Spiritual Reflections by Father John

Formation for Evangelization

Leonard DeLorenzo is a professor of Theology at the University of Notre Dame.  He recently wrote an article in Church Life Journal entitled, “Evangelization: If We Just Keep Them, We’ll Lose Them.”  The “them” he refers to are the young people who are the object of intense concern in the Church.  DeLorenzo argues that the Church makes a mistake when framing the issue in negative terms,Continue reading “Formation for Evangelization”

Dr. Irenaeus

I remember years ago doing a little research to find out if my birthday was also the feast day of a saint.  When I found the answer, I said to myself in disappointment: “Who is St. Irenaeus?” As you read this, you might be saying the same thing. But these days St. Irenaeus has been making a big comeback.  Just a couple of weeks ago, Pope Francis announced hisContinue reading “Dr. Irenaeus”

Good Pope John

In October 1962, almost 60 years ago this month, Pope St. John XXIII opened the Second Vatican Council.  The First Vatican Council had been cut short and left unfinished in 1870 by the War of Italian Unification.  Prior to that Council was the Council of Trent, which was the Catholic Church’s response to the crisis of the Protestant Reformation in the 16th Century.  Less than 20 yearsContinue reading “Good Pope John”

God’s Minstrel

This Monday, October 4, is the feast day of St. Francis of Assisi (1881-1226).  St. Francis is one of the most beloved saints in the Christian tradition, especially among the people of his native Italy.  An Italian friend of mine once joked that Italians love St. Francis best, then comes St. Joseph, then Padre Pio, then Jesus!  St. Francis captured theContinue reading “God’s Minstrel”

Carthago Delenda Est

There was an article in the New York Times a number of years ago that reported on a place that scholars have called “the largest cemetery of sacrificed humans ever discovered.”  It’s located near the North African coast, not far from the city of Tunis, the site of the ancient Phoenician city of Carthage.  In its day, Carthage was one ofContinue reading “Carthago Delenda Est”

Forming a Eucharistic Strategy

Last week someone shared with me a recent article from Commonweal by Cardinal Blaise Cupich, the Cardinal Archbishop of Chicago.  Cardinal Cupich is generally considered to be a “progressive” member of the American episcopate, though those types of political labels are often unhelpful when applied to the Church.  Irrespective of one’s leanings, the article offers some compelling observations. In it, the Cardinal outlines several themes about the Eucharist that he believes should be the foundation of a strategy to address the significant challenges the Church faces inContinue reading “Forming a Eucharistic Strategy”

Seeking Refuge

Over the past week we have been doing much as a nation to commemorate the terrible events of September 11, 2001.  Part of the ritual has been to share with each other our own experiences of that horrible day, which set so many things in motion and changed our world in so many ways.  I was living in Spain at theContinue reading “Seeking Refuge”

Our Lady of Perpetual Help

In 1882, there was a terrible outbreak of smallpox in the small nation of Haiti.  Over the course of several months, tens of thousands of Haitians died of the disease.  The epidemic was made worse by a drought that was unusually long for the tropical island.  On February 5, 1882, Archbishop Alexis Jean-Marie Guilloux gathered the people to the church of St. Francis Xavier in the Bel-Air neighborhoodContinue reading “Our Lady of Perpetual Help”

Breaking the Spell

There was a very interesting opinion article in last Sunday’s New York Times (“How to Think Your Way Into Religious Belief” 8/15/21).  It was written by Ross Douthat, who has had a column in the Op-Ed section of the Times since 2009, and has on occasion used that space to write about religion.  Douthat is Catholic, and his writings demonstrate a broad interest in religious belief,Continue reading “Breaking the Spell”

The Assumption

It is a very unusual thing not to be celebrating the 20th Sunday in Ordinary Time this weekend.  Instead, this Sunday the Church celebrates the Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary.  This is unusual because Sundays have a privileged place in Catholic liturgy.  Sunday is the Lord’s Day, the first day of the week, the day on which Christ rose fromContinue reading “The Assumption”

Ordo

In the sacristy of every Catholic church there is a little book called an Ordo.  Published annually by the Bishops of the United States, the Ordo provides all the information about the liturgy that one needs for every day of the year.  It tells us what readings we’re supposed to read at Mass, what prayers we’re supposed toContinue reading “Ordo”

Return

Brandon Vogt is the Senior Content Editor at Word on Fire Catholic Ministries, an organization established by Bishop Robert Barron to provide tools of evangelization for Catholics.  Recently, I listened to Vogt speak about his new book called Return: How to Draw Your Child Back to the Church.  The book was the fruit of Vogt’s many years of research on the sky-rocketing number of people who were raisedContinue reading “Return”

Lex Orandi, Lex Credendi

During a recent conversation with a member of our parish, he told me that over the past few years he has come to a greater love and appreciation for the True Presence of Christ in the Eucharist.  He attributed this awakening to his experience of reverence in the liturgy.  In particular, he said that attending Eucharistic exposition and benediction,Continue reading “Lex Orandi, Lex Credendi”

The Eucharist in The Times

There was a very interesting article in The New York Times two weeks ago in which journalists Elizabeth Dias and Ruth Graham reported on the Eucharist (“Beyond the Politics of Communion, an Ancient Holy Ritual”, 6/27/21).  The impetus for the piece was the recent meeting of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, at which the bishops discussedContinue reading “The Eucharist in The Times”

New Mass Schedule

A wise priest once told me that there are certain decisions that a pastor must make, even at the risk of his own life.  One of them is deciding to tinker with the parish Mass schedule.  Last year, after the shutdowns, the unique circumstances required the adjustment of the liturgical schedule.  If you recall, prior to the pandemic the Mass schedule was as follows: 4pm vigil (St. Gabriel), 5:30pm vigilContinue reading “New Mass Schedule”

R.I.P. Sr. Mary Joseph, O.C.D.

Last weekend I received word that Sr. Mary Joseph, a member of the Carmelite Monastery of Des Plaines, IL., had passed away at the age of 92.  Sr. Mary Joseph was an unlikely member of her Carmelite community.  Born Ann Russell, she grew up as a wealthy San Francisco socialite whose father was the chairman of Southern Pacific Railroad.  She married Richard Miller atContinue reading “R.I.P. Sr. Mary Joseph, O.C.D.”

The Sacred Heart

In October 1986, Pope John Paul II made a pilgrimage to a place called Paray-le-Monial, a town in eastern France.   Paray-le-Monial is called the “City of the Sacred Heart” because it was the home of St. Margaret Mary Alacoque, a 17th century religious sister whose visions of Christ led to widespread devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. During an audience, Pope John Paul II saidContinue reading “The Sacred Heart”

Memento Mori

 A couple of weeks ago, the New York Times featured a story by journalist Ruth Graham about a young religious sister who spends her days encouraging people to remember not just the dead, but to remember death itself.  Sr. Teresa Aletheia, a member of the Daughters of St. Paul, has developed a huge online following by encouraging people to cultivate the daily habit of reflecting on their mortality. Memento mori, in Latin, was a practice of ancient pagan philosophers but has also been part of Christian lifeContinue reading “Memento Mori”

Confirmed in the Spirit

This Wednesday (5/26), Bishop Caggiano will be coming to confirm 23 young men and women of our parish. It’s a lovely thing to have Confirmations so soon after celebrating Pentecost, the great feast on which the Church commemorates the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the world 50 days after Easter.  As part of the liturgy of Pentecost, the Church gives usContinue reading “Confirmed in the Spirit”

Together in Person

Last week, the bishops of the three Connecticut dioceses jointly released a statement announcing the reinstatement of the obligation of the faithful to attend Sunday Mass.  This obligation to attend Sunday Mass (or Saturday Vigil Mass) in person has its roots in the Apostolic age, when the members of the Church gathered every Sunday to celebrate together the paschalContinue reading “Together in Person”

Month of Mary

May is the month of Mary. In May 2020, when the world was still suffering in the early stages of the pandemic, Pope Francis shared with the faithful his own devotion to the Blessed Mother and encouraged us to pray the rosary each day.  “Contemplating the face of Christ with the heart of Mary our Mother will make us evenContinue reading “Month of Mary”

Hearing the Call of the Shepherd

In this Sunday’s gospel, Our Lord refers to Himself as the Good Shepherd, thus inviting us to consider the mystery of vocation.  The Second Vatican Council reminds us that there is a universal vocation to holiness, which means that every single person is called to be a saint.  For the sake of helping people respond to the universal vocation, we believe the Lord gives aContinue reading “Hearing the Call of the Shepherd”

The Spirit Moves Us

It was my first year in seminary and I was out with my family at a restaurant in Fairfield when we ran into some old friends of ours who had lived in our neighborhood when we were growing up.  Jim, the father, was interested in what I was doing and so we talked about how my experience at St. JohnContinue reading “The Spirit Moves Us”

Learning the Narrative

You hear sometimes people in politics and public relations talking about “controlling the narrative.”  Usually, this means trying to get a jump on a story by being the first to explain what is going on.  The hope is that a “narrative” friendly to one’s position will be established in the mind of the public so that adversaries will be at a disadvantage,Continue reading “Learning the Narrative”

Emmaus

We have come to the end of Easter Sunday.  Yes, the Solemnity of Easter was a week ago, but we must remember that Easter is such a big deal that the Church gives us eight days to celebrate it properly.  We call that eight-day period the “Easter Octave.”  The second Sunday of Easter – Divine Mercy Sunday – is the final day inContinue reading “Emmaus”

Easter

Msgr. Luigi Giussani (1922-2005) was an Italian priest and professor of theology, who spent many years teaching in Milan but who is best known as the founder of the Communion and Liberation movement.   When he died in 2005, Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger (the future Pope Benedict XVI) preached his funeral Mass, saying: “[Msgr. Giussani] understood that Christianity is not an intellectualContinue reading “Easter”

Hosanna

It is part of the human experience that when we do something enough times it becomes second nature to us.  When it’s a good pattern of behavior, we call it virtue.  It’s it bad, we call it vice.  Even things that seem complicated and difficult at first can become, over time, so much a part of us thatContinue reading “Hosanna”

Detox

The first reading for today’s Mass is from the Book of Numbers (21:4-9).  Numbers is one of the first five books of the Bible, which together are called the Torah.  Numbers tells the story of the Israelites after their liberation from slavery in Egypt, during their 40-year period of wandering in the desert before entering the Promised Land.  In those days of wandering, theyContinue reading “Detox”

Veiled Images

There’s an old saying that “the early bird catches the worm.”  In some cases, however, the early bird is just early.  I thought of that last weekend when I realized too late that I had our volunteers veil the images in our churches too early.  My apologizes for putting a damper on your Laetare Sunday!    Traditionally, the properContinue reading “Veiled Images”

The Mysticism of St. Patrick

As saints go, St. Patrick is underrated.  I think that’s especially true at this time of year when we see him everywhere, advertising green beer and corned beef sandwiches, waving the tri-color while holding his shamrock-covered crozier.  The real St. Patrick, who was responsible for the fifth century spread of Christianity in Ireland, was one of the greatest missionariesContinue reading “The Mysticism of St. Patrick”

From the Ruins

Last weekend, perhaps overshadowed by the media coverage given to Oprah Winfrey’s interview of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, Pope Francis made a historic pilgrimage to Iraq, becoming the first pope to visit that country.  The images from the visit are remarkable, especially the Holy Father’s visit of the city of Mosul.  Mosul is the second-largest city in Iraq, and was theContinue reading “From the Ruins”

Fr. Emil Kapaun

Fr. Emil Kapaun was a Catholic priest from Kansas who served as a U.S. Army chaplain in both World War II and the Korean War. During his service in Korea he was taken prisoner and died in a Korean prison camp in 1951 at the age of 35. In 2013, he was awarded the MedalContinue reading “Fr. Emil Kapaun”

True Aid in Dying

The Connecticut state legislature is debating once again a bill that would legalize physician-assisted suicide, calling it an “Aid in Dying” law. Below is part of an essay by Dr. Michael Brescia, the founder of Calvary hospice, that helps us to understand the true needs of those facing terminal illness. Not poison, but presence, love, and compassion.  People ask for physician-assisted suicide because of suffering,Continue reading “True Aid in Dying”

Understanding and Misunderstanding

I’ve been re-reading a book by Caryll Houselander called The Reed of God, which is a really beautiful book filled with great insights into the spiritual life, with the Blessed Mother held up as the spiritual master par excellence.  In the chapter entitled “Fiat,” Houselander writes about the effect of our surrendering ourselves to the will of God, noting that it simultaneously brings both greater understanding and greaterContinue reading “Understanding and Misunderstanding”

The Search

Everyone likes a good movie/show recommendation.  In that spirit, I’ll share one with you.  It’s a series called The Search, which was produced by the Augustine Institute and which is available to our parishioners for free through our online FORMED account (you can access it through our parish website).  Released last spring, The Search is well worth your time.  It is a 7-part video series hosted by Chris Stefanick, with eachContinue reading “The Search”

Changed by Asking

When pagans wanted something, they always turned to their gods.  The pagan gods, of course, were fickle.  It was very easy to fall out of favor with them, which meant disaster.  So, the pagans would present their petition to the god or goddess they thought was most interested in the thing that they wanted, along with anContinue reading “Changed by Asking”

Lessons from this Longer Lent

I’m having a longer Lent than usual this year. Most years it begins on Ash Wednesday.  This year, however, it started on January 4 when I decided to join a small group of local men, including some parishioners, to participate in a program called Exodus 90, which basically extends Lent from its official 40 days to 90 days (the amount of time experts say it takes to form new habits).  So,Continue reading “Lessons from this Longer Lent”

Thoughts on Ash Wednesday

Yesterday was Ash Wednesday, which is typically one of the busiest days of the year in every Catholic parish.  This year was no different.  We started with our normal 7:30am Mass, which reached maximum capacity (160) under the current COVID restriction, which was really nice.  Just after the parish Mass, we had Mass for some of the students at the Catholic Academy of Stamford. Continue reading “Thoughts on Ash Wednesday”

Who Are These People?

The Mass can sometimes feel like this: a few readings from the Bible, a sermon, a collection, the priest saying a bunch of stuff while we kneel down, the Our Father, Communion, announcements, dismissal. If this is our experience of Mass, it might surprise us that the most fascinating part of it actually takes place during the part where the priest saysContinue reading “Who Are These People?”

Learning Our Prayers

Priests have the privilege of being with people as they near the ends of their lives.  Some of the people I’ve helped prepare for death spent their whole lives active in the Church, some were less active, and a few were resistant to the idea of seeing a priest and receiving the sacraments.  I remember one gentlemanContinue reading “Learning Our Prayers”

Singing Our Prayers

Music matters in liturgy. Ever since the resumption of public Masses last summer, however, we have been using a different style of music in the parish than what we were accustomed to hear prior to the COVID shutdowns.  We can’t use the popular hymns that we’d otherwise hear at Mass because the current health protocols prohibit congregational singing during liturgies in order to prevent the spread of Coronavirus.  Because the musicContinue reading “Singing Our Prayers”

St. Blaise

February 3 (tomorrow) is the Feast of St. Blaise, a feast that always brings back memories from my days as a student at St. Theresa School in Trumbull.  It seems like every year the sisters would walk us across the parking lot from the school over to the church for Mass on the Feast of St. Blaise, and we were kind of excited because we knewContinue reading “St. Blaise”

Holy Smoke

A priest friend of mine once shared with me his take on the secret to a life well-lived: “Moderation in all things,” he said, “except incense and orthodoxy.”  I have always found his advice compelling.  You certainly can’t be too orthodox in matters of the faith, with orthodoxy being openness and adherence to all that is true and good as solid ground on which to stand, and solidContinue reading “Holy Smoke”

Expanding the Circle

In today’s gospel (Mk 10:1-9), Jesus sends out 72 of His followers to prepare the way for His visits to local towns, telling them to proclaim that “the Kingdom of God is at hand.”  They are sent out “like lambs among wolves,” with no money or extra gear.  It almost seems irresponsible of Jesus to send them out that way,Continue reading “Expanding the Circle”

Conversion through Beauty

Elizabeth Lev is an art historian in Rome and a highly sought-after tour guide to the Eternal City.  In her book How Catholic Art Saved the Faith, she writes about the tumultuous period the 16th century.  The Protestant Reformation was in full swing and Gutenberg’s printing press made it possible to disseminate information on a scale previously unimaginable.  An overwhelming amount of polemical literature appeared, usually containing new and unfamiliarContinue reading “Conversion through Beauty”

Healing Division

It’s a cliché, but by all measures we are a nation divided.  Our culture and our politics are sick, and it’s been that way for a long time.  The election last November is just the most recent in a series of presidential elections that have taken on an apocalyptic tone, exaggerating the role of electoral politics in our lives beyond what itContinue reading “Healing Division”

Baptism into Ordinary Time

This weekend we celebrate the 2nd Sunday in Ordinary Time.  If you’ve been paying attention, you might be wondering what happened to the 1st Sunday.  In her wisdom, the Church makes the transition from the Season of Christmas into Ordinary Time with the celebration of the Baptism of the Lord, which we celebrated last Sunday.  This is certainly fitting, because baptism isContinue reading “Baptism into Ordinary Time”

Psalm 95

“Come, let us sing to the Lord, and shout with joy to the rock who saves us./ Let us approach Him with praise and thanksgiving and sing joyful songs to the Lord./  The Lord is God, the mighty God, the great king above all the gods./  He holds in His hands the depths of the earth and the highest mountains as well./  He madeContinue reading “Psalm 95”

Vaccines

Last November, the pharmaceutical companies Pfizer, Moderna, and AstraZeneca announced that they had developed vaccines that effectively prevent infection by the COVID-19 virus.  Not long after the announcement, however, questions were raised by many as to the morality of receiving these vaccines.  The issue stems from the use of a morally compromised cell line in various phases of the design & development, production, and testing of these new vaccines.  This cell line wasContinue reading “Vaccines”

Christ is Master

In the gospel for today (Mk6:45-52) we find the Apostles on the Sea of Galilee in their boat.  Jesus had stayed behind on the shore, going up the mountain alone to pray.  As evening falls, the weather gets bad, and the Apostles have a hard time rowing to their destination.  From His position on the mountain, JesusContinue reading “Christ is Master”

End and Beginning

In ancient Roman mythology, Janus was the god of beginnings and transitions.  He was depicted as having two faces, one looking ahead to the future and one looking behind to the past.  The month January is named after him because it is the time of transition into a new year from the old.  As we comeContinue reading “End and Beginning”

The Creche

The tradition of setting up a Nativity scene dates back to 1223, when St. Francis of Assisi re-created the stable of Bethlehem on the night of Christ’s birth.  As this was a novelty, Francis first sought the permission of the pope himself, and was allowed to make the arrangements in a hermitage outside the little town of Greccio, located in the Italian region of Lazio.  At midnight,Continue reading “The Creche”

The Magnificat

When the Virgin Mary consents to the news from the Angel Gabriel that God had chosen her to be the Mother of the Savior, the Gospel of Luke tells us that, after the angel departed, she made haste to the hill country of Judea to visit her cousin Elizabeth.  Gabriel had told her that her cousin was also miraculously with child.  Before this, Elizabeth had beenContinue reading “The Magnificat”

Year of St. Joseph

A couple of weeks ago, on December 8, the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception, Pope Francis declared that 2021 would be a year dedicated to St. Joseph.  Since 1870, St. Joseph has been venerated as the Universal Patron of the Church, and the Holy Father decided that this is a fitting moment in history to “go to Joseph”Continue reading “Year of St. Joseph”

Liturgy, Part 5

Pope (emeritus) Benedict XVI is widely considered to be one of the most influential Catholic theologians of the past 100 years.  One of his most famous books is entitled The Spirit of the Liturgy, which he published in the year 2000 as Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, five years prior to his election to the papacy.  Among the topics that Ratzinger examines in that book is the relationship of the liturgy to timeContinue reading “Liturgy, Part 5”

Miraculous Image

During a visit to Mexico City in 2009, then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton made an unscheduled stop to the shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe.  After spending a few moments looking at the image of the Blessed Mother on the famous tilma of St. Juan Diego, Clinton turned to her guide, Msgr. Diego Monroy, and asked: “who paintedContinue reading “Miraculous Image”

St. Nicholas

The Feast of St. Nicholas is tomorrow, December 6.  Because it falls on a Sunday this year, we will not be celebrating his feast day at Mass.  Nevertheless, since St. Nicholas is a fascinating character, so I thought it a good opportunity to share a few thoughts about him with you in this space.   St. Nicholas was born in a port cityContinue reading “St. Nicholas”

St. Francis Xavier

After St. Paul, the greatest of all Christian missionaries was St. Francis Xavier, whose feast day we celebrate today.  He was one of the original members of the Society of Jesus, and his passion for bringing the Gospel to the people of Asia was enflamed through the influence of his spiritual mentor, St. Ignatius ofContinue reading “St. Francis Xavier”

Liturgy, part 4

When we think of the word “sacrifice,” we might think of it as a form of delayed gratification, where we deprive ourselves of something we want now for the sake of enjoying a better thing later on.  We might also think of the sacrifices that parents make for their children, or that members of the military make for the protection of our country.  ButContinue reading “Liturgy, part 4”

Advent

A priest friend of mine recently shared with me an excerpt of a meditation on Advent by Br. Victor-Antoine d’Avila-Latourette, who is a Benedictine monk living in a monastery near Millbrook, NY.  Br. Victor-Antoine works on the monastery’s farm and is in charge of cooking for the community, which fosters in him a deep reverence for the differentContinue reading “Advent”

The Gift of Gratitude

Thanksgiving reminds me of my grandmother, Elizabeth. When we were little, our family used to make the trek down from Trumbull to Staten Island where she lived, braving both the BQE and the Verrazano Bridge – which is not for the faint of heart even on the best of days.  My grandmother was one of seven children born to the Fallon family in County Longford,Continue reading “The Gift of Gratitude”

Giving Thanks in 2020

Thanksgiving is a holiday filled with tradition.  Besides 5k Turkey Trots and football games, the most important tradition is to sit at a table with family and friends and share with each other a meal, at which everyone speaks about what they’re grateful for.  This year, many are likely to say they’re grateful that it’s almost 2021.  The “annus horribilis”Continue reading “Giving Thanks in 2020”

Tough Love

The Book of Revelation is filled with dramatic images of great battles between angels and demons, the Lamb of God and the terrible dragon that vainly tries to destroy the Woman who appears in the sky, “clothed with the sun.”  Usually identified with an account of the end of the world, the Book of Revelation is really more than that.  It unveilsContinue reading “Tough Love”

Bl. Jerzy Popieluszko

Fr. Jerzy Popieluszko was a priest who was active in the Solidarity movement in Poland in the early 1980s.  He became well-known throughout Poland when his homilies, which were strongly critical of the communist state, were widely broadcast on the radio.  Because he encouraged people to resist the oppressive regime, and to actively protest against it, state officials tried to intimidate him to be silent, but were unsuccessful. Continue reading “Bl. Jerzy Popieluszko”

Conspiracies and End Times

Conspiracy theories abound these days.  A conspiracy theory, according to Wikipedia, is “an explanation for an event or situation that invokes a conspiracy by sinister and powerful groups, often political in motivation, when other explanations are more probable.” By nature, conspiracy theories are extremely difficult to disprove, because proponents will use both the presence and the lack of evidence asContinue reading “Conspiracies and End Times”

Glory-Scrolling

“Doom-scrolling” is a new internet expression that seems to be growing in popular usage.  It’s defined online as: “the tendency to continue to surf or scroll through bad news, even though that news is saddening, disheartening, or depressing.” I would venture to guess that anyone who has a social media account on Facebook or Twitter has had the experience of lying in bed, scrolling down throughContinue reading “Glory-Scrolling”

Litany of Trust

During this time of uncertainty, which can lead us to anxiety and anger, we should renew our trust in God, professing our faith in the reality that He is in control and that He loves us.  As an aid, I share with you below a prayer called the “Litany of Trust” which was composed by Sr. Faustina MariaContinue reading “Litany of Trust”

Indulgences

The great celebrations of All Saints Day and All Souls Day traditionally come with special opportunities for what are called “indulgences.”  Indulgences are a subject fraught with misunderstanding, so it might be helpful to try to give a brief explanation in this space, especially since the pope has expanded the availability of certain indulgences for the sake of theContinue reading “Indulgences”

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