Tuesday, July 28, 2009

St. Anne's Novena: Binghamton, NY: July 14-26, 2009

July 28, 2009

Peace and Good,

This past week I was preaching a St. Anne's Novena in Holy Trinity Parish, Binghamton, NY. This parish is an combination of three parishes, one of which was originally named St. Anne (hence this particular devotion). We had a great crowd each evening, from 130 to 160 people.

We had Mass with an extended homily, and then the novena prayers at the end of Mass. Many of the talks centered on the mercy of God, especially as seen in the Sacrament of the Eucharist. The people were most welcoming and were very supportive of the message I preached.

The friars staff this parish as well as St. Cyril and Methodius a little distance away.

The closing evening we had a procession with the relic of St. Anne. I found out later that the parish has a tradition of praying with their feet in religious processions. I always find that a very healthy thing. We so often pray with our minds, and we have to find a way to use our bodies as instruments of prayer as well. I often give the example of the Whirling Dervishes (Sufi mystics who dance around for hours on end to enter into a religious trance), the rabbis at the Wailing Wall who bounce back and forth, and even our charismatic brothers and sisters who wave their arms and clap their hands as they pray. I think we could even think of certain activities such as exercise, taking a walk, dancing, etc. as forms of prayer if we use them to unite us with God.

I finished two short tape series this week. The first was called Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer. It is the story of a disaster that occurred on a Mount Everest climb in which several people were killed. I am not sure I understand the lure of mountain climbing, but this book gave me a great insight to the psyche and the dangers involved.

The second was an abridged novel called Brought in Dead by Jack Higgins. It is a British detective novel and it was typically clever and enjoyable.

I also finished a volume of the Library of Christian Classics called Alexandrian Christianity edited by Henry Chadwick and J.E. Oulton. This volume is not for the faint hearted. It is a series of translations from the writings of Clement of Alexandria and Origin, also from Alexandria. They wrote at the end of the second century and the beginning of the third century A.D. One can see how many of the doctrines that we hold dear were already established, while others were still being developed. Clement ended his career better than Origin. The latter was accused of various points of heresy (e.g. that even the devils would convert before the end of the world and that all of what God created would be saved). They show their strong Greek philosophical background (e.g. putting down the physical world while seeing that which is spiritual as the only true good). Their works are heavy, and I admit I only finished them because I set a quota of ten pages a day until I finished them). Yet, I found them worthwhile for me. They certainly showed me how many different heresies were circulating in the early days of the Church, and how it truly was a miracle that the faith remained intact (which can only be explained by the action of the Holy Spirit).

As I mentioned last week, tomorrow I am travelling over to Kenya to give some retreats. I don't know if I will have access to the internet while I am there. If I do, I will blog you next week. If not, then I'll start again when I get home on the 18th of August.


fr. Jude

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Priest's Retreat on Luke: Derby, NY: July 13 - 17, 2009

July 22, 2009

Peace and Good,

This past week I preached a priests' retreat at the Columban Retreat House in Derby, NY. There were priests from three dioceses: Erie, PA, Buffalo, NY and Rochester, NY. The theme was the Gospel of Luke. This is the gospel that we will use in the liturgy this coming year, so the retreat was intended both for the spiritual edification of the priests themselves and to assist them with their preaching for the coming Church Year. There was one Scripture Professor on the retreat, and at first that was a bit intimidating, but he was so supportive and affirming that it quickly lost its fear value. Got to see my sister Margaret and my brother Tom while I was in Buffalo (it is my home town). That was good, for I rarely get up there.

I finished a few books and a book on tape.

The first book was Watchers by Dean Koontz. He is a science fiction author, and the premise of the book is that two genetically engineered animals escape from a lab: one a good dog that has almost human intelligence and the other a hideous creature that was engineered to terrify and kill one's enemies. It was almost a good against evil plot. Koontz is a good author (if you can stand the violence of his writings) and he develops the characters well. It was an enjoyable read.

The second book was a short monograph called The Awful End of Prince William the Silent: the First Assassination of a Head of State with a Handgun by Lisa Jardine. This book was only 158 pages long, but it establishes the historic situation which led up to the assassination of the statholder of the Dutch provinces during their rebellion against the Hapsburg empire. It is interesting how this assassination affected other countries, especially England where Elizabeth was terrified of assassination.

The third book was The Last Voyage of Columbus by Martin Dugard. This concerns the fourth journey that Columbus made to the New World. It shows Columbus as a great explorer but as a lousy administrator. His term as governor of the New World ended sadly, with him chained and sent back to Spain under arrest. One sees the strengths and personality flaws of this giant. One also sees the horrific way that he and other explorers often treated the native populations that they encountered in America. If you like history, this is a good read.

Finally, I finished listening to Ken Follett's Lie Down with Lions. This is set during the Afghanistan rebellion against the soviets. I spoke about one of his other books in a previous entry, and this one shows some of the same strengths and weaknesses of that other book. His hero is a woman who seeks peace, while all men are brutes and cheats and they create war. Also, like the previous book, he has a couple of sex scenes that could only be described as pornographic. I don't consider myself to be a prude, but his descriptions sounded almost adolescent in their graphic nature. The book is a bit dated due to its historic setting, but given that we are involved in Afghanistan again, it could become timely again.

This week I am in Binghamton, NY, preaching a St. Anne's Novena. Next Wednesday, I head out to Kenya to give some retreats to our friars in formation. I will place a posting next week, but the week after depends on my access to the Internet.


fr. Jude

Monday, July 13, 2009

A bit of vacation: Ellicott City and Ocean City, MD: June 29 - July 12, 2009

July 13, 2009

Peace and Good,

Sorry I haven't written anything for a week longer than normal. I have been taking a bit of time off. I only had one assignment in this entire two week period. I had a talk on St. Paul on the day we closed off the year of St. Paul at a parish in Frederick, MD: St. John's. There was a pot luck supper followed by a talk. I think that this is a great way to combine social and instructional.

I heard a story while I was there. A woman spoke of how her child had fallen away from the Catholic faith for a while. She and her husband and kids were going to a Evangelical church. Then, when this woman's grandson wanted to start sports and they practiced on Sunday morning, they came back to the Catholic Church because they had Mass on Saturday evenings. It might not be the best of reasons, but God works in many ways.

Because I have had some time off, I have finished a number of books and tapes.

One of the best was The Great Wall: China Against the World - 1,000 B.C. to 2,000 A.D. by Julia Lovell. I had never realized how chaotic China's history was. They were constantly endangered by barbarian invasions. Much of their history was a history of survival. It explains the xenophobia that one often sees in Chinese politics today. Even the idea of closing off against the outsider exemplified by the Great Wall is being repeated by creating a great fire wall against outside influence on the Internet. If one likes history, I would recommend this book. It is not an easy read, but it is very informative.

I finished a book I have been reading slowly: Absolute Power: The Real Lives of Europe's Most Infamous Rulers by CS Denton. I picked up this book at a discount book store, and the only reason I read it was because I already had it. It had some interesting accounts, but I really wouldn't recommend it.

I listened to The Bancroft Strategy by Robert Ludlum. He is always a great writer for a suspenseful adventure novel. The premise of the Bancroft Strategy is that a person who wants to help the least powerful in the world tries to decide who should live and who should die in order to make a more favorable environment for development. It is the debate between "every life counts, but some count more than others," and "every life is sacred." It points out the danger of using means for an end, even when the end is very good.

I finished a long series of CD's (18) on the Italian Renaissance by Kenneth Bartlett from the Teaching Company. This was very informative and well done. Although the professor obviously has his preferences, he gives all the parties involved a good and fair treatment.

I finished a book called Agincourt: Henry V and the Battle that Made England by Juliet Barker. It is packed with information about England at the time of the one hundred years war. Once in a while, the author gets carried away with names that don't mean all that much to us today, but in general it is an excellent read. I learned a couple of trivia points (which I love). The phrase, "put it under your hat," comes from the fact that the English archers would put their bow strings under their hats to keep them dry when it was raining. Also, the phrase "to orient oneself," comes from the fact that maps in the Middle Ages were drawn facing toward the east (the orient) because they considered Jerusalem to be the center of the world. It was only later that they used maps that were oriented north-south.

Finally, I finished listening to The Good German (abridged edition) by Joseph Kanon. It is a detective story that takes place in Germany immediately after the war. It has some incredible insights into the minds of the Germans, Russians and Americans right after the war. Why would a Jewish woman try to save her life by pointing out other Jews who were hiding from the Nazi's and having them sent to the camps? Why would scientists like the rocket engineers allow the murder of slave laborers in their factories? Why would Americans overlook the crimes of some people if they thought that those people were useful in our struggle against the Soviet Union? It is a good read (although not always a comforting read). It made me think and challenged some of my preconceptions.

This week I will be in Buffalo, New York, giving a priests' retreat.


fr. Jude