Tag Archives: St. Mary’s

Intergenerational catechesis

Last night, after the 5 PM Mass, I took part in an intergenerational catechesis program at St. Mary’s, Colts Neck.  About two hundred came, full house, and I hear more wanted to get in but it was sold out.

About the spaghetti supper, which all enjoyed, the kids went with their teachers, and the adults came with me to the auditorium where I gave a presentation on the Parable of the Sower that Jesus used to teach people about God and the mysteries of life. The kids had the same parable presented to them by their teachers.

God is a passionate sower of seed, Jesus pointed out, and he used the beautiful land and sea of Galilee to illustrate God’s blessings. I used a short dvd on Gallilee watch?v=fW0YAszmLes&feature=youtu.be– still a beautiful land– to help see how Jesus might have taught this parable. Besides what it teaches about God, the parable also has lessons for life, for example, the patience of  God, the patience we need as life unfolds, the evil that can inhibit the seed’s growth, the lack of acceptance to the good seed.

Jesus’ own life among us was like a seed the grew and died and rose again.

The questions we asked the adults to discuss were:

  1. So, what blessings do you find in your life? Don’t forget, they may look small.
  2. Waiting for the seed to be sown and for it to grow demands a lot of patience.  Where do you see patience running out, around you and in yourself?

The  kids showed us an imaginative banner they created and their reflection on the parable.

A parish has five approaches for learning today: 1) the parish or intergenerational approach 2) the peer or age-specific approach 3) the home/family approach 4) the individual approach 5) the wider community approach. Parishes usually prefer an age-specific approach to faith formation. (School, religious ed for children, lectures, retreats for adults, etc…) Whatever approach you use you shouldn’t neglect the others.

Celebrating in Bayonne

Our Lady Star of the Sea Parish in Bayonne, NJ celebrated its 150th anniversary Saturday evening, May 14, with Mass presided over by Archbishop Peter Gerety, the retired archbishop of Newark. About 30 priests, 4  like myself raised in the parish, concelebrated the Mass. Msgr. Frank Seymour, the diocesan archivist–also from the parish– preached the homily.

A number of former parishioners came back to celebrate at the Mass and at the dinner that followed in the school hall, along with the present parishioners.  Most Reverend Joseph Younan, Bishop of Our Lady of Deliverance Syriac Catholic Diocese came to the anniversary. Like so many immigrant groups before, the Syrian Catholics from places like Iraq in the Middle East have found a home in Bayonne. Now they have their cathedral at St. Joseph Church, which formerly belonged to the Slovak community.

The bishop and the wonderful choir from St. Dominic’s Academy that sang latin polyphony at the Mass says that  Bayonne is still a city for immigrants.

Memories flooded into my mind. I arrived early to walk through the church where I grew up and where so many important moments of my life took place. The church I remember so well still bears the stamp of its Irish origins. I counted three statues and windows of St. Patrick and the familiar scenes in the windows of the life of Mary, the Mother of Jesus, bright and fresh as when they were put there.

Baptisms, weddings, funerals, anniversaries took place here. I celebrated my first Mass here; afterwards at the parish meal Msgr. William F. Lawlor, our pastor, fell over and died of a heart attack as he offered some remarks. That event made headlines in The Bayonne Times the next day.

I sat at the banquet after Mass with some of the “living stones” of St. Marys, which we used to call the parish years ago.  One has been a member of the parish council for decades. The others lived there for most of their lives, although now they have moved away. Watching them easily connect with each other , trading stories, reliving memories, singing and dancing with delight, makes you appreciate the deep delight and faith that kept this place alive for 150 years.

I have a treasured picture from 1914 of my mother’s graduation from St. Mary’s School.

She’s  clutching her diploma. Many of these kids were just off the boat or their fathers and mothers were. But they set their worlds on fire.

My mother said her class loved getting together in later years. One of them Msgr. Leo Martin became the popular pastor of St. Marys, his home  parish. Another, whose name I forget, became head of the New York Stock Exchange. (He always footed the bill for the celebration, my mother said).

The “living stones” loved the celebration Saturday evening. I loved being with them.

Going to Mount Carmel: the Prophet Elijah

The Bible Today, edited by Fr. Donald Senior, CP, is always worth reading, The current issue has some fine articles about Messianism written by top scripture scholars. “You are the Messiah, the Son of the Living God,” Peter says at Caesarea Philippi, when Jesus asks him who people say he is.  We may forget that Jesus was not born Jesus Christ; the appellation “Christ” meaning “Messiah” was added later to his name by his followers. Peter wasn’t alone in this declaration: “We have found the Messiah (which means Anointed,” his brother Andrews says. (Jn 1,41)

Jesus came into a Jewish world expecting a Messiah, but what kind of Messiah were they hoping for? Some Jews of the time expected a royal Messiah, the Son of King David. You see that expectation in the Gospel of Matthew which begins by tracing the human origins of Jesus back to David. “An account of the genealogy of Jesus the Messiah, the Son of David and Son of Abraham.”

Hope for a Messiah like the warrior King David who would free the land of Israel from its oppressors grew stronger among the Jews after the Roman occupation of Palestine by the Roman general Pompey in 63 BC. It can be seen in some of the Essene writings discovered from Qumran in recent times.

The Gospel of Matthew  indicates that ordinary people too were hoping for a kingly messiah at the time of Jesus. “Can this be the son of David,” the crowd says after he cured a man who could not see or speak. (Mt 12,23) “Hosanna to the son of David,” the crowd says as he enters Jerusalem on Palm Sunday. (Mt 21,9) That causes the leaders in Jerusalem to become angry, because a claim like that could fire revolution and they feared what would happen because of it. (Mt 21.15)

Jesus never claims to be a political revolutionary, however.  He refuses to fit neatly into that kind of messianic expectation. He will not lead an uprising against the Romans. He’s not John the Baptist come back from the dead. “Jesus is not confined to playing an already fixed role–that of Messiah– but he confers, on the notions of Messiah and salvation, a fullness which could not have been imagined in advance.” (Pontifical Biblical Commission)

If we ask what messianic expectation of his time Jesus comes closest to, we might find it in the hope for a prophetic messiah like Elijah.

Like Elijah, he will speak the truth against the powerful, he will help the poor, he will suffer persecution; he will raise the dead.

Our visit on November 8th to Mount Carmel, long associated with Elijah, will help us place Jesus in the context of his time.

Zacchaeus, the Tax Collector

31st Sunday C

We are going on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land this Friday, about 40 of us from here at St. Mary’s parish in Colts Neck, NJ. We are going to the land where Jesus lived and died and rose again, to the place where our church was born over 2,000 years ago.

We’re going to pass through Jericho, the place mentioned in today’s gospel, where Zachaeus climbed a sycamore tree in order to see Jesus.  We’re going to visit Bethlehem where he was born and Nazareth where he grew up and the places where he ministered around the Lake of Galilee. We’re visiting Jerusalem where he was crucified and where you can see his tomb in the Church of the Holy Sepulcher.

It’s a holy land for Christians, and it’s a holy land for Jews and Muslims as well. At present, it’s a land of contention, violence and wars over the land itself, the water, and the millions of refugees who have been displaced in the last century.

The principal parties at odds are Jews and the Palestinians, of course, but sometimes we forget that Christians are involved too. Not only are there Christian holy places there, but millions of Christians live in the Middle East who can trace their roots back to the time of Jesus. They’re in Palestine, Israel, Iraq, Syria, Egypt and other countries of that region; and many of them are leaving the region because the situation in which they find themselves.

In the last few weeks representatives of these Christians from the Middle East met in Rome at a synod to discuss their situation. It’s a matter of survival, they said. Christians may leave or may be forced out of the Middle East if the situation continues.

Leaders of our church are encouraging Christians throughout the world to support the church in the Middle East and to know what’s happening there. I would hope we will be able to do that as we are able on our visit.

We hope also that this visit will help us to know Jesus Christ and the stories about him better.

There’s been an explosion of knowledge in this part of the world in recent times as archeologists, historians and scholars explore the sites of the Holy Land and writings of the bible. We hope that this trip will help us know the bible better, and therefore know Jesus better too.

How can our visit help us know the bible better? Let me give you an example. After we arrive in Israel, we are going to Tiberias, a Jewish city on the Lake of Galilee where we’re staying for four days. There are many hotels there now, but in Jesus’ time, Tiberias was the capital of Galilee, where Herod Antipas, son of Herod the Great and the ruler of Galilee, resided.

Herod was in power for almost all of Jesus’ lifetime, building his kingdom. Like his father, Herod was a great builder; archeologists are now uncovering the extent of his building, not only in Tiberias, but also in other sites in Galilee as well. He built on a grand scale. As a strong ally to the Romans he wanted to make sure when Roman visitors came they would be impressed by the places where he lived, his palaces, his public buildings, his style of life. He built lavishly.

Of course, you needed money for that kind of building; that’s where tax-collectors come in. There was no dialogue, no voting on tax collections  between Herod and the people he ruled. He told his army of tax-collectors, “Here’s how much I need so you go out and get it. Go to the fishermen along the Sea of Galilee and the farmers near Nazareth and get what I need; I don’t care how you squeeze it out of them.” And they went out and got him his money, with a little kept for themselves.

You can imagine the anger and anguish this would cause. Of course, people wouldn’t complain to Herod directly. He was a vicious ruler who had John the Baptist’s head cut off, remember. He was a brutal man from a brutal family. No, people were wary of Herod, but they could be angry with tax-collectors, whom they generally despised.

What about the tax-collectors themselves? I’m sure they saw Herod’s policies as unbalanced and wrong. They would bemoan this vain man who pushed people too much. But what could they do? After all, he was the one who had John the Baptist’s head put on a platter. You didn’t disagree with Herod.

“Jesus looked up and said,’Zacchaeus, come down quickly,for today I must stay at your house.’ And he came down quickly and received him with joy.”

Far from dismissing the tax collectors and being angry with them, Jesus saw them as they were: people caught in a bad situation. Yes, they had their faults. But Jesus reached out to poor Zacchaeus and the rest of them.

Is that the way  God looks at us? Often compromised, too weak to change things,  sometimes hopelessly going along and getting things wrong, and regretting it. Still, God calls us from the place where we watch it all to come and share his life and friendship.

Think of Zacchaeus as you pass through Jericho.