From the Pastor’s Desk, May 22, 2022
The Marianists (The Society of Mary) are a religious order with roots in 19th-century France during the greatly troubled times following the French Revolution, which was hostile, often violently so, to the Church. But our religion is not easily extinguished.
Blessed William Joseph Chaminade (1761-1850), a priest from Bordeaux, and two women collaborators, founded the Marianists, whose branches included faith communities of priests, sisters and lay people. When their presence reached the United States, the Bishop of Cincinnati sent one of their priests, Father Leo Meyer, to Emmanuel parish in Dayton, during an outbreak of cholera. There he met John Stuart, who had lost a daughter to the epidemic and wished to return to Europe. Father Meyer gave him a St. Joseph medal
and promised to come up with $12,000 to buy Stuart’s farm, 125 acres of vineyards and orchards. Soon, in 1850, a school started there that eventually became the University of Dayton.
That university includes the world’s largest library dedicated to Mary. Besides a staggering number of books, it has galleries of art and Marian artifacts, and study facilities. It also has an impressive website, https://udayton.edu/marianlibrary/, a wonderful resource for anyone who would like to know more about Our Lady or pray about her more effectively. On it, you can find the encyclopedia All About Mary, the Church’s documents about Mary, art works, music and many other items that are a joy to explore for anyone devoted to her, whether in her traditional month of May or at any other time.
-Msgr. David Hubba
From the Pastor’s Desk, May 15, 2022
At my first assignment in Hackensack, we would get visitors who wanted money. Some lived in rooming houses, others had just been released from jail or were otherwise down on their luck. One day, when a petitioner asked for $5 for something to eat and I wasn’t doing anything, I followed him on his journey to a nearby place of refreshment, a tavern near the Anderson St. railroad station called the Charl-Marie. I assumed, I’m embarrassed to say, he was going there for a bit of a nip. It wasn’t until much later that it occurred to me that this very respectable establishment also sold food and that maybe the man was there to get a hamburger.
The great 18th-century writer Samuel Johnson had a far more humane attitude than I did. His friend Hester Thrale noted in her journal that: “He loved the poor as I never yet saw anyone else do, with an earnest desire to make them happy. What signifies, says some one, giving halfpence to common beggars? “They only lay it out in gin or tobacco.” And why (says Johnson) should they be denied such sweeteners of their existence? It is surely very savage to deny them every possible avenue to pleasure, reckoned too coarse for our own acceptance. Life is a pill which none of us can bear to swallow without gilding; yet for the poor we delight in stripping it still barer, and are not ashamed to show even visible displeasure, if ever the bitter taste is taken from their mouths.”
Johnson was a sincerely religious man. For many years during Holy Week and the Easter season, he would examine his conscience and pray for improvement. In 1757, he reflected:
“Pardon my sins, remove the impediments that hinder my obedience. Enable me to shake off sloth, and to redeem the time misspent in idleness and sin by a diligent application of the days yet remaining to the duties which thy Providence shall allot me. O God, grant me thy Holy Spirit, that I may repent and amend my life, grant me contrition, grant me resolution for the sake of Jesus Christ, to whose covenant I now implore admission, of the benefits of whose death I implore participation. For his sake, have mercy on me, O God; for his sake, O God, pardon and receive me. Amen.”
In 1775, Johnson looked at himself with searching and unsparing honesty and prayed: “When I look back on resolutions of improvements and amendments, which have
year after year been made and broken, either by negligence, forgetfulness, vicious idleness, casual interruption, or morbid infirmity, when I find that so much of my life has stolen unprofitably away, and that I can descry by retrospection scarcely a few single days properly and vigorously employed, why do I yet try to resolve again? I try because reformation is necessary and despair is criminal. I try in humble hope of the help of God…”
The Easter season still has several weeks to go. I think we can benefit from Samuel Johnson’s prayers.
-Msgr. David Hubba
From the Pastor’s Desk, May 8, 2022
Because May is First Communion season, I thought you might like to have a few observations about its importance. So here’s my train of thought—although it may be more
like a little red wagon. When I made my own First Communion in 1955, just after the craze about the frontier hero Davy Crockett, we experienced it on a Saturday morning, just a day after we made our First Confessions. The morning was far preferable to the afternoon since, back then, communicants had to fast from food and drink, even from water, from the previous midnight. The boys wore white suits and shoes, and the girls wore white dresses and shoes. (After I was ordained a priest, the parish I first served in during the 1970s
decided to “ride with the times,” and let the clothing choice rest with each family. One girl arrived in a dress that wasn’t white, which became the cause of much crying. Some years
later, those who set the trends decided to make First Communions more family-centered and, at the same time, encourage greater attendance at Sunday Mass. We are
still hoping for favorable results from this procedure.)
But comparing the above to the most important reality of First Communion, namely the true presence of Jesus Christ given to us under the divine disguise of sanctified bread
and wine, is like making a quantitative comparison between tiny Mercury and gigantic Jupiter in our solar system.
Last week’s “Pastor’s Desk” mentioned the teachings of St. Cyril of Jerusalem to the newly baptized in the weeks after Easter. In one of them, Cyril gave a deeper explanation of the Eucharist to the new Catholics, one all of us should remember. After recalling Jesus’ words at the Last Supper, that the bread and wine, when blessed, are then his body and blood, he wrote that: “Therefore, it is with complete assurance that we receive the bread and wine as the body and blood of Christ. His body is given to us to under the symbol of bread, and his blood is given to us under the symbol of wine, in order to make us by receiving them one body and blood with him. Having his body and blood in our members, we become bearers of Christ and sharers, as St. Peter says, in the divine nature.” … Do not, then, regard the Eucharistic elements as ordinary bread and wine: they are in fact the body and blood of the Lord, as he himself has declared. Whatever your senses may tell you, be strong in faith.
-Msgr. David Hubba
From the Pastor’s Desk, May 1, 2022
St. Cyril of Jerusalem (c. 315-386), by nature a very kind man, had the misfortune of living in greatly stressful and roiled times when theological controversies produced rancorous results that sometimes led to political conflicts with Roman emperors and even street violence. But although the issues at stake can easily strike modern people as impossibly complex and fruitless, they were actually very important.
In Cyril’s case they involved the teachings of a priest named Arius, who held that Jesus was not really divine. This belief
prompted some other theologians to hold that he was somewhat divine, and still others, who won the Church’s endorsement at several of the early ecumenical (or worldwide) councils, to clarify the doctrine that he was a divine person with two complete natures, those of God and of a human being. (This is what we profess every Sunday when we pray our Creed.)
Cyril was named to a post of prestige as the bishop of Jerusalem. But he ran into problems because Jerusalem was then under the authority of the bishop of Caesarea, one
of those who taught that Jesus was just divine to a certain extent. This led to Cyril’s being deposed and banished three times before he finally became secure in his episcopacy.
Although not all of St. Cyril’s writings have survived, his renown is secure because of his works on catechesis (religious instruction). They number 24 in all. After an introductory one, the next 18 were explanations of the Creed meant to prepare those who would embrace the Faith in their Easter baptisms. The last five, sometimes known as Mystagogical Catecheses, provided deeper instructions for the newly baptized during the time after Easter.
– Msgr. David Hubba
From the Pastor’s Desk, April 24, 2022 (Divine Mercy Sunday)
Other post-resurrection appearances of Christ include the following:
1) To Mary Magdalen (Jn 20, 1-18), and to her along with Joanna and Mary the mother of James (Lk 24, 12): N. T. Wright points out that the resurrection was clearly a surprise to the three women. Jn’s account honors Mary Magdalen as the first person to report the empty tomb to the apostles and also reports her conversation with Jesus.
2) To two disciples on the road to Emmaus (Lk 24, 35): Here Jesus, who at first is unrecognized as evening falls, explains the OT Scriptures that foretold him and then breaks bread with them as he had done with the apostles at the Last Supper. This is still the pattern for the Mass’s Liturgies of the Word and the Eucharist.
3) To his disciples, when he eats fish with them (Lk 24, 36-39): Here we have assurance that the Lord’s bodily life endures.
4) When he empowers his followers to forgive sins (Jn 20, 19-23): The Church’s Council of Trent cited this passage as the biblical justification for the
sacrament of Penance.
5) When he addresses the apostle Thomas’s initial doubts and elicits from him a profession of his divinity (Jn 20, 24-29): In their commentary on Jn, Francis Martin and William M. Wright IV note that “Thomas identifies the risen Jesus with the Lord God, ‘YHWH himself,’ and call his statement “the most robust profession of faith in the Gospel … .”
6) When he shares a breakfast with the apostles at the Sea of Galilee (Jn 21, 1)
7) At Peter’s rehabilitation and the conferral of Peter’s future assignment (Jn 21, 15-19): Martin and William Wright express the Catholic interpretation of Jesus’s encounter with Peter with fullness and clarity: “This exchange … provides much food for thought about the ministry of the pope and basic aspects of the Christian life, such as sin, repentance, and discipleship. When Peter denied Jesus three times, he rejected his relationship with Jesus. In this scene, which recalls Peter’s denials, we see the tremendous love and mercy of Jesus for Peter. Jesus makes the first move and initiates the conversation with Peter. He invites Peter to repent and return to him by professing his love. With Peter’s threefold profession of love, his three-fold denial is undone, and Jesus restores the relationship between them. Jesus’ mercy is so complete that he does not hold Peter’s past sins against him. Instead, Jesus gives Peter the honor and responsibility of serving as the delegated shepherd of his sheep.”
-Msgr. David Hubba
From the Pastor’s Desk, April 17, 2022 (EASTER SUNDAY)
The scripture scholar Gary Habermas has written several books and many articles about the resurrection, all of them strong defenses of its reality. After observing that no serious student denies that Jesus was crucified and that his followers were convinced that he had appeared to them afterwards, Habermas asserts ten impressive arguments in favor of the resurrection as Christians have long professed it. What follows condenses them into the limited space a weekly bulletin article allows for.
Habermas begins with St. Paul’s writings, which were finished even before the final versions of the Gospels. Paul himself says that he preached material he had previously received (1 Cor 5, 2-7), almost certainly from Peter and James (Gal 1, 18-20). The great English biblical commentator C. H. Dodd, speaking of a two-week stay of Paul with Peter, remarked that “we may presume they did not spend all the time talking about the weather.” Paul would also confer with Peter, James and John, the foremost apostles, on a second occasion. Paul was happy to say that they endorsed his preaching content about the resurrection appearances of Christ (see 1 Cor 15, 11-15). Furthermore, we must not forget that Paul himself was an eyewitness to the Risen Lord, the immediate and decisive explanation of his conversion (Acts 1, 1-9; 22, 1-11; 26, 9-19; 1 Cor 15, 8; 9, 1).
Other NT non-Pauline writings contribute further support for the reality of the resurrection. The accounts in Acts contain material that is clearly older than the book itself, which takes us back to just a short time after the historical events. Scholars have identified instances of Semitic usage in the book, especially in accounts of the preaching of St. Peter
(Acts 2, 22-33; 3, 14-15; 26; 10, 39-43). His preaching very simply recounts the resurrection, which is usually also a sign that the material it relates comes from an earlier layer of tradition.
The Gospels have plenty to say about the resurrection and the Lord’s appearances following it. The importance of Jesus’s empty tomb is, of course, of crucial importance. Habermas notes that the first witnesses to it were women and that, in those times, women were not usually allowed to be formal witnesses in Jewish courts so, if these accounts were just made up by Jesus’s followers, why wouldn’t they have claimed it was men who reported them? And the reports of the empty tomb were made in Jerusalem, where it would have been easily possible to inspect the burial place to see if it was truly empty. And if Jewish leaders wanted to spread the story that the Lord’s body was stolen
by his followers (Mt 28, 11-15), at the very least this is testimony that the tomb was indeed empty.
Habermas concludes his defenses of the resurrection’s reality as follows: “Surprisingly, comparatively few recent critical scholars think that the resurrection can be explained naturally. … Most succinctly, the evidence indicates that Jesus died, but was still seen afterwards. Since naturalistic theories fail to explain these two aspects, the best conclusion
is that Jesus was raised from the dead.
-Msgr. David Hubba
From the Pastor’s Desk, April 10, 2022 (Palm Sunday)
Theology has a dual description of the saving work of Jesus Christ, which distinguishes “objective redemption” (what the Lord did to save us) from “applied redemption” (how Christ’s salvific deeds are passed on to us). The great season that awaits us in the Triduum of Holy Week leads us into Easter, when we rejoice that through baptism the Lord has offered us, if we are willing to accept it, rescue from our sins and promotion to an entirely new range of life in union with him. The traditional term for this is “sanctifying grace,” which is considered to be both “healing” and “elevating.”
The healing feature cures both Original Sin, which is not our fault but rather the inherited weakness of our humanity that results from Adam’s sin, and “actual sins,” which we are to blame for once we have reached the stage in life when we are responsible for our decisions and actions. The elevating aspect inducts us into God’s life of faith, hope and love, enlarging our capacity for living.
Holy Thursday celebrates Christ’s gift of himself in the Eucharist, recalled and made present again at every Mass. At the Last Supper, Jesus prayed over simple bread and wine, saying that, from then on, they are his true body and blood, given to us as our spiritual food and as victory over the forces of sin. On Good Friday we recall the Lord’s suffering and death, the sacrifice he willingly offered, despite his human revulsion for what awaited him, for the pardoning of our wrongs. This is his ultimate expression of obedience to his Father’s will, worth more than any merely human apology can give. Easter’s triumphant conquest of Christ’s death and ours can be seen as the victory of his unsurpassable sacri1ice. After the Risen Lord’s manifestations of this conquest to his followers over the weeks that immediately follow the resurrection, he returns to heaven, as the feast of the Ascension celebrates. He does not disconnect from us or abandon us, but sends the Holy Spirit to enliven and guard the Church he has formed and of which he continues to be the head. Humanity was in a sorry state before the Son of God came to dwell with us. Unless we can appreciate our disability without him, we can hardly value what he offers us. Jesus Christ not only repaired the damage sin did to us, but has recreated us to be God’s children. This means that our situation after his coming is much more than just a restoration to the human condition as it existed before Adam’s sin. The startling words about Original Sin embedded in the Easter Vigil’s magnificent “Exultet” summarize things so well: “O happy fault that won for us such a redeemer!“
The coalescence of all these saving events, and their continuing call to us to renew our baptismal commitment, especially by regular participation in the Eucharist at Mass, are of incomparable importance and necessity. Together they comprise the Paschal Mystery.
-Msgr. David Hubba
From the Pastor’s Desk, April 3, 2022
The divine person Jesus Christ had a complete human nature as well as his nature as God. What was he like in his humanity as we meet him in the Gospels? The late lay theologian
Frank Sheed addressed this topic in a number of his works. This article relies on his insights. Sheed, a native of Australia and law student there, moved to England, where he married Maisie Ward, daughter of a prominent Catholic family. Both took part in the activities of the Catholic Evidence Guild, which defended Catholic beliefs in outdoor settings to all who cared to listen. Together they founded the publishing firm Sheed and Ward. Its branches in London and New York introduced many great European Catholic authors to English-speaking readerships. Frank and Maisie eventually settled in Jersey City and are buried in the city’s Holy Name Cemetery.
Mr. Sheed cautions us about seeing the Jesus of the Gospels as being invariably meek and mild, although these qualities are strongly present in him: “Loving-kindness is very far from being the whole picture. His speech is terse and to the point, with no sentimentality at all. Most of what he said would not go very well with most of the statues and paintings.”
We are told that he loved “his own” (the apostles) to the end (Jn 13, 1) and had a special affection for one of them, that he had close friends in Martha, Mary and Lazarus, and that he loved the rich young man who declined to follow him because he was attached to his possessions. Jesus praises only a few people:
Nathanael, “an Israelite without guile” (Jn 1, 47); a centurion of great faith (Mt 8, 11); a scribe who is “not far from the kingdom” (Mk 12, 34); Mary of Bethany, who “has chosen the better part” (Lk 10, 42); and John the Baptist, of whom he said that “no man born of woman is greater than he” (Lk 7, 28).
Jesus could be very vehement about upholding what was morally right and denouncing what was wrong. To the chief priests and the elders he said that tax collectors and harlots would enter the kingdom of God before them (Mt 21, 31). He compared some of the scribes and Pharisees who opposed him to whitewashed tombs filled with dead men’s bones, and, in case that didn’t get their attention, he called them a “brood of vipers” (Mt 23, 27-29). And when Peter opposed the Lord’s prediction of his passion and death, right after his great act of faith in Jesus, Jesus immediately reprimanded him, saying “Get behind me, Satan” (Mt 16, 23). He also ransacked the tables of the Temple’s moneychangers, calling them thieves (Mt 21, 31).
Jesus experienced hunger, weariness and temptation. He also knew the frustration of having followers who were slow to catch on to his teachings, and who sought positions of power for themselves, and, in the case of Judas, the pain of treachery from one of his closest disciples.
There was complexity in Jesus because of his true humanity. This makes him more human. The same is true of his sinlessness. We have probably, at one time or another, excused our moral lapses by saying that we are “only human.” But sin makes us less human.
-Msgr. David Hubba
From the Pastor’s Desk, March 27, 2022
The Council of Chalcedon (451) formally defined the relation of Jesus’s divinity and humanity when it declared that he was one divine person who possessed two complete natures, one of God and one of mankind. (The term “person” refers to who someone is, while the term “nature” indicates a person’s capabilities.) These sharpened distinctions were not sudden discoveries of the fifth century but truths implicit in the biblical texts and in the Church’s growth in exploring them in the times that followed.
This week we will consider Christ’s divine nature as Scripture asserts it. The Jesuit theologian Domenico Grasso’s description of miracles is comprehensive and concise. He wrote that they are: tangible facts (evident to the senses); above natural forces; caused by God; and having a religious or moral purpose. The Gospels preserve the memory of more than 30 miracles Jesus worked. Most can be categorized as:
-nature miracles, including the changing of water into wine at Cana (Jn 2, 1:11), the miraculous catch of fish (Lk 5, 1-11) and the calming of the storm on the Sea of Galilee (Mt 8, 23:27)
-healings, the most numerous category, including the cleansing of the lepers (Lk 17, 12-19) and the cure of the man blind from birth (Jn 9, 1-41) – two of twenty in all
-deliverances from demonic possession and mental illness, for example, the Gerasene demoniacs (Mt 8, 28-34) and the Epileptic boy (Mt 17, 14-21)
-resuscitations of the dead (which differ from Jesus’ resurrection, since those others restored to life would eventually die), including the restoration to life of the daughter of Jairus (Lk 8, 41-42 and 49-56), the son of the widow of Naim (Lk 7, 11-17) and Lazarus (Jn 11, 1-44)
The two greatest theologians in the Church’s history after biblical times are St. Augustine (354-430) and St. Thomas Aquinas (c. 1225-1274). Both regarded the miracles of Jesus as key indications of his divinity. Augustine once said that “I should not be a Christian but for the miracles.” Aquinas wrote that “The faith of Christ believed by the saints and handed down to us has been marked by the seal of God shown in works no creature can perform. These are the miracles by which Christ has confirmed holy apostolic doctrine.”
-Msgr. David Hubba
From the Pastor’s Desk, March 20, 2022
During the next few weeks of Lent we will concentrate on Jesus’s public life and works and their background.
The Roman Empire controlled the Holy Land from 63 B.C. until well after Christ’s lifetime. Rome’s methods combined tolerance of local customs with a harsh use of force. National ways, including the administration of local government and the free practice of religion, were allowed to continue provided that the people submitted to Roman authority and foreign policy and paid the burdensome imperial taxes. Worry-free areas would be put in the charge of prominent Roman nobles. The emperor or his military delegates would oversee the more troublesome regions. The Romans often used subservient client kings, but would not hesitate to remove them if they were ineffective or unreliable.
Herod the Great was one such king, ruling Palestine from 40 to 4 B.C.. Although in many ways his reign was orderly and prosperous, he also ruled with an iron grip that was worsened by his suspicious nature. His building projects were marvels of their time, and their remains still fascinate us. He launched a project to rebuild Jerusalem’s Temple with unprecedented magnificence; built lavish palaces (including at Masada, the fortress that dominated the western Dead Sea area); constructed the largely buried fortress called the
Herodium, which he intended as his mausoleum; built an artificial harbor (with engineering’s first use of concrete); and erected the massive walls over Abraham and Sarah’s tombs at Hebron.
After Herod died, his kingdom was split among his three sons. Two got small territories. The third, Archelaus, the most talented and best connected, received much of what today is most of Israel and the West Bank. But his tyrannical ways led to organized petitions to the emperor for his removal, so that, from 6 A.D. on, his kingdom was governed by a Roman procurator, who was nominally under the authority of the Roman governor of Syria but was pretty much on his own. The most famous of these procurators was Pontius Pilate, who ruled at the time of Jesus’s death. Pilate had a military force of about 3,000 not Roman legionaries but auxiliaries, many of them Syrians, Samaritans or Arabs. When their usually decisive ruthlessness was not enough to control unruly situations (which were not uncommon), the procurator could call on the Roman legion based in Syria for speedy help. The procurator also had authority over the judiciary (although Jewish religious courts handled most incidents), the heavy Roman taxes and the police.
Israel was theoretically a theocracy, a nation ruled by God. The High Priest held liturgical preeminence and had considerable standing among Jews, but he was very much under Rome’s thumb. Under him were some 25,000 Temple officials, including about 7,000 priests and many other workers who performed a wide range of tasks. Scribes (Biblical scholars), mostly laymen, including a considerable number of Pharisees and some priests, were even more influential. Their chief teachers (rabbis) attracted followers who would
accompany them for instruction. Their influence exceeded that of the Sadducees, religious traditionalists, usually from the wealthy classes.
-Msgr. David Hubba
From the Pastor’s Desk, March 13, 2022
Last Sunday’s bulletin explored our Catholic faith as a religion revealed to us by God. It emphasized how the Lord disclosed to us life’s central truths, some of which are accessible to our unaided human intelligence and others of which we can know only by trusting God’s teachings as communicated to us through Scripture and Tradition, both divinely guided, preserved and proclaimed by the Church Jesus left us.
This week we look to the supreme revelation of God, Jesus Christ, the Son of God who took on a real human nature and united himself with those who believe in him. His gift to us was not just a magnificent course of valid teachings, but himself. God’s ultimate revelation to us is not only a set of truths (which it certainly is), but a divine person who became like us in all things but sin (see Hb 4, 15).
We usually think of words as being language that allows us to share ideas. But God’s words in the Bible also imply his stirring actions that cure our failings and build his kingdom in our lives. The Gospel of John begins by referring to Jesus as the Word of God. And Hb 1, 12 tells us that:
In many and various ways God spoke of old to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by a Son.
Jesus shows us most clearly what God’s life is, and also what our lives should be. It is in his person, and in his teachings and actions, that God shows himself to us as his supreme Revelation. The Catechism of the Catholic Church summarizes this reality with succinct clarity when it says that:
God has revealed himself fully by sending his own Son, in whom he has established his covenant forever. The Son is the Father’s definitive Word; so there will be no further Revelation after him (CCC #73)
Jesus invites us to an unprecedented relationship with God and with each other. This is God’s intended gift of love that will completely fulfill our yearnings. In the remaining Sundays of Lent we will explore the public life of Jesus. He is God’s fullest disclosure of what and who we believe.
-Msgr. David Hubba
From the Pastor’s Desk, March 6, 2022
Catholicism is a revealed religion, meaning that it has been disclosed to us by God, who communicates his true teachings to us, with all their wisdom and goodness. Some of these truths can be discerned by our rational intelligence, which is what is meant by natural revelation. Good examples of natural revelation are the Ten Commandments and the immortality of the soul, which can be known by some people of acute intelligence but which others are not capable of figuring out, whether they lack the aptitude to do so or because they are busy with other necessary responsibilities. God reveals these teachings, even though they are otherwise available, so that no one will be deprived of the truth.
Other truths would never be learned, or even suspected, by us unless God taught them to us by supernatural revelation, or disclosures God gives us that surpass our human powers of knowing. Among these are God’s existence as a trinity of persons, each having divine nature while remaining three different persons; the Incarnation, by which the Son of God assumed a human nature without relinquishing his divine nature; and the real presence of Christ in the Eucharistic elements of bread and wine, specially consecrated at Mass. In such teachings a kind of curtain is opened by God, allowing us to see what would otherwise be hidden from us.
The revealed truths are offered to us through the books of Scripture and through the tradition that has been passed down to us. Both are in the custody of the Church, which is appointed by God to protect them and to share them with us. The term “orthodox” (right teaching) describes our possession of these divine truths.
The late Jesuit priest Father John Hardon gave us a needed reminder of a sobering reality when he wrote that “orthodoxy is no guarantee of perseverance and still less of living up to what the faith demands.” A well-spent Lent will help.
-Msgr. David Hubba
From the Pastor’s Desk, February 27, 2022
Frederick the Great, the second king of Prussia, had a terrifying father, king Friedrich Wilhelm I, who went to almost unbelievable measures to toughen his son. He carried a heavy bamboo cane, which he didn’t hesitate to use on anyone he thought deserved it, rich or poor alike. Once Friedrich saw one of his subjects cross a street to avoid him, because, he said, he was afraid. “Afraid?! Afraid?! You’re supposed to love me!” As he caned the citizen to the ground, he added, “Love me, scum!” Much worse for his son, he had Frederick’s friend, an army captain, shot while Frederick was forced to watch. (The two had run off to England without permission, causing Friedrich Wilhelm to suspect that something treasonous was going on.) Frederick eventually became warlike enough to at least faintly evoke his father’s memory.
But Frederick the Great, who saw himself as a champion of the Enlightenment, also had ambitions for higher culture. He played the flute, dabbled in composition and hired one of Bach’s sons as his court musician. Frederick was greatly pleased when he learned that the elder Bach would be visiting Berlin, and invited him to an audience, at which he set Bach to the enormously difficult challenge of improvising, on the spot, five variations of a fugue the king gave him. Bach wound up doing eight variations.
Like Bach, Handel was a devout Lutheran. The two grew up not very far from each other, but never met. Handel went to England to seek his fortune, and there composed his great works, including Water Music, Music for the Royal Fireworks and, of course the Messiah. At one point, he and Bach were both in Germany briefly and tried to get together, but it didn’t happen.
It’s nice to think that that disappointment has since been remedied. And it would be fascinating to eavesdrop on the conversation that Handel and Bach, the composer of so many immortal fugues, harpsichord pieces and cantatas, might have. The cantatas were musical meditations on the biblical texts for the Lutheran worship of Bach’s time. In his capacity of organist and music director at St. Thomas’s Church in Leipzig, Bach wrote hundreds of them, many of which were later lost, some as kindling for fireplaces.
Some years ago, a priest I was assigned with came back from a pilgrimage to the Holy Land. He gave the rectory priests business cards from a merchant who ran a religious gift shop in Jerusalem. They said, “If you meet me and forget me, you have lost nothing. If you meet Jesus Christ and forget him, you have lost everything.” As Lent begins, we should try to remember that.
-Msgr. David Hubba
From the Pastor’s Desk, February 13, 2022
2021 Deaths of Business Notables:
Bernard Madoff: In an historic fraud, he bilked people out of $65 billion by creating phony statements at his investment firm. Among those who lost their life’s savings were Elie Wiesel (survivor of the Holocaust and world-famous writer) and the Wilpon family, former owners of the Mets baseball team, and thousands of elderly people. His son Mark committed suicide on the second anniversary of the revelation of the schemer’s misdeeds.
Spencer Silver: In 1968, his experiments yielded an adhesive that left no residue. A colleague, Art Fry, came up with the idea of using the results as for choir hymnals. The ultimate outcome was Post-It Notes. Silver’s employer, 3M, gained the financial benefits.
Ron Popeil: A greatly successful seller of products on TV, including Veg-O-Matic, spray-on hair and the Pocket Fisherman. His signature line was, “But wait, there’s more!”
George M. Sherman: After working in managements for GE and Black and Decker, he ran the Danaher Corporation and saw it grow 20 times over. A close friend recalled that “relaxing with George was exhausting.” He died from complications of a brain injury he suffered after his daily Peleton bike workout.
Nikolas Davatzes: He took the A&E channel to a more popular success by altering its program content. Before that, he had worked for Xerox. He said that “I had a great reason for going to Xerox. I was tired of being poor.”
Donald B. Poynter: He invented liquor-flavored toothpastes, making it possible to brush your teeth with whiskey, bourbon, rye or scotch tastes. He also enriched the novelty business with talking toilet seats, a hot water bottle shaped like Jayne Mansfield, a mini electric chair that administered a shock to anyone who picked it up, and the Little Black Box, which, when you turned it on, saw a hand emerge to turn it back off. His son Tim said that “every day to my dad was April Fools’ Day.”
Peter Buck: He built up the Subway sandwich franchises, which now sell in 40,000 locations worldwide, after investing in a Connecticut sandwich shop. It took 15 years for the venture to turn a profit. He drove a 17-year-old car and ate at least 5 Subway sandwiches a week. Asked whether he was a billionaire, he replied, “Yeah, I guess so.” (His net worth was $1.7 billion.) Even so, he said, “I can go any place in Danbury and nobody recognizes me.”
-Msgr. David Hubba
From the Pastor’s Desk, February 6, 2022
2021 deaths of those prominent in politics and public service:
Deborah Rhode: Stanford law professor and author of more than 30 books, including The Trouble With Lawyers (2015). Many of her books were about how people with low or moderate incomes need better services than the legal profession now provides. For poor defendants, she once wrote, “Death sentences have been upheld even when lawyers lacked any prior experience or were drunk, asleep, on drugs or parking their car during key parts of the prosecution case. In many jurisdictions, it is safer to be rich and guilty than poor and innocent; the worse sentences go to those with the worst lawyers, not the worst crimes.”
George Schultz: Highly respected Secretary of State during Ronald Reagan’s presidency, he was a key part of winning the Cold War.
Rush Limbaugh: For 30 years, he was America’s most popular radio personality, emphasizing conservative values and America’s strengths. This, and the humor he deployed so skillfully, did not endear him to his ideological opponents.
Frank Shankwitz: Coming from a difficult home background (“ … we lived in the back of our car, we lived in tents, we lived in flop houses”), he worked, joined the Air Force and later the Arizona Patrol and met Chris Greicius, age 7, who had terminal leukemia and was a fan of the TV series “Chips” (about California’s motorcycle highway patrolmen). Shankwitz got the boy a uniform and a badge and a seat on a motorcycle. After Chris died, he and Chris’s mother, Linda Pauling, and several others started the Make-A-Wish Foundation, which has fulfilled the dreams of more than 500,000 critically ill children.
Vernon Jordan: A widely respected leader of the civil rights movement, described by one of his obituary writers as a “pragmatic liberal,” he was willing to talk with adherents of any political persuasion, often inviting them to his home for barbecue gatherings. He became the Wall Street Journal’s editorial page editor and served on the board of Dow Jones, which owns the paper.
Prince Philip: The Duke of Edinburgh and Queen Elizabeth II’s husband. At the height of the Cold War, when the subject of a possible visit to Russia came up, he said, “I would very much like to go to Russia, although the bastards murdered half my family.”
Ray Donovan: A New Jersey construction executive who became Ronald Reagan’s Secretary of Labor. After being exonerated on a false charge of criminality, he asked, “What office do I go to to get my reputation back?”
Colin Powell: After serving in the ROTC at New York’s City College, he joined the Army and rose to become chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and George W. Bush’s Secretary of State. His hobby was restoring Volvos. He bought the first one so his college-bound son would have a car, then restored, altogether, 30 of them.
Bob Dole: Longtime Senator from Kansas and Republican nominee for President in 1996. He was so gravely wounded in World War II that he was left for dead. After, he had the use of only one of his arms. His protégé, former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, recalled that to the end of his long life, he adored veterans, who would grab his left hand and thank him for his service. He would tell them, “I’ve still got more service to give, and so do you.”
-Msgr. David Hubba
From the Pastor’s Desk, January 30, 2022
Prominent entertainers who died in 2021:
Larry King: King, who took his show business name from an ad of a Miami Beach store (“King’s Wholesale Liquor”), interviewed 30,000 people, many of them celebrities and
politicians. Obituary writer Lukas J. Alperrt described him as follows: “Known for his rolled-up shirt sleeves, suspenders and pompadour hairstyle, Mr. King had a gravelly baritone that gave off an authoritative, no-nonsense air. But his reputation for gentle questioning made his show, ‘Larry King Live,’ the go-to destination for anyone embroiled in controversy.” He was married eight times.
Cloris Leachman: She had numerous TV and film roles as a comic actress, my own favorite being her one as “Frau Blücker” in Mel Brooks’s Frankenstein (1974), where the mere mention of her name caused any nearby horse to raise up in terror. She also offered “Dr. Frankenstein” (Gene Wilder) refreshments three times, including “Some Ovaltine?”
Hal Holbrook: His one-man portrayal of Mark Twain was a three-time Broadway success. He also played “Deep Throat” in the film All the President’s Men and Commander Joseph Richefort, the naval intelligence officer who construed Japan’s plans to attack Midway, in the film Midway.
Jackie Mason: Formerly a rabbi like three of his brothers, he became a greatly popular comedian.
Jay Black: The star singer for “Jay and the Americans.” His soaring voice made for such hits as “Cara Mia,” “This Magic Moment,” “Come a Little Bit Closer” and my own favorite, “Granada.” He was recruited to replace the original “Jay” while working at a Thom McAnn’s shoe store in New York. His given name, David Blatt, was changed to Black by mistake. “I was on the Mike Douglas show. One day Mike asked me what my last name was and I mumbled Blatt. He said, ‘Black?’ I said yes, a little lie. But everyone loved the name. Mike
Douglas died without knowing he named me.” Jay was a friend of John Gotti and sang at the weddings of two of his children.
Stephen Sondheim: A Broadway immortal, he wrote for West Side Story, Sweeney Todd, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, and A Little Night Music – sometimes just lyrics, at others, both lyrics and music.
-Msgr. David Hubba
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 course.”
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.
-Msgr. David Hubba
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.
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.
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.