Saturday, December 30, 2006

Our Lady of Czestochowa and the Primate: Part One

On August 3rd, 1924, Stefan Wyszynski (pronounced Shteh-fahn Vih-shinski) was ordained to the holy priesthood by Auxiliary Bishop Wojciech Owczarek in the chapel of the Blessed Virgin in Wloclawek's Cathedral.

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Bishop Wyszynski

Immediately after his ordination, he travelled to Czestochowa in order to be able to offer his first Solemn Mass before the miraculous icon of Our Lady of Jasna Gora, Queen of Poland. As he was in frail health, he was barely able to stay on his feet, beseeching Our Lady to let him live to be a Priest for at least one year.

Having lost his mother at the age of nine, he came to Czestochowa in search of his heavenly Mother. "I went to Jasna Gora to say my First Mass so that I could have a Mother, a Mother who is forever and does not die." (Micewski, p.7)

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Stefan (in rear) with his family

Our Lady was to give Fr. Wyszynski many more than the one year he had asked for, as Providence intended this son, consecrated to the Mother of the Polish Nation, to be deeply bound with its destiny for more than half a century to come.

Going on to study at the Catholic University of Lublin, (commonly referred to by its Polish initials KUL), he received his doctorate in Canon Law in 1929, defending his thesis which was entitled, The Rights of The Family, The Church, and The State in Relation To Schools.

Continuing the preparation for his future mission, he served as editor-in-chief of the diocesan newspaper until the outbreak of World War Two, all the while serving as Defender of the Bond in the Wloclawek curia. He accomplished all this while lecturing on social ethics in the seminary, heading the Christian Worker's University, as well as being active in the Christian trade unions.

This close contact with workers helped form his belief that the influence of Russia, "fighting against God," was already very strong, yet he also knew that the growth in communist sympathy amont the Poles was "...not so much Bolshevik propaganda as the lack of work, of bread, and of a roof over one's head." (Micewski, p.16)

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Soviet propaganda

He stated in 1934 that the "...enormous salaries of high officials absorb institutional budgets that there is nothing left over to pay junior officials and workers...Such a state of things does not accord with Catholic ideas of just distribution...". (Ibid.)

Highly trained in Catholic social ethics, as well as being a student of the social sciences, Fr. Wyszynski knew that "...Violating the balance of incomes in society is bound to lead to a shaking of the whole social order; these are the causes of an inclination toward Bolshevism." (Ibid.)

Thus the future Primate of Poland already had embraced the conviction that a third road exists between liberal capitalism and revolutionary Marxism. As Micewski puts it, "His early conviction later blossomed into the idea that Poland, lying between East and West, has a definite, well-understood mission: based on the social strength of a Catholicism that had stood firm through the long battle with atheism - a political system that opposed not only the inherent mistakes of collectivism but also the structural weaknesses and egotistical tendencies of capitalism" (Ibid., pp. 18-19)

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Nazi rally

With the outbreak of war in September of 1939, Fr. Wyszynski was ordered by Bishop Michal Kozal of Wloklawek to flee for his safety, as the Nazis had targeted him due to his pre-war publications on Nazism.

The warning of his superiors was a prescient one, for as Fr. Wyszynski attempted to return to his apartment to locate a forgotten book, he was told at the Wloklawek train station that the Gestapo had already been to his apartment.

With that news he was destined to spend the rest of the war moving from place to place hiding from the Gestapo, knowing that if he was caught it would mean certain death.

While in hiding, Fr. Wysynski served as chaplain to a group of sisters and blind people, as well as giving lectures wherever possible on Catholic social thought, and on the Church as the Mystical Body of Christ. He even served as a midwife on one occasion, delivering the child of a poor, emaciated expectant mother he came across while hiding in the forest.

In an amusing aside, Fr. Wyszynski had to operate under a pseudonym to avoid capture, and as his biographer tells us, "Wyszynski chose for himself the underground pseudonym, Sister Cecilia, and before long people were asking, 'Is Sister Cecilia saying Mass today? When is she hearing confessions?' " (Micewski, p.26)

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Warsaw Uprising, 1944

When the Warsaw uprising started, in which 240,000 people died, Fr. Wyszynski found himself in Laski, just outside the city. Ministering to allied and enemy soldiers alike, in his free moments (and with no one watching) he would lie prostrate on the chapel floor in the form of a cross, praying both for the dying and those destined to survive.

As the uprising came to an end, he found a shred of paper on which the burning fire had left only three, "Thou shalt love." (Ibid.)

The war came to an end, with Fr. Wyszynski having been preserved by the woman he so loved, referring to her often as "Beautiful Splendid Star, Mary of Czestochowa."

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Following the Star of Christ

Caught up as we often are with our own trials it is easy to forget the heroic sacrificies those brothers and sisters who have gone before us in the Faith have made. One such story, as told by our friend, Veritas of Humanae Vitae, relates the experiences of his mother's brave family in the former communist Yugoslavia in the 1960s.

Being fishermen on a small island, they knew well how to orient themselves while navigating rough seas, sometimes in the night with nothing but the stars to guide them. Being Christians, they also knew how to keep their eyes fixed on the star of their faith in dark times. We hope you will be edified and uplifted by this beautiful Christmas story.
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Ilovic, Croatia

"On Christmas Eve 1962, in the former communist Yugoslavia, my uncle, aunt and mother told their father that the local island school they attended had declared that any child not attending school classes the next day would be failed for the year.

Although this was a devoutly Catholic island, the only Mass being offered Christmas Day would be at noon, thus conflicting with the scheduled classes. Knowing his religious obligations, grandfather told my uncle that he and his sisters would be going to Mass the next day.

After attending Christmas Mass, my uncle returned to school the following day and was told that he was going to be failed for the year. Upon hearing this my grandfather said, "That's it!" The decision had been made.

The next day he applied for a tourist visa for his family to go to Italy. In those days, the Communists didn't kill you if you tried to leave, but they would bring you back and subject you to interrogation.

Knowing that if the authorities discovered their plan they would be apprehended, that evening they said a tearful goodbye to my great-grandparents, knowing they would never see them again. Leaving with everything they owned, they were not able to tell my greatgrandparents until one hour before their departure.

Rowing my grandfather's fishing boat away from the island in the dark until they were out of earshot, they were picked up by a speedboat and taken to Trieste, Italy. After three days, with their money exhausted, they went to the Italian authorities to declare political asylum.

The Italian government put them into a refugee camp, with my grandpa leaving each day to work in nearby vineyards while my grandma cleaned people's houses. Eighteen months later, a relative living in the U.S. was able to obtain visas for my grandparents to come to America.

Once in America, my grandfather was finally able to breathe a sigh of relief that the Communist prophecy that, "you and your children will become like us," had been foiled.

There are many more true stories like this I have heard about my ancestors from Croatia. For instance, while escaping from the Nazis, one of their henchmen lifted the lid of the olive oil press my grandfather was hiding in, but was called away just before he had a chance to look inside.

My other grandfather (a harbormaster in a very important industrial shipping port) "looked the other way" at his post at the edge of the harbor as a sentry to let some people escape, only to have them return decades later to thank him amid tears.

One relative dressed up as an Italian mailman, when Italy capitulated, to avoid Nazi capture, rowing ninety miles back to Croatia at night, carrying only a loaf of bread and a bottle of wine.

There are so many more stories, but these are treasures of faith I intend to tell my children someday. It is important for them to know about the people who made such sacrifices and took such risks to be allowed to practice their faith.

These were people of modest education, but knew what was really important. They truly loved God.

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Sts. Peter and Paul Church, Ilovic, Croatia.

Interestingly, my uncle went on to become a parish priest. I asked Grandfather once how he felt on the day of my uncle's ordination. He said it was the proudest day of his life and his greatest treasure. A treasure it was, as a few years ago my grandfather died in my uncle's arms as he was giving my grandfather final absoloution.
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My uncle, Fr. Gio.
My uncle once told me that my grandfather would point the North Star out to him at night and tell him, "Keep your eyes fixed on The North Star and you will never get lost." Funny, for an uneducated man he could still bring forth a poignant analogy to our faith. Remember, "Be not afraid!" As bad as things may seem, we have more than we truly know, and we are free to worship God.

Ave Maria and Merry Christmas to all."

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Christmas Lessons From Nowa Huta

In 1949, the Soviets decided to build what they deemed a "workers’ paradise" in a town on the outskirts of Krakow. This new town was part of their campaign to break down the resistance of middle-class Krakowians to the Soviet program for Poland, a program that entailed the denial of one thousand years of Polish religious and cultural heritage.

The name of their new town was to be "Nowa Huta", and the Soviets intended it to be a model example of the communist ideal of "a city without God". This new town was to be filled with enormous blocks of workers’ apartments, some containing as many as 450 flats.

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Nowa Huta 2006.

The breakdown of community was essential to this new "city without God", as there was to be no easy way for the Polish worker to vist with his neighbors. To quote the distinguished George Weigel, in his seminal work Witness To Hope, "If you wanted to visit a neighbor outside the two or three apartment module in which you lived, you went down the stair or elevator, left the building, reentered through another door, and then climbed the stairs or took the elevator up to your neighbor’s module." (P.189)

In other words, you were to have little or no contact with your neighbor, because "Nowa Huta’s apartment blocks were aptly described as human filing cabinets, and the cabinets were deliberately designed to keep the files separated."(Ibid.)

If the average Pole were to have minimal contact with his neighbor in this new Soviet "workers’paradise", his contact with God was to be even less, for Nowa Huta was to be a town without a Church, and in Catholic Poland, this meant that Christ would not be allowed a place to dwell among his people. There lterally would "be no place for Him in the Inn".

As the Communists refused the initial permits to build a Church in Nowa Huta, it was quickly destined to become a symbol of the implacable opposition between the Communist state and the Catholic Church.

Since this town fell in the jurisdiction of the Archdiocese of Krakow, the young newly appointed auxiliary Bishop of Krakow, Karol Wojtyla, opened the offensive by celebrating an open air Midnight Mass in Nowa Huta in 1959. To quote Witness To Hope again, "The great symbol for Nowa Hutas’ soul was the building of what became known as the ‘Ark Church’, which arose from the field in the Bienczyce neighborhood where Wojtyla had celebrated Midnight Mass since 1959."(P.190)

This struggle for the soul of Nowa Huta (and with it, the Polish Nation) was not an easy one, and it was to go on for many years. It is a testimony to the indomitable faith of Poles, as it is the exercise of the episcopacy both bold and brave, for the future Archbishop of Krakow was to celebrate Midnight Mass in the open air cold for many years to come.

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Cardinal Wojtyla 1970.

In his Christmas Day Mass in the Wawel celebrated on December 25, 1963, he spoke of the Mass he had clebrated only hours earlier in a very cold Nowa Huta, "The Midnight Mass which I just said was celebrated in a great freeze. Several thousand people participated...What a closeness between this Midnight Mass in Nowa Huta and what I had seen in Bethlehem: a humble grotto open to the elements..." (Kalendarium P.225)

This heroic example of episcopal faith and perserverance inspired a courageous laity to not lose hope, for this struggle was to continue on. Led by the outanding now Cardinal Archbishop Wojtyla of Krakow, the citizens of Krakow gathered yet again in the cold and frigid open air of Nowa Huta for Midnight Mass on December 25, 1972. This is, in part, the exhortation given them by the now battle tested and proven Archbishop, "And we stand here, at this place, where the new - born Christ does not have a roof over his head...over His head. All of us gathered here invite Him and plead that here...where God is being born, unto these people, unto these many thousands of people, new people, people of hard work, people of great accomplishment - - that God may be born here, in accordance with the traditions of our Polish culture: under a roof!!!" (Ibid.)

This moving example of patient and humble perserverance was to eventually pay off, for on May 15, 1977, the great Cardinal of Krakow was able to consecrate the new ‘Ark Church’, in which Mary, Queen of Poland was saving her people. What is especially noteworthy and instructive, is that the cornerstone for this great Church was stone taken from the tomb of St. Peter, donated by Pope Paul VI.

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Surveying the Ark Church at Nowa Huta.

So, on this Christmas Day 2006, may we on Long Island find strength and hope in this beautiful story, one intended by Providence to inspire Catholics around the world with an example of the heroism a courageous Bishop can inspire in his laity, all the while attatched in faith and spirit to the Succesor of St. Peter.

May all of us on Long Island pray this Christmas, that the sacrifices necessary to preserve our Catholic faith in the face of more subtle yet similar attempts to weaken it, be never lacking. May the example of Cardinal Karol Wojtyla, give similar encouragement to our Bishops, always united in mind and heart with our Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI

Nolite timere. Be not afraid! Merry Christmas!!!

Saturday, December 9, 2006

The Black Madonna and the Destiny of The Polish Nation

Who is the “Black Madonna of Czestochowa”? What is her place in the hearts of the Polish people and of the Polish nation? What part did she play in defending the faith and culture of Poland in the second half of the 20th century? These are but a few of the points we will be exploring in the early part of this series of articles.

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Our Lady of Czestochowa, 'The Black Madonna'

In the final set of installments, we will look at the attempted destruction of Polish Catholicism and culture by Soviet Communism in the 20th century. We will then compare what the Soviets attempted to accomplish in Poland with the present attempt of atheistic secularism to erase the memory of Catholic faith and culture on Long Island.

Our Lady of Czestochowa is most aptly described as the Mother of the Polish Nation. It is she who is sent by God to protect her Polish sons and daughters from every “confrontation” that “…lies within the plans of Divine Providence” (Karol Cardinal Wojyla, Farewell address 1976 Eucharistic Congress in Philadelphia)

She is the “Woman” promised in Genesis 3:15 who comes to comfort, love and guide her children, as “…in God's Plan”, they confront every trial which the Church “…must take up, and face courageously.”(ibid)
The Black Madonna of Czestochowa icon was, according to legend, painted by St. Luke on a cypress table top taken from the house of the Holy Family. In this beautiful icon, the Blessed Virgin Mary manifests both her humility and shows us our path by pointing with her right hand
to Jesus, the source of our salvation.

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Jasna Gora Monastery

In the 17th century, she saved the Jasnan Gora monastery from The Deluge, changing the course of the war in the fight against the Sweedish invasion. In thanksgiving for this great favour from Heaven, King Jan Kazimierz crowned the Black Madonna as Queen and Protector of Poland in the Cathedral of Lwow on April 1, 1656. From that moment on, she became the “Mother of the Polish Nation” serving as the icon of unity for all her Polish children.

Her maternal bond with the people of Poland reaches perhaps it’s zenith in the 20th century, beginning with the “Miracle on the Vistula”, otherwise known as “The Battle of Warsaw”, fought in August of 1920.

This is the story of the decisive confrontation against the Red Army for control of Warsaw. Most observers had given Poland up for dead against the Soviets. Interestingly enough, all of the diplomatic corps had left in anticipation of the impending defeat with one exception, Msgr. Achille Ratti, the Pope’s representative, and future Pius XI.

Another man not willing to concede Catholic Poland to the atheistic forces of Soviet communism was Marshall Jozef Pilsudski, a brave soul who dominated the life of the Second Polish Republic from its inception in 1918 until his death in 1935.

As George Weigel tells us in his seminal work, Witness To Hope, “In a daring move, Pilsudski’s intelligence operatives had detected a gap between the two corps of Trotsky’s army…On August 16, the Poles attacked, and by the night of the 17th, the Red Army, which had begun its own attack on Warsaw on the 14th, had been reduced to a rabble of fleeing refugees at a cost of fewer than 200 Polish casualities” (p.17)

Pilsudski had inflicted a “gigantic, unheard-of defeat”(p.18) on the cause of world revolution, and although Lenin opined that “we will keep shifting from a defensive to an offensive strategy over and over again until we finish them off for good”, for the moment, the expansion of Communism had been stopped. (ibid)

Because of the indomitable faith of one man, and the trust of a nation in the Mother of God, the program of Soviet atheism for Poland was put on hold.This courage and bravery would allow a young boy who had been born a few months earlier to grow up in a free Poland. This boy would be totally consecrated to the Mother of the Polish Nation, and would himself one day in union with her, reverse the expansion of the Soviets in both Poland, and much of the world. His name was Karol Jozef Wojtyla.

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Karol and his mother

Wednesday, December 6, 2006

Soccer on Sunday

Shortly after Bishop Murphy came to the Diocese of Rockville Centre, he issued his first pastoral letter, "Rediscovering Sunday." In it, he kindly but firmly exhorted his people to begin attending Sunday Mass more faithfully: "I call upon everyone, and especially parents who are the primary formers of their children in the faith, to recommit themselves and their families to regular, weekly attendance at Sunday Mass."

He goes on to explain the serious obligation every Catholic who is not physically impaired has to attend Mass every Sunday. The letter ends with a clear call for everyone to re-examine their priorities so Sunday Mass will again occupy a special place of honor in our lives. Some of the obligations we should seriously try to reschedule? His answer: Work obligations, children’s involvement in sports programs, errands, chores and shopping.

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Should children be doing this on Sunday morning ?

Creating a ‘sacred space’ in our week for the worship of God, he insists, will go a long way towards restoring our life and spirit. Moreover, the regular re-connection with God at Sunday Mass will help us rebuild our relationships with each other.

It would seem, alas, that Bishop Murphy’s initial endeavors to restore Sunday to a place of honor, have had very little effect. If anything, there would seem to be more secular Sunday morning activities now, five years later, than there ever were.

Occupying first place on the list of Sunday activities are, of course, soccer and other field sports. There is actually a several decades-long tradition of ‘Soccer-on-Sunday’ on Long Island. It is only recently that Little League teams and other team sports have also begun encroaching on the Sunday morning schedule.

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Or is something like this more appropriate?

(As an interesting aside, in Amityville, thanks to a brave Protestant Little League commissioner, Sunday practices and games were banned for many years, but it is doubtful that this man’s principled stand will much longer survive the demands of his (probably Catholic) team parents and coaches. )

What is particularly disturbing is the very recent capitulation of CYO teams to this dishonorable practice. Many CYO teams, despite the Bishop’s letter, now have Sunday morning practices and games. An especially ugly example of this can be found at a certain very affluent parish where, while Sunday Mass is going on in the school chapel, the CYO basketball team is hard at work practicing a few doors down the hall in the gym.

Most ominous of all is the announcement by the Lynbrook Public School Superintendent of a parade honoring the community’s young athletes to be held this Sunday, Dec. 10, at 10:00 in the morning. This, in a district liberally populated with Catholics and a public school superintendent with an unmistakably Catholic surname!

Such inroads on the ‘sacred space’ of Sunday are strongly evocative of the Communist strategies in post World War II Eastern Europe. Parades, political events, and public demonstrations were routinely held on Sunday morning in an obvious effort to keep the largely Catholic population from attending Sunday Mass.

What can be done to keep Sunday from being completely secularized? Of course, more episcopal messages and reminders would be most beneficial. The first letter was a very auspicious beginning; more letters like it, as well as exhortations from the parish and school ought to be forthcoming.

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Traditional Palm Sunday morning procession.

Catholic parents, most emphatically, should refuse to allow their children to participate in Sunday morning sports activities. With the overwhelmingly Catholic population of Long Island, this would quickly put a stop to all attempts to usurp Sunday for mundane purposes.

Sports are a beautiful demonstration and celebration of the human spirit, particularly soccer, with its exuberant pace and thoroughly Catholic origins. Long Island, blessed with mild weather and abundant flat, green fields, is a perfect venue for such athletic development and contests, but this island will not continue to be blessed if future generations continue to ignore and dishonor God and His holy day.

Friday, December 1, 2006

An Ecumenical Paradox

As a young boy growing up in the Society of Saint Pius X, I loved many things about it. The historical Mass of the Roman Rite, priests clad in biretta and cassock certain of the doctrine they preached, large families, and a strong sense of community are among the many elements of my upbringing that I look back upon with heartfelt joy and thanksgiving.

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Our separated SSPX brethren at Econe, Switzerland.

I remember being carefully instructed by my Dad as to why we took such great lengths to attend a church so different from my local Catholic parish. Many of them made great sense to me, for the beauty of Gregorian chant, sacred polyphony, kneeling for Communion during the Holy Sacrifice offered ad orientam all resonated in my soul, and do to this day. There was no greater sense of mystery and transcendence than, as an altar boy, kneeling at the high altar as I heard the Priest whisper intently the words of consecration: "HOC EST ENIM CORPUS MEUM."

There was, however, one discordant note among all that beauty and order that never made sense to me. If there was anything my father and other ‘traditionalists’ like him were clearly against, it was Vatican II’s insistence on ecumenism. If one thing was consistently demonized, it was the possibility that a Bishop, or even the Holy Father himself, would ‘compromise’ the one true Church by praying with our separated brothers and sisters. The thing is, though, they weren’t called ‘separated brothers and sisters.’ Rather, they were referred to by the much more definitive term ‘heretics and schismatics,’ and this unfortunately made them more easily objects of derision.

I remember when the Dalai Lama came to St. Patrick’s Cathedral to pray Vespers with Cardinal Cooke, I wanted to ask my Dad what was so wrong about Catholics praying with those separated from us. After all, didn’t Christ desire that all his followers would be one? Didn’t that mandate require all of us to actively ‘seek that which was lost?’

Well, one day I got my answer, and even though it wasn’t completely correct, there was an important element of truth in it. “Look”, said Dad, “they have no intention of bringing these ‘heretics’ back to the Church. What they really intend to do is start a new, one-world religion, where it really doesn’t matter what you believe”. Needless to say, that was all a little much to swallow. Yet, twenty-five years later, I wonder if my tough, right-wing, John Bircher Dad was not all wrong after all.

After all, let’s be honest. Even if the Holy Father carefully and correctly delineates the fact that as Catholics we must never fall into what he calls ‘a false irenicism’ , we must ask ourselves an important question. Does your ‘average man in the pew’ believe that? Does your Catholic neighbor next door believe that the Catholic Church is necessary for salvation, and that “he who knowingly fails to enter into it cannot be saved,” to quote the Second Vatican Council? If not, why not?

But here’s the rub: Now that God has brought me back into full communion with the true Church, I have noticed a strange phenomenon, which bespeaks a conflict between praxis and belief.

The very ones who admirably proclaim the necessity of active and earnest ecumenical relations with Protestants, Orthodox, Jews, Muslims and Sikhs, are the same ones who are strangely silent when it comes to dealing with our brothers and sisters of a traditionalist orientation,

This latter group, it seems, has been relegated to the ecumenical status of ‘non-personhood.” For instance, if a cleric issues a public account of his positive experiences dialoguing with our Jewish brothers for a week in the southern hemisphere, wouldn’t it be equally beneficial for him to make similarly gracious public overtures to our separated Catholic friends in the SSPX and SSPV movements?

I have seen countless instances where our separated traditionalist friends have gladly offered their time and hospitality to ‘dialogue’ with those of us who are in the official Church. The reason is because, in spite of their sometimes harsh approach, they sincerely care enough about souls to attempt to bring them into the truth as they see it.

On the other hand, those in the official Church (we are speaking only of our experiences on the local level) seemingly have little or no interest in extending themselves to these brothers and sisters, let alone manifesting any outward concern for their needs and difficulties. The traditionalists are treated simply as some invisible ‘fifth column’ who, if ignored long enough, will hopefully just fade away.

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Are the Holy Father's wishes in Ut Unum
Sint being followed?

Here’s the paradox:
Those who seem to be the most ecumenical with every other separated body, display no outward concern for those separated traditionalists who are actually the closest to us in belief, whereas, those who are least ecumenical in their outlook, are the most outwardly zealous to bring back anyone separated from what they believe to be the true Church.

Just go figure.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

The Making of Priests

Back in 1985, an approving New York Times article described the newly adapted mission of the Immaculate Conception Seminary in Huntington. Openly predicting that the Church would have more lay ministers than priests by the year 2000, the administration was actively expanding its role in educating lay people and women religious. As the article explained, the seminary was now perfectly content to see ‘itself more as an educational resource than as the monastic theological academy it once was.’

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Immaculate Conception Seminary, circa 1930

This change in mission would have been surprising news to Immaculate Conception’s founder, Archbishop Thomas Molloy. I recently came across his 1930 speech at the Seminary’s dedication. In it, he outlined the new Seminary's purpose and usefulness in an extraordinary speech. Bishop Molloy was a noted orator, and this speech is no exception.

I was instantly struck by the energy and vitality of the lines. It is obvious that the bishop was no shrinking violet. Though brief, the speech is elegant but forceful, liberally sprinkled with powerful phrases and rich theological language. The man clearly knew how to pack his punches!

Some excerpts from his extraordinary speech: ( I couldn’t resist highlighting the best parts.)

On the mission of the new Seminary:

"Within the walls of this institution by means of devout prayer, worthy reception of the Sacraments, faithful practice of piety and diligent study (the Catholic students) will earnestly seek to acquire supernatural grace, spiritual enlightenment, intellectual culture, moral discipline and a Christlike love for their fellow human beings so that they may later realize their vocation and fulfill their mission as spiritual leaders, religious teachers, ambassadors of Christ and zealous priests of God."

How’s that for starters? As if that weren’t clear enough, he adds this little gem:

"In this school of Christian piety and learning, moreover, our young candidates for the sacerdotal state and office will strive to learn clearly and accurately the mind, will and plan of God regarding the sanctification of human souls."

"Salus animarum Suprema lex" (The salvation of souls is the supreme law), by the way, was the motto on the Bishop’s coat-of-arms and is inscribed on his imposing episcopal throne which is still preserved and on display at the Seminary.

On the spiritual mission of the new priest:

"After six years of careful, thorough study, discipline and training and, found to be duly qualified and worthy, they will be sacramentally endowed with priestly character and formally delegated by ecclesiastical authority to preach the saving gospel of Jesus Christ and to regenerate, revivify, purify and sanctify countless souls of saints and sinners by public prayer, by celebration of the Eucharistic Sacrifice, and by the administration of the Sacraments of the living and the dead."

Notice, if you will, the Bishop’s very Roman practice of using verbs, adjectives and phrases in clusters of three and four. This is found in the Roman Canon, e.g., ‘hostiam puram, hostiam sanctam, hostiam immaculatam.’ Some may find this stiff and legalistic, but it is an economical way both to clarify and, at the same time, amplify the concepts being discussed.

On the public mission of the new priest:

". . . the intellectually trained, morally sound, spiritually motivated young men will . . . preach and teach in season and out of season obedience to law, respect for authority, regard for the rights of others, and love for one’s fellow man."

Priests as public advocates and guardians:

"They will also prove to be, moreover, staunch defenders of the weak, of the unfortunate, of the under-privileged, and even the unborn. They will serve as fearless advocates of liberty under law, of the sacredness of property right, of the sanctity of marriage, of integrity of character in public office and of faithful fulfillment of the duties of honorable, useful private citizenship."

What a compelling vision of the priesthood! He expected his priests to take an active, vocal part in the community and be watchdogs of sorts for the weak and defenseless, while maintaining a vigilant watch on the laws and the lawmakers.

With such a bold leader and clearly defined purpose, it is no wonder the Seminary thrived under Bishop Molloy’s direction. Well over 500 priests were ordained from its founding to the time of his death in 1956 (an average of 35 priests a year!). There was certainly no confusion and disorder in his ranks—as anyone might guess from reading his speeches! But, despite his dignified and imposing presence, he was well-loved and esteemed by his students and by many who knew him, and that makes his amazing legacy even brighter still.

Monday, November 27, 2006

The Hermeneutics of Continuity: Part II

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Cardinal Ratzinger begins the second part of his discourse to the Chilean bishops with this stunning admission:

“One of the basic discoveries of the theology of ecumenism is that schisms can take place only when certain truths and certain values of the Christian faith are no longer lived and loved within the Church. The truth which is marginalized becomes autonomous, remains detached from the whole of the ecclesiastical structure, and a new movement then forms itself around it.”

The chief value he is referring to is the historical Mass of the Roman Rite, which was almost universally abandoned after the Council, even though the Council never called for its abrogation. Yet, as the saying goes, “perception is reality”, and this “reality” became the number one “perception” after the Council.

Thus, the widespread desacralization that sprang up in many places after the Council , combined with a very effective campaign to make the layperson believe that the Council had discarded the pre-Conciliar rite, led to the formation of what the Cardinal calls “a new movement” in and around the pre-conciliar Mass, in order to preserve it.

Cardinal Ratzinger then identifies the chief reason that many were led to join this 'traditional movement' was because they were looking for a place to worship where the sense of what they believed was most sacred could be kept alive:

“While there are many motives that might have led a great number of people to seek a refuge in the traditional liturgy, the chief one is that they find the dignity of the sacred preserved there.”

He attributes this phenomenon to the fact that there were many who chose not to treat the Council as part of the Church’s entire tradition, but rather to use it as the starting point of a new reality, something seen as quite divorced from what came before it;

“ The Second Vatican Council has not been treated as a part of the entire living Tradition of the Church, but as an end of Tradition, a new start from zero.”

Acting with great courage and frankness, Cardinal Ratzinger identified the chief tactic used by those who saw Council as a “new start from zero”, was to proscribe the pre-Conciliar Mass as the most “forbidden” and “prohibited” of all things;

“This idea is made stronger by things that are now happening. That which previously was considered most holy -- the form in which the liturgy was handed down -- suddenly appears as the most forbidden of all things, the one thing that can safely be prohibited.”

This unfortunate reality is why so many felicitous press reports are announcing that Josef Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI, is about to 'free' the “old Mass," thus restoring a long-lost treasure.

So we pray daily, awaiting joyfully with the Most Blessed Virgin Mary the words of freedom from the Holy Father, allowing us to sing the “Ressurrexit” and “Te Deum, Laudamus” together.

Maria, mater ecclesiae, ora pro nobis.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

The Hermeneutics of Continuity: Part I

In a remarkable address given on July 13, 1988, in Santiago, Chile before that nation's bishops, the then Cardinal Josef Ratzinger, head of the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, shared with the world his thoughts on why French Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre and his followers had felt compelled to consecrate four bishops without permission of the Holy See, thus incurring the penalty of excommunication.

The then Cardinal-Prefect began his talk by stating that

“…the Second Vatican Council has not been treated as a part of the entire living Tradition of the Church, but as an end of Tradition, a new start from zero. The truth is that this particular council defined no dogma at all, and deliberately chose to remain on a modest level, as a merely pastoral council; and yet many treat it as though it had made itself into a sort of superdogma which takes away the importance of all the rest."

For those of us now living in that portion of the Lord’s vineyard which is the Diocese of Rockville Centre, these words are nothing short of prophetic, as they give us the first official explanation by the Church as to the “how and why” we traveled from the exalted vision of Archbishop Molloy for a Catholic Long Island, to the present position we find ourselves in today.

What was the Cardinal referring to when he spoke about those theologians and teachers of the faith who had tried to turn the “pastoral council, which had chosen to remain on a “modest level”, into a “superdogma which takes away the importance of all the rest”?

Was he not trying to give comfort to all those Catholics who, for the last forty years, have been stunned and bewildered as to why so much of the glorious doctrinal and moral patrimony of the Church has been either attacked as no longer true, ignored as now irrelevant, or redefined in a way as to lose its previous meaning ?

Was not the then Cardinal Ratzinger telling us, in this stunningly frank address, that the prime reason for the crisis of faith is that “…the Second Vatican Council has not been treated as a part of the entire living Tradition of the Church, but as an end of Tradition, a new start from zero”?

Concretely, then, the Cardinal confirms for us what we have known for a long time: that the Church never intended to mandate any break with her doctrinal or moral tradition. Furthermore, those few points that the Council taught which are new, e.g., religious liberty and ecumenism, must be interpreted in the light of the constant Tradition of the Church.

What this means is that the Council is neither the starting-point of a new Catholic reality which the modernists have made it out to be, nor is it the ending-point of the Church’s traditional faith which extreme traditionalists have accused it of being. (Extreme traditionalists does not refer to those exemplary moderate European members of the SSPX who have either been regularized by the Holy See, or are presently seeking such status.)

Rather, the Council is a bridge to the modern world explaining the beautiful patrimony of the Catholic faith in terms which people of this age, starving for truth, beauty and goodness, can understand.

There is much more to this key address of Cardinal Ratzinger which we will examine in our next installment.

Friday, November 24, 2006


Friends & Family:

I have decided to respond to the urging of a dear friend to produce a blog with a few other Catholic men and women:

It will deal with some of the important issues confronting us in the world today. The intent of this web-log is to focus on the essentials as seen from the perspective of Catholic optimism.

In these times which we find ourselves in, man's pessimism, self-destruction and self-hatred are given ample space on the net. The loss of dignity, the hypersexualization, the gossip, greed & gluttony of a world where God is marginalized confronts us at every turn. And so we wish to point to a different reality which is the TRUE way for man and woman.

Our name, nolite-timere means literally 'fear not'. We hope to be able to provide some useful texts... and we hope to highlight greater minds than our own in this small endeavor.

Happy Thanksgiving to All.

Recapturing the Vision

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Seminary of The Immaculate Conception,
Huntington, New York.

Living on our long, fish-shaped island, one can not fail to notice the many spectacular church buildings gracing the landscape. In the Diocese of Rockville Centre, there are impressive schools, retreat centers and religious houses. Grandest of all is the Immaculate Conception Seminary located in the northern part of the island on a magnificent 230-acre waterfront property. Most of these buildings, fortunately, were built in the pre-Conciliar era and share a remarkably elegant, classic architectural style. In fact, the more one looks and admires these beautiful Catholic structures, visible in every town of Long Island, one begins to realize that there was a master-planner behind this very visible Catholic institutional presence. In other words, it didn’t happen by accident. Who was this intelligent designer? What did he believe and hope to accomplish?

Thomas Edmund Molloy was born in Nashua, New Hampshire, on Sept. 4, 1884, his parents having moved there five years earlier from Brooklyn Heights. Beginning his college studies at the local St. Anselm’s, Providence brought him to St. Francis College, Brooklyn, in 1904 to conclude his undergraduate studies. After entering St. John’s Seminary in Brooklyn, Msgr. George Mundelein, Brooklyn’s Chancellor and future archbishop of Chicago, sent him to study at the North American College in Rome, where he was ordained on Sept. 9, 1908, in the Basilica of St. John Lateran.
After ordination, he returned to Brooklyn, where he became secretary to then-Auxiliary Bishop Mundelein. With the latter being sent to Chicago to be archbishop, Fr. Molloy accompanied him for a year there as secretary, eventually returning back to Brooklyn to serve as Spiritual Director for Cathedral College and Professor of Philosophy at St. Joseph’s College for Women. Named Auxiliary Bishop of Brooklyn in 1920, he was to become the Ordinary of the Diocese a year and a half later, at the unusually young age of 37, upon the death of Bishop McDonnell. Quickly laying his mark on the Diocese, Bishop Molloy conducted a synod in 1926.
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Bishop Molloy, Matic Beach, 1949.
He began the building of Immaculate Conception Seminary in Huntington, overseeing every detail until its dedication in 1930. Remarkably, he went on to establish 90 parishes, and 100 elementary schools in the four counties of Long Island, presiding over the diocese’s centennial celebration in 1953. Archbishop Molloy died November 26, 1956, at the age of 72, and is buried along with four of his successors in the crypt of the Seminary in Huntington. Among the ninety churches that he built are some outstandingly beautiful structures whose exteriors alone lift up the soul and brighten the landscape, testifying eloquently to the grandeur, mystery and permanence of the Catholic vision. Among these treasures are St. Agnes’ Cathedral whose spire elevates thousands of souls who pass by on the LIRR every day, commuting to and from work.
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St. Agnes Cathedral.

Another is St. Patrick’s in Bayshore, which dominates the whole South Shore with its gorgeous Romanesque facade. Cure of Ars in Merrick is another splendid spread of buildings, consisting of not only a church, but also a school, a convent and rectory—all of them large, impressive and solidly crafted. This imposing cluster of buildings in Merrick testifies to the reality behind the comprehensive vision of Archbishop Molloy which was precisely this: the parish, far from being a ‘one-hour weekend spiritual pit stop’ between sporting events and shopping trips, was meant to be the heart of the daily life of a large Catholic community. As if this parish were not enough, he constructed Sacred Heart Parish a short distance away. Obviously, Archbishop Molloy, like a caring father, meant to provide for his children’s needs in every community for many years to come.

He built large, state-of-the-art schools that every Catholic child in the community could attend, as well as large, spacious convents that would serve to house the sisters who would serve as teachers and spiritual mothers to all in the parish community. There is much to learn from this amazing man and his vision, which was meant to produce generations of Catholics who would bring a deep and abiding faith into the world around them and bear effective witness to the Gospel. It was no doubt his hope that this island would be solidly Catholic, from head to tail, so to speak.

Instead, as one looks around today, Long Island is what can only be called a ‘devastated Catholic vineyard.’ Many of the schools and convents are empty, others fighting for their survival. We are afflicted with dwindling Mass attendance, scant vocations, broken homes, contracepting Catholic families, pervasive pornography, cynicism and a general widespread lack of belief. How we got from there to here in a span of less than forty years will be the subject of future articles. In conclusion, let us remember this extraordinarily gifted and faithful prelate, Archbishop Thomas E. Molloy, on the fiftieth anniversary of his passing:

Father in Heaven, we thank you for the gift of this great servant, Thomas Molloy, and we pray that we may strive to recapture some
of his extraordinary zeal for souls. Direct us, we beg You, to play our part in the re-evangelization of this island and the restoration of Archbishop Molloy’s enduring Catholic vision.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

A Thanksgiving Reflection

A dear friend of mine suggested we include a reference point pertaining to our name "Be Not Afraid"... since almost every Catholic knows that this was the motto of Karol Wojtyla when he took the name John Paul II.

So here I include some excerpts from our new Pastor's sermons.

But before you read it, I would like to draw your attention to the latter part of the paragraph... and so I have taken liberty to bold font this since it strikes me as so personally true.

A link to the original text is found in the title, which will take you to the entire sermon.

I conclude that without Christ, we have MUCH to be afraid of. WITH Him we have nothing to be afraid of AND EVERYTHING to be Thankful for. Enjoy!


St. Peter's Square Sunday, 24 April 2005

At this point, my mind goes back to 22 October 1978, when Pope John Paul II began his ministry here in Saint Peter’s Square. His words on that occasion constantly echo in my ears: “Do not be afraid! Open wide the doors for Christ!” The Pope was addressing the mighty, the powerful of this world, who feared that Christ might take away something of their power if they were to let him in, if they were to allow the faith to be free. Yes, he would certainly have taken something away from them: the dominion of corruption, the manipulation of law and the freedom to do as they pleased. But he would not have taken away anything that pertains to human freedom or dignity, or to the building of a just society. The Pope was also speaking to everyone, especially the young. Are we not perhaps all afraid in some way? If we let Christ enter fully into our lives, if we open ourselves totally to him, are we not afraid that He might take something away from us? Are we not perhaps afraid to give up something significant, something unique, something that makes life so beautiful? Do we not then risk ending up diminished and deprived of our freedom? And once again the Pope said: No! If we let Christ into our lives, we lose nothing, nothing, absolutely nothing of what makes life free, beautiful and great. No! Only in this friendship are the doors of life opened wide. Only in this friendship is the great potential of human existence truly revealed. Only in this friendship do we experience beauty and liberation. And so, today, with great strength and great conviction, on the basis of long personal experience of life, I say to you, dear young people: Do not be afraid of Christ! He takes nothing away, and he gives you everything. When we give ourselves to him, we receive a hundredfold in return. Yes, open, open wide the doors to Christ – and you will find true life. Amen.

Copyright © Libreria Editrice Vaticana

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

The Beginning

In an effort to provide a compelling vision of the Splendor of Truth which IS our Catholic Faith, and to offer an alternative to the exhausted project (to quote Francis Card. George) known as liberal or "Cafeteria Catholicism", several Catholic families have decided to get together and produce an authentically Catholic blog.

We expect to have articles dealing with a host of issues with an intent to educate, inform and inspire. Subjects will deal with Family Life, Vocations, the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, Catholic Colleges, the Saints, Magisterial Documents, Sacred Music, the New Catechism, and various liturgical movements.

We simply wish to live the teaching of the Vatican Council in a spirit of continuity with the whole of Tradition, and enjoy the rightful aspirations of our liturgical heritage as Catholics.

Thanks for stopping by. Hope to see y'all soon.