Saturday, December 8, 2007

Immaculate Conception

Today is December 8, the Feast of the Immaculate Conception. Today is the day that Catholics believe our Blessed Mother Mary was conceived without sin by St. Joachim and St. Ann. Mary's conception without sin means that she was born free of the original sin that remains with us until we are baptized. Therefore, Mary lived her entire life free from sin.

The Immaculate Conception is a major Catholic belief (dogma) and was proclaimed by Pope Pius IX in 1854.

Mary, under her title of the Immaculate Conception, is the patron saint of the United States of America. The largest Catholic Church in the United States, the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, is located in Washington, D.C. and was built in her honor. The altar in the crypt church of the basilica was purchased by all of the women named Mary in the United states during the 1930s. Each woman contributed $1.00 and her name was then written on a piece of paper that was enclosed in the altar.

When I lived in Washington, D.C., I was a tour guide at the Basilica-- every American Catholic should make a pilgrimage there at least once in his or her lifetime because it is the focal point of our national Catholic heritage.

Today is usually a holy day of obligation throughout the world, meaning that Catholics should attend Mass in celebration. However, since it coincides with a Sunday and we have our weekly obligation to attend Mass, the obligation has been lifted for this year.

Even though we are not obliged to attend Mass today-- we should at least stop for a moment and say a "Hail Mary" in honor of our Blessed Mother.

Hail Mary! Full of grace, the Lord is with thee. Blessed are thou amongst women and blessed is the fruit of thy woumb, Jesus. Holy Mary, mother of God, pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death. Amen.

Friday, December 7, 2007

The Great Santini Debate

Good taste? Bad taste? No taste at all? That's the debate going on in Italy right now over the trend of "santini"-- "little saints".

For years, Italians have been posting small images of patron saints in their car windshields, much like how American Catholics have a St. Christopher medal or a Guardian Angel medal in their cars.

Now the santini can be seen on telefonini.

"Telefonino" is the Italian word for cell phone. Italians can now pay their respective cell phone carriers or a website called "Santi Protettori" (Patron Saints) a small fee to purchase an image of a saint for their background or screensaver.

Some Italians are praising the initiative, calling it a way to bring the Catholic Church to younger generations since they are the ones who tend to use cell phones. Others claim it is poor taste to pay money for an image of a saint to be used in such a manner . However, if it is poor taste for the vade mecum of all Italians-- the cell phone-- to have a santino, what about the saint decals in Italian cars? Or the holy cards that Italian and non-Italian Catholics carry? Where do we draw the line between good and bad taste in the Catholic Church?

Personally, I feel that the santini are appropriate. As a dual citizen of Italy and the United States, I carry an Italian cell phone with TIM (Telecom Italia) and, yes, I have a santina-- St. Veronica, my confirmation saint (see the photo above). To me, the whole debate is similar to those who debate tattoos of Christ or the Virgin Mary. For some, it is blasphemous but for others it is a personal way to show their faith. As the Ancient Romans said, "de gustibus non disputandum est"-- there is no accounting for taste. As long as the image of a saint is not being used in a disrespectful manner-- such as a highly sexualized image of a saint-- and it is being used as an expression of one's faith, I really do not see a problem.
How do you feel about santini on cell phones? Are they appropriate or not? Tell me what you think by leaving a comment below.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Remembering John Paul II

Pope John Paul II loved young people. He created World Youth Day as a place for young Catholics from all over the world to unite in their faith. I had the blessing to attend World Youth Day 1997 in Paris, France with my parish, Our Lady of the Snows, when I was 16 years old. This site is lovingly dedicated to Pope John Paul II.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Novena to St. Ann Now Available Online

The weekly Novena to St. Ann from the Basilica of the National Shrine to St. Ann in Scranton, Pa. is now available online by clicking here and then on "Novena".
St. Ann is the grandmother of Jesus and the mother of the Blessed Virgin Mary. St. Ann's in Scranton is the largest pilgrimage site in the world to St. Ann.

Below is the text for the Novena prayers:

In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
(Priest) Incline unto my aid, O God.
(People) O Lord make haste to help me.
(Priest) Let us pray.
(Priest and People together) O Almighty God, Father of mercies and giver of all good gifts, we kneel before you to honor you in your Saints; and to seek their intercession in our many needs. We are truly sorry for all our sins; and humbly ask your pardon.Please grant our requests and a full measure of the indulgences granted by your Vicar, the Pope and draw us ever nearer your divine heart. Amen.

(Priest and People Together) O glorious St. Ann, filled with compassion for those who invoke you and with love for those who suffer. Heavily laden with the weight of my my troubles, I cast myself at your feet and humbly beg of you to take the present affair which I recommend to you under your special protection.
Here mention silently your intention
Please recommend it to your daughter, the Blessed Virgin Mary, and lay it before the throne of Jesus so that he may being it to a happy issue. Please continue to intercede for me until my request is granted. Above all, obtain for me the grace of one day beholding my God face to face and with you and Mary and all the saints, praising and blessing him for all eternity. Amen.
Say the follwing prayer three times:
Good Saint Ann, mother of her who is our life, our sweetness, and our hope. Pray to her for us and obtain our requests.

O glorious St. Paul of the Cross, you who in meditating on the Passion of Jesus Christ did attain to such a high degree of sanctity on earth and of happiness in Heaven and did, by preaching the same holy Passion, offer to the world a most efficacious remedy for all its evils, obtain for us that we may ever have that Passion, so deeply engraven on our hearts that we may gather similar fruits in time and in eternity. Amen.

O God, who did teach St. Gabriel, your confessor, the constant remembrance of the sorrows of your loving Mother and through her did crown him with the glory of sanctity and miracles, grant us, by his intercession and example, so to share with your Mother in her sorrows that through her maternal protection we may gain everlasting salvation. Who lives and reigns forever and ever. Amen.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Sunday Mass Now Available Online

The Sunday Mass from the Basilica of the National Shrine of St. Ann in Scranton, Pa. is now available online by clicking here. According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, "At the heart of the Eucharistic celebration are the bread and wine that, by the words of Christ and the invocation of the Holy Spirit, become Christ's Body and Blood." However, viewing a Mass online does not fulfill a Catholic's Sunday obligation since we believe the pinnacle of the Mass to be when we receive Christ's body in the Eucharist. The online Mass is a good way for a person who has fallen away from the Church to become reacquainted with the Mass or for someone interested in learning about the Catholic faith.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Fr. Joe Hornick

This is the life story of Fr. Joe Hornick, the assistant pastor of Our Lady of the Snows Church in Clarks Summit, Pa. He is the most inspiring priest I have ever met and I would now like to share his story with you...

New Father
Widower-turned-priest celebrates his calling
“I hope people perceive me as a joyful priest.”-Fr. Joe Hornick
By: Stephanie Longo
Originally Printed: June 20, 2007

This past Father’s Day was special for Rev. Joseph Hornick and his three adult children. This Monday, June 25, he will celebrate a different kind of “Father’s Day.” Fr. Joe, assistant pastor of Our Lady of the Snows/ Church of St. Benedict Parish in Clarks Summit, will celebrate the second anniversary of his ordination.

After his wife Mary Ann died, he found himself draw to the priesthood. But not before going through what he calls “a deep dive in my life.”

Fr. Joe, as he is affectionately called by the congregation, grew up in Levittown, Bucks County, with his brother Dennis. He originally wanted to “stroll down litigation lane like Perry Mason” as an attorney.

He attended Villanova University for two years and then transferred to Dickinson College in Carlisle, receiving his Bachelor of Arts degree in political science in 1967. Vietnam was at its peak. He took part in an accelerated R.O.T.C. program and upon graduation, was commissioned a second lieutenant in the Army infantry.

Following a personal debate whether he should defer his Army entry or go to law school, he enrolled for a year at Chicago’s John Marshall Law School.The Army then sent him to Alaska and to other U.S. locations until 1971. He returned to law school at the University of Chicago and then at Harvard University, where he discovered that while he still liked the law, he didn’t love it anymore.

He left law school and made his way to the Pacific Northwest. While living in Seattle, Wash., he met Mary Ann Von Boecklin. She was a teacher at Sacred Heart Girls’ School and had been a Dominican nun for two years.“She was an absolute jewel,” Fr. Joe remembered. He and Mary Ann were married on April 5, 1975.

The Hornicks had three children, Robert (1976), Paul (1978) and Theresa (1981). They lived a happy life, including a year in Berwick-Upon-Tweed, England, following Paul’s birth. Fr. Joe worked in a food processing plant in Eyemouth, Scotland.

In 1985 when Mary Ann was diagnosed with cancer. At the time, he was working as a commoditybroker, a position he left in 1987.“Our children were 9, 7 and 4. I realized that I could not be in two places at once. I was making serious money at the time, which was nice. But when your loved one is dying or very sick, the children need to be taken care of. They didn’t need a nanny. They needed their dad,” he said. To ensure his being there for their children, he started a vending business, named M.A. Hornick after Mary Ann.

Mary Ann died on Dec. 5, 1991. A dark period followed in his life. “At that time, I wasn’t a good man,” he said. “I was an angry man. I was very angry with God. How could he mess with the best and leave some people who harm children and adults? How he could do that was beyond me. I went into a deep dive in my life and the only thing that brought me out of it was my children and the people who prayed for me.”

Little by little, his faith helped him recover from his loss.“When you focus on what you’ve lost without the eyes of faith, it jades you. I didn’t realize that Mary Ann was in my heart from the last moment of her breath — that’s where our loved ones dwell, interceding for us. Once I saw that when I looked into the eyes of our children or our friends and that’s where my wife was, it became a whole different ballgame for me,” he said.

Perhaps it was his promise to Mary Ann that he would make sure their children attended Sunday Mass that opened his door to the priesthood. In the mid-1990s, an article in the Archdiocese of Seattle’s newspaper, The Progress, caught his eye. The story was about two widowed men, an anesthesiologist in his late 60s and a businessman in his early 50s, who had been ordained priests. “God touched my heart at that moment,” he said. “There was an interest there that had to come only from the spirit. From that point on, when I went to Mass, I could actually see myself as a priest,” he said.

Robert, Paul, and Theresa were happy with their father’s new vocation. “My kids saw how miserable I was when my wife died. I was the angriest man in the world, I really was. I went internally and cursed God and everything every day. Once I realized that this was a call from God, there was no doubt in my mind. I started to have humor and smiles again. The glass was no longer half empty but half full. It had always been that way, but I had lost it for a while. I started to be not just happy, but joyful, and my children saw this.”

He confided his thoughts about a possible priestly vocation in his mentor, the late Sulpician Father William Morris.“ He was the closest thing to God the Father you’ll ever see on earth,” Fr. Joe remembered. At 55, he knew that most dioceses were focusing on young men for the priesthood.

It was a chance trip through Northeastern Pennsylvania, en route to watch Theresa pitch softball in Syracuse, N.Y., that brought him to this area.“The area reminded me of Seattle. Plus my family, including my mother and brother, was nearby. This was the only diocese I applied to,” he said.

He began his studies at Blessed John XXIII National Seminary in Weston, Mass., in 2001 after settling his personal and professional affairs. Fr. Joe credits the seminary’s top-notch preparation for second-vocation priests. “Once I realized that studying at the seminary wasn’t like studying science or math but the sacred scriptures, it was a whole different ballgame. I knew I would be there to stay,” he said.

Following his ordination as a deacon in May 2004, Fr. Joe was able to perform his U.S. Marine son Robert’s wedding on June 12 before he was sent to Iraq for 10 months.The new deacon was stationed for two summers at St. John the Evangelist Parish in Pittston with Monsignor John Bendik, former pastor of Our Lady of the Snows. Following ordination, his first assignment was at St. Mary’s Parish in Blossburg, Tioga County. He arrived at Our Lady of the Snows/ Church of St. Benedict last summer and also serves as chaplain for St. Michael’s School in Tunkhannock.

Fr. Joe wants to be known for his joy. “I hope people perceive me as a joyful priest. I am not a happy priest but a joyful one,” he said. “I can slip you $100 and you’ll be happy — it is a temporal thing. Joy comes from God. You are a special miracle of God and if you were the only person on earth, he would have still gone to the cross. You give back to God by being a good person. If you make a mistake, you make a mistake. ‘Saints have pasts and sinners have futures.’ That’s what will be on my tombstone. There would be nobody in heaven if we were all perfect.”

Friday, November 30, 2007

The Rosary

The Rosary is one of the most beloved prayers of Catholicism. In this videoclip, pilgrims to Medjugorje, a popular site for Marian apparitions, pray the Rosary.

According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, Mary is the Mother of the Catholic Church. She gave her consent in faith at the Annunciation (when the Angel Gabriel came and told her she was with child) and maintained it without hesitation at the foot of the Cross. Ever since, her motherhoodher motherhood has extended to the brothers and sisters of her Son "who still journey on earth surrounded by dangers and difficulties." Jesus, the only mediator, is the way of our prayer. Mary, his mother and ours, shows us the way to her son. We become closer to both Jesus and Mary by praying the Rosary.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Rediscovering Catholicism

An excerpt from the book "Rediscovering Catholicism" by Matthew Kelly, known for his writings designed to inspire young adults everywhere, regardless of their religion. "Rediscovering Catholicism" is a book that all Catholics should read, in particular young adults.

The World Needs the Church

"As I have already said, it seems the only acceptable prejudice in this hyper-sensitive, politically correct, modern climate, is to be anti-Catholic. This prejudice is growing and growing, as it is subtly nurtured by the arts and the media, and furthered by the way prevailing philosophies undermine Catholicism.

In the midst of the obviously anti-Catholic environment that our culture has created, it is easy to overlook some fundamental and practical realities. The world needs the Church today more than ever before. In a modern schema where people are becoming more self-absorbed and completely fixated on the fulfillment of their own desires, the Church is only going to be needed more and more.
The Catholic Church feeds more people, clothes more people, houses more people, and educates more people than any other organization in the world. And when the modern media and the secular culture have finished tearing down the Church as best they can, let me ask you, who then will take our place? Who will feed the hungry? Who will clothe the naked? Who will visit the lonely and imprisoned? Who will house the homeless? Who will comfort the sick and dying? Who will educate the masses?
The world needs the Church. Even your hardened and cynical politicians with nothing in mind but personal gain recognize this reality with alarming clarity. If for no other reason than from an economic standpoint, they know they couldn't pick up the broken pieces that would be left if the Church disappeared from their community.
The Church may be massively unappreciated and woefully persecuted, but we must press on all the same. After all, that is always the way it has been. Jesus didn't promise an easy way. He promised that we would be ridiculed, persecuted, and unappreciated as he himself was, but that we would nonetheless experience joy and fullness of life.
We should not try to forget that when Jesus was on the cross, he didn't turn to the man next to him and say, "You did the crime, now pay the price." No, he offered him a better life. That is the responsibility that now falls to our shoulders as followers of Jesus. The mission of the Church is to offer people a better life.
They key word of all of this is "offer". The Church doesn't force people to do things. The Church is a lover who comes to propose to the beloved. The Church proposes to you a certain course of action for certain situations. The Church proposes to you and me a certain way of life. And each of us, like the beloved who is proposed to, must accept the proposal or turn down the proposal. But, whatever our decision, we must live with that decision forever."

From "Rediscovering Catholicism" by Matthew Kelly, pages 309-311

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Online Eucharistic Adoration

As Catholics, we believe that Christ is truly present in the Eucharist. Eucharistic Adoration gives us the opportunity to spend some quiet time with Christ, either in prayer, silent meditation, or even a personal conversation with Him.

At, Catholics do not need to wait for Adoration at their respective parishes. They can simply visit the website and adore Christ whenever they choose.

To me, this is like having a conversation with a friend via webcam. It is still the same person, just a different experience of that person. Obviously, it would be preferable to physically attend adoration but some Churches don't even hold adoration on a weekly basis. The online adoration gives people the opportunity to remember Christ at all times in their lives: at work, at home, at a webcafe... anywhere... after all, isn't Christ with us wherever we go anyway?

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

A Modern Young Adult Saint

Recently, I had the pleasure of visiting the National Shrine of Saint Gianna Beretta Molla in Warminster, Bucks County, Pennsylvania.

I first became acquainted with St. Gianna by accident one day while shopping at the Guild, the Diocese of Scranton's store for Catholic goods and books. While looking for a prayer card, I saw a picture of a young woman holding a baby. The prayer card just gave a simple prayer to her, nothing more. There was no explanation as to who she was or what she was doing with the children.

Out of curiosity, I purchased the prayer card, brought it home, and immediately did a websearch on St. Gianna. Tears came to my eyes when I realized who she was and why she was declared a saint.

Gianna Beretta Molla was born on October 4, 1922 in Magenta (near Milan), Italy. She was a very devout Catholic, having undertaken a course in spiritual exercises at age 15 and even making a pilgramage to Loudes in her early thirties to ask the Blessed Virgin Mary if she should marry or become a Catholic missionary to Brazil, like her older brother.

Gianna married Pietro Molla in 1955 and they had three children. She is usually seen pictured with her daughter, Maria Zita (nicknamed Mariolina), who died at age 6 a few years after Gianna's death.

In September 1961, Gianna was two months pregnant when doctors discovered a large uterine tumor. A physician herself, Gianna knew that the only way to save her life would be to remove her uterus, which would kill the unborn child in her woumb. Gianna chose to have the tumor removed surgically and continue the pregnancy.

A few days before the baby was born, the doctors tried to convince her to have an abortion so she would live. Gianna told Pietro, "If you must decide between me and the child, do not hesitate: choose the child. I insist on it. Save the baby."

Baby Gianna Emanuela Molla was born a few days later. Gianna herself then began to experience severe uterine pain. Despite all efforts to save her life, Gianna Beretta Molla died on April 28, 1962, which is now celebrated as her feast day. Her last words were "Jesus, I love you! Jesus, I love you!"

Baby Gianna Emanuela, now grown, is a doctor herself. Gianna Beretta Molla was the last saint cannonized by Pope John Paul II in 2004.

St. Gianna is considered the "Pro-Life" Saint, which is absolutely appropriate since she refused an abortion. However, I offer this for your consideration: St. Gianna can also be a saint for young adults. She became involved in her Catholic faith at a young age. During her twenties and early thirties she was so involved with her faith that she wanted to give up the life she knew in Italy to minister to the poor in Brazil. As a young mother, she put her children's needs above her own, resulting in the loss of her life at age 39. St. Gianna is an example for all modern Catholic young adults, especially young Catholic women who want a career and a family.

Prayer to St. Gianna Beretta Molla:
Lord of life, we thank You for the heroic witness of St. Gianna Beretta Molla. You have taught us that there is no greater love than to lay down one's life for others. St. Gianna did this, not only as she gave birth to her last child, but also in her everyday life as she died to herself so that she could live wholly for You. What selflessness we see in her! Help us, we pray, that through the intercession of St. Gianna, our society may regain a sense of the sacredness of all human life. Fill us with her spirit of courage to suffer any struggle rather than deny You and the sanctity of human life. We ask You this through our Lord, Jesus Christ, Your Son, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God forever and ever. Amen.

Monday, November 26, 2007

An Excerpt from "Letters To A Young Catholic"

George Weigel is, perhaps, best known in Catholic circles for his book, A Witness To Hope: A Biography of Pope John Paul II. Although Pope John Paul II is considered the "Pope of the Young" because of his love for young people, tonight I'd like to talk about another one of Weigel's books.
Letters To A Young Catholic is a book that every Catholic, regardless of age, should read. The title was clearly taken from Ranier Maria Rilke's "Letters To A Young Poet", written at the beginning of the 20th century in response to one of his fans who wrote to him asking about the lifestyle of a poet. In that same vein, Weigel's book discusses the Catholic lifestyle. While Rilke wrote his letters in poetic verse, Weigel writes in a more journalistic tone, fitting since he has a syndicated newspaper column, "The Catholic Difference".
Weigel takes his readers on a journey through the Catholic world, starting with American Catholic writer Flannery O'Connor's Georgia home and travelling all over the world until ending in Krakow, Poland-- the home of Pope John Paul II.
Here is one of my favorite excerpts from "Letters To A Young Catholic" about the Catholic worldview that I hope you enjoy!

"'If you live today, you breathe in nihilism... it's the gas you breathe,' wrote Flannery O'Connor; 'if I hadn't had the Church to fight it with or to tell me the necessity of fighting it, I would be the stinkingest locical positivist you ever say right now.' So, I expect, would I. So, perhaps, would you. So here's one more way to think about Catholicism and its distinctive optic on the world and on us: Catholicism is an antidote to nihilism. And by 'nihilism', I mean, not the sour dark, often violent nihilism of Neitzsche and Sartre, but what my friend, the late Father Ernest Fortin (who borrowed the term from his friend, Alan Bloom), used to call 'debonair nihilism': the nihilism that enjoys itself on its way to oblivion, convinced that all of this-- the world, us, relationships, sex, beauty, history-- is really just a cosmic joke. Against the nihilist claim that nothing is really of consequence, Catholicism insists that everything is of consequence, because everything has been redeemed by Christ.
And, if you believe that, it changes the way you see things. It changes the way everything looks. Here is Flannery O'Connor again, refelecting on the Catholic difference in her own artistic and spiritual life, and that of fellow author Caroline Gordon Tate:
I feel that if I were not a Catholic, I would have no reason to write, no reason to see, no reason ever to feel horrified or even to enjoy anything. I am a born Catholic, went to Catholic schools in my early years, and have never left or wanted to leave the Church. I have never had the sense that being a Catholic is a limit to the freedom of the writer, but just the reverse. Mrs. Tate told me that after she became a Catholic, she felt she could use her eyes and accept what she saw for the first time, she didn't have to make a new universe for each book but could take the one she found.

To be sure, Catholicism wants to change the world, primarily by converting it. At the same time, Catholicism takes the world as it is-- Catholicism tries to convert this world, not some other world or some other humanity of our imagining-- because God took the world as it is. God didn't create a different world to redeem; God, in the person of His Son, redeemed the world he had created, which is a world of freedom in which our decisions have real consequences, for good and for evil."

From "Letters To A Young Catholic" by George Weigel, pages 13-14.