Wednesday, March 8, 2017

It's My Job

“It’s My Job”

At the 12 noon mass last Sunday Fr. Stanley described a painting by Caravaggio. It was of St. Matthew being inspired by the Holy Spirit to record the gospel which bears his name. 

 It could be said that Matthew was called by Jesus, transformed by God’s mercy and inspired by the Holy Spirit. The result is that an ordinary man took on an extraordinary job: sharing the story of salvation for generations to come. 

 Fr. Stanley candidly shared that a similar calling, mercy and inspiration help him get past his own human shortcomings to do his job: preach the gospel message. He then challenged us to see the same in our lives and embrace our call to preach the love of God “using words if necessary.” 

 (It is here that I will share a personal story which if it weren’t for the Holy Spirit would have remained part of my private faith life.) 

Two days prior (the Friday after Ash Wednesday) I went to my local church for morning mass. I did this for two reasons: 

 1. To observe a Lenten practice of attending daily mass. (This is a good discipline for someone whose attendance at mass is a job requirement.) 

 2. To begin lent by going to confession. 

Here’s what happened. 

I am sitting at mass worrying, “Am I really going to bother this priest and ask him to hear my confession?” “What if he needs to leave quickly to visit people or go to other duties? “What if he begins his day off after Friday morning mass? After the final blessing the priest looks up and says, “If anyone wishes to go to confession, I’ll be going to the confessional on the right side of the church.” I thought to myself; “HOLY………Spirit!” 


 Our closing song for these first Sundays of Lent will be “In These Days of Lenten Journey.” (#127) I picked it because it calls us to hear and respond to the call of the Spirit in our lives and be God’s mercy to those around us. I invite you to allow these words to take root throughout this Lenten season. The possibilities of what might grow are limitless. 

Wishing you a life changing lent, 


I told my confessor that his offer was nothing short of the Holy Spirit working through him and the answer to my prayers. His response was the inspiration for and the title of this article.

Friday, March 3, 2017

Into the Desert

Into the Desert

Have you ever binge watched a show on Netflix or On Demand?   What if you didn’t begin with the first episode of season 1?  How confusing would that be? 

Let’s try another question:  Have you ever confessed to not really knowing the bible very well?  Don’t worry; this is not going to be an article attempting to add guilt to your lent.  In fact,  the problem may be  related to binge watching a show  at a place other than the very beginning. 

Here is my theory:     Our understanding of scripture will be distorted if we rely solely on what we hear at Sunday liturgy.

In today’s gospel we hear the story of Jesus tested in the Wilderness.  It is important to understand that the story has been taken out of its historical context (and where it falls in Matthews account) and placed where it fits in the liturgical year.

Perhaps this brief table of 3 consecutive stories from Matthew’s gospel will help put this into perspective.
Gospel                           Storyline                                            Liturgical Feast                               Date
1.    Matthew 3:13-17            The Baptism of Jesus                          Baptism of the Lord                      Jan. 9
2.  Matthew 4:1-11             Jesus Tested in the Wilderness       Lent 1                                         Mar. 4
3.  Matthew 4:12-23             The Call of the First Disciples              3rd  in ordinary time                      Jan. 22
T  The point is that today’s story of Jesus being tested in the wilderness does not follow the stories that we have been hearing for the past 7 weeks; it precedes them.  While this doesn’t fundamentally change the meaning of the story, it does mean that Jesus’ teaching and preaching were influenced by his time in the wilderness.  It also might suggest a course for our 40 day wilderness journey i.e. Lent 
My initial thought was to conclude by sharing some ideas on how you and I might better spend this Lent.  That was until I ran into these 10 ideas taken from the teaching of Pope Francis.  You can find it at

1.       Get rid of the lazy addiction to evil

2.       Do something that hurts

3.       Don’t remain indifferent

4.       Pray; “Make our hearts like yours”

5.       Take part in the sacraments

6.       Prayer

7.       Fasting

8.       Almsgiving

9.       Help the Poor

10.   Evangelize

Wishing you a blessed and life-changing lent,



The two letters at the top of this page will take on a different meaning based on when you are reading this article.
If you’re reading it on the weekend they will be the 3rd and 4th letter of AlLEluia.  If you’re reading it on Wednesday or later, they will be the first two letters of the season:  Lent.
On Sunday (the 8th Sunday of ordinary time) we will hear another portion of Matthew’s gospel.  Jesus continues to preach to the people (and to us) about putting aside the worries of life and trusting in God’s providence.
Our liturgy will begin and end with AlLEluias. 
The prelude, “Seek Ye First” (#434) is based on today's portion of Matthew’s gospel.  It was written in 1972, the early days of what might be referred to as “folk music.”  In addition to the three verses there is a refrain which consists simply of the word of the day: AlLEluia!
The recessional hymn; “Tell the Good News” (#386) is a succinct recap of the gospel of the past 7 weeks.  Jesus came to heal and affirm that all people are God’s children. 
If you’re reading this on Wednesday or later it is the season of LEnt.   During this season we will no longer use the word to which I referred in the first part of this article. 
Ironically, we will hear the part of Matthew’s gospel just prior to the one heard on Sunday.  In it Jesus instructs the disciples on the spirit in which they should pray and to make sacrifices in his name.  I”ve always found it interesting that the church presents us with this reading on the day where Christians walk around marked with such an obvious sign.
One of the songs we will sing both today and throughout Lent is “In These Days of Lenten Journey” (#127)  Notice the call to Christian service throughout the lyrics.
This past week members of our social concerns ministry brought Hearts of Hope to our homebound.  These hand painted ceramics were made by the children of the parish and included a card with a message of love from the children. 

Here is an excerpt from an e-mail I received from a member of our team

       I called .....  She lives one block from me and was the    
       sweetest thing ever (on the phone.)  She told me she's  
       going to be 97 years old in April!!!  I'm looking forward to 
       seeing her tomorrow.

If you’d like to be part of our social concerns ministry you can contact me via e-mail or by calling the parish center.

BLEssed to be serving at St. Mary’s,

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Ubi Caritas OT6

For those in need make us your mercy,
for those oppressed, your might. 
Make us, your Church, a holy sign of justice and new life.
                                           (verse 4 from” Ubi Caritas” words and music by Bob Hurd.)

We’ve been hearing a lot about being blessed over these past several weeks.    Jesus shared the beatitudes and instructed his followers to be salt and light.   

The refrain for today’s communion song (Ubi Caritas #327) translates to “Where there is true charity, God is present.”  Verse 4 harkens back to the reading from Isaiah we heard proclaimed last week.  (You can find it by looking back to page 64.)

As of this last Monday 13 people have indicated a desire to be part of St. Mary’s social concerns ministry.  We plan on meeting soon and continuing the work of Christmas.

If you’d like to be on our e-mail list, contact me via e-mail or at the parish office.  (973-235-1100.)

Blest to be serving at St. Mary’s,


Thank you to Tricia Blanchard and Tony Zimmerman for filling in for me this weekend.  Tricia is the director of music at Vincent United Methodist Church here in Nutley and Tony is a sought after sub in the archdiocese. 

Monday, February 6, 2017

"You are the salt of the earth……You are the light of the world.” OT5

"You are the salt of the earth……You are the light of the world.”
                                         Matthew 5:13-14

Over the past several weeks I’ve been writing about a renewed effort in the area of social concerns at St. Mary’s.   My reflections have been guided by two primary sources:  the Gospel of Matthew (which we have been hearing proclaimed at mass since the 3rd Sunday of ordinary time) and the writings of  The United States Council of Bishops (USCCB.)

Today, I’d like to share a little more from the latter of these two sources, namely:   Communities of Salt and Light: Reflections on the Social Mission of the Parish.  Though first published in 1993, this document remains relevant and provides framework within which we can work.  The entire document can be found at
Here is an excerpt:

At a time when the rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer, we insist the moral test of our society is how we treat and care for the weakest among us…..In these challenging days, we believe that the Catholic community needs to be more than ever a source of clear moral vision and effective action. We are called to be the "salt of the earth" and "light of the world" in the words of the Scriptures (cf. Mt 5:13-16). This task belongs to every believer and every parish. It cannot be assigned to a few or simply delegated to diocesan or national structures. The pursuit of justice and peace is an essential part of what makes a parish Catholic.

The USCCB points to 8 areas where the social mission of the church is to be infused.  They are:

    1.       Prayer and worship
    2.       Education and Formation
    3.       Family, Work and Citizenship
    4.       Charity and Outreach
    5.       Advocacy
    6.       Community Organizing
    7.       Global Solidarity
    8.       Issue Specific

This leads to the following 2 questions:
      1.  What are we at St. Mary’s currently doing?
        i.e. to what existing projects/endeavor can an interested 
        parishioner attach themselves?
 2.   Into what areas can direct new energies?

We are in the process of planning an initial gathering of the social concerns team.  Send me an e-mail or contact me through the parish office if you’d like to be a part of the effort.  Thank you to those who have already reached out.



Thursday, January 26, 2017

"Send us out to be your hands and feet." OT4

“Send us out to be your hands and feet.”

The gospel of the 4th Sunday of ordinary time continues to be taken from Matthew.  Today we hear from Jesus’ sermon on the mount where he shares the beatitudes.

The beatitudes have been reflected in the music we have sung the past 2 weeks of ordinary time.  Today, I have chosen Matt Maher’s Unwavering as a prelude.  Click here for the lyrics

The verses of unwavering point towards the beatitudes.  The refrain, which contains the songs title, speaks of God’s consistency.  The bridge (the words are at the top of this page) connecting the two relates to our call as Christians.

Maher’s music and ability to lead worship have made him a popular figure both in concert and Christian gatherings.  Here is an excerpt from an early interview:

“It (my life experience) has given me a heart for two things: One is to interact with culture more and another is to be a vehicle for unity. …I feel like there have to be people who are willing to just stand in the gap between Christian thought, and society. We are supposed to be in the world but not of the world.  My mandate as a Christian is not to retreat, but to be a light…. everybody is called to be a missionary wherever we are. The mission field has changed. The mission field is everywhere.”

“Christ has no body now but yours. No hands, no feet on earth but yours. Yours are the eyes through which he looks compassion on this world. Yours are the feet with which he walks to do good. Yours are the hands through which he blesses all the world. Yours are the hands, yours are the feet, yours are the eyes, you are his body. Christ has no body now on earth but yours.”

Teresa of Ávila

Blessed to be at St. Mary’s,