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.”