Pastor’s Page

Night Prayer at the cross 2016 Ralph the Rabbit on my f1502016 07 15_0163 2016 07 15_0164 2016 07 15_01652016 07 11_0211 2016 07 11_02122016 07 11_02082016 07 11_02192016 07 11_02222016 07 14_0172 2016 07 14_0173 2016 07 14_0174 2016 07 14_01752016 07 14_01862016 07 14_0203

May 1 2016 St Alphonsus Chronicle

This Week’s Chronicle Content:

  • St. Alphonsus Summer Service Project for High School Students July 10 – 16
  • Growing in Witness, Serving in Love – a process of discerning our Mission


Archive . . . .

 The Lunar Eclipse of 2015 – Fr. Tim has some photos he took of the eclipse here

 Pope Francis and Religious Freedom – It is not just about our right to be Catholic.  Living our Faith in the World

Pope Francis in Cuba – Is the pope a Socialist? 11 September 2015

Pope Francis in America – 18 September 2015


About the Eclipse

 September 30, 2015

 The Lunar Eclipse of 2015

I spent some time outside this past Sunday night, sky watching, with my Canon T3i and a tripod.  Caught some photos that I thought you might like.


Early in the Eclipse


At the heart of the eclipse

eclipse three moons

As the eclipse progressed


While I was out, thought I would take this pic


After the eclipse, some clouds rolled in. (c) Timothy L. Niven, CC-BY

 top of page

Francis and Freedom

September 27, 2015

Francis and Religious Freedom

Living our faith in the world

Religious Freedom is a tricky thing. There is, of course, the debate about separation of Church and State, coined by Thomas Jefferson who wrote of the great wall of separation between Church and State in his in his 1644 book, The Bloody Tenent of Persecution (thank you Wikipedia).

There is, however, a more subtle debate going on in our culture: what is the role of religion, of religious institutions, and the faith of individuals? This is a critical issue as shown by Pope Francis in his first address here in the United States:

Mr. President, together with their fellow citizens, American Catholics are committed to building a society which is truly tolerant and inclusive, to safeguarding the rights of individuals and communities, and to rejecting every form of unjust discrimination.  With countless other people of good will, they are likewise concerned that efforts to build a just and wisely ordered society respect their deepest concerns and their right to religious liberty.  That freedom remains one of America’s most precious possessions.  And, as my brothers, the United States Bishops, have reminded us, all are called to be vigilant, precisely as good citizens, to preserve and defend that freedom from everything that would threaten or compromise it.

Most everybody would agree with what Francis has voiced. The debate and differences surface when we look at what we various people mean by the term “religious freedom”. To simplify matters, I will look at two general points of view.

The first understanding of religious freedom is centered on the freedom of worship. That is, the freedom to establish places of worship; freedom from government imposing or limiting what is said during worship; freedom to pray privately.

The second understanding of religious freedom is the freedom to live out one’s faith in public; to bring one’s faith and beliefs to bear on personal problems as well as public issues.

An example of how this difference surfaces is in religious exemptions included in various laws. For example, a Roman Catholic diocese is exempt from the mandate that health insurance must cover contraception. A diocese is clearly a religious institution, a grouping of parishes and places of worship, and has a clear history of opposing artificial contraception. There is wide agreement on this.

But how about the Little Sisters of the Poor? Or Catholic Charities? These are the social outreach arms of the Church. They are not considered exempt because their primary role is not religion, as such. They are not churches. They do not fit the first understanding of acting in ways that are protected under religious freedom. They are not covered by religious exemptions.

This seems absurd to those of us Catholics who see them clearly as religious institutions and as expressions of the very heart of our faith – our love of God and Jesus is lived out both in worship and in our responding to Jesus’ command to love our neighbor.

Here is my main point: The first understanding of Religious Freedom – as a protection for only Worship and private prayer – is becoming accepted in our culture as a given. And it manifests itself in attitudes such as the opinion that the Bishops of the United States should keep quiet about political issues such as immigration and war. It surfaces when people say that political issues have no place in a homily. It surfaces when we become afraid to express our opposition to actions that go against our consciences: anything from national policy to unjust and immoral practices in the workplace. It surfaces when it becomes more acceptable to see religion as private, limited to church and the home.

The national political debate and fight for religious freedom is also a local and personal debate within our own hearts. We are called to be active citizens and to express ourselves in the service of society. We are called to work for the common good and the good of individuals. And our faith and religion are part and parcel of what we bring to our service. We should not settle for the limited understanding of religious freedom as having to do with only places of worship and private prayer. We should hold dear to those institutions that, in our name, minister and care for the marginalized and impoverished. And we should hold dear to our right to be people of faith in all aspects of our lives.

There is the legal debate about exemptions and what constitutes a religious institution. And there is the cultural debate about what it means to be people of faith. We must be courageous and strong while avoiding the temptation to be militant about our religious faithfulness. We must vigorously support the same freedoms everybody. The best way to do this certainly involves making our point of view known to lawmakers. Moreover, it involves our practicing our religion which begins with the Eucharist and our worship of God in Jesus Christ and which then extends to our love of our neighbor in real and tangible ways.

Another encouragement from Pope Francis is to develop a culture of encounter. We cannot truly love our neighbor if we do not encounter our neighbor. It is necessary to take part in acts of charity for people we will never encounter. It is also necessary to take opportunities to be with and share time with those on the margins whom we also love.

Our support for religious freedom is not first and foremost a fight to be taken to the streets of power in Washington and Albany. It is a way of life to be taken to the streets of our community and neighborhood.

May God give us the Grace to live our faith in all we do, support this freedom for all people, and work to support the reality that religion is not expressed only in our worship but in who we are, privately and publicly.

 top of page

The super-harvest-blood-eclipsed moon is arising!

9:07 PM = first shadow on the moon. Total eclipse begins at 10:11. Deepest part of eclipse = 10:47. Only your eyes needed to view, though binoculars would be cool.


There will be a rare celestial event this Sunday night. There will be a lunar eclipse (not so rare), that will be total (more rare), long lasting (more rare), during the moon’s perigee – closest position to the earth (even more rare); illuminating the moon with only long wavelength light (red) that is refracted through the earth’s atmosphere making the moon look rare (ha! see what I did there? rare as in rare meat which is red?) In other words, the moon will be big and dark and red and quite something to behold. And God did all of this to show his love for us. God is good.

Cloud cover may be an issue here in the Auburn area. If it is cloudy, then several observatories have websites that will stream it live. Not the same thing, but better than nothing. is one excellent option.

New Blog Post: Why is the Hail Mary called the Hail Mary?

 top of page
  September 21, 2015

The Pope In Cuba

We do not serve ideas, we serve people.

Is Pope Francis a socialist? Some pundits to the right slam him for it. Some to the left applaud him.  However, this is a misunderstanding.  Francis is Christian not a socialist. What he says about care for the poor and how those who have plenty have a radical responsibility to share with those who have less, flows from the Gospel, not an ideology.

Pope Francis by reynaldodallin Licensed under CC BY 2.0

In his first address in Cuba, Francis took a gentle jab at the notion that he supports socialism.  Inẻs San Martin, Vatican Correspondent for Crux (For Pope Francis, People Are More Important Than Ideas; September 18, 2015, writes:

Addressing hundreds of thousands of festive Cubans who began gathering in Havana’s legendary Revolution Square in the wee hours of Sunday morning, Pope Francis called Cubans to service at a time when many are hoping that decades of isolation and stagnation may finally be nearing an end.

“Whoever does not live to serve, does not ‘serve’ to live,” Francis said, echoing words attributed to both Mother Teresa of Calcutta and St. Augustine of Hippo.

Yet with Cuban President Raúl Castro sitting in the first row, the pope also clearly distinguished a Christian spirit of service from that of Cuba’s Socialist revolution.  “Service is never ideological,” the pope said. “We do not serve ideas, we serve people.”

Francis does level serious criticism of a Capitalist economy.  In his first Apostolic Exhortation, Evangelii Gaudium : Apostolic Exhortation on the Proclamation of the Gospel in Today’s World (24 November 2013) known in short as The Joy of the Gospel (which can be found on the website) Francis wrote of a market economy as one that can be an economy of exclusion and inequality:

Just as the commandment “Thou shalt not kill” sets a clear limit in order to safeguard the value of human life, today we also have to say “thou shalt not” to an economy of exclusion and inequality. Such an economy kills. How can it be that it is not a news item when an elderly home­less person dies of exposure, but it is news when the stock market loses two points? This is a case of exclusion. Can we continue to stand by when food is thrown away while people are starving? This is a case of inequality. Today everything comes under the laws of competition and the sur­vival of the fittest, where the powerful feed upon the powerless. As a consequence, masses of peo­ple find themselves excluded and marginalized: without work, without possibilities, without any means of escape. (#53, The Joy of the Gospel)

Any economy, Francis writes, must be based on the human virtues of compassion and generosity, upholding the dignity and rights of each person. He raises these questions and is “doing so out of fidelity to precisely the same convictions about human dignity and the common good.” (#65, The Joy of the Gospel)

Accusing Francis, or applauding him, for being a socialist are both claims that ignore the history of the Church’s opposition to the oppression and repression of both socialism and communism.  Whatever criticisms Francis levels against capitalism are the same he would level at any economic system that was not practicing the basic human virtues of compassion and generosity.

As we listen to Pope Francis, and in all our discourse, may our hearts reject name calling and labeling in order to listen and learn and share.  May Christ, through the words and actions of our Holy Father, touch the hearts of all believers, and soften the hearts of those who do not believe.

 top of page
Sunday September, 20, 2015

Pope Francis in America

From The St. Alphonsus Chronicle

The next week, the next month, and the next year will be amazing times of Grace and opportunity for the Church.  This next week is Pope Francis’ visit to the United States.  Next month sees the Bishops Synod on the Family.  Next year will find us in the Jubilee of the Holy Year of Mercy.

Not since the Second Vatican Council has the Roman Catholic Church been receiving such positive press and has there been such surprise and open conversation about the beliefs, practices and ministries of the Church.

With more to come on the Synod and the Year of Mercy, Let’s begin with the Pope’s trip to America.

Next week, from the 22nd to the 27th of September, Pope Francis will visit Washington, New York City, and Philadelphia. He will meet President Obama, address Congress, the United Nations, and the World Meeting of Families.  There will be several masses, an address to the Bishops of our Country, and several side trips including a visit to a prison and to a Catholic grade school.

Below I took the itinerary and broadcast schedule from EWTN.  Along with the live broadcasts, there are follow-up rebroadcasts of all the events (you can find those on the EWTN website). What I cannot watch live, I am going to DVR.

First things first, What can we expect from our Holy Father’s visit.

Spanish. I have read in many places that the Pope will say mass and give his addresses in Spanish.  While he knows many languages, growing up speaking Spanish and Italian, English is one that he is not comfortable with.  So, rather than struggling through a language that is not his strong suit, he will speak comfortably and with a translator.

Off Script. One of the benefits of his speaking in one of his native languages is that he can more easily express himself when he goes off script. His prepared addresses and homilies are,  all by themselves, profound and thought provoking. He will be challenging to the “powers that be” and to the individual Christian.  We will hear much that stirs our faith and much reason to examine our conscience.  However, some of his most challenging and unexpected thoughts emerge when he strays from his prepared remarks. He does this often and all the pundits, bloggers, and media reporters are awaiting with eagerness those moments when, according to common opinion, Francis reveals most clearly what is in his heart.

Led by the Spirit.  Francis is clearly a person of the moment.  He speaks off-the-cuff and adds small side trips to his itinerary. He is moved by the people and situation around him and lets the Holy Spirit guide him.  As a quick aside, not a bad lesson for us.  We have to plan, we have to create structure in our lives.  Within that framework, however, we can always make room for the compassion, creativity, and learning moments of the Holy Spirit.  Following the Spirit as we are led off script and off the planned route can be freeing, challenging, and lead to moments of beauty.  Back to Francis.

Cuba. Pope Francis’ trip to the United States will be immediately after his trip to Cuba (Which EWTN will also be covering).  If you recall, Pope Francis has been instrumental in the warming relations between Cuba and the United States.  We will see headlines from there as well.

Blogs. There will be no shortage of blogs covering Pope Francis’s visit.  Beware the reactionary and the mean spirited blogs.  Blogs that use quotes and bold lettering and words like supposedly (as in supposedly Catholic, supposedly knowledgeable, etc).

Where should you go.  By far, the best, most balanced and insightful blogger of all things Catholic is John L. Allen Jr. at the blog Crux .  He is a journalist for the Boston Globe and draws from decades of covering Catholicism throughout the world.  Another great site is Whispers in the Loggia.  Rocco Palmo has contacts and gets information about the Church long before it is available to other mere mortals.  He also is well balanced and very informative.  He will likely have the texts of the Popes addresses and homilies available to read. You might also try America, Pray Tell, National Catholic Reporter, and National Catholic Register (though these are more opinionated and you have to sort out the far left and right to get at the good stuff).

Enjoy.  Pay attention.  Go deeper than the Network coverage. Let the Spirit speak to your heart and mind over the next week.

 top of page

Pope Francis in America

Live Coverage on EWTN – from the EWTN website

Tuesday September 22nd

Due to arrive in Washington DC at 3:45 PM.

Wednesday the 23rd

Visit to the White House, 8:45 AM

Meeting with American Bishops, 11:00 AM

Mass and Canonization of Blessed Junipero Serra 3:30 PM

Thursday September 24th

Address to Congress, 9:00 AM

Visit to St. Patrick’s Church and the homeless in the surrounding area, 11:00 AM

Leaves for New York City, 3:45 PM

Arrives in New York City, 5:00 PM

Vespers (Evening Prayer) with Clergy and Religious, 6:15 PM

Friday, September 25th

Address to the United Nations General Assembly, 8:00 AM

Interreligious Service at Ground Zero, 11:30 AM

Visit to East Harlem School, Our Lady Queen of Angels, 3:45 PM

Mass at Madison Square Garden, 5:15 PM

Saturday, September 26th

Arrives in Philadelphia, 9:30 AM

Holy Mass with Bishops, Clergy, and Religious 10:00 AM

Meeting for Religious Freedom with the Hispanic Community, 4:00 PM

Prayer Vigil at Festival of Families, 7:00 PM

Sunday, September 27th

Meeting with Bishops, 9:00 AM

Visit to the Curran-Fromhold Correctional Facility, 10:45 AM

Coverage of the Pope’s motorcade, 3:15 PM

Closing Mass of the World Meeting of Families, 4:00 PM

Farewell Ceremony, 7:00 PM

Creative Commons License
Unless other wise noted, content on Pastor’s Page by Timothy L. Niven is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.