Friday, December 30, 2011

Fr. Vincent Zuliani, SDB

Fr. Vincent Zuliani, SDB
Fr. Vincent Zuliani, SDB, died in his room at the Marian Shrine in Haverstraw, N.Y., during the night of Dec. 29-30, apparently of a heart attack. He was 84 years old. (The "official" date of death is given as the 30th.)

Fr. Vince was a Salesian for more than 68 years and a priest for over 55 years. He had belonged to the Salesian community of the Marian Shrine since the summer of 2008, regularly celebrating Mass and the sacrament of Reconciliation at the Shrine chapel.

Fr. Vince was born on February 1, 1927, at the little village of Blessano in the town of Basiliano, near Udine in northeastern Italy, to Paolo and Delfina née Antonutti Zuliani. His formal name was Vinicio, but in the U.S. he was familiarly called “Fr. Vince.” He was baptized within the month in the parish church of St. Stephen. Following the family’s move to Bressa (also in Udine province), he made his first Communion in 1934 and was confirmed in 1935 at the church of Mary Immaculate there. In his religious education classes he already showed the diligence that would mark his whole academic career: highest grades and first prizes in competitions.

One of his childhood friends, Msgr. Francesco Lucis, remembered: “From his infancy people noted in him a particularly reflective personality. He observed everything, gathering into his soul those holy impressions that were preparing him to receive from the Divine Artist the indescribable strokes of grace.”

One of those impressions, when Vince was just six, was the departure of a missionary for India. Others included parish missions, episcopal visits to the parish, the pastor’s silver anniversary in 1937, and a celebration of the feast of St. John Bosco for young people in 1938. By the time he was eight, he already wanted to become a priest, says Msgr. Lucis.

Vince entered the Salesian seminary at Ivrea in Piedmont in September 1938. One of his classmates, Fr. Michele Ceschia, SDB, recalled that during their four years of high school they never went home—“such were the times”—and only once was Mr. Zuliani able to afford to come and visit his son. But Vince found in the Salesian house so much happiness, and so much friendliness from his superiors, that he easily decided “to stay with Don Bosco for good.”

At Ivrea Vince was already noted for his beautiful singing voice, which contributed to the seminary’s church services. Since this particular seminary was intended for future missionaries, he was assigned to study English, with the United States as his intended destination, and he quickly became fluent.

From Ivrea Vince entered the Salesian novitiate in 1942 at Castelnuovo Don Bosco, which on account of the war was transferred within the year to Villa Moglia in Chieri. He professed vows on August 16, 1943. Bro. Zuliani continued his studies first at Foglizzo, then at the Istituto Conti Rebaudengo, a unit of the Salesian Pontifical Atheneum in Turin, earning a doctorate in philosophy (magna cum laude) in 1949. He was then sent to the U.S. to teach philosophy, Latin, and Greek at Don Bosco College in Newton, N.J.—a ministry he carried out zealously until 1975, except for four years of theology studies (1952-1956) at St. John Bosco Theological School in Turin, familiarly called “the Crocetta” after its urban district. At the Crocetta he was awarded an STL degree, magna cum laude. He was ordained by Cardinal Maurilio Fossati of Turin on July 1, 1956, in the basilica of Mary Help of Christians.

Fr. Vince also earned a master’s degree, magna cum laude, from Fordham University in 1960 in classical languages. From 1965 to 1975 he was director of the Sons of Mary Program for late vocations at Don Bosco Seminary. He called these eight years “the best years of my life!” Both his students and the young men he directed have rich memories of him—not only of his keen intellect and demanding teaching style, but also of his love for music and drama, his zest for life, and his personal care for them. He found great pleasure in his books as well as in his weekend priestly services at various parishes in the area: Our Lady of Mt. Carmel and Sts. Cyril and Methodius in Boonton, St. Thomas More in Convent Station, and St. Joseph in Lincoln Park.

Fr. Vince left the college scene to become director of Don Bosco Technical High School in Paterson, N.J., in 1975, serving until 1981. From 1984 to 1989 he was director of St. Dominic Savio High School in East Boston, and from 1999 to 2005 of the community at the Salesian Provincial House in New Rochelle, N.Y. He was associate pastor at St. Anthony’s Church in Elizabeth (1981-1984, “three wonderful years,” he said) and pastor-director there (1989-1998). In Elizabeth he assisted not only with the sacraments but also with adult and youth religious education and was chaplain for the local Italian Club. From 2005 to 2008 he was associate pastor at St. Anthony’s Church in Paterson, with particular care for the Italian population. He also used his considerable language skills to translate many Salesian works from Italian.

Bro. Bruno Busatto, SDB, served alongside Fr. Vince at Don Bosco Tech and found his director to be “a very good friend” who knew how to support him in the various difficulties of life in community. He adds, “I will miss him much.”
A former Salesian, Bert Cooper, has many fond memories: “He would tell you how important it is not to be a compromising Christian. Fr. Vince had a keen sense of right and wrong and he practiced what he preached. He was always about the business of getting you to do a little more, work a little harder, become a better Salesian. I knew he wanted me to better myself and that to me was the essence of Fr. Vince. Of all the directors I’ve ever had he was the one that influenced me the most.”

Joseph Roalef wrote simply: “Fr. Vince was my Son of Mary director. He was a wonderful priest.”Salesian Father Thomas Juarez wrote: There was a fire and an enthusiasm in him, determined to make us learn Latin and Greek. Class was like being left in the hands of a drill sergeant, tough but we learned. We called him Fr. Family Spirit because of the energy and excitement he radiated.”

From Australia, Father James Hoe, SDB, wrote: “What a man! Full of life, energy, and good humor. He always wanted the best for you. What a Salesian! Taking personal interest and responsibility that those in his care came to know Don Bosco and learned about Don Bosco by his own example. He was present always: at sport, work, study....

Father John Puntino, SDB, his director for several years at Haverstraw, paid tribute to Father Zuliani’s zeal, calling him “ ‘impulsive,’ and by that I mean he propelled his life without hesitation toward those things which he valued most. He felt deeply about his family, especially about family unity, and remained regularly in contact with his family. He believed strongly in the Catholic faith and put all his energies into learning about it and explaining it to others. He fearlessly raced toward the mystery of life, devouring philosophical attempts to explain it, and equally forcefully serving explanations of his investigations to his students. He deeply loved everything Salesian and charged forward to live it and have others live it to the full. This he did whether in leadership positions, or as a member of provincial chapters, or just as a confrere in his community. Both at St. Anthony of Padua Parish in Elizabeth and at Marian Shrine he aimed at creating a warm and joyful family spirit while not neglecting to offer conferences on current issues in the Church particularly in the areas of ethics, Mariology and Vatican II. I am grateful to our Lord for the gift of Father Vince, who challenged, inspired, and guided me both in initial formation and for the few years that I was in the role of his director.
Fr. Vince is survived by his brother Gino of Bressa di Campoformido (Udine), Italy.
Fr. Vince's funeral was celebrated at the Marian Shrine on Jan. 3. Fr. Pat Angelucci preached the homily, interweaving the Scriptures with Father's life. He will be buried in Bressa di Campoformido.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Homily for Christmas Eve

Homily for
Christmas Eve

Dec. 24, 2011
Is 62: 1-5
Christian Brothers, Iona College, N.R.

Nativity set designed by Fr. Don Rooney, Church of St. Mary of the Immaculate Conception, Fredericksburg, Va.

“We wait in hope for our redemption” (Collect).

Like our redemption, Christmas is here, but not quite here. All of the Christian liturgy celebrates “Christ present and yet to come,” a phrase that could be called the particular tenor of our celebration this Christmas eve.

The Collect, our opening prayer, recapitulates Advent: “We wait in hope for our redemption.” Then it alludes to our welcoming joyfully the Father’s only-begotten Son, i.e., as we remember his long-awaited birth; at the same time we pray that “we may also merit to face him confidently when he comes again as our Judge.” He is present, having already come thru his incarnation, his resurrection, and his eternal life. He is yet to come, to come back as the divine judge of each of us—as the early days of Advent forcefully remind us each year.

“We wait in hope for our redemption,” for Christ is about to be born and to begin his mission of saving the human race from sin and death. The birth and the beginning have already occurred in history and won’t be repeated. His saving activity in our hearts goes on and on as much as we admit him into our lives, and in that sense he is forever being reborn. He will return “as our Judge” to complete what he began at Bethlehem, what he continues in our souls, by raising us from the grave and granting eternal life to all who have waited for him in hope—and in faith and charity.

Isaiah’s prophecy (62:1-5) this evening may be read on multiple levels. On the 1st level it’s simply about the rebuilding, the restoration, of Jerusalem after the exile. On a 2d level it’s about Christ’s victory over death, accomplished in Jerusalem, “shining forth like the dawn, like a burning torch” (62:1), a victory that effects a different kind of restoration, the rebuilding of our relationship with God. On a 3d level it’s about our joyful union with the victorious Christ, or rather his union with us: “As a young man marries a virgin, your Builder shall marry you” (62:5). That word “builder” alludes not only to the One who has engineered the return of the exiles and the rebuilding of the Holy City, but also to the One who constructed the universe and who thru his Son re-makes the universe, restoring mankind to the divine image.

On this feast of the incarnation and birth of the Son of God—the one known in his earthly life as “the carpenter’s son” (Matt 13:55), which could also be rendered as “the builder’s son” or “the craftsman’s son” or “the framer’s son,” with obvious connotations of the One who built the universe—on this feast we celebrate, we rejoice, that God has made himself one with mankind, divinity has united with humanity. In the breviary, the psalm-prayer after Ps 45 acknowledges, “When you took on flesh, Lord Jesus, you made a marriage of mankind with God” (LOH 1:831). The wedding feast of the Son, of the Lamb of God, on one level is the marriage of his divinity with his humanity in the incarnation, and on another level that wedding feast is the eternal celebration we hope for, according to the Book of Revelation: “Blessed are those who have been called to the wedding feast of the Lamb” (19:9)—called not merely to witness that wedding but to be the spouse of the Lamb (“your Builder shall marry you…so shall your God rejoice in you”). The spouse of the Lamb is what the Church is, in the teaching of the Sacred Scriptures as well as of the liturgy.

Welcoming joyfully this coming of the only-begotten Son, welcoming joyfully this marriage of divinity with humanity, we are made worthy of the Son (“say but the word and my soul shall be healed”!), and by his grace, then, “we may also merit to face him confidently when he comes again as our Judge.” The Judge shall cause all of us who are his disciples, the members of his Church—it’s our hope and our confidence—to be “without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, holy and without blemish” (Eph 5:27), so that we might be his worthy bride, “sanctified and cleansed” (5:26) by the gift of his calling us and forgiving us.

At every Mass we pray that “we come to share in the divinity of Christ who humbled himself to share in our humanity” (prayer at the mixing of water and wine), and in the 3d Preface for Christmas we proclaim joyfully, “By this wondrous union” of “our frailty” with the Word made flesh, “we, too, are made eternal.” This is the hope that “gladdens us year by year,” as the Collect says. The redemption begun at the Word’s 1st coming in Bethlehem will be complete when he passes judgment, cleansing judgment, saving judgment, upon all who hope for his coming again.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

The Lord Our King Is Drawing Near

The Lord Our King Is Drawing Near...

That's the refrain of the prophecies of the Christmas Novena (see below). The house has been decorated for a couple of weeks already, and a few days ago the nativity scene was set up in our chapel.
But we also celebrate outside chapel. Today (Dec. 22) we had our staff Christmas party at noon (preceded by a short prayer service).

The blessings of the Savior be upon all who read From the Eastern Front!

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Homily for 4th Sunday of Advent

Homily for the
4th Sunday of Advent

Dec. 18, 2011
Luke 1: 26-38
Troop 40, Seton Scout Res., Greenwich, Conn.

Herewith the written text from which I preached Saturday evening to Scouts and Scouters of Troop 40, plus a few other folks; there was also some unscripted back-and-forth as I elicited some recall of the gospel from the boys.

This text was heavily edited for delivery to the Ursulines in New Rochelle on Sunday morning.

Illustration at right: Annunciation in stained glass, St. Ursula's Church, Mt. Vernon, N.Y.

“The angel Gabriel was sent from God … to a virgin betrothed to a man named Joseph, of the house of David” (Luke 1: 26).
Our Advent season, whose name means “coming,” starts its 4th week this evening. Our gospel reading recalls how our salvation in Jesus Christ started. It starts with what is for us a very unusual happening—but not unusual in the Bible. An angel appears to someone, in this case to a young woman in the village of Nazareth in Galilee, and the angel brings to her a startling message. This message, as in all such wondrous appearances in the Bible, concerns a mission or purpose that God has for her.

The gospel passage tells us 3 things about this woman right off (1:27). 1st, she’s a virgin. 2d, she’s “betrothed to a man named Joseph,” which in 1st-century Jewish society meant that she was legally committed to a future marriage to him (unlike an engagement in modern society, which isn’t legally binding), but she and Joseph weren’t yet permitted to live together. 3d, “the virgin’s name was Mary.” We’re not told how old Mary is; we can only guess that she probably was betrothed soon after she reached maturity, according to the custom in all ancient societies, including Jewish society in the 1st century. That was true thruout the Middle Ages, as well; Shakespeare’s Juliet was only 13. So we guess Mary was 13 or 14 when she was contracted to Joseph as his future wife.

The angel Gabriel greets Mary: “Hail, full of grace! The Lord is with you.” St. Luke, writing in Greek, uses the ordinary Greek word of greeting: Χαϊρε, which literally means, “Rejoice!” but which we usually translate into English as a less dramatic “Hail!” That word serves to indicate that the Gospel, the Good News, the cause of our rejoicing, is about to be announced.

The angel calls Mary “full of grace” (1:28). An alternate translation, used in some English versions of the Bible, would be “most highly favored one.” And in another moment the angel will tell her, “You have found favor with God” (1:30). God has chosen her for the great purpose of which Gabriel is about to inform her, and because of that God has bestowed on her his great favor, his grace, his blessings. And then Gabriel confirms to her, “The Lord is with you” (1:28). God is at her side, to accompany her with his favor and his help as she carries out the mission that he’s about to give her.

Catholics will recognize in the angel’s greeting the opening lines of the Hail Mary prayer: “Hail, Mary, full of grace! The Lord is with thee.” It’s a familiar prayer full of scriptural allusions, and one in which we join God in recognizing Mary’s special place in the story of our salvation.

We’ll also recognize the familiar greeting that we use often at Mass: “The Lord be with you.” The Lord accompanies us, too, on our journey thru life. Our purpose, our mission, is of course much less dramatic than Mary’s. But God has chosen each one of us to be special in his eyes; he has favored us with his love. And he is with us as we go thru our lives trying to live in his love and to share it with other people.

Then the angel gets down to business: the mission for which he’s come to Nazareth to speak to Mary. “You will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name him Jesus” (1:31). This son, Jesus, will truly be her son. He will be a complete and real human being. His name, Jesus in Greek, Yeshua in Hebrew, means “YHWH is salvation,” or “YHWH saves.” YHWH is God’s own name, the name he revealed to Moses when he appeared to Moses in the burning bush to give the Moses the mission to lead the Hebrews out of Egypt (Ex 3:4-17). Thru Moses God was about to save Israel from Egypt; and now God, thru Jesus, is about to save everyone from sin and damnation and death. Christian teaching tells us that Jesus’ victory over sin and death would be of no use to us human beings if he were not human like us.*

The angel doesn’t say all that. He does tell Mary, “He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High,” i.e. son of God, “and the Lord God will give him the throne of David his father, and he will rule over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end” (1:32-33). In our 1st reading (2 Sam 7:1-5,8-12,14,16), we heard the great promise that God made to King David almost a thousand years before Jesus was born: “The Lord reveals to you that he will establish a house for you…. Your house and your kingdom shall endure forever before me; your throne shall stand firm forever” (7:11,16). That promise, which is very, very important in the Scriptures, was echoed also in our responsorial psalm (89:2-5,27,29). We heard, further, at the start of the gospel reading that Joseph, Mary’s husband-to-be, is “of the house of David.” Thus Jesus will be, legally speaking, of David’s house, and when he will be raised from the dead and exalted in heaven as the universal king, to reign of all men and women forever, he will fulfill what God promised to David. As we profess every week in the Creed, “He ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father. He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead and his kingdom will have no end.”

Mary’s a practical girl. She may be only 13 or 14, but she’s not naïve. Very few people in ancient societies would be. Life was too hard, too challenging, and too short for people not to know what’s what. So she asks the angel how it is that she’s to conceive this son “since I have no relations with a man” (1:34), since she’s still a virgin. Evidently she understands that Gabriel means she’s to conceive Jesus then and there.

And Gabriel gives her a mind-boggling answer how this will happen: “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you” (1:35). The Holy Spirit will empower Mary to conceive without any other human intervention. What the angel says to Mary echoes the opening words of the Book of Genesis: “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form and void, and darkness was upon the face of the deep; and the Spirit of God was moving over the face of the waters. And God said, ‘Let there be light’; and there was light” (1:1-3 RSV). The conception of Jesus, and thus the entire work of our salvation, is to be a new creation, a brand-new start for the world and for every human being, initiated by the creative power of the Holy Spirit.

The angel continues: “Therefore the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God” (1:35). This will be no ordinary human child. He’ll be human, truly, as we said, because Mary will really be his mother. But God, and only God, will be his father. He’ll be holy like no other human being ever was or ever could be. He’ll be divine, fully God, in fact: “true God and true man,” as we profess in the Creed. Only God can save us from sin, damnation, and death; and Jesus will be able to do that as both God and as a human being like us.

Finally, Mary gives her consent. God has revealed to her his intention, his plan for her and for the human race. But she has to agree. “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord,” she says (1:38). That could also be translated as “I am the Lord’s servant” or even “I am the Lord’s slave.” I’ll do whatever God wants of me, she says. And so Jesus is conceived within her, and our redemption gets underway.

Our redemption, yours and mine, is still underway. As Mary had to say, “Yes,” to what God asked of her, so do we have to. That’s the only condition upon our being saved by what Jesus has done for us. Like Mary, we have to be the Lord’s servants and carry out whatever he asks of us to the best of our ability. When we do that, like Mary we’ll have cause for rejoicing; like Mary, we’ll be filled with God’s favor. We’ll have the life of Jesus within us, not in a physical sense like Mary, but in a spiritual sense that will still be life-giving to the people around us.

So pray, my dear Scouts and Scouters, that you may always be looking to discover what God wants of you, and that God will share with you his Holy Spirit so that you will have the courage and the strength—like Mary—to carry that out and to live in his grace. God bless you all.

* E.g., St. Leo the Great, Ep. 31, in LOH 1:321.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Christmas Novena Starts

Christmas Novena Starts

Probably the most beloved practice of piety in Salesian communities around the world is the Christmas novena, which starts today (Dec. 16). It's not, strictly speaking, a liturgical practice but a devotional one--altho in most of our U.S. communities (and I'd guess, others around the world) it's adapted to include liturgical Evening Prayer.

The Salesian Boys Prayer Book for Use in Salesian Schools and Youth Centers (New Rochelle, 1954) introduced the novena thus:

The joyful chanting of a choice selection of messianic prophecies, canticle and hymn during the nine days preceding Christmas Day is traditional in Salesian Schools the world over. The custom was handed down by Don Bosco himself, who adopted it from his native province of Piedmont, Italy.

Then followed the official Latin text and, in a facing column, an English translation to help the youngsters understand what the cantors and the lads themselves were singing.
St. Peter's Square decorated for Christmas, 2006 (ANS)
Following Vatican II, two SDB seminarians--one from California, Bro. Roger Luna, and one from Canada, Bro. Marcel Savard--undertook a fresh translation of the novena and an appropriate transcription of the chants (Richmond, Calif., 1964), which is the basis for what we still use thruout our Eastern Province (and probably also in the West).

The 2 brothers introduced their booklet this way:

This Christmas Novena in Chant is an English translation and adaptation of a Latin original composed by Father Charles Vachetta, C.M., in 1721. Fr. Vachetta's novena became very popular in Northern Italy, where it was composed, and quickly spread to other parts of the world. Eventually, several slightly varying versions appeared. In making this English edition, the translators used a Latin version according to the Editio Vaticana.

Most of the materials found in the Christmas novena were originally taken from the liturgy of Advent, from the Roman Breviary and Missal. Ultimately, however, most of the materials in the breviary and missal were themselves taken from the Sacred Scriptures.
. . . .
In our age, when the festival of Christmas has been overcommercialized and paganized [they wrote this in 1964!], this Christmas Novena in Chant will help the faithful to prepare spiritually for the coming of Christ. Furthermore, the scriptural character of the novena service will deepen their knowledge and appreciation of Christ, the central, dominant figure in the Scriptures.

The director here at the provincial house assigned your humble blogger as the lead-off preacher for the novena this year. He used the Collect of the day, in the new translation of the Roman Missal, as his basic text. And here's what he said:

Homily for the
Christmas Novena

December 16, 2011
Provincial House, New Rochelle

“They’ve gone about as far as they can go,” a character sings in Oklahoma, with reference to the modern wonders of Kansas City: “Everything’s Up-to-date in Kansas City”—such wonders as 5-story buildings, indoor plumbing, and “a show they call the burley-Q.” And on Friday of the 3d week of Advent we’ve gone as far as we can go before we run into the Great Days that start on Dec. 17. So we run into liturgical texts at both the Hours and the Eucharist that we hardly ever use. 2011 is only the 4th year since Ken, Steve, and I were ordained to the presbyterate 33 years ago that we’ve gone so deep into the 1st part of Advent, and we won’t do it again until 2020.[1]

“May your grace, almighty God, always go before us and follow after, so that we … may receive your help both now and in the life to come,” we prayed at the Collect this morning at Mass.[2] Most of us were in the dining room 8 mornings ago when Steve asked, dare I say with a certain amount of exasperation, “What the heck is ‘prevenient grace’?” He was quoting from the Prayer over the Offerings, which referred to the Virgin Mary’s being “untouched by any stain of sin on account of [God’s] prevenient grace.” Fortunately or unfortunately, that’s a literal rendition of tua gratia praeveniente.

Richard dutifully consulted Wikipedia (as I did this afternoon, having failed to find anything in various printed dictionaries of theology or even in the New Catholic Encyclopedia). That worthy source (Wiki) informs us that “Prevenient grace … is divine grace that precedes human decision. It exists prior to and without reference to anything humans may have done. As humans are corrupted by the effects of sin, prevenient grace allows persons to engage their God-given free will to choose the salvation offered by God in Jesus Christ or to reject that salvific offer.” And a little further along, “prevenient grace … enables, but does not ensure, personal acceptance of the gift of salvation. . . . In modern English, the phrase preceding grace would have a similar meaning.”

All that is purportedly the Protestant understanding of “prevenient grace,” an understanding probably not intended by the translators of the Roman Missal. Wiki also offers us the Catholic understanding, quoting from the Council of Trent: “In adults, the beginning of the said Justification is to be derived from the prevenient grace of God, through Jesus Christ, that is to say, from His vocation, whereby, without any merits existing on their parts, they are called; that so they, who by sins were alienated from God, may be disposed through His quickening and assisting grace, to convert themselves to their own justification, by freely assenting to and co-operating with that said grace.” I trust that’s clear! (Makes our new Roman Missal seem simple and graceful, doesn’t it?)

All of which is bringing me to note that “prevenient grace” is the same idea expressed in the Collect today: “May your grace always go before us….” In fact, the Latin text is “Praeveniat nos tua gratia semper.”

We’re praying that God do some substantial spadework in the ground of our souls, preparing to receive the seed of his word; preparing them for the further working of his grace in us; preparing us to receive his forgiveness and be redeemed.

We’re praying that God’s grace go before us like the advance scouts and engineers of an army; they map a route, fill in the ruts and the holes, cut down obstructive trees and vines build bridges, so that an army may advance. We, pilgrims trying to find our way home to the Father, need a secure route, and one not too difficult.

This Advent season is a long prayer, if you will, begging God to help us get ready to receive his Son. It’s a long prayer for preparatory grace, anticipatory grace, preceding grace, so that when the Son comes into our presence—“we, who await with heartfelt desire the coming of your Only Begotten Son,” the Collect says—we’ll actually welcome him and actually enlist in the redemption he brings. Our readings during Advent often enuf speak of those who resisted the divine grace on offer, those whose hearts were closed tight. Was it because God’s grace hadn’t come beforehand to get them ready? We can’t say why so many resisted Jesus during his earthly ministry. We can’t know; it’s part of the divine mystery of grace and of human free will.

We can only note, as the Prayer over the Offerings today did, that “we have no merits to plead our cause,” and we dearly need God’s grace to come to us, to stay with us, to go ahead of us and, as the Collect also said, “follow after” us, so that we might receive God’s “help both now and in the life to come,” i.e., that his help now would safely bring us to eternal life, to the everlasting enjoyment of the redemption wrought by “the coming of [the] Only Begotten Son.”

May the Lord, indeed, take pity on his servants,[3] as we prayed in Psalm 135 (v. 14) this evening, so that in the life to come we may be part of that great heavenly choir proclaiming, “Mighty and wonderful are your works, Lord God Almighty!” (Rev 15:3), thanks to the coming of our Savior Jesus Christ and all his manifold grace.

[1] The next year in which Christmas will fall on Sunday, thus stretching Advent as long as it can possibly be.[2] Friday of Week 3 of Advent.[3] So phrased in the Grail translation used in the Liturgy of the Hours.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Homily for 3d Sunday of Advent

Homily for the
3d Sunday of Advent

Dec. 12, 1999
Is 61: 1-2, 10-11
Guardian Angel, Allendale, N.J.

Last nite and this morning I preached at Iona College and St. Vincent's Hospital, respectively, without written text, basing myself on the gospel reading. To have something to post here, I've reached back 12 years.

“The spirit of the Lord God…has sent me to bring glad tidings to the poor…, to proclaim liberty to the captives…, to announce a year of favor from the Lord” (Is 61: 1-2).

The prophet of the Lord announces glad tidings, good news, gospel. And what is that gospel? Healing and rescue and jubilee for the poor and downtrodden and beaten of the earth. According to St. Luke, when Jesus began his public ministry by preaching in his hometown synagog at Nazareth, it was this passage from Isaiah that he turned to (Lk 4:16-21). Our Blessed Lady, likewise, in our response to the Isaiah reading, proclaims the Lord’s greatness in what he does for the lowly and the hungry, for those who depend utterly upon him.

If Dec. 12 were not a Sunday this year, from one end of the Americas to another Catholics would be observing the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, the patroness of the Americas. On Dec. 12, 1531—less than a dozen years after the Spanish conquest of Mexico—the Virgin Mary appeared to a lowly Indian, Juan Diego, to assure him and his people of her special love and protection. If the Indians were outcasts and nobodies in the eyes of their new masters from Spain, they were nevertheless beloved in her eyes and in God’s.
OL of Guadalupe shrine, St. John Bosco Church, Chicago
If I were to have preached such a gospel in certain countries just a few years ago—and it probably is true still in some places—I would have been marked for elimination by a death squad. At their meeting in Washington last month, our bishops endorsed the beatification of Abp. Oscar Romero of San Salvador, who was assassinated in 1980 for championing the human rights of the poor—shot while saying Mass in a convent, no less. Romero and other martyrs in Latin America preached that the poor, too, are God’s children, that they have human dignity, that they have God-given rights—to education, basic health care, employment at a living wage, a roof, and so on. By your assistance to refugees and by food drives for the hungry, for instance, this parish is showing that you believe the Good News that Isaiah and Jesus announced.

When Isaiah and Jesus refer to “a year of favor from the Lord,” they allude to the OT prescription of the jubilee year. According to Lev 25, every 50th year is to be a year of jubilee, a year of grace. All the land in Israel is the Lord’s, and he has graciously bestowed it to the individual clans and families of Israel as his tenants. Any land that has been transferred in the course of 50 years must be restored to its original family, the tenants to whom the Lord gave it as a heritage. All Israelites are to forgive one another their debts, and all Israelite slaves are to be set free. For the Lord ransomed Israel and made a covenant with them forever, and so must they do for one another.

In 1751 the colonial assembly of Pennsylvania commissioned a new bell for their province house at Philadelphia to celebrate the 50th year of William Penn’s Charter of Privileges, by which the colony was ruled with a relatively democratic form of government and almost complete religious freedom. It was a jubilee year. The bell was inscribed with the words of Lev 25:10: “Proclaim liberty throughout the land unto all the inhabitants thereof.” A quarter century later that bell rang out to proclaim a new freedom on the occasion of our Declaration of Independence. And when you visit Philadelphia today, you can of course still see and touch the Liberty Bell, one of our country’s sacred icons, a tangible image of jubilee.
National Park Service photo
There is untold ballyhoo about the year 2000 inaugurating a new century and a new millennium. In fact, it will be the last year of the 20th century and of the 2d millennium. Continuing a tradition that goes back to Pope Boniface VIII in 1300, we Catholics are observing 2000 as a jubilee year. A Christian jubilee is a year in which we specially recall the Father’s great favor by which he sent us a Savior to redeem us from our slavery to Satan, to cancel the debt we contracted by our sins. It is a special year of grace.

Not that the Lord comes closer to us in one year than in another. But by recalling the incarnation and birth of the Son of God 2000 years ago, and all God’s love for us implied thereby, we become more open to God’s love and to all that God’s wants to do for us, as he did great things for his lowly servant Mary. The jubilee year doesn’t bring God closer to us, but us closer to God, when we remember what God has already done for the human race and for us individually, when we therefore repent of our sins, when we turn to God in prayer, when we resolve to walk more truly in the ways of Jesus Christ. The banners all over the archdiocese urging us to “open wide the doors to Christ” are not talking about church doors but about the doors to our hearts, the doors to our lives. In the book of Revelation Jesus says to Christians, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will enter his house and dine with him, and he with me” (3:20)—which is a promise of eternal life, of a place at the banquet of life.

The “year of favor from the Lord” is also a call for us to do as the Israelites were to do, to be agents of the Lord’s favor. We are called to forgive debts. Internationally, some Third World debt is being forgiven. Personally, we might become more conscious of what we pray each day: “Forgive us our trespasses (or debts) as we forgive those who trespass against us,” where we don’t mean property trespass or monetary debt but the forgiveness of sins and other offenses.

Proclaiming “liberty to captives” doesn’t mean that criminals should be released from prison. For Isaiah it referred to slaves and debtors—the jubilee concept. For us it might mean that we ought to re-examine our attitudes toward criminal offenders, especially in an election year next year. Is the increasing harshness of our penal codes society’s necessary self-defense, or is it an act of vengeance, of desperation, of frustration? Do our penal codes distinguish between hardened criminals and the mentally ill and those who, having made a serious mistake, still might be set straight with some guidance or some education?

What about those who are, metaphorically, captives of some of our other attitudes? How many people have we imprisoned by the categories we have boxed them into, by our prejudices or stereotypes: how many women? (Not that women would ever stereotype men!) How many foreigners, members of another race, young people, old people? How many physically or mentally handicapped, how many panhandlers, bag ladies, people sleeping in the subways? Just as much as the campesinos of El Salvador for whom Oscar Romero spoke have God-given human dignity, so do all these people in our lives.

Among all those who over the years have brought glad tidings to the poor—the Gospel of Jesus—and healed the brokenhearted (and the broken-bodied), we can single out the religious sisters and brothers who have taught in our Catholic schools, staffed our Catholic hospitals, gone off to foreign lands as missionaries. Many of us were educated by selfless nuns in grammar school, perhaps in what today we’d call the inner city, or by dedicated brothers or nuns in high school, and some of us by priests or brothers or sisters both learned and devout in college. One of them might be our favorite all-time teacher, one who taught us to read, or introduced us to the wonders of chemistry or the beauty of music, or straightened us out before our parents had to. We seldom realized the financial sacrifices those religious were making; how little they were given in salary or benefits; how little their orders and congregations were able to put aside for the future; how much they were utterly depending upon God to provide for them. In the ’40s and ’50s it wasn’t a problem, for there was a seemingly endless supply of new vocations, and the young religious far outnumbered, and therefore supported, the older members. In the ’90s it is a real problem; in many congregations the very few young members cannot nearly support all the elderly ones. So for several years now American Catholics have been asked annually to give back to our now aged and retired nuns and brothers, to try to repay an immeasurable spiritual debt, that they might have a respectable retirement and decent medical care. Today our 2d collection is for the retirement fund that our bishops have set up for religious sisters and brothers who have given their lives for the Church and the Gospel and have so little, materially speaking, on which to live. Please be as generous as you can, not only in the collection but also with your prayers.

Salesians Work to Implement Universal Right to Education

Salesians Work to Implement
Universal Right to Education

Last week we passed the anniversary of the U.N.'s Universal Declaration of Human Rights and annual observances related to it. For the occasion ANS posted this item on Dec. 9, the day before the anniversary:

Article 26: Everyone has a right to education
(ANS – Rome) – The Universal Declaration of Human Rights adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations on December 10, 1948, is now 63 years old. This magna carta of human dignity, as the document itself said, is an ideal to be achieved; it exhorts every individual and every organ of society to strive by teaching and education to promote respect for these rights and freedoms. The Salesian Congregation is fully engaged in this.

A few days ago the Salesian Mission Office in Madrid issued a statement in which it reports that “over 67 million boys and girls do not have access to education. Of these 45% are minors living in sub-Saharan Africa. Even though in recent years governments and international organizations have made efforts to ensure that primary education is universal, there is still much work to be done. If the present situation continues, in 2015 there will be over 50 million youngsters not going to school, and so the second Millennium Goal will not be reached.”

Article 26 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights says, “Everyone has a right to education,” but in the world over 125 million young people between 14 and 25 years of age do not know how to read and write.

Educating the young does not mean simply instructing them, but providing an integral development of the person that takes into account all the aspects of human life, from its beginning to its end. The Congregation and the Salesian Family are responding to this on a daily basis, fostering in every corner of the world an education inspired by the values of the Gospel and the charism of Don Bosco.

In January 2009 there was an international congress at the Salesianum in Rome, “The Preventive System and Human Rights,” promoted by the SDB Youth Ministry Department in collaboration with International Volunteers for Development (VIS). Religious and lay people from over 130 countries in which they are working met together and shared experiences and projects responding to the challenges of the educational emergency and the needs of the young.

SLMs in Local News

SLMs in Local News

One of my responsibilities is to inform (arch)diocesan Catholic newspapers when a woman or man from their area is posted as a Salesian Lay Missioner ( or Salesian Domestic Volunteer ( Oftentimes the local editor is delighted to receive such information, and sometimes we find out that the paper has run a story in print or on-line.

On Nov. 30, Baltimore's Catholic Review published in both formats a story about Marie Prosser, who will be leaving for her mission in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, in a couple of weeks. Marie did her orientation back in July and August and was commissioned on Aug. 6 (which I didn't get around to posting till Sept. 9--you can check the story there via

To read what the Catholic Review has to say, go to

And on Dec. 8, the Georgia Bulletin of the archdiocese of Atlanta wrote about Carmen Hilmes's experience in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. Carmen also was commissioned on Aug. 6 after the orientation program. See

Photos by Adam Rudin

Friday, December 9, 2011

Homily for Solemnity of Immaculate Conception

Here's the homily that I gave on Immaculate Conception in 1979 to the junior class at Don Bosco Prep in Ramsey, N.J. At the time I was the school's CYM.

Homily for the Solemnity
of the Immaculate Conception
Gen 3: 9-15, 20
Dec. 8, 1979

“I will put enmity between you and the woman, between your offspring and hers; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel” (Gen 3: 15).
There is a never-ending warfare between mankind and the powers of evil. Evil affects each of us who are the offspring of the first woman, and at times we wonder whether there’s any hope of victory.

As Catholics we believe that the Virgin Mary at the moment of conception was preserved in advance from all defilement of original sin by a unique privilege of grace in view of the merits of Jesus Christ (dogmatic definition, 1854).

The Immaculate Conception means that the redemptive act of Christ has begun. It is a celebration of Christ’s victory over sin, the victory of an offspring of woman over the power of evil. There is already life, the fullness of life, the divine life of Christ’s grace, in the womb of Mary’s mother.

Perhaps it boggles your mind that anyone who is fully human, as Mary was, could be sinless. You and I, after all, don’t know anyone who is without sin. In the Immaculate Conception our faith tells us the grace of Christ is effective; it does triumph over the sinfulness of mankind. If we cannot believe that the grace of Jesus Christ overcomes sin in Mary, how can we believe his grace touched our lives in Baptism? We’re still in sin and always will be. Either his grace can save us, or it can’t. Either it can be totally victorious over evil, or there is no victory over evil. Mary’s Immaculate Conception, then, is an anticipation of our own Baptism in Christ, an anticipation of the day when, if we say “yes” as Mary did, we will be totally submitted to God’s will for us, the day of our full redemption.

Stained glass window, St. Mary of the Immaculate Conception Church, Fredericksburg, Va.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Don Bosco Rules Supreme

"Don Bosco rules supreme"

That was part of columnist Darren Cooper's headline in The Record of Bergen County yesterday after Don Bosco Prep in Ramsey beat archrival Bergan Catholic handily, 42-14, Friday nite at MetLife Stadium and clinched Prep's 6th straight state football championship.

Full headline: "No debating Don Bosco rules supreme in Jersey."

Going into the game, Prep was also ranked #1 in some national polls, including USA Today's:

Read the entire column at

Game news report at

Game photos at

Homily for 2d Sunday of Advent

Homily for the
2d Sunday of Advent

Willow Towers, New Rochelle
Dec. 4, 2011

“Almighty and merciful God, may no earthly undertaking hinder those who set out in haste to meet your Son…” (Collect).

The biggest change in our liturgical language as we implement our new translation isn’t “And with your spirit.” It’s the style and structure of the 3 variable proper prayers for each Mass: the collect, the prayer over the offerings, and the prayer after communion.

The 1st of these prayers has always been properly called the “collect” [accent on the 1st syllable], altho the missal that we used for the last 41 years called it simply the “opening prayer.” Why “collect”? Because when the priest says, “Let us pray,” he’s inviting each of us individually to do that from our own hearts. Then, after this moment of silent, private, personal prayer, he gathers together or “collects”—sums up, in other words—all our single prayers in one common prayer expressive of both our individual concerns and those of the entire Church in the context of the general theme of the day or season.

In this season of Advent, our general theme is expectation and waiting—for God’s intervention, for redemption.

So today we invoke God with 2 adjectives, 2 attributes: “almighty” and “merciful.” The Almighty is the Creator, the one who directs the workings of the universe and our individual lives. The Merciful cares for each of us individually within this incredibly vast universe, cares for us enuf to pardon the sinner who repents and invite that repentant sinner to an honored place in the heavenly household—which we celebrate as we acclaim, “Lord, I am not worthy that you should come under my roof. Say but the word, and my soul shall be healed,” and we proceed to share in the Lord’s very own table.

We pray to this almighty and merciful God that nothing earthly may hinder us, get in our way, as we hasten to meet his Son. This season is Advent, the season of waiting expectantly and eager for the coming of Christ. While we inevitably associate Advent with Christmas, the celebration of Christ’s 1st coming thru his incarnation in the womb of the Virgin Mary and his birth at Bethlehem in 6 or 7 B.C.—yet our focal point in the 1st weeks of Advent is Christ’s future coming, his return in heavenly glory as the judge of all humanity, completing his merciful work of redemption and also condemning whose who have made no attempt to imitate his mercy in their dealings with their fellow human beings, as our gospel reading 2 weeks ago emphasized (Matt 25:31-46) and our 2d reading today reminds us (2 Pet 3:8-14).

We “set out in haste to meet” God’s Son. The phrase evokes Mary’s journey after the annunciation to visit her cousin Elizabeth: “Mary set out and traveled in haste to the hill country of Judah” (Luke 1:39). She wasn’t hastening to meet the Lord, of course, for she was carrying him, already conceived, to Elizabeth, and to Elizabeth’s unborn son John, both of whom greeted Mary and her Son joyfully (1:41-45).
Miriam and Elizabeth, art "borrowed" from The Deacon's Bench
So do we want to greet Mary’s Son joyfully when he returns, when “the day of the Lord will come like a thief…and the earth and everything done on it will be found out” (2 Pet 3:10). So do we hasten toward him who is our redeemer, that we may be “found out” as belonging to him, “found without spot or blemish before him” (3:14) who has washed away our sins, and ushered to the eternal banquet that this Eucharist foreshadows. What’s sadder than a Christian who has no desire to go to Christ, to be with Christ?
But the prayer refers to hindrances on our journey to meet Christ. “Earthly undertakings” may hinder our haste, make us reluctant to go toward Christ; may drag on us and slow down our progress like a really heavy suitcase without wheels—you all remember those? “Earthly undertakings” may distract us from our ultimate destination, like travelers repeatedly led off their route by interesting detours or side trips. These “earthly undertakings” could be various pursuits, intentions, trials that involve us thru our own desires, thru what others inflict upon us, or thru natural causes. So many things can lead us off the track that would take us toward Christ, such things as the worldly cares that choke off the word of God and keep it from bearing fruit (as Jesus said in the parable of the sower [Mark 4:1-8]), such things as the pursuit of a career, of pleasure, of power, of money, of revenge, of fame. And in the end, when we in fact meet God’s Son, what will all those hindrances matter?

Instead, we pray, “may our learning of heavenly wisdom gain us admittance to his company,” i.e., to the Son’s company, a place at his side in God’s household. What is “learning of heavenly wisdom”? Hearing the teaching of Jesus. But, just as in school you didn’t “learn” something just from hearing your teacher explain it, but you had to take it in, absorb it, master it—so must we with Jesus’ teaching. “Learning of heavenly wisdom” can’t mean only learning about it but must mean making it part of our lives. In fact, if the Holy Spirit is the Wisdom of God personified, here we’re invoking his presence in our lives, his company on our journey to meet the Son. And if the Holy Spirit’s wisdom has been imprinted upon our hearts and souls, has governed our choices and decisions thru life, has guided our words and actions, then we will truly be found on “the day of the Lord” to belong to Jesus Christ and will be admitted to his company, which is the ultimate destination of our journey.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Fr. Jerzy Schneider, SDB

Fr. Jerzy Schneider, SDB (1923-2011)
Rue Eisen of Don Bosco Prep contributed to this obituary
Fr. Jerzy Schneider, SDB, a member of the Salesian community of Don Bosco Prep High School in Ramsey, N.J., died on the evening of Nov. 22, 2011, at New York Presbyterian Hospital in Manhattan, where he had been taken after suffering a heart attack the day before. He was 88 years old.

Earlier this year Fr. Schneider celebrated his 65th anniversary of religious profession; he made his first vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience on Aug. 26, 1946, at the Salesian novitiate Krakow, Poland.

Fr. Schneider was born to Filip and Ludmila Schneider at Zywiec, a town in the far south of Poland, on Aug. 3, 1923, and baptized in the parish church not long after.

During the German occupation of the country, Filip Schneider refused to put the family on the volkslist, a register of German people, and as a consequence the family home was confiscated and Jerzy, then 18, was sent to a labor camp in Breslau, Germany. He would spend the rest of the war there, constructing, maintaining, and gardening in greenhouses. During his limited break times he liked to read a Bible that a professor friend had given him before he was interned. His reading deepened his faith and his love for God and stirred in him the desire to become a priest in spite of all the suffering and trauma he saw around him and indeed had experienced himself.

When the Russian Army liberated the labor camp in February 1945, Jerzy started walking the 200 miles toward Krakow through the snow. He was wearing wooden-soled shoes he’d made himself. Polish people kindly offered him food and shelter along the way, and at times he was able to hop a train for short rides where the tracks hadn’t been destroyed. The fiancée of a friend whom he met en route passed word to his parents that he was alive and was going to Krakow to become a priest.

At Krakow he encountered the seminarian Karol Wojtyla, who would be ordained the following year and who had himself been forced by the Germans to work in a stone quarry while studying secretly for the priesthood. Karol had lived in the Salesian parish of St. Stanislaus Kostka in Krakow as a university student and during the occupation (see Salesian Bulletin U.S.A., Spring 2011). As he met with Jerzy over the course of three days, he directed him toward the Salesians instead of the diocesan seminary.

Jerzy had never heard of St. John Bosco or the Salesians, but he contacted them and was admitted to the novitiate at Krakow in August 1945 with 20 other young men.

After his profession Bro. Schneider studied philosophy in the Salesian seminary in Krakow, earning a B.A. in 1948. He carried out his practical training from 1947 to 1949 at St. Joseph’s Hospice in Prusy, a village near Krakow. St. Joseph’s included an orphanage and academic, trade, agricultural, and evening schools; apparently on the basis of his wartime experience, Bro. Schneider worked in the agricultural school. He made his perpetual profession on Aug. 27, 1949.

Following theological studies first in Krakow (1949-1951) and then in Oswiecim (1951-1953), Fr. Schneider was ordained in Oswiecim on May 30, 1953.

Ever since childhood Fr. Schneider had been interested in art. Realizing his talent, the provincial sent him to study at the Academy of Fine Arts in Krakow in 1955. For six years he took up art history and all the practical applications of drawing, painting, drafting, and sculpting. In 1961 he was awarded a master’s degree in fine arts, which would become his chief apostolate for most of his 58 years as a priest.

From 1961 to 1967 Fr. Schneider was part of the Salesian community of Oswiecim (Auschwitz in German), motherhouse of all the Salesian work in Poland, which now is divided into four provinces. He was rector of the chapel at the Auschwitz concentration camp from 1965 to 1967, and at that time developed a museum for eight Salesians who had been martyred in the camp. One, Fr. Joseph Kowalski, has already been beatified, and the cause of the others is in process.

Fr. Schneider continued his artwork, especially paintings of Christ and the Madonna and Child. One painting, The Red Madonna, attracted a great deal of attention at a Krakow exhibition, and some Polish Americans who saw it convinced the provincial to send him to America. The arrangements were facilitated by Fr. Joseph Tyminski, director of Don Bosco Prep in Ramsey, and Fr. Arthur Slomka, a Polish Salesian working from the Prep.

And thus Fr. Schneider came to the U.S. in 1967, although he remained officially a member of the Krakow Salesian Province. He spent the rest of his life at Don Bosco designing and executing works of liturgical art in a studio there. For some years he taught modern languages, art, and drafting at the Prep. He went to many local parishes to celebrate Mass in Polish and looked after the numerous Polish immigrants in northern New Jersey and southern New York, such as at St. John the Evangelist Church in Mahopac, N.Y., where he was feted on his 80th birthday in 2003.

Meanwhile, The Red Madonna was published on the cover of Sign, a national Catholic magazine, in December 1967, and Fr. Schneider’s work was shown in such venues as the Contemporary Christian Art Gallery on Lexington Avenue in Manhattan. He was asked to execute murals and other paintings in many churches, including St. Hedwig in Floral Park, N.Y., Immaculate Conception in Mahwah, N.J., and others in Trenton and Pittsburgh. He also designed vestments for several companies over the years.

According to Rue Eisen, public relations director at Don Bosco Prep, Father Schneider’s “work encompassed a large body of sacred art as well as art inspired by nature. This can be seen in the slide show he created, and the copies he has amassed here of his large body of work. In it, there are many expressionistic Madonnas; some were red Madonnas, others were blue, brown or grey. He also depicted Christ in many paintings in these same color themes. His work can be considered expressionistic, cubist or post-modern. He has modern landscapes of trees and mountains. He also was a photographer…. He worked long and hard at his art. He told me that he was asked to create paintings by many of his directors and provincials, who then gave them away as gifts. He didn’t know where much of his work had gone, but he said that it was given away by his superiors as gifts to their superiors or visiting dignitaries. His sister in Poland maintains a collection of some of his work.”

In the late 1970s he built an altarpiece in molded and hammered copper for the chapel of Mary Help of Christians at Don Bosco Prep, and between October 1989 and February 1990 he carried out a major redecoration of the chapel.

Writing in Don Bosco Prep’s alumni magazine in 2003, Mrs. Eisen observed: “Fr. Schneider’s life has been arduous with many ordeals and trials, yet he offers it all up to God and remains joyful. He is highly intelligent with a wry wit and a strong manner. His artwork is of museum quality.” She also noted his life of prayer and service and his confidence in God’s generosity.

Fr. Schneider is survived by his sister Ludmila Pawelek of Zywiec, Poland.

Fr. Schneider's funeral was celebrated in the chapel of Don Bosco Prep on Nov. 25. Fr. Tom Dunne, the provincial, presided, and Fr. Schneider's former pupil Fr. Steve Shafran preached. Fr. Steve also is a former director of the Prep, and he described some of his conversations about art with Fr. Schneider.

Fr. Schneider was buried in the province cemetery in Goshen on the 26th.

Fr. Clement Cardillo, SDB

Fr. Clement Cardillo, SDB (1925-2011)
Fr. Clement Cardillo, SDB, a member of the Salesian community of Orange, N.J., died at St. Catherine of Siena Nursing Home in Caldwell, N.J., on the afternoon of Nov. 22, 2011. He was 86 and had resided at St. Catherine since March of this year.

Fr. Clem was the son of Anthony and Beatrice Cardillo and was born in Port Chester, N.Y., on June 20, 1925. The family were members of the Salesian parish of Our Lady of the Holy Rosary there, and Clem was baptized there on August 30, 1925.

After completing his first year of high school in Port Chester Junior High School, in September 1940 Clem enrolled at Don Bosco Seminary in Newton, N.J., as a sophomore and graduated from high school in June 1943. He entered St. Joseph’s Novitiate in Newton in September and professed first vows on Sept. 8, 1944.

According to the practice of the era, Clem did his first year of college studies during the novitiate. For reasons not indicated in the records—poor health would be a reasonable guess—after his profession Bro. Clem did not continue at Don Bosco College in 1944-1945. In 1945-1946 he taught American history and general science at Don Bosco Juniorate in Suffern, N.Y., and the following year taught geometry at Salesian HS in New Rochelle.

In the fall of 1947 he returned to Don Bosco College and graduated in August 1950 with a B.A. in philosophy. During the 1948-1949 year he also taught and assisted the high school seminarians, and from 1949 to 1951 he was assistant to the novices. During the 1950-1951 school year he also began his theological studies at Fordham University.

From 1951 to 1954 Bro. Clem studied theology at St. Anselm’s Institute in Bollengo, Italy, where he was a capable student. A note by the director in March 1952 indicates that he was outstanding in his piety, of a “good and open character” with good abilities but weak health. He was ordained by Bishop Paolo Rostagno of Ivrea in the Basilica of Mary Help of Christians in Turin on July 1, 1954.

Fr. Clem spent his first years as a priest at Don Bosco Juniorate in Haverstraw, N.Y. (1954-1955), teaching French, among other things; at St. Michael’s School in Goshen, N.Y. (1955-1956), as catechist (campus minister and infirmarian); and at Sacred Heart Juniorate in Ipswich, Mass. (1956-1960), as prefect of studies and then as catechist. In 1960 he became director of the Ipswich juniorate, serving there till 1965, the same year that he earned a master’s degree from Boston College in educational psychology; his thesis was entitled “The Assessment of Minor Seminarians.” He interned at the Boston V.A. Hospital and in a Boston-area public school system.

In 1965 Fr. Clem was named pastor of St. Anthony’s Church in Paterson, N.J., where he served until 1980. Of that period he wrote: “It was with trepidation that I took the assignment of being pastor of St. Anthony’s Church in Paterson in 1965. It was my very first parish, and I feared I would not be up to the task. But the Lord was kind to me. He blessed the church with good-hearted parishioners, and through their dedication and commitment I was able to purchase five properties, renovate the rectory and the church, install centralized air conditioning, and construct the St. Anthony’s Men’s Club. But most of all I was able to help the community of Christ enrich their faith and get closer to the Lord.”

When he stepped down as pastor, he was saluted in the House of Representatives by Congressman Robert Roe of New Jersey “in recognition of his exemplary achievements, in service to God and to our people, so unselfishly dedicated to the betterment of mankind,” and “of the love, affection, and reverence with which Fr. Cardillo is held by all of us who have had the good fortune to know him” (Congressional Record, Aug. 19, 1980).

While he was pastor he continued his psychology studies at Boston College and Columbia University, earning a doctorate from B.C. in 1972. His dissertation was entitled Empathy and Personality Traits. Licensed as a psychologist in New Jersey, he directed his practice primarily toward priests and religious. In 1980 Bishop Lawrence Casey of Paterson appointed him co-director of the diocese’s Consultation Service Center, where he worked for 28 years, until the diocese terminated the service as a cost-cutting measure. He continued in private practice, counseling both religious and lay people, until retiring on Jan. 1, 2011. In that period he belonged to the Salesian communities of Paterson (1980-1991) and Orange (from 1991). The fees he earned helped Salesian seminarians with financial needs.

In addition to serving as director of the Paterson Diocese’s Pre-Cana program for a number of years, Fr. Clem was a member and was twice chairman of the N.J. Board of Psychological Examiners, which administers examinations to those applying for state licensing, checks their credentials, and investigates complaints of unprofessional conduct.

On Oct. 31, 1982, New Jersey’s Federation of Italian Societies honored him as Man of the Year, saluting “the impact of his fine deeds, whether they be at the spiritual, psychological, or social level.”

In 1998 Pope John Paul II named Fr. Cardillo a recipient of the papal medal Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice in recognition of his services to the Church, particularly in the Paterson Diocese.

Fr. Clem always found his Salesian vocation “a source of joy and peace.” He once wrote: “My life as a Salesian has not only enriched my personal life, but it has allowed me through my ministry to bring comfort to people suffering both mental and spiritual anguish. Albert Einstein once said, ‘Only a life lived for others is worth living.’ I truly believe that this has been the focal point of my vocation.”

Fr. Steve Leake, director of the community in Orange, said of Fr. Clem: “Our Salesian Constitution #18 states that the Salesian ‘knows that by his work he is participating in the creative action of God and cooperating with Christ in building the kingdom.’ Fr. Clem lived this constitution to the full as he worked with zeal as a pastor, psychologist, teacher, and friend to so many. He was a tireless worker for souls in the manner of Don Bosco!”

Fr. Clem is survived by his brother Joseph of Chevy Chase, Md., and his sister Gussie Marino of Old Lyme, Conn.

Fr. Clem's funeral was celebrated at Our Lady of the Valley Church in Orange. Fr. George Hanna, former pastor of Holy Rosary Church in Port Chester and present pastor of the Church of the Nativity in Washington, offered some reflections at the wake on Nov. 25. Fr. Tom Dunne, the provincial, presided over and preached at the funeral Mass on the 26th. Burial was in the family plot in St. Mary’s Cemetery, Port Chester.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Homily for Solemnity of Christ the King

Homily for the Solemnity
of Christ the King
Nov. 20, 2011
Ezek 34: 11-12, 15-17
1 Cor 15: 20-28
Ursulines, Willow Drive, N.R.

“I will look after and tend my sheep” (Ezek 34: 11).

In the middle of the 10th century B.C., the Lord very deliberately chose a shepherd boy to become king of Israel. Jesus, the Son of David, that shepherd boy, called himself a good shepherd, and he showed his goodness by seeking the strays—like Zacchaeus, whose story we read last Tuesday; by feeding them, with divine teaching when “they were like sheep without a shepherd” (Mark 6:34), with bread and fish, and finally with his own body and blood; by healing them, binding up their wounds—with physical cures and with reconciliation between them and God. And so in multiple ways and on several levels Jesus “looked after and tended” God’s sheep, and still does.

Christ risen and triumphant: fresco in the apse of St. Catharine Church, Spring Lake, N.J.

Without adverting to the image of a shepherd, St. Paul stresses the ultimate pastoral work of Christ, “the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep” (1 Cor 15:20). In his resurrection Jesus brings home to the Father’s sheepfold all who stray into the realm of death, binds up those injured by sin, gives long-sought rest to the weary and the hurting, “rescues them from every place where they were scattered” (Ezek 34:14) by the illusory power of the Evil One. In the resurrection of the Son, our “almighty and merciful God breaks the power of evil and makes all things new” (Collect)—first of all, human beings, by restoring them to their original grandeur as images of God.
Christ feeding his flock with the Word of God: Sermon on the Mount by Gustave Dore'
In his audience last Wednesday, Pope Benedict touched on this theme. “In the world,” he said, “there is much evil, there is a permanent battle between good and evil, and it seems that evil is stronger. But, no, the Lord is stronger. . . . Christ wins and goodness wins. Love, and not hatred, wins.” Our belief in Christ’s resurrection affirms our belief in the power of love and of goodness to break the power of evil, the power of sin, even the power of death.* Christ is indeed the master, the king, of the universe.

And this good king, this good shepherd, guides his flock securely and safely toward his Father’s verdant pastures (Ps 23:2). Christ, the victor over death, can be the firstfruits of the resurrection only if he represents a much greater harvest by inaugurating the resurrection of all who belong to him. He is king of the universe because he has a numberless constituency, an immense following of disciples whom he has not only taught but has also saved, whom he has “shepherded rightly” (Ezek 34:17) into the kingdom of God.

We acclaim our king today, and we praise the Father who begot him and sent him to be our savior-shepherd, the judge who condemns death and wins for us the verdict over Satan and his allies.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Homily for 33d Sunday in Ordinary Time

Homily for the
33d Sundayin Ordinary Time

Nov. 13, 2011
Matt 25: 14-30
Christian Brothers, Iona College

“A man going on a journey called in his servants and entrusted his possessions to them” (Matt 25: 14). I suspect that most people’s favorite parts of the Gospels are the parables. We all love a story. And, unlike some of the long discourses that we find in other parts of the Gospels, the parables show us the Lord’s teaching in action.

In these last weeks of the Church’s liturgical year, the readings usually encourage us to think of the Last Things: death, judgment, heaven, hell. So in recent weeks we’ve already had 2 parables of judgment, the wedding feast for the king’s son with the attached parable of the wedding garment (Matt 22:1-14), and the 10 virgins (25:1-13); we hear a 3d one today; and next week we’ll hear the most explicit one, in which the Great King gathers the nations to pass judgment on every individual (25:31-46).

Last Sunday’s parable and today’s, which are consecutive passages in Matthew’s 25th chapter, are also linked to the 2d Coming, to Jesus’ return: “He will come again to judge the living and the dead.” In the parable of the wise and foolish virgins, the bridegroom is long delayed, but eventually he arrives and admits to the marriage festivities those who are ready and waiting for him, and shuts out those who aren’t. In the parable of the talents, the master goes away on a long journey, but eventually returns and demands an accounting from his servants. In both cases, as also in the parable of the wedding guest who isn’t properly dressed (22:11-13), those at fault are consigned to “the darkness outside” (22:13; 25:30; cf. 25:11), banished from the joy, the festivity, and the light of the great hall of the master—from the banquet of eternal life. There’s celebration, there’s reward, there are light and warmth for the faithful, cold and black punishment for the foolish—which, in biblical terms, generally means those who ignore the wisdom of God’s Law.
Tonite’s parable in particular: the mark of fidelity is how the servants handle the talents entrusted to them (25:14). A talent was money, equivalent to 60 or 70 lbs. of silver. This master is entrusting something of very great value to his servants. “Talents” doesn’t refer to what we mean in English, i.e., a certain ability or skill. But the master does apportion his possessions among his servants “according to their ability” (25:16).
So we must ask: What very valuable possession has the Master entrusted to us, his servants, that in his absence he expects us to use wisely and earn a return for him? What investment has the Lord Jesus made in us?
Brothers and sisters, it’s our faith. It’s the Gospel.
Every Christian has been given this priceless gift, not to hoard privately like the 3d servant in the parable (25:18) but to invest and earn a return. Every Christian is responsible for evangelizing, for letting his light shine for all to see (5:14-16), according to his abilities, i.e., according to his state of life and his circumstances. There’s even a news story in the current issue of CNY about that: “Entire Body of Christ Must Be Missionaries,” in which Fr. Andy Small, national director of the Pontifical Mission Societies, is quoted on Mission Sunday last month as telling the congregation in St. Patrick’s Cathedral, “If you’ve been baptized, you’re a missionary. Nobody gets out of the obligation to be a missionary. It’s the essential and most fundamental part of what it means to be a disciple of Jesus Christ.”*
So those of us who are religious and educators perhaps have received 5 talents from the Lord to engage in the commerce of our apostolic work, to win for him another 5 talents, many hearts and souls by our words and our example, by our faithfulness to our vows and our love for one another.
Those of you who are lay, spouses, parents, you might have received 5 talents too, or perhaps “only” 2 talents. While you’re not primarily engaged as an apostle like a priest or a religious, you’re still charged with ministry, with evangelization: bearing witness to the truth of the Gospel, to God’s love, to faithful and chaste love, to the dignity of every man and woman created in the divine image—bearing witness to each other, to your children and grandchildren, to the people you work with, to people you see socially.
Your children or grandchildren, too, are witnesses and examples to their peers of what it means to belong to Christ in how they practice truthfulness, chastity, kindness, obedience, going to church, etc.
All of us as citizens who happen to be Christ’s people are charged with bringing the truths and the values of the kingdom of God to bear on public life and public policy: priests and religious by their clear teaching of the social demands of the Gospel, and laity by more explicit efforts to make that teaching a reality in the laws and habits of our state and our country.
At the end of the 1st century, when Matthew wrote his gospel, Christians were persecuted in many places and generally discriminated against. Many of them could easily enuf have lain low and given no public indication of their faith—“burying their master’s money in a hole in the ground,” keeping their faith in the secrecy of their own homes. Likewise, Christians today may worship in their churches on Sundays and in their homes, but “out of fear” (25:25) might leave their faith at that, telling themselves that religion is a purely private matter and has nothing to do with life outside home and church, with efforts to make the kingdom of God a greater part of human life. Jesus’ teaching in today’s parable suggests that he’s not impressed with private faith, faith kept secret: “Throw this useless servant into the darkness outside, where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth” (25:30).
On the other hand, using our talents, putting our faith to work in the world around us, our Master counts as genuine faithfulness and earns his praise and rewards (25:21,23).

* Ron Lajoie, “Entire Body of Christ Must Be Missionaries, Priest Says,” Catholic New York, Nov. 3, 2011, p. 24.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Homily for 32d Sunday in Ordinary Time

Homily for the
32d Sunday

in Ordinary Time
Nov. 11, 1990
1 Thess 4: 13-18
Holy Cross, Fairfield, Conn.

This weekend, Nov. 4-6, 2011, I was taking part in a Boy Scout trek-o-ree. My homily to them, as well as to the patients and staff at St. Vincent's hospital this morning, was delivered from a mental outline only. Actually, I'd jotted a few notes on Thursday evening, which I stuck in a book that I proceeded to misplace until this afternoon. So--here's an "oldie" for you.

“We would have you be clear about those who sleep in death, brothers; otherwise you might yield to grief like those who have no hope” (1 Thess 4: 13).

Lack of hope—despair—is one of the great anxieties of our age. In a secular sense, we see it in low voter turnout, as people groan, “What’s the use of voting!” In an existential sense, we see its results in therapists’ bank accounts, in asylums, in the drug markets, in the suicide rates.
People need hope; they always have.

In A.D. 627 the monk Paulinus visited King Edwin in northern England to persuade him to accept Christianity. He hesitated and decided to summon his advisers. At the meeting one of them stood up and said: “Your majesty, when you sit at the table with your lords and vassals, in the winter when the fire burns warm and bright on the hearth and the storm is howling outside, bringing the snow and the rain, it happens of a sudden that a little bird flies into the hall. It comes in at one door and flies out through the other. For the few moments that it is inside the hall, it does not feel cold, but as soon as it leaves your sight, it returns to the dark of winter. It seems to me that the life of man is much the same. We do not know what went before and we do not know what follows. If the new doctrine can speak to us surely of these things, it is well for us to follow it.”[1]

People need hope—hope of a better life next week or next year, hope of eternal life beyond our vale of tears. So the resurrection of Jesus Christ, his 2d coming as the climax of history, and the general resurrection are the core message of our faith, our surety against the sort of grief that leads to despair.

Such evidence as we have in the earliest letters of Paul—and 1 Thessalonians is apparently the oldest—suggest that the 1st Christians expected Christ to return in glory rather quickly. Many of them seem to have expected the 2d coming in their own lifetimes. It was, after all, only 20 years since Jesus had walked the roads of Galilee and the streets of Jerusalem.

This expectation caused a crisis of sorts for the new believers of Thessalonica. Obviously, Christians were dying before the Lord’s return. Did this have some negative effect on their final salvation? Paul reassures them with the bottom-line good news: “If we believe that Jesus died and rose, God will bring forth with him from the dead those who have fallen asleep believing in him” (1 Thess 4:14).

In the Christian’s view, sleep is an apt image for death. We speak of the saints falling asleep in the Lord. We call our burial places “dormitories”—which is what “cemetery” means. In Christ we have this confidence, this expectation, this hope.

We keep November as the month of the faithful departed. This bespeaks our hope for them. After Judas Maccabeus offered sacrifice for sinful Jews who fell in battle against their persecutors, the Bible tells us that Judas “acted in a very excellent and noble way, inasmuch as he had the resurrection of the dead in view; for if he were not expecting the fallen to rise again, it would have been useless and foolish to pray for them in death” (2 Macc 12:43-44).

God’s holiness allows no uncleanness, no imperfection, into his presence. God’s justice demands repentance and expiation for every sin, even the smallest. How then do we hold hope for our beloved dead, those who sleep in Christ but who had their human faults and committed sins against charity, chastity, justice, or human life the same as you and I, unfortunately, still do?

The doctrine of purgatory consoles us with this hope. Indirectly the Scriptures and, directly, the ancient Fathers of the Church like Sts. Cyprian and Augustine teach us that those who die in God’s love but with sin still to be atoned for cannot enter heaven until their sinfulness has been completely purged away by the fire of divine love. This doctrine of purgatory was confirmed by several ecumenical councils of the Church and most recently by Pope Paul VI.

So we believe there is heaven and eternal life for the just; hell and eternal anguish for the wicked; and a transitory state of cleansing before heaven for those whom we might call the “almost just” or the “sort of holy.” We are consoled that we can pray for these fundamentally good people and anticipate their eventual sharing in the risen glory of Christ. And indeed we are consoled that we too have this same hope, that our imperfections and daily sins can be purged and wiped away, either by charity in this life or by prayers of our friends after we too have fallen asleep in Christ.

[1] A New Catechism (NY: Herder, 1969) p. 3.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Six Men Inducted as Prenovices

Six Men Inducted
as Prenovices
With Fr. Steve Leake are the new prenovices: Lenny Carlino, Mark O'Dea, Matt Marchand, Greg McClung, Craig Spence, and Steve Eguino

On the evening of Nov. 1, Fr. Tom Dunne "officially" inducted six prenovices at the Eastern Province's house of formation in Orange, N.J. As prenovices, a step up from "candidacy," they'll carry out more specific formation for Salesian life, aiming at an application to the novitiate next May and entrance to the novitiate itself in August.

The director of the community in Orange, Fr. Stephen Leake, gave the prenovices a small statue of Mary Help of Christians and encouraged them to grow in the exercise of charity toward others, in the study of Don Bosco and of the Salesian charism, and in their apostolate on behalf of the young.

The Orange community includes 13 professed SDBs who are staff of the house of formation, of the parish of Our Lady of Valley (to which the house is attached; the community lives in the former convent), young SDBs in 2 postnovitiate periods of formation. The young SDBs, the prenovices, and the candidates are involved in youth and vocation work in the province.

This year there are 9 aspirants or candidates, 6 prenovices, 5 postnovices, and 2 students of theology in the community.

The prenovices include
-- Lenny Carlino, from the Salesian youth ministry program at St. Thomas More Church in Haupaugge, N.Y.
-- Stephen Eguino, from the Bronx, an alumnus of Salesian HS in New Rochelle; his older brother, Bro. Mike, also a SHS alum, is studying theology at Immaculate Conception Seminary in South Orange, N.J., and is part of the SDB formation community
-- Matt Marchand, from Newton, Mass., learned about Don Bosco from reading a comic book!
-- Greg McClung, an alumnus of Mary Help of Christians School in Tampa (like your humble blogger!)
-- Mark O'Dea, an alumnus of Don Bosco Prep in Ramsey, N.J.
-- Craig Spence, from Biloxi, Mississippi, is a former Salesian Lay Missioner who served in Paterson, N.J., and New York City

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Homily for 31st Sunday in Ordinary Time

Homily for the
31st Sunday
in Ordinary Time
Oct. 30, 2011
1 Thess 2: 7-9, 13
Mal 1:14—2:2, 8-10
Matt 23: 1-12
Wood Badge Scouters, Camp Alpine, N.J.
Ursulines, Willow Dr., N.R.

“In receiving the word of God from hearing us, you received not a human word but, as it truly is, the word of God, which is now at work in you who believe” (1 Thess 2: 13).

Next month the bishops of the U.S. will begin their ad limina visits to Rome. These are meetings that every bishop is required to make every 5 years, involving regional group and sometimes individual meetings with the Holy Father and with different members of the Roman Curia to report on their dioceses and to receive particular instruction and guidance from the successor of St. Peter. The Latin words ad limina, or in the full phrase, ad limina apostolorum, means literally “to” or “at the threshold of the apostles,” and that refers to the custom associated with these 5-yearly visits that the bishops go as pilgrims, as it were, to the tombs of the apostles Peter and Paul to pay homage to them and to reaffirm their fidelity to the teaching of the apostles. (See CNS story at The bishops are successors of the apostles, we’ve often heard—I rather doubt that many young Catholics hear it now—and that refers to their pastoral responsibilities to receive the faith that the apostles taught, to teach that faith, to hand on that faith—with all that implies about sacraments, doctrine, and discipline.

The prophet Malachi, as we heard in the 1st reading, castigates the priests of his day, about 400 years B.C., for not discharging their responsibilities faithfully, in both worship and teaching. Instead of giving glory to God (2:2) and true guidance to the Jewish people, by their words and their practices, they in effect insult God and lead the people astray. And God definitely is not happy.

In our own time, we’ve seen much too often the scandal caused by priests who aren’t faithful—be their infidelities sexual, financial, or pastoral (e.g., harshness, unavailability, failure to preach the Word of God in any meaningful way, sloppy or self-centered liturgy). As one poll showed last year, the 2d largest denomination in the U.S. (if it were actually a denomination) is ex-Catholics. There are many reasons for that—among them the bad example that both Malachi and Jesus chastise today, and especially the failure to feed God’s flock with substantive teaching; people hunger for the Word of God and will go where they find it. We note that sometimes, also, people leave because they resist authentic teaching as too difficult (cf. John 6:60,66) and not in accordance with their own preferences.

Many of you probably saw a report on another survey in Tuesday’s papers—USA Today* and the Journal News and perhaps others. According to this survey of self-identified American Catholics, only 44% of them regularly attend Sunday Mass, which means of course that 56% of people who consider themselves Catholic don’t go to Mass regularly. The resurrection of jesus is important to 73%; the poll doesn’t tell us what the other 27% are planning to do with their eternity. Daily prayer life is important to 46%, opposition to abortion to 40%, opposition to same-sex “marriage” to 35%, the Pope’s teaching authority to 30%. “More than half of Catholics, including those highly committed to the church in their personal practices, say it’s their own moral views, not those of church leaders, that matter.”

I’m afraid both Jesus and St. Paul would have a problem with that. Jesus tells his hearers to “do and observe all things whatsoever the scribes and Pharisees tell you,” regardless of their behavior, because they speak with the authority of Moses, who received revelation, and the Torah especially, from God. Paul equates his own apostolic teaching with the Word of God. Bear in mind that as Paul wrote this, the New Testament didn’t exist! His letters are chronologically the very 1st components of the NT to be written down. Matthew, Mark, and Luke are still 10, 20, or 30 years down the road. But the words, the teaching, are what was inspired, what was important, what had to be listened to, taken in, reflected upon, and obeyed. It has to be received just as you receive Holy Communion. God’s word is saving and life-giving only when made part of one’s life.

Which applies to you and me as much as to the Christians of Thessalonica or the priests of Jerusalem. Bishops and priests of course are supposed to do that—read, study, pray, preach, and live the Word of God. But so are you, O people of God! “We too give thanks to God unceasingly that, in receiving the word of God from hearing us, you received not a human word but, as it truly is, the word of God.”

The word of God, handed down from Peter and Paul and the other apostles, is that same word that Benedict XVI and the bishops of the Catholic world preach today, and priests on behalf of their bishops. Whether that word is easy—God loves you, for instance—or hard—God makes moral demands of you—it’s God’s word and not “only” the Pope’s, the Vatican’s, Abp. Dolan’s, or your pastor’s. We have only one rabbi, one teacher, one master, Jesus tells his followers—and it’s him (Matt 23:8-11). We find him in his Word (which, by the way, includes the sacraments of the Catholic Church), and that Word, not our own opinions or our own wisdom or our own moral views, to cite that survey—God’s Word is what saves us from our sins and brings us home to our Father.

Pilgrims crowding around St. Paul's tomb in the basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls, Rome

* Oct. 25, 2011, p. 3A.