Article by Bishop Robert Barron

MICHELLE WOLF AND THE THROWAWAY CULTURE

The other night at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner, Michelle Wolf, who I’m told is a comedian, regaled the black-tie and sequin-gowned crowd with her “jokes.” Almost all were in extremely bad taste and/or wildly offensive, but one has become accustomed to that sort of coarseness in the comedy clubs and even on mainstream television. However, she crossed over into the territory of the morally appalling when she indulged in this bit of witticism regarding Vice President Mike Pence: “He thinks abortion is murder, which, first of all, don’t knock it until you’ve tried it. And when you do try it, really knock it, you know. You gotta get that baby out of there.” One is just at a loss for words.  I mean, even some in the severely left-leaning crowd in Washington groaned a bit at that remark. 

It might be helpful to remind ourselves what Ms. Wolf is referencing when she speaks of “knocking that baby out of there.” She means the evisceration, dismemberment, and vivisection of a child. And lest one think that we are just talking about “bundles of cells,” it is strict liberal orthodoxy that a baby can be aborted at any stage of its prenatal development, even while it rests in the birth canal moments before birth. Indeed, a child, who somehow miraculously survives the butchery of an abortion, should, according to that same orthodoxy, be left to die or actively killed. Sure sounds like fun to me; hey, don’t knock it until you’ve tried it. 

I realize that these attitudes have been enshrined in American law for some time, but what particularly struck me about the Correspondents’ Dinner was how they were being bandied about so shamelessly for the entertainment of the cultural elite. Let’s face it, the people in that room—politicians, judges, writers, broadcasters, government officials—are the top of the food chain, among the most influential and powerful people in our society. And while the killing of children was being joked about—especially, mind you, the children of the poor, who are disproportionately represented among the victims of abortion—most in this wealthy, overwhelmingly white, elite audience guffawed and applauded.

And this put me in mind of Friedrich Nietzsche. I’ve spoken and written often of the influence of this nineteenth-century thinker, whose musings have trickled their way down through the universities and institutions of the high culture into the general consciousness of many if not most people today. Nietzsche held that the traditional moral values have been exposed as ungrounded and that humanity is summoned to move, accordingly, into a previously unexplored space “beyond good and evil.” In such a morally unmoored universe, the Ubermensch (superman or over-man) emerges to assert his power and impose his rule on those around him. Nietzsche had a special contempt for the Christian values of sympathy, compassion, and love of enemies, characterizing them as the ideals of a “slave morality,” repugnant to the noble aspirations of the Ubermensch. Through his many avatars in the twentieth-century—Sartre, Heidegger, Foucault, Ayn Rand, etc.—Nietzsche, as I said, has exerted an extraordinary influence on contemporary thought. Whenever a young person today speaks of traditional ethics as a disguised play of power or of her right to determine the meaning of her own life through an exercise of sovereign freedom, we can hear the overtones of Friedrich Nietzsche. 

All of which brings me back to the White House Correspondents’ Dinner. When we live in the space beyond good and evil, when morality is construed as entirely the invention of personal freedom, when nothing counts as intrinsically wicked, when any claim to moral authority is automatically shouted-down—in other words, when we live in the world that Nietzsche made possible—then the will of the most powerful necessarily holds sway. And when something or someone gets in the way of what the powerful want, well then, they just “gotta knock it out of there.” Michelle Wolf’s comment was not just a bad joke; it was a brazen display of power, designed to appeal precisely to those who have reached the top of the greasy pole.

One of the extraordinary but often overlooked qualities of a system of objective morality is that it is a check on the powerful and a protection of the most vulnerable. If good and evil are objective states of affairs, then they hem in and control the tendency of cultural elites to dominate others. When objective moral values evanesce, armies of the expendable emerge, and what Pope Francis aptly calls a cultura del descarte (a throwaway culture) obtains. One of the indicators that this has happened is lots of people in tuxedos and formal gowns, sipping from wine glasses, and laughing while someone jokes about the murder of children.

An Announcement

From the Parish Office

Hello Everyone. 

We sent out an update on Parish activities in January. This is an update on what’s been happening. 

Properties-

OLPH Property Sale to Highlands Borough- The final contract on this sale should be signed in the fall. We presented our plans for the new parking lot on the church property to the Land Use Board of Highlands. Our plans were approved and accepted. We are now preparing for demolition of the rectory building and the garage. 

Mother Theresa School Property- As we said in the update in January, this property is for sale. The Diocese Real Estate office is handling this process- there has been lots of interest, but no firm offers have been received. This sale could take years if it happens at all. Many have asked about the St. Agnes Thrift Shop. The Thrift Shop will remain open until there is a final contract of sale on the property. Having said that, we will be closing the Thrift Shop for a few weeks this summer as we have done in the past, for reorganization, and cleaning. To continue to offer this service to our community, we will need community volunteers to staff the shop. 

Convent-As many know, the pipes in the convent burst in the cold weather this winter and we experienced massive water damage to the building. We have been consulting with the diocesan insurance company and 

Serv-Pro, the company that did the initial clean up; to replace old wiring, old heating and electric and rebuild is not cost effective. The only option we have is to take the building down. The demolition will take place over the summer. 

Other Exciting Activities

Music Ministry and Mass Changes- We are excited to announce that our Organist at OLPH, Courtney Grogan, has agreed to assume responsibility for all music at both OLPH and St. Agnes. Courtney will play at all the Masses and direct the Music Ministry. Because of this change, we will modify the Mass Schedule slightly. Effective the weekend of June 30/July 1, the 5pm Saturday Mass at St. Agnes will now begin at 5:15pm. The 10:30am Sunday Mass will now begin at 10:45am. This will give Courtney ample time to travel between both churches. 

CCD Classes Moving- The CCD Classes will be moving to OLPH School in September. Keeping the Mother Theresa School open for CCD only was costing the parish over $50,000/year. This is an expense we can eliminate by moving CCD Classes. Kevin Connelly will be managing the move and registration for next session. Please contact him with any questions. 

Repairs and Other Activities- You will see us replacing the frames on the windows in both churches this summer. This is critical to preserve and protect our beautiful stained-glass windows. There is work taking place in the Sacristy at OLPH as well- sinks are being replaced, and shelving and painting will happen over the summer. Additionally, the lights in the parking lot at St. Agnes will be repaired/replaced as some point in the fall. 

Volunteerism-We are in serious need of volunteers for several projects- the CCD Move and the Thrift Shop Clean up are only two of many. Adult volunteers and any high school age students who are off this summer and looking for community service hours should contact the parish office. As always, we are very grateful for your help. 

Enjoy the summer! 

Corpus Christi Reflection

The Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist, the Body and Blood of Christ, is celebrated throughout the Church in several ways: first, on the altar through the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass; second, from that same altar in the Sacred Host brought by priests, deacons and lay extraordinary ministers to the sick in hospitals and to the homebound; third, again from that same altar, in prayer and adoration before the Tabernacle containing Sacred Hosts either reserved or exposed in the rite of Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament.

Through the words of the priest at Mass, recalling the Lord Jesus Christ’s own words at the Last Supper, unleaven bread and wine, the true fruit of the vine, is consecrated and transformed into the Body and Blood of Christ.  This sacred action is called “transubstantiaton,” meaning the visible elements or “species” of the Eucharist — the bread and the wine — literally become the Body and Blood of Christ.  How that actually happens is a mystery of the Catholic faith that has been believed and practiced since the very first Holy Thursday when Christ uttered the words “This is My Body, This is My Blood.”

Because the species remain sensible but the substance is transformed into Christ’s Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity, the mystery of the Holy Eucharist challenges the human mind in a way that only faith convinces us to believe.  The ancient hymn of St. Thomas Aquinas urges “what our senses fail to fathom, let us grasp through faith’s consent.”

Why does the Catholic Church believe this?  Because the Lord Jesus himself told us so.  There is no better, no more compelling, no more necessary reason. And Catholics believe it as the central mystery of our faith or, as the Second Vatican Council calls it, “the source and summit of the Christian life (Lumen Gentium, 11).”  The Catechism of the Catholic Church explains: “For in the Blessed Eucharist is contained the whole spiritual good of the Church, namely Christ himself ... (CCC, 1324).”

It is the same Body and Blood of Christ on the altar at Mass, in the Sacred Host brought to the sick and in the Tabernacle, hidden from view or exposed.  It is not a “sign” or “symbol” of Christ like a crucifix or statue we display — it is the Lord Jesus Christ, True God and True Man, fully present.

Christ’s “Real Presence,” therefore, is the reason why we genuflect on our right knee or bow profoundly toward the Tabernacle when entering a Catholic Church and why we kneel during the Consecration at Mass.  We also indicate Christ’s Real Presence in Church by a candle, usually in a red container, constantly lit and burning near the Tabernacle.

The Eucharist is Christ’s eternal gift of Himself to the Church — “I am with you always (Matthew 28:20)” — and the foundation of our Catholic faith and all that we do in the Church.

The Church has honored Christ’s Real Presence with a special, solemn feast after the Easter Season — Corpus Christi — for centuries.  It has also been the theme of countless hymns, devotions and theological writings since that time as well — even before that time.  But, in a very real sense, the Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ is celebrated at every Mass and during every Eucharistic commemoration.

In some Dioceses, following the Exposition and Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament, this concluding prayer of the “Divine Praises” is recited: “May the Heart of Jesus, in the Most Blessed Sacrament, be praised, adored and loved with grateful affection, at every moment, in all the Tabernacles of the world, even until the end of time. Amen.”

Jesus is risen Alleluia, Alleluia.

Dear Parish Family:

Jesus is risen Alleluia, Alleluia.

Today we celebrate the Feast of Divine Mercy. Jesus requested that a Feast of Divine Mercy be established in the Church on the Sunday after Easter. He has made a great promise to any soul that would turn to Him by going to Confession and then receiving Holy Communion on that feast-day. He said, “Whoever approaches the fountain of life on this day will be granted the complete forgiveness of sins and punishment”. The Church allows for one to go to Confession for up to about 20 days, before or after Divine Mercy Sunday. Saint Pope John Paul II wrote his last and final statement to express to the world the great importance and the urgency to understand and accept Our Lord’s incredible gift of Divine Mercy. He said to all the people of the world:

"As a gift to humanity, which sometimes seems bewildered and overwhelmed by the power of evil, selfishness, and fear, the Risen Lord offers His love that pardons, reconciles, and reopens hearts to love. It is love that converts hearts and gives peace.”

I want to again thank all those who made Holy Thursday, Good Friday, the Easter Vigil and Easter Sunday services so wonderful. Special thanks for the Knights of Columbus, the sacristans, the deacons, our wonderful choirs, our altar servers, ushers, eucharistic ministers, lectors, and other ministries for all the time and hard work you put into this Holiday. Special thanks to the ladies from OLPH and St. Agnes for the beautiful decoration in our churches.

Next week we will publish our financial statement from the last two fiscal years. You will see that our financial situation is not good. We are pursuing the sales of real estate, and we have worked to reduce expenses and find creative ways to keep our costs down. Unfortunately, our weekly collections continue to decline as you can see reported every week in the bulletin, and I ask for your help and consideration to increase your weekly contributions at the Masses as your means allow.

On a positive note, we are doing well with the Annual Catholic Appeal. As of today, we have achieved 37% of our goal:

  • Goal: $67,000.00
  • Raised to date: $25,403.00
  • % of Goal: 37% (111 Donors)
  • Cash Received: $21,726.20

Thank you to those who have already donated to the Appeal. I would respectfully ask all parishioners to contribute as much as you are able to this important fund raiser. The funds from the appeal this year will go towards training for seminarians, youth programs and religious education, and other programs that serve thousands throughout our diocese. If we achieve our goal, the appeal will return much needed dollars to our parish as well.

It is wonderful to see our parish continue to grow in closeness and unity. I feel it more every day. We have new families joining our parish on a weekly basis. Please consider offering your talents to our church by joining one of our volunteer organizations.

Sincerely Yours in Christ,

Rev. Fernando A. Lopez, Pastor

2018 Lenten Project

2018 Lenten Project Support Request

Dear Parish Family,

This year, in lieu of our customary performance of the Living Stations, your Saints by the Sea youth group would like to invite you to be a part of a Lenten project.

It is with the sacrifice and love of our Lord Jesus in mind, that we ask you to join us in a service project that not only gives back to the men and women that have given so much of themselves to us, but truly embodies our faith.

We are referring to Operation Gratitude.  A service project that many of you may be familiar with, and one which all of us can stand behind.  As we look to unite the bodies of our soldiers with the gratefulness in our souls, our hope is that you be compelled to take part.

We will be collecting donations in the back of the church today, through March 25th; then as a group prepare care packages for our soldiers.

Some items they are in need of are:

  • Travel-size toiletries
  • Single serve drink mix packets
  • Gum
  • Lip Balm

New Entertainment Items (DVDs, CDs, magazines, paperback books, crossword puzzles, etc.)

The full list of items needed can be found in the back of the church or at operationgratitude.com.

Our prayers, words of encouragement and compassion can be our greatest gifts. 

We also invite you to write a letter expressing your gratitude and appreciation to a deployed service member and place it in the box.  They will be distributed with the care packages.

From one family to another, we thank you in advance for your physical, spiritual, and financial support of this project.

Sincerely,
Saints by the Sea Youth Group

A Music Ministry Announcement

A Note from the Parish Coordinator of Music Ministry and Liturgy:

Hello Parish Community of OLPH-St. Agnes,

As you may already know, the Mass Settings (also known as the Service Music) change with each liturgical season at our parish. A “Mass Setting” consists of the Gloria, Holy, Mystery of Faith, Great Amen, and Lamb of God. Although daily hymns may vary between the two churches, both Our Lady of Perpetual Help Church and St. Agnes Church will now consistently use the same mass setting each liturgical season. As we transition out of Ordinary Time and move into Lent, we will be using the chants set by the International Commission on English in the Liturgy. ICEL is a mixed commission of Catholic Bishops' Conferences in countries where English is used in the celebration of the Sacred Liturgy according to the Roman Rite. These chants are standard across the United States are are commonly known amongst Catholics. Conveniently, they are found in our Breaking Bread hymnal/missal and can be found at the beginning of the book in “The Order of Mass” section starting with the “Holy” on page 14.

On another note, during this season of Lent, you may notice a significant decrease in the volume and amount of organ/piano used during the mass. The reason for this can be found in the General Instruction of the Roman Missal (GIRM) published by the USCCB. It states that “313...In Lent the playing of the organ and musical instruments is allowed only to support the singing. Exceptions are Laetare Sunday (Fourth Sunday of Lent), Solemnities, and Feasts.” For this reason, we will not sing meditation hymns after communion in Lent and there will be no organ preludes, interludes, or postludes. Using the ICEL chants also supports this as the chants utilize minimal instrumental accompaniment while also connecting us with the musical heritage of our Catholic faith.

As with all the parts of the mass, congregational participation is essential and necessary, so we encourage you to sing the hymns and chants loud and proud at all times as a testament of praise to our Lord.

Thank you all for your continued dedication and support to the Music Ministry of OLPH-St. Agnes. As always, please do not hesitate to contact me with any questions.

God bless,

Patrick B. Phillips, Coordinator of Music Ministry and Liturgy