What Really Happened… by Monsignor Ferrarese

If you are like me, you are more confused than edified by the reporting of news to the public. In the days of Walter Cronkite, it was assumed that what we were being told on the news each night and read in the newspapers each morning was the unadulterated truth. This may not actually have been the case, however. I remember my cousin’s words to me when I told him that we were given the assignment to read the ‘Week in Review’ section of the Sunday New York Times each week by one of my priest professors in the high school seminary: “I’m surprised that they want you to read the Times. It’s so liberal!”

Zoom forward to the present and we see how precarious the possibility of getting the truth from the news media has become! This is the era of ‘fake news’. As one listens or reads reportage, one begins to ask: Where is this coming from? What are the prejudicial presuppositions that condition this attempt at informing me? As I listen to CNN and then turn to Fox News, where should I put my credence?

It is almost axiomatic today that if you are a Democratic Liberal (am I guilty of a redundancy in calling it this?) or a Republican Conservative (likewise?), you will listen to the sources that accord with your viewpoint. (Are there any Democratic Conservatives or Liberal Republicans left?) This would be supportable if it were only the problem of CNN and Fox News. But biases permeate the media. For example: Little Johnny walked down the street. One newspaper, in reporting this, asks the question, “Where is little Janie in the situation?” Another will emphasize the powerful way Johnny seems to control the street. Many of us simply want to know that Johnny walked down the street and not all the editorializing that unfortunately go with this simple fact.

People generally are not aware of their part in dealing with any issue. They often do not begin at a neutral spot. Their opinion and understanding of things colors where they begin on any given issue even though they think that they are being objective about it. It takes a great deal of self-awareness to correct this lack of objectivity and then a real detachment that says that I might be wrong in my opinion and that I should just present the facts. Underneath this all must be a level of humility that admits that I have been wrong before and that I must tread lightly here lest I lead others astray.

This complexus of virtues: self-awareness, detachment and humility are often lacking from those who report, edit and present the news to us each morning. When we place this in the almost conspiratorial atmosphere of shared prejudices in the newsroom, we can readily see how difficult it must be to get ‘just what happened’.

Many in the modern world will counter that there is no objective truth and that everything is by nature subjective. This clearly goes against our view in Christian theology of the Truth and that the Truth will make us free. It also feeds the erroneous idea that we can construct our own version of the Truth. That is: something is not fixed in stone by reality but can be changed to suit my needs. While this is true in some instances, to remove God as Creator and to see creation as not having purposes set by God is clearly a path to an atheistic concept of reality.

If, therefore, one can ‘create’ the news by injecting one’s own opinion into events that happen, then one can abandon objective reporting and print what people should understand by the events that are narrated. That word ‘should’ is small and troublesome, since it opens the field to something other than true journalism.

As a Faith, we have a philosophical foundation that believes in Truth as given by God and therefore as reality having an objective content that can be reported faithfully and dispassionately, thereby leaving to the reader or viewer the joyful task to make one’s own choices as to how to interpret that reality for the present moment.

It is important that we who believe in the fact that there is such a thing as Truth, and that it is discoverable, develop a healthy and philosophically critical way of looking at what is presented to us as news. We need to continue to trust that there are good and honest people who are trying to be objective in reporting the news, but that at the same time we have to question what we hear and subject it to examination. This scrutiny must not be based on our own prejudices; in fact, we have to admit that we also have our own biases, and that we often have to challenge these inherent prejudices with new viewpoints and perspectives. Our stance must be humble (I don’t know everything and there is a lot for me to learn) and prayerful (I ask God to enlighten me and lead me to the Truth). It is only then that we can discover the healing and liberating Truth.

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Anthony of Egypt

Anthony of Egypt

Also called Anthony the Abbot & Anthony the Great.

Anthony was a Coptic Christian (more about that at a later time), he was born in Egypt in the year 251 CE (AD) and he died in 356 CE (AD).  He is considered the Father of Monasticism in Christianity.

He was a rich young man; he had inherited his father’s fortune.  He heard the Gospel account of the rich young man in Matthew 19:16-22 and went and did this; he sold all that he had, gave the money to the poor and the Church, and went off into the desert to live a life of solitude, denial and mortification.  His initial desire was to live an eremitic existence, to live as a hermit spending the time in prayer but his sanctity and fame became widely known.  Many came out into the desert for his spiritual advice and guidance and some of these stayed.  Anthony organized those who stayed into a common life, being isolated for prayer and acts of penance and joining with the community for the Eucharist and communal prayer.

When Anthony died he was buried in a secret location but his body was soon moved to Alexandria.  His remains were translated (moved) to Constantinople as Egypt was invaded.  Much later his remains were given to a French count who placed them in Church of La Motte S. Didier, and then a Benedictine priory belonging to the Abbey of Mont-Majour near Arles.  In 1491 the relics were again translated, they were brought to Arles to the Church of St. Julian, where they are preserved in a glass casket. Today his skull and a leg bone are in the Church of St. Trophime in Arles.

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Important Words to Ponder

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St. Hilary of Poitiers

St. Hilary of Poitiers

Hilary of Poitiers was a bishop of Poitiers in Gaul, now France, who lived in the 4th century.  He was very influential in defending Church teaching against the Arian heresy that was very popular and influential at this time, he was called the Hammer of the Arians.  He is also a Doctor of the Church, a very influential Christian theologian, more about who they are later.

 

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The Silent Years by Monsignor Ferrarese

With the advent of Freud and the whole psychoanalytic approach to understanding human behavior, a person’s origin; a person’s DNA; a person’s early childhood, seemingly innocuous events in their childhood, have a great import on a person’s development. They explain a great deal, even though every person remains a mystery.

To understand Jesus of Nazareth in His humanity is a difficult task. After infancy until He is 30 years of age, there is nothing that we can go on. His life in Nazareth is shrouded in silence.

Yet, since Jesus was completely human (as well as Divine), he would likewise be very affected by what happened to Him during those 30 years of his life; but, we only have data on the three years of His public ministry.

So what happened during those 30 long years?

He learned. That is a momentous statement that has important consequences. Like any human being, even one so finely tuned and expertly open to His experiences, He grew in wisdom and learning. The one incident that we have during those years is when He was lost in Jerusalem at 12 years old. He made a mistake and thought it was time to do His “Father’s work”. But Mary and Joseph said “not yet”! So, obediently, He went back with them. This is typical behavior for a young teenager: jumping the gun. This was a mistake, not a sin. It would have been a sin if, after Mary corrected Him, He had disregarded what she said and disobeyed her. But He did not. This example is good to remember because often we confuse mistakes and sins.

So what can we deduce from the hidden years of Christ’s earthly life and what importance do those years have for us?

We know that there was something very atypical of His life as a Jewish Palestinian man of that era: He was not married and did not have children. We can infer this from the complete silence of the New Testament about any such family of His. This was very rare among Jewish men. It must have meant that He had a sense throughout His life of a Divine Calling that He had to prepare for (“His Hour” in the Gospel of John) and that would have precluded any adoption of a role as head of a family.

This must have struck people as odd given that He most likely lived a normal life in the small town of Nazareth. When He finally announced to the people of His town His calling—in the Synagogue of the town—the result was swift and violent: total rejection of this calling by His townspeople who saw Him grow up before them.

We also know that He was a builder and a craftsman. The Greek word used means more than a Carpenter. He did not just work in a little shop in Nazareth. This village was small and would not generate enough business to help His family survive. He probably went to a city like Sephoris where many wealthy people lived that had large estates, where there would be plenty of work. So while Joseph was alive, the Lord probably walked each morning to this city to work.

Meanwhile, He was growing in grace before God and men.

If you think of it, this is astounding! For 30 long years, he lived and worked in obscurity doing simple things for His family, His Synagogue and His Village. What is the implication of this high percentage of time that He spent on ordinary tasks?

One can only deduce from this amazing fact of His life that the ordinary is where God works the most, even in the obscurity of an out-of-the-way village in an obscure province (remember Nathaniel’s statement in John: “Can anything good come from Nazareth?”)

Now, our lives are hardly filled with miraculous happenings or even with the dramatic events of the Passion and Death of Christ. Our lives are generally lived closer to the silent years of the life of Jesus. Since they were so significant and important for His own development, then the ordinary way God works in our ordinary lives must be filled with eternal consequence. This manifests in two senses: Firstly, because they move us closer or further away from a possible final judgment on our lives; and secondly, because they are the principal way that God forms our being and our personalities.

The implications of this insight are vast and multiform. Every slight decision that we make, every event that comes upon us both internal and external, is important to God and should be seen as important to us.

We are all in our silent years that will flower, not in any public way here on earth, but in the final revelation of our lives in the ‘mansion’ that God has prepared for us and to which He Himself will lead us at our earthly death.

Therefore, everything I do and say today is crucial to my future life in God!

The silence speaks volumes!

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A possible Lenten exercise

For those who are considering a Lenten practice this year perhaps this might suffice.  It’s by Bishop Barron and it’s free just 4.95 for shipping and handling; how bad can it be?

Lenten Gospel Reflections https://bishopbarronbooks.com/freelentbooklet

 

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Pope: Don’t Be Late for Mass

 

Pope Francis on arriving to Mass late:  https://thetablet.org/pope-dont-be-late-for-mass/

Perhaps next week he’ll talk about leaving Mass early, even though he wouldn’t have to stand on line at the bagel store.

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Mary’s Well by Monsignor Ferrarese

There was a sadness about him. He was a priest I met while on retreat in the Benedictine monastery of Mount Saviour. He was on retreat like myself. He was from the African nation of Uganda. As often happens on retreat, we started talking during breaks in our silence and meditations. He was responsible for working in a school where many Catholic children were enrolled, many of them orphans. He remarked to me how lucky we were in America. Such a thing like clean drinking water was so plentiful that people just took it for granted. He then shared with me the plight of many of the children of his school. They became sickened and some have died from the polluted water that they had to drink since there was no good clean water to be had.

He told me that there was plenty of clean water but it was buried far below the surface of the land.

We as a parish and as a Christian community have the power to change this. So I asked him to get us some specifications so that we could build for his community a well with a pump attached that could provide water for his whole community and stop the continual loss of health and life.

He sent me the plan, the name of the architect and engineer, as well as an itemized budget for the building of a water-source well for his community and school. With the help of our Propagation of the Faith office, we intend to make this the first project of our Mercy Fund. I only asked of him that it be named “Mary’s Well” in honor of our Patroness and that a sign be placed on it saying that this was a gift of the Catholic Faithful of Immaculate Conception Parish, Astoria New York United States of America.

It is my earnest hope that we can repeat this outreach of charity and mercy everywhere there is poverty and deprivation. It has always been that the spread of the Catholic Faith is augmented by these acts of mercy. Ancient authors, not all of the Christian Faith, attest to the effectiveness of Christian Charity in laying the groundwork for the acceptance of Christ.

In ancient Rome, pagans often abandoned plague victims while they were still living as they headed for the fresh air of the mountains. The Christians stayed to tend the victims, both those of the Christian faith and those who were pagans. When they greeted again those who had abandoned them, they also informed them of their desire to become Christians. Acts of mercy and kindness engender faith.

So it is my hope that building a well in Uganda will help to establish faith by making it credible to the suffering.

But why stop there? We can continue this work of mercy since the needs of this world are vast and those who suffer are as numerous as the sand at the seashore! There are preventable cases of suffering in all the continents of the world. Could we not establish outposts of mercy and loving kindness with those who suffer in other countries and situations? People risk their lives to migrate so that they can have some hope of bettering the life of their families. In our small but effective way, we can say by our merciful charity: life is worth living, God is good, and we are the loving hands of the Creator. See in the clean water of this well a sign of God’s love for you.

Given all the material advantages that we possess, to turn a blind eye to the suffering masses in this world would be a terrible sin of omission. It is my hope that we can connect our parish community with the global needs that have become very clear and present to us by the modern forms of communication.

I believe that this great joy to our heavenly Mother who, as our Patroness, is so content to see us imitating her Son in His mission of universal redemption!

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The Feast of the Magi, Part Two

The Feast of the Magi, continued

  • Is there any history behind this feast? Yes, there is actually.  According to About.com:

“Like many of the most ancient Christian feasts, Epiphany was first celebrated in the East, where it has been held from the beginning almost universally on January 6. Today, among both Eastern Catholics and Eastern Orthodox, the feast is known as Theophany – the revelation of God to man.

Epiphany originally celebrated four different events, in the following order of importance: the Baptism of the Lord; Christ’s first miracle, the changing of water into wine at the wedding in Cana; the Nativity of Christ, Christmas; and the visitation of the Wise Men or Magi. Each of these is a revelation of God to man: At Christ’s Baptism, the Holy Spirit descends and the voice of God is heard, declaring that Jesus is His Son; at the wedding in Cana, the miracle reveals Christ’s divinity; at the Nativity, the angels bear witness to Christ, and the shepherds, representing the people of Israel, bow down before Him; and at the visitation of the Magi, Christ’s divinity is revealed to the Gentiles – the other nations of the earth.

Eventually, the celebration of the Nativity was separated out, in the West, into Christmas; and shortly thereafter, Western Christians adopted the Eastern feast of the Epiphany, still celebrating the Baptism, the first miracle, and the visit from the Wise Men. Thus, Epiphany came to mark the end of Christmastide – the Twelve Days of Christmas, which began with the revelation of Christ to Israel in His Birth and ended with the revelation of Christ to the Gentiles at Epiphany.

Over the centuries, the various celebrations were further separated in the West, now the Baptism of the Lord is celebrated on the Sunday after January 6, and the wedding at Cana is commemorated on the Sunday after the Baptism of the Lord.

In many parts of Europe, the celebration of Epiphany is at least as important as the celebration of Christmas. In Italy and other Mediterranean countries, – the day on which the Wise Men brought their gifts to the Christ Child—while in Northern Europe, it’s not unusual to give gifts on both Christmas and Epiphany (often with smaller gifts on each of the twelve days of Christmas in between).”  http://catholicism.about.com/od/holydaysandholidays/p/Epiphany.htm

  • BTW, what is a magi? Oh, and how many magi were there? The term “magi” is the plural of magus.  You can see the root of magic and magician in the word.  The magi were a priestly caste or class from ancient Persia.   A magus, the singular, was an expert in the sciences of the time, especially astrology.  How many magi were there?  We don’t know because Scripture doesn’t give us a number or their names.  We say three due to the gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh mentioned, but over history the number has varied, once there were as many as twelve.
  • What are their names? Do we have any relics of them?  Traditionally, from the 6th century on or so, the names Caspar, Melchior and Balthasar have been associated with them.  According to tradition, the relics of the Magi are at the Shrine of the Three Kings at Cologne Cathedral.
  • Is there any symbolism attached to the gifts presented to Jesus? Yes, in fact, there is.  According to U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops website:  “Gold – a symbol of wealth and power identifies the recipient as a king. Frankincense – the crystalized resinous sap of a tree used as incense and as an offering, is symbolic of prayer. Myrrh – another resinous tree sap was used in healing liniments, and as an embalming ointment.  http://www.usccb.org/prayer-and-worship/liturgical-year/christmas/christmas-january-7.cfm
  • What are some activities that we can do participate in on this day as a family or as a faith community?

Bibliography

The Catechism of the Catholic Church.  New York: Doubleday Press, 1997.

Catholicism.About.com http://catholicism.about.com/od/holydaysandholidays/p/Epiphany.htm. 2014. Web. 25 Dec. 2016.

CatholicCulture.org http://www.catholicculture.org. 2014. Web. 13 Dec 2014.

Merriam Webster http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/epiphany.  2014. Web.  12 Dec. 2014.

The New American Bible. The Vatican, 06 Nov. 2002.  Web. 12 Dec. 2014. <http://www.vatican.va/archive/ENG0839/_INDEX.HTM>

“National Migration Week 2017.” United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, 2016.  Web. 25 Dec. 2016. <http://www.usccb.org/about/migration-and-refugee-services/national-migration-week/>

Shrine of the Magi, Cologne Cathedral.  n.d. Web. 25 Dec. 2016. <http://www.koelnerdom.de/index.php?id=17451&L=1>

“Solemnity of the Epiphany of the Lord.” United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, 2014. Web. 16 Dec. 2014. <http://www.usccb.org/prayer-and-worship/liturgical-year/christmas/christmas-january-4.cfm>

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The Feast of the Magi, Part One

The Feast of the Magi

“When Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, in the days of King Herod, behold, magi from the east arrived in Jerusalem, saying, ‘Where is the newborn king of the Jews? We saw his star at its rising and have come to do him homage.’  When King Herod heard this, he was greatly troubled, and all Jerusalem with him.

Assembling all the chief priests and the scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Messiah was to be born.  They said to him, ‘In Bethlehem of Judea, for thus it has been written through the prophet:  ‘And you, Bethlehem, land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; since from you shall come a ruler, who is to shepherd my people Israel.’

Then Herod called the magi secretly and ascertained from them the time of the star’s appearance. He sent them to Bethlehem and said, ‘Go and search diligently for the child. When you have found him, bring me word, that I too may go and do him homage.’

After their audience with the king they set out.  And behold, the star that they had seen at its rising preceded them, until it came and stopped over the place where the child was.  They were overjoyed at seeing the star, and on entering the house they saw the child with Mary his mother. They prostrated themselves and did him homage. Then they opened their treasures and offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.

And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they departed for their country by another way.’”  (New American Bible, Matthew 2:1-12)

  • Isn’t this the Feast of the Epiphany? Yes, it is.  It’s also called the Feast of the Three Kings and is known by a few other names.
  • Whatever happened to that feast? The Epiphany is traditionally celebrated on the 12th day after Christmas, January 6th. In the United States, the feast has been moved to the Sunday between January 2nd and January 8th.
  • What does the term epiphany mean? According to Merriam Webster, the term epiphany is defined as “a sudden manifestation or perception of the essential nature or meaning of something usually initiated by some simple, homely, or commonplace occurrence or experience”.
  • What do we commemorate or remember on this day? On this feast, we commemorate the manifestation of Jesus to the whole world.  Jesus is revealed to the magi who have come from the East bearing gifts and are the first individuals from the Gentile world to see or encounter the Savior of the world.

As it states in the Catechism of the Catholic Church:

“The Epiphany is the manifestation of Jesus as Messiah of Israel, Son of God and Savior of the world. The great feast of Epiphany celebrates the adoration of Jesus by the wise men (magi) from the East, together with his baptism in the Jordan and the wedding feast at Cana in Galilee. In the magi, representatives of the neighboring pagan religions, the Gospel sees the first-fruits of the nations, who welcome the good news of salvation through the Incarnation. The magi’s coming to Jerusalem in order to pay homage to the king of the Jews shows that they seek in Israel, in the messianic light of the star of David, the one who will be king of the nations. Their coming means that pagans can discover Jesus and worship him as Son of God and Savior of the world only by turning toward the Jews and receiving from them the messianic promise as contained in the Old Testament. The Epiphany shows that “the full number of the nations” now takes its “place in the family of the patriarchs,” and acquires Israelitica dignitas (are made “worthy of the heritage of Israel”).” (#528)

 

 

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