Sunday, July 28, 2013

Homily for 17th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Homily for the
17th Sunday in Ordinary Time
July 28, 2013
Luke 11: 1-13
Gen 18: 20-32
St. Ursula, Mt. Vernon

“When you pray, say:  Father, hallowed be your name” (Luke 13: 2).

The version of the Lord’s Prayer, the Our Father, that we’re familiar with comes from St. Matthew’s gospel.  Today we heard St. Luke’s slightly shorter version.  Jesus follows his model prayer with several parables, so that we get a comprehensive teaching on prayer.


Jesus teaching his disciples, by Fra Angelico
That teaching is reinforced by the episode we heard from Genesis, which as it happens is the immediate sequel to last Sunday’s reading from Genesis.  (I think it’s the only time in the 3-year cycle of readings that we get sequential 1st readings.)

And what is Jesus’ teaching on prayer?

1st, the Lord desires to hear our prayers and to extend his mercy to us.  See how easily he yields to Abraham’s pleading for Sodom in spite of that city’s notorious wickedness.  The story is a practical variation of Jesus’ parable about persistence in prayer (11:5-8).  Jesus also tells us that our Father in heaven is eager to give us the good things we need (11:13).  The psalm refrain today reminds us that the Lord helps us when we call out to him.

2d, Jesus begins his prayer with submission to God:  may God’s name be revered, held up as holy, and may the Lord reign everywhere over everyone!  This is God’s wish, of course—for our benefit, not for his.  St. Paul points out to the faithful of the town of Colossae that God “brought you to life along with [Jesus], having forgiven us all our transgressions” (2:13).  God wishes us to live!  And our life rests upon him, upon our participation in his kingdom.

Lot Fleeing Sodom, by Benjamin West
The negative side of that we see if we continue reading the Genesis story (19:1-29):  God destroyed Sodom on account of its utter wickedness; not one just or innocent person could be found in it except Abraham’s nephew Lot and his family.  Abraham worked the Lord down to 10 just people, but he couldn’t find even that.  When the Lord’s 2 angels got to the city, the people insulted and tried to abuse them—a sin against traditional Mideastern hospitality (such as Abraham offered to his 3 guests last week, you may remember); the story tells us the people’s utter wickedness was marked by homosexual behavior (19:4-5).  Consequently, the angels were able to save no one but Lot and his family.  Rejection of the sanctity of God’s name and of his rule over us leads to our own destruction.  If we choose the kingdom of darkness and misery rather than the kingdom of light and of love, that’s what we’ll get.

The positive side of Jesus’ teaching comes in the last verse of the gospel:  “How much more will the Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him?” (11:13).  If we seek holiness, if we seek God’s action in our lives, if we submit our own wills to his—then he’ll come to us, he’ll work with us, he’ll bestow his spiritual gifts upon us, and he’ll share his own life with us.

The Collect or opening prayer of today’s Mass also is related to this theme.  We prayed that God grant that “we may use the good things that pass,” that is, all the good and wonderful things of life, “in such a way as to hold fast even now to those that ever endure”; that is, that as we enjoy all God’s blessings, like family, health, wealth, sexuality, power, leisure time, our talents, etc., we may always keep eternity in mind—eternal truths, eternal virtues such as love, fidelity, justice, and purity.  On such virtues God’s kingdom is founded.

3d, Jesus teaches us to ask for what is truly for our benefit.  After the primacy of God in our lives, we pray for the substance we really need, which Jesus refers to as “daily bread.”  That could mean literal bread, the basic necessities of life.  Certainly we ought to pray for those necessities.  It could also mean spiritual bread, such as God’s grace, God’s accompaniment in our day-to-day lives, the spiritual sustenance we need to do what will please God when we do our work, interact with our families, travel, play, rest, and so on.  Then we pray for forgiveness.  Who doesn’t need that?  And we pray to be spared “the final test,” which doesn’t mean school exams (sorry, kids!); rather, it seems to mean severe trials associated with the Lord’s Second Coming; or perhaps just any severe temptation at the moment of death, so that we may go peaceably and happily to the Lord.

4th, Jesus links our prayer for forgiveness to our readiness to forgive others:  “forgive us our sins for we ourselves forgive everyone in debt to us” (11:4).  That’s not a financial statement but a moral one!  Jesus tells a noteworthy parable about a servant who doesn’t forgive a man who owes him a small sum of money after his master forgave him a humongous debt, and the master condemns this unforgiving servant.  If we truly revere the name of God, if we truly seek the coming of God’s kingdom, if we truly model ourselves on Jesus, how can we not forgive even the most horrendous offenses?  It’s a hard thing to do, but Jesus encourages us:  “Ask and you will receive” (11:9).  “Won’t the Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him?”

You can pray to win the Power Ball if you want.  You’ve got better odds of winning forgiveness and the other gifts of the Holy Spirit!  God bless you.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Homily for 16th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Homily for the
16th Sunday in Ordinary Time
July 21, 2013
Col 1: 24-28
Christian Brothers, Iona College, N.R.

“I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake” (Col 1: 24).

Last week we began a series of readings from Paul’s Letter to the Colossians.  As you know, during Ordinary Time our 2d readings follow a pattern of continuity from week to week rather than being linked with the theme of the 1st and 3d readings.  The Old Testament reading is always tied to the gospel reading; today, for instance, there’s a theme of hospitality and a meal.

Colossians can seem a bit abstract; e.g., we hear today of stewardship, mystery, and glory.  Let’s look a little deeper into what Paul says today.

“I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake.”  Paul’s sufferings come mostly from his preaching the Gospel—the travails of 1st-century travel, like heat, cold, and rain, dusty or muddy roads, primitive inns, the danger of robbers or shipwreck, etc.; and outright persecution.  He details some of those sufferings in his 2d Letter to the Corinthians (11:23-29).  But Paul risks all these dangers and troubles for the sake of those who will benefit from having the Good News preached to them.

His sufferings are also for the sake of others inasmuch as his sufferings are joined to those of Christ, as he says further on.

Since his sufferings are advantageous to believers from both of these points of view—preaching the Gospel and identification with Christ—Paul rejoices.  From either point of view, the saving work of Jesus Christ goes forward, which gladdens Paul’s apostolic heart.

“In my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ on behalf of his body, which is the Church” (1:24).  It puzzles us, surely, that anything could be “lacking” in Christ’s afflictions.  But that consideration is linked to our being part of Christ’s body.  Christ suffers in us, as Jesus himself said to Saul his persecutor:  “Saul, why are you persecuting me?” (Acts 9:4).  Each of us who is part of Christ must bear his cross, as Jesus tells us (cf. Luke 9:23); by doing so, we fill out something that would otherwise be missing in the complete mystery of the cross.  Unless we carry Christ’s cross, we have no part in the mystery.

Paul specifies that his sufferings are of advantage to the Church and not only to himself.  Christ, of course, offered himself for the redemption of the whole world.  Those who accept his redemption constitute the Church.  Those who suffer in union with Christ—those who offer their personal sufferings to God in union with Christ—also share in the mystery of redemption on behalf of the Church.  What a privilege we have as Christians, to help—so to speak—Christ redeem the world.  It’s not that he needs our help, of course, but that he chooses us—has elected us, in scriptural language—to come along with him and he shares his mission with us.  When the sisters or our mothers told us years ago, “Offer it up,” they were uttering a deep theological truth.

The execution of Christ’s mission will “bring to completion the word of God” (1:25), which Paul calls “the mystery hidden from ages and from generations past” (1:26).  God’s word is this hidden mystery, this eternal plan of salvation.  The word is fulfilled in the passion, death, and resurrection of Christ, and in our participation in that word.  How it works—well, that’s probably a Western question, not a question that Paul would ask.  Enough that God plans, God acts in Christ, and God invites us to be part of the plan.  Enough that in this final age of the world God has “manifested the mystery to his holy ones [alternate translation: ‘his saints’!], [those] to whom he chose to make known the riches of the glory of this mystery” (1:26-27).

What has God manifested?  The redemption of humanity thru the cross of Christ, and our participation in it.  The cross, “the afflictions of Christ,” is the key to “the riches of the glory of this mystery.”  This mystery, Paul says, “is Christ in you” (1:27).  When we suffer alongside Christ, Christ is at work in us; the plan of God is being revealed and carried out.  This, Paul says, is our “hope for glory” (1:27), i.e. for participation in the resurrection of Christ and a place in the Father’s home with Christ.

Eighth Announcements for 2013-2014

Eighth Announcements
for Pastoral Year 2013-2014

Three days ago Fr. Tom Dunne published another letter to the confreres of the New Rochelle announcing more personnel assignments, 3 of them long awaited.

1st, Fr. John Serio was appointed by the Rector Major to fill a vacancy on the provincial council.  Fr. John is charged with supervision of formation programs in the province ("delegate for formation").  Some months ago Fr. John was named the new director of Salesian HS here in New Rochelle, and a few days ago he assumed that office.

2d, Fr. Pat Angelucci, outgoing director at Salesian, has been named pastor of St.
Anthony of Padua Church in Elizabeth, N.J., and director of the small SDB community there.  Fr. Pat is a veteran director, but this will be his 1st service as a pastor.

3d, That pastoral assignment was opened up by the naming of the present pastor of St. Anthony, Fr. Tom Provenzano, as director and pastor of St. John Bosco Church in Chicago.  Fr. Tom served as assistant pastor in Chicago some years ago.

Both appointments of directors required the approval of the Rector Major, and both will be effective on Aug. 1.

Fr. Jim Heuser was also appointed to a 2d term as director of the SDB community of Ramsey, N.J. (Don Bosco Prep).

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

A Salesian Look at Pope Francis's Encyclical

A Salesian Look
at Pope Francis's Encyclical
Faith is a relational experience

(ANS - Rome) - A few days after the publication of the encyclical Lumen Fidei, Fr. Fabio Attard, the SDB general councilor for youth ministry, offered a brief Salesian reading of Pope Francis’s first major document.

We have heard much about this document; now that we have it to hand, it is important not only to read but to study it. For us Salesians, as educators of the young, the encyclical builds on a key point: faith is a relational experience.

Presenting biblical characters such as Abraham and Moses, John and Paul, the Holy Father shows that this faith relationship is marked by love and loyalty: God is a trustworthy and faithful God. It is a faith in which not only is God the protagonist – the call is his -- but the person of the believer receiving the invitation also becomes a protagonist. In a listening characterized by freedom and enriched by intelligence, the believer comes to see, to the point of allowing his heart to be touched by God. It is a faith that does not degenerate into a burden to be borne, but it becomes a gift for that personal and common good that cannot be upheld merely by vague principles, open to free interpretation. It is a faith, in the end, that opens the horizon of meaning, resulting in the experience of the “I” avoiding individualism and progressing toward the “we” that becomes a community, the Church.

For us Salesians, as pastors and educators, there are many reasons to study the encyclical.

First of all, Lumen Fidei gives us the opportunity to examine the foundation of our faith, from the spiritual point of view as well as from a theological one. It is not a luxury if we devote a little time to renew the emotional understanding of our faith. It does young people a lot of good to see we are able to give an account of our faith.

The encyclical then deals with the theme in a very pedagogical way. It has a style  that brings intelligence into dialog with the longing for the divine. It is a document that provides a methodology of knowledge of the faith that is not afraid to confront the ultimate questions that mark today’s globalized culture. In relation to the various processes of education to the faith, to be found in the various contexts in which Salesians are present, including multi-religious ones, the content is very connected with those dynamics involved in the human search for good. They are the dynamics we as Salesians try to inculcate and cultivate in the hearts of our young people from all continents, races, and religions. We are aware that the thirst for love and the need for loyalty dwell in the hearts of young people, just as much as the joy and happiness that they appreciate.

The third motive, finally, is that this encyclical sketches a path that is very interesting and rich in content for educational proposals for those who want to deepen their faith. We have in mind so many young animators, educators, and teachers who share the Salesian mission with us, parents, and many other people who are looking for a space, a way to deepen their faith.

Out of many profound phrases, I conclude with one in particular that for us teachers and educators gives us the courage to continue on our path: “Christians, in their poverty, plant a seed so rich that it becomes a great tree, capable of filling the world with its fruit” (n. 37).

The full text of the encyclical Lumen Fidei is available at the Vatican website.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Homily for 15th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Homily for the
15th Sunday in Ordinary Time
July 10, 1983
Deut 30: 10-14
Salesian Sisters, No. Haledon, N.J.

This morning I preached (at St. Vincent's Hospital in Harrison, N.Y., without written text--on the parable of the Good Samaritan).  Here's a 30-year-old homily on the 1st reading of the day.

“This commandment which I command you this day is not too hard for you, neither is it far off.  The word is very near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart, so that you can do it” (Deut 30: 11, 14).

This passage from Deuteronomy appears to be a late addition to the book of the Law, perhaps associated with covenant renewal during the Exile.  It stresses God’s closeness to us.

God is close to us in his commandments, that is, the whole law that Moses has laid before the people, the law that he capsulizes as “turning to YHWH your God with all your heart and all your soul” (30:10).

God is close to us, not just to Moses and the Israelites whom he led to the Promised Land.  God comes close to each succeeding generation of his people: “This commandment which I command you this day” applies to any covenant renewal during the Babylonian Exile, the restoration to Judea, the time of Christ, or the present.  God is always the present.  God’s command is always close to us, in our mouths and in our hearts.

“This commandment…is not too hard for you.  The word is very near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart, so that you can do it.”  God’s law is a natural part of us.  We feel it deep within us.  Revelation only enhances it, highlights it.

I don’t suppose any of you have seen the Star Wars trilogy, the 3d part of which is the current smash, Return of the Jedi.  All 3 films are good, old-fashioned flicks in which plainly identifiable good guys and a pretty princess contend against plainly identifiable villains in the name of freedom.  But in the latest film, the struggle, the confrontation, goes beyond laser beams and high speed battles, into the deepest parts of the handsome hero and the arch villain—not only in the words of their mouths as they try to convert each other, one to the goodness of the Force, the other to the Dark Side, but in their hearts and minds.  The tension heightens when Darth Vader brings Luke before the evil emperor.  We become thoroughly involved in Luke’s struggle to resist the power of the Dark Side within himself, to remain true to his ideals.

The struggle, the confrontation, between good and evil takes place within Luke Skywalker, Darth Vader, and Everyman.  God’s word is in our mouths and in our hearts so that we can do it; it’s not too hard for us.  It’s not something externally imposed but something deep inside us.  We know it instinctively.  As Christians, we have the Force of the Holy Spirit, who dwells within us and makes us closer to God.

God is close to us, even in the temptations that form part of the pattern of our lives.  The temptations usually come from our Dark Side, from within our weak, hurt, or corrupt hearts—“What comes out of a man is what defiles a man.  For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, fornication, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, licentiousness, envy, slander, pride, foolishness” (Mark 7:21-22).

Yet we are created in God’s image.  His goodness is likewise rooted in our hearts.  Tertullian has said that the soul is naturally Christian.  We all have an instinct for goodness, beauty, and truth.  No matter how intense our personal struggles, then, the commandment which YHWH commands this day is not hard for us, neither is it far off.  We were formed in his love.  We are saved by his grace.  Like Jesus, while we are on our way up to the Holy City, we must engage the enemy in combat.  But the Father is with us, deep within us by his Holy Spirit.  His word is very near us, nearer than we are to ourselves, so that we can love him with all our hearts and all our souls.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Homily for 14th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Homily for the
14th Sunday in Ordinary Time
July 7, 2013
Is 66: 10-14
St. Ursula, Mt. Vernon, N.Y.

“Thus says the Lord:  Rejoice with Jerusalem and be glad because of her, all you who love her.  Lo, I will spread prosperity over Jerusalem like a river” (Is 66: 10, 12f).

The last part of the book of the prophet Isaiah is linked with the return of the Jewish people from a long exile in Babylon, and the rebuilding of their holy city after the Babylonians had destroyed it more than 70 years earlier.  God has redeemed the exiles and brought them home.  He promises to restore Jerusalem to something of its former splendor, which will be a source of great joy to all who love her—probably meaning much more to the Jews of the 6th c. B.C. than rebuilding at the site of the WTC means to us, even tho this parish has a particular tie to the grief of 9/11.*

The Jews’ exile and Jerusalem’s destruction had been the results of their infidelity and their sins.  Their redemption, the blessings coming to them now, the joy promised to them, are now a sign of God’s favor:  “the Lord’s power shall be known to his servants,” Isaiah says (66:14).  If they are “his servants,” evidently they have returned to him; now they are faithful to his ways.
 

We’ve just celebrated—with great joy, with stirring music, with spectacular fireworks—the 237th anniversary of our independence.  Coincidentally, at Gettysburg, Pa., the nation has also just observed the 150th anniversary of the terrible battle fought there during what Lincoln called the “great civil war testing whether any nation” could live up to the ideal we’d so boldly declared “four score and seven years” before that battle, “the proposition that all men are created equal.”  In a later speech (his 2d Inaugural), Lincoln linked “the scourge” of that civil war to the wrath of God wreaked upon a nation that had horribly offended  against the equality of all men by enslaving one-eighth of its population; the nation had to expiate in blood—¾ of a million dead—and spent treasure all its sins against African-Americans.

Sacred Scripture links the prosperity of a city or a nation to its fidelity to the Lord, and a city or nation’s woes to its sins, as did Lincoln, our most biblically-grounded President.

Each year, particularly on the Fourth of July, we recall the blessings that have come to us from Almighty God.  If we are attentive, we may even note that the Declaration of Independence refers 4 times to God, including that stirring phrase, “all men are created equal, … endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights”; including an appeal to “the Supreme Judge of the world” to regard the right intentions of our Founding Fathers; and ending with “a firm reliance on the Protection of Divine Providence” to effect what the Declaration had set down on paper.

It is right, then, my brothers and sisters, that we observe the state of our nation and its adherence to its fundamental principles and its faithfulness to our Creator, our Supreme Judge.  If we see a nation, a society, a world that is peaceful and prosperous under the protection of Divine Providence, let us give thanks and renew our commitment to his way, so that “our hearts may rejoice and our bodies flourish like the grass,” as Isaiah says (cf. Is 66:14).  If we see a nation, a society, a world that is in trouble and turmoil, let us ask why that is so.

In many respects, our society is in trouble.  You know it very well if you watch the evening news or read the newspapers.  We might consider stories about violence in our lives:  street crime and domestic abuse; about addictions to drugs and alcohol; about athletes cheating with steroids; about political corruption; about the huge percentage of children born out of wedlock; about financial scandals; about corporate bigs collecting humongous bonuses while workers’ wages are frozen.  And of course when we look at foreign news, its full of war, genocide, terrorism, the violation of women, people living in refugee camps generation after generation, people taking to rickety boats to cross dangerous seas or hiking in 110ยบ desert heat in hope of finding a better place to live and work, shoddily constructed buildings collapsing on top of hundreds of poor people trying to make a wretched living.

What all of these ills have in common—besides degrading the world we live in—is that each is sinful in some form; each reflects a violation of the good order of the world that God created; each offends in some fashion the natural dignity of the people God created; each is rooted in a selfishness that places one individual’s or one group’s advantage—that individual or group’s perception of what is good, for himself or themselves—above the good of everyone else, above what the Catholic moral tradition calls “the common good.”

A couple of weeks ago, as most of you know, James Gandolfini died, much mourned as an actor and a human being.  His greatest claim to fame, as most of you also know, was playing Tony Soprano—a fictional embodiment of putting oneself and one’s clan ahead of everyone else, and using any means necessary to advance his own interests.  If you’re paying attention to the trial of Whitey Bulger up in Boston, you’re witnessing the same story, except that one’s not fiction.

Tony Soprano and Whitey Bulger are just different forms of the kind of egoism that shapes all those other ills I mentioned, all those other sins, all those other offenses against God.

(Another form of that self-centeredness was endorsed on June 26 by the Supreme Court when it ruled, twice, in favor of “same-sex marriage”—rulings which effectively hold that the relationship between any 2 adults trumps the natural order of human sexuality, of procreation, and of the good of children, on which the good of the whole of society finally depends.  By the Court’s legal logic, the same “marriage” right must be extended to the entire country and to polygamous families.)
Rwandan genocide (Wikipedia Commons)

A society founded on self-centeredness, on individualism or the advantage of one clan or one tribe, will disintegrate.  You saw that in the genocide of 700,000 people in Rwanda 20 years ago and of tens of thousands of people in Bosnia, also 20 years ago; you see it today in most of the killing going on in the Middle East, from Egypt thru Israel and Palestine, Lebanon and Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan.  You see it in the drug killings in Mexico.  You see it in gang activity in the streets of American cities.  You see it in our abortion clinics and in our divorce courts.  You see it in our suicide rates.

The solution for us in the 21st century is the same as the solution for the Jews in the 6th century B.C.:  to return to the Lord with all our hearts, to put our trust in “the Protection of Divine Providence” and not in money or fame or power or even family ties, and to walk in God’s ways.  When we heed his voice and keep his ways; when we look to the welfare of our brothers and sisters, “with brotherhood from sea to shining sea”—then God will spread prosperity over us like a river and we shall enjoy peace—peace of heart, peace among ourselves, and peace between nations.  We shall have good cause to rejoice and be glad, and to be thankful to our gracious God.

*Parishioner Michael A. Boccardi, Scoutmaster of Troop 40, was killed at work in the WTC.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Frs. Miguel Suarez and Jim Zettel Ordained

Frs. Miguel Suarez
and Jim Zettel Ordained

Frs. Miguel Angel Suarez, SDB, and James Patrick Zettel, SDB, were ordained priests on June 29 by Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga, SDB.


The solemn rite took place at Holy Name of Jesus Church in New Rochelle in the presence of hundreds of members of the families of the two new priests, Salesians, Salesian Sisters, Cooperators, Don Bosco Volunteers, parishioners from Port Chester, Toronto, and Belle Glade, staff from Salesian HS, students from Salesian and Don Bosco Prep, camp staff from Toronto, and friends of the newly ordained.

A gallery of photos may be seen at http://salesianordinations2013.shutterfly.com/

Fr. Miguel, 45, a native of Mexico City, is the son of the late Angel Suarez and Guadalupe Morales. He has three sisters and a brother.  His sister Elizabeth Suarez carried his stole and chasuble in the entrance procession and blessed him as the ordination ritual began after the reading of the gospel.

Fr. Miguel resided in Port Chester and was a member of Holy Rosary Parish there when he discerned a vocation to become a Salesian in 2001 so that he could work with young people and immigrants as he saw the Salesians doing in the parish.  His pastor at that time, Fr. Tim Ploch, and Fr. Tom Ruekert, presently the pastor of Corpus Christi Church in Port Chester, assisted in vesting Fr. Miguel.

Miguel made his novitiate at Mary Help of Christians in New York City and made his first profession there in 2004. He made his perpetual commitment to God in 2010.

Bro. Miguel earned a bachelor’s degree in philosophy at Seton Hall University in 2007. During his practical training at Salesian High, he taught religion and coordinated the intramural sports program. As part of his religion teaching he took up John Paul II’s theology of the body, on which he continued to speak occasionally to parish and youth groups while studying theology at Immaculate Conception Seminary in South Orange, N.J. He earned a master’s degree in theology at Immaculate Conception in May of this year.

During his years studying theology, Bro. Miguel directed the RCIA program for Spanish-speakers at Our Lady of the Valley Church in Orange, N.J. He also served as a general assistant to the candidates first trying out Salesian life.

Fr. Miguel’s first priestly assignment is to St. Philip Benizi Parish in Belle Glade, Fla.
Fr. Miguel, vested for the 1st time as a priest. His sister Elizabeth carried the vestments in procession, blessed him at the beginning of the ordination ritual, and assisted in his vesting.
Fr. Jim, 32, was born in Hanover, a small town in southwestern Ontario. He is the son of James and Patricia Zettel, who belong to Holy Family Parish in Hanover, as did Fr. Jim before entering the formation program at Orange in 2003. He has a brother, Michael, and a sister, Jessica.

Jim had already earned a bachelor’s degree in philosophy from St. Jerome University in Waterloo, Ont., and as a seminarian earned a master’s in pastoral ministry at Seton Hall in 2007.

His parents carried his chasuble and stole in the entrance procession. Fr. Luc Lantagne, who was provincial in Canada when Jim entered formation, and Fr. Mike Pace, pastor of St. Benedict’s Parish in Etobicoke, Ont., assisted in his vesting.
Fr. Luc Lantagne and Fr. Jim's parents help him
put on priestly vestments for the 1st time.
Fr. Jim made his novitiate at Farnborough, England, and professed first vows in 2005 and perpetual vows in 2011. He did his practical training at Salesian High in New Rochelle from 2007 to 2009, teaching religion and assisting in extracurricular activities. He studied theology at Studium Theologicum Salesianum, located at the Ratisbonne Monastery in Jerusalem, earning a bachelor of sacred theology degree this year.

During his years of theological study, he found Jerusalem a very interesting place to live and to do pastoral ministry. He writes: “Jerusalem made for an interesting variety of pastoral work. Much of it involved working with the Filipino chaplaincy, which organizes the pastoral life for migrant workers who come to Israel. Within the chaplaincy (much of its work originates from our Salesian community), I was a catechist and deacon for the San Lorenzo Ruiz Filipino Community. I also was the main catechist for the children preparing for sacraments in 2010-2011. Along with the chaplaincy, I participated on a rotation with other community members to provide recreation with a hospice for the physically and mentally handicapped run by the Daughters of Charity (St. Vincent de Paul Sisters). On an informal basis I also gave tours of the Church of the Holy Sepulcher to English-speaking pilgrims. I say, ‘informally’ because I and the others in the community are not official guides, but during our studies we were encouraged to offer assistance to pilgrims who came and had questions about the holy places since all of us gained much knowledge in class and on weekly archeological excursions.”

Fr. Jim’s first priestly assignment is to St. Benedict’s Parish in Etobicoke, a suburb of Toronto.
Cardinal Rodriguez anoints Fr. Jim's hands with sacred chrism.
In his homily, Cardinal Rodriguez emphasized the transformation that Holy Orders works deep within the men being ordained, likening that change to what happened in the apostles Sts. Peter and Paul through their encounters with Christ. Ordination changes them into living instruments of Christ.

The cardinal said that Peter’s confession of faith established a new relationship between him and Jesus, and we who confess the same faith now, in this Year of Faith, share in that intimate relationship.

The cardinal challenged the new priests to be true pastors of the young like St. John Bosco, and like Don Bosco to be holy and to be priests always and everywhere, conforming themselves to the heart of Christ.

Cardinal Rodriguez is archbishop of Tegucigalpa, Honduras, and president of Caritas International. This was at the least the fourth ordination he has done for members of the New Rochelle Province, going back to ca. 1990 when he was bishop-secretary of CELAM.

Homily for 13th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Homily for the
13th Sunday in Ordinary Time
June 30, 2013
Collect
Ursulines, Willow Drive, New Rochelle

“O God, through the grace of adoption you chose us to be children of light” (Collect).

In the Creed we speak of Christ’s eternal relationship with the Father as “Light from Light.”  St. John calls him “the true light that was coming into the world” (1:9) and tells us that Jesus announced himself as “the light of the world” (8:12).  Our Easter celebration begins with a bonfire, followed by all the symbolism of the paschal candle and the proclamation that Christ is our light, that he has conquered the darkness of error, of sin, and of death, and that he has set us free.
Easter 2012 at Our Lady Queen of Martyrs Church, Queens, N.Y.
Photo by Rosalind Chan, courtesy of The Deacon's Bench
All that we evoke today in our prayer:  God has chosen us “to be children of light,” by adoption to share in the relationship of Christ with the Father.  In fact, in the Eastern tradition Baptism is often called “Enlightenment,” celebrating as it does our entry into this world of light, of truth, of forgiveness, of freedom, of divine grace.

The Collect continues by praying that we “not be wrapped in the darkness of error but always be seen to stand in the bright light of truth.”  It’s one thing to be chosen to be a child of light, another to make a positive response.  St. John writes that the light came to God’s chosen people, “but the world did not know him.  He came to what was his own, but his own people did not accept him” (1:10-11), and later he comments, “The light came into the world, but people preferred darkness to light, because their works were evil” (3:19).  So a prayer that we be rescued from the darkness, that we come into the light and stand fast in it, is “right and just.”

Certainly we see regular evidence of people’s love for the darkness, of rejecting truth, in our own society and in others:  the truth of the natural order of human sexuality; the truth of God’s lordship over creation; the truth of the human dignity of the unborn, of children, of women, of immigrants, of refugees; the truth of God’s universal fatherhood which makes us all sisters and brothers.  We see repeated evidence of people’s wrapping themselves in the darkness of genocide, of terrorism, of the drug trade, of human trafficking, of environmental destruction, of the exploitation of workers and investors and retirees, of cheating in schools, in sports, in boardrooms, and in politics.  You and I could continue these catalogs for quite a while.  Each of these forms of degradation and error is a form of enslavement, a lessening of our freedom.
The World Trade Center, Feb. 24, 2005
We pray that we might “always be seen to stand in the bright light of truth.”  That means not only an internal acceptance of the truth; not only a vigorous personal effort to adhere to the truth; but also taking a public stance for the truth.  The latest issue of Living City, the magazine of Focolare, in a little piece called, of all things, “On jury duty,” contains this line:  “We are called to bring the light of the love of God to the dark cellar of the world by living the Gospel wherever we are.”[1]  That’s why we descend on Washington every Jan. 22, for instance; why we lobby our legislators and write letters to the editor; why in the Fortnight for Freedom we protest the State’s intrusion into our moral behavior (and not only our purses and wallets); why we examine our behavior each day and seek what must be converted.

Every historian of the ancient world has remarked on how Christianity changed the culture for the better, e.g. by teaching respect for women, by defending the lives of the weak, by caring for the poor and the sick, by eliminating slavery, and eventually by converting the barbarian invaders.  Of course these changes for the better didn’t always run smoothly, and sometimes there were backward steps—e.g., one thinks of slavery’s return in the early modern world.  The temptation to wrap ourselves in darkness never goes away!  The flesh continually seeks its opportunities to “bite and devour one another” (Gal 5:15).

The prayer notes God’s choice.  As Jesus said to the apostles, “You have not chosen me; I have chosen you” (John 15:16).  In other words, this is grace, God’s gift to us:  to be chosen, to be adopted, to be set free from our sins (from our darkness), to come into the light and be loved—and to share that love, spread that love by “standing in the truth.”  We need God’s constant help and strength, individually, as a community of religious, as a local Church, as a wider community of persons who—whether they recognize the truth or not—are made in God’s image and are called to be children of light.

May these sacred mysteries in which we come to the light, we taste the light, we absorb the light, give us the help and the strength we need.


[1] Maria Luce Ronconi, “On jury duty,” Living City 52 (2013), no. 7 (July), p. 26.