Monday, April 27, 2009

A Spirit of Welcome: Immaculate Conception Parish, San Diego (Old Town): April 18 - 23, 2009

April 27, 2009

Peace and Good,

I preached another mission on the writings of St. Paul in Immaculate Conception Parish in Old Town, San Diego. What a welcoming community! The parish is situated right in the middle of a tourist area and there are people coming in an out of the Church and Gift Shop all day long. The parish community and staff go out of their way to make everyone feel welcome. This is truly a great opportunity for pre-evangelization and evangelization. Walking through the Church one afternoon to head to the Reconciliation Room, I met a group of Japanese tourists and was able to explain some of the details of the Church to them. It really is one of those cases of what I used to say to my students who were preparing for the priesthood: Ministry is what you do while you are getting ready to do ministry.

The Gift Shop is well run and readily accessible. I have noticed that many people would wander off the street and see what it offered. In our own gift shop in Ellicott City, we have seen where about a third of the rosaries sold were sold to non-Catholics (they often asked for booklets on how to pray it). We Catholics love sacramentals, and they can be an effective way to evangelize.

I finished a major project: a 10 CD set on the Book of Genesis. It is a grad level course that I taught a number of years ago. I had to redo a few sections of it to improve the audio quality, but I think it all turned out well. If anyone is interested in purchasing it, you can contact us at It costs $50 with postage. I am working on another set on the prophets. I think it will end up being 12 CD's and it should be ready in about a month's time. Are there any requests for topics that I have not yet done?

Joe Hamilton, who works with me on a number of our internet projects, reminded me that if anyone wants to subscribe to this blog, you can note it in the box to the right of the posting. That way, the new blogs will automatically be sent to you.

I have finished a book on the Mississippi flood of 1927. It is called Rising Tide by John M. Barry. It is quite good, and covers a number of related topics that give a good background to his main thesis. Being an author, I love when I find out the meaning of various sayings. He expained the meaning of the saying, "being sold down the river." It has to do with slavery. When the slaves held in the upper south were "sold down the river," they were being sold into the deep south where slavery tended to be much more brutal.

The book also talks about the phenomenon of the Klan. One paragraph really made an impression.

"American populism has always been a complex phenomenon containing an ugly element, an element of exlusivity and divisiveness. It has always had an 'us' againt a 'them.' The 'them' has often included not only an enemy above but also an enemy below. The enemy above was whoever was viewed as the boss... ; in the 1920's the enemy below was Catholics, immigrants, blacks, and political radicals." p. 154

This struck home because I have been very disturbed by the tenor of the political (and cultural) discussion in the past couple of years. There are things that must be opposed if we are to be consistent in our beliefs, but can it be done in a way that does not betray the Christian values that we try to uphold. Hate belongs to the devil, not to us. Even our friar St. Maximillian Kolbe, when asked whether they should hate the Nazi's, responded that only love conquers. How that love is to be expressed is always the difficult question, but if we end up hating and degrading others, then we are not doing the Spirit's work. This holds for all the sides of the questions, because one side or another of a dialog can want itself to appear more mature when it is really just self-righteous and subtly arrogant. I really have to keep praying about his and turning it over to the Lord.

God bless and


fr. Jude

Friday, April 17, 2009

St. Joseph Cupertino Friary, Ellicott City, MD: April 13 - 17, 2009

April 17, 2009

Peace and Good,

Finally, a few days at home. This has been a very busy mission season with a lot of travel. It was great to be back home with the friars, even if it was only for a few days.

We have been remodeling our friary for the past several months. When I arrived home, I was able to move into my new room. Originally, the rooms were quite small and we had common bathrooms. We now have a elevator (48 steps from basement to the second floor where we live). We have a bedroom, a study and a bathroom. They did a great job. The rooms are also very quiet (I'm always thinking of places to tape by daily reflections, etc.). I think I am going to enjoy it a lot.

There have also been changes in the main chapel. We have had a major relic of St. Anthony of Padua for a number of years now, a gift of the friars in Padua. It has been the focal point of our devotion to St. Anthony as the patron of the lost. Now there is a beautiful shrine in the chapel for the reliquary. It is shaped like a tree and the reliquary is in the middle of that tree. The reason for this shape is the fact that in the last months of St. Anthony's life, the friars brought him to a place named Camposanpiero north of Padua to recover for his illnesses. The ground in that region is very damp during the spring, and his health was not improving. They therefore built a cell for him in a walnut tree to let him rest off the ground.

The other change to the chapel is the beautiful painting that Fr. Joe Dorniak has done in the front of the chapel. He has painted the scene of St. Francis' reception of the stigmata that is found in the Basilica in Assisi. He is so, so talented, and I am sure that this painting will inspire many of those who visit us at the Shrine. (For those who have not visited our friary, we are using it as a spirituality center.)

I have finished a couple of books in this past week. One is an audio tape series on Mark Twain by Ron Powers. Whenever I travel in my van, I am always listening to one tape series and one CD series. I enjoyed the Mark Twain biography because I have heard so much about him and yet knew so little.

The other book I finished is called 69 A.D.: the Year of four Emperors by Gwyn Morgan. I love history, and this particular topic was important for my scripture studies. We believe that St. Mark wrote his gospel in Rome in 70 A.D. The civil war that followed the death of Nero devastated large sections of the Roman empire, including parts of the city of Rome. Were some of the descriptions included in Mark's Gospel influenced by the events of that tumultuous year? Was this part of the reason why he felt he had to write his Gospel - because things were so chaotic that he was afraid that the witness might be lost? I have to reflect on this for the next few weeks. This book is not an easy read. It gets very involved in which legion was where and when they fought, etc. Yet, it was well worth reading.

I'll be in San Diego this week in Old Town, Immaculate Conception Parish giving a parish mission.

If any of you reading my blog have prayer requests, feel free to write me at God bless and


fr. Jude

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Gratitude and St. Paul: Saints John and Paul Parish: Franklin Park, PA - April 4 - 12, 2009

April 14, 2009

Peace and Good,

I just finished a Holy Week retreat at Saints John and Paul Parish (named after the patron saints of our deceased Holy Father). This is quite unusual, for most parishes prefer to do retreats outside of Holy Week. I preached Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday (on the Scrutinium Gospels in the morning and the Letters of Paul in the evening). This was a great way to gear up for the Triduum. I then helped out at the various services and Masses of the Triduum, finishing up on Easter Sunday.

One of the themes that I preach on when I speak of Paul's letters is gratitude. That is found especially in his First Letter to the Thessalonians. I was speaking to the converted. I have never been at a parish when so many people thanked me for being there. (For those of us who are a little more cynical, it was not because they don't like their pastor. They have a great pastor, Fr. Mac.)

The parish is in the process of building a new Church. Its shell is already climbing up to the heavens. Its official due date is late October, but Christmas is probably more realistic. Still, on Easter Sunday, we could repeat the words that our Jewish brothers and sisters say each year at Passover, "Next year, in Jerusalem!"

Confessions have been a major activity all throughout this Lent. It is such a privilege as a priest to sit there and hear people open their hearts and souls to the Lord. For me, it's like being on retreat. Being a mission priest, I often hear long term confessions as well. You cannot believe the look of peace on the people's faces when they finish up. The same is true of those who have gone to confession all along, but who have grown older and cannot remember if they confessed something years ago. When they are released through Reconciliation, they find such peace.

I'm home in Ellicott City this week. Then off to San Diego for another mission beginning Divine Mercy Sunday.


fr. Jude

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

A Mission on the Psalms: St. Thomas More Parish, Cherry Hill, NJ

April 7, 2009

Peace and Good,

Most of my missions throughout these weeks have been on the Letters of St. Paul (because this is the Year of St. Paul, the 2,000th anniversary of his birth). This past week I preached a mission based on the Psalms. We have been using these poems as forms of prayer for over 3,000 years. Every time we celebrate the liturgy, we have a responsorial psalm. Yet, some of the symbols are difficult to understand because they were written in a society that is so different from our own.

I love the symbol of walking through the dark valley in Psalm 23. What it actually says in the Hebrew is that it is the valley as dark as death. People in the ancient world were terrified by the dark. They had no artificial means of bringing light to their environment. The premise of the psalm is that the Lord is our shepherd and we are the flock. Picture a flock running through a very dark valley in which the sheep are getting skittish. What calms them down - the rod and the staff that give them courage. The shepherd taps the sheep on their back ends to calm them down and let them know that he is still there. God often sends us a little reminder when we are hurting most to let us know that he is still there. It might be a note from a friend, a moment of consolation, a beautiful site, etc.

Please pray for the Catholics in the diocese of Camden. There is a plan to close up to half of the parishes, and whenever something like this happens, there is always a lot of pain. Even when it is the right decision due to demographics, there is still the fact that this is where one was married, baptized the children, buried a loved one, etc.

I am continuing editing a series of CD's on the prophets. It will end up to be 11 or 12 CD's and should be ready in a month or so. There is also a series that is almost finished on the Book of Genesis (again, 11 or 12 CD's). When these are finished, almost all of the audio tapes I have done in years past will be available on CD. Then it is time to start new themes.

I just finished a book called Four Queens by Nancy Goldstone. It was the story of four sisters from Provence in France, the daughters of a count, who all ended up as queens during the mid 13th century. It was a great read. There was even the story of how one of their relatives from Savoy (I think it was Peter of Savoy) had a palace on the Strand in London. He house gave the name to the famous Savoy Hotel, one of the most luxurious hotels in the world.

You're in my prayers during Holy Week.


fr. Jude

Thursday, April 2, 2009

The Sacred Heart and God's Mercy: Parish Mission in Southern Maryland

April 2, 2009

Peace and Good,

I recently had a mission in Sacred Heart Parish in LaPlata, Maryland. The town is famous because of a recent disaster. A few years ago a terribly powerful tornado passed through the town and devastated most of the downtown area, missing the Church by only a few hundred yards. It has all been rebuilt and now offers a beautiful tourist site.

Like most of the missions this year, the theme was the letters of St. Paul. Even though this must be the tenth time I have done some of the talks, I continue to marvel at Paul's insights. I keep being asked how did he figure this all out. Some of it was his temperament (he was definitely a type A personality). Some of it was his classical Greek and rabbinic training. Some of it was his mystical experience (e.g. the road to Damascus, being taken up into third heaven). But so much was the unique blend of all of the above and his own response to the call.

In the Church, there is a stained glass window of the apparition of the Sacred Heart to St. Margaret Mary. As part of the mission, I spoke about the story of how Margaret Mary's spiritual director did not believe her when she told him about the apparitions. He told her that he would believe her if next time Jesus appeared, she would ask him what sins he had confessed the past week. She did this, and Jesus' response was "I forgot." Obviously, as God, he could not forget, but he was telling her that he had let go of it, it is time to forgive ourselves as well. So many people hold on to their sins for so long, letting them torture them long after they have confessed them.

Being a history buff, I also noticed that the Mudd family has offices near the Church. Their ancestor is Dr. Mudd who treated John Wilkes Booth after he assassinated Abraham Lincoln. He was imprisoned for being part of the plot, although many people and especially the family feel that he was not complicit to what had happened. This is where the expression, "his name is mud," comes from.

I noticed the unusual accent in southern Maryland while I was there. It is an interesting mixture of the Baltimore accent with something that sounds like a mix between southern and English. They tell me that it derives from the accent of the original settlers back in the seventeenth century.

You'll all be in my prayers as we begin Holy Week. I'll be in Pittsburgh this coming week at Ss. John and Paul Parish in Sewickly.


fr. Jude