Pastor Letter August 9

Dear Parish Family,

May the Lord give you peace! On July 31st I am delighted to announce that the catechumens and candidates for the Easter Sacraments of RCIA, (The Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults) finally were administered and we welcomed 9 new Catholics fully initiated into the Catholic Church. They are Michael Dorillo, Rachel Fishman, Krystal Furiam Ruby Moczdkowski, Frank Persico, Amanda Squeo, Luke Stangarone, Amanda Willis, and Dr. Dean Jepson.

Ordinarily, they would have been welcomed at the Easter Vigil last April; but due to the COVID-19 virus quarantine it couldn’t happen. So, on last Friday evening at 7PM 2 men and 7 women along with their godparents and sponsors and family and friends joyfully participated in the Baptism, Confirmation and Holy Communion. I want to express my sincere appreciation to Joe Limeri, Agnes Zuffante, John Amodio and Carol Ordy, these parishioners are part of the year long team that helped prepare our newest Catholics for their commitment to Christ. On August 15th we will have 15 young people making the sacrament of Confirmation who have traveled a similar route. I have been given permission to Confirm and this is a great honor.

On August 15th, next Saturday, the Feast of the Assumption of Our Blessed Mother, this feast day will occur but it is not a holyday of obligation since the pandemic and the fact it falls on a Saturday all across the USA. This will be a milestone for one of our parish workers. For the last several years Katie Nicosia, while attending college worked in our parish office in the evenings and on weekends answering the door and the phone as a receptionist. This past year she entered the Carmelite Sisters of the Aged and Infirm. These are the sisters who staff Carmel Richmond Nursing Home, Ozanam Home, Queens, Saint Patrick’s Home, Bronx and Mary Manning Walsh Home in Manhattan.

She had been contemplating religious life for a long time. The Motherhouse for the Carmelite Sisters is situated in Germantown, New York. This is in Hudson County along the Hudson River.  She was the only one in her class, there were three other novices in the group before her. During this past year, she has been in formation. She did work at the motherhouse and then went on a field assignment to Saint Patrick’s Nursing Home in Framingham, Massachusetts. She loved meeting the elderly and sadly she was quarantined to her convent because many of the residents did come down with COVID -19 and some of them died. This was heart breaking, however her ministry to the elderly will involve this prayer ministry to accompany many residents right up to the moment they pass into eternal life. It has been a most unusual year for her.

Just the other day she received her name in religion. She was known in the world as Katie Nicosia, and from now on she will be called, Sister Michelle Elizabeth Marie, O. Carm.. Please keep Katie in your prayers as she accepts her habit with a white veil and begins her two- year novitiate on August 15.

In his writings, “Who do you say that I am,” Cardinal Dolan writes a reflection for August 2nd that was thought provoking.

When I was studying Church history, I took a course titled “The Church and the French Revolution,” and my professor lectured on how “secularism” began to be the new value system for the Western world. He defined secularism as our ability to get along just fine without God, our attempt to find all meaning and purpose in earthly life and to our drive to restrict faith and religion to the private, personal sphere. To the question, “Is this all there is?” secularism replies, “Yes”.

I am afraid many of us have become secularists.

A secular society celebrates Mardi Gras but not Lent, Christmas without Advent, and Halloween without All Saints Day and presumes salvation without conversion and repentance.

The syndicated columnist Cal Thomas once wrote that contemporary society is still worshipping a golden calf, just as the Israelites did at the foot of Mount Sinai. “Many prefer,” he observed “to worship things and are slaves to feelings, this dulling their senses to the wisdom of the ages.”  He wrote that everywhere there is a “rejection of what previous generations called social norms, decency, virtues, values, propriety, modesty, integrity, and standards” and that “materialism has dulled our senses to anything that does not produce pleasure.”

Secularism, idolatry, materialism in our values, our priorities, our behavior, and our speech. We Catholics don’t want to be “just like everyone else”.

The gospel challenges us to change the world, our world with His grace. In prayer he multiplies His gifts to His people, and divides fears and conquers wars.

A blessed August!

Fr. Tom Devery

 

19th Sunday of Ordinary Time Shared Homily

Pastor Letter August 2nd

Dear Parish Family,

I received an article from the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal from their Community Leader, Father John Paul Oulette, CFR. I believe in Life Everlasting.

On March 26, Father Louis, Director of Saint Anthony’s Shelter for Renewal in the Bronx, went into self -isolation because he manifested some symptoms of Covid-19. After six weeks of coughing fits Father Louis tested negative for Covid-19, he instead has cancer. Cancer may not kill Father Louis, God willing, but it is forcing him to face his mortality.

          As Saint Francis of Assisi lay dying in a small hut built for him near the chapel of San Damiano, he wrote one of his most beautiful prayers, “The Canticle of the Creatures’’. Soon afterwards, he asked to be taken to the Portiuncla (The Little Portion chapel from which Francis prayed and sent out the first friars on mission).

          There Francis, forgave all who asked for his forgiveness and blessed all absent brothers “Praise to You, my Lord, through our sister bodily death, from whom no living person can escape. Woe to those who die in mortal sin. Blessed are those whom death will find in Your holy will, for the second death shall do them no harm.

          Courageously, Francis asked his doctor to announce Sister Death’s arrival so that he might welcome her with joy, because he was going to lead him to the gates of eternal life. While our world seems incapable of coming to terms with death, the Church has a message that she alone can provide: eternal life.

          Men, like Francis have for centuries been able to look beyond death to their final destination, life. In 1400, the plague appeared  again in Italy. Saint Bernadine of Siena began serving at the Hospital Della Scala at a time whien it was considered imprudent for young people to serve because they were more susceptible to infection. Bernadine and a band of brave brothers went into the wards after receiving Holy Communion and quietly took their place besides the sick, day and night without intermission. In the Della Scala, 1800 people died. When it was over, Bernadine lay sick for four months. After recovering, he went on to courageously fight a moral plague of bitter and bloody class battles struggles and family rivalries with the devotion to the Holy Name of Jesus.

          Bishop Peter Byrne recently reminded the friars that Archbishop Saint Charles Borromeo served in Milan during the plague of 1576. While people were terrified, the Archbishop offered himself as a victim in expiation for the sins of the people and went to the hospitals even though the gates were barred. There he found faces pressed against the iron bars if windows crying out for food and drink Seeing a priest, they would cry out, “Father, at least give us your blessings!” St. Charles Borromeo made an impassioned appeal to the Milanese priests who let fear keep them from their duties to the plague victims: “ we have only one life and we should spend it for Jesus Christ and souls, not as we wish, but as the time in the way God wishes. This does not mean you should neglect human means, such as preventatives, remedies, doctors, everything you can use to keep off infection, for such means are in no way opposed to doing our duty.”

          Does the Church still have a prophetic and courageous place in the final pandemic of the 21st century? Unlike past centuries, our era knows cures for many illnesses, injuries and infirmities. And still, our bodies will perish. Francis’ faith embraced death as one so near to him as to be called “sister”. Some may think this is inhuman, that the fear of death is natural, but the Church help us to be more human, not less, because she has received from God the words of Eternal Life. “The Church”, Cardinal Sarah, recently has written, “… must stop being afraid of causing shock and of going against the tide. She must give up thinking of herself as a worldly institution. She must return to her only raison d’etre: Faith. The Church is there to announce that Jesus has conquered death through His resurrection. This is at the heart of her message: “And if Christ has not been raised, them empty too is our preaching; empty too, your faith… and we are the most wretched of all men ( 1 Cor 1:5: 14-19)…. The crisis reveals that our societies, without knowing it, are suffering deeply from spiritual evil: they do not know how to give meaning to suffering, finitude and death.”

          In facing our mortality, there is not merely human response that can suffice to calm our fear. Only the hope of eternal life can overcome the fear of death. But who is the man who will dare to preach hope?

          Father Louis does. And with Father Louis stands the crowd of faithful witnessed that give us a modern example of courage to meet Sister Death when she comes.

          Here is a little prescription, take a minute or two before moving one to express a hearty thank you Jesus for your faith. – Father John Paul Oullette, CFR

          May Father John Paul’s words bring inspiration and perspective these summer days,

God Bless

Fr. Tom Devery

18th Sunday of Ordinary Time Shared Homily

Pastor Letter July 26

Dear Parish Family,

Last Sunday I was delighted to witness the wedding vows of a couple who remembered me from Holy Child. The bride said,” I left a quote that you wrote in the parish bulletin when I was a child, during the summer”. I opened her note; and this is what I found. “Happiness keeps you sweet…. Trials keep you strong … and Sorrows keep you human…. Failures keep you humble… Success keeps you glowing… but only God keeps you going!” What a wonderful a timeless piece of wisdom, especially for newly-weds.

I have been admiring excerpts written by Archbishop Fulton Sheen, because he was a faith filled preacher. As Monsignor Vincent Bartley would say, “He had words at will”. Here is another example of timeless wisdom.

Some years ago, a girl wrote to me telling that at the age of eighteen she went to her first dance, in company with her cousin. After the dance, her cousin dropped her at the gate.  Her house was some distance from the gate, and in the distance between the gate and the front porch, she was attacked by a stranger. In due time, she found herself with a child. The only ones who would believer her were her mother and her pastor. Neighbor women said, “Oh, isn’t it terrible, the poor woman had one bad daughter.”  Some girls in the choir would not allow her to sing because she was wicked. She told me of all of this torture that she endured, and she said, “What’s the answer?”

          I wrote back to her and I said, “My dear girl, all of this suffering has come upon you because you bore the sin of one man. If you bore the sin of ten men, you would probably suffer ten times more. And if you ever took upon yourself the sins of a hundred men, the suffering would be a hundred times worse. And if you ever took upon yourself the sins of all the world, you might have had a bloody sweat.” That’s where you sin was, and mine: in that bloody sweat on Calvary: in this human nature that so loved us that we call the Sacred Heart.

          Our Lord was not just a teacher, but a redeemer.  He was coming to redeem man in the likeness of human flesh. Teachers change men by their lives. Our Blessed Lord would change men by his death. That poison of hate and sensuality and envy which is in the hearts of men could not be healed simply by mild exhortations of social reform.  The wage of sin is death, and therefore it is by death that sin would be atoned for.  As in ancient sacrifices where the fire symbolically burned up the imputed sin along with the victim, so on the cross the world’s sin would be put away in Christ’s suffering. Fir he would be upright as a priest and prostrate as a victim.  If there is anything a good teacher wants it is a long life which will make his teachings known. Death is always a great tragedy to a teacher.  The Socrates was given the hemlock juice, his message was cut off once and for all. Death was a stumbling block to Buddha and stood in the way of all the teachings of his eastern mystics. But Our Lord was always proclaiming his death, in which he took upon himself the sins of the world so he would appear as a sinner.

These words need to be reread to take in the deep level of this great man’s prayer and faith. May the Lord help you this summer to keep your focus on Christ.

God bless you all,

Father Tom Devery

17th Sunday of Ordinary Time Shared Homily

Weekly Reflection

Pastor Letter July 19

Dear Parish Family,

Saint Clare of Assisi had a unique view of living the Gospel, and it’s captured well in this reflection

Despite many differing views of Jesus’ life and teaching, we can say confidently that Jesus was a poor man who fully embraced life with those on the margins of society. Francis of Assisi certainly did the same, and it became his litmus test for all orthodoxy and ongoing transformation into God. Clare of Assisi (1194–1253) wanted to imitate Francis in this and I acknowledge that she and her sisters, the Poor Clares, have kept the vow of poverty much better than we Franciscan friars have done. Today, Bridget Mary Meehan helps us understand how radical simplicity helped Clare and her sisters come to a singleness of focus and heart.

Clare understood that love and poverty [or what I would call simplicity] are connected. She taught that poverty frees one from the bondage of material things and from all the things that clutter the human heart and soul. . . . .

Gospel poverty was at the heart of Clare’s rule. The Poor Ladies owned nothing; they lived simply without property, endowments, or any kind of material possessions. For Clare, doing without things led to deep communion with God. Her way of life was characterized by a deep trust in God to provide for the needs of the community. Whatever the Poor Ladies received was sufficient. Openness and receptivity reflected Clare’s attitudes toward people and things. For her, everything was gift. She and her “ladies” lived the gospel passionately according to the Franciscan ideal.

Through the centuries Clare has continued to be a beacon of light to women and men who long to love Christ with an undivided heart, to serve others generously, and to live simply in a world that glorifies material possessions. If we have too many clothes in our closets, too much money in the bank, too many things cluttering our lives, Clare can help us find the one thing necessary—God who will liberate and fill our emptiness with divine love. Our conversion process may take time—sometimes years—but we will experience freedom and joy when we live with a loose grasp on material things, when we are willing to share our possessions as well as our time and energy with those in need. . . .

How often do we take a deep breath and appreciate—really appreciate—the air we breathe? How often do we savor the food we taste and smell the flowers along our path? When was the last time we listened to our child, laughed with a friend, embraced our spouse? It is true that the best things in life are free, but we are often too distracted or too busy to see the simple treasures of life right in front of us.

May the Franciscan love of simplicity be yours.

Blessings and Peace,

Fr. Tom Devery

 

13th Sunday of Ordinary Time Shared Homily

Pastor Letter for June 21

Dear Parish Family,

Happy Father’s Day to our dads and granddads! What a gift you are! Not only to your family but to our parish family; your presence at Mass, your witness to your faith and loving your wife and children is so much needed in our world today. Many fathers have told me that this quarantine time has given insight to many things that we take for granted. Primarily, you have been present to your family at home than anytime before. Our identity as fathers has been provider, bread winner and protector and many describe ourselves by what we do rather than who we are. There has been a spiritual awakening taking place. God is with us in this terrible time and He will lead and guide us if we let him. So, let me honor you for your faithfulness and dedication to God and your families. Happy Father’s Day.

Cardinal Dolan writes about his dad in his book “Who do you say that I am”.

“I thank God for the gift of my dad, for he was a loving, responsible and caring man. His faith and his family were his focus, his passion, and the center of his life.

I am convinced that the restoration of fatherhood as a esteemed vocation in the Church and in society is the key to renewal and the antidote for many of our cultural ills. By their word and their example, dads teach us many important lessons.

When a man fully embraces what it means to be a dad – to be a father – he is a position to teach us fidelity. Simply put, a dad is man of his word.  He is true to the vows he made to the Lord and to his wife. He keeps the promises he made to his children on the day of their baptisms, when he agreed to teach them “by word and example”.

True dads are selfless and willing to make sacrifices, including the most seemingly insignificant ones. My dad loved ketchup. No meal was complete without it. Yet when the bottle was nearly empty, he would never touch it. The little bit remaining was for us.

Dads gift their children with time. I remember standing in the front yard, baseball glove in hand, waiting for Dad to come home from work.  Through he was hot, sweaty and tired he always had time to play a little catch.

Finally, dads teach their kids about God’s true nature. What a supreme compliment to every dad: God revealed Himself as a father!

What children think of their dads profoundly influences the way they think about God. If they see their dads as loving, selfless, faithful, and forgiving, this will translate directly to our Heavenly Father.”

I often find inspiration from “Jesus Calling” by Sarah Young. Her reflection for June 15 (Monday past) helped me appreciate where I draw the strength for my fatherhood as a priest. She writes as if Jesus is speaking to us in the first person.

“When you approach Me in stillness and in trust, you are strengthened. You need a buffer zone of silence, around you in order to focus on things that are unseen. Since I am invisible, you must not let your senses dominate your thinking. The curse of this age is overstimulation of the senses, which blocks out awareness of the unseen world.

The tangible world still reflects My Glory to those who have eyes to that see and ears that hear. Spending time along with Me is the best way to develop seeing eyes and hearing ears. The goal is to be aware of unseen things even as you live out your life in the visible world.   (2 Corinthians 4:18; Isaiah 6:3; Psalm 130:5).

I can’t wait to see you all return to church. I miss you and pray for you all daily. May God bless you!

Fr. Tom Devery