Time to Think by Monsignor Ferrarese

Many years ago, I caught a talk that my old Rector from the Seminary gave after he went to a Parish to be a Pastor. After speaking about several things, he learned in his new assignment that he startled everyone with the assertion that each day he enjoyed stopping work and going upstairs to sit and think.

“Think what?”, I thought. It seemed like a waste of time to me! Then, maybe, what he was alluding to was going to his room for a siesta!

Coming from a working-class background, I was told to be useful and, if I ever attempted to sit and ‘think’, my mother would have slapped me in the back of the head and told me to get busy! Even our garden had to be useful. I once announced to my parents that I was going to plant flowers in our garden. They both looked at me in horror. Finally, my mother broke the silence and said: “Don’t be stupid. You can’t eat flowers!” And so, I planted tomatoes and string beans!

So, when my old Rector said he went to his room to think, I heard him with my working-class ears and my working-class attitude.

But he was right.

We confuse thinking with wasting time. But, if we are honest, we probably think a lot, even obsess, when we should be keeping our attention on what we are doing. We could be driving or doing something in the garden or being at work, and yet our minds are churning away. Worry, getting even, plans, fears: our minds are constantly at it. But is it fruitful? We seem to do a lot of thinking when we should have our attention fixed on what we are doing or to whom we are listening.

The Rector that I spoke about dedicated real time to do some real thinking, sometimes with a pad and pencil and sometimes looking at the sunset as he drifted from thinking to praying.

The ability to think is one of the most important things about being human. We are rational beings. Our brains are the most complex realities known to man. Thinking, therefore, should be more than what we do accidentally from the corners of our consciousness.

Setting aside some time to think through our lives and what we love and value should be one of our top priorities. Arguably, one of the results of this lockdown in our dealing with the Pandemic is that we have more time to think. We must, however, distinguish this from brooding, which is not a healthy choice. Brooding is filled with fear and anger. One can be the play-thing of demons if we enter into that stage of consciousness!

The true companion of thinking is praying. In prayer, we open ourselves up to Divine Providence, so that our thinking moves in the direction of wisdom and some of the other gifts of the Holy Spirit. To me, it is amazing that, when I have a seemingly impossible problem and I ask for help from God and just wait in confident hope for God to assist me, things become clearer: I see what I have to do and what I have to avoid. I can’t fully explain it. It just happens! God wants to be so involved and, yet, we often close Him out and go our own way. He gets the blame, though, if things go wrong!

For this to work for our benefit, we need solitude and time. We need an open heart. Mix a little silence with these and we have a wonderful spiritual meal!

Even in secular literature, be it Plato or Thoreau, you get the oft repeated axiom, “An unexamined life is not worth living.” That is akin to what I am trying to say. If we go slowly and think in quality time, and if we include the Divine Observer, life becomes more livable and the future is not as frightening!

It is a gift to just take a comfortable moment and decide to think through a problem or an issue! That time is not wasted. Arguably, it is a great use of time since we may come upon an unexpected and attractive choice that would not be in our mind unless we spent that time.

Time is spent in thought is a good investment. So invest now!

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Things Above by Monsignor Ferrarese

In the midst of this pandemic, we often are terrorized by death. We hear of corpses piled up in makeshift morgues, this stealthy virus entering unsuspecting people and killing them. A despair hangs over the world, causing deep depression.

After Vatican II, we careened from an otherworldly Church that spoke a dead language to a more ‘relevant’ Church that embraced the here and now. We went from an altar against a wall and a priest praying mysteriously and quietly, to an altar facing the people and the priest on center stage.

With the more ‘this worldly’ emphasis, many feel that something essential has been lost. During the tumultuous 60’s, priests left the ministry in droves. The abandonment of the whole area of mystery and the call of the beyond made the priesthood devolve into a kind of social work that could not support the weight of living a celibate life.

This imbalance seems particularly difficult during this enforced solitude engendered in social distancing. More and more people are dying, often outside the reach of the comfort of family and friends. Once you sap away belief in our future glory with Christ, death becomes even more unspeakable.

We are left with a question: Do I really believe that there is a future after death? Really?

Part of the difficulty in thinking through this belief is that any use of the imagination is counterproductive. We don’t know what our future will look like or feel like. All of our vocabulary is earthbound. So, it is hard to put ourselves in a realistic attitude about this.

This is the darkness that permeates this important step of faith, and it is why we have to choose to trust. I use the word ‘choose’ very consciously. We all have understandably intellectual doubts about this. We go from ‘it seems too good to be true’ to ‘maybe this is all made up”. If we rely on our minds and thoughts, we will be lost. It is the will that must act.

Let’s say that we are on a journey and we arrive at a crossroads. We could go straight or make a left or make a right. We think we know where these choices will take us, but we are not sure. The mind cannot resolve the difficulty. You remember that someone told you to hang a right when you got to the crossroad.Or was that a left? Your mind is paralyzed since it has nothing to say to you. What to do?

Clearly, you must choose and then hope you made the right decision. The mind cannot help you and neither can the memory. One must make a decision and live that decision out.

Thus, is faith. The mind cannot help us. It will just leave us standing there. We must choose the way to go and then put one foot forward and go the way we have chosen.

I choose to believe in God. I choose to believe in Christ. I choose to believe in Eternal Life. And I choose to live my life according to the precepts of the Church even though I have doubts. Especially because I doubt.

When people say that they cannot believe in God, they are making an intellectual assumption. No matter how difficult it is for our minds to accept that there is a God and that there is life after death, we can still choose to believe in Him. While there are no scientific proofs of God’s existence, there is a preponderance of inferences and probabilities that suggest that it is not irrational to believe. But we must use our wills and stake our ground and make the gamble.

Blaise Pascal, a philosopher, scientist, and engineer, called this the ‘wager theory’. If you choose not to believe and I do, when we both die and if there is no God, we just both go into oblivion. But if there is a God, you may perhaps unpleasantly (or pleasantly?) be surprised!

So, during this pandemic, let us choose to believe in God and let the cards fall where they may. What we may find is that, once we accept Him, doors and paths heretofore unknown may beckon and the intellect will catch up with the will and we will begin to see things in a radically different way. Faith always seeks understanding. But understanding can never get to Faith unless I choose to take the leap!

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St. John of the Cross and COVID-19 by Monsignor Ferrarese

Ordinarily, we don’t speak about saints and a pandemic in the same breath! They seem miles apart. But it occurred to me that the great mystic St. John of the Cross can help us to see what we are going through in a different way.

St. John was a contemporary of St. Teresa of Avila in 16th century Spain. He helped her with the reform of the Carmelite Order by working on the male side of that austere religious group. He has been called the first psychologist in history because of the penetrating insights into the mind and the soul of the human person.

One of the lasting contributions to the analysis of how God works in the soul is what he calls the ‘Dark Night’. In one sense, this teaching is not new with him. It had been around hundreds of years before he lived. But in his books “The Ascent of Mount Carmel” and “The Dark Night”, he explained in a definitive way the path that we all travel to become unified with God. Classically, it was often referred to as the ‘Three Ages of Man’. But first through his poetry (he was the first important poet of the Spanish Language), and then through the works explaining that poetry, he was able to clarify and deepen this spiritual teaching.

When we awaken spiritually (often referred to as Being Born Again), we begin a path of purification or purgation to separate ourselves from sin, evil and the devil. This purification is both active (the things we choose to do or forgo) and passive (the things that God asks of us). This is the first dark night: The Dark Night of the Senses.

After walking in this path for a while, we finally enter the second Age of Man—the Illuminative stage. Suddenly, everything becomes clear and all coheres in an amazing way. The lights get turned on and we see life as we never saw it before—as God sees it.

But then comes a night more terrible than the first night: The Dark Night of the Soul. While in the previous night, the Dark Night of the Senses, all the sense perceptions and comforts that we depend on are taken away from us. In this second Dark Night, that of the Soul, even the joys of the spiritual realities are taken away from us. We feel abandoned by God and we have no spiritual gifts to help us get through. In this dark night, we have to keep going, onward and ahead, even as our exhaustion permeates us. Faith alone is our support; a faith we cannot feel. Doubt surrounds us, but we still go forward trusting in God, even when every gift that He gave us is taken away. Mother Teresa of Calcutta went through years in this night! But
what awaits us at the end is stupendous: union with God, with Love itself. This can never be taken away from us.

God purifies us and makes us strong through these nights, so that we can love the Giver and not just the gifts.

I think that this gives us an interesting frame of reference as to what is happening to the world during this Pandemic. Like in the Dark Night of the Senses, many of our cultural, sportive, social and entertaining events have been stripped away. True, there is always the TV and the computer, but with time we will tire of them and want something more. This is a lot tougher than giving up chocolate for Lent! God has asked us to give up a lot more than that. We do it for each other and for God. That is when we make the requisite sacrifices in the right way. I have seen such beautiful sacrifices health care people make as they extend themselves. We just keep making the sacrifices as God leads us forward to illumination and acceptance.

The Dark Night of the Soul occurs when people confront their lack of belief or the thought that God has abandoned us. What St. John makes clear is that we are called upon to still believe, still do works of charity, still follow the guidance of the Lord. It takes a lot to do it without the reward of good feelings, but it also purifies us and asks us to do the right for the right reasons: Love of God and Love of Neighbor.

This is a time of testing and a time to keep loving and keep caring and keep sacrificing. Walking in the Dark Night is not easy, but St. John says that we must follow the warmth and light of our hearts to find our way to God and to each other.

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How Long O Lord! by Monsignor Ferrarese

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, we all had ways of living that we had gotten used to. Now, they seem to be elusive. The Pandemic has fundamentally changed how we live.

One thing that is different is our sense of security. As Americans, we live in a very safe country with great and dependable services. With this Pandemic, a rising sense of insecurity has begun to besiege us. Can I depend on a Doctor if I needed one? Would going to a hospital be a possibility if I should get really sick? Can I be assured that I can go and help a loved one in need? Does living in one of the most advanced cities in the world mean I can go safely wherever I want to go?

A few months ago, these questions would have seemed nonsensical. Not today. This Pandemic has not only interrupted our lives; it has fundamentally changed how the world will relate in the future. Nations seem besides the point now. This virus has taught us our common humanity. This global awareness is taking center stage. Working together and solving our common problems is now a necessity and a priority. Our vulnerability makes us feel how we really need one another.

This new sense of insecurity can be seen painfully in the breakdown in our economy. We are all financially interdependent. We are all part of a whole and, when we cannot thrive in it, then many lives are affected. It can also be very scary when things have to change because people are not there to do their jobs. You cannot rely on the status quo. Our wonderful economy just seemed to hum along, almost giving the appearance that it was indestructible. And now things are not so clear.

Besides our vulnerability and our interconnectedness, for us believers, this Pandemic has taught us how much we need God, how important community is, and what the deeper meaning of things are that we just went along believing: life after death, faith, revelation.

Who of us has not, in the darkness of night, when we could not sleep, thought realistically of our own deaths? This Pandemic has brought to the fore the need for hope and the constant threat of despair.

I remember Saint John Cardinal Newman’s distinction between notional and real assent. The notional is merely in our mind and is a sort of an abstraction. Yes, I believe that what the labels says: “This rope can hold up to 250 lbs of weight” is true. But is it real assent? Let’s hang grandma out the window by that rope! No? Why not? The label said it would hold up to 250 lbs and grandma weighs 120 Lbs. Right? No, you would probably dangle a very heavy inert object from the rope first and see if it really holds up. And when it does, then you can give it your real assent. (But please leave Grandma alone!)

When speaking about death, we can give a notional assent to our belief that death is merely a transition and that there is life after death. But on our death bed, will it be a real assent? That can only come through faith.

As I get older, death is becoming more and more real to me. Hitting 70 this year, I am in a segment of the population where the risk of death from this Pandemic is more likely. I woke up a number of times during the last few weeks thinking of how fragile my life is. I thought during those moments: What is death? How does it feel? Do I really believe in eternal life?

One of the things this time has done for many people is made faith a matter of life and death. It is not just a pretty ‘churchy’ word. It means something important and real.

Even Jesus was rendered powerless when there was no faith in evidence. When He went home to Nazareth, the people had no faith in Him and He regretted that He could not work any miracles. On the other hand, the woman with the issue of blood had great faith. She got a charge right from Jesus for her healing without Jesus even knowing who accessed the power within Him. It automatically flowed from Him. It was simply her faith that made it happen!

This is a time for real faith. We need the power of God to get through this. No matter what lies ahead of us, we must be armed with faith to face this uncertain world and this new “normal”.

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The Solemnity of Easter

The Solemnity of Easter

“Christós anésti!”

“Alithós anésti!”

“When the Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, Mary, the mother of James, and Salome bought spices so that they might go and anoint him.  Very early when the sun had risen, on the first day of the week, they came to the tomb.  They were saying to one another, ‘Who will roll back the stone for us from the entrance to the tomb?’ When they looked up, they saw that the stone had been rolled back; it was very large.  On entering the tomb, they saw a young man sitting on the right side, clothed in a white robe, and they were utterly amazed.  He said to them, ‘Do not be amazed! You seek Jesus of Nazareth, the crucified. He has been raised; he is not here.” (New American Bible, Mark 16: 1 – 6)

Easter, without a doubt, is the most important and joyous day (& season) in the liturgical year.  The Catechism of the Catholic Church states it in this manner: “Easter is not simply one feast among others, but the ‘Feast of feasts’, the ‘Solemnity of solemnities’” (#1169).  It goes on to say that “… the mystery of the Resurrection, in which Christ crushed death, permeates with its powerful energy our old time, until all is subjected to him.”(#1169)

What is the Church celebrating during the Easter season?On Easter Sunday and throughout the fifty days of the Easter season, the Church celebrates the Resurrection of Jesus.  Yes, by the way, the Easter Season lasts for fifty days until Pentecost.

Why is Easter so important to the Church?Easter is important to the Church because the Resurrection of Jesus is the central mystery, belief and teaching of the Church; it has been believed AND preached from the earliest days of the Church: Peter, on Pentecost says, …God raised him up, releasing him from the throes of death, because it was impossible for him to be held by it.”(New American Bible, Acts of the Apostles 2:24)  Peter says later in Acts, “God raised this Jesus; of this we are all witnesses.” (New American Bible, Acts of the Apostles 2:32)

St. Paul states in his letter to the Romans:

Therefore, just as through one person sin entered the world, and through sin, death, and thus death came to all, inasmuch as all sinned – for up to the time of the law, sin was in the world, though sin is not accounted when there is no law. But death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those who did not sin after the pattern of the trespass of Adam, who is the type of the one who was to come. But the gift is not like the transgression. For if by that one person’s transgression the many died, how much more did the grace of God and the gracious gift of the one person Jesus Christ overflow for the many. And the gift is not like the result of the one person’s sinning. For after one sin there was the judgment that brought condemnation; but the gift, after many transgressions, brought acquittal. For if, by the transgression of one person, death came to reign through that one, how much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and of the gift of justification come to reign in life through the one person Jesus Christ.”  (New American Bible, Romans 5:15-17)

So all Christians celebrate Easter, why then do some Christians celebrate it on different days?Yes, all Christians celebrate Easter.  As I mentioned above, the Resurrection of Jesus is the central mystery, belief and teaching of the Church.  The celebration on different days is a religious calendar issue.

What do you mean by “a religious calendar issue”?  Don’t all Christians use the same calendar?No, for religious celebrations we actually don’t.This goes all the way back to the early days of the Church.  At the first ecumenical council of Nicea in 325 AD, one of the issues discussed was the date for the celebration of Easter.  It seems certain Christian groups celebrated Easter on a different date.  The Quarterdecimanists, for example, celebrated Easter on what was the 14th day of Nisan in the Jewish calendar, no matter the day of the week on which it occurred.  At Nicea the Church decided that Easter would be celebrated on the Sunday after the first full moon after the vernal equinox.

Now throw in the change from the Julian calendar to the Gregorian calendar.  The Julian calendar was the civil calendar introduced by Julius Caesar in the 1st Century BC; as a religious calendar, many of the Eastern Churches use this.  The Gregorian calendar was the civil calendar introduced in the 16th Century AD to adjust for the differences that had occurred to the Julian calendar over fifteen hundred years; as a religious calendar, this is used by most Western Churches.  As of 2020, there is a difference of 13 days between the two calendars which can make the celebrations off by up to six weeks or so.  In recent years there have been inter-religious dialogues concerning the celebration of the central mystery of our common faith on the same day but nothing definitive, as far as I know, has been agreed to.

What does the Resurrection of Jesus mean for me, why is it important?  It can and should mean so many things:

  • Jesus’ Resurrection means that I have been liberated from sin and a new way of life has been opened to me. (CCC,#654)
  • Jesus’ Resurrection means that I have been justified in my relationship with God; my offenses, my sins, have been remediated and I can now really be called a child of God.  There is no longer an obstacle in place, besides my own self – centered attitude, sin, that can overcome this. (CCC, #1995)
  • Jesus’ Resurrection means that I can achieve eternal life in the Kingdom as long as my actions and attitudes are in accordance, in agreement, with God’s will, with God’s plan, with what God wants for me, for others and for the rest of creation. (CCC, #655)

What can I do to make Easter a more meaningful season for me? 

  • Try to use the season to reflect upon the Resurrection and its importance in my life.
  • Make an effort to do some spiritual or Scriptural reading over the course of the season.
  • Try to figure out how I can take the message of the Resurrection and actually live it; not in a showy, pretentious or ostentatious way but in a sincere, humble and faith-filled manner.
  • Attempt to spend time with family.  Visit a relative you may not have seen for a while, visit a relative that lives in a nursing home or retirement facility.
  • Attend a parish or community event occurring in conjunction with Easter.  Are there any Easter egg hunts happening in the neighborhood?  If so, bring the kids.

Bibliography

The Catechism of the Catholic Church.  The Vatican, 06 Nov. 2002.  Web. 18 March.2016   < http://www.vatican.va/archive/ENG0015/_INDEX.HTM>

The New American Bible. The Vatican, 06 Nov. 2002.  Web. 13 March.2014 <http://www.vatican.va/archive/ENG0839/_INDEX.HTM>

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The Shroud of Turin to be displayed

The Shroud of Turin is to be displayed from Holy Saturday through April 17th. Here’s a link to the article on Crux: https://cruxnow.com/covid-19/2020/04/shroud-of-turin-to-be-shown-via-tv-and-social-media-for-coronavirus-outbreak/

Here is the link to the Shroud’s website: https://www.shroud.com/

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Good Friday

Good Friday

Good Friday is the most solemn day of the liturgical year. It is so solemn a day that there is NO Mass celebrated on Good Friday. On Good Friday we commemorate the day on which Jesus is condemned to death by Pilate and crucified. It is also a day of fasting and abstinence.

Why is it “Good” Friday? Because of the effects of the events that occurred. By Jesus’ obedience to and His trust in the Father He overcame the effects of sin of and achieved our salvation.

On Good Friday the Celebration of the Lord’s Passion, once called the Mass of the Consecrated, occurs. It is a service that resembles the Mass but the Eucharist that was consecrated on Holy Thursday is distributed.

The Veneration of the Cross is a ceremony during which a person pays respect to the cross on which Jesus was crucified. Usually this is done during Good Friday services; usually people perform the veneration of the cross individually by coming forward and, while kneeling, kiss the foot of the cross.

SEE: Mark 15; Matthew 27; Luke 23; John 18:28-19:1-42. (New American Bible)

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Simpler Times by Monsignor Ferrarese


I suppose there is a danger in nostalgia. It can be a distortion of reality because of the will of the dreamer to see what he or she wants to see. But there is always a truth inherent in the rosy picture that we summon up with our imagination. We love to remember the past, especially the days that filled us with promise and innocence, now lost.

During the darkness of this accumulating menace of the pandemic that has gripped the world, allow me to remember a simpler time and one that may not be that factual, but that, in its aura, contains great truths.

I grew up on an ordinary city street in the 50s and early 60s of the last century. There were kids everywhere and cars were scarce. The street was our playground. As we played ‘punch ball’ and ‘kick the can’, the women clustered in small groups speaking loudly about this and that. The elderly men sat on lawn chairs smoking cigars and in jackets and rumpled ties, looking serenely forward, thinking, considering, lost in a faraway reverie. In spite of their working class, blue collar struggles, they looked like the nobility of old, seemingly knowledgeable of things no one else knew or dared to believe.

I remember vividly a hot summer night. I walked to Barney’s Candy Store on the corner of our block. It was after 8, but before closing time at 9. I was all sweaty as I hoisted myself onto the revolving bar-like chair. I must have been about 7 years old. I put my nickel down and asked for a soda. Barney smiled and filled a glass at one of the pumps with ice cold lime soda. I could feel the cold soda in the glass as I lifted it to drink. It was so good! It went down and cooled everything. After I said thanks, I jumped down from the seat and walked back into the night to scamper up the block back to the building where we lived. Everyone was outside cooling off. There was no AC and even fans were few. My Mom asked me where I was. I told her. The other ladies sitting around her cooling off began to comment on my story. She smiled and said in Italian: “My son, the big spender!”

It was just a moment of time when a 7-year-old boy was not afraid to go to a store and to buy something with his allowance. It was a time of safety, of community, of shared values, and deep faith.

I have been thinking a lot of those simpler times, perhaps because they have become important in this time of seclusion and pandemic fear. I was part of a family and a neighborhood and a city. Though I did not know what the word ‘security’ meant, I felt it.

With all the technology that we have today, so bold and wonderful, nothing can bring back those times. Perhaps I have too rosy a picture of them, but these memories are so important and so necessary to cherish.

On this Easter Day, we look back to those simpler times and thank God for the experience of love and community that we all grew up with. But Easter reminds us also of our future in Christ. The Resurrection of Jesus was a trumpet blast, a signal that death has been defeated. Jesus has shown us our future which is glorious. Easter is our future, our story-to-be.

We are in the darkest days of this Pandemic. Though we are thankful for our past, so beautiful and so warm, we must look to our future in Christ. Death is not the end. God has made us for eternity. Some of us may not be here much longer. Death may knock on our doors. But behind the skeletal figure that frightens us is the warm and loving and smiling face of Jesus who died for us.

He brings us home. He brings us to all that was wonderful of simpler times. We will be one with those who love us in a place where social distancing is unheard of.

A Blessed Easter to you all!

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Holy Week Schedule

April 2, 2020

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

I hope and pray that this letter finds you at peace and in safety.  We, the priests of the parish, miss you truly.  We look forward to coming together again when this is over to praise God and to work for His Kingdom.

Holy Week is so special and important.  Our streaming of Masses and my little chats seem to have gone over very well.  We seem to be reaching more people than ever!

I wanted to bring you up to date on our Holy Week plans:

  • Palm Sunday Masses are at 9:00 AM in Italian, 10:30 in English, and 12 noon in Spanish.
  • DUE TO THE LOCKDOWN THE DIOCESE HAS INSTRUCTED US NOT TO DISTRIBUTE PALMS ON PALM SUNDAY. THE REASON FOR THIS IS THAT IT WOULD DRAW TOO MANY PEOPLE WHO MAY CONGREGATE BY THE CHURCH.  AFTER THE LOCKDOWN THE PALMS WILL BE BLESSED AND AVAILABLE FOR ALL.
  • On Holy Thursday, Good Friday and Holy Saturday we will not be streaming daily Masses.
  • On Holy Thursday the Mass of the Lord’s Supper will be streamed at 7:00 PM.  This will not include the Foot washing, the Procession, the Altar of Repository or Tenebrae.
  • On Good Friday we will stream the Liturgy of the Lord’s Passion in English at 3:00 PM and in Spanish at 7:00 PM.
  • Tri-lingual Stations will be streamed at 5 PM. PLEASE NOTE THEY WILL NOT BE DONE IN THE STREETS AS USUAL.  WE WILL USE PICTURES OVER THE INTERNET FOR THE STATIONS OF THE CROSS.
  • We will not have the Blessing of the Easter Food.
  • The Easter Vigil will be celebrated at 7:00 PM without the Blessing of the New Fire and without any of the Sacraments of Initiation.  These sacraments will be rescheduled for later in the year.
  • Easter Sunday Masses will be streamed in Italian at 9:00 AM, in English at 10:30 AM and in Spanish at 12 Noon.

I hope that you can join us for these very special liturgies. We continue to pray for all who are sick in our parish, especially those stricken with the Corona virus. May God bless you and your whole family and may Holy Week be a time of spiritual renewal for you!

Sincerely Yours in Christ,

Msgr. Fernando Ferrarese
Pastor

LIVE STREAMING OF HOLY WEEK EVENTS CAN BE VIEWED HERE

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Why the Incarnation Is So Important by Monsignor Ferrarese

This past week we celebrated a major solemnity of the Church Year: The Annunciation of the Lord (March 25th). The Church placed this feast on this particular day for a number of reasons, one of which is to celebrate it exactly 9 months before the birth of Christ at Christmas. When it comes right down to it, the great festivals of Christmas and Easter depend on the Annunciation: for on this feast, Christianity began, since the divine entered human history in the womb of the Virgin Mary. God takes the amazing step of asking one of His creations to consent to be the Mother of His Son. It is made even more astounding that Miriam of Nazareth was a 14-year-old girl at the time of the Archangel Gabriel’s visitation!

Think of that: The Creator and Sustainer of the Universe waits to receive the answer of this teenager! Wow! Talk about the respect that God has for the freedom of each of us! Miriam could have said no!

So our redemption was made possible by the courage and faith of this youngster, living in a small village in a backward region in a third-rate country named Palestine.

Then we have the Incarnation itself. ‘Incarnation’ is a complicated and ‘churchy’ word. These words are familiar to us, but unfortunately do not impact us with the power of their meaning.

Incarnation means that the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity, still in full divinity, became flesh; a singular occurrence. Unrepeatable and unprecedented. The being that became Jesus of Nazareth therefore had two natures: He was human and He was divine. When someone at the time looked at this carpenter, they were looking into the eyes of Jesus the Man and Jesus the Son of God. These two natures remained complete and unmixed.

This is a scandal to the other two monotheistic religions: Judaism and Islam. For them, God cannot become human. One is a Creator and the other is a creature. They cannot be in the same person.

To make it even more difficult, we have a hard time explaining it and talking about it theologically. The history of the Church records many conflicts between orthodoxy (correct teaching) and heresy (incorrect and erroneous teaching). There have actually been pitched battles within Christianity about this. For Muslims, Jesus was a great prophet of God, but only human. For Jews, Jesus was a Rabbi who claimed to be a Messiah, but was not. For Christians, Jesus is fully human and fully divine.

The feast of Christmas celebrates the birth of this Jesus and Holy Week makes real the final journey of Jesus to Jerusalem, His redemptive Death, and His Resurrection. To be a true Christian means that we not only admire Jesus as a sort of perfect human being. It means that we worship Him as God.

The man born blind in the 9th Chapter of the Gospel of John not only is given his physical sight by Jesus, but he embarks on a journey of faith as his spiritual vision is restored. He is investigated by the religious authorities three times. At the end of the first encounter, he replies that he thinks Jesus is a human being. During the second trial he comes to the conclusion that He must be a prophet. At the end of the third investigation, he encounters Jesus who reveals His divinity to him. He gets down on his knees and worships Him as the Son of the Most High.

It is not enough for a Christian to call Jesus a friend. He is that and more! One must encounter Him as Lord. Until we accept the Divinity of Christ, we are not really Christians, we are fans of the man Jesus.

The Incarnation, once theologically and spiritually accepted, means that we are no longer our own. We belong to Him. He is our Lord!

O Mary, Our Lady of Lourdes & Our Lady of Fatima, pray for us who have recourse to thee!

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