Sunday, October 15, 2017

Homily for 28th Sunday of Ordinary Time

Homily for the
28th Sunday of Ordinary Time
October 14, 1984
Is 25: 6-10
Salesian Jr. Seminary, Goshen, N.Y.

“On this mountain, the Lord of Hosts will prepare for all peoples a banquet of rich food, a banquet of fine wines (Is 25: 6).

What is salvation?  What is dwelling in God’s presence like?  Isaiah tries to describe it.

“This mountain” is Mount Zion, the place where YHWH dwells among his people:  the temple mount in Jerusalem.  On “that day” the last day, the day of salvation and judgment, YWHW will make his presence manifest to all the world, and all nations will share in the glory and the abundance that signify his presence.

The most apt comparison of abundance that Isaiah can think is a banquet.  Jesus uses a similar comparison in today’s parable (Matt 22: 1-10).  The banquet is exceedingly rich: not buffet cold cuts and salad bar but fat meats and rich wine—and salad bar, too, I suppose.  And since I used to think of heaven as an eternity of baseball and ice cream, I hope that the ice cream, at least, will be there.

Food is important to our earthly sense of joy and security.  But in the long run we need more.  So Isaiah goes on: YWHW will destroy “the veil that is spread over all nations” (25:7), perhaps a veil of mourning—for tears also shall be wiped away from all faces (25:8)—or perhaps a veil of ignorance.  So there is to be perpetual joy and, perhaps—let’s hope a so—a fuller knowledge.

More important, YWHW “will swallow up death forever” (25:8).  On earth, all our celebrations—christenings, birthdays, weddings, ordinations, retirements, etc.—are tempered by awareness of our mortality.  More than for food, we hunger for life!  This too YWHW will bestow—eternal life.

Each earthly meal foreshadows the eternal banquet to which YWHW has invited us in Christ.  That’s why we celebrate a weekly Eucharist, using bread and wine as sacramental symbols.  In the Eucharist, we not only look toward eternal life, but we already begin to share in that divine life because the Eucharist is more than bread and wine; it’s the body and blood of Jesus Christ, who is our life and our salvation.
(Place and photographer unknown)
Each earthly meal foreshadows the eternal banquet.  That’s why it’s imperative for us to share our abundance with the poor.  In a sense, YWHW has already provided the rich meal for all nations.  There’s enuf food on earth to feed everyone, yet some are hungry, others overfed.  Everything we share with the needy imitates God’s own generosity and anticipates the final redemption of his lowly ones.

Each earthly meal foreshadows the eternal banquet.  That’s why we fast during Lent—and even to a minimal extent before Communion.  The fasting symbolizes our mortality, our sinfulness, and our hunger for eternal; life. 

“We have waited for our God, that he might save us” (25:9).  Mankind waited thousands of years for Christ’s coming; we still await his coming again on the final day of salvation and judgment.  We look with longing for the day of our final deliverance from every anxiety, every trial and sorrow, death itself.  We look with longing for the eternal day when we shall live in our Father’s presence, when we shall know and love him as he knows and loves us.  To him be glory forever and ever.  Amen.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Unexpected Harriman Holiday

Unexpected Harriman Holiday

Out of the blue, I was asked on Friday, Sept. 29, to drive Don Bosco Cristo Rey's participants in the province's leadership retreat for select junior students, starting on Monday the 2d.  This is an annual program of the youth ministry office.  Driving, as in one of the school's mini-buses (14 passengers); and staying up at Don Bosco Retreat Center till the retreat concluded on Friday morning, then driving them back to DBCR.
The retreat participants (ANS photo)
I confess that I wasn't super-enthusiastic, for several reasons.  1st, it was very late notice  2d, it was covering someone else's "back end."  3d, I hadn't driven any form of a mini-bus since about 1972, altho I've had loads of experience driving 15-passenger vans (which are now basically unlawful for schools).  4th, I had to cancel 3 sacramental appointments.  5th, I had to jump immediately thru some hoops with Maryland Vehicle Administration, and pay for that, in order to get onto DBCR's driver insurance.  6th, the province newsletter has a Monday nite editorial deadline.

But I agreed because 1st, there was some urgent need; 2d, I'm supposed to be involved in DBCR, and so far there hasn't been much chance; and 3d--an inducement that was mentioned to me--since I didn't have to assist with the retreat, I could go camping in Harriman State Park while I was up there.

So, altho I dislike doing editorial work on Sundays, I made an exception on Oct. 1 and got all the copy and photos off to the designer with a cover explanation that I wouldn't be available for proofing until Wednesday afternoon, but could be reached by text with any question that might come up before then.

And after delivering our 7 students and Fr. Dieunel Victor to the retreat house, depositing my non-camping bags in my room in the residence, and doing a final email check, I borrowed a car from the local SDBs and betook myself and camping gear to Silvermine Lake, about an hour later than I'd desired but the best I could do, given the plans for the retreatants.

I didn't plan an elaborate 3-day loop hike with overnites at different shelters.  I went simple: get to Stockbridge Shelter on Monday well enuf before dark to gather firewood, and stay there except for a day hike on Tuesday.  After parking at the western end of the Silvermine parking lot, I toted my 35-lb. pack (estimated)--heavy with about a gallon of water besides tent (just in case), pad, saw, hatchet, food, stove, fuel, layers of warm clothing, sleeping bag, 1st aid kit, medications, 2 small flashlights, spare batteries, etc., and hurried 1.5 miles west up the Menomine Trail, past Lake Nawhunta,
almost all uphill, to the Long Path.  I was in good enuf shape that I didn't need to make any long rest stops, just 3 or 4 very short breathers.

At the Long Path, the unmarked Nawahunta Trail continues where the Menomine ends.  But I turned right (north) and hiked the .1 mile, most of it steeply uphill, to the Stockbridge Shelter.  (I'd swear it's longer than .1 mile, but that's what Harriman Trails says.)

The shelter, perhaps the nicest one in the park, with 2 good fireplaces and a wide wood floor that could sleep 8, was unoccupied, altho there was a 2-person tent (without rainfly) set up on the platform (visible in the photo above).  There was still about an hour of daylight, and I gathered a good bit of firewood, altho substantial pieces were not to be found.  In fact, I noticed that a LOT of standing wood had been cut in the general vicinity of the shelter.  I thought some not-nice thoughts about the perpetrators.

As I was starting to prepare my supper (the 2d half of the beef stew package that I started on my August hike, plus an orange--which left me feeling a bit hungry), a day hiker came along from the north.  He was a friendly, talkative fellow named Chris, also very religious.  So once I'd finished supper and hung my bear bag, we got into conversation--he was a bit intrigued, I think, that I was a priest and didn't seem to know much about Catholicism--and we prayed together and admired God's creation together (ranging from the bright stars to the loud crickets).  He didn't seem fazed that it got dark and he'd have to follow the trail back to Silvermine with only his cell phone as a light--plus an almost full moon.
The Long Path heading north from the shelter.
My bear bag is hanging from the tree to the left of the trail.
Once Chris went on his way, I stayed up to feed the fire
and read a bit longer, finally retiring after 10 o'clock.  The nite was getting a little chilly outside; it was fine in the shelter.

On Tuesday I got up at 7:00 a.m., not by a particular plan but because the sun was up and I'd had about enuf of the hard floor and insufficient pillow (spare clothing stuffed into my sleeping bag stuff sack).  I celebrated Mass, made my breakfast, and used my iPad for the Divine Office.  To my chagrin, I discovered, that I'd brought very little instant coffee, which made me just 1 cup today.  The rest of breakfast was oatmeal, a granola bar, and peanut butter--quite sufficient.

A little after 9:00, I tossed most of my gear into that unoccupied tent and took what I needed for a couple of hours of hiking, plus the water bottles I'd emptied between supper and breakfast, and my pump filter.  (Note: I'd brought the Sawyer bag with water, and it leaked into my pack.  But I've found it hard to fill the bag at water holes, so went with the slightly heavier but more manageable pump.)  I had to use my backpack because I hadn't brought along any sort of day pack.

I went back down the Long Path to the Nawahunta Trail, that unmarked woods road that I remarked earlier.  It goes .6 mile, mostly downhill, to Baileytown Rd. and isn't particularly remarkable.

At Baileytown Rd., another unmarked woods road, 1st I went west, quite level, .15 mile to the gate at the boundary of the Harriman estate.  It was a very plain iron gate, like many others along park boundaries, and there wasn't any sign that I noticed.

From there I took a little side road of some sort till I came to a dry creek bed.  Hoping to find water, I followed that for 10 or 15 minutes, striking a bit of mud now and then, coming to a swamp area with no more water than the creek, till I figured "enuf of this" and headed slightly uphill thru briers and other undergrowth till I hit the road again.

I turned left and came upon some stone walls, which I photographed. 
I didn't notice, almost right in front of my nose, the Bailey family cemetery, which I'd seen on the maps for years and wanted to see in person.  I continued northeastward for a quarter mile to Camp Lanowa on Upper Twin Lake--a pretty body of water with other camps on its shores.  There was a Palisades Interstate Park truck at the camp, but I didn't see anyone. 
I went to the lake and pumped water to refill my bottles.  When I returned to the road, the truck was gone.

Looking for the cemetery, I doubled back on Baileytown Rd. and found it right where I'd missed it half an hour earlier.  Chagrin! 
I prayed for the dead, took a few photos, and noted mentally that fixing it up would be an excellent Eagle Scout project.

Then it was back to the entrance to Camp Lanowa to find the unmarked trail running .5 mile up Stockbridge Mt. to the cave shelter.  At the ridge I picked up a bit of firewood--there was ample room in my backpack.  From the cave shelter to Stockbridge shelter is .3 mile.  I noted a bit more firewood that I might come back to retrieve.

At the shelter I found 3 older guys standing around, deciding where they wanted to camp.  They'd set packs in the shelter but weren't interested in using it.  I guess they were content to see that the stuff in it hadn't been abandoned--except for a fire grill that had been there when I arrived.  They asked whether they might take it, and I said "sure."  (I was claiming the abandoned tent, with future student camping in mind.)  The 3 finished scouting for a camping site and went down the cliff to one of the fine spots there--also much closer to wood supply.

I spent the afternoon gathering firewood, reading, and relaxing.  I took down the abandoned tent and stowed it in my pack.  It's backpacking light, weighing about as much as my 1-man tent.

3 day hikers came by, 2 of them doing a loop trip out of Silvermine, the 3d one doing in-and-out from Silvermine.  A pretty gusty wind came up, and apparently I overexposed by sweaty body to it because overnite I noticed the onset of a cold.  But the day remained sunny and at times warm.
Sunset, Tuesday
With evening I prayed, made my supper (freeze-dried lasagna--very tasty and filling; no half package this time), and read.  When I set my fire in the same fireplace as last nite, most of the smoke blew back into the shelter.  I guess the strong wind was affecting the chimney's draft.  So I built a new fire in the other fireplace, and that was better.  I had found some substantial wood to burn in the afternoon, including a good 3" maple log that I cut into 5 or 6 pieces.  So I had myself a fine fire for several hours, till well after I went to bed around 8:30.

The wind continued to howl thru the nite, and it was a bit chilly inside the shelter.  I kind of wished I'd left the tent up and had gotten into it.

I made no rising plan, and voila! at 7:00 a.m. I figured it was time to get up, then checked my watch.  Same morning routine as yesterday, sans coffee.  I finished breakfast and clean-up with about 3/4 of a canteen of water left.

I finished packing up, picking up trash (I nearly filled a small plastic bag, mostly with junk I found in or around the shelter, including a ruined cooking pot), and double-checking the site in time to hit the trail at 9:00 a.m.  My pack was a good bit lighter without water and food in it, of course.

Below the ridge I shouted a good day to the 3 chaps who'd camped there and were apparently getting their breakfast going.  Going down the Menomine was considerably easier than coming up, obviously, and I reached the car by 9:45 even after a fairly long halt to shoot some photos in the pine grove near Lake Nawahunta.

On my way back to the Marian Shrine I stopped at the park visitors center and bought an new set of Harriman maps (2016).  I passed my 2012 set to one of my confreres who does some hiking.

Since a couple people asked about meals, I'm including a photo of my "kitchen" from a 2013 hike.

Monday, October 9, 2017

Salesian Martyr Fr. Titus Zeman Beatified

Salesian Martyr Fr. Titus Zeman Beatified

Blessed Titus Zeman’s remains are presented in a specially designed casket at the beatification Mass. (ANS)
Cardinal Angelo Amato, SDB, prefect of the Congregation for Saints’ Causes, beatified Salesian Fr. Titus Zeman, martyr, on Saturday, September 30, in Bratislava, Slovakia.
Fr. Zeman in his youth
Fr. Zeman had been arrested in 1951 by the Communist authorities of what was then Czechoslovakia, charged as a traitor and a Vatican spy for smuggling young Salesians out of the country, and sentenced in 1952 to prison. He was paroled after 12 years, his health broken. His death on January 8, 1969, due to heart failure, was a direct result of the torture he had experienced during interrogation and in prison.

Fr. Zeman’s prison “mug shots.” (Salesians of Don Bosco)
Fr. Zeman’s cause as a martyr was initiated in Bratislava in 2010, and in 2016 the CSC declared he was a martyr who had suffered “in hatred of the faith.” Pope Francis approved the decree of beatification earlier this year.

Fr. Zeman became the second Salesian beatified as a martyr at the hands of the Communist regimes of Eastern Europe. In 2013 Bro. Stephen Sandor was beatified in Budapest; he had been hanged in 1953 by the Hungarian government for the “crime” of youth ministry. A third potential martyr’s cause was just initiated (October 6) in Poznan, Poland, that of Archbishop Anthony Baraniak, SDB (1904-1977), archbishop of Poznan (1957-1977), described by the current archbishop as a “martyr of the Communist system, a man persecuted and tortured in prison by Stalin’s investigators.”

National celebration of Slovak martyr

Poster promoting the beatification program.

Blessed Titus’s beatification ceremony was attended by about 25,000 people, including Slovak Cardinal Jozef Tomko, 25 bishops and the apostolic nuncio, about 500 priests, 200 seminarians, the Rector Major (Fr. Angel Fernandez Artime), the postulator general (Fr. Pierluigi Cameroni), two of Fr. Zeman’s sisters, and other relatives. One of the priests present was Fr. Al Pestun, 89, of the San Francisco Province, parochial vicar of Corpus Christi Parish in San Francisco. He is the last surviving Salesian whom Fr. Zeman attempted to lead from Czechoslovakia to Austria and on to Turin; the attempt was unsuccessful, but seminarian Bro. Pestun escaped later.

Cardinal Amato preached that “to donate his life for his brothers was Blessed Titus Zeman’s ideal. He was arrested because he helped seminarians and priests to flee the country so as to live their apostolic ideal. His imprisonment was transformed into a sacrifice of redemption for others."

On the following day, October 1, there was a celebration in Vajnory, the section of Bratislava where Blessed Titus was born on January 4, 1915, and where he died. Fr. Angel Fernandez, the Salesian Rector Major, preached the homily at this celebration, focusing on the timeliness of Fr. Zeman’s witness in view of the upcoming synod of bishops on “Young people, faith, and vocational discernment.” His relics were placed at a side altar of the parish church where he had been baptized and confirmed and celebrated his first Mass in 1940.

The reliquary-casket with Fr. Zeman’s remains, following its blessing. (ANS)
The new blessed’s relics were encased in a small, coffin-like casket designed by two Slovak artists, Andrei Botek and Marian Kralik. The fa├žade of the casket includes two sculpted reliefs showing Fr. Zeman leading a clandestine escape party and the moment of his capture.

Blessed Titus’s memorial will be observed on January 8, his dies natalis (“heavenly birthday”).

Following his Salesian vocation

As early as age ten, Titus Zeman wanted to become a priest. He studied with the Salesians at Sastin and made his profession on August 6, 1932. He began theological at the Gregorian University in Rome and finished in Chieri. He was ordained in Turin on June 23, 1940, and returned to Slovakia, which had declared independence and allied itself with Germany during World War II. Nevertheless, he was able to exercise his Salesian ministry first at the youth center in Bratislava, then as a parish priest, and finally as a chemistry and biology teacher in Trnava.

The website set up by the Slovak Salesians to promote information about Blessed Titus. (ANS)
Reunited after the war, Czechoslovakia suffered a Communist coup in 1948 and became a Stalinist satellite. In April 1950 the government ordered that all religious be rounded up in the dead of night. Many of them were sent to concentration camps. Fr. Zeman happened to be away from the Salesian house for Easter services and so evaded the round-up. He decided to go underground to help his young confreres who weren’t in camps to escape to Turin to complete their studies. He led successful escape parties totaling more than 60 Salesians in August and October 1950. A third group’s attempt to cross the Morava River into Austria was foiled by a border guard, and most of the group, including Fr. Zeman, were captured. (Bro. Pestun was one who got away.)

Some of the Salesians whom Fr. Zeman led to freedom. (
A section of the Salesian Slovak webpage on Fr. Zeman called “Saved by Titus“ records the names and history of many of those whom he assisted to get away. Of interest to New Rochelle Province Salesians is that one of them was Bro. Jozef Hercog (sic).

Captured, tortured, killed slowly

Fr. Zeman faced the death penalty during his trial but in February 1952 was sentenced instead to 25 years in prison. With his health ruined by torture and harsh conditions, he was paroled to Vajnory in March 1964, and during the “Prague Spring” of 1968 was finally given permission to celebrate Mass again. He died of heart failure, however, on January 8, 1969.

The entire country took up Fr. Zeman. In April of this year a pilgrimage of 200 altar servers came to Sastin, where Blessed Titus had once been an altar boy, to celebrate “Titus, one of us.” A hymn was composed by Slovak poet Daniel Hevier in honor of the holy martyr. A biography titled Beyond the River, Toward Salvation: Titus Zeman, Martyr for Vocations, was published in both Slovak and Italian versions. Festivals and conferences were held in Bratislava, Trnava, and elsewhere, and TV and radio specials were aired. The Slovak bishops issued a pastoral letter regarding him in September. As noted above, hundreds of clergy participated in the beatification Mass, which was broadcast nationally. The Salesians organized a masterful webpage with multiple language options:, which includes an hour-long documentary film, I Passed the Border (with English subtitles):

Altar servers who took part in a pilgrimage to celebrate
the upcoming beatification of a former altar boy. (

On May 30, Fr. Jozef Slivon of the postulator’s office concelebrated Pope Francis’s Mass and then presented him with a relic of Fr. Zeman and a copy of the just-published biography. The Holy Father kissed the relic and sent his blessing to everyone involved. In his Angelus message on the day after the beatification, he said: “He joins the long line of martyrs of the 20th century.... His testimony supports us in the most difficult moments of life and helps us recognize, even in hardship, the presence of the Lord.”
Pope Francis reverences a relic of Blessed Titus given to him at the Vatican. (L’Osservatore Romano)

The witness of Blessed Titus’s life and ministry

Fr. Fernandez addressed a short letter to the entire Salesian Family to mark the beatification, highlighting Fr. Zeman as a fruit of Salesian sanctity, as a faithful Salesian totally in love with the Church and the priesthood, and as a zealous apostle of vocations.

A young Titus Zeman (2nd from right) with friends. (
Young Fr. Zeman greeted by girls in traditional dress
Many people who knew Fr. Titus offered their testimony about his character, dedication, and courage, even before the events that led to his martyrdom. One of his students described him as “my spiritual father.” Another calls him “simple-hearted, very funny, and a great sportsman.” He helped hide Jews during World War II and hide nuns when the Red Army advanced through Slovakia. A Salesian student of theology remarked on how he helped clean up their school after the Russians left it full of excrement and stinking like a sewer: “I saw there his great love and tenacity for his work. He was a true Salesian who did everything in a humble way. It was clear he liked us, the young students of theology, a lot. He saw us as the hope for the Salesian Congregation in Slovakia.”

Procession of clergy entering the cemetery for Fr. Zeman’s burial. (
Fr. Zeman’s “funeral was exceptionally touching … not only because of its outer aspects (it was a true triumph of sympathy, wonder, and gratitude) but mainly because such unity of emotion … is truly rare. There was not only a homily at the Mass but also several speeches and a funeral oration. All of the speakers emphasized the great qualities of the deceased: conscientiousness, strength of his spirit, profound faith, strong will, transcendental devotion to God’s will, but mainly absolute self-sacrifice for the priestly ideal and effort to save young priestly vocations for the Church and the Salesian Society.”

Blessed Titus’s best known saying is probably, “Even if I lose my life, I do not consider it a waste, knowing that at least one of those whom I have saved has become a priest to take my place.” At his funeral the Slovak provincial noted that more than 50 priests and religious owed their vocations to him; his life was a kernel of wheat that fell to the ground and produced abundant fruit. “If every priest who died in Slovakia left such religious posterity, the funerals of Slovak priests would mean not a decrease but an increase in the priestly ranks.”

Fr. Al Pestun (Salesians)
Read Catholic San Francisco’s story on the beatification and Fr. Al Pestun’s recollections:

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Homily for 27th Sunday of Ordinary Time

Homily for the
27th Sunday of Ordinary Time
Oct. 8, 2017
Phil 4: 6-9
Visitation Convent, Georgetown

“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, what is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious …, think about these things” (Phil 4: 8).

The prophetic passage from Isaiah (5:1-7) this morning is obviously matched with Jesus’ parable of the wicked vineyard tenants (Matt 21:33-43).  Both texts are concerned with the return of a good harvest to the vineyard owner, and the owner’s righteous anger when that return is denied to him.  Both passages make the point that “the vineyard of the Lord of hosts is the house of Israel” (Is 5:7).
Tho not directly tied thematically to those readings, the Pauline passage we heard today informs us what fruit the Lord of hosts expects of us, the new Israel created by our Lord Jesus.  (You know, of course, that during Ordinary Time the 2d readings are passages read sequentially from the apostolic letters of the New Testament, while the 1st readings, from the Old Testament, are chosen to illuminate the day’s gospel reading.)

So what does Paul tell us about the fruits God expects of us?  He tells us to “think about” things that are true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, gracious, excellent, and praiseworthy.  Assuredly, that’s not an exhaustive list of Christian virtues, but it’s a good start.

The virtues in Paul’s list seem fairly straightforward, altho we might comment on some of them.  The Greek word rendered as “honorable,” for instance, suggests the reflecting of the holiness or the reverence of the gods; thus, Paul speaks for things that reflect godliness and not just “honor” in the sense used by our Founding Fathers in pledging their adherence to the Declaration of Independence or by the Boy Scout oath.

“Lovely” doesn’t carry the meaning we might intend when describing a garden or a child as lovely; according to William Barclay, it means “that which calls forth love.”[1]  The word translated as “gracious” relates to speech and connotes something fit for God to hear, as distinguished, e.g., from deception or vulgarity.

When Paul speaks of “excellence,” he uses a classical Greek word, arete, the only time he does so in all his letters.  Barclay writes:  “It could describe the excellence of the ground in a field [maybe like that fertile field that Isaiah’s friend planted], the excellence of a tool for its purpose, the physical excellence of an animal, the excellence of the courage of a soldier, and the virtue of a man.”[2]  Paul seems to be calling upon the Christians of Philippi to think of all that is most noble in a human character.

So Paul urges us to produce a good deal of fruit worthy of a Christian.  He urges us to “think about these things.”  As you know, Jesus reminds us that all our evil or virtuous behavior begins in the heart, the seat of our desires.  What we think about, of course, tends to become what we either abhor or desire.  So we are to nourish our minds, our hearts, our desires by thinking about truth, honor, justice, purity, love, gracious speech, excellence, all that renders a person worthy of praise before others or in the sight of God.

Paul, however, goes beyond thinking.  He proceeds to demand that we “keep on doing what [we] have learned and received and heard and seen” (4:9).  That is, we have to turn our thoughts and desires into virtuous actions, virtuous behavior.  This, and not merely our thoughts, is the fruit that the Lord is looking for from us tenants in his vineyard.  “Then the God of peace will be with you” (4:9).

Paul in prison, writing one of his letters (source unknown)
Note that Paul proposes a model for imitation.  He’s not ashamed to point to himself!  “Keep on doing what you have learned and received and heard and seen in me.”  (I hope most of us would be embarrassed to do that.)  Of course Paul is very much aware of his being an apostle specially chosen by Christ to proclaim the Gospel, and repeatedly he defends his words and actions against various fault-finders, accusers, and false apostles.  So we might excuse him from reminding these early disciples that he was the one who brought them the Gospel in his words and activity, in his general conduct and his physical sufferings (recall that he and Silas were flogged and jailed overnite in Philippi—Acts 16:16-39).

For ourselves, it’s important that we have models of Christian virtue to imitate.  We have especially wonderful models in Jane and Francis—your house is adorned with multiple images of them to remind you not just of great historical persons but also to stir you to imitation—and each of us has a patron saint or saints to whom we ought to look for guidance in what it means to be a faithful, fruit-producing friend of our Lord Jesus.  And I’m sure you know modern Christians who are noble examples of fidelity—of excellence in virtue—whether they be your companion religious, teachers, relatives, or friends.  May they, as well as Jane, Francis, and your patrons, encourage you to think about and to practice truth, justice, honor, purity, love, graciousness, etc.

And may the God of peace be with you!

     [1] The Letters to the Philippians, Colossians, and Thessalonians (Philadelphia: Westminster, 1959), p. 99.
     [2] Ibid.

New Rochelle Province Celebrates 18 Jubilarians

New Rochelle Province Celebrates 18 Jubilarians

by Bro. Ronald Chauca, SDB

Due to various commitments, I'm rather tardy in posting this story.  Since yours truly was one of the jubilarians this year, I asked one of our young SDBs in formation to write the article for E-Service, the province newsletter.  A while back he'd expressed an interest in doing some journalism, and this is his first go at it--with some assistance from E-Service's editor.

The photos were shot by several different people, especially Bro. Tom Sweeney, Bro. Travis Gunther, and Jakeline Lira. I composed their captions.
The jubilarians with Fr. Tim Zak after Mass. Front row: Fr. Mike Mendl, Fr. Mike Pace, Bro. Joe Ackroyd, Fr. Peter Granzotto, Fr. Javier Aracil, Fr. Tony D’Angelo, and Fr. Raul Acosta. 2nd row: Fr. Larry Urban, Fr. Paul Dzaitkiewicz, Fr. Zak, and Bro. Don Caldwell. Back row: Fr. Steve Ryan and Fr. Mike Conway.
On September 23 the Salesian Family of St. Philip the Apostle Province celebrated the perseverance of Christ in the lives of 18 Salesians. The 18 confreres celebrated jubilee years of profession or ordination ranging from 25 to 70 years of fidelity to Christ among Don Bosco’s sons.
Attending confreres, sisters, seminarians, Cooperators, family members, and other friends of the jubilarians almost filled the Shrine chapel.
The Jubilee Mass was celebrated at the Marian Shrine Chapel in Haverstraw, N.Y. Fr. Tim Zak, provincial, presided and preached.
"A great cloud of witnesses"--concelebrating the Holy Eucharist
Celebrating jubilees of profession were Fr. Peter Granzotto, 70 years professed; Fr. Javier Aracil, 65 years; Fr. Raul Acosta, Fr. Tony D’Angelo, Bro. George Marquis, and Bro. Joe Tortorici, 60 years; Bro. Joe Ackroyd and Frs. Manuel Alvarez, Steve Dumais, Tom McGahee, and Mike Mendl, 50 years; and Bro. Don Caldwell and Fr. Mike Pace, 25 years.
Your humble blogger (2d from left) and Bro. Joe Ackroyd (at right) – 1/3 of the surviving members of the profession class of 1967 – pose with their novitiate assistant, Fr. Tom Dunne (at left, in that year a cleric in his 2d year of practical training), and their master of novices, Fr. Peter Granzotto (2d from right).
Ordination jubilarians were Fr. Granzotto, 60 years; Frs. Acosta, D’Angelo, and Ken Germaine, 50 years; Frs. Alvarez, McGahee, Paul Dzaitkiewicz, and Larry Urban, 40 years; and Frs. Mike Conway and Steve Ryan, 25 years.
Fr. Pete Granzotto, pushing 91, celebrated 70 years of Salesian profession and 60 years of ordination.
Although the longest-serving jubilarian, Fr. Granzotto, 90, and the oldest, 94-year-old Fr. D’Angelo, were present, on account of health or distance 6 of the 18 men were not able to attend.
Fr. Tim Zak with the oldest American Salesian in our province, Fr. Tony D’Angelo, 60 years professed and 50 years ordained.
Joining the celebration were a special guest, our Interamerica regional councilor, Fr. Tim Ploch, dozens of Salesians, and many friends and family members of the jubilarians, all of whom came close to filling the Shrine chapel.
Fr. Tim Zak delivering the homily.
In his homily, Fr. Zak reminded us that we are not alone in our commitment to Christ: the “cloud of witnesses” (Heb 12:1) mentioned in the day’s 1st reading encourages us to keep walking on this journey. Not only do we have examples in the saints who came before us, but also in our Salesian brothers in front of us. The life of each of the 18 jubilarians speaks to us in a loud voice saying, “Don’t give up, keep persevering, keep running the race.” The journey of fidelity to Christ entails ongoing conversion, which can only happen through letting go of the things that hold us back, such as sin, certain attitudes, hurts, attachments, and resentments, so that we can be free to do God’s will.
Priest jubilarians renew their priestly commitment: l-r, Frs. Tony D’Angelo, Raul Acosta, Mike Conway, Steve Ryan, Larry Urban, and Paul Dzaitkiewicz, and in the background Fr. Pete Granzotto. Candidate Kevin Long assists Fr. Tim Zak.
Furthermore, Fr. Tim reminded the Salesian Family that we have to keep in mind our call to make disciples of the young, witnessing to God in our lives even though we have our faults. Fr. Tim went on to say that it would be wrong to base our identity as Salesians on what we do; instead, we have to base it on Christ’s victory in our lives.
Fr. Tony D’Angelo, Fr. Javier Aracil, Bro. Joe Ackroyd, Bro. Don Caldwell, Fr. Mike Mendl, Fr. Mike Pace, and Fr. Raul Acosta renew their religious profession. So does Fr. Pete Granzotto, not pictured.
After the Mass, the celebration moved to Patriot Hills Golf Club, where we had a beautiful gathering of friends and family. Fr. John Serio gave the welcome as the guests prepared for the meal, and afterwards spoke entertaining words of gratitude on behalf of the province to each of the dozen jubilarians present; between every few names Fr. Steve Ryan led the singing of the chorus of what Fr. Serio called the “Salesian Anthem,” Fr. Steve Schenck’s “Friend of the Young and the Poor.”

Fr. Zak closed the afternoon by reminding us of how important our biological and Salesian families are to our Salesian journey, and therefore we remember our deceased family members and those family members and jubilarians not present.
Confreres professed for 50 years receive a statuette of Don Bosco as a gift from the Rector Major as a token of appreciation for their fidelity: Bro. Joe Ackroyd and Fr. Mike Mendl with Fr. Tim Zak.
As a Salesian in temporary profession, I find great hope in events such as the province jubilees. They enable me to aspire and look forward to a faithful Salesian life. It amazes me to see men who have labored for so many years in God’s vineyard with joy and holiness. What a blessing it is to be part of this family and be called to a Salesian vocation! So let us keep going on our journey and do our best to witness to Christ. As the years come, we hope that many more Salesians can celebrate their 70th year of profession like Fr. Granzotto, or more!

Jakeline Lira shot a couple of short videos:

Fr. Tim's homily:

“Friend of the Young and the Poor”

Additional photos by Jakeline Lira, Bro. Travis Gunther, Bro. Tom Sweeney, Sr. Denise Sickinger, and Donna Ragusa at

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Some family members and close friends graced the celebration with me:
Clockwise from yours truly: Sr. Denise Sickinger, FMA; Scouting champs Nancy & Ed Maselli, Mike & Donna Ragusa; cousins Majie, John, & Margaux Yannacci and Ginny & Ron Faillace.
Great friends from Holy Cross in Fairfield, Conn., Anita & Fred Vigeant; returned Salesian Lay Missioners Clare Pressimone and Maggie Hutchison.

Saturday, September 30, 2017

Homily for 26th Sunday of Ordinary Time

Homily for the
26th Sunday of Ordinary Time
Oct. 1, 2017
Ps 25: 4-8
Nativity, Washington, D.C.

On Friday afternoon, I got an email that was perhaps a bit desperate. Our old parish in D.C., Nativity, needed a priest for the Saturday vigil Mass. Would a Salesian be available? We have Cooperators in the parish, and I’ve already helped with some weekday Masses, so it wasn’t that Salesians were on the bottom of the pastor’s list. Not at all. And the parishioners tell me they miss “their” Salesians very, very much—and they name some of their favorites: the late Fr. Steve Schenck, Fr. Paul Grauls, Fr. George Hanna, Bro. Tom Sweeney.

Herewith, my 1st Sunday homily since moving to Maryland in June!

“The sins of my youth and my frailties remember not; in your kindness remember me, because of your goodness, O Lord” (Ps 25: 7).

Teenage Girls (Pixabay)
Hip-hop (Pixabay)
I suppose most of us have fond memories of our youth.  I also suppose most of us remember some pretty dumb things we did when we were young—too young to know much better; or old enuf to know better but not knowing better because we thought our parents were the dumb ones, and our “knowledge” was sharper than their old-fashioned experience; or when we were young adults—maybe in college, maybe just running around with a bunch of “cool” people.  And now we remember words and deeds we wouldn’t want our children or grandchildren to know about.

In the Responsorial Psalm we beg the Lord not to remember those regrettable sins or indiscretions or foolishness of our youth.  When the Lord forgets something, it no longer exists.

The psalm also asks the Lord not to remember our frailties.  We’re not talking here about the frailties of age, all too familiar to many of us—like stiff joints, shuffling walks, wider girth, memory loss.  No, we’re talking about our spiritual frailties—our weak faith, perhaps, or our weak convictions, or our fears.  We’re talking about our moral frailty, our sinfulness, our constant inclinations toward the dark side of our human nature, our very specific sins:  our impatience, our anger, our gossiping, our lust, our reluctance to forgive, our rash judgments, our lies, our envy.  These, too, we beg the Lord not to remember, to consign to oblivion, to non-existence.

The psalm continues:  “in your kindness remember me, because of your goodness, O Lord.”  If the Lord remembers us kindly, he takes us to himself.  The goodness of the Lord overwhelms all our badness, if we humble ourselves by confessing that badness; if we humble ourselves, as St. Paul says today that Jesus our Lord did:  “he emptied himself, taking the form of a slave” (Phil 2:7)—humbled himself not in the sense of confessing moral guilt, for he had none, but in the sense of descending from the purest heights of heaven to live with us sinners and to offer himself as a sacrifice of atonement for our sins.

When’s the last time you humbly confessed your sins in the sacrament of Reconciliation?  When’s the last time you brought your sins and your frailties and your moral foolishness to our Lord Jesus?

By Giuseppe Molteni
In the 1st reading, we heard that the Lord receives the wicked person who changes behavior.  In the interpretation of Jesus’ parable, we heard that God is pleased when the tax collectors and prostitutes respond to Jesus’ preaching and seek forgiveness and moral renewal; and Jesus is harsh toward those who talk about God and his commandments but don’t own up to their sins, especially their self-centeredness, their unwillingness to humble themselves by coming to Jesus.  For our part, both Ezekiel and Jesus call for action, not just an exercise of the mind.  The wicked who repent, in Ezekiel’s prophecy, change their behavior.  In Jesus’ parable, the son who said, “No,” not only changed his mind but actually went to work in the vineyard.

Confession is the 1st action step we have to take toward renewing our lives with God.  If you haven’t been to confession for quite a while, what’s holding you back?  Not the goodness of the Lord, surely!  Not the compassion of the Lord, which is from of old (Ps 25:6)—which has such a long history in the lives of sinners, from Abraham and King David to Simon Peter and St. Paul to St. Augustine and St. Ignatius and the Servant of God Dorothy Day.

“Good and upright is the Lord; thus he shows sinners the way,” the psalm proclaims (25:8).  The Collect (or opening prayer) extolled the Lord for using his “almighty power above all” to pardon and show mercy, to bestow his grace “abundantly upon us.”  How much “gooder” toward us could the Lord be?  He is eager to forgive us.  He longs to forgive us.  He is waiting for us to come to him and say simply and humbly, “Bless me, Father, for I have sinned,” so that his priest can comfort us with forgiveness and the assurance of his everlasting love—and can cast our sins into oblivion, where he will never remember them again.