Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Reconciliation Monday

The Monday before Christmas was designated Reconciliation Monday by the Archdiocese. The Archbishop requested that every parish offer the Sacrament from 2 to 8pm that day. The Advance reported as a fact that every parish would do so on that day. I went looking to partake of Confession that evening after work but encountered at least 3 dark, locked-up parishes before finally finding one that was interested in saving souls. Are Staten Island priests too lazy to cooperate with the Archbishop's initiative? I just don't get it. Even the one parish I found that was open made no mention of the fact on their outdoor bulletin board. I guess it's yet another Catholic event open only to those "in the know".

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Assorted news items

Jesuit retreat house Mt. Manresa celebrated its 100th anniversary with a gala ball at Snug Harbor. Neither the word "Jesus" nor "Catholic" or even "Christian" appear anywhere in the article. Instead, the retreat house's own executive director, Fred Herron, lauded Mt. Manresa for being a "spirituality center" that "the community has turned to during critical moments." The Chairman of the Board, Rich Nolan, proudly pointed out how Mt. Manresa suspended its normal operations after 9/11 and became a haven for rescue workers. He emphasized the spirituality center's dedication to "the community." The article described Mt. Manresa as a place that offers "retreats" for all classes of people, including the divorced, alcoholics and drug addicts. The attendees were quoted several more times in this small article pledging their undying dedication to the sacrosanct, but vaguely delineated "community." One unnamed person summed up Mt. Manresa's mission by saying that it offered the community the opportunity to "look within to see the direction your life has taken and the choices you face in the future." I've never read such mealy-mouthed drivel in my life. If this were an Evangelical Protestant celebration, I'm sure they would have taken the opportunity to praise Jesus Christ or promote their own church. In this case, these professional Catholics were either too embarrassed by their nominal faith to mention it, or too inexperienced in evangelization to know how to bring it up.

The Archdiocese of New York partnered with Radio City Music Hall in sponsoring an essay contest on the theme "What the Blessings of Christmas Mean to Me." An eighth-grader at Sacred Heart won the contest with a (to me) maudlin list of nice things that happen to him throughout the year. The pastor of the school proudly pointed out how it "... just shows the kind of education that children get in Catholic schools." I'm not sure if he meant that a Catholic education enabled him to write an essay of this quality (Good Lord, how bad must the public schools be!) or if we should be impressed by the sentiment expressed in the essay, which seems devoid of Christian content (although I concede that the Advance may have left that part out). In either case, the student body of Sacred Heart certainly got an education when a scantily-clad Rockette showgirl came to the school to present the prize to the boy, which doesn't seem all that appropriate to me. I hate to seem like I'm picking on a kid, but I wonder what he's being taught in school and at church when the the only thing he can express about the birth of our Savior is this "raindrops on roses, whiskers on kittens" kind of sentimentality.

St. Theresa's and St. Peter's churches are participating in an interfaith Thanksgiving celebration this week at the Victory Blvd. mosque. Who will they be thanking ? The Triune Christian God? Allah? Jehovah? Krishna? Also, the annual interfaith seder at St. Theresa's is already scheduled for next year! I'm still advocating for that interfaith Good Friday service so the Jews can hear about how Jesus died to save mankind. They tell us that the whole point of these dramas is mutual understanding, yet it seems all we do is go to Passover seders and listen to rabbis lecture us. Well, maybe one of these years they'll consider my suggestion!

Wagner College, a Lutheran school, recently put on a production of "“Catholic School Girls”, an offensive portrayal of nuns in the 1960s. The play prompted a minor kerfuffle in the letters section of the Advance. One lady, who claimed she is a "certified Catechist with the Catholic Church", wholeheartedly supported the play which, she claimed, accurately portrayed the Church during a time of "change in Church doctrine". The assertion by this "certified Catechist" that the Church changes its doctrines was refuted in a subsequent letter by a very well-informed and intelligent Catholic lady.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Goodbye St. Peter's, Hello P.S. 59!

After receiving a death sentence back in February, it has now been announced that St. Peter's church will be leasing the former St. Peter's Girls High School to the city for use as a 372 seat public elementary school. Details of the plan are sketchy, but it will cost the taxpayers a mere $5.69 million dollars to convert the school into a school (does that mean chiseling out the stone crosses, whitewashing religious pictures and other assorted iconoclasm?). It's already being predicted by those "in the know" that the school will inevitably expand to encompass grades 6 through 8 and that, because of low enrollment in the plethora of area public schools, P.S. 59 will be made into a "special" school...most likely meaning violent and disturbed children. Does the perfidy of Monsignor Dorney know no bounds? It wasn't enough that his lack of leadership helped destroy the school and the parish, but now he stabs the neighborhood in the back by parking yet another problematic institution in their backyard. The property value of all those beautiful old homes and ritzy condos are about to drop precipitously.

Moore Catholic marks golden anniversary

What do they have to celebrate? I know that the administrators, teachers and students can be proud of having a well-funded and well-regarded private school, if not an academically exceptional one. What I mean to ask is what do Catholics have to celebrate about the continued existence of Moore Catholic High School? The school does have a Catholic identity, but what does that really mean? There are probably crucifixes in the classrooms, they most likely still attend a communal Mass at our Lady of Pity on big occasions, and students are required to take a "religion" class. Certainly there is a Catholic tinge to the place, but what does that really amount to? Does the occasional sight of a priest and Catholic iconography impute holiness? In my day the students at Moore had a reputation for being thuggish, materialist and rebellious. There were saints there who persevered, but the school wasn't exactly known for strong devotion. (If only the general public knew about the large body of practicing Satanists and the witchcraft books in the school library!). By all impressions, things really haven't changed and seem to have gotten somewhat worse with these over-privileged, entitled, destructive goons. Now that they have a football team to worship, they have descended into new depths of sports idolatry. At best, one can say that Moore is better than the public schools, but let's not kid ourselves that it is in any sense a real Catholic school, whose primary mission is to prepare a Catholic soul for adult life. I don't see any evidence that it is anything more than a private school "in the Catholic tradition", as the motto goes these days. How is that something to celebrate? 

Friday, July 29, 2011

Staten Island Priest Has Huge Collection of Statues, Relics

Catholic New York ran this story about a Staten Island priest and his unusual hobby. According to the article, he owns between 300 to 400 statues, from life-size to less than a foot tall, and an unspecified number of relics, presumably numbering in the hundreds as well. (There seems to be a theme lately with statues and Staten Island priests.) The article goes on to say although "...he can’t cite an amount, his collection has cost him a great deal. 'This is where my money goes', he said." Well, although a priest is entitled to do with his money what he wants, and it's not a bad thing to like statues or relics, I'm not sure this should have been a newspaper story. I think it kind of makes him and, by extension, the priesthood, look a little weird. Will a man who is publicly known for hoarding hundreds of little statues (figurines) be the type of person who inspires young men to consider the priesthood? It might endear him to crazy Italian grandmothers from Bensonhurst, but what about everyone else? I think people might consider him eccentric at best, genuinely strange at worst. I think it's time to start divesting himself of his hoarded treasures. The little statues might make good Communion or Confirmation presents. The larger ones could enliven his bare, Vatican II church. I don't know what church law says about relics, but surely it's not proper for one man to keep hundreds of them locked in his drawer. Collecting can be fun, but after a while, collections start to own us, rather than the other way around. The Son of Man had no place to lay his head, let alone the storage space to hold some vast collection of pretty things.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Where are the excommunications?

In response to the new gay "marriage" law in New York, Bishop DiMarzio of the Brooklyn Diocese (which also includes Queens) has instructed his Catholic schools not to honor any of the politicians who voted for it or accept any honors from them, nor to allow them to speak at the schools. At least Bishop DiMarzio is showing some outrage over this abomination, and taking some action, although it is by no means enough. What is he going to do about the Catholic legislators from his diocese who voted for this bill? I'm not familiar with these politicians but I noticed that a lot of them had Italian, Irish and Spanish surnames, so presumably at least some of them purport to be Catholic. Why aren't they excommunicated already?

Similarly, in our own diocese of New York, Archbishop Dolan's utterly passive response to this attack on the Faith has been nothing short of scandalous. He did nothing to try to stop the bill, and now that it has passed he's done even less. According to my count, there are 43 State Assemblymen from within the New York Archdiocese (see the wikipedia list from District 60 through 103). Of those assemblymen, there were 10 votes against the bill, 32 for it and 1 absence. Of those 32 "yes" votes, I see a lot of names that imply a Catholic background: Rodriguez, Kavanagh, O'Donnell, Benedetto, Spano, Cahill, et al. Of our Staten Island representatives, Lou Tobacco and Nicole Maliotakis voted against gay marriage. Michael Cusick and the openly gay Matthew Titone voted for it. Where are the excommunications?

In the New York State Senate there are, by my count, 20 legislators from the New York Diocese (see the wikipedia list from District 23 through 42). Of those, only 5 voted against gay marriage and 15 voted for it. Of the 15 who voted for it, I see names like Rivera, Serrano, Carlucci, Bonacic, et al. Of our 2 Staten Island Senators, Diane Savino voted for gay marriage and Andrew Lanza voted against it (although his cowardly delay only served to help the opposition). Where are the excommunications?

As for Governor Cuomo, although he works and temporarily resides in Albany (under the ecclesiastical jurisdiction of the gay-friendly, dissident Bishop Howard Hubbard), his official abode is outside of Mt. Kisco in Westchester County, which places him under the spiritual authority of Archbishop Dolan. Where is the excommunication, Archbishop?

The fact is that gay marriage couldn't have passed without the support of men and women who claim affinity with and membership in the Catholic Church. That testifies to the complete failure of the Church over the past 40 or 50 years to inculcate the Faith in its young members and to use its authority to correct those men and women who publicly defy the Church's teachings. These people don't believe in the Catholic Faith. Why do we tolerate them in our Church?

If the bishops refuse to do what is needed, why don't our priests do something? Write, preach, speak out! If any of these pagans ever go to Mass and presume to receive the Eucharist, I believe Canon Law # 915 states that those who persist in manifest grave sin are not allowed to receive Communion. Priests have the discretion to refuse Communion to anyone they choose. I've read of priests refusing the Host to people who were chewing gum, or who were drunk, or who were wearing some sort of obscene T-shirt. Why couldn't an individual priest, acting on his own authority, refuse the Body of Christ to a notorious and unrepentant public sinner such as Andrew Cuomo or one of his legislative myrmidons? Please, somebody DO SOMETHING!

Monday, July 4, 2011

Welcome to Babylon

At the midnight hour on June 24th, 114 cowardly and perverse Albany politicians (many of them Catholic) decided to legalize "homosexual marriage" in the State of New York. This is a sickening abomination. Our commentary here will be limited to the disgraceful complicity of the Catholic Church hierarchy in New York. Yes, complicity. What else does one call it when the so-called opposition effectively laid down and surrendered without doing anything but issuing a few token words of disapproval? There was no reason to expect any help from gay-friendly bishops like Hubbard in Albany and Clark in Rochester, who probably raised a glass in triumph when they heard the news, but we had reason to expect better of Archbishop Dolan. As the head of the nation's largest diocese and the head of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, his lack of leadership in this fight has been a scandal of historical proportions. So far as I am able to discern, his actions in defense of marriage consisted of writing a blog post and giving an interview to a radio show in Albany. Even the New York Times commented on the Church's impotent response to this history-making attack on Christian civilization:

"It was befuddling to gay-rights advocates: The Catholic Church, arguably the only institution with the authority and reach to derail same-sex marriage, seemed to shrink from the fight. 

As the marriage bill hurtled toward a vote, the head of the church in New York, Archbishop Timothy M. Dolan, left town to lead a meeting of bishops in Seattle. He did not travel to Albany or deliver a major speech in the final days of the session. And when he did issue a strongly worded critique of the legislation — he called it “immoral” and an “ominous threat” — it was over the phone to an Albany-area radio show. 

Inside the Capitol, where a photograph of Mr. Cuomo shaking hands with Archbishop Dolan hangs in the governor’s private office, the low-key approach did not seem accidental. Mr. Cuomo had taken pains to blunt the church’s opposition. 

When he learned that church leaders had objected to the language of the marriage legislation, he invited its lawyers to the Capitol to vent their frustration. 

Mr. Cuomo even spoke to Archbishop Dolan about the push for same-sex marriage, emphasizing his respect and affection for the religious leader. An adviser described the governor’s message to Archbishop Dolan this way: “I have to do what I have to do. But your support over all is very important to me.” 

By the time a Catholic bishop from Brooklyn traveled to Albany last week to tell undecided senators that passing same-sex marriage “is not in keeping with the will of their people,” it was clear the church had been outmaneuvered by the highly organized same-sex marriage coalition, with its sprawling field team and, especially, its Wall Street donors. 

“In many ways,” acknowledged Dennis Poust, of the New York State Catholic Conference, “we were outgunned. That is a lot to overcome.”

Rumor has it that the bishop limited himself to lobbying for protective language in the bill to shield religious institutions from prosecution if they refuse to conduct gay marriages. How much more humiliation can we take? How much more craven and cowardly can these bishops become? Rather than begging for crumbs from the table of Caesar, Archbishop Dolan and the New York Church should have positively welcomed the chance for martyrdom. He should have thrown defiance at these dogs and dared them to do their worst. Let them confiscate St. Patrick's Cathedral and turn it into a gay re-education center. Let them abolish the Catholic schools. Let them throw our bishops into prison. We can get other bishops. We can build other Cathedrals when we win back this state. Let them persecute us for His name's sake. The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church. Better to go back into the catacombs than compromise with evil. Better to lose life and lucre than make common cause with Babylon and continue to die this slow, lingering lukewarm death. Better to die than deny the Faith.

Now that it is all done, writs of excommunication should be issuing forth from chanceries all over the state. This bill could not have passed without the votes of many, many Catholics, including that of Governor Andrew Cuomo. However, the bishops will do nothing. If they don't excommunicate people like Cuomo for advancing policies that kill unborn children, they're not going to do anything about a mere gay marriage vote. Most of the bishops are cowards at best, and deep cover enemies of the Church at worst. However, the Holy Spirit changes hearts, so let us pray that He revives the souls of the whited sepulchers in mitres, who have done so much damage to the Faith, by acts of both omission and commission.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Gay marriage almost a reality in New York. Silence from Catholic leaders.

The New York State legislature is one vote away from making same sex "marriage" legal in New York, and apparently it's all come down to our esteemed Staten Island Senator Andrew Lanza. The Republican, Catholic Lanza (a graduate of Farrell high school) would like us to believe that he is so ignorant and uninformed that he has made it to 47 years of age without forming an opinion on the subject. I hope that this indecisiveness is just a ruse to mollify the liberals, so that after he votes against gay marriage, he can point to his long deliberation on the matter as proof of his judiciousness and fair-minded consideration. However, being from such an overwhelmingly Republican and conservative district as he has, I would have thought Lanza would have slightly more backbone.

In any case, my reason for writing on the subject is to point out yet again the complete and utter silence on this monumental moral debate from our supposed Catholic leaders on Staten Island. Archbishop Dolan did nothing but write a blog post, but even that is more than our co-vicars Finn and Dorney have done. Perhaps they might eventually get around to writing a letter to the Advance, like they did with the Nativity controversy in December, but that's not a given. I heard a prayer intention for Monsignor Dorney at Mass a few weeks ago, so I suppose he's not feeling well, not that he ever did anything for the Church while he was in the bloom of health. With these kinds of leaders, it is such an absolute embarrassment to be a Catholic on Staten Island these days.

I understand that not every priest is going to be a dynamo of action and a leader of men. But shouldn't our leadership positions be filled by men of such caliber? There are roles for shy and retiring priests in monasteries and theological seminaries and helping positions all through the Church, where they can pray, think, write, work and contemplate the Divinity all day long. Heck, Saint Andre Bessette the miracle worker was nothing but a porter, janitor and all-around handyman, and he became a great saint. But listless and passive personalities shouldn't be made pastors and bishops and "co-vicars" of hundreds of thousands of souls, when what is required of such positions are aggressive leaders who are prepared to fearlessly teach and proclaim the Gospel and engage in moral combat with the world. What do we get instead? A couple of men whose most vigorous action in living memory was to try to sell the St. Margaret Mary convent to the Moslems.The evangelicals are standing up for morality. Why can't the Catholics?

Well, it's leaderless resistance in the Catholic Church again. Please write and call Senator Lanza and tell him to vote no for gay marriage.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Fiddling while Rome burns

I've written about the Little Italy parish before. This was the place whose hot-shot, do-nothing pastor made a big announcement about cutting a Sunday Mass and limiting Confession time because of a lack of attendees. This parish is back in the news for dedicating yet another hand-carved, $10,000 wooden statue, this time to St. Michael, the patron saint of police. The cops were just trying to keep up with the firemen, since they had gotten their own $10,000 statue of St. Florian the previous year.

Good Lord! $10,000 for a statue???  In the first place, that is a ridiculous price. How true is the old saying that a fool and his money are soon parted. Salesmen of magic beans will be flocking to Rosebank in droves now. You can find many similar looking statues on the internet for much lower than that, and the artist who made these is definitely no Michelangelo. The mass produced stuff looks even better. In these hard economic times, when we just had multiple Catholic schools close down on Staten Island, these statues are an insult.

Second, although this effort was headed by a layman, John Sollazzo, it was initiated by the pastor of the parish. This is his priority?? Artistic frivolities? What a silly waste of time and money. If this priest were a leader, he'd tell his flock to spend their time evangelizing. Then he'd tell them to spend their money helping deserving Catholic kids go to the parish's high-priced elementary school. So many of our pastors seemed to have missed their calling as ham comedians or interior decorators. What an embarrassment.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Rapture ready on Staten Island

Staten Island had its part in the story of radio pastor Harold Camping's latest failed end-of-the-world prediction. A 60 year old local man, Robert Fitzgerald, spent $140,000 of his own money buying bus and subway ads proclaiming Camping's prediction that the Rapture would occur on May 21st. This retired bachelor from Port Richmond is also the author of a self-published book on the subject called, "The Doomsday Code". The story received some national play, and significant local attention, due to the large amount of his personal fortune spent on this project. On May 21st, he had the faith to go to Times Square and, in front of crowds and TV cameras, proclaim his beliefs and wait to be beamed up. Of course, no Rapture occurred, so he admitted his disappointment and went home, to general mockery.

Our interest in this is thus: With all this attention focused on Camping's prediction, and the local man's notoriety, you would have thought the Staten Island churches would have seized upon this as a golden "teachable moment". It would have given us the opportunity to speak out about the abominable Rapture fallacy, and explain that it is a modern doctrine, popularized in America in the 19th century and that the vast majority of Christians don't believe in it and have never believed in it. It could have been pointed out that it is un-Scriptural, illogical and amoral. Since so many of the non-denominational churches focus so heavily on the Rapture and the End Times, that would have been a very effective strike against one of the major tenets of these heterodox faiths, which have stolen so many Catholics. Instead, I didn't see one letter in the Advance from a Catholic priest, nor did the Advance even quote a priest in its many stories on this subject. I imagine that if a priest had been contacted, he would simply have responded with a shrug, since they are as ignorant of the religious systems that have emptied their pews as they are uninterested in combating them.

Secondly, Mr. Fitzpatrick is a graduate of St. Peter's Boys school and a fallen away Catholic. He lives in Port Richmond and is listed in the phone book. Has any priest tried to reach out to him and lead him home? He is obviously a very troubled and confused man. He needs help and love. I should hope that the Church is trying to bring back this very prominent lost sheep, but knowing how things are...I can only hope.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Staten Island parishes: come into the 21st century...

ParishSoft, a website which sells software packages for liturgical churches (Catholic, Orthodox and Episcopal), is having a conference on Staten Island on June 9th. I'm not sure if they do websites, but I would assume that's part of the package. So many Staten Island parishes are in dire need of something like this. Take a look at some of the parish links on the right hand side of the page here. A few parish websites are very good. They are attractive, easy to navigate, and "sell" their parish very well. One notable examples is St. Clare's. Most of the others are ugly as sin, antiquated, rarely updated, bizarrely designed, and confusing. They look like they were designed around 1997, the Stone Age of the Internet. And even worse are the parishes that don't even have websites. Parishesonline.com, a parishsoft product, lists the basic info (address and Mass times) for all U.S. parishes, so at least there is that bare-bones web presence for derelict parishes. In this day and age, a public organization seems unprofessional and disreputable without a professional web presence. The good news is that I don't think your average parish needs to spend a lot of money with this company in order to put up a web site. If you have any parishioners under 30, they should be able to put up a website with ease and at minimal cost. (Doteasy.com provides free web hosting. Domain name registration costs about $15, sometimes cheaper). If you don't have any parishioners under 30, or think that you don't need to communicate with the world through modern forms of communication, then maybe your perspective is in need of updating and your priorities need to be reviewed.

Friday, April 15, 2011

More indifferentism from the Catholic "leadership" on Staten Island

The pastor at St. Teresa's recently hosted his annual indifferentism-fest at his church, in which Catholics, Jews, Muslims, Protestants, Hindus and Unitarians took part in a Jewish Seder and then exchanged awards and mutual congratulations. The pastor called this gathering a "little Assisi," referring to the vile, pantheistic worship service Pope John Paul II originated in 1986, in which Buddhist idols were placed on the altar of St. Francis' shrine, and the successor of Peter prayed with animists, witch doctors and other assorted pagans. Indeed, this spiritually destructive ceremony at St. Teresa's was a miniature of the abomination of desolation at Assisi. I wonder how many souls were damaged or lost by this secular humanist ritual. How many children and adults came away with the impression that there is no difference between religions, that all paths lead to God, that there's really no reason to be Catholic, besides a sentimental attachment to a cultural heritage? This isn't what Father O'Hara was ordained to do. The Great Commission of Christ was to convert the entire world to Faith in Him, not to promote feel-good indifferentism and to bring Him down to a level of false equality with false gods. After all, Jesus said that no one comes to the Father except through Him. That's a pretty clear and unambiguous statement. What exactly does Father O'Hara do to convert these people to the True Faith, and thus save their souls? I think we all know the answer to that question.

As an aside, I wonder again why this event always involves us participating in a Jewish seder? Why don't we invite the Jews to a Stations of the Cross, or to Easter Sunday Mass, if the purpose of this organization is mutual understanding?

Thursday, April 14, 2011

No Latin Mass on Staten Island

After reading a lot recently about Vatican II and the suppression of the old Latin Mass, I looked into attending one on Staten Island. I wasn't exactly surprised that, according to the Latin Mass NYC website, there are no regularly or even irregularly scheduled Latin Masses on Staten Island. Sacred Heart hosts one every so often, usually around 3:30 on Sunday afternoon. The most recent one took place in the Spring of 2010. I wasn't able to attend that one, but according to a commentator on this website, there was a good crowd at a 2007 Latin Mass there, although mostly older. I remember back in the late 90s, Holy Family would have a Latin Mass in the chapel (not in the main church!) once a month, but that seems to have fallen into desuetude. There seems to be a website for the Staten Island chapter of the New York Latin Liturgy Association, but there is no useful information on it.

Pope Benedict XVI's 2007 motu propio, Summorum Pontificum, ordered pastors to provide the Latin Mass if a stable group of parishioners requested it. Under the Novus Ordo regime, it has never been easier to have access to the Latin Mass. Yet Staten Islanders either have no desire for it, no knowledge of it, or are so passive, timid and lacking in initiative that they are unable to actually do anything to bring it about. Whatever the reason, it's a sad situation that the "Mass of the Ages" is nowhere to be found, or seemingly wanted, on our "Holy Island".

Catholic Church Shopping, Part XII: Gone in 25 minutes

The next stop on the ecclesiastical safari was a beautiful, Shore Shore parish that was founded in 1922. (By the way, I'm from the old school Staten Island where everything south of the expressway was "South Shore". I guess the newcomers would call this area "East Shore"). It has a pretty interesting history. Before the present church was constructed in 1928, the parishioners first worshipped in a Revolutionary War-era tavern, and then in a wooden chapel that was transported from the old Vanderbilt estate (present day Miller field). At some point in those early days, the founding pastor even erected a huge mission church a mile and a half away, to accommodate the seaside vacationers. They still hold one Mass there every Sunday.

I attended a 1:15 Mass at the main church and was surprised to see it packed with around 150 people. Hardly anyone genuflected when they entered their pews and absolutely no one sang along with the female organist, who sat in the choir loft. However, they didn't seem to display the infectious boredom usually associated with such lack of piety. The pastor of this church is a young Indian priest, but the priest who said this Mass was a short, stocky, White man. He was attended by two altar boys (shocker) and a young, male lector in a suit (another shocker). The sound system was excellent, and the priest had a very articulate and commanding voice. I eagerly looked forward to hearing his sermon.

He seemed to be tearing through the Mass at a manic pace. At one point, as he was saying a prayer over the gifts, he gave the universal "hurry up" gesture with his upraised hands to the men with the collection baskets. Needless to say he used the short form of the Gospel reading about the resurrection of Lazarus. By this point he was starting to sound like a cattle auctioneer. His sermon had a good and sensible message. He said that even though there are only 2 weeks left until Easter, we can still have a "good Lent" if we manage to break at least one bad habit and resurrect our souls like Jesus resurrected the dead Lazarus. I liked listening to this priest. He was obviously intelligent and well spoken. However, he wrapped up his sermon in about 40 seconds. I kid you not. Literally 40 seconds. He then resumed his frantic race to set a new world's record for fastest Mass. I don't know if he succeeded, but he managed to get it done in 25 minutes, which is the fastest time I've ever witnessed for a Sunday service.

This was a disgrace and a shame. I can't think of a single good reason that a priest would have for treating the Mass, and the congregation, so disrespectfully. Do any other religions or Christian denominations have to endure a clergy that is so bored with worship that they race to get it over with as quickly as possible? Do any other faiths have a laity that is so docile and indifferent as to tolerate this? Or maybe the laity wants it like that? I know that I've often heard a priest praised because he keeps his sermons short. If that's our attitude, then why do we go to Mass? To fulfill a Sunday obligation?...as if anyone under 60 still remembered or adhered to such old-fashioned ideas. There's certainly no sense of community and certainly no edification or inspiration, and polls show that most Catholics don't believe in the Real Presence anymore. So why do they go?

Monday, April 11, 2011

Year of the Mass: Break out the felt cloth and the Elmer's glue! Helloooo New Springtime!

Back at the end of 2010, in response to the blatant abandonment of the Church by the vast majority of American Catholics, Archbishop Dolan wrote a column in Catholic New York calling for 2011 to be the Year of the Mass: a diocesan effort to celebrate, promote and appreciate the divine splendor and significance of the Mass. He then called together 4 liturgical experts to implement this plan, and warned us that we were going to be hearing "a lot about the Mass from your parish priests, your deacons, catechists, and from me." Three and a half months later, we are seeing the first fruits of this endeavor: a 1970s-ish banner you can hang on your church to encourage people to go to Mass. It says, "Come to Mass in the Lord's House on the Lord's Day". The 3x6 ones are $130 and the 3x9 ones are $160. I've seen them prominently displayed outside most of the churches on Staten Island, including the ones that are on the verge of death. I hope they've all assigned extra ushers to deal with the returning hordes. Because as we know, there's nothing that changes the hearts of cynical, spiritually indifferent, fallen away Catholics like warm, fuzzy banners.

I'm glad that the banners contain a specific call to action (come to Mass), as most Catholic sermons don't even have that bare minimum. But one of the basic rules in advertising is to "sell the sizzle, not the steak". These pathetic banners don't sell the sizzle or the steak. It doesn't resort to branding strategies, by making the Mass or the Catholic faith seem at all desirable, on a subconscious level. Nor does it employ a direct response type of pitch to appeal to the conscious intellect and explain why exactly going to Mass is beneficial to you. It just contains a slogan and a none-too-inspiring picture, and expects us to fanatically obey its directive, like some Communist youth cadre. I hope they can come up with something better than this.

They should have taken a lesson from the men at NYPRIEST, who seem to know how to present an idea (and an idea that's a really tough sell, at that) in the most attractive and convincing light. See this video for a contrast in marketing techniques. Oh, I almost forgot that the NY diocese's Year of the Mass also offers web site banner ads and bulletin inserts from the USCCB. Well, I guess it's a lot easier than actually having to talk to people.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Catholic Church Shopping, Part XI: Asymmetry

 I next visited another North Shore church of modernist design, which was only completed in 1990, although the parish has been around since 1966. It is not to my taste. The stained glass windows are cartoonishly juvenile, the seating pattern is sort of a half circle, and the shape of the church is- how should I put this?-something that could only have originated in the nightmares of some deranged mathematician.

A lady with a beautiful voice led the singing from the pulpit. No one sang. They all just sat there like dumb brutes and did not even pick up a missalette. It was embarrassing. The priest, who was assisted by two altar girls, was a thin, neat looking fellow, who did a good job of almost hiding his nervousness. I'm not sure what his name was, but there is a priest at this parish who is a filmmaker. I wouldn't be surprised if that was the priest I heard, as he wove a very detailed and vivid story through his homily about how he ordered Chinese duck for dinner on the first Friday of Lent. Rather than actually suffer a little for Christ, he decided to eat it anyway, figuring God would forgive him. The next day he took a hike along a river, and had his conscience twinged by the beautiful sight of a group of ducks swimming in the water. Then they flew away and pooped on his head, in an act of revenge I suppose. He then clumsily segued from that into a story of a lady he visits in the nursing home, who cannot speak. He then wrapped up these two stories by explaining that fasting during Lent is actually good for us.

This was an abysmal sermon, allayed somewhat by the good quality of the sound system, mirabile dictu. What was remarkable about this Mass was what he did after the reading of the Mass intentions. One of his altar girls brought up a handful of post it notes from the back of the church. On them were written the special intentions of the parishioners. The priest read each and every one of them aloud. There must have been 50, and they took about 10 minutes to read. "For my brother's operation, pray for him", "that my daughter will become the girl she one was", "that my son will find a job", "that my graddaughter will break her addiction", "that my husband will pass his tests", "for my grandson, who has Lyme Disease", "for my son, who has cancer", etc. I was taken aback and blown away. These were real-life concerns of real people. This was truth in all its rawness. People were hurting and longing and hoping. They needed help. They needed prayer. After having to endure so much phoniness in church for so many years, so much forced participation, fake communalism, ersatz music, so many asinine and out-of-touch sermons...this much raw authenticity almost brought tears to my eyes.

The rest of the Mass was unremarkable, except for the fact that as soon as Communion began, a mad rush to parking lot ensued.

Catholic Church Shopping, Part X: Ho-hum

The next stop on the tour was a place that, at least at one time, was an Italian National Parish. Its church is a modernist design, built in 1988. Some of the stained glass windows aspired to representational art, as opposed to cartoonish or abstract figures, but their Jesus looked like he came off the cover of a 1970s record album. With his long hair, world-weary gaze, and slightly ticked off expression, He looked like all He wanted to do was pack up His guitar and His dog, move to Colorado and sing Gordon Lightfoot songs. I went to a 9:00 Mass and was shocked to see about 200 people present. Not all of them were senior citizens, although the preponderance were grey-heads.

The organist was a large, bald fellow who resembled Kevin Malone from "The Office". He had a wonderful, deep singing voice, although the songs were none too memorable. He was accompanied by a large choir of tween-age girls, who had to wear extremely ugly lime-green choir gowns. In a first for any choir I've ever known, they seem to have been too shy to actually sing loudly. Even though they had a microphone and a large group, they whispered their lyrics almost to the point of inaudibility. That was too bad, since they would have sounded beautiful. Hardly anyone in the congregation sang, or even pretended to pick up a missalette.

The priest was Filipino. I wasn't surprised, since in my experience the junior priests and the foreign priests with bad accents are usually given the early morning and late afternoon Masses, so the pastor can focus all his energy on the main performance: 10:30 Mass or thereabouts. Actually, whenever a pastor has a subordinate to order around, he usually has him say most of the Masses, no matter how bad his accent. In any case, I was pleasantly surprised to hear that this foreign priest was actually quite well spoken. He made a point to enunciate his words, so that I probably understood a good 80%. That day's Gospel was the one in which Jesus says that the people who only say "Lord, Lord" will not enter his kingdom, but only those who do the will of God the Father. The priest gave a solid, if unspectacular, sermon.

He did challenge us to examine our lives and question whether our works are pleasing to the Lord, but still, for such a very important topic, I felt that he could have went a little deeper and gotten a bit more specific. After all, most of us are spiritually complacent. If we ever deign to examine our souls, we will almost invariably pronounce them up to snuff. Conscience has a way of being rationalized away.  That is when it is the priest's duty to say, "Have you broken the First Commandment, in this, that, and the other specific? Have you broken the Second Commandment, etc. Ok, you've kept all the Commandments? Then you've done nothing more than your duty! Do you proudly proclaim your Faith in Christ, in word and deed? Do you evangelize? Do you give to the poor? Do you volunteer? How about the Beatitudes? How about the Spiritual and Corporal Works of Mercy?" Even the Pope says that priests need to start preaching on "uncomfortable" topics. I almost feel that discomfort needs to be the primary emotion conveyed, to ensure that an effective sermon was given. We are in barbaric spiritual warfare in this life, but we are fat, lazy and ignorant. However, what we usually hear from the pulpit is supportive and congratulatory.

The priest could also have pointed out that this Gospel passage is a devastating proof text against Protestant Sola Fide. Still, I was pleased to hear a priest at least say something of substance for a change.

By the way, this church's history is intertwined with that of the adjacent Catholic high school, which was once Staten Island's premier co-ed institution of secondary ed. In recent years, this school has built a professional looking football field and really ramped up its worship of the sports idol. To that end, I think it has made an effort to recruit star athletes, whether Catholic or not. (One of its star football players, who was killed in a drunken driving accident last year, had his funeral service in a nearby Pentecostal megachurch.) I found myself taking the bus with these sterling examples of Catholic students last year and listened to them curse and fight and disgrace themselves with obscene discussions the entire trip. To top it off, when they came to their stop, they called the female bus driver an f***ing b***h for no reason whatsoever.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Positive news: Priests for Life save Baby Joseph

Father Frank Pavone of Staten Island-based Priests for Life has managed to bring Baby Joseph out of the Canadian death clinic and bring him to a U.S. hospital where doctors still abide by the Hippocratic oath. Way to go, Father Pavone!

The Gymnasium Transformed; or, Our Lady of White Flight; or, St. Slovenly's; or The Gravedigger of St. Peter's

I've written before about the South Shore parish which recently knocked down its old church and built an eight million dollar mega-monstrosity in its place. I paid them a visit a few weeks ago, and it was as disturbing and disorienting as the architectural drawings promised.

The first thing that strikes the observer is the overwhelming, callous massiveness of the thing. Situated near an intersection in a quiet, suburban neighborhood, it seems to revel in its gaudy, unnecessary obtrusiveness. If they just wanted to increase the seating capacity, they didn't have to build something like this. They didn't have to erect this giant, brick middle finger, which seems to be flipping off passing motorists, the other Catholic parishes on SI, and the world in general, while boasting about its large endowments, mad skilz, and uncommon prowess with the ladies, like some stereotypically hyperbolic rapper. Indeed, if this thing were a person, it would be wearing a velour track suit, a diamond-encrusted American-flag belt buckle, a hubcap-sized gold medallion around his neck, puffing on a giant cigar and blowing smoke in your face. That attitude might appeal to the My Cousin Vinny demographic on the South Shore, but it doesn't say much for the taste or judgment of the people who approved this construction. It achieves size without grandeur.

The architects claim that it was built in the "architectural tradition of basilicas, with a high main nave and lower side naves or transepts". If that was their intention, I think they failed miserably (and I think the pretensions of the pastor are evident in the church's description as a "basilica", but that's a separate subject). As can be seen in the next picture, the transepts are hardly much lower than the nave, despite how it looks from the outside. One simply feels like they are in a big round room.

Besides which, why bother to claim this spurious continuity with the architectural tradition when what you've created is such an obvious dislocation from that tradition? From its cartoonish and abstract stained glass windows (some of which were designed by a local Episcopalian priest, who, by the by, lives with another Episcopalian priest in a magnificent, landmarked Victorian mansion on a North Shore hilltop), to its felt banners, its amorphous shape, its light and feminine atmosphere, to its enthronement of the priest/M.C. at the center of the sanctuary area with the subsequent banishment of the Tabernacle to the side, this church is the embodiment of "the spirit of Vatican II", and a rejection of the past. A Pentecostal megachurch? Maybe. A Brooklyn reception hall? Ok. But a basilica? Nah. Only in the most superficial way could it be interpreted as part of the Catholic architectural heritage. Can anyone conceive of Good Friday happening here?

Notice the throne. Notice the Tabernacle. Who are we worshipping?

Whatever its architectural shortcomings, the place was packed when I attended. There must have been 500 people there, dressed in their Sunday worst, as they did on my first visit. I even saw some people in shorts, due to the unseasonably warm weather. It was kind of sad to think of all the suffering North Shore parishes and Catholic schools, like St. Peter's, when this place was engorged with parishioners and surplus cash. Not too many decades ago the South Shore was a sparsely populated backwater, where a congregation of this size would have been unthinkable. But then Black faces began moving into traditionally White North Shore neighborhoods and everyone fled below the Expressway as fast as they could. The exodus from Brooklyn added impetus to the population shift. So, the Church must follow its flock. 

The priest was a tall, thin man, who almost looked like he could be a brother of the pastor. The Gospel that day was from Matthew, where Jesus told the disciples that even a person who lusted after a woman in his heart had committed adultery, or that a person who called his brother a fool will be liable to Gehenna, etc. It is a very important and deep Gospel reading. He chose to read the short form of the Gospel. As a digression I must ask WHY we even have short forms of Scripture readings. Unless one is saying Mass on a sinking ship, I see no reason to even make truncating the Word of God an option. Are we so eager to get out of Mass 30 seconds faster? Are we scared of the politically incorrect parts of the Bible? I just started a petition on this subject: http://www.petitiononline.com/noshtfrm/petition.html.  Please sign it if you agree with me. Anyway...

The priest started off by insulting Catholic girls. He spoke of a class he taught, in which a girl mentioned that she reads the Bible with her boyfriend. The priest quipped, "Obviously she wasn't a Catholic girl!". The audience guffawed. I thought that joke was distasteful. The rest of his sermon was ok. It was obvious he fancied himself a good speaker. Maybe that was why he shortened the Gospel. However, while he did a good job of rephrasing Jesus' words in contemporary terms, and made some incisive points, he said nothing, to my mind, that touched our individual consciences or spurred us to holier life or more transcendent understanding. If we sin simply by our thoughts and words, then shouldn't we confess the evil intentions we allow our minds to entertain? How do we bring our thoughts under control and consecrate our lives so as to achieve greater holiness? Hmm? Well, I guess we got some jokes instead.

A large choir, situated to the right of the altar, supplied the music. It was led by a nicely-dressed young cantor, who had to gesture to the seemingly confused choir about when to sit, stand or sing. Again, another architectural gesture to the zeitgeist. Choirs used to be hidden in the older churches, and for a good reason. This is not a concert. The music is an aid to prayer, not the main attraction. 

I apologize for the length of this posting, but there was so much to comment on here. A few more interesting items: this is a "tithing" parish. I have never heard that concept used in the Catholic Church. There's a lot of activity in this church. There is a Miraculous Medal Novena, volunteer snow shovelers for senior citizens, Eucharistic Adoration, RCIA, a 50+ club, a bereavement ministry, contemporary choir, separated and divorced ministry, book group, Adult Faith Formation group, a singles group, and a group for children and teens coping with loss or a painful family situation. On the iffy side, one can "memorialize" some of the Episcopalian priest's icons for only $10,000. There is a prayer group (probably charismatic) who meet for prayers of "praise, singing, centering and intercessory prayer". Centering prayer is a well-known New Age meditation practice from the 1970s, characteristics of which were condemned by Cardinal Ratzinger before he became Pope.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Lenten news

Ash Wednesday is next week. It is the day which begins a cold and rainy season of moral introspection and penitence; it is one of the two High Holy Days for A&P (ashes and palms) Catholics, when the missing millions come back to church to score a freebie; and is is the kick-off of an important season of ecumenical silliness for Catholic clergy, when they will pray with Jews for the coming of the Messiah, and invite Protestant sects into our churches to teach us what the Gospel really says. The following paragraphs detail some of the Ash Wednesday events that have been advertised in the Advance. Some seem worthwhile; some seem outrageous. Judge for yourselves. But one note to my Cultural Catholic readers- remember to get your ashes as late in the day as possible, so as to avoid the embarrassment of publicly acknowledging your allegiance to Christ and membership in His Church.

  • Father Benedict Groeschel will come to St. Francis seminary (sorry- St. Francis Center for Spirituality, guffaw) on Ash Wednesday. Starting at 6:30, Confession will be heard, followed by a Mass and distribution of ashes. The article says that Mass will be followed by a "conference" on the subject of "The Call of the Gospel". A free-will offering is requested.
  • The disobedient, and apparently entrepreneurial, Jesuits of Mt. Manresa are also sponsoring an Ash Wednesday event. Entitled "An Ash Wednesday Evening of Reflection", for a mere $30 per person, you will get dinner, Mass, Confession and they'll throw in some ashes for free. By contrast, Alberto's on Bay St. is only charging $29.95 for 2 entrees, a bottle of wine and dessert for two. You can also purchase a $50 gift certificate there for only $25. Wow!
  • The disobedient Jesuits at Mt. Manresa are also sponsoring Taize prayer programs every Friday during Lent. Taize was the French "ecumenical" monastery founded by a Protestant, Roger Schutz, in 1940. While Taize is currently headed by a Roman Catholic layman, and "Brother" Roger did receive Communion from the hands of Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI, he never did renounce Protestant theology or formally join the Catholic Church. He apparently wanted Taize to be a bridge between the Catholic and Protestant worlds, sort of how the Anglican church sees itself to be. So, while there may be nothing overtly offensive in a Taize prayer program, surely the disobedient Jesuits at Mt. Manresa could have found something indisputably and genuinely Catholic to offer during Lent. Perhaps the Spiritual Exercises by the Dead White Male who founded their order?
  • Our Lady of Mount Carmel - St. Benedicta R. C. Church will be hosting an ecumenical prayer service every Thursday evening during Lent. Four Protestant ministers and one disobedient Jesuit from Mt. Manresa are scheduled to speak. 
  • A confusing article here, from the usually incomprehensible SI Advance. St. John's Episcopal and St. Mary's Catholic church (whose school is being closed down) are cooperating on ecumenical events this Lenten season. I think it says they will be having a joint Shrove Tuesday pancake dinner, Ash Wednesday distribution of ashes, and Bible studies. Can ecumenism save a dying parish? Is the answer to declining membership more doctrinal compromise?
  • St. Rita's is kicking off the Lenten season with an opera performance of Verdi's Requiem. I suppose that one could make a tenuous connection between the Requiem and a Catholic memento mori, but surely there could have been something better to do. I'm sure most people will come simply to hear the beautiful music.
  • For a free-will offering, you can attend a Lectio Divina on March 16th, at the St. Francis Center for Spirituality, which will include Confession, Mass, Eucharistic Adoration, prayer and Scripture reading. 
  • Also, Melissa Lanza, author of the book "In His Presence," will speak on Tuesday and also March 22 and 29 at Mother Franciska House of Prayer . The suggested donation is $10. I could buy the book on amazon.com for $12.29.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Captain Fantastic at St. Clare's

I received an email from St. Clare's announcing that the St. Clare Musical Theatre is putting on a show this Saturday at 8PM. They will be performing Elton John's Greatest Hits. This is kind of an odd and inappropriate choice for a Catholic grade school, in my opinion, as Sir Elton is an open homosexual and one of the world's most prominent gay activists. His tunes are kind of catchy, in a flowery, queenly way, but are very much associated with gay culture and lifestyle. I think of the movie Hamlet 2, in which the fictional Gay Men's Chorus of Tucson did an extraordinary rendition of "Someone Saved My Life Tonight." So, while his songs might not be so offensive, I have to wonder why he was chosen, and if perhaps there might have been a better choice, considering the venue.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Another one bites the dust. R.I.P. St. Peter's

Despite giving us reason to believe that there would be no more school closings, the Archdiocese just announced that it will be closing the venerable St. Peter's Girls High School in June and moving the elementary school to the shuttered St. Paul's school complex on Clinton Avenue. The high school girls would be integrated into Notre Dame and Moore. According to the Archdiocese, the high school would only have a mere 95 students in the Fall, thus making it financially unviable. Students and alumni are understandably devastated. So, in the latest humiliation for Staten Island Catholics, the Mother Church of the island, our oldest parish, in our most populous and urban neighborhood, can't even keep their school open.

Predictably, many people are blaming the Archdiocese, but the culprits are endless. For one thing, rising costs have to be a factor. Tuition is $6900 a year. That is far, far above what my Catholic school tuition cost when I was in school, even adjusted for inflation. I can't imagine anyone who could afford that, especially if you have more than one child. In addition, since the Vatican II church's own lax theology has produced a vocations crisis, lay teachers are a considerable expense, as they do insist on being paid. On the other hand, St. Peter's Boys school has over 600 students, a brand new facility and is by all accounts flourishing. Are North Shore Catholic parents mysteriously having a preponderance of boys for some reason? Or perhaps it has to do with the fact that the boys' school is located in leafy Livingston, while the girls' school is located in gritty New Brighton. It's a fact that what was once a largely Irish/Italian/Polish neighborhood back in the 60s is now predominantly black and Hispanic. And as we know, most of us Catholic "ethnics" aren't too big on integration and multiculturalism. That doesn't reflect too well on our Faith, but it's a fact we must acknowledge- the school's base has fled from the area and is not too inclined to send their kids to school there.

Or maybe the problem begins at the top. I don't usually mention people by name here, but any pseudonyms would be transparent in this case. What exactly has Monsignor Dorney done to increase students and parishioners? I don't know much about him except that he has been pastor of St. Peter's for as long as I can remember, and his magnificent church seems to be crumbling about his ears, literally and figuratively. His sermons are dreary and demotivational in the extreme, delivered in a tone resembling that of Ferris Bueller's teacher on Ambien, although I can tell he was well educated. He does not seem to be in good health. He is the co-vicar of Staten Island, whatever that means. He has displayed no leadership over the island's Catholics as far as I can tell. He has officiated at funeral Masses for at least one pro-abortion politician I can recall. He supported the sale of the Margaret Mary convent to the Moslem American Society. I really can't see the man doing anything to evangelize, promote or defend the Faith.

I attended a recent Mass at St. Peter's. A glance at the bulletin showed that there was literally nothing going on in the biggest church and most historically prestigious parish on Staten Island. There were some announcements for events in other churches. Monsignor Dorney was listed as the only priest in residence. There were a mere 50 people at the 12:00 Mass. Surprisingly, there were a few young people. The music was performed by a middle-aged guitarist who I believe plays in a band at Adobe Blues on weekends. With his 1840s style grey mutton chops, he resembles a mild mannered school teacher, but I can testify that this guy can seriously rock out on a Saturday night. He toned it down for Mass, and played the usual syrupy 70s tunes that seem positively out of place in this Gothic style cathedral. Monsignor Dorney gave a sermon about Gandhi. It was excruciating. All in all, it was just a sad and depressing experience. Seeing how the church is run, it is no wonder to me that the school is in the shape it's in.

Wrestling, Islam, and Goodfellas

A few items of interest: of all the things we Catholics need, Mount Manresa feels that they are serving us best by hosting a $30 per person talk by a Fordham professor about the glories of Islam. Wasn't Mount Manresa founded to be a retreat house for the spiritual edification of Catholics, not an event venue for the Staten Island Council of Churches?

Moore Catholic high school is again hosting a major "pro"-wrestling extravaganza in its school gym. Tickets are between $20 to $30. This is embarrassing. Has Moore ever hosted a Catholic speaker? Or a vocations meet and greet with religious orders? Anything related to the Faith? I don't think so, but they roll out the red carpet every year for these vulgar barbarians and the slack-jawed, bloodthirsty morons who pay to see them pretend to fight.

Not a Staten Island story, but it bears on the state of our Church. Catholic New York ran an announcement for a talk at a Manhattan church. For $15, you will get to watch the movie "Goodfellas" in a Catholic church, and then get to hear a talk by a Fordham professor.  Enough said.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

I'm ok, you're ok. Why be Catholic?

The annual Christian Unity jamboree was recently held at St. Teresa's. I'm sorry I wasn't able to attend. I'm sure it would have been as amusing and frustrating as the last one I witnessed. The usual suspects got together to sing "We Shall Overcome" and honor Martin Luther King. So....this might be an awkward question, but how's that unity thing coming? Are the non-Catholic participants any closer to recognizing their errors and re-uniting with Christ's Church? Or were they confirmed in their beliefs by the general promotion of "tolerance", "diversity" and "co-existence"? Let us remember that this Week of Prayer for Christian Unity was begun with the intention of having Catholics pray for the eventual conversion of all Christians to Catholicism. However, like so much in the Church, the original meaning was subverted and the idea was co-opted by the liberal destroyers. The next disgraceful surrender on the calendar should be Father O'Hara's annual Passover seder.

Monday, February 7, 2011

St. Patrick and Female Impersonation

Staten Island gays will "honor" St. Patrick's Day with a dinner dance at the once-respectable Cichon Post American Legion in Port Richmond. The event will be hosted by female impersonator Lady Clover Honey. Not really a Catholic issue, but I wonder how the Cichon family, one of whom is the pastor of Assumption/St. Paul's, feels about this.

Gospel here! Get your Gospel here! Red Hot Gospel! Only $10!

The heretofore unknown to me Mother Franciska House of Prayer is sponsoring a series of religious talks at their location on the campus of St. Joseph Hill Academy. The "suggested donation" for each talk is $10. That leaves a bad taste in my mouth. Is the Gospel for sale? Isn't the Gospel something that belongs to everyone? Shouldn't priests and nuns want to seize every chance they can get to preach the Gospel and save souls, whether or not there's a profit involved? Isn't this the very definition of simony? I realize it's only a "suggested" donation, but if it's important enough to them that they mention in the newspaper, I would guess that it would be a very strong suggestion at the door, which few people would have the strength to resist. I for one would be discouraged from attending an event with such a suggestion. However, I would have no problem with them humbly asking for money in an unobtrusive way once I arrived. I would be happy to donate money to the good sisters, if I were able. But to post admission like this is very distasteful, and reflects very badly on our Faith and our commitment to evangelization.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

For our priests: how to learn how to speak...

Toastmasters International is a world renowned organization devoted to promoting effective public speaking and leadership skills. Unfortunately, the vast majority of Catholic priests I've encountered need to join one of these groups, in my opinion. There are several groups that meet on Staten Island:

North Shore Toastmasters Club- Club #: 6927, Dist #: 83, Est: 09/01/1994
6th Floor Conference Room
56 Bay Street, St. George, Staten Island, NY, 10301, United States
718 727 6575
Meeting Time: 7:00 pm, last two Mondays

New Day Toastmasters- Club #: 665371, Dist #: 83, Est: 06/30/2004

Staten Island University Hosp. North, Seaview Ave
Conf. room off the Cafeteria -- 2nd Flr., Staten Island, NY, 10305, United States
(718) 816 5991
Meeting Time: 7:00 p.m., Last Thurs.

Richmond County Toastmasters Club - Club #: 3817, Dist #: 83, Est: 03/01/1976

Staten Island University Hospital-North Site
242 Mason Ave - Medical Arts Pavilion, Staten Island, NY, 10305, United States
718 967 4628
Meeting Time: 7:00 p.m., 1st & 2nd Wed

Business Leaders Toastmasters - Staten Island
43 Ramona Ave /
Meeting Place
Staten Island, NY 10312

Arlene Trunzo


Even for those priests who seem comfortable speaking to a large group, Toastmasters may help you put together a coherent thought, or help you deliver it in a way that is memorable and inspiring.

In addition, I heard about this website- http://www.audiosancto.org/ - which has recorded sermons in mp3 format that priests can listen to for inspiration of delivery and content. I haven't listened to it yet, but it has been highly praised by orthodox Catholics.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Staten Island news

A few items on Staten Island Catholicism:

  • The disloyal Jesuits at Mt. Manresa are advertising their weekly Zen Buddhist "interfaith" meditation session, taught by their RESIDENT SENSEI, Kenneth Byalin. They are also touting their recent Breakfast with Santa and a talk by famed anti-war activist "Fr." Daniel Berrigan, who seems to have given an entire speech without even mentioning God, an amazing feat for a priest. Does this really sound like a faithful, Catholic organization? How do they stay afloat financially?? Surely it's only a matter of time before they end up selling off some or most or all of their beautiful property to developers, such as is happening now with St. Charles seminary...

  • ...I should say "St. Charles Mission Center", which is considering selling (they describe it as "leasing") a huge chunk of their land to developers. Two years ago they were talking about converting the mansion into assisted living units. Since the Center for Migration Studies moved to Manhattan, I really don't know what goes on up there. Every once in a while, they'll host an expensive talk by a Catholic speaker, but surely that doesn't pay the bills. A few decades ago this was a thriving seminary. Now it's deserted. Just more of the fruits of Vatican II. How long before the entire property must be sold? Is there anything in history comparable to the intentional self-betrayal and suicide of Catholicism since the 1960s? The nearest comparison I can think of is the decline of mainstream American Protestantism in the 20th century, but even that sad example doesn't sink to the level of the Catholic Church's monumental implosion.

  • The Archdiocese announced that 4 old and beloved Catholic schools on Staten Island will be closed. St. Sylvester, St. Roch, St. Margaret Mary and St. Mary will not reopen in the Fall. I'm sure the economy had something to do with the low enrollment, but I think the Church has been the architect of its own problems over the past few decades: horrible catechesis, zero pastoral care, apathy, heresy, stupidity, and cowardice have resulted in loss of faith, decline in parishioners, declining vocations, declining birthrate (the Pill has decimated the traditional large Catholic family, with zero opposition from the pulpit) and so we're left with the unbelievable situation of St. Margaret Mary school, located in a huge Italian Catholic neighborhood,with a student body of only 74 (that's an average of 9 kids a class).

    Still, I think the parents are being unfair, when they accuse the Archdiocese of greed. If the school is so financially unviable, how on earth do they expect it to remain open? Why do they think they deserve subsidies? Their children will still get a Catholic education, but at a different, nearby school. However, judging from the empty pews at Sunday Mass at St. Margaret Mary, and the hysterically ignorant comments from the people in the video at the silive article, maybe it's a good thing that the school is closing, since their students obviously haven't been learning their Faith, basic elocution, or logical reasoning all these years.