It was a year of triumph when we welcomed to St. Edward an array of gifted speakers, all designed to increase the faith formation of the parishioners and the many people who come to us from throughout the Diocese. In January we featured Sr. Marie Paul Curley, FSP who is the author of “Soul of Christ.” In March during an eventful second week of Lent, we welcomed Fr. Brian Mullady, OP, EWTN presenter, author and gifted Mission speaker. In May we welcomed Raymond Arroyo, EWTN host of the “World Over.” Many good people simply do not know their faith well enough. We had a 20 week series from Symbolon with a series on knowing your faith and another series on the practice of faith. I had parishioners tell me that they were surprised they knew so little of their faith and they were grateful for the series.
It was also a year of trial when lies and accusations ended a wonderful ministry at an amazing parish. On March 5 I received a letter from my provincial removing me as Pastor. He described me as a man of prayer, knowledgeable in Theology, who enjoys being a priest. He said I was known as a good preacher with a strong emphasis on faith formation. He stated that I preside at liturgy with reverence and dignity and that I strive to be present to the people. But he said that the liturgy was a source of contention and he criticized me for putting an end to Charismatic abuses of the Eucharist and the liturgy. He said that I had worked hard to pay off the debt but that he doubts my administrative abilities. He also said I refused to collaborate with the heterodox and the naysayers on “common goals,” in spite of the fact that I could never share their goals.
So, effective July 1, 2015, they removed me as Pastor and sent me on a yearlong sabbatical; and what a sabbatical it has been!
In July I attended the Church Music Association Colloquium in Pittsburgh, PA. Then I flew to Germany and took a little vacation in the Rheingau region visiting the monastery wineries. From there I flew to Italy to attend the Roman Forum at Gardanone, Italy. After that I went to Rome for two more weeks of vacation. I ended July by taking a retreat at Silverstream Priory, Stamullen, Ireland. In August I went to Oxford, England for a summer course in English Catholicism. We began by studying recusant England after the Reformation and the story of Edmund Campion. We toured priest holes, and walked the path of English Martyrs. We had a marvelous presentation on the hidden beliefs and the coded politics of William Shakespeare and attended a performance of As You Like It at the Globe Theater in London. We visited the Tower of London and visited the tombs of Saints John Fisher and Thomas More and many other English Martyrs. We studied Tolkien and C.S. Lewis and visited sites associated with them. We also spent time at the College of Littlemore and learned about the Conversion of Blessed John Henry Newman. While at Oxford I enjoyed typical English lunches at the Eagle and the Child, a pub frequented by Tolkien, Lewis and others and which they affectionately referred to as the Bird and the Baby.
August ended with a short stay back in Germany, participation in a conference for the Royal Order of St. George, staying in an ancient Convent, then a whirlwind trip to Wyoming to visit Wyoming Catholic College and interview for the position of Chaplain.
From Wyoming I flew to Rome for a marvelous three months at The Institute for Continuing Theological Education at the Pontifical North American College. Anything that begins with a retreat from the Preacher of the Papal Household and ends with a retreat given by the Papal Theologian is nothing short of topnotch. The tours and explanations by Dr. Elizabeth Lev were exceptional. We visited Assisi for a week long immersion in Christian Art and Spirituality. We also spent a week in Malta for an immersion in the experience of St. Paul. We did a week in the Theology of Preaching from Fr. Peter Cameron, and then several days in study of the Advent Scriptures from Fr. Craig Morrison from the Pontifical Biblical Institute. We ended with a week of presentations on the New Evangelization from the Catholic Leadership Institute. It was an incredibly rich experience. The highlight of the experience for me was presiding at a sung liturgy at the Altar of the Borghese Chapel in the Basilica of St. Mary Major on the Feast of St. Gaspar.
November I flew back to Germany to spend Thanksgiving with Harry and Bev, true angels, both of them. For the first time in my life, I cooked the turkey and dressing. I celebrated Mass each day in a Medieval Church of St. Martin, and then after Thanksgiving, flew to New York to begin residence at St. Mary in Norwalk.
I will be here at least until March. This place is just this side of heaven. Six Masses each Sunday, one of them Extraordinary Form, and two in Spanish; All Masses are ad orientem, facing the same direction as the congregation; Three priests are in cassock every day; it is everything I hoped to bring to my former home but was rejected, but now I am in a place where Catholic culture is embraced and celebrated.
Once Jesus had the opportunity to comment on the horrible things happening in his time, a natural disaster and events fostered by Roman terrorists. Our times are not much different. There Jesus challenged our interpretation of the events and pointed everything back to us and asked how we are changed. Day by day we strive to be changed into what he is. “That which he was, that he remains, being very God. That which he was not he has assumed because of his love for us.” That remains the essence of what we celebrate in this season. Whatever changes or conversion we are called to, he is with us through them all. May the feasts you celebrate in this season be a sign of the feast of the Kingdom to which he has called us. You will all have a special place in Masses and prayers this Holy Season. Merry Christmas!