June 24, 2018
The Solemnity of the Nativity of St. John the Baptist
Life’s True Purpose
The two greatest philosophers of ancient Greece were Plato and Aristotle. Their influence on western culture can hardly be over-estimated. For centuries Platonism and Aristotelianism shared all the world as the two philosophies that gave birth to all human knowledge. In his great epic poem The Divine Comedy Dante places both of these philosophers in the first circle of the Inferno – the circle of the virtuous pagans. These were those individuals who lived good and noble lives but had not been born into the life of grace through Baptism. Nonetheless, Aristotle wrote in his Nicomachean Ethics, The Unexamined Life is not worth living. In other words we must all realize that life is not in vain. It has a purpose and meaning.
For centuries, this tenet was accepted by all rational societies and gave rise to the great literature of the West. A thread we find in these many great works is the Quest. Whether it be Jason seeking the Golden Fleece or Aeneas seeking to found the City of Rome or Tannhauser seeking redemption through pilgrimage, all of life was seen as filled with meaning, purpose and mission.
The great King David, the ancestor of Our Lord Jesus Christ according to the flesh, was the author of the Book of Psalms. In Psalm 4 he asks the question, “Men of rank how long will your hearts be dull? Why do you love what is vain and seek what is false? What will bring us happiness, many say, let the light of your countenance shine upon us, O Lord.
These words, written so many centuries ago, still echo in our hearts. Sadly from the beginning of time, many have thought happiness could be found in the frenetic seeking after pleasure and entertainment, and material possessions. Many believe it will be found in the so called self-discovery or self-fulfillment. Even King David’s son, the great King Solomon to whom all the world went seeking wisdom, was caught up in these endeavors which his own father King David called vain. Over three thousand years ago King Solomon pursued wisdom, pleasure, partying, possessions, grand projects, and even folly. In all these endeavors Solomon accomplished more, acquired more, and enjoyed more than any other person before or since. Nonetheless he despaired over the meaninglessness of it all. And thus does the great Book of the Bible The Wisdom of Solomon begin with that phrase that has haunted the human consciousness for millennia, Vanity of Vanities; All is Vanity! It is with these words that the greatest spiritual classic of all time, The Imitation of Christ, begins.
Everyone is well aware that there has recently been a spate of celebrity suicides. (I am happy that I am not with it, for with all due respect, my first awareness that several of these people were even living, was to read of their deaths). Our own society has not only celebrity suicides. So many turn to this desperate act in an ever increasing sense of gloom and meaninglessness.
And, like Solomon, our society enjoys social, technological and economic conditions that could not have been imagined a century ago. In 1914 the wealthiest man in the world was Tsar Nicholas II. And yet he never rode in an automobile, flew on a plane or even had a hot meal (the kitchens of the palace in St. Petersburg Tsarkoe Selo were so far from the dining areas, that all food arrived cold).
By every measure of well-being, our generation has it better off than any of our forbearers. We enjoy more leisure time with better health, less air pollution, higher levels of education, higher per-capita income. The author Gregg Easterbrook in his well-researched book The Progress Paradox, wrote that our generation has it better in terms of real income, home and car ownership, not to mention morbidity, mortality, education, environmental quality, and the fair treatment of minorities.
And yet depression, hopelessness, and despair have risen to record heights. Whereas three generations ago thousands of young men between the ages of 19 and 21 stormed the beaches of Normandy on June 6, 1944, today our youth have become inwardly oriented and self-centered. What has caused this gloom in a time perceived progress?
Again, the Holy Bible teaches us the lesson. Ultimately all of us are destined to be with God. As St. Augustine in his classic work The Confessions wrote in 4th century, Inquietum est cor nostrum donec reqiescat in te! Our hearts are restless until they rest in Thee! We know deep within the recesses of our soul that we will not be happy apart from God. And the True God is not like the Buddha who sits with eyes shut, or the pagan gods hurling thunder.
No the True God has become a man in Jesus Christ. He is our Redeemer, Friend and Brother. He has given His own Mother to be our Mother also.
He has created us, redeemed us in the Precious Blood of His Son and promised that we will be with Him forever. He has given to us what the vanity of the world cannot give, the forgiveness of our sins.
Our society seems without meaning because it has lost the spiritual dimension. We can only be whole and healed by having a religious outlook on all of life.
Interestingly, the famous and late clinical psychologist Karl Menninger once said that if he could convince his institutionalized patients that their sins were forgiven, 75 percent would walk out of the psych ward the next day. The sense that we stand guilty before Someone, somehow, is a condition that left unresolved, sooner or later, externalizes in unhealthy behaviors (one thinks of all the shootings and suicides) or internalized in mental maladies. But we, as Catholics, have the solution to this.
When asked why he became a Catholic, the great author of the last century G. K. Chesterton retorted simply and unapologetically, Why, to have my sins forgiven, of course! The resolution to our societal and individual maladies has been attained and is found quite simply. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins (1 John 1.19).
Fear God and keep his commands, for this is the whole duty of man
SPRING AT ST. PAUL’S: A glorious spring has brought grace and joy to our parish. The celebration of the Easter Mystery, the First Communion of the children, the Confirmation of our eighth graders, the adult Confirmations at Pentecost, the glorious Corpus Christi celebration with our little ones in procession, the celebration of Deacon Ray’s 10th anniversary as a deacon. And of course our fun filled and very beautiful and successful Golf and Tennis Outing and Awards Dinner also uplifted us all. Now may I ask you to SAVE THE DATES:
SQUIRES: Trip to Adventureland today and end of the school year party, June 28th. Thank you dear squires, Mr. Peter Boyle Counselor and Mr. Don Cavanaugh, Grand Knight.
CENTERSTAGE: So many of our young people have been working very selflessly and in such a dedicated way to present us with wonderful live entertainment through Centerstage – an integral part of our parish for nearly 30 years. I have always enjoyed these musical plays, but, more importantly, have loved to see so many of our parishioners work on such beautiful productions, three generations. I was always sad that due to our limited space, we had to present these plays at St. Dominic or St. Hyacinth. This year’s production will be right here at St. Paul’s. As your pastor, this gives me great joy. Future bulletins will provide dates and times of the presentation in August. I will see you there!
PARISH PICNIC: Please plan on attending our parish picnic which will be on Saturday September 8th. More details will follow. I am so grateful for all who make this such a success.
SOLEMN MASS OF THANKSGIVING ON THE OCCASION OF THE 50TH ANNIVERSARY OF THE RESTORATION OF THE DIACONAL ORDER: On Thursday September 27th Bishop Barres will come to St. Paul’s for the Diocesan Celebration to mark the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the restoration of the Holy Order of Deacons in the Church. Although this is a diocesan celebration and many priests and deacons will be joining the Bishop, I hope many of our own parishioners will come to the Mass to welcome Bishop Barres once again to St. Paul’s (ours was the first parish he visited in February 2017). More details will follow.
GALA DINNER AND CASINO NIGHT: Please save the date of Thursday October 25th which will be our annual Gala Dinner and Casino Night at the Milleridge Inn Cottage. I am grateful to our committee and our dear friends at the Milleridge Inn (Butch Yamali, Pam, Adam, Richard, and whole staff) for what they do for us. This year we will mark the 50th anniversary of the building and dedication of the Church (May 26, 1968). This will be a beautiful and fun filled evening.
GOLF AND TENNIS OUTING AND AWARDS DINNER: Please save the date of Monday May 6, 2019, for our annual Golf and Tennis Outing and Awards Dinner at the Nassau Country Club in Glen Cove. It is a beautiful day of tennis and golf and we will award the Monsignor Mario C. Costa Award and the Sister Regina Kraft Award to parishioners.