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Friday, January 3, 2014

Grace and Mourning: What Jesus truly teaches us regarding grieving in the Beatitudes

It was a simple text message from a good friend on the anniversary of my sister’s death that read, “My prayers are with you and your family today.”  I responded very simply, “Thank you for your prayers and thanks to Him for the many graces received.”  The dialogue continued, “I know the first year of mourning can be very hard, but there is something different and special about the thirteenth month.”  And as readily as this verbal exchange with a dear friend came into view, it easily faded into the periphery.

Later that next month I visited with one of my surviving sisters at her family home.  It was a simple visit with some common hospitality that a dear sibling would offer.  She said, “Can I get you anything?” 

I was already at the coffee machine.  In the kitchen there was one of those modern one-cup gizmos that offered convenience, selection and the tidiness of coffee and filter in a simple and tidy little package.  I saw next to the coffee machine that there was another rotating “gizmo” for putting the unused “k-cups” on display.  There were only four or five of these there, most of the slots in the utensil lay empty.

I paused for a moment, unsure why.  “There is more coffee in the garage if you want”, said my sister from the adjoining room.  I ambled over to the garage and found the box of coffee as I expected to see it: more of the same “flavor”.  You see, my sister and brother-in-law embrace simplicity of life when it comes to coffee.  You can have what they have but one should not hope for the cornucopia of flavors and styles that most purveyors of k-cups offer.  I knew this but I went into the garage anyway, still unsure why.

What came next seemed quite natural, but was an unexpected surprise.  I would say that what occurred, upon further reflection, was perhaps the awareness of some profound grace in operation. 

I removed the box of coffee and brought it into the kitchen.  Carefully, I filled all the empty circles of the gizmo with new, fresh k-cups.  For some reason I did this simple exercise very meticulously, with care and with love.

Once the coffee was brewed my sister returned to the kitchen.  She, the Catechist and “soccer” Mom is a master of tasks.  I would not have been surprised that day if in my absence she accomplished much.  Typically, she responds to emails whilst directing homework whilst conversing both on the phone and with one of her children.  These things would have been no surprise to me then because many times this mastery of multi-tasking happens in my presence.  This is simply standard procedure in her lovely but busy household.

Our conversation continued quite naturally in the kitchen.  I was gazing at one of her many pictures of our eldest sister, Patricia Ann.  Trish died just thirteen months before and was the subject of the text message I received earlier.  Like the many pictures of her that adorn our walls and coffee tables, she was smiling.  I asked very humbly, “Do you think it would be true if I said Trisha smiled more in the last years of her life than the rest of her life, altogether?”  My sister replied, “Yes, without a doubt”.  The photo that my sister and I were looking upon at that moment provided testimony to this: the ever smiling Trish, fatigued by disease but glorious in her embrace of life as seen in her ever widening, beautiful smile.

Trish died of cancer after a heroic two and a half years struggle with the terrible disease.  Yet my favorite photo of her is the one that I am sure she wanted us to have the most.  She is smiling, ear-to-ear with eyes alight, sitting up in her hospice bed.  It was taken literally hours before she breathed her last breath.

I returned from my ruminations to my youngest sister standing with me in her kitchen, steaming hot coffee cup in my hand.  She was off and back multi-tasking again while I drifted.  I looked at her and asked rhetorically, “Do you realize what I just did?” I continued, “I went into the garage to get more coffee to fill your dispenser.”  She smiled as I continued further.  “That was so Trish!”   Quietly, she said, “I know.” We both smiled, noting the moment of grace ever present in our hearts.

There is something special about that thirteenth month.  This suggestion from my friend and her text is worth a closer look.

After my sister’s death, I would say there was a real lift, an emotional consolation that was very real.  It was grounded in the intellectual understanding that she no longer was suffering with the disease.  Sure, we hoped she would survive and “beat” the prognosis of stage-four cancer and many of us were also praying for a miraculous healing.  Nonetheless after her death there was emotional relief for us who loved her so very dearly.

However, spiritual consolation takes some time, time that sometimes we are unwilling to give.  We must embrace mourning, and if we look towards our Lord and Master for help we are consoled with his words.  “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted” (Mathew 5:4).  We would be doing well to heed to His teaching.

Father Robert Barron in his Catholicism series (1) offers, perhaps a more appropriate English translation of the original Greek than that of Saint Matthew.  Barron asks that we substitute “Happy” for “Blessed”.  He explained that true happiness; in fact a disposition towards gratitude steeped in grace directed towards the Creator is necessary for consoling grace.  Fr. Barron suggests that this can be attained by practicing the Beatitudes in a way that which Jesus wants us to.  Therefore his translation would read, “Happy are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.”

When we are willing to enter into the mystery of the Incarnation through a historical lens we learn that as a Jewish man Jesus knew the tradition of formal mourning well.  It was not simply an emotional reaction to loss, but a deep cultural practice steeped in the expression of their Jewish faith. 
Then, as now in the Orthodox Jewish communities, mourning had at least three distinct stages: immediate, proximate and remote.

First the immediate family would sit shivah (2) for the first week after the burial.  They would cease any regular activity, including work, cooking and formal mealtimes.  Consolers would come to their house and “sit” with them in their bereavement.

Next would be the remainder of the first month.  They could return to work, but clearly they would continue their morning.  Perhaps they would remain wholly or partially in black clothing and they would be granted a certain liberty to come and go to work as they willed.

Finally, for the remainder of that first year of mourning they would ease back into normal routines, always expressing in some manner their loss.  This could be verbally as well as other ways within their community while at worship.  The year would end with a memorial liturgy to close out formally the period of bereavement. 

I think we can take a page from our elder brothers and sisters of the Judeo-Christian tradition.  When we do so, we may be surprised by the graces we receive.  Another benefit is to truly be of the world, but not in the world (Jn 17:14).  This can be naturally challenging in a society that seeks instant gratification at nearly every turn.  

If we submit to the “world”, than we are being told something very different than what we need to hear, that patience is necessary to truly grieve the loss of a loved one.  Our prudential judgment then should be to listen and pray over the words of the Beatitudes.  They can teach us not only to desire these available graces, but to strive for them.

Fr. D.A. Suglia

 Fr. Suglia is a Parochial Vicar at the Parish of Saints Cyril and Methodius, located in Deer Park, New York in the Diocese of Rockville Centre  One of his passions is the implementation of the "New Evangelization".  He has several blogs, one of which specifically promotes Adult Catechisis and is entitled, The Academy of Higher Learning 


(2) Jewish period of mourning (Hebrew: שבעה‎), literally: seven.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Friday, May 6, 2011

Prayer Resources

Lumen Gentium (Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, infallible decree of Vatican II)
“google” the words: Lumen Gentium, or go to:

Note:  All Church Documents are laid out by paragraph, so
LG 11 means you will find what is referenced in paragraph 11 of Lumen Gentium

Catherine Doherty (Sobornost—The need to spiritually connect our hearts and minds)
(sometimes is referenced as “The Baroness” or Catherine de Hoeck Doherty) (her community based in Canada—a great trip, and family vacation)

Consciousness Examnen: 5 Easy Steps (5-15 Minutes)
  1. Center yourself by finding God-  locate the “tether” that joins us, Creator and creature.  Grab it and hold.  Think of God who so loved the world and all its creatures that he sacrifices His Son.  God who wouldn’t let Abraham sacrifice Isaac, lets his Son die on the Cross for you and me.  God who knows us beyond all knowing.  Locate his love, deep within our hearts for “me” and grab it.  He is the adoring Father.  Believe it! (No Catholic Guilt)
  2. Ask for His grace, show us in mercy how He sees us.  Walk through the actions of the day…..examples…leave no details out, stubbed my toe after shower, cursed out driver, thanked mailman, remembered a great smile…..
  3. What stands out…..thanksgiving
      What stands out………contrition
  1. Thankfulness or contrition
  2. Make an amendment…..and an appointment…….when will you allow him access again……to adore you, or do you need to adore him again, soon!…………..

Monday, April 25, 2011

Divine Providence: What is it, and why is it important?

Editors note:  This is an original work submitted early in my days here at the Seminary, for one of my favorite courses, Creation and Divine Providence as taught by Dr. Michael Hoonhout, Ph.D. (Theology), also a favorite.  The course was completed by me in the Summer of 2007.  I hope you find it interesting in its original, un-edited form, including "MLA style" footnotes which refer to (Author, page #).  The bibliography or "works cited" follows the text.  Enjoy!
The fresco of the "Allegory of Divine Providence and Barberini Power", a masterpiece of Pietro da Cortona, filling the large ceiling of the grand salon of the Palazzo Barberini, now Galleria Nazionale d'Arte Antica, Rome
          Perhaps my favorite illustration of divine providence is a story that was related to me by Brother Owen Sadlier, OSF, and dealing with the super-seed of the Douglas-fir trees that grow in the dense forests of Western Oregon.  Douglas-firs grow to upwards of 300 feet high, their super-seeds are contained in a “pine” cone that is about a foot long.  What is interesting about the Douglas-fir is what needs to take place in order for the seeds to germinate.
          Their super-seed casing is a non-porous shell.  Once the pine cone is shed the seed’s casing is exposed to the elements, but cannot germinate.  For the seed inside to germinate the casing must be heated to about 1500 degrees.  At that temperature the casing splits, and is now insulated by the charcoal that is a by product of the forest fire which is necessary to get the super-seed to 1500 degrees.  The forest fire in this dense, frontier forest in the depths of the Oregon wilderness is most probably caused by a bolt of lightning.  An atheist would ascribe this chain of events as random.  Clearly to me, this is divine providence, in that an unintelligent thing (the fir seed) is moved by the intelligent process of the Creator.
                Divine providence is a subject matter that is inherently difficult to embrace and fully comprehend for most people.  In any legitimate treatment of the subject matter, one must embrace several factors that are in themselves complex and perhaps untouchable within the human consciousness.   Aside from the notional difficulty of the creature (in this case human beings), in order to approach the omnipotent, omnipresent and omniscient Creator (the unapproachable one), one must in a way transcend human shortcomings in intellect and go beyond the simple acceptance and submission to blind faith to pursue a deeper understanding and study of the Creator’s purpose in creation.
          Using Theodoret and Hart’s texts as well as Dei Filius and the article by Charles M. Wood, I will survey the topic of divine providence in light of its Patristic meaning (Theodoret) and in light of a modern natural tragedy (Hart).  I will also address Wood’s interpretation in light of our Catholic dogmatic faith (Dei Filius).  What follows is my present understanding of divine providence through my own limited theological perspective and the insights I have gained through the lectures and reading in this course.
          My understanding of divine providence is thus: the Creator has set in motion all created things with a purpose that only He can fully know and which we can only attempt to understand firmly.  Though understanding less than the fullness of divine providence, we rejoice in the grace of knowledge.  We sense this grace by witnessing His actions in our lives, the very place that God exists for us.  We do this by our participation in the Sacraments, our study of sacred texts and tradition, and our deference to the Magisterium.  We begin with the patristic treatment of Theodoret of Cyrus, the 5th century Antiochene theologian.
          “For Theodoret…providence is the divine action ad extra which sustains everything in existence.  The divine government of the world is the execution of the eternal divine world-plan in time” (Th 5).  Theodoret is fond of the Greek word Pronoia, which means fore-knowledge.  The Divine Creator has complete fore-knowledge of His creation, of the universe and its creatures, throughout eternity.
          Theodoret’s treatment, in the first half of this work, deals with the inner and outer universe- the inner being the mechanisms in the human body that sustain life and the outer being the earth, sun, stars and the universe.  He shows that creation is ruled by order, not randomness or chaos, and this is meaningful.  The God of Creation is providing for our every need, as in the lilies of the field (Mt 6:28) or the birds in the air (Mt 6:26).  By recognizing this we can also see the orderliness of God as a message of comfort.  Theodoret offers the scriptures as the primary authority of revelation on divine providence.  He also focuses on nature and the thesis that God who created the world is naturally taking care of it.  He uses his discourses on nature to show how creation is so harmonious that it is a great symphony, one with a master conductor, who is God, the Creator.  When we as creatures, realize this, we see our creation, our life, as a gift.  Because the world is so contingent, the earth must remain in perfect obedience to the laws of nature so as to sustain seasonal life among seven continents in every clime and place (and their adaptive features).   Contingencies such as the finite exactness of Earth’s orbit to sustain life on a perfectly balanced planet (by rotation, orbits, ect.) cannot be happenstance.
          Theodoret also provides perspective on class structure.  At that time in history in Antioch, there was a great disparity between classes of the wealthy and the poor who were generally slaves.  Theodoret explains that free will still prevailed, even among those who were slaves, in that they could still offer perfect praise to God (Th 88).  This is a lesson for us all, in that regardless of our station in life, we can experience the grace of God’s unending love for all of His creatures, and return it freely, in full obedience to His will for us. 
          Perhaps it is the rich man so challenged by a life of simplicity who cannot enter the kingdom, while it is easier for the poor and simple in spirit (Mt 5:3).  Theodoret says man’s false perceptions only confuse him in his yearning to understand what (perhaps) is not comprehensible (Th 135).  This seems to be telling of our current age, as men seem to be consumed by material things: individual wealth, property and stature.  Western society has become largely nihilistic.
          Moving from the ancient but contemporarily relevant treatment of Theodoret, we tackle the question of Theodicy that is so prevalent in modern-day society, after a natural disaster such as the Tsunami of 2004, or an unnatural one such as 9-11-01.  For this we turn to the Hart text.
          In general, David Hart responds to theodicy with incredulity.  For
theodicy assumes that God is an active participant in creation which would destroy the concept of free will.  Certain proponents of theodicy would try to explain the death of hundreds of thousands in the Tsunami, as God’s wrath upon a sinful world.  Instead for Hart, God is characterized by “Divine Apathea”, meaning that He cares but is unchained to creation, instead allowing it to seek its natural telos. God is unmoved but caring.   
          Hart’s view also opposes Deism, which suggests that God is not active in Creation, except to provide a moral code in which we can discern right and wrong, which is how we are ultimately judged (Wikipedia).  Here again we turn to Divine Apathea.  Specifically, God acts in creation but He allows us complete freedom to act either in union with His will or against it; the complete and utter freedom of human will.  Our salvation is dependent on how we specifically act.  Just how well we understand divine will, and how we allow it to guide our fallen selves, will lead us to the right actions.
          The important difference between a god of Deism who is “unchained” to the world and the Christian God who is a loving and caring Father, Abba, is that our God is all merciful in complete communion with the human condition through the Son.  He wants only that we seek redemption in union with Him in His heavenly kingdom.  Perhaps it is the grace that exists for us to realize all the little lessons along the way that direct us home to Him.
          Sometimes the wisdom of mankind serves as the vehicle of God’s grace.  For instance, if the Tsunami originated in the Pacific Rim, instead of the Indian Rim, there would possibly have been much less death.  The reason for this is that there are early warning systems dotted throughout the undersea fault lines in the Pacific due to a communal cooperation between countries such as the United States, Japan and others in Southeast Asia.  These exist despite the fact that in some cases (Malaysia and Indonesia) we are not necessarily politically or culturally aligned.  In fact radical Islamic fundamentalism looms large in some areas of these countries governments. 
          Perhaps people’s responsibility to the world community extends beyond their own national borders due to the age of technology and the far reaching information age; we are all really close global neighbors as technology has allowed us real-time access to the world’s news.  Because of this far reaching neighborhood, it is not enough to be the “good Samaritan” (Lk 10:33) on your street or local byway.  The free people of a country with the means of the United States, for example, must also be good global neighbors and take a leadership position in helping less privileged third world countries.  We do this, specifically in this case, by initiatives to fund deep ocean tsunami reporting systems. 
          This solidifies a point in which the Gospels project, “you know neither the hour nor the day” (Rv 3:3), which reminds us to be in right relationship with God beyond the life of the here and now.  Our Creator promises us, through the Son, everlasting life with Him in His heavenly kingdom.  It is a fact that we don’t know, individually or collectively, when we will meet the maker.  Thus, it is preeminently important that we are ready every minute of every hour of every day.  We should not wait to repent, for the kingdom of God is at hand (cf. Lk 17:21).
          Hart also points out that these natural tragedies serve a bigger purpose.  It is the tectonic shifts in the earth’s platelets that ensure the land will remain risen above the sea (Hart 51-52).  It is a natural phenomenon that perhaps allows God’s creatures to have a home, otherwise the natural erosion of the land by the wind and rain would eventually break down the land completely.  Hart does a sufficient job of explaining divine providence in light of popular misconceptions fueled by theodicy and deism.  Charles Wood’s treatment, however is not without flaws.
        It seems in Mr. Wood’s article, “The Question of the Doctrine of Providence”, that divine providence is a moving target subject to the accepted norms for “Christian Doctrine” at a specific point in history.  This seems ultimately flawed because it is placing a limiting feature on the omnipotent God, that He could be fully understood by His creatures, and left for us humans to interpret in a way that we see fit.  This is opposed to our tradition of divine revelation, whereas in the Dogmatic Decree of the Catholic Faith of Vatican I, we accept that, “Supernatural revelation, according to the universal belief of the Church, as declared by the sacred Synod of Trent, is contained in the written books and unwritten traditions which have come down to us, having been received by the Apostles from the mouth of Christ himself; or having been received by the Apostles from Christ himself” (DF 241).
          In Part III of the article we can see this as he tries to explain away foundational truths.  He opens this section of the article by stating, Here is the question of the doctrine of providence…How are we to understand theologically what goes on in the Christian doctrine of providence.  We can only do so by setting out principles that are in accord in light of the Christian witness (Wood 221).  This is imminently limiting to our interpretation of faith and not actual revelation.   My retort would be, providence (and perhaps doctrine) cannot be questioned, but only assimilated and understood through revelation and prayerful discernment helped by some of the giants of Catholic tradition such as Sts. Paul, Augustine, Aquinas, among others.
          As Catholics, we submit to the doctrine that salvation occurs by grace alone as promulgated by the Council of Trent.  Inherent to this theology is that, as receivers of salvation by grace alone, we cannot proclaim it boldly, as most Lutherans do, as something having already been achieved by faith (and so predestined).  In Theodoret’s Discourse 9, he says, “You however, beside nature, have the law to teach you, and the prophets who treat of religious matters, and the company of apostles teaching you about the present and foretelling what is to come.  Recognize, then, the benefit of salvation which is conferred on you from every side” (133).
          Once you accept that salvation occurs by faith alone, it follows that you should not be limited by doctrine, or what we would call dogmatic truth because you are not bound by the sacred doctrinal truth of our tradition.  Thus, you may question divine providence and put it into some kind of context which then limits it.  This fails to surrender completely to God, the creator, who can only be limited by Himself, not His creatures, and thus fails miserably to explain the nature of divine providence.
          In conclusion, divine providence is God’s ability as Creator to see His creation to its natural end.  We, as His creatures, have been given domain over the Earth.  As we are living creatures, albeit fallen ones, we are perpetually graced with God’s perfect love that teaches us the way home to Him.  His only desire is for his beloved children to be reunited with Him in the Kingdom of Heaven, so as to be in full communion with all the angels and saints for all eternity. 

Works Cited

Hart, David Bentley.  The Doors of the Sea: Where Was God in the Tsunami?  Grand   Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 2005

Theodoret of Cyrus.  Theodoret of Cyrus on Divine Providence.  Thomas Halton,         trans. (Ancient Christian Writers, vol. 49).  New York: Newman Press, 1988.

Vatican I. Dei Filius (1870). Cf. chapter 1.

Wood, Charles M.  “The Question of the Doctrine of Providence.”  Theology Today 49 (1992): 209-224


Thursday, March 10, 2011

Co-worker in the Truth, PP Benedictus XVI

Pope Benedict is a remarkable person for many reasons.  His "accomplishments" are too long to note in such a short space.  To mention a few would be undignified.  However, one that should not be lost is his willingness to meet with the media.
At St. Josephs Seminary in Dunwoodie, NY, April 2008.

You may remember that he made a video presentation for us in America to kick off his papal visit in April of 2008.  Then on the plane ride here, he fielded questions and addressed the recent scandal in the Church with heartfelt sympathy.  He then met with some of the victims themselves, showing all the pastors of the Church what we must do in order to forge reconciliation.

The thing that is also very inspirational about his pastoral way is his candor.  He has done something unprecedented recently, granting a full length interview to a member of the German media, Peter Seewald.  It is the subject of his most recent book, Light of the World: The Pope, The Church and The Signs Of The Times .  If nothing else then, this Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, is anything but shrouded in "secrecy" or guiding our Church from the lofty confines of an "ivory tower."  Instead, he is as his motto suggests, "Just a humble worker in the vineyard of the Lord, a co-worker in the Truth."*

 Click here to "peruse" at

He truly is a humble man who is actually very "shy".  Peter Seewald commented to Catholic News Agency this about the Pope, "The first misunderstanding is the idea that Joseph Ratzinger is a Pope who is conservative, harsh, too strict, a man who likes power.  None of these characteristics truly reflect the personality of him, a man who is one of the great minds of the Catholic Church."  Click here for full interview (short)

*Benedict's papal (episcopal) motto is "Co-worker in the Truth."   This is the same as his motto from the time he was first ordained Bishop in 1977.  Among the first words he said as Pope, upon the balcony of St. Peter's Basilica after the conclave was, "I am just a humble worker in the vineyard of the Lord."

Monday, January 10, 2011


Ahh Baptism...there was an old Marine expression, "Baptism of Fire".  It was when you first encountered an experience, when the butterflies are prevelent.  When you first are out front, it is time to put up the goods.  Yesterday I baptized a baby, Harley Rose.  A few weeks ago I baptized three children, two infants and a 4 year old (Cara, Sophia and Liam Patrick). 
The first one was nerve wracking.  Yesterday, not so much, it seemed much more natural.  It was a wonderful opportunity to explain to all who attended, especially the immediate family of the importance of baptism.  It is a true gift to bring these children to Christ, to mark them forever with his seal.  It is a great joy to operate in this sacramental grace, in Holy Orders, and to be an instrument of salvation, according to God's will.  I am forever blessed.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Homily: from Lauds Solemnity Immaculate Conception, Dec 8, 2009

I have called you by name, and you are mine, says the Prophet Isaiah as he utters the inspired logos, the Word of God.

Permit me to suggest that we spend our meditation this morning on three images: two statues and a bell. Images can be important signs that point to something greater than us. And on this day, our Mother’s day, we cherish her profound presence among us as she guides us ultimately to Him the son and savior of mankind for all eternity.

We are so blessed to have such a remarkable raredos (rar-ra-dus) in this simple Chapel. In fact some might say that this chapel is starkly simple, save for the incredible centerpiece in the front of the sanctuary. One component of it is the statue of Mary, off to the side of her crucified son, pointing to him.

Down below our chapel stands a bell in an unlikely place. Just outside the Crypt Chapel, affixed to the iron grill is our Chapel Bell. But unlike most chapel bells, this one never tolls; in fact it does not even possess a clapper.

About 80 years ago the bell was received by Archbishop Molloy as a gift from Europe. It had been the bell of a cloistered monastery in Spain. Although it never reached its intended place on our roof to toll chimes and call the house to prayer, it brought with it the inscription, “Behold the Virgin Immaculate”. Never to be rung on our shores, but possessing the words which ring out in our hearts on this day. These words that were forged on the bell hundreds of years before Pius the 9ths infallible decree in 1854 stating Mary as the Immaculate Virgin, preserved from original sin.

Finally, our third image, above us, standing silently is a “black Madonna”. Rising in our rafters we see a small statuette of our lady that is hardly noticed but looks over us as we enter and leave the chapel. She reminds us that we are never alone here, even though we may come in solitude.

Why can these images of silence be so profound? Why is Mary Immaculate also Our Lady of Silence?
For an answer, we turn to the mystic Catherine Dougherty, for some spiritual insight.
Wrapped in Silence
“Just think about that strange, incredible, unbelievable faith of a young girl. At fourteen years old she became the Mother of God and the Mother of men. She knew full well that people would not understand that she had conceived by the Holy Spirit. For a long time after her marriage to Joseph she must have been the talk of the town. In those days the women used to wash their linens in ponds. When she brought her linen I'm sure people began to whisper about her. I can just see those gossipy women. But Our Lady never said anything. She was the woman wrapped in silence.”
You see Catherine is saying that Mary doesn’t want to speak, or need to speak. She knows that the “stage” is for Our Lord. She could never do anything beyond her incredible fiat but silently point us to him. What a remarkable witness to her incredible and perfect grace received not at the Annunciation, but instead at her flawless conception.
But what she does instead is point us, silently to him. She asks us to fall silently into her arms, so she may take us to him. She embraces us, and in fact lifts us up as any loving Mother would do and brings us directly to him.
In just a few hours my friends these images will, of course, remain silent. At least, as liturgy coordinator, I hope so. Don’t need nor want any surprises!
But there will also be a profound silence among our five brothers as they first move from standing to bending, then kneeling and finally lying prostrate on this very chapel floor. At that moment they will lie silent as we invoke the Litany of Saints. And as you, and I, and Bishops and priests, and family and friends pray over these men, we will also be joined, in silence.
For here heaven and earth will be joined with a cloud of witnesses; (names of Saints the Deac.Candidates choose), and Michael, Gabriel and Raphael along with the Servants of God Catherine and Fulton Sheen and John Paul II. But allow me to suggest the most profound silent witness will be Mary Immaculate, Queen Mother and chief intercessor, co-redemtrix and patroness of this very house and this very republic.
She watches silently but never without cause (direction) because she simply points to her Son and directs us to Him. He who is the way and the truth and the life. Jesus the Christ, the Son of God who today, especially for Alonzo and Henry and David and John and Nixon, calls you by name.

And one day soon my brothers it will be our turn too. But first, I hope, that we will come to her also. In silence, our protectress, so that she may do her work, and point us to him who frees us from death and allows us, especially, to be formed to Him so that we may act in His person.
I have called you by name, and you are mine, says the Prophet.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Tomb and Fro: A Pilgrimmage Within (See Picture, Above Right)

Jerusalem, 14 Jan 2010

The streets of the Old City in Jerusalem are quiet in the morning. As you wind you way inside the wall through the narrow corridors you may see a cat or two but may not see another soul. Early before sunrise we seminarian pilgrims make our way to the Holy Sepulchre for adoration and prayer in the holiest sites of all Christianity. Counted among these are the ground (Golgotha) where Jesus was crucified, the slab where his body lay after coming down from the cross and the holiest of all, the sacred tomb where he lay for 3 days before rising. These three places are within the Basilica, about 100 yards distance apart. Today our day began and ended at the Basilica of the Holy Sepulchre, the Tomb of the burial and resurrection of Jesus.

We had a magnificent privilege today, as we had a private Mass in the Tomb at 6.30 this morning. The Tomb is small, only 3 grown adults can fit in the burial chamber. This is where Monsignors Swiader and Vaccari along with Deacon Alonzo Cox stood while the rest of us were just through the low archway in the ante chamber, still within the small building erected by St Helena 1700 years ago.

The holy Mass was celebrated directly above the burial place of the Christ. Here his resurrected body, in the form of the Eucharist, came alive once again as it did on this spot 2000 years ago. To put this into context, we were in the same space where Mary Magdalene found two Angels on Easter Sunday when she came looking for the Lord, only to find him just outside. And the same space where Peter and John raced moments later upon hearing the news from the Magdalene, the place Peter went in to inspect.

The magnanimity of this gift, this blessing of Our Lord bringing us to these sacred sites is and was this morning, the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. Because in the moment of consecration, he is alive and resurrected and giving himself to us in that moment, for all time. As we shared his body and blood today at the Holy Sepulchre, you too joined in this same timeless celebration when you attended Mass on Sunday; that, in a nutshell, is the great beauty and depth of our Catholic faith.

Later we journeyed to Masada, Qumran and waded in the Dead Sea before arriving back in Jerusalem. Some of us went back to the Basilca for a 4PM procession to all the sacred places within led by the Franciscans, the custodians of the Holy Land. The places we visited outside Jerusalem were great, and deserve some consideration, but I will leave that to the others.

Today, for me and my brethren, it was that special moment that was over before the sun came up. The same one that you and I will celebrate again by participating in the holy sacrifice of the Mass again soon. This is where it happens every time: Jesus Christ is resurrected and lives and he gives us the bread of life, his body and blood, so that we too may join him forever in glory! Jesu Christe Resurrexit Dixit, Alleluia!

Monday, June 1, 2009

Moment of Surrender, my commentary in bold

These are the lyrics to the new (June 1, 2009) U2 song “Moment of Surrender” with my comments in bold. I believe, and have read, that Paul Hewson (“Bono”) has undergone a profound conversion or reversion back to the Catholic Church. He is approaching his 50th birthday in less than a year. I would also say that he was formed in the faith as a young man through solid catechisis. His wife of 25 or 30 years is named Alison or “Ally”.

Moment Of Surrender lyrics

By Paul David Hewson (born 10 May 1960)
Commentary 2009 D.A. Suglia

I tied myself with wire
To let the horses roam free (reference to heroin)
Playing with the fire (sinfulness)
Until the fire played with me (Satan’s temptation to surrender his own soul, and those who he can influence)

The stone was semi-precious (the engagement ring)
We were barely conscious (he and Ally, his wife were drunk on their wedding day)
Two souls too smart to be (self-righteous)
In the realm of certainty (at the altar of God)
Even on our wedding day (a Sacrament of J.Christ)

We set ourselves on fire (habitual sin)
Oh God, do not deny her (sorry for dragging wife into sin)
It’s not if I believe in love (God is Love)
If love believes in me (God’s Mercy)
Oh, believe in me (a repentant’s plea)

At the moment of surrender (to God’s will)
I folded to my knees (in supplication)

I did not notice the passers-by (was out of body in prayer)
And they did not notice me (the secular ignorance to the spiritual realm of prayer)

I’ve been in every black hole (places where sin abounds)
At the altar of the dark star (Satan’s “den”)
My body’s (vessel of the heart and soul) now a begging bowl (a humble and contrite heart)
That’s begging to get back, begging to get back
To my heart (where truth resides)
To the rhythm of my soul (where God’s natural law is imprinted)
To the rhythm of my unconsciousness (deep spiritual prayer)
To the rhythm that yearns (openness to God)
To be released from control (submission to the divine will and suppression of selfish will)

I was punching in the numbers at the ATM machine (mindless action)
I could see in the reflection
A face staring back at me (his face reflected by ATM mirror)
At the moment of surrender
Of vision over visibility (vision- prolonged awareness, visibility- just plain sight)
I did not notice the passers-by
And they did not notice me

I was speeding on the subway
Through the stations of the cross (devotional prayer)
Every eye looking every other way (indifference)
Counting down ’til the train would stop (profound indifference)

At the moment of surrender
Of vision of over visibility
I did not notice the passers-by
And they did not notice me

Sunday, November 9, 2008

True Faith: Wisdom and Insight for the Spiritual Yearner: Wayne Teasdale (

Wayne Teasdale (

The late "monk in the world" was my acquaintance for the last few years I lived in Chicago. He died about a month after I moved back to NY in October of 2004 (about 18 months before I entered Seminary).

Check out this clip of him with Ken Wilbur discussing "The Supreme Identity" of who is God, I Am Who Am.

Wayne's short explanation using stunning visuals is very much on the mark, so much that you will get chills!

More on Wayne, the Christian monk in a contemporary spirit of Bede Griffiths, where Eastern and Western asceticism intersect, to follow.............................

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Madonna House (

Part I:
Reflections from the great Catherine de Hueck Doherty's legacy, Madonna House Apostalate, still going strong 23 years after the "Servant of God's" death in 1985.

I had the privilege of joining the community, as hundreds of others do every summer, as a "working guest" from July 26 through August 6, 2008. As a veteran of many retreats (preached, private, silent, communal, singular and directed), there were many differences in this experience, the most obvious one being that you are welcomed as a "working guest". Hence, this was a very different retreat experience.

Retreat, yes, in that you are away from what you normally might be doing, and engaged in a prayerful, spiritually rich experience based on the spiritual insights of "Servant of God" Catherine Doherty. Her "Little Mandate" is loosely based on St. Francis of Assisi's doctrine of Christian brotherhood through radical poverty and, as she professed, was given to her by none other than our Savior and Lord, Jesus Christ. Here it is, as follows:

Arise — go! Sell all you possess. Give it directly, personally to the poor. Take up My cross (their cross) and follow Me, going to the poor, being poor, being one with them, one with Me.

Little — be always little! Be simple, poor, childlike.

Preach the Gospel with your life — without compromise! Listen to the Spirit. He will lead you.

Do little things exceedingly well for love of Me.

Love... love... love, never counting the cost.

Go into the marketplace and stay with Me. Pray, fast. Pray always, fast.

Be hidden. Be a light to your neighbour’s feet. Go without fear into the depth of men’s hearts. I shall be with you.

Pray always. I will be your rest.

This is the center of the Madonna House Apostolate and is lived out by its members through the Sobornost, or way to the heart. The "B", as she is fondly remembered and short for her unofficial title of Russian Baroness, liked to use Russian words from her Eastern Orthodox roots.

Sobornost is simply the unity of heart and mind. As it has been said, the longest journey we "westerners" have to make in our life is the 12 inches from our head to our heart. Unfortunately, some or most, never successfully navigate this distance while in our mortal state. This may resonate with those of us who engage the "world" and our culture on a regular basis.

The people at Madonna House are simply fabulous and, to borrow an overused term during this election year, true mavericks. The Apostolate has yet to be defined or formally approved canonically because of the nature of its community: lay and clerical living side by side in community. However the Church hierarchy, the Roman Curia, has given implicit approval to this work. The only other widely popular community, that I know of, that is similarly constructed, but vastly different in nature is the Papal Prelature Opus Dei ( However, Opus Dei was canonically approved in 1982. It differs from the Madonna House Apostalate by its nature, only some members live in community; and all members interact with society freely, bringing God to whatever they do. Whereas at Madonna House the community's mission is to the larger community as a whole, usually the poor, as apostles to the poor.

Why is it so unique? Well primarily because you have lay men, lay women (the B's canonical status) and ordained Roman and Eastern Rite priests and deacons living in community together.

How can this work?
First and foremost, everyone abides by the Evangelical Counsels of Poverty, Chastity and Obedience. Everyone, including the "working guests" must sign off on these precepts (literally) voluntarily, that he/she will abide by this rule of life, while in the community.

Why does it work? Because it does. The B was asked if she thought Madonna House would still exist years after her death. Her answer-- IF it is God's will, that it will continue. If it is not, than no. An atitude, a personal disposition that any and all can learn from.

Specifically what is notable, is the unconditional love poured out among its members outwardly to all who they come in contact with. Love for the Church, love for the least of us, love for the community (avowed and guests) and love for simplicity in spirit (The Little Mandate). I couldn't help but feel washed over by this spirit among those I encountered while there. It was especially obvious among the avowed members (finally professed) of the community. And the "B" is very much spiritually present, this is undeniable (as many of the Saints in our great Church as participants in the Communion of Saints come to us in our daily lives).

Author Lorene Hanley Duquin wrote an official biography of Catherine, entitled They Called Her the Baroness. Ms. Duquin remarks there that when she arrived and Madonna House she expected a great deal of sexual tension, but instead found the opposite. I agree. I think it's because there is uninhibited self giving love without the opportunity for sinful companionship between the sexes that creates a emotionally safe, spiritually nourishing environment. It's a great lesson for us living celibacy and also for the advocates of abstinence.

What do you do while there? You work, pray and socialize communally. The men, women and priests live in seperate dorms at the sprawling campus located in the very rural Combermere, Ontario. While I was there I worked in an office environment doing clerical skills for a few days, on a farm for a few days (weeding the organic vegetable patches, tossing hay bails and harvesting garlic) and spent 1 day doing maintenance and preparing "Cana Colony" (a family retreat experience) for the arriving guests (5 or so families, a priest and lay member).

How is this a powerful witness to the Faith? It is, as Catherine said, living out the Gospel as life. You live prayer, instead of perhaps just saying prayers. The liturgies (Hours, Mass) are beautiful and although perfectly Roman, also have a Eastern dimension (hard to capture in words, you must witness).

Finally, I would reccomend Madonna House to anyone: the summer traveler, the vocational discerner, the aspiring sabbatical searcher and just about everyone else. If you beleive that St. Benedict was on to something with his rule of work and pray, pray and work, then you will find Madonna House as a great contemporary example of living the Gospel in this simple way.

Dennis Anthony Suglia

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Thursday June 26, 2008. Mass at St. Patrick's Cathedral with Archbishop Celestino Migliore

narrative coming soon. I had the distinct privelidge of serving Mass at St. Patrick's Cathedral this summer. That's me with the Thurible in the photo on the right along with my brother Seminarian of Rockville Centre, Michael Duffy

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Seeing the Holy Father

My Day with the Holy Father

by Seminarian Dennis Anthony Suglia

As I recall the events of this Saturday April 20 at St. Joseph's Seminary in Dunwoodie, NY, one moment stands out among the rest. I recall seeing the pope-mobile, descending down upon the stage, at the outskirts of the lower field. Among the throng of the gathered assembly, tens of thousands strong, was this 81 year old man riding in the back of a supped up golf cart. But he was no ordinary man; he is the Vicar of Christ on earth.

And the thought crossed my mind…… other person who walks on the face of the earth can do this to energize the masses. No one can ride in a vehicle, at nearly any venue in the world, and have tens of thousands cheering his arrival! But not because of who he is, but because of who he points us to: Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior!

On April 19, 2008, along with 25,000 other of the youth, seminarians, priests, sisters and brothers of the Dioceses of metropolitan New York and across the United States and beyond, I attended the Papal youth rally at St. Joseph’s Seminary in Yonkers. I came with my brother seminarians here in the Diocese of Rockville Centre who are studying for the priesthood at the Seminary of Immaculate Conception in Huntington.

When we arrived at about 11:30 AM, the grounds were nearly full. There was a festival area around the back of the Seminary complex that featured merchandize and refreshments. Down below the festival area was a massive stage, not unlike one you would encounter at a stadium concert. It featured a large performance area in the middle for the many acts that would entertain us before the expected arrival of Pope Benedict XVI at 5:00 PM.

As seminarians, we were given special tickets that enabled us to congregate around the front section of the stage, a real bonus! I was able to gradually make my way to near the front of stage right, where, as on stage left, there was an extended wing so that the Holy Father could get close to the gathered faithful if he wished.

While waiting for the rally to begin, we were entertained by various musical acts, entertainers and local media personalities. These kept things moving very swiftly.

At 4:30 sharp we could see the papal motorcade arrive at the front of the seminary on the two “jumbo-tron” monitors on the sides of the stage. The first event was held inside the chapel. There the Holy Father blessed several children suffering with severe disabilities and their caregivers. It was a moving service which provided a glimpse of what we might expect when we had our opportunity to be graced by his Holiness’ presence. Pope Benedict XVI showed a side of him that few have seen. He was deeply moved by the children and their afflictions. He slowly walked around the chapel, taking his time to greet, bless and embrace the children.

At 5:00 PM sharp (he is German, you know) the pope-mobile picked up His Holiness in front of the chapel for the short ride to the lower field. The crowd, now 25,000 strong yelled and shouted with excitement as this remarkable man closed in on the stage. He circled the perimeter of the field in his vehicle, waving and blessing all he encountered.

Just a few minutes later, as the organist played a moving prelude the Holy Father appeared, emerging from the rear of stage left to the roaring of the assembled. We all waved our yellow or white hankies (the colors of the Catholic flag) and he held his wide arms in a welcoming gesture. Here is where the Holy Father improvised from the script.

The crowd was so raucous and excited to see and eventually hear from him that he could not sit down. Instead he came down the stage and moved out on the two wings of the stage getting up close and personal to the throng assembled. It was an incredible moment. To me (and I’m sure most others) the Holy Father expressed his love for us as he slowly moved along the outskirts of the stage, waving, smiling and resonating his joy.

Once he made it back to his magnificent throne specially made for the event, he was serenaded with song and presentations by representatives of the youth gathered at the assembly. Again he went off script, choosing to rise and embrace all of the youth who spoke or appeared on stage. It was a moving moment and many tears were shed as His Holiness genuine love for humanity, especially the young, beamed through.

About half way through the two-hour event, His Holiness gave a reflection. His talk focused on how the saints exemplify what it means to be Disciples of Christ. How Jesus Christ is the truth and should inspire us all to proclaim Him as the way, the truth and the light of salvation to all we encounter. He warned against false ideologies, including moral relativism and materialism. He especially exhorted the young people to pursue prayer and silent dialogue with the Lord. Pope Benedict assured us that with a disciplined life of prayer we could regularly enter into meaningful dialogue with our Lord Jesus Christ.

He made a strong statement about relativism. He defined it as “a false truth which alleges that everything has an indiscriminate value and claims to assure freedom and liberate conscience.” The Pope stated correctly that this flawed ideal instead can mislead us into despair and addiction. He proclaimed “truth is not an imposition, or a set of rules, instead it is the discovery of the One who never fails us; the One who we can always trust. The truth is a person: Jesus Christ.” At this moment, the great silence that fell upon the thousands gathered when His Holiness began to speak changed into an affirmative roar of applause and vocal affirmation!

After the Pope finished his remarks, we sang the Litany of the Saints, in tribute to the community in heaven the surrounds us in prayer. Soon the rally would be over.

Before imparting the Apostolic Blessing, the Pope had one more impulsive action in him. He again came down the ramps on either side of the stage to greet the crowds. This time he really paused and slowly moved around the wings to greet us. At this time I was able to look into his eyes for a good while. His smile resonated joy and his eyes expressed the love that is deep within his heart for all of us: the flock he shepherds. It was a moving moment that I will never forget.

Pope Benedict waved goodbye and blessed us from the throne. The pope-mobile took him back to the front of the seminary after he again circled the outskirts of the field. It was the completion of a memorable day of joyful hope and anticipation of a most excellent visit from the Supreme Pontiff of the Roman Catholic Church, His Holiness, Pope Benedict XVI, the successor of St. Peter, the Vicar of Christ on earth. Our Holy Father did not disappoint!

For more information, follow this link to video streams of all the Papal events:

Or for the text of his homilies and speeches:

Servant of God

Servant of God
Catherine de Hueck Doherty

Catherine de Hueck Doherty

Catherine de Hueck Doherty
Her "poustinia" Cabin

St. Ambrose

St. Ambrose
Converting Theodosius

Padre Pio

Padre Pio
In Adoration at His Monastary

St. Anthony of Padua

St. Anthony of Padua
Doctor of the Church

Paul David Hewson, a.k.a. "Bono"

Paul David Hewson, a.k.a. "Bono"
2009 Tribeca Film Festival, NY

Brother Wayne Teasdale

Brother Wayne Teasdale
just how I remember him....

Tips on Links

Hello and welcome to my blog. Pax et Bonum!

Some of the links that are offered on this page are somehow faulty. If you choose to navigate them, you may have to remove one of the "http//" from your browser tab. Sorry for the inconvenience but I'm at a loss as to how to correct. I will try and contact the webmaster.

Yours in Christ,
Dennis Anthony Suglia

At another "mass" at the great Cathedral in NY

At another "mass" at the great Cathedral in NY

The Supreme Pontiff

The Supreme Pontiff
The Holy Father, a few feet away

HH Benedict XVI

HH Benedict XVI
Encounter at Dunwoodie: That's me in the lower right