As most of you know, I made my spiritual retreat a week ago. While it was very different than usual – since we listened to the retreat talks via a zoom meeting – it was better than I expected. If nothing else, I have a better idea of what it’s like for you to watch Mass online!
The speaker, Fr, Charles Connor, was excellent. Many of you may know him from presentations on EWTN and things like that. His words gave me a lot of spiritual ‘food for thought’ and inspired me to increase my time in prayer and spiritual reading!
This is our third week back to public Mass in our Church. So far, it seems to be going well. Please remember to call the parish office to reserve a space–so we can maintain proper distancing. Remember also that our Bishop continues to dispense everyone from the obligation to attend Mass at this time–especially those whose health places them at a higher level of risk. As I’ve said throughout this ordeal, the Spirit’s gift of counsel, which helps us make prudent decisions, is a big help right now.READ MORE
Happy Father’s Day to all the fathers, grandfathers, godfathers, and spiritual fathers in our parish! Although my own father has been deceased for many years, I have so many fond memories of him. Even today, I am very aware of all the positive ways that he influenced my life! For this reason, I am always inspired when I see fathers spending time with their children – in church, on the sports fields, or just around the parish. You are all in my prayers today.
The fact that so many of you sent in your Father’s Day envelopes – with the names of fathers living and deceased written on them – tells me that many good men are in our prayers this week. As always, we will keep those envelopes near the altar for the rest of the month of June – and remember all the men named on them in our Masses and prayers.READ MORE
Today we celebrate one of my favorite feasts of the entire Church year: Corpus Christi. Corpus Christi means ‘the Body of Christ’ – and today’s feast celebrates our Catholic Faith in the Real Presence of Jesus in the Holy Eucharist, under the appearance of bread and wine. This is – as the priest chants after the consecration at Holy Mass – ‘the Mystery of Faith.’
So many of you have told me how much you miss receiving Holy Communion during this pandemic. Although you make a Spiritual Communion – and ask Jesus to come spiritually into your heart – we know it’s not the same as truly receiving His precious Body and Blood in Holy Communion. That – I believe – is why so many of you have experienced a deep sense of loss at not being able to come to Mass and receive Holy Communion.READ MORE
With last Sunday’s celebration of Pentecost, we brought the Easter season to a close. The Church now reenters the season she calls ‘Ordinary Time.’ The official reason for this name is the fact that its weeks are ‘ordered’ – meaning they follow a certain order. This past week was the Eighth Week in Ordinary Time, and this coming week be the Ninth.
But I find it helpful to see Ordinary Time – when we’re not focusing on special seasons like Advent or Lent or Christmas or Easter – as a time to remember that we serve God best by living our faith in the midst of ordinary, everyday life. Being patient with those around us. Performing acts of charity within our means. Finding time for prayer in the midst of a busy day. Striving to see Christ in the people with whom we interact with each day. Serving God in these ‘ordinary’ ways is our true path to holiness in life.READ MORE
My dearest parishioners,
By now you may have heard that we can finally begin returning to Church for Holy Mass. I know that the absence of public Masses has been very hard for you, and that some of you have been waiting very anxiously for this moment. That being said, we should remember that it is very important for us to use good judgment and every ounce of common sense with which we have been blessed as we begin gathering for Mass once more. The Holy Spirit’s gift of counsel (right judgment) will be most helpful to us in this!
These guidelines are intended to help you do this – and to know what to expect at Mass in St. Philip and St. James Church at this time.
Those who are considered high risk for infection should not come to Church just yet. Rather, you should continue to follow the guidelines of your doctor and the public health authorities. Those who are or feel sick must not come to Church at this time, for the good of everyone – including themselves.
On Memorial Day morning, I offered Mass in our chapel – assisted by our seminarian, Joseph – at 6:45 AM. As I read the list of names of those people buried in our parish this past year, I thought of many of you. Each name brought to mind family members and friends who – if it were possible – would have been at Mass praying for them that morning. Know that I included all of you – as well as our departed loved ones – in my Memorial Day Mass.
I was inspired to see the nice turnout for Communion in the Parking Lot last Sunday. It went well enough that we will continue to do this for at least the immediate future. People were reverent and thankful. The looks on so many faces as people received our Blessed Lord for the first time in months spoke volumes about their faith in His Real Presence in Holy Communion.READ MORE
I want to begin by wishing a Happy Memorial Day to all. My wishes go especially to all the veterans in our parish. You – and your fallen comrades – are in my prayers today. Thanks for all you have done to protect our freedom.
As a priest, I am acutely aware of how many people around the globe do not have the freedom to practice their faith that we so often take for granted. The freedom to worship according to one’s conscience was one of the primary reasons many of our ancestors first came to this land. On Memorial Day, take some time to pray for those who died defending that freedom.READ MORE
Believe it or not, this Thursday will mark the fortieth day since Easter. As Catholics, we call that day Ascension Thursday, because it is the day on which Jesus ascended into Heaven. After remaining present among the disciples for forty days in His Risen Body, our Lord ascended to Heaven as they looked on.
Ordinarily, Ascension Thursday is a Holy Day of Obligation. But with the current pandemic, we are dispensed from our obligation to attend Holy Mass that day – as we have been every Sunday for the past couple of months.
Moreover, for this year only, the Bishops of New Jersey have decided to transfer the celebration of Ascension Thursday to next Sunday! This means that those of you who watch next Sunday’s Mass on our website will be seeing the Mass for the Feast of the Ascension. The bishops did this to lessen the need for tech people to come out to help us livestream the Mass on that additional day.READ MORE
I want to begin by wishing a very Happy Mother’s Day to all the mothers, grandmothers, godmothers, and special women of our parish. Everyone who reads my words in the bulletin knows how much my mother means to me. I’m sure that’s true for all of us. There is a place in our lives that only a mother can fill.
As Catholics, we believe that’s true not only for us as individuals, but as a Church as well. The Acts of the Apostles – the book of the Bible that tells us about the very first days and years of the Church after Jesus ascended to Heaven – makes a point of saying that, when the disciples gathered at prayer, “among them was Mary, the Mother of Jesus” (Acts 1:14). Mary’s presence was important to the Church from the beginning!READ MORE
One of the things that is helping me get through this current pandemic is noticing all the good things that are still happening. I thought I would spend some time in this week’s article sharing some of those good things with you.
The first is our parish soup kitchen – which is still operating on the second and fourth Saturdays of the month. While we cannot host and feed people in Mercy Hall as we usually do, the Soup Kitchen’s dedicated volunteers have been distributing takeout food in the parking lot. As you can imagine, their efforts are very much appreciated by the local poor who rely on their services.
Catholic Charities – Diocese of Metuchen – also asked us to remind everyone that their local food pantry on South Main Street is still open. You can call ahead (908 – 859 – 5447) to check on hours. You can also make donations at their garage on Spruce Alley (#387).READ MORE
Next weekend we enter the month of May, which is traditionally dedicated to our Blessed Mother, Mary. I spoke in this column about praying for Mary’s intercession as helper of the sick. Today I want to remind everyone to honor our Blessed Mother this month by praying her Rosary – daily if possible.
I often tell you that I keep all of you in my daily Rosary – which I do. I find that, as I pray the Rosary, thoughts of people who have asked for my prayers come to mind. For that reason, I have developed the habit of mentioning the many people who have asked my prayers before I begin the decades of the Rosary. During the current pandemic, I have been praying several Rosaries daily. Not only do I find that time spent with our Lord and His Blessed Mother very comforting, it also gives me lots of time to pray for everyone.READ MORE
It’s odd to write to you as I do today, the day after Easter, without having any family gatherings or things of that sort to speak of. My Easter was very different this year – as I suspect yours was, too! I did speak with my mother – and my sisters – over the phone.
After offering Holy Mass Easter morning, I spent some time praying in our Church. It was very quiet, and I couldn’t help thinking of how busy it would be at that time on a ‘normal’ Easter Sunday! Nonetheless, I said my Divine Office (prayers priests promise to pray each day for their parish, the universal church, and the whole world), followed by a couple of rosaries. I held all of you in prayer, especially those dealing with illness or special challenges at this time. I also prayed – as I’m sure you did – for an end to this pandemic!READ MORE
I had the pleasure of speaking on the phone with my mom on Palm Sunday afternoon. We spoke – among other things – of how odd it was to celebrate Palm Sunday without visiting. We spoke as well about how different Easter will be this year.
The good news is that it was not a sad conversation – as we all understand that this is simply how it must be right now. I’m sure many of you feel the same way. Being with family and friends is a big part of our Easter celebration. But, if we have to stay home to keep our loved ones safe, it’s a sacrifice we’re willing to make.READ MORE
Anyone who knows me even a little bit, knows that Palm Sunday is one of my favorite days of the year! That being the case, I’m sure you can imagine how sad I am that we have to celebrate this Palm Sunday so differently than usual. The same, of course, is true of Holy Week and Easter. While we will most certainly post the Liturgies on our parish website – where I hope you will prayerfully watch them – it’s just not the same!
Perhaps we can take some comfort and hope from the example of some of our Catholic ancestors who likewise had to maintain their faith without being able to celebrate Mass or receive Holy Communion. One such group was the Catholics of Japan, who were without a priest for nearly 300 years! By the early 1600’s, the Japanese government had either killed or exiled every Catholic priest in the country – hoping to stamp out the Catholic faith.
But the good Catholics of that country maintained – and even passed on – their faith just the same! Parents taught the Gospel, catechism, and prayers to their children. While they could not have Mass or receive Holy Communion, they prayed and received Spiritual Communion by asking Jesus to come at least spiritually into their hearts.READ MORE