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.

More on Cooperators Congress

on Cooperators Congress

Fr. Dennis Donovan, SDB, the Eastern USA delegate to the Salesian Cooperators, writes more about the North American Congress than what I provided a few days ago (below).

“A childish faith cannot support an adult life!” With this example, Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez, SDB, explained that for too many people in North America catechesis ended at the elementary school level. Hence the need for Salesian Cooperators who are filled with the Spirit as apostles with a missionary spirit, making themselves the “Juan Diegos” of the New World.

Over 130 Salesian Cooperators, along with their SDB and FMA delegates, met at Don Bosco Retreat Center for a weekend congress. The theme was “Celebrate Our Salesian Family: Mission to Youth.” They came from Canada, both USA provinces and Mexico. They gathered in prayer and fellowship to discern the direction in which the Holy Spirit is calling this branch of the Salesian Family.

Cardinal Rodriguez, archbishop of Tegucigalpa, Honduras, and president of Caritas Internationalis, was the keynote speaker.

“In a way, this is actually an international congress,” said Herman Lopez, world councilor for the Inter-America region, one of the presenters. Although Congress members live in Canada, Mexico and the United States, many of the participants were born in and became Salesian Cooperators in other countries, including China, Germany, Haiti, Korea, El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras to name a few. Congress materials were presented in English, French and Spanish.

Herman emphasized that Cooperators are not mere collaborators – baking cookies and preparing activities in our various centers. Instead, Salesian Cooperators are equally responsible for the mission of service, alongside the Salesians, Salesian Sisters and other branches of the Salesian Family.

Cardinal Rodriguez, referring to a talk he gave at the World Youth Day gathering in Spain this summer, said Catholics need a spiritual GPS, getting our orientation from the Word of God, the Eucharist and Mary. He said, “The goal of this congress is to arrive at a permanent state of mission, with each Cooperator becoming a missionary disciple of Jesus Christ.” Of young people, he said they need an encounter: “Not with a book or an institution, but with the person of Jesus Christ.” The Cooperator can be the one who makes that encounter happen.

The goal of the congress is to establish a missionary effort that unites all the provinces in North America. This will become the reference by which decisions about evangelization will be made at the local and province level. It is the first step to begin the work of pastoral planning for the future.

Cardinal Rodriguez presided and preached during a Mass for World Mission Sunday at the National Shrine of Mary Help of Christians in Stony Point. During the afternoon, the group took a tour of New York City with stops at the World Trade Center Memorial and St. Patrick’s Cathedral.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Homily for 30th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Homily for the
30th Sunday
in Ordinary Time
Oct. 23, 2011
Matt 22: 34-40
Willow Towers, New Rochelle
St. Vincent’s Hospital, Harrison [with editing]

“The whole law and the prophets depend on these two commandments” (Matt 22: 40).

A scribe, a scholar of the law—of the Torah—asks Jesus which commandment is the greatest. The Pharisees and the scribes of the time had identified 613 distinct commandments in the Torah.

Jesus gives a pretty simple answer, altho it’s in 2 parts: You shall love the Lord your God with your whole being, and you shall love your neighbor in the same way you love yourself.

We might ask how loving our neighbor—our fellow human beings—can be in any way like loving God. The 1st reading (Ex 22:20-26), which is from the Torah, helps us to understand. In this passage, which is not unique in the sacred scriptures, God commands the Israelites to respect the rights of and to care for the least members of their society: aliens, widows, orphans, and the destitute. God identifies their concerns with his own: “If ever you wrong them and they cry out, I will surely hear their cry [and] my wrath will flare up” against you (Ex 22:22-23).

We have some similar passages in the gospels, especially the parable of the Last Judgment, which will be our gospel reading 4 weeks from now on the last Sunday of the church year. In that parable, the just are rewarded with eternal life and the wicked are condemned to hell because whatever they did, or did not, do to the least of the Lord’s brothers he considers as having been done to himself (Matt 25:31-46).

So we can’t truly love the Lord our God with our whole being unless we love God’s living images among us, our brothers and sisters created in God’s image. St. John says as much in his 1st Letter: “If someone who has worldly means sees a brother in need and refuses him compassion, how can the love of God remain in him?” (3:17). “Whoever does not love a brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen” (4:20).

We’ve heard, and probably said, many times, “Charity begins at home.” The 1st neighbors whom we must love in word and deed are the people we live among, the people we see every day; and our family members, whom we may not see every day due our present circumstances but to whom we have special ties unlike any other.

The passage from Exodus gives us an additional direction for our love of neighbor and thus our love of God, viz. our care for and protection of the most vulnerable people around us. In the Old Testament—the Hebrew Scriptures—these are usually listed as “the widow, the orphan, and the alien.” In the reading today there’s an additional clause, invoking the Hebrews’ memory that “you were once aliens yourselves in the land of Egypt” (22:20). When Israel 1st went to Egypt—Jacob and his sons and grandsons, his daughters and granddaughters (Gen 46:7), 70 strong, according to Genesis (46:27)—it was as refugees from famine. The people of Egypt welcomed them, took them in, provided for them, gave them “the best land in Egypt” (45:18).

Caring for and protecting the widow, the orphan, the alien, the destitute—the refugee, the homeless, the unemployed, the hungry, the war-battered, the aged, the immigrant and the migrant, and the unborn, all the most destitute and most vulnerable members of our society thus is a biblical command from God and is a most practical way of demonstrating to ourselves and to the world that our love of God is genuine.

One other aspect of loving God with our whole being, and our neighbor as ourselves: for Catholics, today is Mission Sunday, a day for remembering our mission, from Jesus Christ, to evangelize the whole world.

But mission isn’t only for Catholics. When God called Abraham, he told him that all the nations of the earth would be blessed thru him (Gen 12:1-3). And Abraham’s children have gone into the whole world, have spread everywhere. When they are true to their identity as God’s people, they testify everywhere—by their worship and by their lives—that there is one God, and that one God loves us, and that one God calls us to be faithful to him and to one another.

We Christians have a similar mission, more particularized by our being disciples of Jesus of Nazareth: to proclaim—again, by our worship and by our lives—that God loves us and makes us his own, with an eternal destiny—to live forever with him.

Isn’t it a sign of our love for all men and women, as well as for God, to be faithful to who we are, whether we’re Jews or Christians? And as Jews or as Christians to make God our Father known and loved?

Salesian Cooperators of North America Win an Oscar

Salesian Cooperators of North America
Win an Oscar

Yesterday I took part in the First North American Congress of the Salesian Cooperators, which met from Friday afternoon till this morning, at Don Bosco Retreat Center in Haverstraw, N.Y.

The keynote speaker was one of our own SDB cardinals, Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez, abp. of Tegucigalpa, Honduras. After being introduced, Cardinal Oscar had everyone smiling right away when he, "Jim left out one thing: I am a Salesian! I always say, 'I'm a Salesian by vocation, a bishop by obedience.'"

He went on to speak of the importance of being a disciple of Jesus, having a genuine, personal relationship with Jesus; and of the necessity of reading and reflecting on the Word of God for fostering that relationship.

The sound bite from his talk: "A childish faith cannot support an adult life."

The Cooperators loved his address, which went at least half an hour and was followed by some questions, and then lots of individual and group photos with the cardinal, who was (as always) most pleasant and joyful.
About 130 Cooperators attended the congress, coming from as far away as Vancouver, B.C., and as close as Stony Point and Haverstraw. There were Cooperators and SDBs and FMAs from California, Texas, Illinois, Florida, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Ontario, and Quebec. (I may have missed 1 or 2 locations.)

When we had Mass in the retreat house chapel, it was as crowded as I've ever seen that space; going to communion was a little awkward even. The cardinal presided and preached, with about 7 of us concelebrating.

During Mass Meg Fraino from Orange was inducted as a Cooperator. She's been working in our youth ministry office in South Orange for a couple of years, bringing lots of energy, enthusiasm, and ideas.
Fr. Tom Dunne, SDB provincial, and Jim Dolan, Cooperators' province coordinator, welcome Meg after she's made her promise
In the afternoon a member of the Cooperators' world council, Herman Lopez from Central America, spoke at some length, emphasizing the importance of apostolic activity by the members. As the large group broke up into small groups for discussion, I departed.

I was there mainly to make books on Don Bosco available to the Cooperators--especially Don Bosco's own Memoirs of the Oratory, very highly recommended this year by the Rector Major; and the participants were good customers. I was also taking a lot of photos for news and archival purposes. When I lent my camera to Judy Alvarez during Mass, she got a little carried away after Mass...

Coordinators of the Cooperators' North American provinces pose with Cardinal Oscar and Herman Lopez: Rose D'Addario from Montreal; the cardinal; Liz Gamarra from Rosemead, Calif., north section representative of the InterAmerica Region; Herman; Diane Dela Torre from Bellflower, Calif.; and Jim Dolan from Orange, N.J.

The Bulletin Board

The Bulletin Board

Most of the members of the editorial board of the Salesian Bulletin U.S.A. met in New Rochelle on Thursday, Sept. 20, for almost 4 hours. Here you see, seated, Sr. Juanita Chavez, FMA, from San Antonio; Sr. Denise Sickinger, FMA, from Haledon; Judy Alvarez, from Rosemead, the Western Province's delegate for communications (i.e., supervisor of everything to do with communications, internal and external, in the province); and standing, your humble blogger and Fr. Steve Dumais, from New Rochelle, vice provincial and delegate for communications.

We spent a lot of time refining a mission statement for the SB, which was more or less mandated by the 2009 meeting in Rome of the SB editors from around the world; and quickly approved a list of editorial policies, also called for by the international meeting. On that meeting:

We also reviewed and critiqued the most recent issues and planned lead stories for the next few issues.

The returns of the survey postcard included in the last issue (summer) have been scanty so far, but such as they are, we looked at them. We're also going to run an on-line survey, starting with readers of the province newsletters. Getting feedback from readers also was strongly encouraged at that 2009 meeting.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Homily for 29th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Homily for the
29th Sunday
in Ordinary Time
Oct. 16, 2011
Matt 22: 14-21
Willow Towers, New Rochelle

“Render to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God” (Matt 22: 21).

In the 1st place, Jesus answers the Pharisees’ trap by turning it on them,: the fact that they’re carrying—and therefore using—Roman coins indicates their own acknowledgement of Roman authority in their daily lives.

In the 2d place, Jesus is teaching all of his listeners—in Jerusalem ca. 30 A.D., and all who’ve read his words since then—that we have proper allegiances in 2 worlds: the world of human society and its good order and mutual concerns, like war and peace, a sound economy, safe travel, the protection of lives and property and the environment, collecting the trash, regulating public utilities, etc.; and the world of the spirit, of our eternal destiny, of moral right and wrong, of our imaging the Creator, of our paying reverence to Him who made us and recognizing that He made us to live with him.

That idea of “image” is one of the keys to the passage. “Whose image is this and whose inscription” on the denarius? Jesus asks the Pharisees. It was the image of Tiberius, the Roman emperor—just as today you’ll find on American coinage and currency at least the inscription “United States of America.” We don’t have an emperor or king, so the images vary from national heroes to national monuments to the Great Seal of the U.S. Foreign coinage, currency, and stamps often bears the image of the sovereign, such as Queen Elizabeth. These images are marks of authority, of a national claim of some sort.
Jesus doesn’t say it, but all of us know, and the Pharisees surely knew, that human beings are made in God’s image. We belong to God at the core of our being, and to him we owe a very fundamental allegiance of worship, honor, obedience. Christians, furthermore, receive a kind of mark, a kind of seal when we’re baptized and confirmed; it’s an image of Christ, marking us as his. When we’re baptized we’re made Christian, one who belongs to Christ.

Therefore Jesus is teaching us that while the material things we use—which money may represent—belong to this world and to the powers of this world, our very selves belong to God. We give to the government, whether we call that “Caesar” or “Uncle Sam,” what it needs to carry out its legitimate purposes, such as those I mentioned earlier. But the government can never claim us, our very selves, our consciences, our relationship with God.

With their rich knowledge of history—both European in general and British in particular, as well as of their own colonial history—our Founding Fathers wisely put into our Constitution an implicit endorsement of Christ’s teaching. We call it the First Amendment, which prohibits Congress from setting up an established Church, a Church that has its hand in the government, and prohibits Congress from interfering in the free practice of any religion. The text reads, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” That’s the very 1st clause of the amendment, meaning that our Founding Fathers thought that freedom of religion was more important than freedom of speech, of the press, of peaceful assembly, or of petition, the other fundamental rights listed in the First Amendment.

If you follow the news, of course you know that the New York Times, the ACLU, Planned Parenthood, and the entire liberal establishment shake in their boots at the very thought that some Christian fundamentalist is going to seize the government and start throwing atheists, Jews, Moslems, Buddhists, and who knows who else into jail or burning them at the stake or something. (We’re all old enuf to remember when the establishment was firmly Protestant and was deathly afraid of Catholics coming to power and imposing a kind of papal rule over the country.)

Of late, however, we have a more serious concern than Evangelical Christians taking over the government. That concern isn’t getting a lot of attention in the secular media, but it’s getting plenty in religious media. It’s about the government taking over religion, dictating to what extent believers may follow their consciences, to what extent they may be involved in debate about public policy, to what extent they may make and observe their own rules for governing the church. It’s such a serious concern that our bishops have just set up a special committee on religious liberty to speak up on public policy and coordinate the Church’s response on liberty issues. The bishops are distressed, and all of us should be, over government policies, at both federal and state level, that promote contraception, abortion, and same-sex marriage.
The Tribute Money, by John Singleton Copley (1782)

Examples: Catholic agencies are being forced in some places, Illinois and Massachusetts for example, to end their adoption services because they won’t place children with cohabiting couples (either opposite sex or same sex). More and more, religious opposition to homosexual behavior is being branded as discrimination and is coming under legal pressure. (In some countries, tho not yet in ours, religious publications and preachers have been taken to court and fined for writing or preaching that homosexual behavior is sinful.) Fertility doctors in California have been sued, and lost in court, for refusing to inseminate a homosexual couple. Town clerks here in New York are being sued for refusing to sign marriage licenses for homosexuals, even tho there are other officials who will sign them.[1] A catering hall in Vermont is being sued for refusing to host a “wedding reception” for a lesbian couple. The University of California de-recognized a Christian club, among the hundreds of campus clubs, that requires its officers and voting members to adhere to Christian beliefs and lifestyle—that discriminates against atheists, thieves, and homosexuals, you see; the University won when challenged all up to the Supreme Court.[2] There’s fear that public school teachers will be compelled, even against their personal convictions, to teach that homosexuality is acceptable, normal behavior, and homosexual marriage is a justice issue;[3] and fear that public school parents won’t be allowed to take their children out of classes that teach that. You can imagine the position that military chaplains are in now that “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” has been repealed and the official policy of the U.S. Government and the Department of Defense on homosexuality has been turned around.

In several states and local jurisdictions, Catholic employers, including the Church itself, are required to include contraception in their private health plans. Regulations issued by the Dept. of Health and Human Services, implementing the new federal health care law, require insurers, and private employers who provide insurance, to cover contraception, chemical abortions, and sterilizations; there’s no exemption for religious institutions like Catholic hospitals, schools, or social agencies. HHS is also trying to require the bishops’ Migration and Refugee Services, which assists immigrants and refugees here and around the world, to provide their clients with “the full range of reproductive services,”[4] which means not only contraception but also abortion. The House has just passed a bill to make sure that no federal funds will be used for abortions, which the new health care law does not make explicit, and to secure the rights of conscience for doctors, nurses, hospitals, insurers, and others in regard to abortion—and the Obama Administration is very upset about that bill, upset enuf to threaten to veto it if it should manage to pass in the Senate (which is considered unlikely, given who controls the Senate).[5]

A case argued before the Supreme Court last week[6] involves whether a church—the Lutherans, in this case—or the U.S. government defines who is a bona fide minister of the church and to what extent that person is bound by the church’s own rules.

Back in the 4th century, the Roman emperor Theodosius tried once to enter the sanctuary of the cathedral in Milan during Mass. St. Ambrose told him bluntly, “The emperor is in the Church, not over the Church,” and he had no business in the sanctuary. That was a variation of rendering to Caesar what’s his, and to God what’s his. In 1953, when the Communist regime in Poland passed a law that would allow it, and not the Church, to appoint bishops and pastors, Cardinal Wyszynski acknowledged that Caesar has certain rights, but “sitting himself on the altar” is not one of those rights. Over the next 2 years, 8 bishops and 2,000 priests were imprisoned by the regime for defending the rights of God against Caesar.[7] As our Founding Fathers knew very well, such interference in the affairs of the Church and in the consciences of men has been a hallmark of many tyrants—from the days of the Roman emperors to Henry VIII (who had himself declared Head of the Church of England, if you remember) to the Jacobins during the French Revolution to present-day Red China. We followers of Jesus in 21st-century America must make sure that our own government doesn’t go down the road of ending our liberty to practice our faith in public, of erasing the image of God in our souls.
[1] Thomas Kaplan, “Rights Collide as Town Clerk Sidesteps Role in Gay Marriages,” NYT, Sept. 28, 2011, p. A1.
[2] Christian Legal Society v. Martinez, No. 08-1371.
[3] Dennis Sadowski, “Advance of same-sex marriage deepens concern for religious liberty,” CNS, Oct. 13, 2011.
[4] Bp. Kevin Rhoades, homily at Red Mass, Univ. of Notre Dame, Oct. 10, 2011.
[5] Paige Winfield Cunningham, “House GOP revives abortion issue, irks Obama,” Washington Times on-line, Oct. 12, 2011.
[6] Hosanna-Tabor Evangelical Lutheran Church and School v. EEOC.

[7] Bp. Thomas Paprocki, dinner address after Red Mass, Houston, Sept. 29, 2011.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Tramping Up to the Timp

Tramping Up to the Timp

Last weekend, Oct. 8-9, I had a Saturday evening Mass and no Sunday assignment. The weather was warm and sunny; great hiking weather. So I packed up my old kit this case, my day pack with sandwiches and granola bars, compass, map, first aid kit, t.p., a long-sleeved shirt in case of strong sun, sunscreen, water, and sundry little things in case of need (small flashlight, matches, a little rope, etc.)

For all the hiking I've done in Harriman and Bear Mt. state parks, there's still a lot of territory I haven't hit. One spot was the Timp, a high granite cliff with grand views to north, west, and south.

There are multiple approaches to the Timp. I considered distance of my hike as well as novelty and decided to ascend from Rte 9W via the 1777 Trail and the Timp-Torne Trail.

You're barely off the road when you meets a historical marker on the trail--quite unusual in Harriman and Bear Mt. We're informed that the 1777 Trail mostly follows the route of Sir Henry Clinton's British Army in its attack on Forts Clinton (there's an irony) and Montgomery, which flank Popolopen Creek and, now, the western end of the Bear Mt. Bridge. In 1777 they guarded the western end of the chain across the Hudson, which blocked British vessels from sailing further upriver, where they could disrupt Continental communications between New England and the Middle States. (Sir Henry's attack was successful, and the Americans had to install another barrier further upriver, and more heavily fortify West Point.)

A short distance further up the trail, and you come to a fine little bridge, solidly built on stones lining a little creek. I'm sure it's not so little in the spring or after a heavy rain.

This bridge has been an Eagle Scout project twice, once in 1987, and as a later restoration. There's enuf water running over different parts of the trail that I wished there'd been more in the way of walkways. It was quite a feat in some places to stay out of deep and widespread muck. Must be really bad after rain.

The trail climbs pretty steadily, and not very steeply. At one point I startled a large flock of wild turkeys. Unfortunately, I didn't have my camera out, and by the time I got it out, they were gone.

After about an hour, and a distance of 1.35 miles, I reached the Timp-Torne crossing. It's a pleasant spot, and on this day it was heavily trafficked. I stopped for the 1st part of my lunch, and 2 trios came thru in that time, and I saw another trio further up the 1777, apparently crossing on the Ramapo-Dunderberg Trail. On my return loop, I met more people here or not far from the intersection.

Heading east on the Timp-Torne, the trail was still well shaded. That was good, since it was supposed to be getting to around 80 degrees. I met another lone hiker, and after a little exchange we traveled separately toward the Timp, pausing when we reached the 1st scenic overlooks.

Besides a vast wooded expanse south into Stony Point and beyond, there's this view of the Hudson down to Haverstraw Bay and further.

A half hour or so, and you reach the Timp. There were a couple of nice camping sites just back from the cliff. Near the cliff a large party of Korean hikers was having their lunch in the shade. On the cliff--tremendous views, again down the river, all the way to Manhattan. It was a little hazy, but the skyline was visible. To the west, West Mt. and its fine shelter, and to the north, Bear Mt. and the Perkins Memorial Tower.
In the valley below, a dozen hawks were circling and soaring about. I tried to photograph some without notable success. A couple came up and offered to take my photo, which they did, using West Mt. as a backdrop. And I returned the favor for them.

Here's the female half of the couple on the edge of the cliff, trying to get pictures of the hawks. West Mt. is beyond her, and I'm sure that if you click on the picture and enlarge it, you'll see the shelter clearly. No hawks here, tho.
I continued along the Timp-Torne Trail, which descended immediately. And then, just back of the Timp, this panorama opened up (actually, there was quite a bit more--all the way from the Perkins Tower to Anthony's Nose. But here you see the Bear Mt. Bridge and the Nose.
The trail got very steep and had several turns. I was glad that I wasn't climbing up. I was also worried that I'd miss my intended turn-off and kept checking the map as well as watching carefully to the right for a cairn or other indication of the Timp Pass Road.

The trail finally bottomed out in a watery vale with a lot of sunlight flecking into it. On the opposite side, it evidently began to climb up West Mt. But very easy to see on the right was the road. I'd come 1.2 miles on the T-T.

William Myles writes in Harriman Trails, "The Timp Pass Road really is an ankle breaker!" I could see why. I also saw why it's in the section of the trail guide called "The Stone Roads." It was indeed constructed of stones, big and small and all requiring very careful stepping.

The atmosphere, tho, was delightful. The brook bubbled and gurgled alongside the road most of the way down the pass; sunlight filtered thru the treetops (some of which were beginning to show yellow and orange). I stopped for the rest of my lunch.

Here's a view up the road from near where I ate.

I descended on the road for about .7 mile till it ended at the 1777 Trail (where I saw another couple of hikers before I reached it). The trail climbed steadily, regaining in .65 mile a great deal of the descent I'd just made from the T-T. Parts of the woods were very pretty, like this one, where autumn was beginning to strike.

Just before the great intersection with the T-T where I'd eaten my lunch several hours earlier, I encountered the Koreans who'd been on the Timp. We greeted each other of course. At the intersection, 2 more hikers in view before I got there.

From the intersection, it was all downhill (and a party of 4 ascending, rather late in the day, as it was approaching 3:00 p.m. by then), again carefully navigating the swampy parts of the trail. Back to the car on 9W at 3:30, after 6 hours on the trail, covering about 5.5 miles and really enjoying Mother Nature (and grateful to Him who made her).

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Homily for 28th Sunday of Ordinary Time

Homily for the
28th Sunday of Ordinary Time

Oct. 9, 2011
Matt 22: 1-14
Willow Towers, N.R.

“The kingdom of heaven may be likened to a king who gave a wedding feast for his son” (Matt 22: 1).

After 3 consecutive Sundays on which we heard parables involving vineyards, this week Jesus tells us a parable about a wedding feast. The image of a feast is a common one in the Bible to symbolize peace, security, and joy, and sometimes eternal life in God’s kingdom. We can think not only of our 1st reading today: “On this mountain [i.e., Mt. Zion, Jerusalem] the Lord of hosts will provide for all peoples a feast of rich food and choice wines, juicy, rich food and pure, choice wines,” and “On this mountain he will destroy…death forever” (Is 25:6-8). We can think of that most beloved psalm, Psalm 23: “You spread the table before me…; my cup overflows. And I shall dwell in the house of the Lord for years to come” (vv. 5-6).

The wedding image speaks of God’s union with his people. In the OT the Song of Songs is an extended parable of a kind celebrating God’s love for Israel, comparing it to the love of bride and groom. St. Paul tells us that the Church is the spotless bride of Christ. The final chapters of the book of Revelation continue that image: “The wedding day of the Lamb has come, his bride has made herself ready. She was allowed to wear a bright, clean linen garment” (19:7-8)—to which an explanation is immediately added: “The linen represents the righteous deeds of the holy ones” (v. 8), and then “Blessed are those who have been called to the wedding feast of the Lamb” (v. 9), a blessing that we repeat at every Mass, omitting however the word wedding, when we acclaim: “This is the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. Happy are those who are called to his supper.”

The Lamb of Revelation (National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception)
So when Jesus speaks of a wedding banquet, he is indeed speaking of the kingdom of heaven. This parable tells us of a great banquet for the wedding of the king’s son, which suggests to us the marriage of God’s Son with his people. In ancient times such a great feast in the king’s house would also be an occasion for the king’s subjects to reaffirm their loyalty to the king and to his heir.
So the king has issued many invitations to his subjects to come and celebrate a great occasion for the royal family, and to confirm their loyalty to the royal house. Their attendance would be what today we’d call a command performance, and the king’s guest-subjects would need only to show up at the appointed day and hour.Shocking it is, then, that they refuse to come—some just finding it more convenient to go about their business, and others engaging in open rebellion against the king and his heir. Like our parable last week, of the wicked and rebellious tenant farmers in the vineyard, St. Matthew uses this parable to remind late 1st-century Christians of what happened to the Jews, God’s chosen people, when they rebelled against God by rejecting his Son and rising up in revolt against Rome: “The king was enraged and sent his troops, destroyed those murderers, and burned their city” (Matt 22:7).
The Marriage Feast, by Pieter Aertson
If the primary invitees of the king’s feast “were not worthy to come” (22:8), having used various excuses to refuse the invitation into the kingdom, the king will still have his feast, will still have his banquet “hall filled with guests” (22:10). The king’s servants go out into all the main roads to find people of every sort to invite to the feast. The apostles of Jesus go all over the Roman Empire and even beyond it—to Persia, to Ethiopia, to India, and of course eventually everywhere—to invite every nation on the earth to come to the wedding banquet of the Lamb, to come to the feast of salvation as guests of the King of Heaven. The prophet Isaiah foretold that “the Lord of hosts [would] provide for all peoples a feast of rich food and choice wines,” and the Catholic (a word meaning, literally, "universal") Church carries out the mission of Jesus the Son of God to make that possible, preaching the Good News to the ends of the earth (cf. Mark 16:15), making disciples of all nations (Matt 28:19): not only the Jews but also the Irish, Italians, Germans, Chinese, Indians, Filipinos, Mexicans, Ibo, Masai, the hundreds of peoples of every continent.

The parable ends with a powerful caution, however. Like last week’s parable, it’s a parable of judgment. “When the king came in to meet the guests, he saw a man there not dressed in a wedding garment” (22:11). It seems that at a royal wedding the royal household would provide suitable attire for all the guests. To refuse to put on that attire when it was offered—what excuse could you have? And the man in the parable has nothing to say.

What would a member of the Church of Christ have to say when he came before the King of Heaven without a wedding garment? When we’re baptized, we’re given a white garment and told to bring our Christian dignity “unstained into the everlasting life of heaven” (Rite of Baptism). In other words, we have to live as Christians, not just show up in church from time to time. It’s not even enuf to receive Communion every week—showing up for the banquet, as it were; but we must practice the virtues proper to a disciple of Jesus Christ. As the book of Revelation says, the bride of the Lamb “was allowed to wear a bright, clean linen garment,” which “represents the righteous deeds of the holy ones.” The one wedding guest has arrived at Judgment Day empty-handed, with nothing to show that he really belonged to Jesus.

The fate of those we might call “fake Christians” isn’t much different from the fate of open rebels whose city was "burned" and who were themselves "destroyed": they’re “cast into the darkness outside” to wail and shriek. The parable of Jesus, then, is one of God’s vast mercy, extending the invitation into the kingdom to anyone and everyone; it’s also a warning, after we’ve accepted the invitation, to practice faithfully what Jesus teaches us.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Homily for 27th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Homily for the
27th Sunday
in Ordinary Time
Oct. 2, 2011
Matt 21: 33-43
Wood Badge Scouters, Camp Alpine, N.J.
Ursulines, Willow Dr., N.R.*

“When vintage time drew near, the landowner sent his servants to the tenants to obtain his produce” (Matt 21: 34).

A vineyard in Tuscany, shot by my sister a couple of years ago

People in many parts of the world can identify with Jesus’ use of parables about vineyards—possibly some of your own parents or grandparents from Italy, Spain, Germany, or France. In many parts of the world, too, people would identify with the situation of great landowners, oftentimes living elsewhere, and with tenant farmers and sharecroppers. All that was commonplace also in 1st-century Palestine, just like sheep and shepherds, fishing, weddings (next Sunday’s parable will involve one), and the dangers of certain roads. So for 3 weeks running we’ve heard Jesus telling stories, stories with a message, in which vineyards and landowners have figured, along with day laborers, sons, and tenant farmers.

As the 1st reading and the psalm response to it demonstrated, the image of the vineyard carried a specific meaning to the Jews. “The vineyard of the Lord of hosts is the house of Israel, and the people of Judah are his cherished plant” (Is 5:7). “A vine from Egypt you transplanted…. Once again, O Lord of hosts, take care of this vine, and protect what your right hand has planted” (Ps 80:9,15-16). The people at large, the disciples, and certainly “the chief priests and the elders of the people” to whom Jesus specifically addresses this parable (Matt 21:33) would’ve made the connection. In fact, 2 verses following today’s reading, Matthew says as much: “When the chief priests and the Pharisees heard his parable, they knew that he was speaking about them” (21:45).

The parable is presented as an allegory. God, not physically present to Israel, his vineyard, has entrusted its care to kings and to priests. When they should be presenting him with the fruits of his vineyard—pure worship and upright living—they have often not done so. So the Lord has sent his servants, the prophets, to remind them of their obligations. The prophets usually received rough treatment, and any reform in Israel was all too brief. Finally, God has “sent his son to them, thinking, ‘They will respect my son’” (21:37).

For the people for whom Matthew wrote his gospel, ca. 80 A.D. (it doesn’t have a copyright date), the reference to God’s Son would have been obvious: the leaders of the Jewish people conspired against him, “threw him out of the vineyard” (21:39)—outside the city of Jerusalem, where they crucified him—and completed their rebellion against God’s plans and God’s rule by trying to establish their own earthly kingdom, revolting against the Romans in 66 A.D. And “those wretched men [were] put to a wretched death” (21:41); Jerusalem was totally destroyed, amid horrid bloodshed, by the army of the Emperor Titus in 70 A.D.—a Roman conquest described in terrible detail by Josephus, an eyewitness, in The Jewish War, and which you can still see today graphically represented on the Arch of Titus in the Roman Forum. And God “took away the kingdom from them and gave it to a people that will produce its fruit” (cf. 21:43), the new people of God, the Christian people.

If last week’s parable of the 2 sons who were asked to go and work in the vineyard was a parable calling for all who listen to Jesus to make a decision whether to obey his teachings, to heed the plan of God for their lives, today’s parable is that and more: it’s also a parable of judgment, laying out the consequences of rejecting the plan of God, rejecting the one whom God has made the cornerstone of history. Thus the parable is addressed not only to the chief priests and elders of the people but to you and me.

For if the new people of God is the Church, then we’re now in the place of the tenant farmers. We’re working God’s vineyard, and he expects us to produce some good grapes, some good wine, for him. We’re answerable to God—not to ourselves, not to our employer, not to the government. Our lives aren’t our own, our bodies aren’t our own, the goods that we enjoy, our jobs, and our leisure aren’t our own. They’re all part of the vineyard that we’re caring for, stewards on God’s behalf, just like the 1st man God created, as we read in Genesis: “The Lord God then took the man and settled him in the garden of Eden, to cultivate it and care for it” (2:15).

What’s the fruit that God expects us to produce for him? Obviously it’s not grapes or wine. We could propose many answers. The prayer we’ll offer shortly, the prayer over the gifts, speaks of “our obedient service.” That refers, in the 1st place, to the service of our liturgy, our offering the Eucharist in memory of Jesus. But, like the 2 sons in last week’s parable, our public word must be backed up by our action. “Our obedient service” has to go beyond worship into life. God also expects of us obedience to his law, submission to his will as we see it unfold in our lives. When the commandments are hard to obey, when the Church’s moral teachings are hard to obey—whether that be in our private lives or in the public arena—God is calling on us “to obtain his produce.” When life becomes difficult because of illness, the failure to get the raise we wanted, someone’s gravely disappointing us, some plan of ours getting completely whacked, or the death of someone dear to us—you can think of many scenarios about life’s disappointments—God is coming “to obtain his produce” by our accepting with good grace what we can’t control or change.

We can also look for an answer to what God expects of us in the Pauline reading. Paul urges the Philippian Christians to think about “whatever is true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, gracious, excellent, praiseworthy” (4:8). Of course Paul means more than just thinking about it: “Keep on doing what you have learned and received and heard and seen” (4:9). Be truthful, honorable, just, pure, gracious. Strive for excellence. Earn praise—not that you desire praise from human beings, but praise from the One who really matters, the One who knows your heart, the One to whom we’ll all bring our produce at the end of our lives, hoping to hear him say, “Well done, good and faithful servant!” (Matt 25:21).
* With some variations in the text more appropriate for them.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Hiking Vacation

Hiking Vacation

In the New Rochelle Province we're all granted 2 weeks' vacation each year. By September of this year I'd used only 3 days, back in July. So I asked for some time to go hiking and camping in Harriman State Park, Sept. 27-29. I was gone exactly 48 hours, so I guess that's another 2 days.

Originally some of our guys in formation were supposed to meet up with me on the 28th; but the weather forecast caused them to alter their intentions. And I was solo for the entire 10.3 miles of hiking, except for seeing 3 guys in the parking lot on U.S. 6 on the 28th and meeting 2 guys and 2 dogs on the AT later that day, and meeting a large party of day hikers on the Long Path on the 1st day.

I had to plan a loop hike since I was solo. I parked at Silvermine Lake and went north on the Menomine Trail, which climbs steadily for 1.5 miles and had me huffing and puffing a little bit. I didn't actually weigh my pack, but it usually comes in around 35 pounds--food, water, sleeping bag and pad, hatchet, saw, first aid kit, a few toiletries, change of socks and undies, poncho, cool weather clothes, slippers, minimal Mass kit, photocopied breviary, reading material, flashlights and extra batteries (which proved to be needed), camera (or you wouldn't be seeing pictures below--doh!), cell phone, various little "in case" materials like spare boot laces, nail clippers, sponge, rope, twine, duck tape, sunscreen, insect repellent....

The Menomine ends at the Long Path. At the intersection I could hear people to the north, and I worried a little that someone might have beaten me to the Stockbridge Shelter, which was just a steep .1 mile climb away. As I started up the Path, I met a large party of Koreans coming down the trail. We greeted each other. And I huffed and puffed my way on up to the shelter.
The shelter is a fine one with a sturdy, fairly new roof and twin fireplaces. Someone has left a broom there, and the wooden floor was clean. There wasn't any litter inside, altho there was a little scattered here and there in the vicinity, some of which I picked up to pack out. Someone had also left 5 cans of food and soup, which I didn't use, and a half gallon of Poland Spring water, which I did use. I got there exactly an hour after leaving the parking lot, which is what I'd figured on. And I had a lot of afternoon left to relax. 1st, of course, I set up my little camp.

Then I hunted up some firewood in case I wanted to make a fire. Besides various small bits that would serve as tinder and a few slightly larger items, there was a very large piece of oak that had fallen from a tree a month or so ago. I cut a lot of pieces from that. The day was warm and heavy with humidity, a good breeze (maybe 20 mph) notwithstanding; so I never did make a fire. Instead, I left a nice stash of wood for someone else.

Besides that work, I also did some reading and prayed the breviary. I'd brought some crossword puzzles with me but, carelessly, only 1 pencil, the point of which broke when I started to answer the 1st clue. Bummer!
The area around Stockbridge Shelter is pretty. Above is the Long Path leading northeast from the shelter. There's a lot of good camping area back there too. As with almost all the shelters in Harriman, tho, there's no water nearby. You have to haul what you need in with you. You can't count on finding it left for you in the shelter (and half a gallon would hardly be enuf anyway)--or on finding a case of beer stashed nearby, as my hiking bud Fr. Jim did on one occasion here at Stockbridge.

There wasn't much sun; the photo below shows about as much of a neat sunset as I got, around 5:30 p.m. I boiled my water and made pasta primavera, followed by dark chocolate cheesecake (cold water for that). Tasty and filling, and plenty of carbs.

Indeed, once the sun did set, it got pitch black. Not a star to be seen. So after reading by the light of my little lantern--I got thru a whole issue of America--and saying the Rosary, I turned in a little after 8:00 p.m.

I tossed and turned most of the nite, as I usually do when trying to sleep on a wooden floor with only a thin foam pad beneath me and my sleeping bag. I was quite awake when it started to rain at 1:05 a.m. And it rained for most of the rest of the nite.

I got up around 7:00. The rain had pretty much stopped, tho the wind was still blowing water out of the treetops. Lots of fog outside. Not especially chilly. I said Mass, ate breakfast (almonds and a granola bar, and of course coffee). Then Morning Prayer and packing up--and throwing on my poncho. At 8:45 I hit the trail.

Remember that pretty view of the Long Path above? A little less pretty in the fog (not the same scene here).

The Long Path runs pleasantly along the ridge of Stockbridge Mt., with a steep descent to the Cave Shelter (I noted that both little parts of that were dry, even after all the rain of the nite).

The Path descends gradually until it crosses Rte. 6. Given the general wetness of everything and the likelihood of more rain, I thought seriously about shortening my planned route and going directly down 6 to the Anthony Wayne Trail. One look at the narrowness of the shoulder, and the distance involved, however, induced me to stick with my original plan. So I entered the parking lot (met the 3 aforementioned guys, greeted the only one I saw close enuf), and headed north into the woods.

When I got to the trailhead of the Popolopen Gorge Trail, I started down that, literally down, toward Turkey Hill Lake. I debated whether a dip in the lake would be refreshing, or would risk slowing me up too much--still worried about rain before I'd get to the Brien Shelter. But that was a decision I didn't have to make after all. I got careless and missed a turn in the trail. I was well down an unmarked woods trail before I realized it. Since I was going in the right general direction and the trail was clear, I kept going--until it suddenly just ended in a big patch of briers on the edge of a bog. Oops! I checked the map. It wasn't supposed to end like that but go right on to the Anthony Wayne. Well, it was either go all the back to the PGT, or bushwack up to Rte 6. I bushwacked, crossing without incident what I think was Queensboro Brook, and got to 6 with maybe a quarter mile of highway to walk along till I reached AWT.

The Anthony Wayne Trail between Rte. 6 and Seven Lakes Drive isn't really a very nice trail. It's narrow and muddy and runs thru a lot of thorny plants. There are traces of poison ivy. At one point the trail was blocked by woodfall, and someone made a sort-of trail around that, which went thru briers that kept snagging on my poncho. But finally, there was the old comfort station and 7 Lakes Drive. Rest stop, remove poncho, eat granola bar. 11:00 a.m. Try to make phone call to let folks back home know I'm OK and how I'm doing--but it's a dead zone.

The AWT goes thru a constuction site, which was active at the time, alongside Queensboro Brook. More people. I waved to them and headed into the woods. Shortly, the AWT hits the 1779 Trail, and I headed south on that. It's level and open--very nice hiking. There's some litter along the way, big stuff (5-gallon plastic bucket, folding chair).

At noon I stopped for lunch when I found a fairly level rock in the middle of the trail on which I could set up my stove. While water was boiling, I called home; got thru, reported my progress cheerfully. Then I ate ramen noodles with tuna and another granola bar and a little bottle of Gatorade. Rested a bit to help digestion. All told, a 45-minute stop.

The Harriman Trail Guide said there were 2 cairns marking the boundary between Orange and Rockland counties. If so, I missed them. The only cairn I saw on the 1779 was at the intersection with the Appalachian and Ramapo-Dunderberg Trails, which run together coming away from West Mt. and heading over Black Mt. to Letterock Mt.

I headed west on the joint AT-RDT, which very soon began to climb, climb, steeply climb up Black Mt.

A little more huffing and puffing. And of course, careful stepping since I was out there all by myself and any accident could have very serious consequences.

Eventually, I reach the top of the mountain, which afford spectacular views to the south and east, as the guidebook says. Here's the view toward the Hudson River and Haverstraw Bay--which I suppose must be much better on a clear day, which this certainly wasn't.

The trail ran along the top of the mountain with various ups and downs for quite some distance. One of the downs is so steep, the footing so unsure, that I was afraid to try it with my pack on, facing either the rocks or the open air. So I did something I'd never done before--lowered the pack by rope, then half climbed, half slid down. It was only 10 or 12 feet.

On the other side of the mountain, another great view, this time of Silvermine Lake, my starting point and my destination.
Then a steep descent that ended at a little brook where I pumped some water in case the spring at the shelter should be dry, and the Silvermine Ski Road. And--oh, no!--another ascent, up Letterock Mt. Up there I met a guy doing a day hike with his 2 dogs, which he held up till I got there. They were big and friendly, and he didn't want them to jump on top of me in their exuberance--which they nearly did anyway. I asked him to take my picture, and he managed also to get one of the dogs in the background. Behind the dog (Charlie) you also see the white rectangular blaze of the AT and the smaller white square, with a red dot in it, of the RDT.

A 2d hiker, a thru hiker of some kind, was about a quarter mile behind this trio. We talked briefly--about my missing poncho, which, it turned out, had fallen off my pack a short distance from where something led me to sense it was missing, which this guy confirmed. While I took off my back and left it on the trail, he bounded on ahead, and in about 2 minutes had found the poncho, which he threw to me as I came up.

Poncho resecured, on I went. The trail descended steeply, finally, to the William Brien Memorial Shelter, which I reached around 3:30. It wasn't occupied. It was also filthy--dirt all over the floor, and litter scattered both inside and out. The back of the shelter--which is native rock--was damp from water leakage (same as last time I camped there, but Fr. Jim and I didn't find that out until it rained during the nite and our packs got a little wet).

The Brien Shelter is unique in Harriman in having a pair of bunk beds. I took one and unpacked. Then I went to the spring for water, happy to discover that there was plenty of it. I'd have more than enuf for supper and breakfast.

I was also quite soggy, between sweat and the moisture of the trail. I gathered some firewood, which also was moist, mostly. Someone had made an "illegal" firepit inside the shelter, and I used it for a small, somewhat smoky affair, to dry some of my wet clothes--not completely, but at least a little bit. Then I let the fire die.

I found a pen in the shelter and was able to do a crossword puzzle. I prayed, then boiled water for supper--chicken a la king this time, and the rest of the dark chocolate cheesecake, with some Crystal Lite and, later, herbal tea.

And it began to rain, lightly and sporadically. It was pitch black by 7:30. So after the Rosary, to bed. The rain got intense, and all nite it rained off and on, sometimes very heavily. Around 5:00 a.m. a thunderstorm rolled thru, including one huge crack that sounded like it was right over my head. I wondered whether some tree might come crashing down on top of the shelter.

Well, the shelter and I survived. When it was light enuf to see, I learned that most of the floor was wet; there was a leak in the center of the roof, pretty much over where I'd hung my poncho to dry. Oh well. At least the bunk beds, where all the rest of my gear was, were dry.

I got up in the dim light of 6:45 a.m., said Mass by lantern light, and cooked my oatmeal and made my coffee; then a granola bar. I couldn't do Morning Prayer; I'd forgotten to photocopy the psalms. (A breviary was waiting in the car, so I would get to it.)

The rain had finally stopped. At 8:45 (again, by coincidence with yesterday's start), I started down the Menomine Trail toward Silvermine Lake. The trail had eroded a lot from all the recent rain. I had to pick my way rather carefully, lest I turn an ankle or just slip.

But it got worse. Before long it wasn't erosion but a good stream of water running in the trail that made footing an issue--trying to find reasonably dry places to walk along the edge of the trail. A strange roaring noise came to my ears. Seven Lakes Drive already? I didn't think so. I could hear something from the water rushing down the trail, but that couldn't be everything I was hearing.

And I turned a bend to find Bockey Swamp Brook roaring across the trail and, just to the right of the trail, cascading down, down over rocks on a long descent to the lake.

I looked at the trail. No stepping stones, an uneven, rocky bottom under at least a foot of swift water. I looked upstream--just deep stream with nowhere to cross in sight, and no trail going upstream anyway. I looked downstream--lots of white water and rocks and certainly no sure footing anywhere.

Take off pack, camera, cell phone. Put 2 objects into pack. Sit down, take off boots, 3 pairs of socks (wickers and 2 woolens, keeping my feet pretty dry these 2 days), and unzip lower leggings of pants. Stuff socks into boots, pants into pack. Tie boots together. Put on pack. Drape boots over neck. Grab trekking pole securely and wade very carefully into brook, feeling, feeling, feeling for footing that's both secure and not painful. The water doesn't reach my knees and isn't cold, fortunately, and the brook's only 10 or 15 feet wide. The current is indeed swift, and I'm sure would be a real struggle were it deep. But I cross slowly and without incident.

Reverse the pack, boots, socks, camera, phone procedure. Leave the pants short. The rest of the trail is mostly water-logged, but there are stepping stones in many places. In other places, one just mucks along the edge as best one can. There's another, much wider stream to cross, but this one is only inches deep. It takes a long time to make my way across, tho, trying to keep from walking in the water and soaking my boots (when I finally got home, I realized how wet they actually were, for all my efforts--but at least I kept the socks and thus my feet fairly dry), and trying to keep my balance from one rock to another, aided most of the way across by a fallen tree that supported my left side while my trekking pole covered my right.

So, instead of the 45 minutes it would've taken in dry weather, I got down the Menomine Trail to the parking lot in over an hour. My car was the only one there for a short while. Then 2 cars pulled in, and 3 guys got out and headed north (not south toward my flood zone), and later another car from which an older couple got out, evidently preparing to go walking.

And after stashing my gear and changing into the dry sneakers I'd left in the car, I prayed Morning Prayer and headed home. Short vacation, a little damp, but relaxing in its way and worth doing. And, perhaps to the surprise of some of my confreres, I came home in one piece!

Kevin and Katelyn Get Married

Kevin & Katelyn Get Married
On Sept. 24 I had the privilege of celebrating a Nuptial Mass for my young friend Kevin Moore--who was my altar boy at Holy Cross Church in Fairfield, Conn., back in the late '80s and early '90s--and his lovely lady Katelyn Hayes from Spring Lake, N.J.

The wedding took place in the museum-like church of St. Catharine in Spring Lake.

The church, built early in the 20th century by a wealthy couple from Philadelphia in memory of their deceased daughter, is designed like an Italian basilica and is really a work of art--as is its setting right on Spring Lake.

Among the art inside is a set of paintings of the sacraments. Since we were doing a wedding, I'll show you the one of marriage:

For additional pix of the interior and exterior of the church, as well as some of the town and of the wedding principals, go to

As for our wedding, the celebrants were...the couple of course, as Catholic theology teaches. The Church's official witness was the groom's father, Deacon Kevin Moore. Deacon Kevin also gave the homily, delightfully recalling some scenes from his son's life and linking them--and the solemnly happy occasion--to the readings that the couple had chosen.

Gentle reader (as Miss Manners would say), in your kindness offer a prayer for Kevin and Katelyn that their marriage may be long and happy!