Sunday, June 29, 2014


You know my fondness for the great outdoors.  Nonetheless, I was smiling pretty widely listening to this musical commentary on all that's wrong with being in nature on Garrison Keiller's Prairie Home Companion last evening.  (Go here and click on "Nature Hymns.")  I hope you enjoy these not-so-traditonal songs...

Out in the Weather

You can find a full schedule of events for Forty Hours and Foundation Day for St. André's Parish at our new website:

And please do join me in praying to Sts. Peter and Paul (or whomever you might choose) for good weather on Tuesday...

   Solemnity of Saints Peter & Paul   

Among the Germanic peoples of Europe,
for reasons lost to history,
Sts. Peter and Paul have long been considered
heaven’s “weather makers.”
Peter’s considered to be the one responsible
for sending both rain and sunshine,
for hanging out the starts at night
and taking them back in again in the morning.
Legend says that when there’s thunder, 
St. Peter is bowling,
and when it snows 
that he’s “shaking out his feather bed.”
(Fr. Justin will soon enough learn
just how many feathers Peter has in his bed!)
St. Paul, on the other hand,
is invoked against lightening, storms, 
hail, and extreme cold;
it seems he’s been given the task
of constantly persuading St. Peter 
to actually get the weather right.

As we now come to the end of June,
we ought to thank these two Princes of the Apostles
for a month that has been pretty exceptional weather wise—
especially by our North Country standards.
But this has been a rather special June in other ways, too.
On the yearly calendar,
it’s been noteworthy for having five Sundays.
On the Church’s calendar,
it’s been noteworthy that all five Sundays
have been observed as important feasts:
the Ascension of the Lord
(kept on Sunday in Canada, where we went on pilgrimage June 1st),
Pentecost, Trinity Sunday, Corpus Christi,
and now Sts. Peter and Paul.
And here in Malone,
as we’ve made the final preparations
for the foundation of St. André’s Parish on Tuesday,
June has been noteworthy in the way it has taught us
what in means to be Church:
to be “one, holy, catholic, and apostolic.”

At his Ascension, Jesus returned to the Father
but did not abandon us:
he remains vitally present in and through his Church.
The Church is not a closed circle,
where we stand around focusing our attention on one another;
no, the Church is a people on pilgrimage:
a people on the move—and moving forward together—
following where Christ has gone before us;
supporting and encouraging each other
on the journey to heaven.

At Pentecost,
we were reminded of what it means
to believe that the Church is one.
Creating communion is the Holy Spirit’s specialty:
uniting people with one another
across differences of race, culture, or tongue;
even more, uniting the human with the divine—
uniting people with God.
In a world marked by so many sad and painful divisions,
the witness of unity among those who follow Jesus—
whether locally or globally—is as important as ever.

we were reminded of what it means
to believe that the Church is holy.
We have been made and remade
in the image and likeness of the all-holy God;
God has made us all to be holy—
calls us all to be saints.
Making saints is the Church’s primary mission.

we were reminded of what it means
to believe that the Church is catholic.
The very same Eucharist is offered, received, and adored
in Fr. Justin’s native India
as it is here in the Diocese of Ogdensburg—
with great pageantry at the Vatican
or in secret wherever the Church is forced underground.
Ours is a truly universal church,
and the Holy Eucharist helps us to see that big picture:
to keep from being too parochial, too limited in our vision,
and instead to be authentically catholic.

And on this Solemnity of Sts. Peter and Paul,
we are reminded of what it means
to believe that the Church is apostolic.
The Church is apostolic in several ways.
1. The Church was founded on the Apostles:
those men uniquely chosen by Christ
as witnesses of his Resurrection
and ambassadors of his Kingdom;
and the Church continues to be taught, sanctified,
and guided by the Apostles
through the direct and unbroken line of their successors:
the Pope, the Bishops, and the priests who assist them.
2. The Church guards as a priceless treasure
the teaching of the Apostles—the apostolic faith—
handed on from one generation to the next:
the precious memory of Christ’s own words and deeds,
instructing us still across the ages.
3. And the Church, like the Twelve,
is continually “sent out” into the whole world.
(The word apostle literally means, “one who is sent.”)
Since Vatican II,
there has been a multiplication of ministries in the Church:
liturgical ministries, ministries of hospitality,
catechetical ministries, and the like.
But something of which we seem to have lost sight is the apostolate.
Ministry is inherently about the Church taking care of herself;
it concerns members meeting the needs of other members.
The apostolate, however,
is by its nature turned outward;
it's all about mission,
about what happens beyond these four walls,
and most often concerns giving witness and works of charity.
Is it any wonder there are fewer people in our pews
if so many of our efforts have been aimed
at preaching to the choir?
We must go out!
The Apostles Peter and Paul—who preached the gospel widely
and were both martyred in Rome, far from their homeland—
remind us of the urgency of this task.

What a powerful and timely lesson this June has been
for a parish about to be founded!
As we now come to this month’s end,
as we quickly approach a new beginning for the Church in Malone,
may Sts. Peter and Paul not only provide us
with good weather on Tuesday
(and I sure pray that they do!),
but may they also ask of God every grace we’ll need
to be a community that is genuinely one, truly holy,
faithfully catholic, and deeply apostolic.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Early and Often

As we encouraged people today to take part in our upcoming 40 Hours Devotions (June 29-July 1), we especially promoted the procession by sharing a story from our past...

On June 13, 1869, when the cornerstone of Notre Dame Church was blessed, a procession was held moving in the opposite direction of the one we have planned--from St. Joseph's Church to the construction site for Notre Dame (3/4 mile). The procession was so long that when the front of it reached Notre Dame, the end of it hadn't yet left St. Joseph's. 

Such was the spirit of faith--and unity--among our ancestors here. We are called to the same again!

   Solemnity of the Most Holy Body & Blood of Christ   A 

As goes the story passed down within the Bessette family,
when our soon-to-be patron, St. André,
would come to visit his relatives here in Malone,
his first question was always the same:
What time is the earliest Mass in town tomorrow morning?
And the answer to his question
was also always the same: 6:00am at Notre Dame.
I’m so moved every time I recall that a Saint
came to Mass in this very church…
…and so relieved that we don’t still have Mass at 6:00am!
(You can be quite sure that, at some point,
he visited the old St. Joseph’s, too,
dedicated at it was his favorite saint…
…but, sadly, that venerable building was lost years ago.)
Br. André placed great faith in the power of the Mass
and in receiving Holy Communion.
He was known to ask,
“If you ate only one meal a week, would you survive? 
It is the same for your soul. 
Nourish it with the Blessed Sacrament.”
What’s ironic, of course,
is that Br. André himself ate so very, very little
due to a chronic stomach ailment.
Yet he never lacked for energy,
and I suspect that’s due to the Living Bread
which he consumed first thing every morning.

As we see in St. André Bessette,
the Eucharist has the power to get us up and get us going.
Like the miraculous manna which sustained the Israelites
while wandering forty long years in the desert,
so the Body and Blood of Christ are given to us
as food for our life’s journey.
I was so encouraged this past week
when a smiling parishioner said to me,
“Father, I’m getting so excited about the new parish!
Before, it seemed like things were getting a bit stale.
Now, it seems like people are waking up.
I have such hope!”
That’s not, in my opinion,
the result of any special program or consolidation process;
that’s the transforming power of the Son of God,
really and truly present in the Eucharist.

When we made our recent pilgrimage to St. Joseph’s Oratory,
I had one disappointment with the day:
that I didn’t have time to visit the small chapel,
tucked away among the trees near the top of Mount Royal,
which was the original oratory.
Not only is that miniature church
rather charming and beautiful in its own right,
but I love climbing the steep stairs to Br. André’s tiny apartment
and seeing again the small window
he had cut into the wall between his bedroom and the chapel,
so that at any hour, day or night,
he could open it up and see the tabernacle.
“O holy angels,” Br. André would pray,
“make me see God on the altar as you see him in heaven.”

As we see in St. André,
the Eucharist has the power to open windows for us.
The Eucharist is a uniquely Catholic sacrament,
in the original sense of that word:
as a reality that is universal, that crosses boundaries,
that takes in the big picture.
I must say, I was a bit discouraged this week
when a few parishioners stopped in the office 
to grumble about our new parish—
particularly saddened that,
just days before it is established
and after many months of preparations,
it’s the first time they decided to speak up.
My friends, I know that change is difficult.
But we must move beyond the tunnel vision
that has held us back for too long!
In another time, under different circumstances,
our pastors worked hard
to develop a distinct sense of parish identity—
whether it was French versus Irish,
village versus country, rich versus poor.
I think their motives were probably alright,
but the result has been quite regrettable:
we’ve become terribly parochial—
very closed in on ourselves and narrow-minded—
instead of truly Catholic.
At the Last Supper, Jesus told us
that he was shedding his Blood “for the many”—
not so that we would stay many,
but that all who partake of the one loaf
might be united as one Body in him.
The Eucharist broadens our vision,
not only because it cuts across divisions within our community,
not only because it spans the entire globe,
but because it goes so far as to bind earth to heaven.

Because of Br. André’s deep devotion
to the Most Blessed Sacrament,
and because of what the power of the Eucharist
can accomplish within and among us,
Forty Hours seemed like the ideal way
to mark the transition from our four former parishes
to our single new one.
Please take note of the schedule of Masses, adoration, and prayers
next Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday,
and make plans to come to as much as you’re able.
It’s not only an historic moment in the life of our parish,
but one that promises to be full of grace!
Crowd gathered (with Br. André at the altar) for the blessing
(which included Benediction of the Most Blessed Sacrament)
 of the original chapel at St. Joseph's Oratory,
October 19, 1904
We are blessed to have had a saint walk among us,
and—as a parish—so very soon to take his name as our own.
But St. André recognized an even greater blessing:
that the Only Begotten Son of God
had not only walked the face of the earth once upon a time,
but dwells among us still—
on every altar and in every tabernacle
of all the Catholic churches of the world.
Let us come in faith to receive him!
Let us come with devotion to adore him!
Let us see on earth, as do the angels in heaven,
our God with us here!

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Worth the Same

   The Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity   A 

Many years ago,
a few fellows were gathered in a London coffee shop
watching wealthy theater-goers
get into their luxury cars and head home for the night.
They got to talking about equality.
“All men are born free and equal,” said an American in the group.
“That’s only talk,” said an English workingman.
“Some are born millionaires, others in the poorhouse.”
“That’s right,” said the man behind the bar,
“and some are born with good brains and good health,
while others simply aren’t.”
“We’ll only be equal when we’re all dead,” 
said an ever-optimistic Russian.
The shop owner turned to an elderly man
carrying a bundle of newspapers and asked,
“What do you think?”
“I think we’re all equal in the sight of God,” he answered.
Which is when he pulled a handful of pennies from his pocket.
“See these here pennies,” he said.
“Some are shiny and some are dull,
some are new and some are worn thin—
but they’re all worth exactly the same.
And they’re all stamped with the image of the king.”

Today the Church celebrates
the Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity.
For some, their notion of the Blessed Trinity
is pretty basic and drawn from pictures on old holy cards:
a bearded old man, his handsome son seated to his right,
and a glowing white bird hovering between them.
On the other hand, speak to a theologian about the Holy Trinity,
and they’ll make your head spin with talk
of paternity and spiration, filiation and procession,
appropriation and perichoresis.
(And you thought adding “consubstantial” to the Creed was bad!)

From art to academics,
from the Church’s most stately and solemn liturgies
to the homey scene of a dad
leading his family in grace before a meal—
it’s only right that we put such emphasis
on the God who has revealed himself
as perfectly One and distinctly Three,
doing nearly everything “in the name of the Father
and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”
But for all the attention we properly owe to God,
what is just as remarkable—maybe even more so—
is all the attention God gives to us.
For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son,
so that everyone who believes in him
might not perish but might have eternal life.

We have value—untold, immeasurable worth—
because the King of heaven and earth
has imprinted his own image on each one of us.

Since 1334, the feast of the Most Holy Trinity
has been observed throughout the Roman Catholic Church
on the Sunday after Pentecost
(although, in many places, it was already being celebrated
for centuries before that.)
But while that’s the case here in the West,
much of Eastern Christianity
reserves this Sunday following Pentecost
for the feast of All Saints.
Putting these two observances side-by-side
brings something important to light:
while half of the Church rejoices
in the mystery of the all-holy God,
the other half rejoices in the mystery
that God calls us all to be holy
calls us all to be saints.

Holiness is about polishing the penny that is the human soul—
about uncovering its immense worth
Now, that’s not to say it’s about personal achievement—
what we can accomplish ourselves.
Being God-like, being holy, being a saint,
is beyond our ability and beyond our strength.
Holiness is a gift: it’s grace;
it’s a matter of divine mercy much more than human merit.
That the three Persons of the Holy Trinity
long for us all to be saints
is about allowing the great King’s image to shine through.

Do I know God well enough to be sure
that others can come to know him through me?
For I must know God to love him,
and I must know God to make him known.

As today we celebrate our faith
in the mystery of the Triune God,
resolve anew to give the Lord
the love and attention he deserves,
aware of all the tender love and attention
God is always lavishing on you.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Joy, Peace, & Unity

As far as I'm concerned, there were two "miracles" associated with last Sunday's pilgrimage to St. Joseph's Oratory: (1) we were moving nearly 300 people around a foreign city, and managed to stay right on schedule the whole day through; and (2) we drastically changed the Mass schedule here to accommodate the pilgrimage, and not a single person has complained!

   Pentecost   A 

Fr. Tom was greeting folks after Mass
when a woman came up to him and said,
 “Father, that was a good homily!”
“Why, thank you,” he replied,
“but I have to give the credit to the Holy Spirit.”
“Now, Father,” she said, “it wasn’t that good…”

Abby with me after Mass
All week long,
parishioners have been coming up to me
and saying, “Father, thank you! 
That was such a wonderful pilgrimage last Sunday!”
I want to make sure to give credit where credit is due:
it was Fr. Tom and his committee that did all the work.
We’re certainly grateful for their careful preparations!
I also want to thank all of you who came to take part.
From what I could see, nearly 300 people where there
for the Mass in the basilica at St. Joseph’s Oratory.
That means about one of every four people
who come to Mass here in the Malone Catholic Parishes
made the trek to Montréal a week ago.
Pretty impressive!
As my four-year-old niece, Abigail,
said to my sister-in-law at the end of the Mass,
“That was amazing!
She was right.

But even more than Fr. Tom or hundreds of pilgrim parishioners,
there is someone else whose presence and work last Sunday
needs to be acknowledged—and that is the Holy Spirit.
One of you took a video
of the final procession at the pilgrimage Mass,
and a strange ball of white light can be seen
hovering over the servers and us clergy
as we make our way from the sanctuary to the sacristy.
It’s kind of a neat thing to see…
…but there’s even clearer evidence than that
that the Holy Spirit was with in a very special way.

The first sign was joy.
“I’ve never seen so many happy people!”
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard that this week.
Our group was marked by smiles and laughter—
and not just when returning with full plates 
from the evening buffet.
Pilgrimage always involves hardship,
and this one was no exception.
It was a long trip on the buses,
and the Oratory is built into a mountain;
even with escalators and elevators,
it’s a challenge to get around.
And yet there was so much palpable joy—
and I’ve been seeing it on people’s faces ever since.
It was that way on Pentecost, too.
As the on-fire Apostles went out to the gathered crowds, 
their joyfulness was noteworthy.
In fact, read just a couple more lines into the Acts of the Apostles,
and you’ll hear some folks scoffing, “They’ve had too much wine!”
No doubt, the joy seen among those first believers
attracted people to Christ even more so
than the wondrous way they spoke in many tongues.
As a French writer once put it,
“Joy is the most infallible sign of the presence of God.”  (L. Bloy)
God the Holy Spirit was clearly with us.

The steps are a little too steep for you to get a good sense of the size of our group
The second sign of the Spirit’s presence was peace.
A parishioner who was making her first visit to the Oratory
“felt a sense of peace that was very overpowering and complete.”
Others noted much the same thing,
almost from the moment we arrived on the property.
We live in turbulent times.
Our lives are marked my constant activity,
and much agitation and anxiety.
We long for peace of mind, peace of heart,
but we assume it must work its way in from the outside:
that we must get ourselves free—even if only for a moment—
from the struggles and sufferings,
duties and distractions that surround us.
But the only real peace—
the one pilgrims experienced last Sunday—
is an interior one, and it’s a gift from above.
A wise priest once wrote,
“The devil does his utmost to banish peace from one’s heart,
because he knows that God abides in peace
and it is in peace that he accomplishes great things.”  (L. Scrupoli)
On the evening of his Resurrection,
Jesus appears saying, “Peace be with you. 
Receive the Holy Spirit.”
That Spirit of peace was with us.

The third sign of the Spirit’s presence was unity.
As a priest, I hear people speak
about joy and peace often enough,
but generally not about unity…except this past week.
Parishioners have noted how good it was
to see members of all four of our parishes
joined together as one in that massive church.
I must say: from the altar, it was a rather beautiful sight!
People met and spoke with fellow Catholics from our community
whom they’d never met or spoken with before.
As someone else put it,
“I think a lot of walls came tumbling down on Sunday.”
Historically, the people who founded our parishes
came from different backgrounds, spoke different languages,
and had different social standing.
I think Sunday helped to make it plain
that there’s much more which unites us than divides.
As St. Paul wrote,
“In one Spirit we were all baptized into one body”—
that is, the Body of Christ.
That same Spirit of unity was with us.
Yes, I took this photo from the Presider's Chair at the end of Mass...but how could I resist that view?

Joy.  Peace.  Unity.
They were particular graces on our day of pilgrimage.
But they don’t have to be limited to any single day!
I pray that what we experienced
when going together to the tomb of St. André Bessette
will be hallmarks of the new parish that is to bear his name.
Archbishop Oscar Romero once noted,
“It will always be Pentecost in the Church
provided the Church always lets the beauty of the Holy Spirit
shine forth from her countenance.…
The Church will be fair to see,
perennially young, attractive in every age,
as long as she is faithful to the Spirit that floods her
and she reflects that Spirit through her communities,
through her pastors, through her very life."
This Pentecost Sunday, let us pray with great fervor
that the Holy Spirit will come upon us anew
and remain with us always—
that St. André’s Parish will be a place
marked by joy, peace, and unity.