But Not Gigolos

I know--I use this pic for everything...but it's my favorite.

I know–I use this pic for everything…but it’s my favorite.

The other day, while chatting with my family, the topic of politics came up. Yeah, yeah—you’re never supposed to talk about politics or religion, but God knows it’s impossible to avoid either of those topics in my house! We spoke of our disgust for our current political state—how there is no party that represents our beliefs and values consistently, and our need for GOOD politicians. My mother said, “Maybe when Ben grows up, he could get into politics. He’d be a good politician.” “Not my son!” I snapped back. The thought of my son being in the midst of that element was too much for me. Ben asked why and I said, “Ben, I would support and be proud of you in almost any line of work that you feel God calls you to. Almost. Not a drug dealer, or gigolo, or politician, or anything like that.” And then, in a clearer moment, I got to thinking…how selfish is that? Not the drug dealer or gigolo thing; but my not wanting him to be a politician. If that’s where God calls him, I have to be okay with it and pray that he would be a good one.

I wondered if similar conversations happen in other Catholic homes, but instead of freaking out about the potential politicians, if it’s with potential priests. Priesthood is quite a sacrifice for an individual (and his parents if they want grandchildren). It means forfeiting marriage, regular hours, holidays off, a little chunk of your sanity, freedom and a whole lot more. For some (not unlike the case with politicians) there is a distrust of priests and sometimes the good ones get lumped in with the bad in the mind of the public. I’ve seen it happen. A good deal of their work is an uphill battle and a great deal falls on deaf ears. They get to be present to people in their best times, but also must be present in their worst times. They get a lot of nonsense hurled at them. Of course there is much joy in their priesthood, too, (including working with some amazing lay people and most likely a fabulous pastoral staff) but the sacrifice is immense.

I wonder if there are a lot of parents who would say, “Not my son!” and would dissuade their sons from discerning the priesthood like I instinctively did regarding politics. We do need good politicians, though. And we certainly do need good priests. Our Church needs men who will lead with an authentic heart, who feel God’s call to serve the poor and marginalized, to celebrate the Sacraments with joy and to preach the Word of God with sincerity. We need strong men who know themselves, are not easily led but are appropriately obedient. We need to raise sons who can respond to whatever God calls them to—including the priesthood. But not gigolos.

Jen Schlameuss-Perry

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Third Sunday in Ordinary Time, 2015

Dear Parish Family,

This weekend we mark the beginning of Catholic Schools Week.

The theme is: “Catholic Schools; Communities of Faith, Knowledge and Service”. The theme encompasses several concepts that are at the heart of a Catholic education. First, schools are communities – small families in their own right, but also members of the larger community of home, church, city and nation. Faith, knowledge and service are three measures by which any Catholic school can and should be judged. The logo features a swirl of colors interacting around a cross, which is at the center of all Catholic education. The vibrancy of the colors and the movement and shadows in the logo portray the inner-connectivity and community life that are present in our Catholic schools.

The Diocesan celebration of Catholic Schools Week begins on a sobering note, it has been announced that three of our 48 Schools will close in June, they are; St. Dennis in Manasquan, Holy Family in Lakewood and Incarnation/St. James in Trenton. A decision on a 4th school has not yet been made.

Happily, our school is strong and vibrant. As a parish community it is important, even essential, that we support Catholic Education for our school to remain strong.

On behalf of the whole parish I thank our teachers, support staff and administration for their good work in striving for excellence on a daily basis. I thank those of you who supported the establishment of a Catholic School in your parish and who continue to say “yes” through prayer and sacrifice to sustain Catholic Education in Jackson. I thank our parents for choosing Catholic Education and making the sacrifices necessary for our children to grow in a Catholic environment where Jesus is Lord and Teacher! Together all of us create a community of Faith, Knowledge and Service in the spirit of the Gospel.

Please join us for our School’s Open House this Sunday (Jan.25) anytime between 9:00 a.m. – 12 noon or on Friday January 30 from 9:15-10:15 a.m. You are also cordially invited to join us for the closing Mass for Catholic Schools Week on Friday Jan. 30 at 10:30 a.m. as we celebrate Catholic Education!

Peace and Good – Fr. Bambrick

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Invisible Boyfriends and Weddings For One

Science Fiction has been warning us for years—apparently, people need to be watching more TV and movies—because we are missing the message. As humanity progresses (and I do love the progress and tech that is being developed), we are becoming more isolated and out of touch with one another. Our society is at an all time low as far as human relationships go. Now, you’re probably saying, “Duh, Jen, who doesn’t know that?” But, did you know that in Japan (crazy Japan…) you can book a dream wedding for one? It’s aimed at girls who can’t seem to find a husband but still want to have the wedding experience. It pretends to build up the poor, young ladies’ self-esteem. Nothing says, “You’re special” like pretending to get married with a fake groom that you’ve never met. And if that doesn’t do it for you, Japan is working on some serious humanoid robots to keep you company.  I mean, if you’re having a fake wedding, you’ve pretty much given up, anyway, right?

the people who are sitting are actually robots.

the people who are sitting are actually robots.

This past Tuesday a company launched an app called “Invisible Boyfriend.” It’s for girls who can’t find a boyfriend (and boys who can’t find a girlfriend, etc.), but would like the illusion of having one. You get all kinds of services like phone calls, texts, even hand-written notes (good luck getting those from even a real boy anymore!). You can get worried parents off your back (as long as they don’t want to meet him), make yourself feel better (if pretending to be in a relationship will do that for you) and practice being in a relationship without actually having one. That won’t be a problem if a human boyfriend ever does come along, right? There won’t be any, “Why can’t you be more like Invisible Boyfriend, Chad? He always agreed with me and sent me hand-written notes!”

I also read an article about the reality of designer babies coming to pass. They are ready to genetically engineer babies to parent’s specifications with (what they claim is) extreme accuracy. It’s like Build-A-Bear, but with human infants. What sort of disappointment are these parents setting themselves up for when they come to realize that the perfect child they designed isn’t really perfect (no one avoids the terrible two’s or the traumatic three’s).

These things sound absurd, but they are selling. With a lack of social skills becoming more and more the norm among young people, our demand for made-to-order everything and instant gratification, we are digressing as a species. We are impatient, greedy and selfish, demanding and consumeristic and. I know that everyone isn’t running out and genetically engineering babies, having  solo-weddings and making fake significant others—but the fact that there’s a market for these things speaks to a real longing on the part of humanity.

We are trying so hard to create—or more to the point—to simulate a utopian life for ourselves because of the rampant personal dissatisfaction we feel. It results in our trying to control aspects of our lives that we can’t—not really. We feel so lacking and so empty that we are moving ever deeper into a virtual world because people, relationships, our work don’t fill us. And they never will.

Fake boyfriends will only get you so far. Let’s face it—they won’t get you anywhere—the sitcoms have already covered this topic so sufficiently that it shouldn’t even be an issue. We need to invest in reality—in actual human relationships that begin with a relationship with God.

If we are looking for happiness and fulfillment in things that are fleeting, unstable, or unreliable we will never be filled. Our lives will only change once we are rooted in God. If God doesn’t fill us first, nothing else will satisfy. If God isn’t our starting point, nothing else will ever meet our expectations. Reality is only found in God and if we try to manipulate or create it, we will only be playing in shadows. The more in touch with God we become, the more open we become to human relationships and knowing where God is really leading us—which will be to good things—fulfilling things—our true purpose and vocations.

Jen Schlameuss-Perry

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Second Sunday in Ordinary Time, 2015

Dear Parish Family,

It was a busy and momentous Christmas Season. We, like you, had visitors from far and wide. Bishop O’Connell had amputation surgery due to diabetes. There was an update in last week’s bulletin. He continues to do well in his recovery and is most appreciative of your prayers and concern for him.

The Christmas season was splendid and I want to thank everyone who made the holiday holy and beautiful. The great thing is that if I began to name everyone it would fill all the pages of this bulletin so I am saying THANK YOU and you all know who you are!

The priests are most grateful for all the wine, cookies, cakes, and other presents and goodies you sent to us. I know Fr. Fernando humorously asked everyone to please stop sending cookies at Mass one Sunday! We did have a lot of cookies and our waists will certainly show it.

There was a cook in one of my assignments who was very good at making everything good and she did it in large quantities. When I told her I was gaining weight her answer was, “Father, I only cook it, I don’t make you eat it”. But of course if it was good I ate it! Time to lose weight!

The Church looked particularly nice this year. One parishioner shared with me something she overheard on the way into Church right after Christmas. She said there was a gentleman bringing in guests and he said to them, “Welcome to Jackson’s Cathedral”. She said she was so proud that someone would describe the Church that way. So thank you to all the Elves who made it a “Cathedral” for the season, the comment was a testimony of your good work!

I want to also thank Liz Annino who donated 3 Sacred Images of Our Lady from South America, 1 Sacred Image from South America of the Angel Gabriel and a Greek Icon of St. Ann holding the Virgin Mary. She gave them in Honor of Mary on the Eve of the Solemnity of Mary Mother of God. The three images of Mary and the one of Archangel Gabriel were installed on either side of the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe on December 30, 2014. The Icon of St. Ann holding the Virgin Mary was placed in the priest sacristy.

Sometime after Easter a portrait of St. Francis of Assisi will be added to the area of the Saints and candles. It is being executed by John Gennard, who did the Padre Pio. This image will be a copy of the oldest portrait of St. Francis which is in the lower Basilica of St. Francis in Assisi. The original was done by the Artist Ciambue from descriptions given to him by the Friars. It is considered to be the truest image of St. Francis in existence.

There is a project that has been underway for a considerable amount of time. It is to enhance the Church Ambo (Pulpit). Drawings have been being sent back and forth across the Atlantic to Venice for a Mosaic of the Four Evangelists (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John) to wrap around the entire exterior surface of the Ambo. When the drawings are complete they will be displayed.

Peace and Good – Fr. Bambrick

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Know and Be Known

white heart

I think everyone has an understanding of what to “know” in the Biblical sense means. In case you don’t, it means having sex. I didn’t understand why as a kid.  I remember hearing, “He ‘knows’ her…in the Biblical sense” and (being a small genius) figuring out what it meant from the context of what the adults were saying. But, I wondered why the word “know” had anything to do with it.

So, now that I’m married and somewhat grown up, it makes sense to me. Sex (ideally) is the full physical expression of a deep, intimate relationship where two people perfectly and unbreakably committed to one another through the bond of marriage share everything they have—their whole selves.  One of the major images of God’s relationship with His people in the Hebrew Scriptures is that of a marital relationship, in part because of the  intimate knowledge that God wants to share with us.  It carries over to our Christian tradition in our calling the Church “the bride of Christ.”

Last week friend of mine shared an article on Facebook from the New York Times called, “To Fall In Love With Anyone, Do This.” (Click here to read the article—you can also see the questions from there.) It tells the story of a psychologist who did an experiment to see if he could make two strangers fall in love. He asked them to share a series of increasingly more intimate questions, and then required them to stare into each other’s eyes for four minutes. It worked. They got married. Weird. But, not entirely crazy…

We all have a need to be known. To be seen for who we are. To be accepted. To be loved. Eros, the romance branch of love, helps us to get started. Filios, the friendship love, develops our knowledge of one another and forms a great deal of care for the other as we spend time together; and then agape, the love that does the best for another regardless of how they feel about them, eventually kicks in.

In marriage, all three should be present. But, sometimes one or two get lost along the way. We get busy (with distracting stuff), we’re running in different directions, we are on our laptops and smartphones when we’re together. We forget to “know” one another.

All couples need to spend time together reconnecting. I’m not saying that this experiment will fix your marriage but, if you’re in a rut, maybe takes some time to really listen to one another, look into each others eyes, remember who it was you fell in love with and discover who they are now. And have that reciprocated. Know and be known.

Jen Schlameuss-Perry

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Feast of the Baptism of the Lord, 2015

The following is an update from the Diocese of Trenton regarding Bishop David O’Connell, C.M. following surgery due to complications from several serious infections brought about by diabetes.

Bishop David M. O’Connell, C.M., Diocese of Trenton, has been doing well following his Dec. 29 surgery to remove his foot and lower left leg.

All signs are good for a speedy recovery and rehabilitation, and he does hope to lead and celebrate the ceremonies of Holy Week, depending on how things progress.

Bishop O’Connell will be fulfilling his administrative responsibilities personally during his rehabilitation with the usual support of his Curia and Episcopal Secretary. Regarding his liturgical or ceremonial activities, Bishop has an Episcopal Vicar in each of our four counties as well as a Vicar General and a Vicar for Clergy all of whom are able to represent him at Masses and ceremonies before Holy Week, when he will resume a normal schedule.

We ask members of the community to continue to pray for Bishop O’Connell in the coming weeks and months, as he completes his recovery and rehabilitation. Anyone wishing to send a card or note may do so at the following address:

Most Rev. David M. O’Connell, C.M. The Chancery, Diocese of Trenton 701 Lawrenceville Rd. Trenton, NJ 08648 Attn: Office of Communications

To send via email, write to dotcomm@dioceseoftrenton.org

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Sheltering The Homeless

Whatever your feelings about The Daily Show (I happen to love it); there was a segment on last night that every Christian and every politician should see. There was a report called “The Homeless Homed” that showed how Salt Lake City is dealing with homelessness. Please watch the segment here (be warned—the interviewer does say “What the hell…” No bad language besides that).

 

The Mormons are totally schooling us—schooling the country— on how to care for the poor. The satirical nature of the report illustrates the ridiculousness of the arguments against helping the homeless, and challenges attitudes about them that need challenging.

Our Catholic Church, taken directly from the teachings of Jesus, makes it clear that we cannot ignore the poor. We cannot throw people away because they are too expensive or inconvenient. Our job is to protect people in all stages of life; whatever their personal circumstances.

Our parish and our Saint Vincent de Paul Society works very hard to give people the assistance they need to avoid becoming homeless. Our parishioners give so generously every month to care for the poor through our SVdP collection and the food collections we have. But, the St. Vincent de Paul volunteers could tell you—there is so much more to be done. I can tell you that there isn’t help for everyone.

Some years ago, a hard-working gentleman, 51 years old, came to the parish for Bible Study. He had a steady, but not very well-paying job and some medical issues. He lived with his brother who decided to sell his house. This man was suddenly homeless. There was nothing for him in the way of governmental support because he was single (no kids) and not old enough to qualify for help. He was a veteran, so we were able to get him into a safe shelter because he needed medical attention. But, this shelter was in Maryland. There was no help for him in New Jersey. Our St. Vincent de Paul Society did what they could, but it wasn’t enough. He had to move away from his mother (who is in a nursing home). Once he got the help he needed through the VA office (which took a ridiculous amount of time and the help of Congressman Chris Smith’s office), he was able to get back to being productive. It shouldn’t be that hard to get someone help.

There are humane, dignified solutions to the issue of poverty and homelessness. Let’s take a page out of the Salt Lake City playbook and help people get back on track. We have tons and tons of houses in our area that were built for residents who never came. Meanwhile, we have loads of people who are in need of assistance living in tents and in peril right under our noses. It’s cold out—even my chickens didn’t want to come out of their coop this morning. Living Jesus’ mission of caring for the poor is not a pie-in-the-sky dream. The early Christian Community showed us that it was possible (Acts 4: 32-35). Utah shows us that it’s possible.

Jen Schlameuss-Perry

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The Feast of The Epiphany of the Lord, 2015

Dear Parish Family,

Gold, Frankincense and Myrrh are three precious gifts of the ancient world. The first (Gold) still holds its value. The second (Frankincense) remains in widespread use in the form of incense for Churches while the third (Myrrh) is rarely used in our age.

During Christmas I had dinner with a few families and there were 3 teenage boys at the table. They decided to entertain us with fire tricks from the candles of the table. One of the mothers leaned over to me and said, “Father, why is it that boys are always drawn to play with fire?” Maybe it has something to with burning incense??? I doubt Mary allowed the baby Jesus to burn incense; I picture her only allowing him to play with the little fragrant grains.

At a Summer party a friend of mine named Mary Ellen, who pilots large cargo ships all over the world, gave me a belated Epiphany gift. She was on a run along the Arabian coast and the ship was in port in Oman. She knows I use incense for solemn feasts so she went to the marketplace acquiring a very fine Oman Frankincense; Hojari.

When you open the box your nose immediately experiences a pleasant fragrance from this pure incense. I have a small thurible in my office set in front of my Icons of Christ, so I lit some charcoal and placed just 4 small grains on the hot coals. I then became preoccupied typing on my keyboard, (maybe writing this column!) when I turned around I could not see the room! It smelled heavenly but produced a prodigious cloud. Thankfully my office has an exhaust system in it and in short order the cloud was dissipated and only the beautiful odor remained. When this happened my thoughts went to the story of the Magi who brought Frankincense to Jesus as a gift. It is the gift given to priests for liturgical worship. Incense has always been associated with prayers rising, like the smoke, to the Heavens. The Jewish priests offered it by the shovel full each morning and evening as a sacrifice on the Altar of the Temple in Jerusalem. They believed the fragrance was pleasing to God.

The Magi offered Frankincense to Jesus acknowledging His priestly ministry and His coming to call us all to prayer before the Father. May our prayers on this Solemnity of the Epiphany rise like incense before God and may our charitable acts provide the sweet smell of sanctity before God.

Though the story of the Magi is 2,000 years old, incense is still a gift offered to priests even as recently as last Summer, at least to this priest! Thanks to Mary Ellen, wherever on the high seas she is sailing, my prayers are rising like incense in Jackson!

Peace and Good – Fr. Bambrick

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Frailty Assumed

Last Sunday was the Feast of the Holy Family—a celebration of the most

This is my holy family.

This is my holy family.

perfect expression of human families on earth. As I sat waiting for Mass to start, I realized that I had no refereeing to do—my kids weren’t with me. They went to an earlier Mass with my parents. We make an effort to go to Mass together every Sunday, and on this day—the day we celebrate families specifically—I sat alone (my husband, Ken, is in the music ministry) until my mother-in-law came. This gave me some time to think (since we had to be there crazy early so Ken could get ready)…a rare gift, indeed!

I remembered hearing from a friend who had struggled with infertility that this time of year can be difficult for couples who are hoping for a child because it’s non-stop talk of babies and holds up the ideal family as one with a child—and that’s not the reality for everyone, no matter how much they might want it.

And that got me thinking about what sorts of stories we focus on as we approach Christmas—stories of miraculous births—one for Elizabeth who was barren and super old, and the other that was virginal. Then, on the Feast of the Holy Family, we hear about Abraham and Sarah who were also super old and got a baby. We are reminded over and over that God is full of surprises. And when these people got the families that they were promised, it wasn’t all honky dory—they had problems; they had struggles and two of the three couples had their kids die in horrific ways. Not a cheerful thought, but a reminder to me that even when we get what we ask for, there is no promise that it will be without further difficulty.

Jesus, Mary and Joseph are a perfect family, but they were by no means a traditional family. Even though it was a miracle, Mary was pregnant out of wedlock. Joseph was a foster father. They were, essentially, a blended, adopted, loving, faithful family—and if you’re Catholic, you believe that they were also celibate. There are many definitions of “family” these days, and God, in His wisdom, made His perfect example one that reflects our experience. He’s so smart.

In the preface to the Eucharistic prayer that day, I heard the words, “our frailty is assumed by your Word,” and boy did they stick with, and follow me around this week! Jesus assumed our frailty by becoming a human, but He also takes our personal frailty into Himself. When a family brings up the gifts at Mass, I always think of them carrying with them all of our efforts, successes, the sacrifices we made for others throughout the week, our hurts, disappointments, struggles, unrequited hopes, terrors (for parents of teens)—all the best and most difficult parts of us. God accepts those gifts represented in bread and wine (and at our parish a prayer basket), assumes them into Himself, changes our frailty into His Word. He gives it all back to us, perfected, so that we can be stronger and live our vocation as families.

As we enter a new year, we are given new opportunities to live as Holy Families—whatever our families look like—whomever they consist of. With all the joys and challenges this new year will bring, remember that we aren’t in it alone. First, we have God assuming our frailty into Himself; second, we have our families driving us nuts and giving us someone to love, and third; we have our community who shares in our struggles. Have a happy, holy New Year!

Jen Schlameuss-Perry

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The Feast of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary & Joseph, 2014

Dear Parish Family,

This Sunday after the Solemnity of the Nativity of the Lord, we celebrate the Solemnity of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph. This feast is particularly poignant because this coming New Year is dedicated to the Family. The World Meeting of Families will take place in Philadelphia presided over by the Universal Father of the Catholic Church, Pope Fran-cis. FYI, did you know that the word ‘Pope’ comes from the Italian word ‘Papa’? It means, Father. This was the ancient affectionate nickname the people of the Diocese of Rome gave to their Bishop.

The Year of the Family comes after the Extraordinary Synod on the Family and it is during this Year of the Family that the Ordinary Synod on the Family will take place. The Church has placed before us the essential building blocks of a just society; the Family. Though in crisis and decline in the world, subject now to relativistic theories, the Church never-the-less holds the Family up as the most important element of a civilized society. The Great Fa-ther of us all willed the Family to be central to His plan of salvation. His Son, the Eternal Word, was born into a family, lived in a family and came to know our life through family life. The Church desires to strengthen and forti-fy the human family and return the family to the center of human life and interaction; leading us to the glorious family of Heaven. The forces of evil, the great deceiver himself knows, destroy the family and you destroy the world! St. John Paul II never tired of reminding us, “The family is the Domestic Church”.

Having joyfully celebrated the Nativity of the Lord, we look forward to the blessings of the Savior for the coming New Year. The very first day of the New Year is also the Solemn Holy Day of Obligation in honor of the Mother of God; the Mother of the Family of Jesus and the Mother of the Family of the Church.

I can think of no better way to open a new chapter in life than to dedicate it to the prayers of the Mother of God; who was the first to receive the incarnation of the Word of Life in her own flesh. She heard and believed and be-lieved even without having to see. Rather she saw through the eyes of faith that which was hidden. Through her cooperation, she made visible for the eyes of all that which remained hidden in her womb.

We have in our worship space many images of Our Lady. The first one is the icon of Our Lady of Tenderness on the right side of the sanctuary of our Church. Pope Francis tells us, “Tenderness does us good”. He urges us to be tender in our interactions and docile toward receiving God’s Grace.

The Mother of God teaches us by her example, not just her words, to open ourselves up to the tender will of God. On Gaudete Sunday we dedicated, blessed and enthroned the image of St. Padre Pio, who in humility, docili-ty and tenderness gave himself over to God’s will. His motto was, “Pray, Hope and Don’t Worry”; very good

advice. “Prayer”, he said, “is the key that opens the heart of God”.

It is then appropriate that we should begin the New Year in prayer, collecting all our hopes, entrusting ourselves to the Most Holy Mother of the Savior who entrusted her to us. From the Cross, he tells us, “Behold your

Mother”. Through the Prayers of the Mother of God, O’ Savior, save us!

On New Year’s Day we will welcome back Deacon Al Gumalo. You may recall Deacon Al was with us for the Sum-mer of 2014 and then returned to St. Mary’s Seminary in Baltimore to complete his academic work. Deacon Al will return to the Seminary at the end of January for a couple of days to complete his comprehensive examinations and will return to the Parish completing his Formational Process before being called to Priesthood. We welcome Dea-con Al back to St. Aloysius!

“Pray, Hope, and Don’t Worry”

Peace and Good – Fr. Bambrick

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