Tuesday, September 26, 2006
Ellen Donaghy was born and raised in Scotland, and traveled to America over 60 years ago. She never went to college, and after she was married, never worked outside the home. And she never lost that Scottish brogue we loved so much to imitate. She gave birth to ten children, and they were her life. I'm so proud to say that I'm a part of that legacy, now in its third generation.
In Scotland, they called her "Nellie." She worked in a men's clothing store after school. She survived the German blitz of World War II, and she saw many of her friends and loved ones die in those bombings. She prayed every day, a rosary never far from her hands, and the name of Mary was always on her lips. Nellie met Frank and they were married, and their new life took them across the sea to America, leaving behind all they ever knew.
When I was a teenager, one Sunday out of four was spent at Grandma Donaghy's. We'd sit in the house in Cranbury, watching old Jimmie Stewart movies, or John Wayne down in Grandpa's den (it was always the Duke down there). Tea was always on in the little white kitchen; white porcelain cups on saucers, and never-ending Entenmann's raspberry danish. The family laughing, quoting movies, telling stories, or just singing the old songs from the Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem.
I remember the muddy stream out back where we'd fish and look for snappers, the ivy wall, the iron jungle gym. Fireflies, cookouts, climbing the big sycamore before it was cut down. Sundays after Mass on the green lawn, talking of God and the stories of the saints... and Grandma would sit and knit her Irish sweaters. You would often hear that tiny whisper of the Holy Names, "Jesus... Mary" as her fingers worked the needles. She was a woman who loved God.
The love of my grandparents is now taken up into the Love of All Loves. I'm sure Grandpa was waiting, in that old grey sweater, standing by the kitchen sink in the sunlight. And Sheila, her baby, who left us so suddenly, she was smiling as the first light of Heaven fell on Nellie's face, as Grandma entered eternity. I believe this; I can almost feel it. The knitting projects are over, the needles will lie motionless for the first time in decades. But what remains is her legacy of love. Perhaps the greatest work of Grandma's is this tapestry of souls that is even now woven into the very fabric of the world; in the lives of her children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. The spun gold of the union of Francis and Ellen, it stretches out into new patterns, new designs they never could have imagined.
William, Francis, Margaret, Catherine, Mary, Hughie, Ellen, Eileen, Patricia, and Sheila... and the next two generations, and the lives they've created; Anthony, Billy, Frankie, Mickey, Albert, Hughie, Patricia, Sean Joseph, Catherine, Eric, Sean Michael, Joseph, Michael, Jimmie, Teresa, Eileen, Daniel, Thomas, Mary, Veronica, Benjamin, Brian, Bridget, Matthew, Ellen, Michael, Rebecca, Bernadette, John, Kyle, Joey, Kevin, Sheila, Margaret, Ryan, Eric, Gavin, Timothy, Christine, Gary, Liam, Brendan, Colleen, Joey, Ella, Elena, Kayla, Gary, Walter, Tyler, Riley, Kaiyla, Caden, Shannon, Eric, Brianna, Jenna, Jessica... and there's more on the way!
All because two people fell in love....
Take away the marriage of these two Irish immigrants, my Grandma and my Grandpa, and none of us would exist. We simply would not be. This is the power of the two coming together, effecting and directing a cosmic stream of human persons. What a power God has given us, to bring life into the world! And Grandma did just that..... life to the fullest.
Before she slipped into an unconscious state, Grandma tossed and turned and tried to get out of the hospital bed. This didn't suprise us, she was still mowing the lawn in her 70's. We had the chance to sit beside her and pray a Hail Mary. I could feel the tension in her body, the labored breathing. But with that prayer, she seemed to relax. Surrounded by her sons and daughters, and grandchildren, I know she could sense their love and prayers. According to my father, the last audible words she whispered... "Mother of God."
For your YES to God, for your love, and your witness. For your stories of Scotland and Wee Willy Sticks, for the spot of tea and those amazing sweaters, for teaching us how to pray, how to think of God, and walk with Him in every moment.... the Donaghy Clan is forever blessed. We love you, and pray God is holding you in His Warm Embrace...
I love you,
Monday, September 25, 2006
Sunday, September 24, 2006
- James 3:16—4:3
I'm convinced that the lectionary readings, those chosen by the Church for the liturgy, are inspired. This Sunday's reading sinks perfectly into the space in our hearts that is now an open wound; that space where the specter of war clamors.
God gives us what we need just when we need it. James goes straight to the heart of things in today's second reading. We learn there that no treaty or ceasefire, no program or policy can end the violence in our world. Only a conversion of our hearts can do that. Only the turning of our face towards the Face of the God of peace can bring real peace. That's it. Nothing else will do.
Our turning to grace, our opening up to Love, our letting go of the weapons of war, is the only way.
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Saturday, September 23, 2006
ROME, SEPT. 23, 2006 (Zenit.org).- As the furor over Benedict XVI and Islam died down, people started to realize that the Pope was a victim of phrases taken out of context and reactions deliberately inflamed. In fact, this was what many Church officials and prelates were saying from the start.
Rather than being an attack on Islam, "What emerges clearly from the Holy Father's discourses is a warning, addressed to Western culture, to avoid 'the contempt for God and the cynicism that considers mockery of the sacred to be an exercise of freedom,'" noted Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi on Sept. 14. The Jesuit explained that the Pope was criticizing modern culture for trying to exclude religion.
"A reason which is deaf to the divine," concluded the Pontiff in his Sept. 12 address at the University of Regensburg, "and which relegates religion to the realm of subcultures is incapable of entering into the dialogue of cultures."
Given this, the followers of an irreligious modern mentality had far more reason to be irritated with the Pope than anyone else, a fact that probably explains the extreme hostility of a New York Times editorial against the Holy Father published Sept. 16.
In a statement issued that same day, Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone pointed out that Benedict XVI in his Regensburg address was speaking to a group of academics and was simply using a text by Byzantine emperor Manuel II Paleologus, which the Pope made clear was not his own opinion. The quotation was a way to introduce a series of reflections. This approach was not understood by many in a media culture that relies on 5-second sound bites to convey messages.
For that reason, Cardinal Paul Poupard, president of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, recommended that people "read well" the Pope's text. Interviewed by the Italian daily Corriere della Sera on Sept. 15, the cardinal explained that if Muslims were to read and meditate on the text they would understand that, far from being an attack, it is rather "an outstretched hand." This is so because the Holy Father defended the value of religion for humanity, and Islam is one of the world's great religions.
Cardinal Camillo Ruini, the vicar of Rome, also insisted on the value of the Pope's discourse. His words came in the opening address Monday to a meeting of the Permanent Council of the Italian bishops' conference. A central point made by Pope during his trip to Bavaria, explained Cardinal Ruini, was that through faith in that God, man's reason and freedom find their higher and authentic fulfillment. In this context the Pope in his speech at Regensburg proposed a dialogue between cultures and religions -- a dialogue that is increasingly urgent.
Support for this dialogue also came from Bishop William Skylstad, president of the U.S. bishops' conference. "Given the circumstances of the last week," he said in a statement published Wednesday, "it is clear that dialogue is essential between Christians and Muslims, a dialogue in which we respect, in the words of the Holy Father, 'what is sacred for others.'"
Targeting the West
In an interview Sept. 17 with the Italian newspaper La Stampa, Cardinal Poupard commented that the Pontiff's main concern was not with Islam, but with Western culture. This was clear in Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger's warning against relativism just prior to the start of the conclave where he was elected Pope.
Backing up his point, Cardinal Poupard cited a part of a homily given by Benedict XVI in Munich on Sept. 10. The Pope had said: "People in Africa and Asia admire, indeed, the scientific and technical prowess of the West, but they are frightened by a form of rationality which totally excludes God from man's vision, as if this were the highest form of reason, and one to be taught to their cultures too.
"They do not see the real threat to their identity in the Christian faith, but in the contempt for God and the cynicism that considers mockery of the sacred to be an exercise of freedom and that holds up utility as the supreme criterion for the future of scientific research."
This aspect of the Pope's discourse was also highlighted last Monday by Cardinal Antonio Rouco Varela. Madrid's archbishop entered into the debate in a radio interview reported by the Internet service Análisis Digital the next day. The cardinal explained that the purpose of the Holy Father's speech was to examine the relationship between believing and knowing.
We need both faith and reason, Cardinal Rouco commented, and it is a mistake to conceive of a God who acts against reason. Far from being a sort of provocation directed at Muslims, the papal speech was a call for respectful dialogue between faith and reason, the cardinal said.
Concerning relations between Islam and the Catholic Church, Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Bertone said he was confident that the explanations offered after the Pope's Regensburg speech would be accepted. Interviewed Monday by the Corriere della Sera, the secretary of state also complained about the heavy-handed manipulation of Benedict XVI's words.
Yet, he noted that the reaction to the papal speech from some Islamic leaders was favorable. For example, Mohand Alili, rector of the Mosque in Marseilles, France, had recommended against being offended by what the Pontiff said, as the speech was an invitation to meditate on the words of the prophet Mohammed. The problem, however, was that these and other positive reactions were not given media attention, Cardinal Bertone lamented.
>From Australia, Cardinal George Pell on Monday also criticized the way the Pope's words had been manipulated by some. In a press statement the cardinal expressed his gratitude for the words of moderate Muslims.
Days earlier, on Sept. 13, the archbishop of Sydney spoke about the theme of dialogue between the West and Islam, in the aftermath of the Pope's address in Regensburg. Addressing the Union Club in Sydney, he noted that the great religions differ significantly in doctrine and in the societies they produce. And while religions can be sources of beauty and goodness, they can also fall into corruption and be sources of poison and destruction, the cardinal cautioned.
But for those who see religion as a source of violence, Cardinal Pell pointed out that "The worst evils of the 20th century were provoked by anti-religious men: Hitler, Stalin, Mao and Pol Pot."
In an interview published Monday by Spiegel Online, Cardinal Walter Kasper, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, noted that conflicts with Islam are a part of Europe's history, which was what the Pope was referring to in his address.
But there is an alternative to conflict -- dialogue -- which is what the Pope favors. This dialogue is not easy, the cardinal acknowledged, as it is difficult under the current circumstances "to find representative counterparts to talk with."
We should not approach this dialogue naively, continued Cardinal Kasper, since there are major differences between Christian and Islamic cultures. In fact, the policy of multiculturalism favored by European countries has not worked in relations with Muslim communities.
"The fundamental issue, when it comes to Europe's future, will be whether and how we manage to transfer the ideals that once made Europe great -- especially its Christian roots -- into today's changed world," concluded the cardinal. Not an easy task, judging by Regensburg.
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Thursday, September 21, 2006
I don't know where you are, reading this right now. But right now, in southeastern Pennsylvania, USA, the leaves are beginning to lose their grip, the wind is breathing cooler, and the earth smells soooo good. We have a cycle of seasons; they rise and fall from spring to winter like the very lives we live. And every season is a chance for us to taste again the sweetness and the sorrow, to pass through ourselves a life in miniature; to hear again that "still sad music of humanity." From the green fire of a youthful spring, to the ripe joys of summer, and into the contemplative colors of fall... we prepare ourselves for the quiet sleep of winter. I love the fall most of all. The very air has such a richness to it; the leaves are burning in a last shout of glory, and their earthy incense is a melancholic fragrance. It draws us into our past. The burnt gold of the evening horizon, the red-rimmed maple trees, the barren branches with their hundred tiny fingers, stretching out into space, stark against a deep night sky. For me, there is something ancient in this season, something somber. And yet pointing towards a promise, even through the cloak of brown leaves and misty mornings. Tomorrow, I'll begin again a journey through my favorite book, Tolkien's Lord of the Rings. That journey begins in the autumn of Middle-Earth, a season and a place that Tolkien says is our own, just deeper into the pages of history than can be remembered. The time is a sad one; the Elves are moving through the Old Forest. And with them something of the magic of the world, the ancient ways, the high poetry is leaving too. They are moving towards the Grey Havens, singing hymns of Elbereth and Earendil, leaving Middle-Earth forever. As I sit on the shores of this new millennium, just beginning, and look back at the 20th century and so many gone before it, I see much that once was has been forgotten. In our noise and haste, lessons are left unread and unlearned. In my own life, and the cycle of its seasons, how many times have I forgotten the wisdom that came through the Woods. Through the leaves that rustled with Truth, the Beauty that came to me in every Sun rising. But what lies ahead is the journey. For the Elves, and for the Fellowship of the Ring as they begin their heroic walk, the journey is one of hope. A hope "beyond all memory." A hope that what is evil in the world can finally be overcome. A hope that Good can prevail, and the ancient wisdom, the Music that made the world can be played in all it's fullness. Let the journey begin! + Bill Donaghy www.missionmoment.org
Tuesday, September 19, 2006
This quote of Cardinal Newman's reveals the key for the interpretation of all reality. We are a mysterious harmony of flesh and spirit. We are not merely of this earth, but have, as it were, one foot in eternity. This truth should have its echo in the hollow of our chest. It explains the ache we feel in the face of death. It defines the pull in our hearts for immortality. In the words of Pope Benedict, "We are not some casual and meaningless product of evolution. Each of us is the result of a thought of God."
This poetical view, this vision that pierces through flesh and bone to reveal the spirit, this is the lens through which we are called to perceive the world! It is a specifically Catholic vision, a sacramental vision; it shows us that external signs hold inner truths. In a certain sense, everything is a sacrament. Nature itself is a book that speaks of God. Shakespeare once wrote that we should "find tongues in trees, books in the running brooks, sermons in stones, and good in everything."
The truth about God "breathes" through creation, and most of all through humanity, made male and female, in the image of the Trinity. The body is a sacrament that proclaims the Mystery of God! It speaks, and our spiritual life, which animates and is knit inextricably to our physical life, is crowned with the gifts of intellect and will. But our reason and so much of what it gathers from the senses is like a rocket that can propel us only so high. Like a trapeze artist letting go, faith grasps our hands from above when reason can barely touch the fingertips.
This is the path of the human person: to harmonize both faith and reason. To look with human eyes, to scrutinize with our intellect, and using reason like a launchpad, to leap into Love.
The temptation today, as it always has been, is to isolate one over the other. To divorce the Communion. Heresy is always the result of this fixation on the "one thing." Like a golden ring we grasp at it and stuff it in our pocketsess. Life is easier (?) when we can fit it into our brains, tag it and bag it. 3 + 1 = 4 every time! But what if 1 + 1 + 1 = 1?
In the words of one poet/scientist: "Religion without science is blind. Science without religion is lame." (Albert Einstein)
This was the point of Pope Benedict's address last week; that faith and reason are meant to be a harmony. That reason is not the enemy of faith, and faith is not a restriction on reason. One flows from the other. The poetical view is the wholistic view. It is harmony. It may seem paradoxical at times, but paradox is not contradiction; contradiction is confusion, paradox is Mystery (like disimilar notes making a symphony.)
Let us pray for those with only a singular view; the tunnel vision of the terrorist, the ego of the angry evolutionist, the clouded view of the creationist. And for all of us who feel that we cannot hold the tension of two, and so resort to violence to make a point. For violence is a clear sign that reason has been abandoned.
May God give us His peace.
Sunday, September 17, 2006
Friday, September 15, 2006
Thursday, September 14, 2006
Suffering and Death aren't merely theological ideas for scholars to ponder. The wounds are in you and me. The definitions of these Two Towers of human experience are written in our flesh and bones. Why must it be this way? Why do we fight and grasp and tear at each other? Why do bad people seem to succeed and the good suffer unjustly? Deeper still is the question "Why is there suffering at all? Why is there evil?" And why is it distinctly a human thing to ask why? There are no books on coping with tragedy in the animal kingdom. Zebras don't ponder the problem of evil.
If we are just bipedal fleshy parts of this creation, like super-apes, then why do we sigh for vindication and justice? Deeper still for immortality, for Something More? If evolution says it isn't broken, then why are we trying to fix it?
We write poetry, love songs and hymns. We ache for an Unending Love. But the other creatures in this world don't write love songs. Chickens don't weep at Mozart's Requiem. But we do. We see the division in the world. We see evil battling good, clawing after it in with an infernal jealousy. And we know there must be a reason; there must be More. There must be a Healing. There must be a Re-Union.
How could this desire exist in us if there were not a way to fulfill it? Thirst pants for water, hunger finds food. If our hearts yearn for a Fullness of Truth, Beauty and Goodness found only in fragments here, then....
I think in some ways the problem of evil, and the tear caused by suffering and death, is actually more a proof for God's existence than it is a reason not to believe in Him. I want peace, healing, wholeness. I want vindication, justice, the victory of Truth. I want redemption but I can't get it. If I can't then who can? And if this frustration and defeat is all there is, then why do I hope for more?
The words from an Alison Krauss song come softly like a healing balm:
"Love that shed His Blood for all the world to see, this must be the reason for it all."
Jesus Christ fully reveals man to himself and makes his supreme calling clear (Gaudium et Spes, 22). All of the contradictions in this world and in our lives meet at the Crossroads. Suffering and Death have come to us, through the dis-obedience of our ancestry. And if we are honest, that apple doesn't fall far from the tree. Its repercussions are rippling throughout all time and space. We suffer for it, the young and old, the good and bad. But we are not alone. He has taken on our sorrows. He was crushed for our offenses, bruised for our evils... Suffering and Death are not our lot alone anymore, like a card we can trump God with. He suffered too; in fact, He became suffering. He swallowed death. And even now the Universe is being remade in Him. All creation groans. The labor pains have already begun. The seed that has fallen to the earth in death, in me and around me, is already breaking earth, and will blossom into New Life. We believe, Lord. Help our unbelief.
Tuesday, September 12, 2006
Monday, September 11, 2006
The world is too much with us; late and soon,
Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers;
Little we see in Nature that is ours;
We have given our hearts away, a sordid boon!
This Sea that bares her bosom to the moon,
The winds that will be howling at all hours,
And are up-gathered now like sleeping flowers,
For this, for everything, we are out of tune;
It moves us not. -Great God! I'd rather be
A Pagan suckled in a creed outworn;
So might I, standing on this pleasant lea,
Have glimpses that would make me less forlorn;
Have sight of Proteus rising from the sea;
Or hear old Triton blow his wreathed horn.
- William Wordsworth
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Saturday, September 09, 2006
Friday, September 08, 2006
Thursday, September 07, 2006
This Sunday's second reading was such an intimate one. So much of the imagery from the first chapter of James is spousal imagery. It awakens in our hearts that longing for communion, for union with Another.
"Dearest brothers and sisters: All good giving and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no alteration or shadow caused by change. He willed to give us birth by the word of truth that we may be a kind of first fruits of his creatures. Humbly welcome the word that has been planted in you and is able to save your souls."
- James 1:17-18, 21b-22, 27
Amazing! The God Who made the world descends, stoops low, pours out, gives Himself, sows the seed of His Love deep in the soil of our hearts. The Greek word for this is kenosis, to empty oneself. What a miracle of Love that the God of the universe would do this! And yet when we search our hearts we discover that this is the very definition of Love. We have a glimmer of this word kenosis, it exists in our own families. It is not something distant from us, we echo it in our own relationships; we pour out our time and affection, we stoop down in service, and for those often times whom we may never meet, we give and we suffer.
The grace and the power we have to do this, even if we know it not, flows from God. He is the true source of all our loves. He is the One in Whose light all earthly love finds its true meaning and direction.
Humbly welcome this Word, the letter of St. James says. There in the dark interior of our souls, the seed breaks and germinates. New life, so often unseen, begins to grow. What an intimate bond God has formed with us. He doesn't want to remain so removed from us that we don't know His Name, or recognize His Presence. He plants Himself right here in our hearts and souls... Through the Eucharist He comes into our very bodies! What a harvest we can reap if we are attentive to grace, if we humbly welcome, if we water the seed through stillness and prayer, reading and good works. What abundant fruit will grow and what a gift we can give back to Him!
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Wednesday, September 06, 2006
Tuesday, September 05, 2006
Saturday, September 02, 2006
Now New Jersey, as we all know, gets a bad rap in the movies and is often stereotyped in jokes. We don't mind the sarcasm; it just makes us stronger! Little does the world know that we have much to be proud of! Including hundreds of strip malls and Taco Bells! So here are some facts about the Garden State that (might?) amaze you!
- New Jersey is a peninsula.
- Highlands, New Jersey has the highest elevation along the entire eastern seaboard, from Maine to Florida.
- New Jersey has more race horses than Kentucky.
- New Jersey has more Cubans in Union City (1 sq. mi.) than Havana, Cuba.
- New Jersey has the most diners in the world and is sometimes referred to as the Diner Capital of the World.
- North Jersey has the most shopping malls in one area in the world, with seven major shopping malls in a 25 square mile radius.
- New Jersey is home to the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island (yes, it is)
- Two-thirds of the world's eggplants are grown in New Jersey.
- Jersey tomatoes are known the world over as being the best you can buy.
- New Jersey is the world leader in blueberry and cranberry production.
- Here's to New Jersey-the toast of the country! In 1642, the first brewery in America opened in Hoboken.
- New Jersey rocks! The famous Les Paul invented the first solid body electric guitar in Mahwah in 1940.
- The light bulb, phonograph (record player), and motion picture projector were invented by Thomas Edison in his Menlo Park, NJ laboratory. We also boast the first town ever lit by incandescent bulbs.
- The first seaplane was built in Keyport, NJ.
- The first phonograph records were made in Camden, NJ.
- The first Drive-in Movie theater was opened in Camden, NJ.
- The first radio station and broadcast was in Paterson, NJ.
- and finally, the following are all New Jersey natives: Jack Nicholson, Bruce Springsteen, Bon Jovi, Jason Alexander, Queen Latifa, Susan Sarandon, Connie Francis, Shaq, Judy Blume, Aaron Burr, Joan Robertson, Ken Kross, Dionne Warwick, Sarah Vaughn, Budd Abbott, Lou Costello, and I'll stop there!
Yeah for NJ! Let's get to the mall!