All posts by PHN

The Letter

I have never met Sister Jeanne D’Arc. I will never meet Sister Jeanne D’Arc, but I have kept her letter on my desk for over 20 years. Sister Jeanne D’Arc is a Missionary Sister of Charity, the order founded by Mother Teresa of Calcutta, who is about to become Saint Teresa of Calcutta. Every Sister of Charity throughout the world does two things: they care for the poorest of the poor and they pray for priests. When I received Sister Jeanne D’Arc’s letter so many years ago she wrote to me that she would only write to me this once, and she gave me no return address. In her letter she told me that I had been assigned to her and that she would remember to pray for me every day of her life. Every Missionary of Charity is assigned a priest for whom to pray. How does one ever forget getting a letter like this? And so I have kept it on my desk all these many years to remind me that this little nun is somewhere praying for me. Well, that can certainly change your life! What more could a person need in this life then the assurance that each day someone is praying for him?

I had the great fortune of meeting Blessed Teresa of Calcutta years ago before I became a priest. It was in a place called the Bronx. There were no seats in the chapel. Six of us sat on small mats. The altar was made of cinder-block. And in front of the altar was a small sign that is in the front of every altar in chapels of Mother Teresa’s convents: “I thirst.” The words of Jesus from the Cross: “I thirst for you.” She had been sitting next to me on the floor during Mass and she handed me her own prayer book for the prayers at the end of Mass. After Mass I spent some time with Mother Teresa–just she and I. She was tiny and she never let go of my hands. I can’t tell you everything she told me. She was extraordinary. She was….is…a saint.

I hope you get to see the new movie now playing in theaters called “The Letters” about her life, work and perseverance without the comfort of the balm of God’s reassurance. Her life was lived upon the cross experiencing the greatest of existential sufferings: the experience of those who have abandoned themselves of God. That is the greatest poverty.

Mother Teresa was once asked by her Sisters if they could put windows on the chapel because of the noise coming from the streets outside. She said “no.” “I want you to hear the voices of the people for whom you are praying.”

Fr. Gerard Gordon

“Et Incarnatus Est”

Pope Benedict XVI wrote in his encyclical Saved in Hope, “It becomes clear that only something infinite will suffice for man, something that will always be more than man himself can ever attain.” This reality is witnessed in everyday life. Every human person has the desire for the infinite that can neither be satisfied by another person or by himself. There is the innate desire for something absolute and infinite…beyond ourselves. There is something greater than ourselves. Saint Augustine wrote that as we were knit together in the womb of our mother the last thing God did before our birth was to reach into our chest and break off a piece of our heart. He kept that piece with Him. In the next instant we were born. For the rest of your life, every time your heart beat is searched for that “missing piece,” that great yearning for the fulfillment of every human heart. St. Augustine wrote that we would search for that missing piece in all the wrong and mischievous places, as did he. It is only upon our death when we approach the throne of Christ that He will present us with that missing piece for which we searched all our life. Then—and only then—will our heart be complete.

Many people spend their lives searching for that “fulfillment of their heart,” but in all the wrong places. I promise you that the “fulfillment of the human heart” will never be found in a bank account, a bottle or an IPhone. Saint Augustine was correct: “We were created for Thee Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in Thee alone.”

“Et incarnatus est”—“And the Word became flesh.” The only words in the Mass at which we bow, because of the profundity of their meaning. God becomes a human person. Christmas is the entrance of the Divine into the world in order to redeem it. The Creator becomes one of His creation, the Divine becomes human, the infinite becomes finite. And with every beat of the human heart God comes closer to us and “it becomes clear that only something infinite will suffice for man.”

christmas2015
Fr. Gerard Gordon

January 2016 Newsletter

Police Holy Name Society of Nassau County
President Neil J. Delargy

On behalf of the Officers and Trustees of the Police Holy Name Society, I sincerely hope 2015 was a year of peace and happiness for you and your family.

I am pleased to report that our member’s continued dedication and support resulted in several worthy accomplishments in 2015. We awarded six scholarships to members’ children. We were able to offer assistance to police officers and their families during special emergencies. We provided needy families with the funds necessary to enjoy a nourishing holiday dinner during the Thanksgiving and Christmas seasons. We once again hosted our Annual Retreat and our Annual Communion Mass and Breakfast, which were outstanding successes. The efforts of our members and the dues collected make each of these achievements possible. Your continued support is deeply appreciated and goes a long way.

This past November the Society sponsored a religious pilgrimage to France. Our intrepid group of 29 travelers enjoyed an educational, spiritual and relatively safe journey through many of the important Catholic sites of France. Many of you are aware that the horrific terror attacks in Paris took place during our stay in the “City of Lights”. Prior to leaving I made contact with NYPD member assigned to the Paris office of the NYPD’s Counterterrorism Bureau, never thinking we would have a “real” reason to call upon him while in France.

Detective John Reinbold answered our phone calls, called the group numerous times and gave us subsequent text messages throughout the Friday night of the attacks. He was a wealth of safety information and he conveyed a calming affect that enabled our fears to be allayed. His communications were the difference between cancelling our trip and continuing our exploration in safe areas recommended by Det. Reinbold. I communicated with Det. Reinbold numerous times over the next couple of days and he continuously offered any assistance we could possibly need.

Now that the pilgrimage group has seen the NYPD overseas program in action we have a deeper appreciation for their valuable work. I know that they are the NYPD’s “eyes and ears” overseas. But, the general public cannot appreciate the comfort brought by having a fellow “Cop” take the time to talk to an insignificant tour group and reassure us during our time of concern.

I am very proud of our member’s response in Paris and I wish to publically thank all the HNS members that sent well wishes and communicated their concern and prayers for our safe return. Additionally, the HNS Board would like to thank, Chiefs’ Frank Kirby, Kevin Smith and Steven Skrynecki who called to check on our condition and PBA President James Carver who checked on our status numerous times offering his assistance.

I encourage you to participate in the activities and events planned for 2016. Our Eighty-fourth Anniversary Mass and Communion Breakfast is Sunday, March 13, 2016 at St. Agnes Cathedral, 29 Quealy Place, RVC. The Mass begins at 8:00 am and breakfast will follow at The Knight’s of Columbus Hall 2985 Kenneth Pl., Oceanside. Kids are welcome so please bring the entire family. Our Annual Police Retreat, at the Seminary of the Immaculate Conception, Huntington, NY, begins on March 14, 2016. Please call Fred Seiling at (516) 352-8957 for more details. Please consider joining us at one of our upcoming monthly meetings. Meetings begin at 7:30 pm on the second Wednesday of each month (except July and August), at Sacred Heart Parish Center, 720 Merrick Ave., North Merrick. Food and beverages are served.

Please send in your membership card and dues and return your raffle tickets

The Jubilee Door of Mercy

On Tuesday December 8, 2015 the Universal Church will begin a Jubilee Year of Mercy that will extend until November 20, 2016, the Solemnity of Christ the King. This week, at the end of his Apostolic Voyage to Africa, Pope Francis opened the first Jubilee “Door of Mercy” at the cathedral of Bangui, Central Africa. This is one of the many “Doors of Mercy” that will be available to Christians throughout the world. There are four major “Holy Doors” located in the four major Papal Basilicas of Rome which are normally sealed and only opened during rare Jubilee Years designated by the Holy Father. Each pilgrim who passes through a “Holy Door” during a Jubilee Year will gain a Plenary Indulgence, that is, the remission of any temporal punishment due to sins which have been forgiven in confession. In order to receive this gift of a Plenary Indulgence the Catholic pilgrim must (1) go to Confession, (2) receive Holy Communion and (3) pray for the Holy Father. Further, the Jubilee Indulgence may be obtained for someone who has already died.

Because many are not able to travel to one of the four Papal Basilicas of Rome, each bishop around the world has designated a few churches within his own diocese through which a pilgrim may pass in order to receive the Jubilee Plenary Indulgence. Bishop Murphy will open the Jubilee Year of Mercy on December 12, 2015 at the 5PM Mass in the Cathedral of Saint Agnes in Rockville Centre. The bishop has also designated three other places of pilgrimage within the diocese with an official Mass of the opening of the “Holy Door” of Mercy: the Basilica of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary in Southampton (December 13 at 9:30 AM), the Shrine of Our Lady of the Isle, Eastport (December 19 at 11:30 AM), and the Seminary of the Immaculate Conception in Huntington (December 19 at 4:30 PM). Each pilgrimage door site will have a specific day every week during the Jubilee Year when pilgrims will be able to enter, confess their sins, and pray before the Blessed Sacrament.

The journey through one of these rare designated “Holy Doors” is a short and simple journey that allows us to cross the threshold of Mercy into the Divine Presence of an all Merciful God who is Mercy itself.

JubileeFr. Gerard Gordon

Happy Thanksgiving 2015

“Welcome Home”

The best words I heard all week were when the United States Custom Agent stamped my passport at Kennedy Airport and said “Welcome home.” In those two words I was profoundly moved. He didn’t have to say it, but he meant it. The agent did not realize what an impact those two words had upon me. Indeed it was good to be back home in America. Those two words made me realize just how much we as Americans take for granted. Those two words made me realize just how much God has given to us.

This week I invited students from the parish and school, and anyone else who wished to join me, to distribute over 100 boxes of food to the needy a few days before Thanksgiving. We had a bus load of over 50 young people who very quietly but joyfully traveled to a nearby parish to personally distribute baskets and meet people who are much in need. Most of the needy had to have someone drive them to the location, or they walked there themselves. They were all diverse and all waited in the hallway for at least half an hour for their Thanksgiving fixings for their family dinner. It is a humbling experience for them and for our students. I have done this for years at Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter. Every year students return to help without my reminding or asking them. It is good to see that they have learned to appreciate God’s gifts and never take for granted our life, our liberty, our country, our families, and our home.

Thanksgiving2015

Fr. Gerard Gordon

The Bell of Notre Dame

I am typing to you with 2 fingers on my tiny cell phone. I am about 3 blocks from
the attacks in Paris.

Wherever we would travel during our pilgrimage through France, from Normandy through Lisieux and Mont Saint Michel and into Paris, our group of pilgrims stopped at precisely noon to recite the prayer of the Angelus bells. Today as we recited the prayer at the tomb of Saint Vincent de Paul we joined all of France as every French citizen stopped to remember the dead here. It was a most sobering event. To think that an entire country, and indeed the entire European continent stopped to pray for the dead at noon.

Our hotel is about 3 blocks away from the attacks. Paris has been very quiet with stores and schools closed. Not many people on the streets. Empty metros because people are probably too afraid to be confined. The Eiffel Tower is now closed and darkened as a sign of mourning. The French borders had been closed and a state of emergency declared. The country is at war. I have never experienced anything like it. There are great signs of solidarity and hope as we see images from around the world. The Sydney Opera House in the colors of the French flag, the Christ figure in Rio de Janeiro also in the colors of France, as well as Buckingham Palace and The NY Freedom Tower. All signs of unity and support. The statue of the Blessed Mother in Notre Dame Cathedral was bathed in blue, white and red this morning.

A few days ago we were in Normandy where I said Mass in a cemetery of 10,000 souls. I was reminded of all those who died in the battle against evil so many years ago. I did not imagine that within a few days evil would once again strike so vehemently and so close. Satan is always looking to strike.

And as I stood looking at the front of Notre Dame Cathedral I looked at the center facade carved in 1350 AD. In the center of the front of the Cathedral is a carved scale. On the scale is a soul who is being weighed for final judgment. On one side is an angel. On the other side is Satan who surreptitiously pushes down the scale. Satan will do anything to win over a soul to evil. All of Paris had just witnessed this.

With that one of the 17 bells in the tower began to ring. Just one bell. The 13 ton bell that never rings. And, as all bells are given a name when they are consecrated, it was that one bell that rang across Paris as a sign of hope. The name of that bell is “Emmanuel.” It means “God is with us.” This was the message of that one bell to Paris and the world: “God is with us.”

BellNotreDame

Fr. Gerard Gordon

The “Grunt Padre”

Next time you drive over the Verrazano Bridge heading out of Brooklyn and into Staten Island, get into the right lane and follow the big sign for “Father Capodanno Boulevard.” Father Vincent Capodanno was a Maryknoll priest and a lieutenant in the United States Marines. Father Capodanno served in Vietnam and gave his life as a martyr at 38 years of age on September 4, 1967. He threw his body over another Marine and was riddled with 27 fatal bullets. I know his family. He is an American hero. He is soon to become the first member of the US military to become a saint.

He came from Staten Island and made his way eventually to the battle fields of Vietnam by way of the priesthood. His was the pilgrimage of a saint. To the end of his life he faithfully held to the truth of Christ that “greater love hath no man than to lay down his life for his friends.” Lieutenant Capodanno did this as he died a martyr for another Marine.
You will note that a priest always blesses with his right hand, but in those final minutes, Father Capodanno’s right hand had been blown apart, and so he had to bless and absolve with his left hand. An eyewitness tells “we counted 27 gunshot wounds…saw the shrapnel embedded in his shoulder…and some fingers missing from his hand. The shot that killed Father entered his head from the back of his neck. Most of the gunshot wounds were in his back. Usually we looked down upon anyone with a wound in his back because it was a sign he was running away…but Father Capodanno was running deliberately to shield another Marine with his own body.”

One of the young Marines who were there that day said: “Of all the deaths I saw in Vietnam, the greatest was his. I don’t know if he knew the tremendous impact he had on me. I returned to my faith because of him. In my life he is a saint.” One man who knew Father Capodanno recalled a young corpsman brought to the hospital with severe burns. The corpsman’s body was burned to the nerves. He knew he was about to die, and so he asked to see a Catholic priest and go to Confession before his death. Father Capodanno heard the young man’s Confession and asked him if there was anything he wanted. “One thing” he responded. “A beer.” Father Capodanno immediately went to the officer’s club and got a beer for him, then stayed with him and held him until he died. For the Catholic, the presence of the priest at death is a consolation beyond price.

Sergeant Lawrence Peters, Corporal Ray Harton, Lance Corporal John Scafidid. They all attest to the truth that, in the jungles of Vietnam, Father Capodanno wanted “to help us pass from this life to the next, to give us comfort and consolation in a place where death was everywhere.” After Father Capodanno’s death, the new priest chaplain went to the mortuary. He had to identify and bless the body of his brother Marine and priest. He recollects that the mortuary was a long Quonset hut containing “uncountable bloated and grotesque bodies.” The Army Master Sergeant, a devout Catholic, took the new priest to bless Father Vincent’s body. It was not disfigured like all the other bodies. It was miraculously preserved. At his funeral a young Marine asked the new priest “If his life meant so much to him, why did Father Capodanno allow his own life to be taken?” The priest replied “it was precisely because Father Capdanno loved the lives of others more than his own that he so freely gave his own life.”

Father Capodanno eventually was awarded the Medal of Honor, the Bronze Star and 3 Purple Hearts. He has had streets, hospitals, chapels and Navy ships named after him throughout the world. But the most important thing to him was that he was a priest and chaplain. The word “chaplain” derives from the Latin word for “cloak.” It was the cloak of the early Christian Saint Martin which became the symbol of brotherly love manifested by the men who would serve selflessly as chaplains throughout the world. Like Father Capodanno, Saint Martin of Tours began his life as a soldier, but ended his life as a soldier for Christ.

gruntPadre

Fr. Gerard Gordon

Stewardship Sunday

This weekend is Stewardship Sunday in all the Catholic Churches around the world. Not coincidentally the church gives us the gospel of the poor widow. She is surrounded by the scribes who like “preferential treatment.” They accept seats of honor at synagogue and at banquets, they recite lengthy prayers…and they steal for themselves. In the middle of this is the little widow. Unbeknownst to her, Jesus is watching. With His disciples Jesus watches her put two small coins worth a few cents into the treasury.

In light of that trusting widow, I ask you to consider your own commitment to your own parish this week. In my parish the people have been served by the church since 1877—consistently and uninterrupted. There has been a priest serving here every day for 138 years. I think of that every morning when my alarm goes off at 5:30. I realize that if I oversleep I will break that incredible record. I don’t ever want to do that. And so it is with faith-filled joy that I thank you for your generosity to your own parish. In spite of hardships and difficulties, you remain faithful to your commitment to your parish, to your Diocese, and to the Universal Church. I see this all the time. One generous parishioner has “God bless my church” permanently embossed onto her checks. She is so proud to support her parish. She loves her parish. She inspires and humbles me…and she doesn’t even know it.

Often many people push money into my pocket and tell me to “give it to the poor and needy.” I usually don’t open the envelopes, but just pass them to a needy family or individual. They always cry. The envelope could contain two dollars or two hundred dollars. I don’t look inside. Last month after a funeral Mass a 6th grade altar server named Christian received a few dollars for serving the Funeral Mass. Upon leaving the church he asked me where the poor box was so he could give the money to the poor.

Thank you for all you do for your own parish and her poor. It is not my church. It is your church. I just work here. This Stewardship Sunday, may God bless you, may God bless America, and may God bless all those who have made the sacrifices to give us our life, our faith and our freedom.

stewardshipSunday

Fr. Gerard Gordon

Saints and Sinners

November is dedicated to the holy saints and holy souls who have gone before us. Where we walk, they once walked. Where they have gone, we hope to follow. All around you this coming weekend you saw the orange and black colors of Halloween. They are the colors of the orange pure beeswax candles and black bunting used in the Catholic Funeral Masses before Vatican II. Halloween is the night of the ghouls and goblins, but for us Christians, All Saints Day overshadows death with the triumphant victory of the saints about whom we have studied: Saint Augustine, Saint Thomas Aquinas, Saint Martin of Tours, Saint Bernadette. All Souls is the day we remember those people we actually knew in this life: your mother, your father, your child, your teacher, your friend who now live with God in eternal joy. Jesus tells us in the gospel: “This is the will of my heavenly Father: that I should not lose anything He gave to me, but raise it on the last day.” God wants us to live with Him forever and He gives us every chance in this life, and even after we die. This is why we continuously offer Masses for the dead—to assist them to heaven. I hope you have enrolled your deceased loved ones in the nine-day novena of Masses offered in every church throughout the world beginning on All Souls Day, November 2.

Pope Benedict XVI has spoken words that are essential to remember: “Every saint had a past, but every sinner has a future. ” Please remember those words. Saints did not always begin their lives well, but they finished them well. St. Augustine, Saint Thomas Becket and others had dubious beginnings, but faithful and glorious endings to their lives. The process toward sainthood is not always pleasant. Saul was knocked off a horse; other saints were rejected and persecuted. They were ordinary people who did ordinary things extraordinarily well. After 30 long years of his mother’s prayers for his conversion, the great Saint Augustine received baptism at the hands of Saint Ambrose. He went from rogue to Christian, to priest, to bishop, to saint. And in the end he made the profound statement: “Too late have I come to love Thee, Lord. ” Why did I waste so much time on myself? Why didn’t I love you sooner?

There is an old apocryphal story about a young man named Pietro Bandinelli. It is one of my favorite stories. When Leonardo daVinci spent years painting the masterpiece “The Last Supper” he scoured Italy for the models of each apostle. He selected a young man named Pietro Bandinelli who looked exactly as a vision of Jesus. His presence conveyed the virtues of Jesus’ compassion, gentleness and holiness. Bandinelli sat for daVinci to let his face be used for Christ. Many years went by but daVinci had not yet finished the painting. He finished Peter, James, Thomas, John, and then the last was Judas. It had to be someone who conveyed despair, hopelessness and sin. He found his Judas in a prison. As the portrait was near to completion Judas became despairing in grief. “Do you not remember me?” asked Judas. “I am Pietro Bandinelli. I was the model for your Jesus.” His life of innocence and holiness had decayed into crime, despair and sin. Bandinelli had made the greatest of all mistakes; he had gone from saint to sinner.

saints_sinnersFr. Gerard Gordon