Saturday, March 31, 2018

Homily for the Easter Vigil

Homily for the Easter Vigil

April 18, 1992
Gen 22: 1-18
Ex 14: 15—15: 1
Rom 6: 3-11
Holy Cross, Fairfield, Conn.

Since most of us Maryland SDBs are celebrating the Vigil at the National Shrine tonite, I offer a "golden oldie."

How much did Abraham love God?  You can’t say it more emphatically than the story of Genesis does, the story of how he was willing to give God his son.  The story is more powerful when we remember that this son, Isaac, was the son of Abraham’s old age, the son promised to him by God, the son thru whom his descendants would be numbered like the sands of the seashore or the stars of the sky.

The sacrifice of Isaac
(mosaic, National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, Washington)
The Church presents this story to us as one of the possible readings on this holy night in order to show us how much God loves us.  Abraham “did not withhold his own beloved son” (cf. Gen 22:12), and neither has God.  God did indeed give his only Son to us, and we made him, like Isaac, carry the wood of his sacrifice up a hill.  Like Isaac, Jesus willingly accepted whatever his Father willed.

Abraham is like God the Father in the love he reveals.  St. Paul writes to the Romans:  “If God is for us, who is against us?  He did not spare his own Son but he gave him up for us all; will he not give us all things with the Son?  In all things we are more than conquerors thru him who loved us.  For I am sure that neither death, not life, … nor anything else in all creation will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (8:31-32,37-39).  Abraham, ready to sacrifice his beloved son, reminds us that God did sacrifice his beloved Son for us.  Isaac, who was saved from death by God’s intervention, reminds us of Christ, who was saved from death by God’s power.  It is that power, and the glory of God’s immortal Son, that we celebrate tonight.

The critical or central Old Testament reading, however, is the exodus story.  God saved his people by leading them thru the Red Sea; in the waters of the Red Sea he destroyed their foes.  Recent studies by 2 oceanographers have shown how this historical event could have occurred.  Even if there is a good scientific explanation, the timing still makes the crossing of the Red Sea a miraculous delivery of the Chosen People.

They were saved thru the water.  Thru indicates both a location, as in “I-95 passes thru Bridgeport,” and a means, as in “Government funds programs thru taxation.”

This story of the Hebrews’ salvation is central to the Easter liturgy because it prefigures our salvation.  We too are saved thru water—thru the waters of Baptism.  As we pass thru the baptismal water—the richest sacramental symbol would have us baptized by immersion, not by a few drops poured onto our heads—as we pass thru the water, God delivers us.  We pass thru to the safety of Christ’s grace, of becoming God’s children; and in the waters the power of Satan our foe is destroyed.

After they had crossed the Red Sea, the Hebrews were ready to enter God’s new covenant with them and to receive the Law at Mt. Sinai.  By Baptism we have entered God’s final covenant and have received Christ’s law of universal love.

If we had anyone to baptize tonight, that would be the highlight of our Easter celebration:  a new disciple being born into the life of Christ and his Church.  We don’t, but we will solemnly commemorate our own Baptisms by blessing the water, renewing our baptismal commitment to Christ, and being sprinkled with the holy water.

What does our Baptism mean?  The water, of course, is a sign of cleansing; a sign so powerful that by Christ’s grace it performs what it symbolizes.  Baptism cleanses us of sin. 

St. Paul speaks in tonight’s epistle of being baptized into Christ’s death (Rom 6:3,6).  On the cross Christ put sin to death, and in Baptism we make a permanent renunciation of sin—by dying to ourselves, dying to the world, the flesh, and the devil—so as to live for God in Christ Jesus (Rom 6:11).

In Baptism we die with Christ:  we are swallowed by the waters, especially if immersion is used, as Christ was swallowed by the grave; we rise from the waters to grace as Christ rose to eternal life and a glorious place at God’s right hand.

Baptism means for us the present reality of being God’s children.  For the future it means union with Christ in a resurrection like his (Rom 6:5).  Christ, once raised from the dead, will never die again; death has no more power over him (Rom 6:9), nor can sin ever touch him.  Even so shall it be for us.  “Our perishable nature will put on the imperishable; our mortal nature will put on immortality.  And then shall come to pass what Scripture says:  ‘Death is swallowed up in victory.’  The sting of death is sin….  But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory thru our Lord Jesus Christ” (cf. 1 Cor 15:53-57).

Friday, March 30, 2018

Good Friday Homilies

Good Friday Homilies

Your humble blogger is concelebrating the Sacred Triduum at the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, with the papal nuncio Abp. Christophe Pierre presiding and various prelates preaching.
Crucifix of Holy Rosary Church, Port Chester. N.Y.
Here are some homilies from years past:

Thursday, March 29, 2018

Homily for Holy Thursday

Homily for Holy Thursday

This is Deacon Greg Kandra's homily for today, Holy Thursday. A major theme in it is "pass it on," so that's what I'm doing!

There are some events in history that, when you look back on them and you can see a pivot between what was and what will be. After that moment, nothing can be the same.

Early in the musical “Hamilton,” there is a scene when four key characters meet: Alexander Hamilton, Marquis de Lafayette, a slavery abolitionist named John Laurens and a tailer’s apprentice by the name of Hercules Mulligan. Poised at a pivotal moment in history, they share their dreams of a better future, in a song called “The Story of Tonight.”

Read all of it at

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Canonization of Don Bosco

From the Salesian Archives
Canonization of Don Bosco

On another occasion when Easter fell on April 1, Pope Pius XI proclaimed John Bosco a saint in 1934, at the conclusion of the Extraordinary Jubilee of the Redemption. It was the first time that a canonization was celebrated on Easter Sunday.
This archival photo shows the large number of people who took part in the great event—many of them using umbrellas to shield themselves from rain—whence Don Bosco is often called the patron saint of umbrella makers. To our knowledge, that’s never been declared an official patronage. Ma si non è vero, è ben trovato!

Apropos of the date (April 1), various Salesian wags also boasted that Don Bosco had fooled all his opponents again.

Salesians of Damascus Resume Activities

Salesians of Damascus Resume Activities

(ANS – Damascus – March 28) - On March 25 the Salesians of Damascus celebrated Palm Sunday, thereby reopening the activities of the Don Bosco youth center. Many young people and families were present for the occasion. To safeguard the children and teens who usually frequent the youth center, due to the bombings the Salesians suspended activities as of February 21.

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Cardinal Bertone Presents "My Popes"

Cardinal Bertone Presents My Popes

(ANS – Turin – March 14) – On March 14 Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, SDB, former secretary of state of the Holy See, presented his new book, I miei Papi, at Valdocco (Turin) before an audience of more than 150 people. The volume, published by Elledici (LDC), includes a preface by Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi, president of the Pontifical Council for Culture. Fr. Valerio Bocci, general manager of Elledici, opened the presentation, which continued with questions by journalist Domenico Agasso Jr. Cardinal Bertone discussed his love for the Popes he has known and served, from Pius XII to Francis, especially the three most recent Popes. The cardinal concluded by saying: “In our Salesian tradition we recall the three great loves Don Bosco inculcated in us: love for the Eucharist, love for the Madonna, and love for the Pope. I never want to leave this path.”

Sunday, March 25, 2018

By the Grace of God

By the Grace of God
Fr. Tom Uzhunnalil’s Autobiography

(ANS – Bangalore – March 19) – Salesian Fr. Tom Uzhunnalil’s autobiography recounts 557 days of terrorist captivity in war-torn Yemen. The book is a classic testimonial to the truth that the Lord is alive and hears our prayers, and that he will surely answer them in his own good time. This book is a solid assurance that when for the Lord’s sake we face trials on one hand, he will be there to strengthen us with grace on the other.

The book narrates Fr. Tom’s life from childhood to his formation in the Salesian Congregation to his missionary work in Yemen, and it gives a detailed account of his abduction and imprisonment.

Fr. Tom writes: “My aim in writing this book is in the least to present myself as extraordinary. However, there are two reasons. First of all, to testify to everyone how God has been extraordinarily kind to me. Secondly, since my release, I have been flooded with invitations from many people who through their intensive prayers have made my release possible. In spite of my best effort, I have not been able to oblige all invitations. I want to thank all wonderful people and share with them my experience in captivity and miraculous release.”

“A moving testimonial of faith & a timely reminder of the power of prayer,” said Fr. Joyce Thonikuzhiyil, SDB, superior of the Bangalore Province.

KJC Publications, 160 pages.

For more information, please visit: 

Homily for Palm Sunday

Homily for
Palm Sunday

March 25, 2018
Mark 14: 1—15: 47
Nativity, Washington, D.C.

“Truly this man was the Son of God” (Mark 15: 39).

The Three Marys and St. Longinus
by Mathias Grünewald -
Have you ever noticed that our Profession of Faith—whether the Apostles’ Creed, which goes back to around 200 A.D., or the Nicene Creed, which goes back to 325—there is only one reference to the public life of Jesus Christ?  We profess, “For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate, he suffered death and was buried….”  Not a word about his preaching, his calling of disciples, his instructions to them, his parables, his miracles, even his institution of the Eucharist.  Just that he suffered death by crucifixion and was buried at the direction of Pontius Pilate, the Roman prefect or governor of Judea from 26 to 36 A.D.  One bare historical fact underlies the core belief of our faith, viz., that this Jesus who so suffered, died, and was buried then rose from his tomb by the power of God and so turned his suffering and death into something “for our sake,” for our benefit.

The Romans were harsh executioners, and crucifixion was their preferred method for dealing with rebels, pirates, ordinary felons, and slaves.  It was excruciatingly painful—the root of excruciating is crux, “cross.”  They inflicted it upon tens of thousands of criminals and enemies of the state, partly to make them suffer extremely, partly to terrorize the general population.  And they were very good at it, experts.

Crucifixion was so routine in the Roman Empire that our evangelists don’t even bother to tell us what it was like; everyone knew.  So they report simply, “They brought him to the place of Golgotha [that’s Hebrew; in Latin, it’s Calvary]….  Then they crucified him” (Mark 15:22,24).

So what made the crucifixion of Jesus of Nazareth different from all the other thousands and thousands of Roman executions?  Why would St. Paul place the cross at the center of his missionary preaching when it was so repulsive, such an instrument of torture and terror?

Because the resurrection gave a unique meaning to the death of Jesus.  He was not killed, buried, and forgotten like, e.g., the 6,000 slaves whose crosses lined the Appian Way from Rome to Capua in 71 B.C. after the revolt of Spartacus was crushed.

Because the passion and death of Jesus, following his resurrection could be interpreted in the light of the sacred Scriptures, specifically the prophets and psalms.

Why could not Jesus have died like most of us do—of illness, accident, or perhaps victims of a crime?  Would that have shown the depths of God’s passionate love for humanity?  Paul reminds us that Christ, God’s equal—or his Son, as we’d say and the Roman centurion proclaimed—completely emptied himself of every dignity; he “took the form of a slave,” even in the brutal manner of his death (Phil 2:6-8).  God wished to reach down as low as he could go within human society so as to raise up, to elevate, everyone:  no one left behind.       

Jesus did that heavy lifting from the cross by offering himself as a sacrifice.  All the gospels tell us that it was Passover, when unblemished lambs were being slain, their blood poured out, in commemoration of how the blood of lambs saved the Hebrews in Egypt by marking their houses.  Jesus associated himself with that offering—in his case, unlike the lambs’, a free and conscious choice:  “This is my blood of the covenant, which will be shed for many,” he announced as he passed a cup around to the Twelve on the nite before he died (Mark 14:24).

Isaiah, on the other hand, prophesied about the Servant of the Lord who would bear our infirmities and be crushed for our offenses; who would be chastised that we might be healed; who would be ranked among the wicked altho he had done no wrong; who would give his life as an offering to take away sin and win pardon for offenders (Is 53:4-12).

This is what Jesus did on the cross, turning shame into glory.  Thru his death Jesus won life for us even tho we, unlike him, are sinners, are guilty, do deserve shame and condemnation.  The Lord’s resurrection after his crucifixion, in the words of one commentator, “is the mighty act of God to vindicate the One whose very right to exist was thought to have been negated by the powers that nailed him to a cross.”[1]  Therefore St. Paul exulted in the cross, found it glorious, preached it was our salvation:  “I decided to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ, and him crucified,” he wrote to the Christians of Corinth (1 Cor 2:2); “The message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God” (1 Cor 1:18); “May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Gal 6:14).

Mark begins his Gospel by announcing “the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God” (1:1).  The climax of his Gospel is the centurion’s recognition that this crucified man “is truly the Son of God” (15:39).  What leads him to this recognition?  Seeing how Jesus died.  We can’t really explain that, only acknowledge it—make the same confession of faith.

In Jesus’ last moments, as we just heard in the reading of the Passion, he resisted the temptation to come down from the cross in a miraculous display of power:  “Come down from the cross if you are the Messiah, and we’ll believe you” (cf. 15:32).  He did not call upon Elijah—the prophet who, according to tradition, had not died but had been carried off to heaven and who would usher in the messianic age—he did not call on Elijah to appear and save him (15:36).  No, he stayed on the cross, even while feeling abandoned by God.  Jesus was completely faithful to God, even at the cost of betrayal, abandonment by his friends and by God (it seemed), mockery, shame, torture, and death.

The centurion, there to see Pilate’s sentence carried out, sees all this, hears Jesus cry out, watches his final breath—and believes.  A pious tradition calls him Longinus and claims that eventually he was martyred for Christ.  There’s a large statue of him in St. Peter’s Basilica.

St. Longinus in St. Peter's
Longinus found God on the cross.  Where do we find him?  Among us, among human beings in all their wretchedness—economic or social wretchedness, to be sure; in the wretchedness of suffering and death.  But above all, in the wretchedness of our sins, our faithlessness.  Jesus has been there and is there to counteract it all and convert us, too, into the children of God when, like Longinus, we see him for who he is.

       [1] Fleming Rutledge, The Crucifixion: Understanding the Death of Jesus Christ (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2015), p. 64.

Saturday, March 24, 2018

Salesians among the Bororos

Salesians among the Bororos
Commitment to Integral Development

(ANS - Coxipó da Ponte, Brazil – March 8) - Bro. Mario Bordignon, a 71-year-old Salesian coadjutor brother, has lived among the Bororo indigenous people of Mato Grosso, Brazil, for over 30 years. In addition to evangelization, Bro. Mario is engaged in the work of preserving the local culture, favoring their self-sufficiency, and helping them defend their rights against those who would like to trample on them.

“One of our missionary duties is to defend the identity of a people,” Bro. Mario explains. “I think it is more difficult today because the interference of Western society in indigenous cultures is very strong. It is the negative side of progress. On the one hand, a camera or a video camera are precious tools to preserve culture; on the other hand, mobile phones, radio, and television invade everything with the dominant culture.”

Since he arrived in Mato Grosso, what has most occupied Bro. Mario has been the creation of a differentiated school in Meruri, “that would have them learn about the so-called national culture without their losing the rich Bororo culture. Little by little, we have created a bilingual intercultural school, which also involves the elderly. And today the school is in the hands of the Bororos. The teachers have gone to university and been trained,” the Salesian says proudly.

Other critical issues are the economic support of the natives and respect for their rights. “Consumerism has arrived here too. The Bororos have experienced a sudden transition from the traditional to the Western economy. They struggle to understand and assimilate the mechanisms. It is easy to buy, but without understanding the production process, they are often disoriented.”

The Salesians in the Mato Grosso missions accompany the Bororos in the demarcation of their lands and territory. “Recognized official reserves had already been created, but the fazendeiros, the rich landowners, occupied them. The Bororos have to recover their lands, the only ones with a little vegetation in Brazil, and for this reason they are important for the whole nation.”

After more than 30 years in the mission, Bro. Mario can say: “The Bororos have taught me so much. Participating in a Bororo funeral I was most impressed with this: everything that belonged to the deceased is burned. Shocked, I asked why, and my ‘godfather’ answered me: ‘What a person is worth is not his things but what he has inside, his morals, his culture, his knowledge.’ I remained silent and learned.”

Abp. Costelloe Appointed President of 2020 Australian Plenary Council

Abp. Costelloe Appointed President
of 2020 Australian Plenary Council
Salesian Has Been Archbishop of Perth since 2012

(ANS – Canberra – March 21) – The Australian Catholic Church, with the approval of Pope Francis, will hold a plenary council in 2020-2021 to discuss its way forward in light of the challenges it faces in contemporary society. It’s the most significant Catholic Church gathering since 1937. Salesian Abp. Timothy Costelloe of Perth will preside over the council.
“Together, we are on a journey of listening to God by listening to one another. We invite all Australians to engage in an open and inclusive process of listening, dialogue and discernment about the future of the Catholic Church in Australia. Your voice is needed – join in! Speak boldly and with passion, listen with an open and humble heart. With faith and guided by God’s Holy Spirit, we journey together, toward the future,” says the official website of the Australia Catholic Church Plenary Council 2020. (

Delegates from the 34 dioceses of Australia will gather during two sessions in 2020 and 2021 to enable deeper discernment, further learning, and dialogue. The process begins at Pentecost 2018 and will help form the agenda for the council.

In approving the plenary council, Pope Francis also endorsed the bishops’ nomination of Archbishop Costelloe as president of the plenary council. The Salesian archbishop said, “I encourage all Catholics, whether devout or disillusioned, fervent or frustrated, to seize this opportunity to speak what is on their minds and in their hearts.”

In a statement by the Australian Bishops Conference, Archbishop Mark Coleridge of Brisbane, chairman of the bishops' commission for the plenary council, said the gathering “will be a unique opportunity for people to come together and listen to God in all the ways God speaks to us, and in particular by listening to one another as together we discern what God is asking of us at this time – a time when the Church in Australia is facing significant challenges.... We sincerely hope the preparation and celebration of the plenary council is a time when all parts of the Church listen to and dialogue with one another as we explore together how we might answer the question: ‘What do you think God is asking of us in Australia?’”

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Centennial of Birth of Blessed Albert Marvelli

Centennial of the Birth
of Blessed Albert Marvelli

Member of the Salesian Youth Center at Rimini

by Fr. Pierluigi Cameroni, SDB,
Postulator General of the Causes of Saints of the Salesian Family

(ANS – Rome – March 19) Blessed Albert Marvelli, exemplary Salesian past pupil, was born on March 21, 1918, in Ferrara, Italy. 100 years have passed, and many in the world know his life and his educational, charitable, social, and political commitments.

As a member of the Salesian youth center in Rimini, he followed the example of Dominic Savio and matured in his faith by making a decisive choice: “My program is summed up in one word: saint.” In just 28 years he achieved a “full measure” of life by spending himself totally in love of God and neighbor.

When his life was tragically interrupted [by a traffic accident] on October 5, 1946, many believed they had lost him forever and that his commitment, support, and example would be lost.

But saints have a “posthumous” life. Today, more than ever, Albert is alive and active: the good he has worked upon the earth has expanded in time and space. His exemplary holiness has become a model for laity committed in works across the globe, in search of Christian identity and of lives consistent with their faith. He opened a new road, which can be traveled by everyone. The diffusion of his witness in the world, the many young people who have taken him as a model, are the sure signs that he remains a living and working person among us all.

Celebrating his centennial, in this special year that the Church is dedicating to young people with the Synod of Bishops, means not just commemorating, but acknowledging this presence, as St. John Paul II indicated on the day of his beatification, September 5, 2004: “It is up to you lay persons to bear witness to faith through the virtues specific to you: fidelity and tenderness in the family, competence in work, tenacity in serving the common good, solidarity in social relations, creativity in undertaking works useful for evangelization and human promotion. It is up to you to show – in close communion with your pastors – that the Gospel is current, contemporary, and that faith does not take believers away from history, but immerses them more profoundly in history.”

Homily for Tuesday, 5th Week of Lent

Homily for Tuesday
5th Week of Lent

March 20, 2018
John 8: 21-31

I actually wrote out this homily for our little daily Mass at DBCR but didn’t get to deliver it because an accident on New Hampshire Ave. caused a traffic delay, and I couldn’t get to school in time.  So I post a current homily, for a change, but one that wasn’t actually used.

I don’t know about you, but I usually find John a lot more of a challenge to grasp than Matthew, Mark, or Luke.

Jesus’ opponents among the Jewish leadership don’t grasp the story either.  He tells the Pharisees he’s going away (8:21), meaning that he’s going to the Father (13:1).  They’ve refused to believe that he came from the Father (8:18,26), speaks the Father’s message (8:26,28), does the Father’s will (5:30; 8:29), leads all who are willing to the Father (14:4-6).  So his opponents are doomed:  “You will die in your sin” (8:21,24)—not because God isn’t merciful but because they can’t see and don’t want to see who Jesus is (9:41), can’t see and don’t want to see beyond “this world” that they belong to (8:23).

When they ask, “Who are you?” (8:25), they don’t do so honestly, seeking truth—any more than Pilate will be interested in truth (18:38).  That, of course, is a test for us:  do we really care who Jesus is?  Do we behold him “lifted up” (8:28) and recognize the one who came from the Father and is now exalted with the Father (cf. 12:28; 13:31-32; 17:1)?  Will we try to imitate him in doing only what we hear from the Father (8:26)?  Will we let him lead us to the Father?

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Fr. Rossano Sala Advocates for Church Attentive to Youth

Fr. Rossano Sala Advocates for a Church Attentive to the YoungFeatured

(ANS – Madrid – March 13) - The School of Theology of Salamanca, Spain, celebrated the feast of St. Thomas Aquinas with a Mass presided over by Bishop Jesus Garcia Burillo of Avila and an address by Fr. Rossano Sala, SDB, special secretary of the 15th Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops. Fr. Sala’s topic was “Youth of the Church and hopes of the young: what can we expect from the next synod?”

Fr. Sala presented his conference “starting from the Church’s commitment to collaborating toward the joy of the young, rather than trying to take possession of their faith.”

On secularization in the European context, the Salesian priest referred to pastoral care understood as the link between the recipients of the message and the action of God through his Church. He continued by identifying four aspects that characterize our times: spiritual nostalgia, because “the search for the meaning of life on a spiritual level is alive, and faith can be an authentic response to this nostalgia”; a paralysis in the decision-making process, since “it seems that we can make only decisions of minor import”; the uncertainty facing what is or is not true, “for which only contemplation can survive the communications bombardment”; and disenchantment with institutions “from which nothing more is expected than the preservation of individual rights.”

“Many young people ask nothing of the Church,” Fr. Sala explained, except “that they be left in peace and not be disturbed.” He also referred to young people’s opinion of the Church: “an institution that should shine for its honesty.”

Another critical point is “the passivity of the young in the Church because they often feel used and not appreciated.” Likewise, they criticize “the Church’s inability to follow the rhythm of the contemporary world.” Young people ask for a Church that listens and pays attention, “that moves from humiliation to humility, from individualism to communion, and from exteriority to interiority; a less institutional and more relational Church, where one listens without judging.”

The special secretary for the Synod on Youth also thinks that a presence on social networks is important. He concluded his speech by emphasizing that a challenge for the Church is “the need to acquire a renewed, youthful dynamism.”

Homily for 5th Sunday of Lent

Homily for the
5th Sunday of Lent

March 17, 1991
John 12: 20-33
Holy Cross, Fairfield, Conn.

As is the case far too often, our community in Silver Spring, Md., had no requests to celebrate a weekend Mass in a parish or religious house—altho we have had requests to hear children’s confessions this weekend.  Here’s an old, short homily on today’s readings.

“Unless the grain of wheat falls to the earth and dies, it remains just a grain of wheat” (John 12: 24).

In the burial chambers of the kings of Egypt, deep inside the pyramids, their subjects left them everything they might need in their future lives:  river barges, gold, clothing, weapons, food.  Much of this treasure has been discovered intact in the last hundred years.

Imagine finding grain 3,200 to 4,000 years old.  Some scientists wondered whether it would still germinate after 3 or 4 millennia.  Egypt’s hot, dry climate, they figured, should have acted as a preservative.  They planted some of the grain and, sure enuf, it sprouted—4,000-year-old wheat!

Left in the tombs, the seed contained the germ of life, but it remained just grains of wheat.  Cast into the ground, it died but gave birth to new life, abundant fruit, even after 40 centuries.

Jesus uses the image of grains of wheat to portray himself and his followers.  If we wish to be life-giving, fruitful people, we must fall to the earth and die.  We must humble ourselves, die to ourselves, if we really want to live.

Husbands and wives experience this all the time.  Their marriage thrives only by mutual sacrifice, yielding to the wishes, hopes, needs of the beloved.  Proud, self-centered people don’t make it in marriage or in the kingdom of heaven.

Parents experience life thru death.  Rearing children is repeated death to oneself, to convenience, to plans, to free time, sometimes to sanity—but the fruit of all this sacrifice is priceless and worth all the pain, the worry, and the trouble.

Students and workers have to die repeatedly—all the sacrifices of research, study, classroom, office, or factory monotony—to achieve knowledge, skills, advancement, the satisfaction of creativity, recognition.

To thrive as followers of Jesus, to advance to eternal life, we must fall to the earth and die.  We all know how it kills us to forgive; to restrain a tendency to gossip; to turn off the TV and do something constructive; to eat less or to stop smoking so as to have some alms for the poor; to spend time with someone who’s lonely; to stop nagging or putting down a certain someone in our lives; to give time to prayer and Scripture.

Kindness begets kindness; patience begets patience; generosity begets generosity.  The good seed that falls to the earth bears abundant fruit.  People not only admire virtue.  They want to imitate it.  So we Christians have to live virtue and be imitable—dying to ourselves in the process.

The Greeks who came to Philip said, “Sir, we’d like to see Jesus” (John 12:21).  Jesus told them, “Where I am, there will my servant be” (12:26).  If we are truly Jesus’ servants—by dying to ourselves and living for him—then people will indeed see Jesus—when they see us.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Homily for Monday, 4th Week of Lent

Homily for Monday
4th Week of Lent

March 12, 2018
John 4: 43-54
Nativity, Washington, D.C.

You know that in our 3 Sunday cycles of readings we follow the gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke.  In this year, for instance, called Year B, we read from Mark.

There’s no cycle for John’s Gospel.  Instead, he gets, 5 consecutive Sundays in the middle of Mark’s year, during which we hear his 6th chapter, Jesus’ teaching on his saving word and on the Eucharist.  John is also featured on the later Sundays of Lent.  And, starting today, the 2d half of Lent belongs to John in our weekday readings.  He also owns most of the Easter season.

I just noted that John 6 teaches about the saving word of Jesus.  That’s actually a theme in John’s Gospel, and it’s the focus of today’s passage, the final verses of John 4.  The preceding part of this chapter tells the story of Jesus’ encounter with the Samaritan woman at the well and the conversion of many of her fellow villagers upon their hearing the preaching of Jesus.

(source unknown)
By contrast, now Jesus returns to Galilee, where “people will not believe unless they see signs and wonders” (4:48).  I.e., they’re not really interested in his word and its saving power:  “A prophet has no honor in his native place” (4:44), a point made also by the other gospels.

Jesus comes back to Cana, where he’s met by an official from King Herod’s court.  This story seems to be a variant of the one told by Mark and Luke, in which the suppliant is a Roman centurion, a pagan presumably.  The royal official would be a Jew.  In either case, the man coming to Jesus would be from outside his normal society.  He’s not a disciple, not peasant farmer or fisherman; he’s from the world of the elite.

Jesus is reluctant to respond to the man’s request.  He basically refuses his plea to “come down and heal his son,” who’s dying (4:47).  But the man persists, and when Jesus dismisses him with only an assurance that his son will live (4:50)—without Jesus’ going in person—the man believes just as the centurion does in the other version of the story.  He departs, his son is indeed cured, and “he and his whole household came to believe” (4:53), just as earlier Jesus’ disciples began to believe in him at Cana when he worked the 1st of this signs, changing water into wine (2:11), to which John alluded at the beginning of this passage (4:46), marking a connection between the 1st and 2d of Jesus’ signs and their influence on faith.

But the royal official demonstrated faith as soon as he accepted Jesus’ promise:  “The man believed what Jesus said to him and left” (4:50).  He wasn’t like Thomas after the resurrection, who insisted on seeing Jesus and putting his fingers into his wounds before he would believe.  The official doesn’t insist that Jesus come down and heal his son right in front of his eyes.  Jesus’ word is enuf.

Jesus is the living Word of God, the Word that became flesh (John 1:14).  As Peter will profess at the end of ch. 6, he has the words of eternal life (6:68).  He is the Word of eternal life.  He speaks the saving word; he is the saving Word.  We don’t follow him because he changes water into wine, walks on water, or heals the sick.  We haven’t seen any of that.  We follow him because of who he is:  the way, the truth, and the life.  We listen to him, we walk with him, we believe that he takes away our sins and restores us to a saving relationship with his Father in heaven.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Prayer Vigil to Remember Parkland Victims

Prayer Vigil to Remember Parkland Victims, Speak Against Gun Violence
Don Bosco Cristo Rey High School in Takoma Park, Md., was one of several Salesian schools that participated in a nationwide "student walkout" on Wednesday, March 14, to remember the murder of 17 high school students and staff in Parkland, Fla., one month earlier and to protest all violence in schools.  Senior students organized and led the service on the school's playing field.
Our local Catholic newspaper was there:

and so was Catholic News Service:

Photos by Jaclyn Lippelmann courtesy of the Catholic Standard.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

"I am writing in days full of death and suffering"

“I am writing to you in these days
full of death and suffering”

(ANS – Damascus – March 12) - The Salesian youth center in Damascus has entered its fourth week of forced closure: a totally unnatural condition for a place dedicated to socializing and educating young people, but necessary because of the dangerous conditions in the city. Many are the Syrians who have fled during these past seven years of war and the hemorrhage of the local population continues. From the Salesian center in the Syrian capital, the center’s director shares a new, bitter letter.

Dear brothers and sisters, I am still writing to you from Syria. I am Fr. Mounir Hanachi, director of the Salesian community in Damascus. I am writing to you in these days full of death and suffering for the Syrian people, who are suffering because of the war.

We are about to start the eighth year of this fierce war, which has caused so many deaths and displaced persons inside and outside Syria. Dear brothers and sisters, death continues in Damascus in these past weeks after the powerful assault of the Syrian national army to free Eastern Ghouta, an area controlled by rebels for over five years. The capital has suffered so much in these years by mortar fire and missiles that came over the schools and over the houses, and caused so many deaths of innocent children and civilians. We Salesians have suffered a lot on account of this, and we have been forced several times to close the doors of our youth center in spite of more than 1,200 young people and children who try to come to our center to find a place of serenity and peace.

In recent weeks the war in Eastern Ghouta has intensified. This is the fourth week that the Salesian youth center has been closed, and the children are shut inside their homes; the schools are closed, and life in the capital is semi-paralyzed.

In recent years we have lost so many families and so many young people who have left Syria seeking refuge abroad. Now the families that did remain are also beginning to look for ways out of Syria.

I invite all of you, dear brothers and sisters, to pray for Syria, the cradle of Christianity, and let us remember Damascus during these months. May the Lord give us his peace, through the intercession of Mary Most Holy, who will protect us and protects the children of Syria under her cloak.

Monday, March 12, 2018

Fr. Michael Chubirko, SDB (1923-2018)

Fr. Michael Chubirko, SDB (1923-2018)

By Fr. Steve Ryan, SDB

(Tampa – March 6) – Fr. Michael Chubirko, SDB, went home to the Lord on Monday, March 5. A native of Pennsylvania, Fr. Chubirko spent most of his religious life serving in Byzantine Catholic churches in New Jersey and Pennsylvania.

Fr. Chubirko was born on November 10, 1923, to Olga Suson and Mike Chubirko. He was baptized on November 21, 1923, at St. Mary’s Greek Catholic Church in Bradenville, Pa. In 1948, he began his Salesian life at Don Bosco College in Newton, N.J. After the completion of the novitiate year, he made his first profession on September 8, 1950. He studied theology in Rome and was ordained on March 25, 1960.

Fr. Chubirko was a math teacher, catechist, treasurer, and spiritual guide for young people at Don Bosco Tech in Paterson, N.J., Salesian High School in New Rochelle, N.Y., Salesian Junior Seminary in Goshen, N.Y., and Don Bosco Prep in Ramsey, N.J. His longest assignment was at Sts. Peter and Paul Byzantine Catholic Church in Elizabeth, N.J., from 1981 to 1994.

Fr. Chubirko came to Tampa to live at St. Philip Residence at Mary Help of Christians Center in 2009. He was a confessor for retreatants and a strong advocate for Cristo Rey Tampa High School at Mary Help.    

Funeral services were held at Mary Help of Christians Parish in Tampa on March 8-9.

Additional rites will be celebrated at the Marian Shrine in Haverstraw, N.Y. (174 Filors Lane, Stony Point) on Tuesday, March 13:

Reception of the body             2:00 p.m.

Rosary                                   4:30 p.m.

Mass of Christian Burial           7:00 p.m.

Fr. Frank Twardzik, SDB, will preach at the Mass. The Most Rev. Kurt Burnette, eparch of Passaic, will carry out the priestly anointing and veiling of the Byzantine Rite.

Fr. Chubirko will be buried in the Salesian Cemetery in Goshen, N.Y., on Wednesday at 10:00 a.m.

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Salesians Return to Tappita

Salesians Return to Tappita

Mission was founded by Frs. John Thompson and Larry Gilmore

On March 5 ANS posted this follow-up to an interview they published on March 3 (see below).

(ANS – Tappita, Liberia – March 5) - The Salesian mission at Tappita, in the Liberian forest, is now being re-established some years after the 1989-1997 civil war forced its missionaries to depart.

The mission was founded by Frs. John Thompson and Larry Gilmore, American Salesians, in the mid-1980s. For one year the future martyr Sean Devereux (murdered in Somalia for defending the rights of the poor) was a volunteer at the mission.

When war made it too dangerous for the Salesians or Mr. Devereux to stay, the mission was transferred to local clergy, who were not able to give it much attention.

In the current phase of re-awakening, the mission needs everything: little things, like whistles to referee games at the youth center or catechetical materials, to the most ambitious programs like restarting the school and setting up the youth center. It is a reality where the pioneering spirit of the mission ferments every activity of education, social development, and evangelization.

The three Salesians who have taken over the mission have given themselves a few months to size up the situation, understand the challenges, and draft an action plan. They currently live in the house that belonged to the Consolata Sisters until they too had to leave because of the war. In the last 20 years the house was used occasionally by the priest who visited the mission from time to time and then stayed permanently, but its deterioration was progressive and fast. 

For the Christmas holidays [sic], the community had decided to adopt the “do as it has always been done” method to see and learn from the situation. And despite the challenges of the realities at Tappita – rationed electricity and water supply, sketchy communications, linguistic difficulties with the local population – the SDBs have begun to shape pastoral activities.

In January, all the parish groups met: pastoral council, finance committee, men, women, youths, altar servers, choir, and various associations. “Every evening, from 5:00 p.m. onwards, we ‘listened,’” explains Fr. Riccardo Castellino, SDB.

The parish also has 24 outstations in the villages. The Salesians have decided to visit them all. Every Sunday one of them stays in the parish, and each of the other two journeys to a neighboring village.

The local people are simple and poor. They live on agriculture, and though they do not lack food, they have no cash. All the communities, with the little they have, have built or are building a little church of mud and sheet metal.

“There is a lot of work to do, and this involves a great deal of energy and material resources. But they too are children of God and deserve our full attention,” Fr. Castellino concludes.

Don Bosco's Blacksmith Shop

Don Bosco’s Blacksmith Shop

After the construction of the church of St. Francis de Sales at the Oratory in Turin, Don Bosco added more buildings for the activities of the Oratory. One of the first initiatives to be started was a workshop to train apprentice blacksmiths and steel workers. This archival photo dates from 1880. (ANS)

Saturday, March 10, 2018

Homily for 4th Sunday of Lent

Homily for the
4th Sunday of Lent

March 30, 2003
2 Chron 36: 14-16, 19-23
Eph 2: 4-10
John 3: 14-21
St. Clement, Plant City, Fla.                   

“Early and often did the Lord, the God of their fathers, send his messengers to them, for he had compassion on his people” (2 Chron 36: 15).

The 2 books of Chronicles narrate the history of Israel from King David until the Babylonian Exile, paralleling 1-2 Kings and to some extent also the books of the prophets Isaiah and Jeremiah.  Their final chapter, part of which we just heard, recapitulates that history.

Jeremiah Laments the Destruction of Jerusalem
Israel’s history—and Christian history too—is a story of good news and bad.  The good news is evangelization, which means literally, the announcement of good news.  Anglo-Saxon English rendered “good news” as gospel, but that has a particular Christian connotation.  To Israel God repeatedly sent messengers—prophets—to speak his word, which very often was a word of compassion, mercy, deliverance.  Indeed, 2 Chronicles ends with just such a message, coming from, of all possible sources, a pagan king:  “The Lord inspired King Cyrus of Persia to issue this proclamation thruout his kingdom,” and the announcement of the end of Israel’s forced exile, the return to Judea, the rebuilding of the temple in Jerusalem follows (36:22-23).

When we turn to today’s 3d reading, from the Good News according to St. John, we hear how deep is God’s love for us:  that God sent his own Son into the world to save whoever would believe in him—to deliver them from darkness and eternal death and lead them to light and everlasting life.  This recapitulates the entire message of Jesus Christ, who came that we might have life, and have it in full (cf. Jn 10:10).

St. Paul takes up that same theme:  “God, who is rich in mercy, because of the great love he had for us, even when we were dead in our sins, brought us to life with Christ…, raised us up with him, and seated us with him in the heavens” (Eph 2:4-6).

God is always motivated by love, by mercy, by compassion.  He wishes nothing more than to save us from our folly, from our sins, from the darkness of evil, from the death that is the inevitable consequence of human foolishness.  We see that graphically as we watch CNN or the other networks in these very days.  War is sometimes necessary, but as Pope John Paul said, it is invariably the sign of human failure, of human sin.  It is evil, it is a work of darkness, and it leads inevitably to death.  Gen. Sherman was not kidding when, more than 120 years ago, he reportedly said, “War is hell.”  War’s only possible justification is that it’ll end or avert even worse calamities, and no other means will secure a just peace.

But if Israel had heeded the prophets whom God sent to them; if they had been faithful to God and obedient to his law—they wouldn’t have experienced national disaster:  “Their enemies burnt the house of God, tore down the walls of Jerusalem, set all its palaces afire,” slew its inhabitants and carried off the survivors into exile (2 Chron 36:19-20).  If we disregard the ways of God, we’re left to the mercy of human beings.  And that is not good news.

Jesus says that too.  Those who accept God’s only Son, those who believe in him—belief meaning both intellectual and especially practical faith—will be saved.  “But whoever does not believe has already been condemned.  For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come toward the light” (Jn 3:18,20).  Those who deliberately choose the works of darkness and of death in this world are condemned to eternal darkness, eternal death.  That’s bad news.  It’s not what God wants for us, but it’s the result of sinful choices.

But, to repeat, even tho we are sinful people God in his love has extended to us his grace.  “By grace you have been saved thru faith, and…it is a gift of God” (Eph 2:8).  God will deliver from their sins and from the consequences of their sins all who turn to him; not from suffering and death in this life, which he did not spare even his own Son, but from eternal condemnation.  As he raised up his innocent Son from the grave and brought him, even in his human nature, to the heavenly throne, so will he raise us up with Christ and seat us with him at the banquet of eternal life, recognizing us as innocent and worthy of his gifts because we have accepted his pardon in Christ.

Therefore, brothers and sisters, the Good News of Jesus Christ invites us to return to God if we have strayed, or to deepen our commitment to him.  It invites us to execute the good works that God means for us to do and to live consistently virtuous lives, for we are God’s very own handiwork, his works of art, his craftsmanship (Eph 2:10).  “Whoever lives the truth comes to the light, so that his works may be clearly seen as done in God” (Jn 3:21).  After intellectual belief—accepting the truth of the Gospel of Jesus in our heads—we must walk in his ways, “walk the walk,” as they say, making the truth of the Gospel plain for the world to see.