Thursday, July 30, 2009

Salesian Old Boys Hold Annual Reunion in Boston

Salesian Old Boys
Hold Annual Reunion in Boston

At Emerson College in Boston, overlooking the Common, 28 former Salesians, 3 wives, and 1 present Salesian took part in the annual reunion of the informal “Salesian Old Boys” association over the weekend of July 24-26.

From across the United States and Canada about 200 former Salesian priests and brothers and former aspirants, as well as some active SDBs, have joined this group. They are very active on-line, sharing news, memories, and photos. Each year they make a substantial monetary contribution to some Salesian cause of their choosing; in recent years, for example, they have supported Fr. John Thompson’s missionary work in Africa and the Don Bosco Cristo Rey High School in Takoma Park, Md.

For the last several years from 20 to 40 former and present Salesians have taken part in the annual gatherings at sites around the U.S. to renew old ties, meet men of different generations, re-affirm they love for Don Bosco, and thank the Salesians for what they (the SDBs) have meant in their lives. Past meetings have taken place on Long Island and in Columbus, Los Angeles, Haverstraw, and Miami.

The meeting in Boston also allowed the former Salesians to visit East Boston, Ipswich, and what used to be Don Bosco Tech (now the Doubletree Hotel and the Wang Chinatown YMCA). New England Biolabs, the current owner of the Ipswich estate, has done a terrific job renovating the old buildings and landscaping the property. They’ve also added two new, modern structures that don’t fit well with the older ones although they are handsome buildings by themselves.
This year’s gathering featured the presentation of a book, We Were Brothers, in which more than 30 of the Old Boys remembered and reflected on their seminary experiences. Three present Salesians and the Australia-Pacific Province also contributed in various ways.

Spencer Boudreau introducing We Were Brothers to his former SDB brothers. George Stanton is standing behind him.
This year’s attendees were John Andryuk, John Bosse, Spencer Boudreau, Tim Brick, Kevin Brophy, Joe Buijs, Nick Ciranni, Bill Englemann, John “Chico” Ferreira, Jim Fidelibus, Bruce Fiedler, John Gushue, Jim Howe (and Joanie), John Hudak, Terry Jones, Pat Kemple, Tom Lennon, Cesar Maradiegue, Fr. Mike Mendl, Bill Moriarty (and Marion), John Riordan, Greg Sand, Tony Smaldone (and Cora), Victor Smith, George Stanton, Peter Sullivan, George Thompson, Alex Tucciarone, Tom Walsh. At the Salesian Boys & Girls Club in East Boston, Fr. Bill Ferruzzi and Jimmy Gleason hosted the 14 who visited on Saturday morning.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Homily for 16th Sunday of Ordinary Time

Homily for the
16th Sunday in Ordinary TimeMark 6: 30-34
July 19, 2009
St. Timothy, Banksville, Conn.

“The apostles gathered together with Jesus and reported all they had done and taught” (Mark 6: 30).

In last Sunday’s gospel, Jesus sent the apostles out to preach repentance, heal the sick, and drive out demons—with a warning that not everyone would accept them and their message (6:7-13). Today they return from their mission. We can’t tell from Mark’s words whether they return elated by some success and warm receptions, or dejected by rejections. But it seems they had plenty to say—“they reported all they had done and taught”—and maybe there’s a hint here of pride, of losing sight in whose name and by whose power they’ve been doing and teaching. Some commentators on this passage take note of their reports on what they have done, rather than on what God has done thru them.

The better to understand what’s happening in today’s gospel, we note what precedes this return of the apostles and Jesus’ taking them aside “to a deserted place” (6:31), and what’s about to happen when the crowds follow them to this place.

What’s going to happen, and you may already know this, is that Jesus will feed them miraculously. That’ll be our gospel next Sunday.

What has happened just before the apostles return—our lectionary cycle skips over this—is that King Herod has imprisoned and executed John the Baptist (6:14-29).

Jesus and the apostles, then, have good reason to take a break, to try to go on retreat, as it were. They have plenty to reflect on: the apostles’ mission, all that they did and taught, and what it means for them and for Jesus; and the implications of what Herod has done because of what a prophet has taught. Jesus has warned them that they and their message might be rejected, and boy! have they seen the gravity of the warning, if not in their own travels around the villages of Galilee, certainly in the fate of John.

Coke used to advertise with the slogan “The pause that refreshes.” (Most of you are old enuf to remember that.) That’s Jesus’ intent here, for—as Mark comments—“people were coming and going in great numbers, and they had no opportunity even to eat” (6:31). This before the age of telemarketing—all those annoying phone calls at dinnertime!

Pausing, reflecting, stepping aside with Jesus is necessary for every disciple. Our lives are full of doings, of conversations, of travel, or human interactions, of stress. Our world is chaotic and confusing, sometimes frightening and dangerous. That’s why businessmen and congressmen make professional retreats. We disciples of Jesus have to do some of that too.

We may not be able to do that in a formal sense, such as going away to a retreat house for a weekend—altho that is a good idea now and then. We need to find a way to do it informally but pretty regularly, tho. We need to stop and think about our lives, our actions, our words, our relationships and how all those bear on our being disciples of Jesus. Are we doing and teaching as Jesus wants us to? Do we have a personal relationship with Jesus? In the words of a poster from the 1970s, “If you were put on trial for being a disciple of Jesus, would there be enough evidence to convict you?”

Furthermore, we need to stop and reflect about the world we live in, and our place in it as disciples of Jesus. There are plenty of King Herods around, people who are unfriendly to the Christian message. Do they tempt us to trim our Christian sails, to cut moral corners, to be less obvious Catholics? On the positive side, how are we making the world a better place, a more ethical place, a more humane place, a more just place, a happier place? A Christian who’s not salt and light for the world, Jesus says isn’t worth anything (Matt 5:13-16).

Jesus and the apostles’ plan for a little down time doesn’t quite work out. “People saw them leaving and … hastened there on foot from all the towns and arrived at the place before them” (6:33). Bummer!

So does Jesus tell them all to go away, as you and I probably would do? Can’t we have a little privacy, folks? If he let out a primal scream, or even groaned, St. Mark doesn’t say so. “When he … saw the vast crowd, his heart was moved with pity for them, for they were like sheep without a shepherd” (6:34). There’s a contrast here between Jesus’ sentiments and those of King Herod. In the Hebrew tradition, going back to King David, the shepherd boy who became king, the king is the shepherd of his people. The king stands in God’s place, God being the true King of Israel. And “the Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want” (Ps 23:1). King Herod doesn’t give a hoot about the people, as we’ve just witnessed in his treatment of John the Baptist. Jesus feels compassion for them. Herod takes care of his pals—John’s destruction came at a lavish party. But the people are hungry, and as we’ll see next week, Jesus is the one who feeds them. Herod is no shepherd—which is why Jesus’ “heart was moved with pity for [the crowd], for they were like sheep without a shepherd.” Jesus is the good shepherd.

But feeding them with bread (and fish) isn’t the 1st thing Jesus does. There’s something even more fundamental than food for the body. “He began to teach them many things” (6:34). The 1st thing Jesus does in his compassion for the crowds is to teach them. People hunger for sound teaching, for truth—which obviously they don’t get from their Jewish king, who murders prophets; nor will they get it from their Roman overlord—Pontius Pilate will ask Jesus scornfully or perhaps skeptically, “What is truth?” (John 18:38).

When we were children, we certainly longed to be fed—and to be held and loved, and to be entertained. But we also had insatiable curiosity, didn’t we? We were always asking our parents questions about the world, about people. We all have an inbuilt desire for truth, which begins with wondering how things work and such, why is that man doing that or that woman saying that. But eventually we get to the real meat: we want to know who we are, why we’re here, where we’re going. Those are the sorts of things that Jesus addressed, and what the crowds hungered for. Those are the sorts of things for which we still turn to Jesus and to those whom Jesus has commissioned to do and to teach in his name: his apostles, the successors of his apostles, our Catholic bishops. We call them shepherds of the flock of God because they nourish us with the Gospel and with the Gospel’s implications for our own day—with the truth, in other words. The Church is the continuing compassion of God for the crowds of humanity.

At least it’s supposed to be. That’s what bishops and priests are supposed to be. And all of us. For all of us are the Body of Christ. We’re all supposed to hunger for the truth, and to do and teach the truth: to our children, our co-parishioners, our neighbors, our fellow citizens. We’re all supposed to try to shape our families and our society according to the truth: to who God is, who we are as human beings made in God’s image.

Bad Juno!

Bad Juno!
When I first started an e-mail account with Juno many years ago--the early '90s, I guess--I was pleased with their service and found it quite easy to use.

That began to change in the late '90s. 1st, they started to charge for service, whereas initially they were free. Well, one can't complain too much about having to pay for service.

Then I discovered that I couldn't transfer my mail from one computer to another. When I went to New Orleans for 4 months, I could import the account, but I had no access to the mail I'd left in Paterson or even the addresses! I had to work from scratch. And when I came back north, I had to leave behind whatever was on the computer in New Orleans. Not every convenient, to say the least.

Other than that, things went along OK for a couple of years here in New Rochelle--until the day my primary account was corrupted. Juno was able to restore all the folders--several thousand stored messages--but only into one massive folder, not the several working folders that I had. It took me several weeks to sort them out again.

Then there was another corruption episode, and another. Eventually I lost a fairly large chunk of mail, and I'm still sorting out more than 4,000 messages in a single "restored" folder because I just can't keep up with all the incoming and archival work. (Historians tend to want to save a lot for future reference, and of course some things really do need to be saved for immediate reference when you're running a publishing house, putting out a quarterly magazine, and offering communications service on behalf of a religious congregation.)

I was backing up my accounts, but perhaps not regularly enuf. I was also saving hard copies of correspondence, but not on a nearly regular basis because it is very time consuming.

But after the 2d corruption episode I decided I'd better find another e-mail provider and opened a gmail account. But I wasn't able to import my more than 950 addresses (!) from Juno; at least I wasn't able to figure out how to do it, following gmail's instructions. So eventually I wound up keying all of them in, one by one. That was a slow process...

...until I was directed by the proverbial powers-that-be to shut down my Juno accounts as a cost-saving measure and get to a free provider (like gmail). So I hastened the data entry--and have nearly finished that for both Juno accounts.

Last week I canceled service on one of the Juno accounts, the secondary one. I didn't realize that I would lose all of my saved mail--a couple of thousand messages dealing mainly with the business of running the Salesian Bulletin--would be lost when I did that. Of course I should have heeded earlier advice from Fr. Julian Fox and saved it all immediately as text files. Foolish me thought having a back-up file would suffice. But Juno refuses to restore the old mail.

Never mind that I paid--the Salesians paid!--for all that service, all that mail, and Juno can hardly say that it belongs to them now. Hard to understand why stopping the delivery of mail for the future means one can't have access to one's old mail. Are they just vindictive because we've stopped using their service? One wonders.

So--there you have several reasons why I would not recommend Juno to you as an e-mail service provider!

Sunday, July 12, 2009

A Room with a View

A Room with a View

Today (Sunday, July 12) was a near-perfect summer token of which this photo shot from my bedroom window. The tide is in (it's really yucky at low tide) in the inlet between our baseball field and Five Islands Park (a city park), which is absolutely lush after all the rain we had in June. It's like "welcome to the Northeastern rain forest!" And beyond the park you can see quite a few sailboats out on Long Island Sound--and Long Island itself some 3 miles across the water.

I consider myself lucky that the 3 different times I've lived in the provincial house I've had the same room with this spectacular view--which includes sunrise if I'm up that early (definitely so in the winter). Actually the windows face south, but an eastern view is possible from one window, so I can see the play of the morning light.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Homily for 15th Sunday of Ordinary Time

Homily for the 15th Sunday
in Ordinary Time

July 12, 2009
Psalm 85: 9-14
Our Lady of the Wayside, Millwood, N.Y.
Chapel of Our Lady of the Wayside in Millwood, a little piece of the town of New Castle in northern Westchester County.
“Kindness and truth shall meet; justice and peace shall kiss. Truth shall spring out of the earth, and justice shall look down from heaven” (Ps 85: 11-12).

You probably know that on Tuesday Pope Benedict’s new encyclical was published after about a year’s delay, an overhaul in the light of the economic crisis, further maturation. It’s a long reflection (30,000 words) on the social teaching of Christ and of Christ’s Church, an updating of Pope Paul VI’s great encyclical of 1967, Populorum progressio, “On the Progress of Peoples.”

The title of Benedict XVI’s letter to all Catholics and all people of good will is Caritas in veritate, “Charity in Truth.” That almost seems to echo our Responsorial Psalm this evening. Like the Pope’s encyclical, like the teaching tradition of the Catholic Church, the psalm connects heaven and earth, God and man, by linking kindness—or love or charity—and truth; by linking justice, which is the right ordering of all our relationships, and peace, which is the result of justice or a right relationship between God and us, between individuals, between nations. “Justice and peace shall kiss, kindness and truth shall meet.” Paul VI famously said, “If you want peace, work for justice”; you’ve probably seen that on bumper stickers. Nor should we be surprised to find a link between Catholic social teaching and the Scriptures: all of Catholic teaching (doctrinal, moral, social) is rooted in the Scriptures, in the Torah, in the preaching of the prophets, in the writings of St. Paul, in the practice of Jesus.

I haven’t had a chance to read the encyclical; it’s available only on-line at this point, and it’s far too long to read sitting at a computer or to print out; the official count is 144 pages, whatever size that may indicate. I have been reading the reviews and analyses, and these have highlighted the Pope’s call for greater attention to ethics in our economic and social practices. That means, essentially, a call for greater respect for the rights and dignity and needs of all human beings, and not only of the rich, powerful, and well connected. He calls for political, economic, and cultural decisions to be made on the basis of the common good and not for the advantage of a select few.

The Pope calls upon Catholics and all people of good will who have experienced God’s love for them to recognize and practice that love, be conduits of that love—God’s love for everyone, God’s desire that everyone have a fair share of this world’s goods, this world’s opportunities, this world’s happiness; a fair share of “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness,” if you’d like to put it that way, altho I’m sure the Holy Father hasn’t.

How we use our life, our liberty, our wealth, our talent, our opportunities has an impact on our family and community, and in this age of globalization, on many, many other families and communities all over the world. That’s the “common good” impact, positive or negative. That’s the charity or love impact, or perhaps, unfortunately, a selfish and destructive impact. The Pope says of the economy and of society that “the primary capital to be safeguarded and valued is the human person in his or her integrity.”[1]

In today’s gospel Jesus sends his apostles out to preach, to drive out demons, and to heal (Mark 6:7-13). There’s a mixture here of the other-worldly and the this-worldly, of attention to both souls and bodies, because the truth is that human beings, created in God’s image and destined for eternal life as his children, have our feet, and our hearts, planted in both heaven and earth. We live very much here, but, as the Letter to the Hebrews puts it, “we have here no lasting city, and we seek the one that is to come” (13:14). We need to be, and want to be, proud and productive citizens of our country, but, St. Paul reminds us, “our citizenship is in heaven” (Phil 3:20) as well.

We have both souls and bodies to attend to, and in need of salvation. “The integrity of the human person” of which Pope Benedict speaks, and John Paul the Great also spoke of it often, refers to our whole selves. So Jesus feeds the hungry and cures the sick as well as forgiving sins and expelling demons. Those who live in and for God’s kingdom have to be concerned about the whole person of their fellow citizens, all their fellow human beings: body, soul, mind, spirit. Hence the Church’s involvement in what some call the social gospel and others might call humanitarian work—schools, hospitals, famine and disaster relief, advocacy for the defenseless, and so on—as well as in prayer, sacraments, and spiritual direction.

Now, I call your attention to our 1st reading. We know precious little about the 8th-century B.C. prophet Amos. (I can tell you that he wasn’t half of a comedy team, and he didn’t bake cookies.) The only biographical detail we have, in fact, is that one line today: “I was a shepherd and a dresser of sycamores”—which seems to mean some kind of fig tree (7:14); Amos was a farmer. He’s not a priest or a professional prophet but someone whom the Lord has called suddenly “from following the flock” (7:15) to go and prophesy to a quite unreceptive audience of priests and nobles in Israel.

That calling of an ordinary Jew, a farmer, to make the Lord’s message known is suggestive of another Catholic teaching: we are all prophets by virtue of our Baptism and our configuration to Jesus Christ. We are all called to announce the Gospel, as Jesus sent the apostles out to do. In the 1st place, as I was reminded at the funeral last Tuesday of a marvelous Catholic woman, we are prophets in our own families by the examples we give of faith, prayer, and Christian living; in our own parishes by our involvement in activities and ministries like teaching catechism or feeding the hungry or visiting the sick.

In the 2d place, the Church has made it abundantly clear that we are supposed to be prophets in the public square. It isn’t priests and bishops, however, who are supposed to bring the practice of Christian principles into the marketplace and the political arena. The laity are supposed to do that. That’s precisely where so many of our captains of industry, our financial gurus, and our political leaders make an unaccountable separation between their private, devotional lives and their public, amoral or even corrupt lives. There’s a lack of integrity, of wholeness, of personal consistency in such men and women. The headlines remind us of it every day, and so do a lot of voting records if would look at them.

But we citizens of both heaven and earth have every right to expect wholeness and integrity in our economic, social, political, cultural leaders; and every right—indeed, the duty—to be actively involved ourselves in public life, bringing practical Christian principles to bear on public policy for the common good.

Really, the only way that kindness and truth shall meet, justice and peace kiss, truth spring from the earth, is if convinced, committed Christians and other people of faith make it happen by their own involvement, their own active concern for the common good of our community, our state, our nation, all of humanity.

As Pope Benedict writes, “Practicing charity in truth helps people understand that adhering to the values of Christianity is not merely useful, but essential for building a good society and for true, integral development.”[2]

Pope Benedict XVI with the members of the Salesian General Chapter 26, meeting in Rome in April 2008 in the Clementine Hall of the Vatican. Next to the Pope is Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, SDB, the papal secretary of state.

[1] As quoted by Cindy Wooden for CNS, July 7, 2009.
[2] Ibid.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Homily for 14th Sunday of Ordinary Time

Homily for the
14th Sunday of Ordinary Time

July 5, 2009
Mark 6: 1-6
OL of the Wayside, Millwood, N.Y.
St. Michael, Greenwich, Conn.
St. Timothy, Banksville, Conn.

“They took offense at him” (Mark 6: 3).

The prophet Ezekiel speaks in the 1st reading of Israel’s reluctance to listen to the prophets whom God sends to them; of Israel’s rebelliousness against the Lord, even (Ezek 2:2-5). That reluctance, that rebelliousness, is exemplified in the treatment Jesus receives in his own home town.

When Jesus returns to Nazareth on this occasion, he’s already been preaching to large crowds in the towns by the Sea of Galilee, and curing the sick. Last week we heard how he even revived a girl who had died (5:35-43).

We don’t expect that the Nazarenes would give him a ticker tape parade when he comes home—no ticker tape, no limos, probably not much of a Main St., you know! But we hardly expect them to reject him.

We have a saying, “Familiarity breeds contempt.” Maybe it originated in this episode in the life of our Savior. The people of Nazareth have known Jesus for some 30 years. They know his family well: his mother, his kin. In all the years that he lived among them, he never gave any indication that he was special, and he never showed them any special favors. So “where did this man get all this” power to heal, all this wisdom that has crowds following him like a pop star (6:2)? Why is he showing the rest of the world all this after he moved away from our town? Aren’t we good enuf for him?

It’s a truism that very often we take for granted the people around us, the people closest to us, like our families, our co-workers, and never really see how gifted they are, how good they are. Maybe we never thank them or let them know we appreciate them, or don’t do it often enuf. Our own children or parents or siblings or colleagues may be the unrecognized prophets among us, in one sense.

But more is at work in this gospel story of Jesus’ return to Nazareth. Here, as elsewhere thruout his public ministry, people display almost a willful obstinacy in refusing to recognize the power of God at work among them. Some people tell Jesus to leave when they witness his good deeds—he disturbs them, he’s scary, because he upsets the ruts of moral indifference into which their lives have settled. As you know well, some people are openly hostile to him because he’s a threat to their influence and authority; these are the men who eventually have him put to death.

Some are interested in him only as long as he can entertain them with signs and wonders or do something for them; they ask him to perform miracles for them so they might believe in him, as if he hasn’t been doing wondrous things left and right. Those of you who’ve seen Jesus Christ Superstar remember the scene when Jesus is brought before King Herod. Herod wants Jesus to do something spectacular for his entertainment: “Prove to me you’re no fool—walk across my swimming pool. Prove to me you’re divine—change my water into wine.” But these people aren’t interested in changing their own lives.

Jesus is constantly amazed by the lack of faith that he meets in Nazareth (6:6) and everywhere he goes. Even the apostles have to struggle with this: they’re constantly bickering among themselves about who’s the most important among them (cf. Mark 9:33-34), jockeying for positions of power when Jesus will become the ruler of Israel (cf. Mark 10:35-37), very slow to believe that to follow Jesus is to carry his cross on the way toward eternal life (Mark 8:34-35). They don’t want to hear Jesus when he tells them that the greatest among them is the one who serves the rest (Mark 9:35; 10:43).

We like to think that we’re different from the people who met Jesus, heard his teaching, saw his miracles, but didn’t truly become his followers. We like to think that we really believe.

But do we really believe? Are we really different?

When Jesus speaks to us today, he doesn’t come literally into our churches, the way he went into the synagog at Nazareth (cf. 6:2). He speaks to us thru his word, the Scriptures—here in the Lectionary and in our Bibles at home—the Scriptures that the Church has preserved, handed down, and proclaims. Sometimes his word in the Scriptures is very hard, like when he calls us to forgive those who offend us, to love our enemies, to practice chastity in our thoughts and our actions.

Jesus speaks to us today thru his Church. The Church doesn’t just repeat the words of the Scriptures verbatim but also tries to apply those words to our 21st-century lives. When our local bishop [Bp. Lori/Abp. Dolan] teaches, Jesus is teaching. When St. Peter’s successor, the Holy Father, teaches, Jesus is teaching. When the bishops all together teach, as they did at the 2d Vatican Council, Jesus is teaching. No doubt you know Catholics whose reaction to the teachings of the Vatican Council or of the Pope is indifferent at best: “Where did these guys get all this? What kind of wisdom has been given to them?” (cf. 6:2) Aren’t our bishops just a bunch of celibate old men who don’t know anything about real life?

That was pretty much how the Nazarenes saw Jesus—as nobody special, no one who had any claim on wisdom or insight to be teaching them or pointing them toward a closer relationship with God. “So he wasn’t able to perform any mighty deed there” (6:5), a deed that would make God present to them. He wasn’t able to open them to God, to help them make God part of their lives.

And that’s the issue for all of us. God wants to be part of our lives. But that’s only possible on his terms, terms that come to us or are made known to us when we listen to what he has to say, thru prayerful reflection on his word in the Scriptures and in the ongoing teachings of the Holy Father and of our bishops—even if that word isn’t exactly what we’d like to hear, e.g., about what is morally right or wrong on life and death issues, on sexual matters, on issues of social justice, on the sacramental life of Christians.

If God is part of our lives, our lives are changed. When God is part of our lives, we do better are practicing patience, kindness, purity, generosity, forgiveness, humility, Christian courage, and so forth. Such practices are “mighty deeds,” evidence of Christ’s power at work in the world, making the world of our families, our workplace, our parish, our community a little bit better.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Fr. Tom Dunne Takes Office as Provincial

Fr. Tom Dunne Takes Office as Provincial

Fr. Tom's installation on the evening of July 1 is amply covered at the province Web site,, with a press release from your humble blogger, 135 photos that he took (some of them are good shots), and Fr. Tom's homily.

Of course you'll find a lot of other material--news, information, etc.--at the site.