A Letter from Father Tom May 10

Dear Parish Family,

Here’s a pastoral observation on just one of he comments of Governor Cuomo. It’s not an easy read; however, if it is read slowly it make perfect sense.

Bishop Robert Barron writes, “Last week Andrew Cuomo, made on interesting theological observation. Commenting on the progress New York State has made in fighting the coronavirus; and praising the concrete efforts of medical and ordinary citizens, he said: ‘The number is down because we brought the number down, God didn’t do that. Faith did not do that. “I won’t waste a lot of time exploring the hubris of that remark, which should be obvious to anyone. I might recommend, out of pastoral concern, that the governor read the first part of Genesis Chapter eleven.

What I will do is instead explain the basic intellectual confusion that undergirds Cuomo’s assertion, one, that, I fear, is shared by many believers. The condition for the possibility of the governor’s declaration is the assumption that God is one competitive cause among many, one actor jostling for position and time upon the stage with a coterie of other actors. One this reading, God does certain things – usually of a rather spectacular nature—and creaturely causes do other things, usually more mundane. Thus, we can clearly parcel our responsibility and credit – some to God and some to finite agents. But this account is deeply unbiblical and alien to the Catholic theological tradition.

To understand the scriptural sense of the play between divine and human causality, it is helpful to consult the cycle of stories dealing with King David in 1 Samuel and 2 Samuel. What strikes the reader is the nothing “supernatural” takes place in these accounts. Practically everything that happens to David could be adequately accounted for on a psychological, historical, military, or political grounds. However, throughout the narrative, God’s activity and involvement are assumed, for the author takes for granted the principal that the true God works not typically in an interruptive way but precisely though a congeries of secondary causes. Mind you, it is not the case that some explanations of David’s story are political or psychological and some properly theological; rather everything is at once, natural and supernatural- precisely because God’s causality is operating noncompetitively. If you want a one – liner summery of this distinctively biblical perspective, you could not do better that this, from the prophet Isaiah. “O Lord, you have accomplished all that we have done.” (Isaiah 26.12).

Now why should this be true? Here it would be helpful to turn to the Church’s greatest theologian, Saint Thomas Aquinas. For Thomas, God is not the supreme being  (ens summum, in his Latin), but rather ippsum esse subsistens, which means “the sheer act of to be itself.” In a word, God is not one more instance of the genus “being”, one thing, however exalted among others; instead, he is the self- explaining source of existence as such, that great font of being in  and through which all finite things subsist and act. Therefore, God does not compete for space, so to speak, on the same ontological grid as creatures, a zero – sum game does not obtain in regard to God’s activity and creaturely activity – the more we ascribe to one, the less we have to ascribe to the other.

Allow me to ground this rather abstract rhetoric with a homey example. If one were to ask what is necessary to make a bicycle, the response would be something like this: “tires, brake pads, a chain, a metal frame, the skill of the builder, perhaps a schematic to guide the building process, etc.”. No one would ever to be tempted to respond as follows:” tires, brake pads, a chain, God, a metal frame, the skill of a builder, etc.” And yet, a smart religious person, upon finishing the project of constructing that kike, would quite legitimately say “Thank God!” The prayer would be a humble acknowledgement, not that God is responsible for the entire nexus of causes and behaviors that made up the process. The upshot is that the two dimensions of causality—on finite and the other Transcendent–operate simultaneously and noncompetitively: “You have accomplished all that we have done.”

All of which brings me back to Governor Cuomo. To claim that “God did not do that” because we did it is a category mistake. What brought the coronavirus numbers down? It is perfectly accurate to say: “The skills of doctors and nurses, the availability of hospital beds, the willingness of so many to shelter in place, etc.”. But it is also perfectly valid to say that God brought those numbers down, precisely by grounding the entire complex of creaturely causality just referenced. This relationship holds at the metaphysical level, but it is perhaps even clearer when it comes to the psychological motivation of those dedicated physicians and nurses. Why ultimately were they willing to do what they did? I would be willing to bet that a large percentage of them would say that it was a desire to serve others and to be pleasing to God.

So we should thank all of the good people involved in bettering our current situation; and we shouldn’t hesitate, even for a moment to thank God as well. There is absolutely no need to play the zero – sum game proposed by the governor of New York.”

God Bless you during this Easter Season, and may He and we Keep us all safe and well.

Father Tom

May 6th Update

Good Shepard Sunday Shared Homily

A Letter from Father Tom May 3rd

Dear Parish Family,

I was sent this wonderful etymology of the word, “Quarantine”. It has deep significance as you will see.

World Quarantine

The Latin root for Quarantine is “forty”. So what does the Bible say about “40”?

The flood lasted for 40 days. 40 years Moses fled Egypt. 40 Days Moses stayed on Mount Sinai to receive the Commandments. The Exodus lasted 40 years. Jesus fasted for 40 days and nights in the desert he began his public ministry. 40 days for a woman to rest after giving birth is recommended. A group of theologians thinks the number 40 represents “Change”. It is a time of preparing a person, or a people, to make a fundamental change. Something will happen after 40 days. Just believe and pray. Remember whenever the number 40 appears on the Bible, there is “change”.

Please know that during this “quarantine” rivers are cleaning up, vegetation is growing, the air is becoming cleaner because there is less pollution. There is less theft, murder, healing is happening and most importantly people are turning to Christ. The Earth is at rest for the first time in many years and hearts are truly being transformed.

So, during this time, enjoy it with your loved ones, and return to the family altar together. Family prayer is a great blessing. Through prayer you will see the changes that God can work in you and in your home. Christ promises us everything works together for the good for those who love God: Romans 8:28!

Remember that we are in the year 2020, add 20 + 20 = 40. Also 2020 is the year that the United States has a census. Jesus Christ is the Savior of the of the world and he was born during a census.

Lastly 2020 signals perfect vision. May our sight focus on Our Risen Lord and live according to His perfect vision for us knowing He holds us in the palm of His hand.

May these days of “quarantine” bring spiritual liberation to our souls, our nation, and our world. The best is yet to come. Trust in the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.”

In honor of Earth Day, I took my trusty pick up stick and first started walking around the circumference of the parish with not one but what would later add up to 6 white trash can liners. Let’s keep our planet clean. It’s amazing looking from space to see how the earth itself is healing from all the pollution and garbage that destroys life.

I felt like the old TV commercial where the Native American has one tear rolling down his eye. Let us be mindful this Eastertide that this is, as Pope Francis says, Our Common Home. There is an old slogan that was once on all the trash cans in parks, it said “A Cleaner New York is Up to You”. Policing the area and keeping things clean will help us take pride in this 15- acre Vineyard of the Lord.

“And God saw all that He had created; and it was very good.” (Genesis). Keep safe and know you are all in our prayers here daily.

Last Wednesday I made a short 7 minute You Tube video and I spoke about the issue of worry. Reverend Rick Warren, the pastor of Saddleback Church in California made some 4 wonderful points about allowing our selves to lead by the Good Shepherd. Also, Sister Christine Sorrentino, a novice from Staten Island, and with the Parish Visitors of Mary Immaculate in Monroe, sent a lovely card and a letter from their sisters. In it was an inspiring poem call “Remember”. I incorporated these two in this video, and Called it Worrying and Remembering. I hope it enriches you.

Bes filled with Easter Blessings.

Father Tom Devery

April 29th Update

Third Sunday of Easter Shared Homily

Worrying and Remembering

A Letter from Father Tom April 26th

Dear Parish Family,

The other day I received this simple Prayer, called Remember. I invite you to pray it now with me.

REMEMBER

O Lord; remember not only the men and women of good will, but also those of ill will.

But, do not remember all the suffering they have inflicted upon us;

Instead, remember the fruits we have borne because of this suffering-

Our fellowship, our loyalty to one another, our humility, our courage, our generosity,

The greatness of heart that has grown from this trouble.

When our persecutors come to be judged by you,

Let all of these fruits that we have borne be their forgiveness.

Anonymous- Found in the clothing of a dead child at Ravens Bruck
Concentration Camp: From the Prayers of the Martyrs compiled and translated
– By Duane W.H. Arnold; Forward by Madeleine L’Eng

I was moved by the merciful heart of this child. Last Sunday, this was sent to me from a former parishioner from Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton Church in Shrub Oak, where I was a parochial Vicar in the mid B0’s. It was no coincidence, but a God-incidence that I received this on the Feast of Divine Mercy. I am grateful for the magnanimous heart of Jesus for us all. I was also able to listen to Father David Rider’s homily. He had celebrated Mass at 10AM and I at 11AM last Sunday. It was brilliant as usual.

What is so encouraging to me is that as difficult as this time is, isn’t it wonderful that we now live in a digital age, where we can share Zoom, Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, WhatsApp, and all the means of making ourselves present despite Social Distancing. I am reminded when I pray each day of the heroism that is to be found in our nursing homes and hospitals. But I heard one person who works there tell me, that although it is tough and the level of grief is high, they feel that they are called to be angels of mercy to the ones who are sick and isolated from their families. Yet, it’s also in the random acts of kindness, the bowl of soup sent over, the phone call from Costco or Stop n Shop, asking, “While I am here, do you need anything? I can pick it up for you!”. I am also aware of the domestic heroines and heroes that not only take care of their children’s schoolwork and homework, but also find the time to do their own computer work and manage a household full of chores. Things have ramped up with people now having to wear face coverings and masks .and keep six feet social distance.

All these interruptions of our freedom, our trying to comply with health and safety regulations point out clearly that we are not in control. We don’t like uncertainty, the ability to plan ahead. If you have been as frustrated as I, you may have heard yourself say to others, “I just don’t know when …. “This week would have been traditionally the time we celebrate First Holy Communions. This past Saturday and the next, would have been the special time to fill our church, three times over with sweet cherubic faces, coming to receive Jesus. I was hoping that by the time that the Feast of Corpus Christi, 6 weeks from now, we would be having 1st Holy Communions but now it seems we have to wait until September. Not knowing is part of the sacrificial suffering, we are going through. I am praying for yours and my patience.

In the meantime, let us walk with Jesus on the Road to Emmaus. Like the disciples downcast in grief and sadness, we are told in Luke’s Account, there were prevented from truly seeing Jesus with them. It wasn’t until the Risen Lord Jesus went into their shelter, and stayed with them and when it was time to bless the food before Him, He Blessed, Broke and Gave it to them. Then their eyes were opened. This is the
formula for living daily the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. We, too, will be blessed, broken (many times) and Given to others. Before that moment, Jesus explained how Scripture was fulfilled in his passion, suffering, death and now Resurrection. May you too, no matter what you are feeling and experiencing, come to recognize Jesus’ presence with you. He is always near, even closer to us that the air we breathe (behind those temporary masks). I am praying for you and asking our merciful and Risen Lord to once again, flood your heart with light, fire and peace.

Fr. Tom Devery

Divine Mercy Sunday Shared Homily

A Letter from Father Tom April 19th

Dear Parish Family,

This Sunday is the wonderful Feast of the Divine Mercy. It was on May 5, 2000 that Pope John Paul II declared the Sunday after Easter Divine Mercy Sunday as requested by the Lord in visions to Saint Faustina. It was on the Vigil of this Feast on April 2, 2005 that Pope John Paul II died.

In the diary of Saint Faustina the Lord revealed the following to her:” I desire that the Feast of Mercy be a refuge and shelter for all souls, especially por sinners on that day the very depths of my tender mercy are open….(Diary #699). Our Lord also related to her, “Souls perish in spite of My bitter Passion, I am giving them the last hope of salvation that is the Feast of My Mercy. If they will not adore My Mercy, they will perish for eternity… tell souls about the great Mercy of Mine, because the awful day, the day of My Justice is near” (#965).

It is through the diary of Saint Faustina, which she wrote out of obedience to her superiors that we find very rich and mystical reality of the soul’s interior relationship to God. In it we find out Lord wished to communicate to the world the great message of God’s mercy and to reveal the pattern of Christian perfection based on trust in God and in having mercy to our neighbor. So you may ask what exactly is the message of Divine Mercy?

This message of Mercy is that God loves us all, no matter how great our sins in the past have been. We see His Mercy to King David (who committed adultery and murder) Mary Magdeline ( a prostitute) and the good thief (St. Dismas), to name a few. Our Lord wishes us to recognize that His Mercy is greater than our sins so that we can call upon Him with trust, receive His Mercy and let it flow through us to others. The message of Mercy can be broken down into three parts that are as simple as to remember as A,B,C.

  • Ask for Mercy. We must first realize that God is merciful!He wishes us to ask for His mercy – upon ourselves, our nation and the whole world. Todays Gospel contains the institution of the Sacrament of Reconciliation, Penance, whereby Jesus gave the power to forgive sins to the Apostles on the first Easter Sunday evening.
  • Be Merciful to others, He wants us to receive His Mercy and let it flow through us to others. He wants us to extend love and forgiveness to others just as He does to us. Remember the beatitude from the Sermon on the Mount, “Blessed are the Merciful for they shall obtain Mercy.” We set the limits of how much we want God to forgive us by how much we forgive others each day when we say in the Lord’s prayer, which Jesus taught us,

“Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” We must, therefore, be merciful to others!

C.- Confidence and complete trust in God. The Risen Lord Jesus wants us to trust in Him; to know and truly believe that He is GOD. He is in charge and is a loving God who is infinitely merciful. God does care for you! Last week during Holy Week we recalled how much he cared for us, by dying a horrible death and then three days later rising for the dead – for us. It is for this reason that in the image of the Divine Mercy, Jesus had rays of red (his blood) and white (his water) flow from his heart and Jesus directed Saint Faustina to paint these words “JESUS I TRUST IN YOU”.

The Sacrament of Reconciliation is the meeting place for this overflowing mercy. During this sad time of the coronavirus, it is not possible for us to receive the sacrament of Reconciliation in Church, or to receive His precious Body and Blood. Perhaps it is reminder to us all, how we take Eucharist, Forgiveness and our faith for granted. People are suffering, and in that suffering we turn to Jesus for healing, consolation and above all his mercy.

I have now a long list of names I lift up everyday in my private Masses. For those who have died, the grief is compounded by our inability to comfort and support one another. Social distancing and isolation can add a stress that doesn’t get filled with Zoom, Facetime or Conference Calls. Our very nature is to be merciful, loving, and reaching out the best and safest we know how. We need to ask Jesus on this special day for how to re-enter to workforce of life, changed, mindful and more confident that we will come out of this better and not bitter. If you have an image of the Divine Mercy, express your sorrow for sin before it. Place yourself into His heart and Ask for mercy. Then be merciful to others and entrust yourself with complete confidence that His love will sustain you.

Some Google suggestions: Bishop Robert Barron’s Easter Homily, Harry Connick Jr,’s tribute to Father Richard Guastella on his Easter Show, Andrea Bocelli’s music from Milan and all over Italy, If you like to take a virtual tour of Sacred Art, especially the Vatican’s Sistine Chapel, then there’s a17 minute TED Talk by Dr. Elizabeth Lev. All these are brilliant, insightful and rewarding. Be assured of my love and prayers.

Father Tom Devery