Last weekend, Pentecost marked the end of the Easter Season, returning us to the liturgical season known as “Ordinary Time.” (See the column elsewhere in the bulletin that explains this more fully). Yet these next two Sundays, which follow Pentecost, are not simply Sundays of Ordinary Time, but have special significance as Solemnities of the Lord.
What is the meaning and purpose behind the Pentecost Sequence that follows the Second Reading? Sequences were chants in the form of liturgical poems used as hymns of joy following the final note of the Alleluia. At one time in our church’s liturgical history there were over 5,000 in existence. Most were abolished at the Council of Trent, and in our post-Vatican II Liturgy only four survive. Two are optional: for Corpus Christi (Lauda Sion) and Our Lady of Sorrows (Stabat Mater – the text of which is still used in the traditional song for Stations of the Cross); and two remain obligatory: the Easter Sequence (Victimae Paschali Laudes) and the Pentecost Sequence (Veni, Sancte Spiritus) which we hear in today’s Mass. They also now precede the Alleluia instead of concluding it. Click the title to read more.
Like married couples, it is customary for Priests to celebrate their 25th and 50th Anniversaries of Ordination, or in the case of Religious Sisters, Brothers and Priests, those Jubilee Anniversaries of their Solemn Profession. This weekend Fr. William Metzler celebrates his Golden Jubilee of Priesthood. His preparation for ministry included studies at public grammar and high schools, undergraduate studies at Boston College and two masters’ degrees from Niagara University. On May 27, 1922, Fr. Metzler was ordained to the priesthood in the Cathedral of St. Joseph by then Archbishop John Francis Whalen. Click the title to read more.
As you’ve noticed from our bulletin cover we have a number of our parish youth receiving their Confirmation this Sunday afternoon at the Cathedral of St. Joseph, as well as two adults who will be Confirmed there on Tuesday evening. In our Catholic tradition, Confirmation is one of three Sacraments of Initiation, along with Baptism and Eucharist. Although in the early days of Christianity, these three Sacraments were celebrated in one event at the Easter Vigil, over time they became separated from one another for very practical reasons. Click the title to read more.
I remember as a child, my mother placing fresh flowers each day before the little statue of Mary she kept on her bedroom dresser. Whether they be forsythia, tree blossoms, irises or lily of the valley (all of which grew in our yard), Mary always had fresh flowers during the month of May. Why do we honor Mary with flowers during May? Many of our Christian customs have roots in pre-Christian celebrations. As the Christian faith was taught to peoples of different cultures, missionaries often took their local customs and connected them to Christian belief. In ancient Greece and Rome, the goddesses of fertility and blossoms were honored during the month of May as springtime brought fertility and new life. Click the title to read more.
For the past six weeks of Lent, we’ve been preparing for and building up to the celebration of the greatest event in Christianity, the celebration of Easter – when Christ defeated death by rising to new life. Whether we’ve been coming to daily Mass, praying or reading the Bible more, attending a bible study, making the Stations of the Cross, following Dynamic Catholic’s Best Lent Ever series or the daily readings from the Lenten meditation book, we’ve been highly engaged in faith activities during the Lenten Season. Even in our homes perhaps we’ve been preparing in all kinds of ways, cooking traditional Easter specialties, decorating or planting flowers, creating Easter baskets. Now that we’ve celebrated Easter Sunday, what’s next? Click the title to read more.
A Very Happy and Blessed Easter to All! Today our 40-day Lenten pilgrimage culminates in Jesus’ Resurrection from the dead. Mary Magdalene delivers the disturbing news to Peter and the beloved disciple that the body of Jesus is missing from the place where they buried him on the preceding Friday. They race to the tomb only to find the tomb open and Jesus’ body gone. The tidied burial cloths raise a suspicion that Jesus’ body was not simply moved or stolen. Rather it must mean that he had been raised as he promised: “the Son of Man must suffer greatly and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes and be killed, and rise after three days” (Mk. 8:31). God’s extravagant love has rolled away the stone and emptied the tomb! The beloved disciple sees and believes! Alleluia! Click the title to read more.
Another obstacle to going to confession I often hear from people is they don’t know what to confess. Prior to the Second Vatican Council, morality seemed so black and white – we knew clearly what was and wasn’t a sin. Today however there seems difficulty discerning what is appropriate matter for confession. First, to be culpable (responsible) for a sin we must know and understand that what we have done or neglected to do is sinful. We can’t be guilty of something we are unaware is a sin. A thorough Examination of Conscience will help us to discern our sins both of commission and omission. To do this, we could start by remembering the Ten Commandments and determining if we are guilty of breaking any of these. Click the title to read more.
One of the reasons Catholics often cite for not going to confession is that it’s been so long since they last went, they’ve forgotten what to do. If this is what is keeping you from experiencing this beautiful sacrament perhaps a review of how to celebrate this sacrament might make it more approachable. First, don’t worry or be embarrassed if it has been a long time since last celebrating Reconciliation. All that matters is that you are seeking out the sacrament now. If you let the priest know it’s been a while and you are a little “rusty” he can help you with the process. Take a few minutes before confession to examine your conscience. You may use the 10 Commandments or even the Two Great Commandments (Love God with all your heart and your neighbor as yourself) to help you review your recent past. There are also Examinations of Conscience online or on the MyParishApp or the Confession App which can help you recall your sins.
Why do I need to go to confession? Can’t I just confess directly to God and receive forgiveness? The Church teaches that all who are conscious of having committed serious or mortal sins, must confess them to a priest and receive absolution (cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church nos. 1455-1458). Venial sins should also be confessed, although forgiveness for these less serious sins can come in a variety of ways including devout reception of Holy Communion and making a sincere act of contrition – which is essentially asking God directly through prayer to forgive one’s sins. What motivates us to confess sins? Sometimes it is out of a fear of hell (remember the old form of the Act of Contrition – “because I dread the loss of heaven and the pains of hell”?) Even better though would be to confess out of our love for God. Have you ever let someone down whom you love? You know the feeling of remorse, even shame for disappointing your beloved. Click the title to read more.
Following the movement of the Church’s penitential practice from a more public ritual to a more private experience during the 6th -8th centuries, the theology of the Sacrament of Reconciliation continued to develop. Penitential books were composed with lists of sins and corresponding penances to be given. The practice of waiting to receive absolution until one had completed the prescribed penance gave way to receiving absolution immediately after confession and completing the penance later. St. Thomas Aquinas in the 12th Century, further defined the understanding of the sacrament by declaring that the works of the penitent (the one confessing sin) and the priest including the confession, contrition and imposition of a penance formed the “matter” of the sacrament while the words of absolution spoken by the priest was the “form” of the sacrament. The practice of confessing sins behind a screen to ensure the anonymity of the penitent came into use. Click the title to read more.
A major event in our early Church’s experience contributed to a number of changes and developments that would forever shape Church history in the West. Up until the 4th century, the practice of the Christian faith was outlawed by the Roman Empire. While many emperors were somewhat indifferent to Christianity, several would initiate fierce persecutions of Christians including men like Nero and Diocletian. With Constantine becoming Emperor around the beginning of the 4th Century, things change radically. In 313, following a vision Constantine experienced prior to a major military battle encouraging him to conquer under the signs of the cross and Christ, leading to a subsequent victory, Constantine issued his famous Edict of Milan declaring that Christianity would be accepted in the Roman Empire. Click the title to read more.
This weekend I am beginning a series on the Sacrament of Reconciliation (Confession). The history of the development of this Sacrament is rooted in ministry of Christ himself. Often in the Gospels, Jesus forgives the sins of public sinners (e.g. the woman caught in adultery or the woman at the well in John’s gospel) or of those who were infirm in some way (as sin was widely believed at the time to cause illness.) The religious leaders of his time often questioned him on this point, claiming that Jesus was committing blasphemy, as God alone can forgive sins. (Little did they know that Jesus WAS God!) Jesus’ response was to prove he had such authority by effecting miraculous cures. When Jesus appears to his disciples in the upper room following the resurrection, he gives this same authority to the apostles, and by extension to the Church: “whose sins you forgive are forgiven, and whose sins you retain are retained” (Jn. 20:23). Click the title to read more.
The beginning of Lent, our annual pilgrimage of 40 days of prayer, fasting and almsgiving in preparation for the celebration of Our Lord’s Passion, Death and Resurrection, begins this week. But we may have questions about how Lent came about as a season of repentance. So this week I’d like to share a little about the origins and meaning of Lent historically. Click the title to read more.
As I’m sure you are aware, Connecticut State officials are preparing to relax many of the COVID restrictions for businesses, public buildings and schools that have been in place for some time. Governor Lamont’s Executive Order for mask mandates, although extended by the State legislature this week, will expire at the end of the month. After that, it becomes the responsibility of local governments and boards of health to make recommendations and policies in response to further COVID outbreaks. Our Superintendent of Catholic Schools has informed us that on March 1st, masks will become optional in our parochial schools. Click the title to read more.
This Sunday the annual contest between the two best teams in football commences. As the LA Rams take on the Cincinnati Bengals, over 100,000 spectators are expected to fill SoFi Stadium and over 100 million more will watch from Super Bowl parties at home. Individual ticket prices for attendees range from $6,400 to $147,000 with the average cost of tickets around $9,700, not to mention the cost of traveling there, lodging and meals while away. An additional $14-15 billion is expected to be spent on Super Bowl watch parties. The average cost of a 30 second ad this year is hovering around $7 million. Players on the winning team will each receive $150,000 and those on the losing team $75,000 each for this one game. When combined with their other post-season compensation those figures increase to $300,000 and $250,000 respectively. And only heaven knows how much money will be exchanged through office pools, online gambling apps or other means of betting. Then there are those having no interest in football or the “big game” who host “alternate” Super Bowl events during that time, or perhaps go out to dinner and a movie instead of football. Click the title to read more.
This week in our Church’s liturgical calendar we meet a recently (1992) canonized saint, St. Josephine Bakhita. As her biography tells us, she was born in Africa, in Darfur, Sudan, ironically four years after the conclusion of the Civil War here in the States which was fought to abolish slavery. Unfortunately, the slave trade persisted in other parts of the world and she was kidnapped at the age of 7 and sold into slavery numerous times. Her final owner, the Italian consul serving in Khartoum, gave her to his friend, Augusto Michieli, to serve as a nanny for his daughter, traveling with her to Venice, Italy where the daughter attended a school run by the Canossian Sisters. When the Michielis wanted to return to Africa and take Josephine with them, the Italian courts ruled that since slavery was illegal in Italy, Josephine actually was freed the moment she set foot on Italian soil in 1885, and thus did not have to return with them as a slave! Click the title to read more.
This week our Church celebrates Catholic School’s Week. This is an opportunity for us to celebrate the great treasure that Catholic School education is for us, historically, and now in this present time. As a beneficiary of Catholic Schools myself from the 5th grade on, I am well aware personally of the value of Catholic Schools. The challenging and stimulating academic expectations and the religious and spiritual formation I received was foundational to my current success in life, and I’m sure was instrumental in my discovering my vocation, my call to priesthood. I don’t think it is an exaggeration to say that had I not attended Catholic School, someone else would be writing this column to you right now! Click the title to read more.
Pope Francis has declared that this Sunday, the Third Sunday in Ordinary Time, be observed as “Sunday of the Word of God” to highlight the importance of the Bible in our prayer and worship as Catholics. It is so appropriate to focus on the importance of Sacred Scripture on this Sunday which comes on the heels of the celebration of the Birth of Jesus who is, as St. John the Evangelist reminds us, “the Word [who] became flesh and dwelt among us,” (Jn. 1:14). With the reforms of the Second Vatican Council, inclusion of Sacred Scripture in our celebration of Mass was greatly expanded. Click the title to read more.
This weekend, our second reading features St. Paul’s poetic rendition of how the Holy Spirit gifts the Church with a diversity of talents, unique to each individual but given for the benefit of the whole community. This list of gifts leads up to St. Paul’s famous passage about love which is often chosen as one of the readings at weddings: “Love is patient, love is kind,…” (1 Cor. 13). Click the title to read more.