Tuesday, March 25, 2014

I've Moved!!!

Yes, I finally got my own domain and started using Wordpress.  You can find the new blog at www.whitearoundthecollar.com. Don't forget to update your bookmarks!

Monday, March 24, 2014

The Holy House of Loretto

Photo taken by your's truly as I sat and prayed in the Holy House of Loretto.

For years I have been talking with a priest friend about making a pilgrimage to Italy together.  We would talk about it all the time, but that’s where it stopped.  Until this past October.  I was visiting him, and one night, after a long day of work in his parish, we were eating delicious food and drinking delicious drink, and once again we began talking about this trip we would one day take.  Then one of us, I honestly can’t remember who, said something along the lines of “You know, we should actually do this.”  And right then and there we got out our calendars and found some dates that would work, we booked our flights.  It was finally going to happen.

As we planned the trip there were many places we wanted to go, and for the most part we went to them.  I have a devotion to St. Benedict, so Subiaco, Monte Cassino, and Norcia were on the itinerary.  My friend suggested we go to Loretto, to pray in the Holy House.  I had heard of the Holy House, and frankly, I was skeptical.  The legend is that it was miraculously transported from Nazareth by angels to the town of Loretto in Italy.  There was a less miraculous version of the story where a family named with the surname of DeAngelis takes the Holy House apart brick by brick in Nazareth, then transporting it to Loretto, and there reconstructing it.  Neither story really piqued my interest.  It was a nice story, but why would I drive all the way across Italy to Loretto to see a house that might, or might not, be the House in which the Angel Gabriel visited Our Lady and where the Word was made flesh?  

My friend said, “You HAVE to go and pray there!”  Other people who had been their said the same thing.  There seemed to be unanimity among those who had been there that it was a “must see.”  Some said it was “one of the holiest places they had ever been to.”  Others said that “after you pray there you will KNOW that it is the real deal.”  I was still a bit skeptical but I decided to go, and am I extremely grateful that I did.

As we approached Loretto you could see the basilica way up on top of the hill on which the city is built.  Compared to St. Peter’s it was nothing special.  It was beautiful to be sure, but nothing like the grand Basilicas of Europe.  As we parked and walked toward the Basilica, it was raining, and there weren’t many people around at all.  We entered the Basilica and entered the Holy House.  The House is covered with marble on the outside, but on the inside, it’s just ancient brick.  The Basilica was built around the Holy House, so right in the middle of the Basilica stands the Holy House.  

In entering the Holy House the thing that was immediately apparent was that it was a very holy place.  There was a silence unlike I have ever experienced there.  The place was heavy with silence, and heavy with holiness.  There were no chairs or pews, except for one chair reserved for little old ladies.  If you wanted to stay and pray you either stood, knelt, or sat on the floor.  Which is what I did.

I sat on the floor, with my back against the wall.  I was right beneath the angel’s window, called such because it is the window through which the Archangel Gabriel entered the house to announce to Mary that she would be the mother of Jesus.  Directly in front of me was the Altar of the Apostles.  It’s called the Altar of the Apostles because it is believed that the Apostles themselves offered Mass on the Altar.  Above the Altar is the miraculous image of our Lady holding the Child Jesus.

As I sat there and prayed, the spirit of silence and prayer settled upon me.  The prayer was amazing!  In all my travels I have never, ever experienced a sense of holiness like I did in that place.  I could feel the presence of Our Lady.  She was there.  

The time flew.  In what seemed like five minutes, I had already prayed for an hour, which was the amount of time we had pre-arranged.  I left the Holy House, and said to my priest-friend that “I could pray here all day.”  And that was not an understatement.  It’s one of those places where the holiness and prayerfulness of the place can pull you into prayer and keep you there without you even knowing it.  I wandered around a bit looking at the Basilica, which is filled with stunning artwork, but I couldn’t stay away from the Holy House.  It wasn’t long before I was back in there.  When it was time to leave, it was hard.  I wanted to stay there all day, and all night.

So, was the Holy House carried there by angels?  Was it brought there by a pious family?  I don’t know.  What I do know is that it IS, beyond a shadow of a doubt, the home of Mary and Joseph and Jesus.  What I do know is that it is one of the holiest places in the world.  What I do know is that I would go back there in a heartbeat, and when I do, I’ll plan a whole day to just sit and pray.

Today, on the Solemnity of the Annunciation I pray that the spirit of the Holy House, and the graces given me there will be revived and renewed within me.  

*     *     *     *     *

If you want to read a bit on the Holy House, here are a few itemsI’d recommend.  The first is a book written from the perspective of the history and archeology of the Holy House (which, for the record seem to prove that it more than likely is the actually Holy House of Nazareth).  The second is a DVD, that is fairly well done, if a bit dated - not in information, but in that it was clearly made a number of years ago.  Finally, if you want something more spiritual and pious, you might check out the book by Bob and Penny Lord.  Just click on the links if you want to see more.


Monday, February 25, 2013

Sunday, December 11, 2011

John Patrick Cardinal Foley; Rest in Peace

Early this morning, one of the great figures of Catholicism in America went to his eternal reward.  Most of us, even if we do not recognize his face, will certainly recognize his voice.  For many years he was the commentator for the televised Masses of the Holy Father from Rome.  My association with him comes via the Knights and Ladies of the Holy Sepulchre, for which he was the Grand Master.  He was present at our annual Convention a few years ago and quickly became well loved for his obvious love and reverence for Our Lord, the Sacred Liturgy and the work of the Knights and Ladies in the Holy Land, not to mention his delightful sense of humor. I was particularly moved by how he reverently bowed his head every time, whether in the Sacred Liturgy or in conversation the holy name of Jesus was spoken.  He was one of the kindest and most gentle churchman I have ever had the privilege to work with.

Monday, November 28, 2011

It's Been Awhile...

In case there are still some folks who come here looking for blog posts, here is my homily for the First Sunday of Advent.  I know it's been awhile since I posted anything, but honestly, I don't know if there is anything I can say that isn't being said by someone else in the blogosphere.  Even so, people keep asking me to post my homilies and other thoughts, so here you go.

Oremus pro invicem. 

Sunday, August 21, 2011

As Through a Veil...

Vox Clamantis In Deserto…
A Voice Crying In The Desert…

This week as you come to Mass you probably noticed a change in the sanctuary: the tabernacle is in the middle, and not only that, but it is veiled.  On my first Sunday here I announced that the presider’s chair would be moved to the side, because the presider is not the center of attention, Jesus is.  This latest change is one more step in making sure that Jesus our focus.  He is the heart and focal point of our parish community, and now this is reflected in our parish Church.

The tabernacle is also veiled.  There are many reasons for this, the first of which is that the Church asks us to veil the tabernacle.  The very word “tabernacle” means “tent.”  It is the word that the Israelites used to describe the tent in which the Ark of the Covenant was kept.  The Ark of the covenant is where God dwelled.  Within it was kept some of the miraculous manna – the heavenly bread - which fed the Israelites as they wandered in the desert.  This tabernacle of old was considered so holy that is was kept veiled; hidden from our sight.  The tabernacle that we have doesn’t contain merely manna, but the very bread of life, Jesus Himself.  It is much more sacred, much more holy, and thus it too is veiled.

The veil is meant to remind us that in this life we do not yet see the fullness of heaven…we do not see God face to face.  One day we will enter behind the veil that is between this life and the life to come.  Then we will see God face to face.  But here we do not have such a privilege, heaven is behind the veil.  We know it is there, but we cannot see through it.  The veil on our tabernacle reminds us this.  It should make us long to see into the tabernacle…into the dwelling of God…into heaven itself. 

I pray that this small change to the Sanctuary will be a constant reminder of who is the focus of everything we do as a parish community.  Our eyes are set firmly on Jesus.  He is the center of our parish.  He is the heart of our parish, for from His Sacred Heart, truly present in the tabernacle, His Precious Blood flows to each and every part of His Mystical Body, the Church.  Ever time that we enter this Church, let us gaze upon His presence, hidden behind a veil, and let us fall to our knees and praise Him who loves us so much as to continue to live in our presence through the gift of the Holy Eucharist.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Where Are You?

Time sure does fly. It seems like it has been forever since I have posted anything here Hopefully there are still a few of you who still check in now and again.

Over the past few weeks I have been working with some colleagues to put on a number of workshops on the new translation of the Roman Missal. The workshop will be available online soon. I will provide a link when it is up.

This coming Friday I begin my new assignment as pastor of Sts. Peter and Paul in Dimock and Holy Trinity in Ethan. I am very grateful to my Bishop for this assignment and look forward to jumping back into Priestly Ministry after two years of school. Please pray for me and the flock that has been entrusted to my care.

After I get settled in it is my hope to begin to post the audio of my homilies here once again.

Friday, April 29, 2011

"A Virile, Muscular Catholicism"

One of the greatest days of my life: February 20, 2000

From the ubiquitous Fr. Z in the Washington Post:

Pope John Paul II: Fearless in hope and love By Fr. John Zuhlsdorf In some cities in the USA when a local team wins a basketball game, crowds burn cars. But when John Paul II’s body was lying on view in St. Peter’s Basilica, one first responder, police officer and volunteer worker after the next told me that there had not been a single act of civil disobedience or problem reported. That means something. During the days which preceded his funeral, armed with media credentials I was able to move freely through the checkpoints and channels for the millions, literally, of people who stood in slow moving lines for scores of hours to see the dead Pope’s body for the last time. Peacefulness, prayer and patience reigned.
 At the end of the funeral, the wind blew closed the cover of Book of the Gospels. Men lifted John Paul’s onto their shoulders. They stopped before the open doors of the Basilica and slowly pin-wheeled, as if to give him one last public wave. A shout went up, simultaneous because of the huge video screens along the nearby streets. That shout, which echoed across a silent and motionless Rome, may have been the single loudest purely human sound ever raised on high in that City of over 3000 years.
 There began the rising chant of the people, “Santo Subito… Sainthood Soon”. It may have been a manifestation of the old adage Vox Populi Vox Dei… The Voice of the People is the Voice of God. I don’t know that, but it was unlike any chant I had ever heard before. Of course when in Rome you hear the word “subito,” especially from a waiter, you almost never expect what you’ve requested to happen quickly. And yet here we are at his beatification.
 Leaving aside the issue of the record-breaking speed of the late Pope John Paul II’s beatification (2220 days, 15 days faster the Bl. Mother Teresa of Calcutta), we should all be able to remember and agree on some of the achievements of his life as a good man, a faithful member of his Catholic Church, and life-long disciple of the Lord and Savior he so obviously loved. 
 A pebble can prompt a tumultuous landslide. John Paul dropped a great many stones. Many of them are still gathering speed. On the geopolitical plane, the visit of John Paul II to his native Poland after his election as pope helped to diminish worldwide the soul annihilating forces of atheistic communism. Within the church, after a decade and more of internal rebellion and chaos, John Paul’s manifest confidence, love of neighbor and focus on the Redeemer of man initiated the gradual rebuilding of order and morale, especially among young people, which continues still under the pontificate of Pope Benedict. 
From the early loss of his parents and the hardship of a youth under Nazi occupation, including forced labor and serious injury, to the sorrow of seeing his beloved Poland and her people suffer under communism, from witnessing open defiance on the part of clergy and theologians within the church to being shot by an assassin in St. Peter’s Square, from the horror of emerging of stories about abuse of children, to the ever increasing agony of Parkinson’s Disease which sapped his vitality and imprisoned him in physical weakness, John Paul radiated hope.
 Even as he became smaller, he seemed to become all the greater, for it was Christ who increased in him. Young people were inspired by his joy. The frail elderly man gradually brightened as a beacon of hope to us all. Let us not forget that we too are daily drawing closer to our own decline and death with their attendant pains and challenges. We will be no less precious and valuable when we grow weaker. In his choice to suffer publicly, John Paul taught us that love of God and beauty of soul are the truly human values which matter, not wealth or youthful beauty or passing worldly goods. John Paul stood as a sign of contradiction in an increasingly shallow and materialist age.
 John Paul strode onto the church’s stage announcing a virile, muscular Catholicism even as he relentlessly taught in his writing and preaching about the dignity of the human person, that we must not treat others – especially women, unborn and elderly - as objects to be used or discarded for our own selfish convenience. Each person, from the defenseless unborn to the defenseless senior, is precious in God’s sight and made in God’s image and likeness. John Paul’s “theology of the body,” as it has been dubbed, presented a view of man with which countless young people were able to resonate.
 As Blessed John Paul, or just plain pope, or simply Karol, he was a giant of a man who persevered in his simple message to his very last heartbeat: Do not be afraid to love your Lord with all your heart and strength and love your neighbor as you love yourself.
 Fr John Zuhlsdorf, a convert from Lutheranism, is a writer for various Catholic publications. He wrangles a popular blog with frank commentary on Catholic issues (fatherzonline.com). He was ordained a priest in 1991 by Pope John Paul II.