All posts by Fr. Gerard Gordon

Dear Father Gordon

Last month the parish celebrated the Sacrament of Confirmation. Each year the celebration of Confirmation by the parish is a most joyful day. Prior to receiving the sacrament, the students have to write to me requesting to receive this sacramental gift of the Holy Spirit. I want to share with you some of the thoughts that the students in the class that I taught wrote to me.

Dear Father Gordon: “When I receive the gifts of the Holy Spirit, I will be more fully prepared to face the challenges that I will have In the future. I want my Catholic Faith to always be a big part of my life. I understand the importance of helping others, which is something Jesus has taught us to do.”

Dear Father Gordon: “When we get confirmed, we are renewing the promises our parents made for us at Baptism. In Confirmation we are accepting the gift of the Holy Spirit as mature adults. At baptism we had absolutely no idea what was going on and our parents decided that we should be Catholics, but now we are making the decision on our own. I can actually say ‘yes’ by myself.”

Dear Father Gordon: “Over the years, my love for God has grown, making me want to continue my journey in my faith. I have learned to believe in God especially when others do not.”

Dear Father Gordon: “I want to become a leader in this religion. The journey to this moment has been a long one.

Dear Father Gordon: “I am at an age in my life where I have a better understanding of what Jesus really sacrificed for me, so making my confirmation will show him how thankful I really am.”

Dear Father Gordon: “This sacrament is not the end but the beginning of my faith. I know how lucky I am and that I should be thankful for what I have. Looking back on the service hours, it feels good that I was able to help people. I feel that I am ready in fulfilling God’s work.”

Dear Father Gordon: “Throughout my life I learned many things about the Catholic faith, through all the years of Religious Education at St. Martin’s. I understand that life can be occasionally difficult, but I will always try to strive for greatness for Jesus’ life.”

Dear Father Gordon: “I know that I am not perfect but God will accept me that way. I will try to be a better Christian.”

Dear Father Gordon: “I completed many service hours which opened up my eyes to help others. I also completed the Stations of the Cross in class. You told us that Jesus went through many struggles in His life. He fell and people helped Him. He died and He saved my life and the lives of others. This showed me that you can make mistakes in life and always recover from them with Jesus.”

Dear Father Gordon: “I have learned that confirmation is not the end of my faith life, but just the beginning. Thanks for reading my letter.”

Dear Father Gordon: “In preparing for Confirmation I have completed several service projects, reaching out to the community. I gave out Easter baskets and I also helped shovel snow for my elderly neighbor who had just undergone leg amputation surgery. This helped influence my life because it made me realize that you have to put others before yourself. When I am confirmed I would like to make a difference in the Catholic church by helping people that are less fortunate than I am in any way that I can. I was placed on this earth for a reason.”

Here’s my favorite from Jillian:
Dear Father Gordon: “I was researching what Confirmation really means and I came across an analogy that really sums up its meaning for me. The analogy is likened to a ‘tattooing’ of the soul—tattooing it with the mark of Christ. My soul will be figuratively tattooed with the distinguishing mark of dignity which I will carry with me some day into the next life. In a world where most people around me are tattooed with images—some good and some bad, all trying to brand themselves in one way or another, I like the idea of being marked with Christ.”

“God is in the Details”

Some have said that it was the German architect Ludwig van der Rohe who gave us the familiar term “God is in the details.”  It would make sense, since he was a great architect, and architects are successful because every detail must be perfect in his creation.

One of the titles given to God Himself is “The Divine Architect.”  It seems to be an appropriate attribute, since God’s creation is indeed beautiful.  But it is the human—and only the human—into which God puts his “Divine Spark,” it is only the man and woman who bear the Divine imprint upon their souls.  In fact, when Michelangelo painted the famous creation scene in the center of the Sistine Chapel, the face of God and the face of Adam are identical, conveying to us the truth that the man is created “in the image and likeness of God.”  And so, indeed God must be in the details

Recently on the Solemnity of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, Bishop Barres wrote a personal letter to all of his priests here in the diocese to express his gratitude for what his priests do every day.  The letter is a beautiful mini-reflection from his heart to ours: “Cor ad cor loquitur—The heart speaks to the heart.”  I want to share some of his reflection with you for two reasons.  First, because it is beautifully and sincerely written, but also so that you might apply it to your own spirituality.  Below is an excerpt:

Dear Brother Priests:

            I would like to thank you for living your priesthood with authentic Christ-centered holiness.  Pope Francis reminds us that “holiness is the most attractive face of the Church.”  When speaking of holiness as it appears in the parish family, Pope Francis reminds us of gospel stories, images and parables.  He states:

  • Jesus asked His disciples to pay attention to details
  • The little detail that wine was running out at the wedding in Cana
  • The detail that one sheep was missing
  • The detail of noticing the widow who offered her two small coins
  • The detail of having spare oil for the lamps, should the bridegroom delay
  • The detail of asking the disciples how many loaves of bread they had
  • The detail of having a fire burning and fish cooking as He waited for the disciples at daybreak

Pope Francis encourages us and our parishioners to bring this contemplative and evangelizing attention to detail directly into parish life.  A community that cherishes the little details of love, whose members care for one another, is a place where the risen Lord is present.  And so, I want to thank you priests for noticing the little details of your parish:

  • The detail of knowing the heat needs fixing
  • The detail of making sure the snow gets shoveled
  • The detail of calling someone when they are in need
  • The detail of thanking a married couple for the witness of their marriage and family
  • The detail of gently encouraging a vocation to the priesthood
  • The detail of attending parish functions
  • The detail of realizing that a parishioner has been missing from daily Mass
  • The detail of following up with a family that has experienced a tragedy
  • The detail of praying

By paying attention to the little details, we not only grow in holiness, but we reflect the face of Christ. 

I don’t know if it really was van der Rohe who said “God is in the details,” but I do believe he was correct.

– Fr. Gerard Gordon

Life or Not?

This week, holy and Catholic Ireland voted in overwhelming numbers to overturn the existing ban on abortion in Ireland.  This is not good.  Since 1983, the Irish Constitution had guaranteed the protection of the unborn child within the womb—that guarantee of protection is no longer.  In the name of “progress,” the Catholic people of Ireland have willingly and sinfully separated themselves from the fundamental and most basic of all Catholic teachings:  the defense of innocent human life at conception.  This should send a shiver up your spine.  This is the beginning of the “slippery death-slope” for undesirables.  Ireland had always been a bulwark in the defense of the Catholic faith.  With this sinful and fatal decision, we see the cancerous apostasy of an absolute Catholic principle that is fundamental to the ancient faith.  It is no less than a revelation of the infiltration of Satan upon the ancient church of St. Patrick.  I ponder how might the child-in-the-womb have voted?

We in America have become “used to” abortion on demand.  Making something legal does not make it moral.  In 1865, the 19th Amendment to the US Constitution made slavery illegal.  While once legal, slavery was never moral.  Since 1973, abortion has been the legal law of the land and commonplace, but never has it been moral.  About 1 million innocent children per year are murdered in the womb here in the United States.  Of those numbers, the majority are Black children; 19,000,000 innocent Black children have been aborted to date.  Presently, the number of abortions by African American women in the United States is well over 1,000 every day; that is a rate of about 5 times more African American children exterminated than non-Black children.  Played out over these many decades, this has resulted in a catastrophic loss of life to the American Black community.  The American Catholic writer Michael Novak, who died this past year, once calculated that “Since the number of current living Black people in the United States is about 36,000,000, the missing 16,000,000 represents an enormous loss, for without abortion, America’s Black community would now number 52,000,000 persons.  It would be 36 percent larger than it is.  Abortion has swept through the Black community like a scythe, cutting down every fourth member.”

One could ask the question: is this not some diabolical plan?  In 1939 a prominent and ardent supporter of the Ku Klux Klan had targeted the African-American community here in the United States.  In 1939 she wrote these words: “The most successful educational approach to the Negro is through religious appeal.  We don’t want the word to get out that we want to exterminate the Negro population.…”

I hope those words horrify you!  I don’t even like typing them.  Those words were written by Margaret Sanger who started the movement that would become known today as “Planned Parenthood,” the largest provider of abortions in America—paid for with your tax dollars!

Here’s what I can’t understand:  recently a medical doctor in Virginia was convicted of “fetal homicide” and to serve 20 years in prison for poisoning his girlfriend’s tea, causing her to lose the 17-week-old child within her womb.  How, then, can we convict him of murder, when America has declared the child-in-the-womb to be a non-person?  According to abortion supporters, what is in the womb is not a human life, but merely “tissue.”  For the last 40 years America has declared and lived by the law that this is not a human life.  If it is not a human life, then why is this man convicted of homicide?  What crime has he committed since it is only a blob of tissue?

I believe one day America will awaken to the revelation of what this is: an American Holocaust.  Many were silent during Auschwitz, many were silent to slavery, and many are silent to the American Holocaust of slaughtered children offered on the altar of Satan.

And now Ireland, where they celebrate the death of babies and dance in the streets.

– Fr. Gerard Gordon

The Prodigal Daughter

The daughter had been estranged from her mother and hadn’t seen her for decades.  She stood frozen in the hospital doorway and couldn’t move.  I begged her to come over to the hospital bed and take her mother’s hand because she had only a few minutes to live.  The daughter shook and sobbed but still would not let go of the doorsill.  Her sister was already holding the mother’s other hand so that I might anoint her.   I began the ancient ritual of Last Rites without her.  At the end of the rite, I reached to anoint the mother’s other hand, and there it was, now held in the palm of the estranged daughter.  How much courage it must have taken to walk those five steps from the doorsill. And in that instant the mother went to God holding the hands of both daughters.  The once-estranged daughter fell into the bed like the little girl she once was and hugged her dead mother.  How efficacious are the Holy Sacraments, so that reconciliation can take place in five short steps, in five quick seconds?  I suppose the mother had been waiting decades for the prodigal daughter to return—and at the last seconds of her life, she did!

I think of that little broken family every Mother’s Day, as I do so many of the sainted mothers I have met in my priesthood.  The mother who slept at the hospital bedside of her dying teenage son for weeks so she could be there at the end. The Haitian mother surrounded by her children saying the Rosary continuously until her passing. I remember the mother whose children never came to her funeral; where could they possibly be? Her body had no preparation and was placed in a simple wooden box with nothing but a cloth shroud. There was the mother who came to me every couple of days for food and clothes.  She was always high as a kite on some drug or another.  I asked her where her children were.  She didn’t know where they were anymore. After her tears, she composed herself and went back to work the streets.  Years later her body was found on the train tracks.

The one thing of course they all have in common, is that they never forget us, their children.  Some mothers are exceptional and some fall short, but one thing is certain—they love us, their children, no matter our response.  In Greek, this is called “Agape” (αγάπη).  The ancients had three words for the word love:  Eros, Philios, and Agape.  Agape is that perfect love that gives to the other, even if it is not returned or appreciated.   This is the only word used by Jesus in the Gospels.  This is the love of God and the love of our mothers.  And it is why they get old and frail and broken: because they have given everything for their children; they have kept nothing for themselves. I read somewhere that whenever there is a plane crash, the Flight Recorder which records the final words and actions of the pilots’ last seconds is retrieved.  No matter the country, no matter the language, the last recorded words of the       pilots before the plane hits the ground are always the same: “I love you mom.”

At every deathbed I ask the dying person whom they wish to see first in heaven.  The response is always “my mother.”  I asked this at the deathbed of a dying and catatonic priest. He had been unresponsive for a long time. Instantly he looked directly at me through his tears and clearly yelled “I want to see my mother.”  By that evening he was with her.

I was fortunate to have taken care of my own sainted mother for about a dozen years as she slipped deeper and deeper into Alzheimer’s.  It is a very long death.  Fortunately for the final years I had help from the Carmelite Sisters who were founded to care for the aged and sick parents of priests.  The Carmelite Sisters continue to be the best caregivers for the Aged and Infirm.  The Sisters have a custom of surrounding the bed of the dying person as they recite the Rosary until the person has gone to God.  That’s how my mom went, as her children held her.  Could it get any better?

On this weekend of Mother’s Day, we all take time to remember our mothers who gave everything for us and kept nothing for themselves.  They gave us life and were the first to teach us about our faith. The Old Testament prophet Isaiah asks the question: “Can a mother forget her child?”  No, of course, she cannot forget!   Former First Lady Barbara Bush, in her 1990 Wellesley commencement speech put it in perspective for us on this Mother’s Day: “At the end of your life, you will never       regret not having passed one more test, not winning one more verdict or not closing one more deal. You will regret time not spent with a husband, a child, a friend or a parent.”

– Fr. Gerard Gordon

The Bells of Saint Martin

Jean sent this piece of history to me.  It was written by Judge Walter A. Saxton (1911-2002), who was baptized at St. Martin’s on June 6, 1911, was a member of the first graduating class of St. Martin’s and was a descendent of George Washington.  The Amityville Courthouse is named after him.  I thought you might like it.

For nearly 90 years, the three mighty bells in the belfry of Saint Martin’s Church have sounded over our village, ringing out joyous and solemn tones to villagers of all faiths.  In 1902, new bells gave to the little hamlet what was described in a local newspaper as a “metropolitan character.”  Now the same bells toll to a suburban community grown beyond the wildest dreams of the little early Catholic congregation.  The bells were formally blessed on Sunday, April 27, 1902 at a Mass said by the Pastor, Father Ferstal, with music by the choir.  The Vicar General the Rt. Rev. McNamara presided at the consecration and preached the sermon. 

Father Sheridan and I climbed the bell tower for an inspection.  The bells, made by McShand Bell Foundry of Baltimore, MD, were cast in three sizes.  The largest, named “Francis Xavier,” weighs 1,000 pounds and was donated by Mr. and Mrs. George Stanton Floyd-Jones of Massapequa. The legend inscribed on the bell reads, “In Memory of Thomas Jefferson and Amelia K. Owen and Anita and George Stanton Floyd-Jones.”  Mr. and Mrs. Floyd-Jones were converts and strong supporters of the new struggling parish St. Martin of Tours.  They were members of the Jones Family and after whom Jones Beach was named.  Mr. and Mrs. Owen were parents of Mrs. Floyd-Jones.

The medium sized bell is named “Patrick.”  “Patrick” weighs 800 pounds and is a memorial to “Katherine Areson, Anna Ferstl and John Keirns and all departed members of St. Martin’s.”  Katherine Areson may have been the wife of, or some way related to, Alfred Areson, a Protestant, and a benefactor of St. Martin’s.  Anna Ferstl was perhaps the mother or relative of Father Benno Ferstl, first pastor of St. Martin’s.  I have been unable to find information about John Keirns.

Inscribed on the smallest bell, named “Mary,” are the names “Josephine Molle, Patricia and Adelia Keirns and all other devoted children of St. Martin’s.”  “Mary” weighs 600 pounds.  Josephine Molle was a member of the prominent early Catholic family in the community.  Adam Molle was active in local affairs and for a long time an official of the Village of Amityville.

About 1925, there was a fund drive to finance the construction of a new convent.  When the goal was reached, I assisted Tom Kelly, son of the sexton, Joseph Kelly, ringing out the joyous news.  The bells were rung by hand, ropes connected to them hung down into the narthex of the old church.  In 1963, demolition of Old St. Martin’s began, with much preparation to the construction of our present lovely edifice.  The bells which had rung-out the Angelus for years were silent until May of 1964.  Then they were rung again mechanically for dedication of the new church.  During the building period, the Reverend Bayard H. Goodwin, of Saint Mary’s Anglican Church arranged for the ringing of the Angelus at his church by the sexton of Saint Martins.

God willing, our bells will ring in the 21st century, our 100th anniversary, and on and on.  In my youth, nothing has sounded sweeter than the bells of Saint Martin’s inviting the faithful to midnight Mass on a cold and snowy Christmas day.

This little window into history tells us something you might not have known about church bells:  they have names, they are consecrated and anointed with the oil of Sacred Chrism, and most interestingly, the bells of churches are the forerunners of emails, fire alarms and texts that for centuries have announced births and deaths, the call to prayer, and they announce to all the Good News of our salvation.  The names mentioned are names of people unknown to us and long-gone to God; but we still hear their sonorous praises from the heavens from “Francis-Xavier,” from “Patrick” and from “Mary.”  Long may they ring!

Confirmation Names

Do you remember your Confirmation name?  Mine is John, which I took because he was known traditionally as “Jesus’ favorite.”  I like that; what more could I ask for?

This week I was reading the school Confirmation projects written by our 8th graders.  The papers are sitting before me now on my desk for the purpose of review and sharing with you some of the reasons these fine young Catholics selected their Confirmation names.

Joe Pettit wrote “I have chosen John Paul as my Confirmation name because since I was a little kid I have liked St. John Paul II.  My grandma loved him and she named my uncle John Paul.  Pope John Paul fascinates me.”  Lauren DeSantis wrote “I chose St. Gianna because she is the patron saint of mothers, physicians and the unborn.  I want to follow in her footsteps.  She inspires me so much, that if I have a daughter one day, I will name her Gianna and teach her to value life.”  Riley Byrnes wrote “Saint Alice represents the blind, the paralyzed and those who suffer greatly.  I can use her life as a role model by spreading kindness and love to those who are in pain and suffering.  Alice is the closest name to my aunt Ali whom I love dearly.  St. Alice was devoted to Jesus and loved him with all her heart as I do my aunt Ali.  When my aunt passes away I wanted her to still be with me.”  John Anglum wrote of St. Francis “he showed how happy everyone could be if they owned nothing.  St. Francis argued that you can’t rob a man with no money, you can’t starve a fasting man, and you can’t ruin a man with no prestige.  St. Francis was as free as a bird.”  Evan Barsic wrote “One reason I chose the name David is because of my favorite Bible story.  I always like the underdog and David was the first major underdog.  But the main reason I chose the name David is because it is my father’s first name.  My dad taught me everything on how to be a man in the Catholic Church.  He is currently a Knight of Columbus and a church attender.  I want to be like my dad.”  Abigail Gallagher wrote “When I found the name St. Catherine I knew she was the one.  I chose her because of how much she devoted her life to God and the needy because she saw the poor and sick as normal people.”  Emma Harms chose St. Marie because “she did not enter the convent until she was done taking care of her family.  I also chose St. Marie because she reminds me to put my family first.”  Samantha Barrett wrote she chose St. Francis because “he possessed the ability to change.  In his early life he was reckless and a partier, but he changed his ways.  He became devoted to Christ.  People made fun of him and called him crazy but he continued on without any doubts.”  Ryan Byrne chose St. Edward “because it was my great grandfather’s name and because it has a nice ring to it.”  Michael Cino wrote that he selected St. Sebastian “because my saint protects soldiers that protect our country.  I picked my saint to protect all the soldiers in the world and to give strength to all athletes.”  Charles Lorenz writes that St. Sebastian “is an inspiration to me because he showed me that there is no reason to be ashamed of my faith. St. Sebastian taught me the true meaning of loyalty, an attribute that I will try to set for myself for the rest of my life.”  Lauren Parker wrote “St. Cecelia thought of others before herself always, unlike many people who only think of themselves.”  Chloe Henriquez was inspired by Saint Faith “because she was a young woman who was willing to die for her love and faith for God.”  Paul Fragkoulis was inspired by St. Anthony because he “prayed to St. Anthony quite a lot when something has been lost and all of a sudden it either shows up or I remember where it is.  I’ve even prayed to him when my grandma was in the hospital and 3 days later after her surgery she got much better and I thanked St. Anthony.”

Thank you to Mrs. McGuire for assigning this inspiring project.   Thank you also to the parents who have fulfilled their promise made many years ago at your child’s Baptism.  You have instilled and nurtured the seeds of faith in these young students.  Mission Accomplished!  Confirmation will further give them the tools and gifts to live our faith in a difficult world.

The church asks every Catholic at Confirmation to prayerfully select a name of your own choosing who is a role model and intercessor—a friend to us.  Do you remember the name you took?  If not—rediscover the person you chose so many years ago as one who inspires you to live your faith.

–  Fr. Gerard Gordon

Divine Mercy

This past Monday, the day after Divine Mercy Sunday, I was in the produce section of Stop and Shop when I first noticed her.  She was an elderly lady with a big bag and she was wandering around in a daze.  I had already met 6 people and was presently chatting with George the funeral director from D’Andrea Funeral Home.  George is my friend; he is 92 years old, he goes to the 5PM Mass on Saturdays, he is a retired police detective and I always enjoy his company, as we work together often.  Once in a while we go out for dinner.  The lady was circling around going nowhere and it was obvious to me that something was not as it should be.  I asked her if she was OK.  We talked for a while.  She told me her husband of many years had just died that morning unexpectedly.   She didn’t know what to do, so she headed out food shopping.  As we talked I told her I was a priest and that George was a funeral director.  I asked her what I could do for her.  All the while her big bag around her should was rumbling.  Out popped a puppy.  She said she went out to buy the puppy a few hours ago—most probably as a comfort in her profound sadness.  We talked more, and she eventually smiled and laughed a bit.  And then she disappeared into the crowd of shoppers.

Saint John Paul II was fond of telling the world that there are no coincidences in life.  He rightly stated that, what appear to be coincidences, are more correctly “God-incidences.”  We have all found ourselves in these situations that we assume are mere coincidences, but might they be more?  Are they in fact sudden opportunities to encounter something of God’s Divine Mercy?  Are they opportunities to exercise our Christian charity, even in Stop and Shop?  I’ve seen too many times that these are no mere coincides; something more is going on.  In 2001, on the first anniversary of the institution of Divine Mercy Sunday, Pope John Paul reiterated his words from the prior year: “Divine Mercy!  This is the Easter gift that the Church receives from the risen Christ and offers to all of humanity.”  Four years later Pope Saint John Paul would die in the evening hours of the Vigil of Divine Mercy.

This past week the world celebrated Divine Mercy Sunday.  Divine Mercy Sunday was only recently instituted into the calendar of the Church’s year.  It is always celebrated on the second Sunday after Easter.  Divine Mercy Sunday was instituted by Pope John Paul II in 2000.  It is celebrated on the 8th day of the Octave of Easter when the readings tell of the appearance of Jesus to Saint Thomas who asked that Thomas touch His holy wounds—the undeniable proof that the Risen One who stood before Thomas was indeed that same Crucified One who three days prior had been put to death.

In his comments on Divine Mercy Sunday last week, Pope Francis spoke of the response of Saint Thomas who had at first doubted, but then believed: “My Lord and my God.”  Pope Francis emphasizes that Thomas uses the possessive adjective “my,” an affirmation that God wishes to become ours.  Pope Francis restates that Jesus became man for me; Jesus died for me; Jesus rose for me.  This makes Him my God.  Further, in his homily the pope reminds us of the beginning of the Ten Commandments: “I am the Lord your God.”   How important for us to know and teach that we all have a God who is ours and wants to be ours.  How we must remind others of that God cares about me.

I don’t know what became of the poor lady after she left us, but as I encountered her in the shadow of Divine Mercy Sunday, I must ask:  Was it coincidence that we were there to console her for just a few moments; or was it perhaps more?

– Fr. Gerard Gordon

“No Greater Love…”

The ancient city of Carcassonne in the Occitainie region of southern France is a magnificent city completely encircled by a wall.  It harkens back beyond the Middle Ages but is mostly known for the medieval period.  This past March the world was shaken by the murder of a French police officer by the name of Arnaud Beltrame.  A terrorist from the Islamic State killed Officer Beltrame and three others in the city of Carcassonne while shouting his support for ISIS.

In the current world climate, it is sad that this has become more and more commonplace.  We seem to see these events happening weekly in some parts of the world or within our own country.  What makes this story an exceptional lesson to us is what the heroic police-gendarme did in that medieval walled city.

Redouane Lakdim, a Moroccan terrorist was a drug dealer who had spent time in the prison at Carcassone.  On the morning of March 23, 2018, he hijacked a car after killing the owner and then opened fire on four gendarme-police nearby.  Shortly after, Lakdim entered a supermarket and took hostages.

Here is where the story takes a turn.  Officer Beltrame offered his own life in exchange for the hostages.  He did not know who the hostages were or anything about them—but he offered his own life in exchange for a stranger.  It is reminiscent of Father Maximilian Kolbe in Auschwitz who offered his life in place of an innocent stranger condemned to death. Officer Beltrame was later mortally wounded as the situation escalated.  While Officer Beltrame was in the hospital he was given the Last Rites by a Catholic Priest who was also his friend.  A few minutes before the officer’s death the priest said that the officer’s “superhuman sacrifice” had been inspired by his immense religious faith.  Father Jean-Baptiste had not only given the officer the Last Rites, but also performed his marriage as he lay dying in the hospital bed.  The priest had been already preparing the couple for marriage, and now in the last hours of the gendarme’s life, he was wedded to his fiancé while on a hospital gurney.  Father Jean-Baptiste said the couple had been devout in the observance of their Catholic faith by coming to the priest’s abbey-church for several years.

Officer Beltrame did not start his life as a Catholic, but only came to the faith by a chance meeting with the priest years before his death.  In 2008 the officer had a profound conversion at 33 years old.  He was baptized, confirmed and received his first communion two years later in 2010.  In 2015 he made pilgrimage to the shrine of Sainte-Anne d’Auray where the officer prayed to the Blessed Mother to meet the woman of his life.

Father Jean-Baptiste quoted from St. John’s gospel: “There is no greater love than to give one’s life for a friend.”  What makes Officer Beltrame’s sacrifice so exceptional was that he did not lay down his life for a friend, he laid down his life for a stranger.  This is what the officer had in common with Father Kolbe and with Jesus:  they all died for the stranger.  Father Jean-Baptiste continued in saying that the police officer realized that “his life belonged to God, to France and to his brothers in danger of death.”  Finally, Father Jean-Baptiste tells us the secret to such selflessness; he said of Officer Beltrame “I believe that only a Christian faith animated by charity could ask for this superhuman sacrifice.”

The Catholic faith was brought to France in the 2nd century which earned France the title “the eldest daughter of the Church.”  Today about 53% of the French consider themselves Catholic, while about 5% of the French attend Mass with any regularity; yet France is still the “eldest daughter” of Catholic Europe.  It is the land of King Clovis I who converted from paganism to Christianity in the 5th century, Charlemagne who established a bond between church and state in the Holy Roman Emperor, and the country that gave us the 11 Discalced Carmelite Martyrs of Compiègne who died at the guillotine during the French Revolution.  It is the country of the greatest gothic cathedrals in all the world: Notre Dame de Paris, Chartres, Reims, Sacre-Coeur, Madeleine, Amiens and Lourdes.   It is the country of the most famous saints of history:  St. Therese of Lisieux, St. John Vianney, St. Joan of Arc, St. Bernadette, King Saint Louis IX, St. Vincent de Paul and St. Bernard of Clairvaux.

And it is from this “eldest daughter of the Church” that we were given Officer Arnaud Beltrame.

– Fr. Gerard Gordon

Easter

I have always loved this little parable.  I don’t know where I first learned of it, but it certainly tells us the central purpose of Easter Redemption.

It is Final Judgement Day and all are joyously gathered in Heaven celebrating those who have made it into heaven.  St. Thomas Aquinas, St. Francis of Assisi, St. John Paul II, your mother…all together and enjoying Eternal Life.  The gates of heaven have been sealed—for all eternity, never to be opened again.  Everyone is there—except Jesus.  Nowhere to be found.  They can’t find the boss.  St. Peter searches high and low and finally finds Jesus at the gates of heaven looking downcast as he peers out of the closed gates.  “Why are you not celebrating with everyone, Lord?  Why are you so sad on this most joyous of days?”  Jesus responds with great sorrow, “I was just looking for Judas.  I had hoped that he might have come and asked me to forgive him at the last minute.  If he had only come and asked me to forgive him for what he did…you know I would have forgiven him.  All he had to do was ask.”

Pope Benedict has reminded us that “Every saint had a past.  Every sinner has a future.”  The figures in the gospel stories are people who have been redeemed from their past—saved—made new by Christ.  The woman at the well, the man born blind, and most importantly, Dismiss the thief who converts in the last minutes of his wretched life to Saint Dismiss. Longinus the centurion who put Jesus to death repented of his sin and is today Saint Longinus, and Peter “wept bitterly” when he realized he had denied Christ three times, to become Saint Peter.  Often we forget that both Peter and Judas had been disloyal to Christ; the difference being that Peter repented—Judas despaired.  “Every saint had a past.  Every sinner has a future.”

The great irony is that Judas might have been—dare I even say it—Saint Judas.  All he had to do was ask for forgiveness.  He was too proud.  He despaired and died wallowing in his prideful sin.

Easter is about Redemption:  redeeming the sinner, finding the lost, fixing the broken, and renewing a fallen world.

Redemption can be yours…if you but ask.

– Fr. Gerard Gordon

The Easter Triduum

Holy Week begins on Palm Sunday with the entrance of Jesus into Jerusalem.  Holy Week contains the 3 most important days of the Church’s year:  Holy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter.   Lent ends on Holy Thursday and the church enters into the Triduum, or “three days.”  On Holy Thursday, the feet of the 12 are washed, symbolizing Jesus’ call for us to serve others.  After the Holy Thursday evening Mass the Blessed Sacrament is carried in profound solemnity to a place of reservation where others may come to visit.  It is the long-standing tradition to visit 3 churches on Holy Thursday night.  On Good Friday, no Mass is celebrated anywhere in the entire world.  Visit any church on Good Friday and Holy Saturday and there is an existential emptiness because the Blessed Sacrament is not in any tabernacle in any church in the world.  The church is empty of God’s abiding presence.  The sanctuary lamp is extinguished.  The tabernacle door is left open.  The altar is stripped bare of everything to symbolize the death of Christ and the coldness of death.  Where would we be, had God not redeemed us in Christ Jesus?  The Son of God has died for us.  On Good Friday, all are silent from noon to 3 as Christ is upon the cross.  All Christians throughout the world gather in churches at 3PM to venerate the Holy Cross and receive Holy Communion that was consecrated the day before and kept hidden for those who may be dying and in need of Viaticum.  Finally, Christians gather throughout the world after sundown on Holy Saturday to keep vigil and await the great Mass of the Resurrection of the Savior.  A single candle carried into the dark church and soon the darkness is no more.  That candle will burn at the foot of your casket one day to guide your feet through the darkness of death to the glory of heaven.

Please do not miss immersing yourself into the ancient and sacred rituals of the Triduum.  They are 3 days like no other in the Church’s calendar.  Wherever you are, keep a profound silence from Holy Thursday until Easter Sunday.  Turn off your devices and enter into the ancient and majestic solemnity of our faith in the death and resurrection of the only Savior of the world.

“We adore you oh Christ, and we praise you.  For by your Holy Cross you have redeemed the world.”  

– Fr. Gerard Gordon