From the Pastor’s Desk, January 23, 2022

Sports Figures Who Died in 2021:

Floyd Little: From a line of great Syracuse University running backs (following Ernie Davis and the greatest of all runners, Jim Brown), Little starred for the Denver Broncos. NFL commissioner Roger Goodell called him “not only a Hall of Fame running back, [but] a Hall of Fame person. Faith, family and football were the pillars of his life.”

Henry “Hank” Aaron: Best known for breaking Babe Ruth’s career homerun record, he went on to become an eloquent spokesman for civil rights. Cardinals’ pitcher Curt Simmons said that “trying to throw a baseball by Hank Aaron is like trying to sneak the sunrise past a rooster.” Aaron admitted that he wasn’t a very good golfer: “It took me seventeen years to get three thousand hits in baseball. I did it in one afternoon on the golf.”

Tommy Lasorda: A player, manager and spokesman for 70 years as a Dodger, he once praised double-headers, saying “that way I get to keep my uniform on longer.” When Padres’ Kurt Bevacqua accused him of trying to bean him, Lasorda responded that he wasn’t worth beaning, because “he couldn’t hit water if he fell out of a … boat.”

Lubomir Kavalek: A chess champ who led Czechoslovakia after the Soviets crushed its bid for freedom, he won the U.S. championship three times and wrote a chess column for the Washington Post for 29 years.

Harthorne Wingo: A reserve forward for the New York Knicks, including on their 1973 championship team that had six Hall of Famers, he was best known for his remark when the team’s fortunes faded, “Ship be sinkin’.”

Elgin Baylor: An all-time great for the NBA’s Lakers and member of the league’s all-star team for its first 50 years, his scoring moves seemed to defy the laws of gravity.

Bobby Brown: A Yankee star who went on to become a cardiologist and American League president. When he was engaged, his fiancé asked him what she should tell her parents. He said, “Tell your mother that I’m going to medical school and your father that I play third base for the Yankees.”

Bobby Bowden: One of the most successful college football coaches ever, he won two national championships and, for 14 straight years had top-5 teams. When he retired from Florida State, he dryly remarked that “after you retire, there’s only one big event left.”

John Madden: At age 32, he became head coach of the Oakland Raiders for ten years, winning a Super Bowl and achieving the league’s all-time winning percentage. Later, he became a tremendously popular broadcaster for all three major networks.

From the Pastor’s Desk, January 16, 2022

Some significant people died in 2021:

Of religious interest:
Hans Küng: The Catholic world’s most prominent dissident theologian, who was also, somewhat surprisingly, close to Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, despite their many disagreements.
Fr. Joseph Koterski, SJ: A philosophy teacher and writer who died while preaching a retreat. Known for his zeal for discipleship and his love for the Western tradition’s Great Books, he served as a chaplain to the Missionaries of Charity and to the Sisters of Life, and used to be a pretty good boxer.
Anglican Archbishop Desmond Tutu: With Nelson Mandela (a prisoner for almost 30 years), he was a key figure in ridding South Africa of its segregationist apartheid ways. When a woman referred to him as Archbishop Mandela during a visit to California, he showed his typical good humor by replying to her, “So, you are getting two for the price of one!” He once plunged into an angry mob that was about to set fire to an accused snitch, saving his life.

Lawrence Ferlinghetti: Poet, publisher and owner of San Francisco’s famous City Lights Bookstore. In his novel Little Boy, published when he was nearly 100, he asked, “Am I the consciousness of a generation or just some old fool sounding off and trying to escape the dominant materialist avaricious consciousness of America?”
Anne Rice: Her books, mostly on vampires, sold more than 150 million copies. A onetime convert to Catholicism, she soon left the Faith.
Jonathan Spence: A Yale scholar who specialized in books about Chinese history, which included his superb work The Memory Palace of Matteo Ricci, on the early Jesuit who sought to win over China’s influential mandarins by bringing them the fruits of Western science and learning.

-Msgr. David Hubba

NOTE: In last week’s “From the Pastor’s Desk,” it was mentioned that India’s government, led by the Hindu-dominated party of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, barred a charity founded by Mother Teresa from accepting foreign donations for its charitable work. It has since been announced that approval for the missionary group to receive foreign funding has been restored. India’s Ministry of Home Affairs did not say what prompted the reversal.

From the Pastor’s Desk, January 9, 2022

Among 2021 happenings were these:

• San Francisco’s Board of Education voted 6-1 to rename 44 schools because they accused the people they were named for as being linked to slavery, oppression or racism. Included were George Washington, Abraham Lincoln and Senator Diane Feinstein (a decidedly liberal politician).

• There were a number of kidnappings in Nigeria, including one of 27 students, 3 staff and 12 family members in the state of Niger (one of whom was killed), and another in which 317 girls were taken from a boarding school in Zamfara State. Past abductions had been the work of jihadists, but now unrelated groups pursue this sordid business for profit. A local newspaper commented that “kidnapping for ransom is now the most thriving industry in Nigeria.” Haiti has experienced similar outrages. 17 Amish and Mennonite missionaries were held for ransom there by one of the some 200 criminal gangs that control more than half the nation’s territory.

• U.S. resident Paul Rusesabagina was one of 21 people put on trial in Uganda on politically motivated charges of rebellion and terrorism. He was portrayed in the film “Hotel Rwanda” for heroically sheltering and saving 1,268 Tutsis, for which he received a Presidential Medal of Freedom.

• In Kabul, 53 school girls were killed in a terrorist bombing.

• More than 750 Ethiopian Christian worshipers were taken outside of the Oriental Orthodox Church of Our Lady Mary of Zion and shot to death.

• Among episodes of violence in the U.S. were the killing of the 10 residents of Boulder, Colorado, by a recent resident from Syria and the killing of 5 and the injuring of 48 by a driver who crashed his SUV into a Christmas parade in Waukesha, Wisconsin. In San Francisco, coordinated looters ransacked several luxury stores and stole large quantities of expensive merchandise. The incidents sparked similar thefts in other cities.

• In several incidents, migrants near our southern borders died at the hands of “coyotes” who were illegally transporting them for fees up to $10,000. 13 died when a Ford Expedition, stuffed with 25 people crossed in front of a tractor trailer in California. 10 died when a van holding 29 people lost control in Texas. In another incident, 55 migrants were killed and 104 injured when a trailer truck carrying more than 160 crashed in Chiapas State, Mexico.

• 14 of 15 occupants of an Italian cable car died when it fell in the Alpine region of Lake Maggiore. A 5-year old boy survived.

• 21 long distance runners died at a sporting competition in China when they were caught in a high-altitude storm.

• 5 Australian children died and 4 were critically injured when a sudden gust of wind lifted a Councy-Ride more than 3 stories into the air.

• Mayor Jim Plunkett of Fitsgerald, Georgia, was defeated in his re-election bid, receiving just 5% of the votes. He lost favor with the voters when his expensive plan to erect a giant topiary chicken (with an apartment for rent, sort of like New Jersey’s Lucy the Elephant) failed to be completed. The mayor thought it would lure tourists to the small town. After the votes were tallied, the mayor remarked that “the chicken is obviously polarizing.”

• Another Georgia story related the doings of its innovative minor league baseball team, the Savannah Bananas. At its games, if fans catch a foul fly ball, it’s an out. Also, batters are forbidden to step out of the batter’s box (to help keep games from exceeding 2 hours). And if you guessed that the team’s uniforms are bright yellow, you are right.

• In an act of monumental national ingratitude, India’s government, led by the Hindu-dominated party of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, barred a charity founded by Mother Teresa from accepting foreign donations for its charitable work.

-Msgr. David Hubba

From the Pastor’s Desk, January 2, 2022

Ravenna, on Italy’s east coast, was ideally situated to interact with Byzantium, the capital of the Roman Empire’s eastern rule. That connection gave rise to the Byzantine art that notably beautifies the city’s churches. Sometime in the 500s a mosaic in one of those churches mentioned Balthassar, Melchior and Gaspar, names that have become traditionally attached to the mysterious travelers we now call the Magi or the Wise Men or the Three Kings. (Since then, Balthassar has lost an “s” and Gaspar has turned into Caspar.) Even before the Ravenna mosaic, there was an Egyptian reference to the three mysterious journeyers, with a different name assigned to Balthasar.

We really know very little about the magi, whose appearance in Matthew’s gospel has left the door wide open to many speculations. We can’t even be sure that there were three of them. That number has been assumed because of the three gifts they presented to the infant Jesus. Some biblical commentators have even speculated that the magi would have struck the Jews as unsavory characters associated with fraudulent and superstitious practices forbidden by the first commandment, or even as allies of demonic forces.

And yet, the 60th chapter of the book of the prophet of Isaiah mentions a future time when the wealth of the nations, including gold and frankincense, would be brought to Israel. Psalm 72 is also worth paying attention to. Speaking of the Messiah, it says that:
“The Kings of Tarshish and the Isles shall offer gifts;
the kings of Arabia and Seba shall bring tribute.
All kings shall pay him homage,
all nations shall serve him.”

The account of the Magi’s visit is usually interpreted as an indication that Jesus would have a universal impact. This view is reinforced by the conclusion of Matthew’s gospel, where Jesus, as he departs from his apostles, tells them to “Go … and make disciples of all nations … .”

For this article I relied on Michael Patrick Barbers’ “The True Meaning of Christmas” (Ignatius Press). I’m not smart enough to come up with all its insights, but, I like to think, smart enough to know good material when I see it.

– Msgr. David Hubba

From the Pastor’s Desk, December 26, 2021

The Little Sisters of the Poor, who run assisted living and nursing homes with the kind of superior care that is possible only because of the divine love that underlies their very existence, have a splendid monthly magazine called Serenity, which is available for just $5 a year. (Anyone who requests it should really offer more for it, postage expenses being what they have become.) In one of its recent issues, three of the sisters reflect on key values their members rely on. Sister Mary Alexandra, who works at their home for the elderly in Enfield, Connecticut, told of its statue of the Holy Family, which depicts the boy Jesus standing between Mary and Joseph with his arms lifted up toward them:
“… because of the way Jesus is placed in between his parents, it looks as though he is actually pointing to them rather than to the congregation! It’s like he is saying to us, “Look at them: the perfect Christian man and the perfect Christian woman. The quintessential saints of the Church. Study them, learn from them, follow their example. My Father has given them to you, to the Church, to guide you as your spiritual parents in your journey to holiness.”

Elsewhere in the issue, an unnamed sister comments on a painting by the British artist John Everett Millais. It includes Jesus’ grandmother, St. Anne, who stands behind Joseph’s work bench tending to a nail that has injured the young boy, whose hand is bleeding, as it will one day at Calvary. The painting is a reminder of the important role grandparents so often play in our families. Sometimes they are delightful visitors, sometimes they help provide daily care, and sometimes they even assume the parental role when needs or troubles require their loving help. The sister who called attention to Millais’s painting also wrote of how Pope Francis has reminded us of the ways grandparents help our grandparents help our families:
“How important grandparents are for family life, for passing on the human and religious heritage which is so essential for each and every society! How important it is to have intergenerational exchanges and dialogue, especially within the context of the family. … Children and elderly build the future of peoples: children because they lead history forward, the elderly because they transmit the experience and wisdom of their lives. This relationship and this dialogue between generations is a treasure to be preserved and strengthened.”

-Msgr. David Hubba

From the Pastor’s Desk, December 19, 2021

Christmas comes to us this Saturday as a welcome assertion of joy and hope in what has been a dreadfully trying year. Christmas has been surrounded with delightful human customs that we have come to value greatly. On a lower level are the cheerful decorations that contrast so vividly with the darkness that has been accumulating in recent weeks. Who doesn’t enjoy their creative splendor?

Then there are the feelings of closeness to family and friends, and even to people we don’t usually deal with. In his enjoyably instructive book “True Meaning of Christmas: The Birth of Jesus and the Origins of the Season” (Ignatius Press), Michael Patrick Barber notes that in Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol”, Scrooge’s nephew identifies these Christmas pleasures articulately when he tells his uncle that Christmas is: “… a kind, forgiving, charitable, pleasant time: the only time I know of, in the long calendar of the year, when men and women seem by one consent to open their shut-up hearts freely, and to think of people below them as if they really were fellow passengers to the grave.”

And it is surely true that the season can awaken our finest impulses. But towering over these pleasing benefits is one stupendous reality: that the Son of God, the light of the world as he once described himself, has come into our lives to completely transform them for the better. From the time of the unforgettable event in ancient Bethlehem, God has invited us to be with him forever. The Church Father St. Ambrose, addressing Jesus Christ, expressed this immense blessing beautifully when he wrote:
“Now your candle shines bright and night itself gives forth uncommon light. May no night ever interrupt it, and may it shine with perpetual faith.

-Msgr. David Hubba

From the Pastor’s Desk, December 12, 2021

Mary, under her title of Our Lady of Guadalupe, is the patron saint for all the Americas. The magnificent basilica in Mexico City that honors her under this name stands near the place where St. Juan Diego received the garment that, enchantingly, was blessed with the famous image of Mary that is revered to this day. The feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, normally celebrated on December 12, is not observed this year because it conflicts with an Advent Sunday. In a way, this in itself pays tribute to the humility that so characterized Mary. St. Therese of Lisieux once paid tribute to this humility and to how it leads the humble people of this world to trust in her love with these simple and profound words:
“I know that at Nazareth, Virgin full of grace, you lived very poorly without asking for anything more. Neither ecstasies, nor miracles, nor other extraordinary deeds enhanced your life, O Queen of the elect, the number of the lowly, the “little ones,” is very great on earth. They can raise their eyes to you without fear. You are the incomparable Mother who walks with them along the common way to guide them to heaven.”

In his Confessions, St. Augustine movingly admitted his complete dependence on God’s mercy:
“Rightly … have I firm hope that you will heal my infirmities through him who sits at your right hand and intercedes for us. Otherwise I should despair. For great and numerous are
these infirmities of mine, great indeed and numerous, but your medicine is mightier.”

Our Father John, at a recent meeting of the priests of our deanery, proposed that local parishes should host Advent Penance services where people could choose to make their confessions to their “hometown” priests or to priests who serve in other parishes. Our turn to be the host parish will on Monday evening, December 20, at 7pm.

-Msgr. David Hubba

From the Pastor’s Desk, December 5, 2021

The annual Bergen Catholic High School Holiday Chorale will again take place at Saint Joseph Church on Monday, December 13 at 7:30 pm. ALL ARE WELCOME.

Wednesday is the solemnity of Our Lady’s Immaculate Conception, a holy day of obligation and the feast day of our national patron saint. The Basilica of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C., a church of splendid beauty and one of the largest churches in the world, is a magnificent tribute to Mary under this title. (If you have never visited it, you might consider entering it onto your list of special places you would like to see. Located on the campus of Catholic University, it is readily accessible by the District of Columbia’s Metro rapid transit system or by and it has free parking. Some Catholics misconstrue the meaning of the Immaculate Conception, thinking that it refers to Mary’s giving birth to Jesus. (We celebrate Christmas in recognition of that infinite blessing.) The doctrine of the Immaculate Conception asserts that, from the very first moment Mary existed, she was free from Original Sin (the inheritance of our human condition) and Actual Sins (those of our personal responsibility). This great favor was given to her by God’s special grace because of the unique task entrusted to her of being the mother of our Savior. St. John Henry Newman wrote a beautiful reflection on Our Lady that is very much suited to her
title of the Immaculate Conception:
“Mary is the house and the palace of the Great King, of God himself. Our Lord, the co-equal Son of God, once dwelt in her. He was her guest; nay more than a guest, for a guest comes into a house as well as leaves it. But our Lord was actually born in this holy house. He took his flesh and blood from this house, from the flesh, from the veins of Mary. Rightly then she was made to be of pure gold, because she was to give of that gold to form the body of the Son of God. She was golden in her conception, golden in her birth. She went through the fire of suffering like gold in the furnace, and when she ascended on high, she was, in the words of our hymn, “Above all angels in glory untold, Standing next to the King in a vesture of gold.”

-Msgr. David Hubba

From the Pastor’s Desk, November 28, 2021

In exploring my files for this article, I read a piece by John Norton from the Catholic weekly newspaper Our Sunday Visitor. It mentioned a heroic priest from the World War II era.

Jesuit Father Alfred Delp was one of several thousand Germans arrested by Nazi authorities after the failed 1944 attempt to do away with Hitler. Even though he had no involvement in the plot, he had been part of a resistance cell, and paid for it with his life in February of 1945 after being charged with having a “defeatist” attitude. He spent his last Advent chained in prison. While there, even though his hands were manacled, he wrote his Prison Meditations, in which he remarked that “There is perhaps nothing we modern people need more than to be genuinely shaken up,” reminding us that we are not the center of our lives but that God is.

Father Delp’s reflections reminded Mr. Norton of some thoughts of Pope Benedict XVI from ten years ago, that
Advent is a time when we ought to be shaken and brought to a realization of ourselves.… Being shattered, being awakened only with these is life made capable of Advent. … [I]n the wretchedness of realizing our limitations, the golden threads that pass between heaven and earth in these times reach us. These golden threads give the world a taste of the abundance it can have. … Advent comes every year to remind us … that our lives might find their just orientation towards the face of God. The face not of a “master,” but of a father and a friend.

In Advent we prepare for Christmas, including by repenting our sins. We likewise look forward with strong hope to the time when Our Lord will come to us again, putting God’s final touch to human history in the general judgment. But, of course, every day offers us a decisively beautiful chance to encounter God and his gifts.

-Msgr. David Hubba

From the Pastor’s Desk, November 21, 2021

In his recent book Letters to America, the great country music legend Willie Nelson recalled that he and his sister Bobbie were raised by their grandparents. “After my granddaddy died, things were even tougher. For Thanksgiving dinner one year, we split a can of soup.” As we look forward to our nation’s treasured Thanksgiving holiday this Thursday, I don’t suppose any of us are facing a comparable hardship, unless we have recently suffered the loss of a loved one. But whether the day promises us much-anticipated joys of delicious food and welcome camaraderie, or even if it contains the re-emergence of some predictable relational tensions, it reminds us that, if we compare our blessings and our hardships accurately, we will find many reasons to be grateful. Charles Dickens had it right when he urged us to:
“Reflect on your present blessings of which every man has many, not on your past misfortunes, of which all men have some.”

Our Thanksgiving Day Mass, the only one for the day, will be at 8:30 am in the main church. I hope you will be able to join us as we take part in the Eucharist, the unsurpassable way to thank God for all he has done for us. It is also very uplifting to see how many of you contribute to our Thanksgiving food drive for the needy, which concludes this Sunday afternoon. Items should be dropped off at the rectory garage throughout the day’s Mass schedule.

-Msgr. David Hubba

From the Pastor’s Desk, November 14, 2021

It would be hard to come up with a better analog for the spiritual life than a pilgrimage. After all, we’re on the way somewhere in our lives and aren’t just staying put.

Soon after Our Lord’s earthly life, Christian pilgrims began making their way to the places where he set foot, taught and worked, especially to Jerusalem, where he died for us and rose from the dead. Much later, Christian pilgrims journeyed to such revered destinations as Canterbury, where St. Thomas Becket was martyred at the altar of his cathedral, and Compostela, where the tomb of St. James was venerated by pilgrims who made the arduous walk along the famous camino trail.

Pilgrimages and other travels of spiritual significance also preceded Christian times.
Psalm 107 speaks of journeys of futility:
Some wandered in the desert, in the wilderness,
finding no way to a city they could dwell in.
Hungry they were and thirsty;
their soul was fainting within them.
They cried to the Lord in their need
and he rescued them from their distress
and he led them along the right way,
to reach a city they could dwell in.

St. John Vianney, known as the Curë (parish priest) of Ars, led a life of amazing austerity. He worked tirelessly among his people and the many pilgrims who came, often for 15 or 16 hours a day, to make their confession to him. He was certainly no adherent to a non-carbohydrate diet, since for years his typical meal consisted of a potato or two and a cup of milk, a strong irony since he lived near Brillat-Savarin, the most eminent expert on food in France’s history.

In addition to his other priestly duties, St. John gave regular catechetical talks to children and adults. Many of these talks, presented in simple and direct language, have survived. In one of them, the Curë spoke of how prayer strengthened him on a long journey he once had to make:
Prayer … makes time pass very quickly and with such great delight that one does not notice its length. Listen: Once when I was a purveyor in Bresse and most of my companions were ill, I had to make a long journey. I prayed to the good God, and, believe me, the time did not seem long.

Prayer sustained the Curë, and it can do the same for us, including in the most difficult of our trials. For St. John, prayer was no grim obligation, but a joyous delight. As he once said:
Prayer is nothing else but union with God. … In this intimate union, God and the soul are fused together like two bits of wax that no one can ever pull apart. The union of God with a tiny creature is a lovely thing. It is a happiness beyond understanding.

-Msgr. David Hubba

From the Pastor’s Desk, November 7, 2021

Twenty-one years ago the television personality Steve Allen died in a way many of us would gladly sign up for, if we could. He was taking a nap and never woke up.

In an entertainment career of more than fifty years, Allen displayed astonishingly diverse talents. He was a skilled pianist, although he couldn’t read music, and the composer of over 5,000 songs, including the durable standard “This Could Be the Start of Something Big.” He also played the title role in the film The Benny Goodman Story. But he won fame on TV.

Allen was the original star on “The Tonight Show,” preceding Jack Paar and Johnny Carson. Besides the studio comedy and interviews that have remained staples of the late night shows, Steve and his crew of comedians carried out zany stunts, such as taking to New York’s streets for go-cart races, or to pose as customs inspectors. (“Excuse me, sir, are you hiding any contraband fruit or nuts?”) Once Allen tied 500 teabags to himself and jumped into a vat of water to make iced tea, an idea David Letterman later copied.

His quick wit was always ready for some fun, especially in the spontaneous interviews he conducted like no one else. (“And what’s your line of work?” “I’m in the steel business.” “I suppose we all do a little of that every now and then.” Or my own favorite: When he once offered to come up with punning questions to answers that studio guests provided, someone challenged him to come up with one for our local highway 9W, to which Steve reacted by pretending to ask the famous composer: “Herr Wagner, do you spell you name with a V?” The reply was: “Nein-W!)

Allen also had a serious side. After earning a Ph.D., he wrote a number of books and often took part in political discourse, championing social justice causes and generally defending liberal views. Allen was a frequent guest in the early days of William F. Buckley Jr.’s “Firing Line,” contesting Buckley’s stances. In the 1970s, Allen tried a creative approach to panel-discussion TV by hosting imaginary exchanges among famous thinkers. (You might get Aristotle, Thomas Aquinas, Galileo and Emily Dickinson sharing their ideas.)

In his final years, Allen led efforts to combat the increase of smutty material on television, a trend he saw as degrading TV and us. He ran ads for organizations he was strongly involved with, the Parents Television Council and the Council for Media Integrity. In his last days, he was writing a book on declining TV standards that he entitled Vulgarians at the Gate. His thoughts on the subject are still worth attending to at a time when changes are needed in the medium to which he brought such class and through which he gave viewers so much joy and light.

-Msgr. David Hubba

From the Pastor’s Desk, October 31, 2021

This week has two of the Church’s most important days of worship.  Monday is All Saints Day (not a holy day of obligation this year), when we recall the famous and ordinary people who have reached the life of Heaven.  Tuesday is All Souls Day, when we pray for all the dead, especially those completing their readiness for Heaven in Purgatory.

One saint of great importance who is not widely known today is St. Anselm (c. 1033-1109), a Doctor (or key teacher) of the Church, whose life was too complicated to describe in a few paragraphs.  A native of the border region of today’s Italy and France, he became an exemplary Benedictine monk who relished his monastic life but was called on to serve the Church as Archbishop of Canterbury, England’s chief diocese, at a time when the usual heavy demands of that office were entangled with the difficult political realities of dealing with kings and the pressures their expectations of loyalty often imposed.  Pressed between this and a need to pursue reforms in the Church, Anselm once said, “I saw in England many evils whose correction belonged to me and which I could neither remedy nor, without personal guilt, allow to exist.”  In addition to this dilemma, he was twice forced into exile. Anselm is probably best known now for his contributions to philosophy.  His briefly-stated attempt to prove God’s existence argues that since God is “that than which nothing greater can be conceived,” he must have existence since, without it, we could conceive a superior entity.  We can chew on that for quite a while, as philosophers have for centuries, whether praising or disputing its validity. Anselm’s spiritual guidance is far easier to comprehend.  I’ve always valued these words he once wrote as a fine way to begin a session of prayer:

Come now, little man, put aside your business for a while, take refuge for a little from your tumultuous thoughts; cast off your cares, and let your burdensome distractions wait.  Take some leisure for God; rest awhile in him …, put out everything except God and whatever helps you to seek him. … Say now to God with all your heart, “I seek your face, O Lord, your face do I seek.”

James Monti, who writes about the history of the liturgy, translated a medieval hymn for the excellent prayer periodical Magnificat.  It offers consolation to anyone who has seen a loved one die, especially in its lines:

In a verdant place, O Lord, set them there; On the water of refreshment, lead forth their souls to life.

At our customary All Souls Day Mass (Tuesday evening at 7:30) we will read out the names of those who have had funerals at Saint Joseph this past year.  If you will be attending this Mass and have experienced a recent loss of someone whose funeral took place elsewhere, you are welcome to submit his or her name so it can be added to the list. We can all take heart from Bach’s cantata “Gladly I Bear the Cross” as we ponder the inevitability of death.  It says, at one point:

My journey through life is like a voyage at sea,
affliction, trouble and distress engulf me like waves and daily threaten me with death;
but my true anchor is God’s mercy, which often gladdens my heart.
He tells me that he will never forsake or neglect me.
And when the angry tempest is over, I shall step from the ship into my own city, the heavenly kingdom, to which I shall attain with the blessed, freed from cares

-Msgr. Hubba

From the Pastor’s Desk, October 24, 2021

Wednesday is the anniversary of the Battle of the Milvian Bridge, which took place near Rome on October 27, 312 A.D. It is one of history’s most consequential events.

Until it took place, Christians had a precarious existence in the Roman Empire. Not long before it, there were terrible sporadic persecutions of believers. But in the early 4th c, there were four contenders for the imperial throne, and in 312 the two strongest, Maxentius and Constantine (who improbably were brothers-in-law), were about to go to war for western dominance. The day before the battle, Constantine had a vision of a flaming cross suspended in the sky, accompanied by the saying “By this sign you will conquer.” Constantine ordered the image to be incorporated into his banner and the helmets and shields of his soldiers. After his victory, he and Licinius, the regional ruler of the eastern empire, agreed to issue the Edict of Milan, which granted toleration to Christians. Twelve years later, Constantine overcame Licinius and became the sole ruler of the Roman Empire.

Constantine made Christianity a virtual state religion, curbing pagan practices with mild measures, abolishing crucifixion because of its connection with the death of Jesus, and even writing a prayer his soldiers were expected to recite. Oddly, Constantine was baptized only shortly before he died, a practice sometimes adopted by those who wanted to enter the next life unsullied by sins.

There is a statue of “Saint” Constantine in our cathedral. Wanting to verify this, I called our Archdiocese’s most knowledgeable researcher on the Basilica of the Sacred Heart, Father Michael Gubernat. He assured me that there was such a statue: a wooden one embedded in the screening that separates the sanctuary from its surrounding ambulatory, near the Archbishop’s chair. Although Constantine was apparently never canonized by the Catholic Church, he is regarded as a saint by several of the Orthodox Churches, so his title is not completely indefensible.

On the opposite side of the sanctuary there is a statue of Constantine’s mother, St. Helena, who is most notably honored for her discovery of the Lord’s true cross in Jerusalem. The great novelist Evelyn Waugh, arguably the finest English stylist of modern times, wrote a slim novel about her called Helena, which he regarded as his favorite work. It offers a thoroughly enjoyable reading experience to anyone who takes advantage of its riches.

-Msgr. Hubba

From the Pastor’s Desk, October 17, 2021

On the third day of the Civil War’s Battle of Gettysburg, the decisive occurrence was Pickett’s Charge, a Confederate assault on a strong Union position that was Robert Lee’s greatest failure and won the battle for the North. The prelude to the southern attack was an artillery duel that was not exceeded until the World Wars of the 20th c. When 300 guns exchanged fire for half an hour, the historian James M. McPherson wrote, their sounds could be heard in Pittsburgh. This reminds me of how the mantra “Follow the science” has so often been heard during these months of the Covid-19 pandemic from public health officials, political leaders and opinion voices of the media.

Since October has been a month that includes a strong Right to Life message from our Church, I think about why this advice has not been applied to the destruction of growing, even viable children, who have been aborted in astounding numbers since the Roe v. Wade decision of 1973 and its expansive implications ever since. The original ruling addressed the fate of unborn babies in the first trimester of pregnancy, but has somehow came to be extended to babies able to live independently and even ones who are alive after the abortion procedure has been carried out. Furthermore, the Hyde Amendment, which for years kept abortions from being paid for by taxpayers, has recently been disavowed. So, what does “the science” have to say about the inception and growth of human life? That has long been clear. From the time when the human egg and sperm unite, a new life is formed. A few years ago an outstanding 3-volume reference work appeared: Encyclopedia of Catholic Social Thought, Social Science, and Social Policy. It would be ideal if every parish and public library had a set. I excavated six of its articles for this piece.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church, with its usual apt summary of our beliefs, states that
“Human life must be respected and protected absolutely from the moment of conception. From the first moment of his existence, a human being must be recognized as having the rights of a person among which is the inviolable right of every innocent being to life.”
This is so because every zygote (the fused union of parents’ genetic contribution to life) is a unique individual reality which, if not interfered with, results in the birth of a new child. This is settled, inarguable science, not uncertain or debatable assertion. The strongest and most elegantly expressed Church teaching on the respect for life issues in recent times was Pope St. John Paul II’s 1995 encyclical Evangelium Vitae (The Gospel of Life). It speaks of the “marvelous process of the unfolding of life,” reminding us that “right from fertilization the adventure of human life begins,” which is “a most beautiful thing, … an event worthy of being exalted in joy and glory.” The encyclical is a powerful affirmation of “the incomparable and inviolable worth of every human life,” something we must never forget to acknowledge and to respect in our living. As John Paul wrote: …in every child which is born and in every person who lives and dies we see the image of God’s glory.

-Msgr. Hubba