Archive | May, 2018

Pentecost

May 17, 2018

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PentecostThe Feast of Pentecost. Pentecost is a solemnity, the highest ranking liturgical feast, and it celebrates the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the apostles. It serves as the grand and glorious conclusion to the fifty-day Easter Season, seven continuous weeks that celebrate the greatest mystery of the Christian faith, the Resurrection. It brings the Paschal Mystery to completion.

Special Liturgical Features. The vestments are red which symbolize the Holy Spirit. There are two special Masses for Pentecost, a vigil Mass for Saturday evening and the Mass during the day for Sunday. A sprinkling rite is optional. There is a Sequence between the second reading and the gospel which may be sung or proclaimed. Infant baptisms are highly appropriate within the celebration of the Mass. There is a special solemn blessing for the dismissal that ends with a double Alleluia. The Easter Season is finished at the conclusion of Evening Prayer or Vespers at which time the Easter Candle is removed from the sanctuary and taken to its regular place, usually near the Baptismal font. If Evening Prayer is not celebrated, the Easter Candle usually is moved after the last Mass.

A Magnificent Moment. Pentecost recalls how the Holy Spirit descended upon the apostles in the form of a strong driving wind and tongues as of fire which parted and came to rest on each of them. Immediately they were filled with the Holy Spirit (see Acts 2:1-4). It was an outpouring of the Spirit on each apostle individually and the Church collectively. The Spirit imbued the apostles with great love, led them to the truth, set their faith ablaze, and filled them with great zeal. This immeasurable grace was the birth of the Church. Through the Spirit the Church is sanctified or made holy, and by the power of the Spirit each person is united to Christ and the peoples of every nation, race, and language are unified in the profession of one faith. The annual celebration of this feast makes the graces first bestowed upon the apostles available to every believer in every subsequent generation.

C+ Apostles in Need of Improvement. The apostles were average performers at best and they needed to make major upgrades. Jesus spent countless hours with them. He gave them his warm friendship and personalized instruction, invited them to be his companions and performed amazing miracles before them. In spite of this, the apostles were terrified during the storm at sea, failed to understand the parables, were unable to expel some demons, fought among themselves over who was most important, and abandoned and betrayed their Master. They were unable to comprehend who Jesus was or what he expected of them. Even after the Resurrection they remained bewildered, isolated, afraid, and silent.

The Transformative Moment. On Pentecost the Holy Spirit galvanized the apostles’ faith. It was a metamorphosis of epic proportions. The apostles emerged from the cocoon of the Upper Room completely remade. They were on fire with love for Jesus! Once fearful, they became bold and courageous. Once silent, they became assertive and outspoken. Once cautious, they took tremendous risks. Once followers, they became leaders. Once weak, they performed great and mighty deeds in Jesus’ name. Once concerned with safeguarding their own lives, they became willing to sacrifice everything for the sake of Jesus and the gospel.

Catch the Spirit! The Holy Spirit that transformed the apostles on the first Pentecost has the power to transform each of us. The Spirit outpoured on the first apostles is also outpoured on us in the celebration of Pentecost, the sacraments, prayer, and multiple other ways. Pentecost is an invitation to be bold! Catch fire! Shed inhibitions! Love! Forgive! Share! Serve! Speak the truth! Do great and mighty deeds! Make the name of Jesus known and loved!

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For the Love of the Game: Where Fraternity and Faith Meet

May 17, 2018

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Eddie Rosario

Fr. Ubel with Puerto Rico native and Twins Left Fiedler, Eddie Rosario

By Father John Ubel

Like all grade school students of my era, I was taught that Christopher Columbus discovered America. Of course I assumed then that he touched foot on what is now American soil. I would later learn that Leif Erickson and Viking explorers were likely the first Europeans to set foot in North America proper, landing on the northern tip of Newfoundland around the year 1000 A.D. But Columbus did anchor near San Juan, Puerto Rico for two days in November 1493 A.D. on his second voyage, and when I gazed upon the tomb of Juan Ponce de Leon, known as the discoverer of Florida, in the Catedral de San Juan Bautista, suddenly the travails of the early explorers felt real. By appointment of the Spanish Crown, he was its first Governor in 1508-09.

Traversing the streets of old San Juan is reminiscent of many old European cities, with El Morro, the massive six-story 16th century fortress dominating the old city. The morning of our Cathedral visit coincided with the arrival of a giant cruise ship in port. The narrow streets were packed by 9:00 a.m. Our “tour guide” from the parish staff was José Lara Fontánez, who clearly loves his Cathedral as much as I love ours. We had mailed 345 pounds of medicines, to be distributed to the needy in San Juan and beyond. The island wide power outage delayed the post office pick up by a day or two, but they arrived safely. On top of that, I was delighted to present a gift in the amount of $25,000 to be used for Cathedral restoration, following Hurricane Maria. Ten minutes into our visit, my phone rang–it was Premier Bank. I gave authorization for the immediate transfer of funds and we all cheered when the transfer was final. What a thrill for me! I received a heartfelt thank you note from the rector, Fr. Benjamin Perez Cruz, who invited me to visit again in 2021 for the 500th anniversary celebration of the Cathedral!

Cathedral of San Juan Bautista

Fr. Ubel presents gift check to the Cathedral of San Juan Bautista

With a typical high of 85 and low of 74, it is not difficult to plan for the day, unless it rains! And it did briefly, but powerfully one day. The cab driver lamented– “You see this? When it rains, the roads become a river!” And trust me, when the sun re-appears, it’s like a steam room! In its infancy as a territory, Puerto Rico relied heavily on its sugar crop, but by the mid-20th century, that shifted to manufacturing and tourism. Puerto Ricans received U.S. citizenship in 1917 and Puerto Rico officially became a U.S. Commonwealth in 1952. There are signs that tourism is slowly, very slowly coming back. I suspect this is one reason why Major League Baseball was intent on keeping its commitment to this two-game series. They added LED lights to the stadium (just as we did here at the Cathedral!) and repaired the significant damage to the artificial turf in Estadio Hiram Bithorn, built in 1962 and named after the first Puerto Rican who played in the Majors for the Chicago Cubs in 1942.

The scoreboard was reminiscent of the old Met Stadium. It was “no frills” baseball without the constant images flashing across giant video screens. Instead, we were treated to strolling musicians in the stands, with people breaking into dancing and singing right in their seats between innings. Cowbells, whistles and a cacophony of sounds seemed ever-present. It was a completely different feel in the stadium. We sat directly behind a friendly family– Mom, Dad, their identical twin sons aged about 12 or 13 and grandpa. They were all smiles during the game, though ironically the “twins” inexplicably sported Indians gear! On the first night I enjoyed fresh squeezed lemonade and a hot dog, and on the second night, felt ambitious an opted for a piña colada. If it had any alcohol, it was the weakest drink I’ve ever had– but it was tasty!

Back at the hotel after the first game, our group visited with a man at the neighboring table who worked for Major League Baseball. We began discussing the various charitable outreaches being made during the series. When I noted our own outreach to the Cathedral, he was genuinely appreciative. Not five minutes later, into the restaurant walked Rob Manfred, the Commissioner of Major League Baseball. After a few minutes, the Commissioner himself approached our table! He asked how we were enjoying our experience, and before long he invited us to a private event the next day unveiling a memorial marker in honor of Roberto Clemente, a national hero in Puerto Rico who tragically perished in a plane crash on New Year’s Eve in 1972 while on his way to provide disaster relief to Nicaragua. The entire visit was a wonderful experience of faith, fellowship and baseball, with a few surprise extras. The incredible support of the good people of the Cathedral parish truly made it an unforgettable visit.

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Mothers of the Gospels

May 11, 2018

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Mother’s Day is an ideal time to reflect upon mothers in the gospels who are spiritual role models for the mothers of today. The two mothers who receive the most attention are Mary, the mother of Jesus, and Elizabeth, the mother of John the Baptist, but there are a number of other mothers who are mentioned briefly that deserve consideration.

Peter’s mother-in-law. She was the mother of Peter’s wife, and when Jesus began his Galilean ministry, she lived with Peter and Andrew in their home in Capernaum. She became sick with a terrible fever. Jesus cured her, and she immediately waited on them (Mt 8:14-16; Mk 1:29-31; Lk 4:38-39). Her healing was for a purpose, so she could be of service to others. She imitated Jesus who came “not to be served, but to serve” (Mt 20:28). Christian mothers give generous and selfless service.

The mother of Zebedee’s sons. She was the mother of James and John. Her husband and sons were fishermen on the Sea of Galilee. Her efforts to help her sons gain a firm foundation in their Jewish faith may have contributed to the fact that they were the third and fourth disciples called by Jesus. She paid Jesus homage (Mt 20:20) which indicated her faith in him. Then she asked if her sons could sit on the right and left of Jesus in his kingdom (Mt 20:21) which indicated her love and concern for her sons. She followed Jesus from Galilee to Jerusalem in order to minister to him (Mt 27:55), and she served in partnership with Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of James and Joseph (Mt 27:56). She was at Golgotha and watched the death of Jesus on the Cross from a distance. Christian mothers have faith in Jesus, give him their utmost respect, want the best for their children, follow Jesus with love and devotion, associate with other Christian women, and go to great lengths to serve Jesus.

Mary, the mother of James and Joseph. She was the mother of the younger James, the son of Alphaeus (Mt 10:3; Lk 6:15; Acts 1:13), one of the twelve apostles, and Joseph who is also called Joses (Mk 15:40,47). She was one of the women who accompanied Jesus from Galilee to Jerusalem to serve him, and she watched the crucifixion from afar (Mt 27:55-56). She and Mary Magdalene watched where Jesus was laid (Mk 15:47). She is also “the other Mary” who kept vigil outside Jesus’ tomb (Mt 27:61). After the Sabbath she and Mary Magdalene (Mt 28:1), Salome (Mk 16:1), and Joanna (Lk 24:10), brought spices to the tomb to anoint the body of Jesus. She listened to the angel and ran back to the disciples to announce the Resurrection (Mt 28:5-8). The apostles fled out of fear, while Mary faithfully remained with Jesus out of her deep love for him. Christian mothers stay close to Jesus at all times and are steadfast in their love for him, and form partnerships with other good women and do good works together.

The widow of Nain. Her husband had died, and then her only son died (Lk 17:12). His body was being carried to its final resting place and she was weeping. Jesus had taught, “Blessed are they who mourn, for they will be comforted” (Mt 5:4), and Jesus comforted the grief-stricken mother by raising her son from the dead and by returning him to her (Lk 7:14-15). Christian mothers love their children every moment of their child’s life, and if a child should die, the mother grieves over the loss, persists in her love, and provides a respectful burial. Christian mothers also have great compassion on other mothers who have suffered a death in their family and make a conscious effort to offer consolation and assistance.

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Mothers who are Saints

May 11, 2018

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Mothers’ Day is a beautiful occasion to give tribute to mothers, each person’s own mother, for all of the love she has shared, and all mothers, for all they contribute to the wellbeing of the family and society. It is a day set aside to give special praise and thanks to those mothers who are alive and to honor the memory of those who have passed away. Spiritually, it is an opportunity to highlight mothers who are saints, because their good and holy lives can serve as an inspiration to the mothers of today.

Saints Perpetua and Felicity (180-203) are two great mothers of the Early Church. They lived in Carthage, a city in North Africa. Both were catechumens, baptized, and then arrested for their Christian faith. Perpetua gave birth to a son while under house arrest, and Felicity, her servant, gave birth to a daughter in prison. Aware of their impending deaths, they entrusted their children to other Christians so they would be raised in the faith. They were martyred on March 7, 203, both heroic witnesses to their children.

Sts. Constantine and Helena

St. Helena (255-330). She was the mother of Constantine, a Roman general who eventually became the Roman emperor. She converted to Christianity in 318 at the age of 63, and made a pilgrimage to the Holy Land c. 320. She discovered the True Cross, and with the authorization of her son, who by then was a catechumen, had the Temple to Venus over Calvary demolished, and shrines were built to honor Jesus’ death and Resurrection. Churches were also built on the Mount of Olives to honor the Ascension and in Bethlehem to honor the Nativity. As a mother, she had a strong spiritual influence on her son, both in the construction of churches and in his baptism which he accepted shortly before his death.

St. Bridget of Sweden (1303-1373). She was the mother of eight children, four boys and four girls. She dutifully raised her children as Christians, but she suffered bitter disappointments because her oldest daughter married a bad husband and her youngest son died in 1340. She served in the court of King Magnus II and Queen Blanche, and she tried to exert a positive spiritual influence upon them. She founded religious institutes for women and men, called for an end to the Avignon Papacy, and moved to Rome to minister to the sick and poor. She made a pilgrimage to the Holy Land in 1371 and took three of her children with her, her sons Charles and Birger, and her daughter Catherine who was later named a saint. She had many visions and is famous for the way that she challenged sinners to reform their lives.

St. Elizabeth Ann Seaton (1774-1821). She was born in New York City, married at the age of 19, and was the mother of five children. Her husband William became sick with tuberculosis, the she moved the family to Pisa, Italy, for a warmer climate and to get help from his family, but he died six weeks later. Elizabeth was Episcopalian, and she stayed with William’s Catholic family in Italy and prayed with them every day in their family chapel. She decided to convert, and did so upon their return to New York. She attended daily Mass and prayed the Memorare, and she taught her children the importance of prayer. She was also a strong believer in the value of education, and she provided for the education of her own children. She opened a boarding school in New York, and later moved to Maryland with her family in 1808, established a school, and founded a community of religious sisters to teach and serve the poor, and later founded other schools and orphanages in Philadelphia and New York.

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St. Philip, apostle

May 4, 2018

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St. PhilipSt. Philip is one of the original twelve apostles, and his name is included on four lists, three in the gospels (Mt 10:3; Mk 3:18; and Lk 6:14), and one in the Acts of the Apostles (Acts 1:13). He is sometimes paired with other apostles: with St. Bartholomew (Mt 10:3) and St. Thomas (Acts 1:13) on the lists, with Andrew when he approached Jesus on behalf of some Greeks (Jn 12:22), and he shares a feast day with St. James the Less on May 3. The name Philip is derived from the Greek word philippos which means “lover of horses.”

Philip came from Bethsaida (Jn 1:44; 12:21), a fishing village on the north side of the Sea of Galilee, the same town as Andrew and Peter. He may have been a disciple of John the Baptist at first. Jesus personally invited Philip, “Follow me” (Jn 1:43), and he immediately became his follower. Then Philip went and found Nathanael, called him (Jn 1:48), and suggested that he go to see Jesus. Philip made a powerful profession of faith in Jesus when he declared: “We have found the one about whom Moses wrote in the law, and also the prophets, Jesus, son of Joseph, from Nazareth” (Jn 1:45).

Jesus and Philip spoke briefly before the multiplication of the five loaves and two fish. To demonstrate the enormity of the miracle to come, Jesus asked Philip, “Where can we buy enough food for them to eat?” (Jn 6:5), and Philip replied, “Two hundred days’ wages worth of food would not be enough for each of them to have a little” (Jn 6:7).

On another occasion a number of Hellenes, Greek speaking Jews, had come to Jerusalem for the feast of Passover. They approached Philip, possibly because he was the apostle who was most fluent in Greek, and made the request, “Sir, we would like to see Jesus” (Jn 12:21). “Philp went and told Andrew; then Andrew and Philip went and told Jesus” (Jn 12:22).

At the Last Supper Philip asked Jesus, “Master, show us the Father, and that will be enough for us” (Jn 14:8). Jesus explained, “Whoever has seen me has seen the Father” (Jn 14:9).

Philip is listed among the apostles who were in the Upper Room on Pentecost and received the gift of the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:13; 2:1-4). Church historians believe that Philip made a missionary journey to Phrygia, an area in west-central Asia Minor or Turkey, and possibly to Greece. There are differing accounts of his martyrdom. One tradition holds that he was stoned to death in Phrygia, while another holds that he was killed in Hierapolis, a prominent city in southwestern Asia Minor, under the persecution of Domitian, either crucified, possibly upside down, or thrust through with a lance. His remains were eventually transferred to Rome where he was entombed in the Basilica of the Twelve Apostles.

Philip the apostle is not to be confused with Philip the deacon (Acts 6:5) who preached in Samaria (Acts 8:4-8) and had a dramatic encounter with an Ethiopian (Acts 8:26-40).

St. Philip is the patron saint of Luxembourg and Uruguay. His symbols are a walking stick, a book or scroll, loaves of bread, a budded cross, a spear or lance, and a pile of stones.

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