Sunday, May 24, 2020

Ascension 2020


Of what use is the Bible?

We hear it in church.  We see it in posts on the internet.  There are snippets of it in our conversations, books and films.  Some base predictions on it’s words and numbers.  Some use individual verses to justify their actions. “An eye for an eye, it’s in the bible.”  BTW This logic is flawed.  See my blog of February 20th Turn the Other Cheek?

How do YOU apply the Word of God to “real life”?

A long time ago, I was advised to never ask a question I was unwilling to answer myself.  So….The bible helps me to better know the God who created me, saved me and reaches out to me in countless ways.   I attempt to apply this knowledge my daily decisions.  

I share it as first as a fellow traveler and second as a church musician in two principle ways:

  • A 12-15 video called Ready 2 Receive is what I’ve learned about the day’s scripture based on years of study and recent research. It Livestreams on the St. Mary's RC Church Nutley Facebook on Thursdays at 7 p.m. but you can view it anytime.

In the account of Jesus’ Ascension, Luke writes the following:

“While they were looking intently at the sky as he was going, suddenly two men dressed in white garments stood beside them. They said, “Men of Galilee, why are you standing there looking at the sky?       Acts 1:10-11a

Why were the apostles standing there looking at the sky?  Maybe it’s because they were stunned.  Maybe it’s because their spirits were moving in the exact opposite direction as Jesus.  

Decide for yourself.  

Jesus rises from the dead and enters the locked room where they are hiding.  He touches them. Talks with them. Eats with them.  They go out and in His name are preaching, converting and healing.  And now he’s leaving?  

If I were them, I’d be singing the line from that Sinatra tune: “Riding high in April.  Shot down in May.”  

Can you think of any parallels for yourself in this year which among its promises were to be the year of perfect vision?

Blest to be in ministry at St. Mary’s,


Saturday, May 16, 2020

I wlil not leave you orph...s

I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you.John 14:18

I am not trying to be insensitive, particularly to children whose parents have died.  But for me, the word “orphan” carries a strong and counterproductive meaning. 

In order to reflect on what Jesus is saying in this Sunday’s gospel, I need to put aside this word.  Instead, I will focus on what it means to be without the physical, emotional and financial support of parents.  But it’s even more than this.  Perhaps the following example will help.  
My grandmother died when my mother was 60.  Here’s how mom described her feelings:
“Despite the roles being reversed and my having taken care of Grandma for many years,
her death leaves me feeling alone, cut off, and vulnerable.” 

Being alone, cut off and vulnerable is a good way to describe how the apostles felt when Jesus gsaid he was leaving.  To be honest, I’ve visited these places and the nearby “abandoned” a few times over the past 9 weeks.  Hi b
Bow about you?

“The Advocate, the holy Spirit that the Father will send in my name—he will teach you everything and remind you of all that [I] told you.”       John 14:26
Jesus knows our hearts.  He has sent the Advocate.  He calls us to advocate for others.  Here are 2 examples of people whom I admire and that you might know:
  1. Megan Armando is a lawyer who serves as a law guardian for the public defender's office.  Megan protects children.  Some of these children are literally orphans and some are alone, cut off and vulnerable for other reasons.  
Note: Often called “advocates” lawyers literally argue and plead for their clients. 
  1. Tish Palumbo is a visiting nurse who advocates for her clients. She fights for their needs with an intensity she would never use to have her own needs met.  Tish will argue their cause with ANYONE keeping them from the BEST care possible. This includes but is not limited to: supervisors, insurance companies, doctors, and those who are too lazy to give the patient their full effort.  
We all need to have…... and to be…... an advocate.  Come Holy Spirit.
At a distance but feeling closer than ever,

Saturday, May 9, 2020

What inning is tis?

“It ain’t over, till the fat lady sings.”
                     Yogi Berra

Some of my interests lie in the fields of business, finance and economics.  Experts in these fields are often asked a simple but important question:  “What inning is this?”    Knowing this is as critical to success in the game of Wall Street as it is to winning the World Series.  

What inning is this?  It is a question we’ve all been asking for the past seven weeks.

This Sunday’s reading from the Acts of the Apostles continues to chronicle our church’s first innings.  There is exponential growth; so much so, the community experiences growing pains.  

In the second reading Peter challenges the Church to come to Christ a “living stone” making Him the cornerstone.  This image of a cornerstone comes from the writings of Isaiah more than 700 years before the birth of Christ.  

Therefore, thus says the Lord GOD:
See, I am laying a stone in Zion,
a stone that has been tested,
A precious cornerstone as a sure foundation;
whoever puts faith in it will not waver.
Isaiah 28:16

By laying down his life Christ laid the cornerstone of His Church.

As our church emerges from the tomb of quarantine we are faced with an important question:   What inning is this?

Is it the ninth inning?  If it is, then perhaps we should play it safe.  We can create a game-plan to avoid loss.  We can sure up the defense and sit our home run hitters on the bench.  Is this faith?  Would this approach reflect a Christ that is a living stone?  Or should we play like it’s opening day; a church where hope springs eternal.     

Shouldn’t a church formed by resurrection look and act differently than one that has simply been resuscitated? 

My personal response can be summed up by the words of Cosmo Kramer:  “In my mind, I’m already there.”

So what about it?  Shall we recreate a past that no longer exists?  Or can we envision a church of the future - God’s future.  

I conclude with a quote, a question and my Email address.

“In the rush to return to normal, 
use this time to consider which parts of normal are worth rushing back to.”  
Dave Hollis

Question:  What would St. Mary’s look like if we re-emerged in the early innings?


Awaiting your thoughts,


Thank you to all deacons, particularly our Deacon Ron Ronacher and soon-to-be deacon Carl Lordi for continuing the work of the seven sent in today’s first reading.


A Happy Mothers day to all who have nurtured us and prayers for those Mothers who are in the place God prepared for them.

Saturday, May 2, 2020

The Lord Is My Shepherd

I came that they might have life
and have it more abundantly.
                                                   John 10:10
Close your eyes and imagine a shepherd.  For me, it is a man, or maybe a teenage boy.  He carries a walking stick.  A herd of sheep follow behind.  A dog races to and fro.  His barks; demanding that wanderers return to the safety group.

Although I saw a shepherd once in real life, the image I just shared is based on a lesson I learned in elementary school religion class.  

The lesson was simple:  Jesus is the Good Shepherd.

The gospel for the 4th Sunday of Easter provides the text for this lesson.  One might say it is the original lesson, taught by the Good Shepherd himself.  

What do you remember of the story?  What do you remember of the lesson?

My strongest memory is that the sheep follow the Shepherd because they recognize his voice.  

The lesson has helped me throughout my life.  It reminds me to seek out the voice of Jesus.  It has helped me direct and more often redirect my life.  

When I reread today’s gospel, I came across a part of the story that I don’t remember so well.  It is about thieves and robbers who come to slaughter and destroy.  

Did the nuns think my classmates and I too young to learn about this part of the story?  My point here is not to criticize the lesson plans of my childhood teachers.  These wonderful women helped shape me into who I am.  

Yet, Jesus chose to make this “stranger-danger” part of his lesson.   John chose to weave it throughout his gospel account.  So, I want to examine it.

What robs me from hearing and recognizing the Shepherd’s voice?  

Is it that I’ve lost touch and can no longer distinguish the Shepherd’s voice from the other sounds around me?

Have I become overly attuned to other voices?

Could something from within be robbing me of Jesus’ life-giving words?  

Perhaps the negative tape; “I’m not ___________ enough” that plays in my mind?

Could it be the things I allow to steal their way into the “urgent” column in my daily planner?

The good Sisters of St. Joseph taught that filling heart and mind with good things would leave less room for things that were harmful.  

Let us all be more intent on listening for the Shepherd’s voice today and always.

At a distance but still blessed to be in ministry with you at St. Mary’s and wherever you are seeing this.


Saturday, April 25, 2020

Stay With Us

“Stay With Us”

On the third Sunday of Easter we are presented with a well-known story from the Gospel of Luke.  It is afternoon on the day of the resurrection.  Two men are traveling on the road from Jerusalem to Emmaus. They are conversing and debating “all the things that had occurred”.  Jesus draws near and begins to walk with them, but for some unexplained reason “their eyes were prevented from recognizing him.”  Jesus teaches and interprets the scripture for them…..but they still don’t recognize him.  Arriving at Emmaus, Jesus acts as if he is going to continue on but the men urge him; “Stay with us”.    

And it happened that, while he was with them at table, he took bread, said the blessing, broke it, and gave it to them.  With that their eyes were opened and they recognized him but he vanished from their sight. Luke 24:30-31

What can you and I receive from this story as we journey through the unknown and the uncertain? 

Jesus comes to us as He did to those two travelers on the road to Emmaus.  The Word of God is present at Mass, in the Bibles that sit on our bookshelves and nightstands,  in the inspirational memes and messages we share via text or computer or phone.  What is he saying to us?  Can we hear him over conversations and debates concerning what got us here and what might help us safely to the other side?  Can we respond with the simple yet profound prayer in today's gospel? 

Jesus, stay with us.”  

One of the upsides to the current downside is that many of us have been given the gift of time and space.  With what do we refill that time and space?  

“Jesus, stay with us.”


Then they said to each other “Were not our hearts burning [within us] while he spoke to us on the way and opened the scriptures to us?”  Luke 24:32

Jesus, walk with me.  I will make time.
Jesus, speak to my heart.  I am listening.
Jesus, fill my heart.  It is open.  
Jesus, stay with me.

From a distance, but still blessed to be in ministry with you at St. Mary’s


“In the rush to return to normal, use this time to consider which parts are worth rushing back to”

Dave Hollis

Friday, April 17, 2020

Hallelujah Is Our Song

“Hallelujah Is Our Song”

I think in songs.  Most every phrase I hear and picture I see;
is hyperlinked to a song in my brain.

Thankfully, God has given me reasonably strong impulse
control which helps me resist the urge of breaking into song
like a chorus member in musical theater.

For the past 30 days (I’m writing this on April 2nd)
I have suppressed a particular song because it contains a word
I can not say.  For a church musician, saying “Hallelujah”
during Lent is like a catcher reminding a pitcher that he
needs one more out for a perfect game.

The song was written by Sarah Hart and is titled “Hallelujah, Is Our Song”. 
Whew.  I feel so much better now that I’ve finally said it!

Here is the first verse:

What hope we have
These four words make my heart smile. 
The hyperlink in my brain takes me to a video. 
I see myself sitting at the piano in St. Mary’s. 
I see and hear members of the music ministry in the loft,
and at the cantor stand.  
I see you in the pews.
I follow additional hyperlinks which take me to the
thumbnails of individual singers and parishioners.  

Even in the darkest night
I’ve often thought of how difficult the middle of the night
is for our seniors. 
Recently, I have begun to experience my own version of this.
My time of rising has moved from 7am to 5am.  

Could the inability to fall asleep at night be the reason
our teens stay on their devices throughout the night?

For the light will overcome
I can hear George Carlin doing Al Sleet:
The Hippy Dippy Weatherman:

“Tonight’s forecast……..dark…….continued dark tonight
…….followed by partly light in the morning.

We will not fear, for we know the sun will rise
Morning comes.  Another day. Another breath. 
A fresh cup of coffee.
Funny how a time of loss can remind us
to be grateful for things often taken for granted.

Hallelujah, is our song
Hallelujah IS our song because the SON did rise! 
Jesus, IS risen! 
Even in this wounded world, where the battle rages on. 
We do not fear, for we know who heals our souls.
Hallelujah is our song!

Longing for the day we can sing Hallelujah together
in St. Mary’s,


Thursday, March 19, 2020

Two can be as bad as one. It’s the loneliest number since the number one.

     From the song by Three Dog Night



Social Distancing.......

If anyone knows me, you know that I live with someone in the health-care field.  She has first-hand knowledge of the impact of our current state on both ends of the spectrum:  physically healthy school-aged children and the elderly who are suffering from illnesses other than the corona virus.

Social distancing.

A way to slow the spread of the virus.  
For some (uninfected) the cure might be worse than the disease.

Side effects:  
increased loneliness
extreme withdrawal

While the antidote is uncertain, I’d like to suggest the 5 c’s? *

1. Contact
2. Connection
3. Concern
5. Care

BTW:  It’s progressive.  Start with 1 and move to 5

If you’re in danger:                       CALL 911

If you’re sad and sinking:            CONTACT ME

If you’re reading this blog:          Consider this my invitation 
                                                     to YOU to connect.



The memes and what-not are great but they leave us psychologically and spiritually distant.

Friday, March 13, 2020

Lent III updated with music

Liturgical Notes for 3/15

Updated with links to songs sung by Gabrianna and Bruce

Lord, you have probed me,
 you know me:
you know when I sit and stand;
you understand my thoughts from afar.
Psalm 139 verse 1b - 2

Prelude:        O God, You Search Me #437
Listen and open your heart to God
The words of psalm 139 resonate with me as a father.  God probes me; the way I probe the face of my 17 year old when she returns from school.  God knows me; the way I can detect different tones in the voice of my 21 year old when she calls and tells me about her day at work.  

Kyrie: Sung Kyrie
One of the earliest prayers of the church translated from the Greek as “Lord have mercy.”  We sing the Kyrie during lent to highlight the penitential nature of the season.
Click to listen

Scripture readings.  
Link to recording of today’s psalm
In today’s readings we hear two stories about life “in between”.

The Isrealites are “in between” drinks of water.  Wandering, wondering and grumbling they incorrectly interpret their dilemma as having been abandoned by God.

The Samaritan woman is “in between” knowing that the Messiah is coming (see John 4:25) and living in harmony with this knowledge.  So mired by broken relationships, she fails to see herself as Jesus sees her.

Are there applications in these readings for us?  As we live “in between” health and freedom and the possibility of illness and quarantine?  Or the ups and downs of the financial markets affecting the security of our future? 

I can hear the rhetorical question of a priest friend:  “Am I talking to the right people?”  

Consider the words of Paul who preaches of Jesus who passed through the “in between” of cross and grave to the divine and eternal “now.”

We boast in hope of the glory of God...we even boast of our afflictions, knowing that affliction produces endurance, and endurance, proven character, and proven character, hope, and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out into our hearts through the holy Spirit that has been given to us.
Romans 5:2b-5

Offertory               Come to the Water #603
Jesus calls each of us to come to the him in the Eucharist. We come as we are; thirsty, poor, wandering, grumbling  i.e. “in between” who we are and who God calls us to be. Listen and reflect on for what you thirst

Communion           Lead Us to the Cross        In Bulletin
Like Jesus, our Lenten journey turns toward the cross.  (More on this next week.). Listen to Lead Us to the Cross

Recessional          Change Our Hearts   #648
The Lenten practice of fasting and acts of penance help us move toward the fullness of conversion - a changed heart.

Chanted entrance antiphon, instrumental procession, sung Kyrie, chanted response to the Prayer of the Faithful and Eucharistic Acclamations
See last previous liturgical notes in the bulletin or at

Blessed to walk this lenten journey once again with you at St. Mary’s,


Next update: 3-17 for St. Patrick’s Day

Image result for st. joseph famous art + free download


A Prayer for the Current Times
Lord Jesus, you came into the world to heal our infirmities and to endure our sufferings. You went about healing all and bringing comfort to those in pain and need. We come before you now in this time of illness asking that you may be the source of our strength in body, courage in spirit and patience in pain. May we join ourselves more closely to you on the cross and in your suffering that through them we may draw our patience and hope. Assist us and restore us to health so that united more closely to your family, the Church, we may give praise and honor to your name.  Amen.

Ascension 2020

WHY ARE YOU STANDING THERE  LOOKING AT THE SKY?    Of what use is the Bible? We hear it in church.  We see it in posts on the in...