings were read in between.
Advent bliss.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Thanksgiving 2017-God's Blessings Abound For Those Who Believe

Happy Thanksgiving! This past year was a year of some disappointments and some big accomplishments. The ups and downs of life, are ever present in our lives, in my life. But as long as I walk with Jesus, with Jesus at my side, I can and do overcome obstacles and rise to new heights. This was the year I finally finished my spiritual/mystical memoir and its selling on Amazon. More importantly, people are reading it and being inspired by it. Praise God! That's important because no one ever read the book before I published it but me. I was apprehensive about showing it in full or parts to anyone, so I never knew what people would think of it. Most people who have read it, know me and care about me, so perhaps they have a bias, but in any event, its a relief that people like the book. One of my friends told me she has bought copies for each of her adult children That amazed me.
I think I'll do a You Tube video about the book in the new year. Why not? I should evangelize shouldn't I?
And so, may you have a very Happy Thanksgiving wherever you are, be thankful because the good news is that if you pray and have a relationship with God, "all things work together for good." And everything becomes rightfully ordered and in God's time, all things work out.
That has been my experience. Being in relationship with God has enriched my life and brought many blessings and graces into my life, and for that I am very grateful this Thanksgiving.
God's abundant blessings on your life.  Now it's time to start cooking!

Monday, November 13, 2017

The Beauty of Creation-Proof of God's Existence-In A Turquoise Sea

I already have great assurance of God's existence but I'm baffled by people, such as atheists and skeptics who deny God's existence. I sometimes wonder if they see with the same eyes that I do. I recently came back from a trip to Grand Cayman Island, the largest of the Cayman Islands, which is a British Overseas Territory. Located in the Caribbean Sea, the colors and vistas that I saw as I sat on the beach made me think of the Divine Artist, the Creator,  whose mix of the colors, blues and greens in the sea and in the sky were breathtaking. The Divine Palette mixed together the most beautiful hues of green and blue and white.  Near perfection in natural beauty.
The water was turquoise, surrounding the beach,  which I hadn't seen in a long time, such pure, natural beauty. Then about a mile from the beach, beyond the turquoise was a reef, creating a rim around the inner sea. White waves were crashing on the reef,  giving a contrast between the turquoise water nearby and the deep blue sea beyond the reef. Such magnificence. So as I sat there mesmerized and taking in more sun than I should have, I kept thinking, "Who thinks these colors, this amount of beauty and perfection can be an accident or a coincidence?" "Who can possibly doubt the existence of a Divine Creator, who created with order, mathematical exactness and complexity and so much natural beauty?" I just can't get my head around it and never will.
If there was no Creator, no Divine Artist than perhaps we would live in a gray world, no striking colors, no natural beauty to cast our gaze upon. All gray...then I might think well perhaps this is an accident. But show me a simple flower, or a sunrise, or a turquoise sea and I'll believe in a generous Creator, who has a "eye" for beauty, because God is Beauty.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

My Mystical Story-Mysticism Exists

My book, that is now available on Amazon and Kindle, is a true story about a mystical experience I had many years ago, when I was a young mother, living in Brooklyn, living a seemingly ordinary life. It's difficult for me to even write the title of the book, because it will sound, at first, outrageous....believe me the self-publishing of this book takes a lot of courage for me, because it is so unusual. But I made the decision to tell this personal story of a religious experience I had many years ago in a Brooklyn church and I've done it. No turning back. As I write in the book, we don't always get to choose what happens to us in life, some things just happen and we have no control over them. That's what happened to me. You'll have to believe that mysticism exists, that mystical experiences can happen to ordinary Catholics, just like that for no apparent reason, if you're going to read my book. God is God and sometimes God acts in mysterious ways that we can't understand.
I have a lot of quotes in the book and one that I particularly like is from Karl Rahner, S.J., who was a brilliant German Jesuit theologian (1904-1984).
He wrote a lengthy quote on this subject and many more about mysticism but I shortened it for the book:
"But in any case, it is true that mysticism exists and it is not as remote from us, as we are at first tempted to assume." (Theological Investigations 18)
So this is the title of my book:  
"The Vision of Christ in St. Columba Church Brooklyn" by N. J. Azzaro, M.S.
So now you know.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

My Spiritual Memoir

My book is finished, they are just putting the finishing touches on it. I'm self-publishing the book through Createspace. I felt that was the way to go. We'll see. It was a difficult book for me to write. It's taken many years because I kept procrastinating. It was difficult for me to write about my spiritual journey. The book is very self-reflective. Part of it tells about my childhood growing up on East 52nd Street in Brooklyn,  in the 1950's-'60's. I was a parishioner of Mary Queen of Heaven Church in Brooklyn and received First Holy Communion and my Confirmation there (along with my brother).  But interestingly when I was a young teenager, the pastor of Mary Queen of Heaven, made a surprising announcement at Sunday Mass.  All parishioners who lived within a certain boundary (which we did) would be moving to a new church that was being built in Marine Park, St. Columba Church. The new pastor of that church, Msgr. Edward Jolley was a wonderful priest and pastor and though the church wasn't built right away, he was going to celebrate Mass in a nightclub on Flatbush Ave. To a teenager that seemed very "cool."
When I finally finished my book in 2017, I didn't realize it was the 50th anniversary of St. Columba Church. I was reminded by Sr. Emily Masse who visited me one day, a couple of weeks ago. I worked with Sr. Emily at St. Columba Parish for many years and when she stopped by she told me about the 50th anniversary and then sent me a Tablet article written about it.
St. Columba is an amazing saint. I hope he is pleased with my book.
For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways, says the Lord. As high as the heavens are above the earth, so high are my ways above your ways and my thoughts above your thoughts....(Isaiah 55:8-9)

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Hipsters and Young Adults in NYC Find Spirituality in Pentecostal Megachurch

According to a Patch article I read online, C3 Church Global is opening its 4th "city church" in Brooklyn, in a music school during October. C3 Church Global is a megachurch with 470 pentecostal parishes and hundreds of thousands of followers around the world. They are media savvy.
The church is not without controversy......."The megachurch rakes in millions of dollars annually and is led by a charismatic pastor from New Zealand with close ties to religious leaders with convictions for embezzling from their congregations."
But it seems young people from parts of hip Brooklyn and Manhattan don't mind the controversy, they are being "fed" spiritually and are led by "pastors with trendy haircuts who lead sermons that resemble rock concerts to hoards of hand-waving hipsters clad in fedoras and their best flannel shirts.
Oh well......what can the  Catholic Church do? The Catholic Church has a lot to offer people in every age group but how this megachurch made inroads in Brooklyn and other parts of NYC just like that, kind of puzzles me.
In Florida, I know of a Catholic pastor who goes "undercover" to Protestant megachurch services. He wants to see what's going on there, what they are doing and what the appeal is. He is sometimes recognized because he is a well known and very respected figure in the community. But he goes anyway and he learns a lot by observing and taking part in their services. I think its a great idea. He has a massive building campaign going on right now, he's building a huge community center, in his parish, with a cafe in it, among other modern amenities. He probably saw something similar in the megachurch he visited.
Well, maybe that's what religious educators, evangelizers and pastors should do in Brooklyn and the Archdiocese of New York.  Go to the prayer services being held at these megachurches and find out what hipsters and young adults find so appealing and why they are compelled to go on Sundays to a megachurch. The Catholic Church has to start thinking out-of-the-box.....Now!

Monday, September 18, 2017

More Out-of-the Box Ideas for Evangelizing Young Adults Needed Everywhere


I  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. Certainly the Church in Brooklyn and the Archdiocese can do something for young adults to evangelize them and give them uplifting, Spirit-filled Masses and/or weekend prayer services which appeal to them.......and the modern, technological world they are so a part of.

UPDATE: If you happened to read the blog entry on my friend's disappointment on what her grandson was being offered after he received his First Communion regarding CCD instruction, she didn't have all the facts (how surprising!).. she didn't have all the particulars and though there wouldn't be regular, weekly CCD classes there will be some form of communal instruction offered on a weekend for those not in regular if anyone read the post, which I have since deleted I apologize as I was not given all the correct information. I still believe that young children, actually children of all ages, should be given children's Bible study and an opportunity to read the Bible and discuss it with their families. That would bear much "fruit" in my humble opinion.  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."

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

"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.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Divine Mercy Sunday 2017 and God's Mercy

This year was the second year in a row that I gave a presentation on St. Faustina and the Divine Mercy Feast in my Church. After the Chaplet was sung at the 3:00 hour I gave my presentation. The importance of the time and the day, is not lost on me. It's a powerful, prayerful time to be in Church and to be talking about St. Faustina, her message from Jesus and the sacred image.
It so happened that as a prayer leader for the children, in the morning at the Children's Liturgy, it was my turn to give a talk to the children.  I gave a talk to young children and I spent some time talking about St. Faustina. I also gave them a prayer card with the sacred divine mercy image and those powerful words, "Jesus, I trust in you."

Well the children understood because when I asked them when they might use that powerful prayer, "Jesus I trust in you" they had some great answers. One little girl said she would say those words when she was being punished! And a young boy said when he was playing baseball and he was angry because the other team was winning, he would say to himself, "Jesus I trust in you." So they got the message and I was happy about that.

At the presentation, in the afternoon, I spoke about being open and aware. Open to the messages that Jesus gave to St. Faustina which were so important. St. Faustina wrote in her Diary, "Be receptive to God's mercy to the King of Mercy make time to come to God for graces and mercy.....As Jesus said, "My heart overflows with great mercy for souls."
The Feast of Divine Mercy is a day full of graces. Trusting in Jesus is the essence of the message of mercy that Sr. Faustina received from Jesus. Jesus said, "I have opened my heart as a living fountain of mercy. Let all souls draw life from it. Let them approach this sea of mercy with great trust. The graces of my mercy are drawn by means of one vessel only and that is trust. The more a soul trusts the more it will receive" (Diary 1578).
So it's important to be open to God's grace and mercy, to trust in all circumstances and let God's love and mercy transform your life.

Monday, April 17, 2017

The Joy of Easter Sunday-Being in the Moment

Easter Sunday in  the Northeast was unusually warm and beautiful. A perfect Easter Sunday. The Easter Sunday Mass I attended was food and nourishment for my soul.  Afterwards as I served dinner for seventeen guests (with help from my cousins) we shared an Easter meal, but first we gave thanks and prayed.

What I particularly loved was that sitting in my backyard, small light pink flowers from a flowering tree were "snowing" on all of us....pure magic. Yes it was a "springtime snow" falling softly down on us from a huge flowering tree.

As my young cousins had an Easter egg hunt for which they were rewarded, I was reminded of all that I have to be grateful for. But most especially I am grateful for Jesus. What a blessing to understand the value of His suffering, death and resurrection. What a blessing to be aware of who Christ is for me, for the world. There are so many lost people who have no clue and don't understand how rich a relationship with Jesus is, how nurturing and comforting belief is.

I have been giving retreats this Spring. One of the first things I tell participants is they should congratulate themselves for being there. In that moment in time, when there are so many lost people, they have found and made time for God. They have their priorities straight. It's no small matter, to be on the right path, to have found, "The Way, the Truth and the Life."

Monday, April 10, 2017

Evil Showing Its "Ugly Face" in Different Ways in Different Parts of the World

The bombing of two Coptic Christian Churches in northern Egypt by suicide bombers on Palm Sunday which killed 44 innocent people during prayer is the "ugly face" of evil and extremism. The attacks took place in the cities of Tanta and Alexandria and wounded 126 people along with the dead, at the start of Holy Week, the holiest week in the Church year. This kind of blatant, "in our face" evil, evil actions and distorted and inhuman thinking must come to an end on this earth. Please Lord, save these poor and vulnerable people from such evil and horror. How can this evil continue?

That was this week. Last week we had to be alarmed and shocked by images of children and adults who suffered and were killed by a chemical attack in Syria. More horror. Pope Francis said, "We are horrified at the latest events in Syria." He condemned the attack with strong words.

President Trump decided to bomb a Syrian airfield with 59 missiles to send a clear message to the Syrian government that chemical weapons are illegal and using them against innocent civilians is an evil that cannot be tolerated. His decision was controversial but how can decent human beings ignore such horror and inhumanity?

We have to get through Good Friday to get to the joy of Easter Sunday but there are people whose lives have been destroyed through bombs, chemical attacks, drug addiction, hunger.....the list goes on.
Lord, send down your Spirit and renew the face of the earth. Please Lord, hear my plea for peace, and all the prayers for peace!

"May the Lord convert the hearts of those who sow fear, violence and terror." (Pope Francis after celebrating Mass, reacted to the news of the bombings in Egypt)

Sunday, March 26, 2017

The Zika Scourge-Mothers of Babies Born With Brain Damage from Zika Chose Life-The Church Should Help!

TI read a disturbing article a few weeks ago in the NY Times entitled, "For Brazil's Zika Families Lives of Struggle and Strength." It told the stories of the hardships and challenges poor families in Brazil face, in dealing with a baby born with microcephaly. Many of these women who gave birth to a baby with brain damage caused by the Zika virus, (from a mosquito bite) chose life for their unborn child, knowing they would most likely have to deal with a child with severe health problems, deformed heads and continuing medical problems. These women are very brave. They have a lot of difficulties and when I read the article I thought to myself, "The Church should help." There are nearly 2,500 babies in Brazil "born to infected mothers with brain damage so profound the consequences are only beginning to be understood......And doctors and researchers are just starting to grasp the medical consequences of Zika.  Besides the alarmingly small heads...many babies have a long list of varied symptoms, leading experts to rename their condition 'congenital Zika syndrome. They can have seizures, breathing problems, trouble swallowing, weakness and stiffness in muscles and joints preventing them from even lifting their heads, clubbed feet, vision and hearing problems and ferocious irritability." I feel overwhelming compassion for the babies and for their families. They need help. The government is trying to help as are charitable people throughout Brazil. I hope the Church in Brazil is helping. But the universal Church should find a way to help these women who have other issues to deal with, many are living in poverty, some are having marital problems due to the stress. Many feel overwhelmed from their situation.
I pray the Church finds a way to help, in whatever ways they can. These families should not be going through this alone. The mercy of God must be shown to them.

Friday, March 10, 2017

What Does the Holy Spirit Want Pope Francis To Do About The Question Of Married Priests?

I've often thought about the question of what God's will is regarding married priests in the Roman Catholic Church. I love the Church and so it's a question I've pondered for a long time. It bothers me that some Catholics don't have access to the Eucharist because of the lack of priests in poor, undeveloped countries. I've been active in the Church my whole adult life, in different roles and I've known some very religious married men of exemplary character and virtue who I thought would make excellent priests. Some of them have become deacons in the Church.
I've also worried about Latin and South America, and third world countries where there are a shortage of priests. I've thought that if missionary Catholic priests were married, their wives could help in the missions as is the case with Protestant ministers.
It's something that Pope Francis and the Cardinals and Bishops should pray over and discuss because we're living in difficult times. People need access to the sacraments so their faith can be strengthened and they can receive the graces of the sacraments. There are so many distractions, choices, gadgets as well as technology in the modern world, which can pull people away from the faith.  I believe a good holy priest, (whether they are married or not), can be a great blessing, wherever they minister and help unite people to Christ and Christian values.
It takes great courage for Pope Francis to bring up the question of married priests. I pray he is guided by the Holy Spirit and does the will of God. The Pope and the Church hierarchy needs the guidance of the Spirit as well as some common sense and pragmatism as well.
Come Holy Spirit Come! Veni Sanctus Spiritus!

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Some Signs of the Apocalypse Right in Southwest Florida and Elsewhere

I hope the residents and students of Ave Maria in Naples, Florida are praying because the signs are not good, at this time in the Naples area.  My friend called to tell me that there is a wildfire raging in Naples, not too close to Ave Maria but not that far away either. Above average temperatures, below average rainfall and windy weather created conditions conducive for a wildfire outbreak. It was started, the authorities believe, by some human activity (carelessness or something worse), and thousands of acres in Picayune Strand State Forest are burning and causing a massive smoke cloud, which is darkening the skies and closing parts of Alligator Alley.   No sun, only dark ominous clouds filled with smoke from the fire. She went to the beach for some relief from the smoke only to find a sign warning of red tide. Red tide is a problem in Southwest Florida, microscopic algae blooms turn the water of the Gulf of Mexico a reddish color, which can cause respiratory ailments and coughing in humans and fish die offs. It can be deadly to marine life.
It sounded to me like signs of the apocalypse. A wildfire burning in  eastern Collier County, Florida in the forest and red tide at the water's edge. The sun covered by smoke- filled clouds.
I told her to start praying because the fire was not under control as of this evening and though emergency workers are working night and day to put the fire out, so far it is not contained.
There are other wildfires raging in the Midwest, ranchers have died trying to save their cattle.
It's a very sad situation.
Not everyone believes that global warming is happening or that it will create problems in the here and now and the future. But it is and will. Temperatures are rising which increases the likelihood of wildfires and red tides and coastal flooding.
Pope Francis tried to warn us in his encyclical,  to protect the environment and take global warming seriously and to do our part and help make the situation better but some people do and others do not.
Lion of Judah pray for us!

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Staying Healthy Part of the Spiritual Journey

I recently went to a women's conference and one of the keynote speakers was a well respected cardiologist. The Conference was on women's health. The heart specialist was a much respected woman doctor. Interestingly, though not surprising a woman is much more likely to call 911 to report someone having symptoms of a heart attack, but only in 20-25% of cases will a woman call and report she is having heart attack symptoms. It's always best to get checked out, even if you are not sure.......
All of us want to eat more healthy but it's not easy ....there are so many choices, so much good food. But Lent is fast approaching so it's a good time, during Lent to be more disciplined and try to eat more nutritious foods and to give up those calorie-laden, sugar- filled treats (which I love).
I like superfoods. My new food discovery is acai. It is a super berry that I try to eat everyday. I buy it in frozen packets and then mix it with a banana and blueberries (blueberries are also a superfruit and they supposedly reduce wrinkles). I'm very spiritual and take my religious growth seriously but I do not like wrinkles!
Anyhow, as the doctor said, it's important to exercise everyday for good heart health, even walking is good for you and better than doing nothing. And it's important to watch cholesterol levels, blood pressure levels and weight.
I was listening intently to what the doctor was sharing, because I do care about my health and because I had recently seen a woman who I felt very sorry for, in a hair salon, getting her hair done. She had obviously had a severe stroke and was very debilitated from it. It shook me up. I prayed for her afterwards.
Caring for your body, exercising regularly, eating the right foods, it's all part of the journey.....along with spiritual nourishment.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Don't Worry About A 'Trumpocalypse' Just Say Your Prayers and Trust in God

According to various news outlets it seems doomsday prepping which is defined as "the act of stockpiling food and other essentials in a reinforced, often under-ground shelter," is gaining popularity among the rich, especially those who are overly nervous and pessimistic about the future.  A Texas businessman, Gary Lynch apparently can't keep up with all the orders he's receiving for his bomb shelter that is made of solid stainless steel. It actually is a luxury "underground bunker" which contains all the necessary amenities to sustain one in case the end of the world happens.......or the world falls into chaos (God forbid!)
A fact I find amusing is that some of the customers tell Mr. Lynch that they are nervous about a "Trumpocalypse" or "Trumpnado," who knows if they are serious or not. I don't think President Trump wants the world to end or would do anything to hasten that, that would certainly ruin his business empire, which I'm sure he wants his adorable grandchildren to inherit.
I can't believe people would spend hundreds of thousands of dollars, even millions of dollars on something they most probably will never use. It certainly is consumerism and consumption gone amok.
It's so ridiculous, in my opinion, there are so many worthy, noble projects that the super rich could invest in, they could do so much good with money they are spending on a bunker that most probably will remain empty.
So what does the average person of faith do, faced with the fact they can't afford or don't want a luxury underground bunker, well I know what I do.
I pray for the future of the world, for our leaders, that they make common sense decisions, that they rely on expert advice and opinions and real data and lead with wisdom and knowledge. I pray that God will forgive our foolishness and lack of faith. I pray the next generation straightens out all this misunderstanding and chaos and rids the world of radical evil doers, who have caused so much turmoil, hate and pain, so that there can be a lasting, world peace, where good can flourish.
I pray God acts and helps the good people of the world destroy evil from the face of the earth. When I get to Heaven that's certainly the first thing I'm going to discuss with God, given the will go something like this......."Let's get going, its time for evil to be destroyed, enough is enough!

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

The Eight Richest Men in the World Hold Most of the Wealth in the World

As reported by the Associated Press, and published widely, according to the anti-poverty organization Oxfam the growing gap between the super rich and most everyone else (most especially the poor) keeps widening. Amazingly, eight men in the world own as much wealth as 3.6 billion people. According to what I've read over the years some of those men, like Bill Gates, Warren Buffett, and Michael Bloomberg are extremely generous and give a lot of money to charity and have made provisions to continue to do so in the future....perhaps all of them do, I'm just aware of who I've mentioned.
But yet the executive director of Oxfam was quoted as saying, "It is obscene for so much wealth to be held in the hands of so few when 1 in 10 people survive on less than $2.00 a day....Inequality is trapping millions in poverty; it is fracturing our societies and undermining democracy."
Bill Gates, through his foundation, (both he and Melinda, his wife, have a hands-on approach to charitable giving), gives away millions to charity every year.  Yet according to Forbes magazine, he is worth a staggering $75 billion. Most people, including myself, cannot even imagine how much money that is or how much good it could do.
Oxfam has made a suggested list of how inequality can be somewhat reduced. One is for billionaires to pay their fair share of taxes and those taxes could then be used to finance public works and services and increase employment and opportunities for the poor.
There is so much that needs to be done. As Oxfam pointed out, people are losing faith in institutions, (even the Church is affected by this trend), across the board and "CEO credibility is at an all time low."
Maybe there will be some changes, perhaps billionaires will pay more taxes but ultimately it will be up to the super rich themselves to willingly give some of their wealth to worthy causes. We can pray that their eyes and hearts are opened and they give generously now and into the future.