Huge-IT Third Slide.

September 10, 2001.

Twelve years ago today, Rudolph Guiliani was not “America’s Mayor” but a morose, embattled politician facing the end of his second term as Mayor with a public and messy divorce, troubled children, and living in a friend’s apartment leaving Gracie Mansion to his angry soon-to-be ex-second-wife as he battled prostate cancer.

Twelve years ago today a recently-elected President of the United States planned domestic policies and an end to “nation building.”

Twelve years ago tonight, thousands of people were planning their business and/or pleasure flights; tomorrow’s duty shift at the Pentagon; tomorrow’s work and deals in the World Trade Center.

Twelve years ago tonight you could board an airplane without removing half your clothes and putting your toiletries in clear plastic bags.

Twelve years ago today you could just get on a line in Washington DC and take a tour of the White House, the Capitol, the Supreme Court on the spur of the moment.

Twelve years ago today “If you see something, say something” didn’t make sense.

Twelve years ago today foreign “students” from Saudi Arabia could enroll in flight school to pilot multi-engine jet planes and not express any great interest in learning how to land, only to take-off; and nobody thought it was worth mentioning to anybody in law enforcement.

Twelve years ago tonight a young man whom I once knew as a kid in St. Dominic’s’ High School was one of those “masters of the universe” who tapped into the prosperity of the 90’s and was enjoying life and helping to take care of his widowed mother and his siblings. He’d go to work tomorrow at the WTC.

Twelve years ago TOMORROW everything changed.


Huge-IT Third Slide.

Liturgy and Life

To anyone who lived through the Liturgical Reform/Revolution of the post-Vatican II era the title of this entry must ring a bell. There had to be dozens of articles, columns, seminars, “up-dating” courses that had the above as a title.

However, I offer the following as a thought-provoking reflection on the current state of the Liturgy and the priesthood that serves it.

For myself, I would find very little to disagree with.

Fr. Hewes

August 22, 2013.

Queenship of Mary

Huge-IT Third Slide.

What will this child be?

July 25, 2013

About a hundred and fifty-five years ago, Walter Bagehot wrote in his The English Constitution that royalty was “the brilliant edition of a universal fact.”

He wrote in the first half of the reign of Queen Victoria (r. 1837-1901) reflecting on what was then a relatively novel notion: “a FAMILY upon the Throne.” Hitherto British monarchs had reigned and been viewed as individuals, with their families being at best of mild interest, and at worst, a positive millstone to use the Duke of Wellington’s description of the sons of George III.

However, Bagehot saw that while Kings and Queens no longer actually ruled, they most definitely reigned.  In a era of mass newspapers and cheaply mass-produced prints and photographs it was no longer the merely legal or constitutional functions of a Sovereign that interested people, but their human lives, their children, their home life, etc. He called it the “representational” side of monarchy: that the people wished to see their own real (or imagined) virtues and habits in the Royal Family.  Queen Victoria and her husband Prince Albert with their very large family of nine children seemed to recreate an image of stable and respectable family life. This is an expectation that has survived, not without some recent “knocks”, until today.

Bagehot saw that in the cycles of royal births, marriages, anniversaries, and deaths people saw reflected their own lives and their own cycle of life in a “brilliant edition”.

A few days ago, as we all know, a Prince in direct line of succession to the British and Commonwealth Thrones was born. Not only the people of the sixteen countries still linked formally to the Crown watched, but it seems the whole world was fascinated. So, at last, a boy was born, the Prince George Alexander Louis of Cambridge. So, guns thundered in salute, and church bells pealed. Why?

I think, to take up Bagehot’s theme, that the birth of this infant boy is both “brilliant” and “universal”. In the celebration and joy of this one birth, we acknowledge the wonder of all births.

ALL infants born to a happy family are causes of profound and joyful emotions. We cannot fire cannon salutes and ring bells for every baby; so we do it for onebaby, and thereby remind ourselves of the “brilliance” of ALL births and the miraculous and “universal” fact of the birth of a child, princes AND paupers.

A line from the Holy Gospel also comes to mind. It was spoken by those who witnessed the unusual and miraculous events surrounding the birth of Saint John the Baptist: What will this child be?

For this infant boy, it seems he is destined to one day reign as a future King George VII; after the putative reigns of a King Charles III, and a King William V. If normal longevity and actuarial factors prevail, I won’t live to see his reign.

However, of every infant baptized, I think of that question: What will this child be?

Will he/she be a saint, a sinner, faithful, apostate, wise, foolish, noble in the moral sense, or ignominious?

Every day babies are born. Most of whom will pass through life known only to their families and friends; some will become known and recognized.

Some for good, some for evil.

What will this child be?


Huge-IT Third Slide.


April 16th, 2013

It is a well-known phenomenon that whenever revolutionaries take over a society or nation, they have to change the language, the very words, their new subjects use. In this way they can more easily eradicate tradition and change the memory of a whole people.

When Lenin and the Bolsheviks imposed their rule on the Russian people the very grammar of the language had to change. In this they followed the example of the French Revolutionaries of the 18th century. This change can be so profound that it actually obliterates the memory of former usages. It was observed that at the fall of Communism in Russia by the 1990’s that the Russian language no longer seemed to have any current forms of polite address that was the equivalent of our “sir…m’am…mister…” etc. It had all been replaced by the all-purpose leveler “Comrade”.

In a way, our Catholic culture has undergone the same form of “revolutionized” language. Just the other day after hearing the confessions of our First Communicants our CCD staff told me of an irate parent who arrived late and who actually thought it was First COMMUNION! They tried to explain to him it was “Reconciliation“. He wanted to know what that meant. It took a few moments before the word “Confession” was used. At that he said, “Well, why didn’t you SAY so!” “Confession” he knew, “Reconciliation” sounded like something he’d attempted and failed with his ex-wife.

We refer to “Liturgy” for “Mass”; “homily” in place of “sermon”; “Adoration” in place of “Exposition”; “Liturgy of the Hours” for “Breviary” or “Divine Office”; “Presider ” for “Celebrant” etc.

It has even happened that when distraught people call a parish for “Last Rites” for a dying person, they either get a blank silence, or a lecture on “Vatican II.” Once when I heard this going on I said to the priest “Just get over there and give the poor man the Sacraments and save the ‘updating’ for later!”

Words mean things and when words are changed, THINGS are changed.

And not always for the best.

Just sayin’…

Huge-IT Third Slide.

A new Pope..and the buzz.

Billowing white smoke on March 13th announced the surprising election of the new Holy Father, Pope Francis. By the time you read this he will have celebrated his Holy Week and Masses and undoubtedly will be making his impact upon the Church and the world as all Popes do. The media is already making much of the new Pope’s “humility and simplicity” in ways that seem to me proving true the old adage “comparisons are invidious”. The comparison here being with that of his predecessor Benedict XVI. They will easily forget or deny the vast crowds that came to see Benedict over the past eight years. Even some who should know better have fallen into this temptation. Pope Francis and Pope Benedict XVI came from different backgrounds and pastoral experiences: Benedict a theologian , and close servant of Pope John Paul II; Pope Francis a Jesuit and pastor of a vast archdiocese in a very differ-ent part of the world with different needs. Both men reigned and reign by the Providence of God over His Church and each brought and will bring his talents and insights to bear on the Church as all the 265 Popes have done. The world will applaud what it likes, but as Pope Saint Gregory the Great ( Pope from 590 to 604) once said: Those who do not truly know God will give false honor to God’s servants. Pope Francis is now The Servant of the Servants of God (a title coined by that same Gregory the Great) and he has our prayers for his governance of the Holy Church, the People of God, the Mystical Body of Christ in the days to come.


Huge-IT Third Slide.

Sede vacante

Sede Vacante

That ancient phrase in Latin, meaning literally “The Chair is empty”, describes the present phase of the Church’s life. The Chair of Peter is empty and we await another man to step into the “Shoes of the Fisherman” as a movie of many years ago had it. The visual symbol of this can be found on the home page of the Vatican website which displays not the Papal Tiara and crossed keys but an umbrella over the keys: the umbraculum that signifies the temporal governance of the Church.

Of course in a Church whose life has spanned two millennia, and with the Roman Papacy being the world’s oldest continuing governing institution it is hardly unprecedented. Some sede vacante periods have lasted barely over a day (like 1939 and 2005) and others have gone on for years at a stretch.  For about a thousand years the procedure of a Papal Election has followed the dramatic and mysterious enclosure of the Cardinals into a “conclave” (literally “with a key”) in which they are physically and spiritually withdrawn from the world.

Some of these conclaves have passed peacefully and serenely, others the opposite.

As late as August 1903, the Conclave that followed the death of Pope Leo XIII experienced an intervention from the outside world. At a moment when it seemed that a particular Cardinal was about to reach the two-thirds plus one majority needed for election, the Cardinal Archbishop of Cracow (a predecessor of a later holder of that See that would become Pope John Paul II in 1978) rose and announced in the Sistine Chapel that his temporal Sovereign, the Austrian Emperor Franz Joseph “vetoed” that Cardinal on the grounds of a presumed right of Catholic Monarchs to have a say in the election of a Supreme Pontiff. The Cardinals were stunned, and then angry, denounced the whole idea of a secular ruler’s “veto” then proceeded to elect someone else and gave us Pope Saint Pius X instead.

The Papacy existed when there Emperors of Rome sacrificing in Forum, when orators spoke in the Senate House before the statue of Romulus and Remus and the She-Wolf; and there will be a Papacy when the Lord comes again in glory to judge the living and the dead.

At times it seemed as if the enemies of the Church almost succeeded in ending the Chair of Peter.

In 1799, the French Revolutionary authorities “forbade” the election of a new Pope. The Cardinals made their way to an island in the Venetian Lagoon and elected Pius VII. That Pope would later both crown Napoleon Bonaparte as Emperor of the French in 1804, and within ten years be his prisoner in France. Later that same Pope would offer kindly and comfortable refuge to Napoleon’s mother and brother in Rome after the French Empire went down in utter defeat, and the exiled Emperor would die a lonely death professing “the Holy Roman and Apostolic Faith in which I was born”.

In 1944 when it seemed quite possible that Hitler would order his troops occupying Rome to enter the Vatican and seize Pope Pius XII that Pope secretly gathered the Cardinals present in Rome and made them promise that if he were taken prisoner by the forces of the Third Reich they were to consider him as dead and to secretly proceed to a safe place to the election of a new Pope.

As they say, we’ve had our “ups and downs.”

This time we might say we are, if we ever are, in “uncharted waters” however.

The surprise voluntary renunciation of the Papacy by Benedict XVI announced on February 11 of this year, both the Feast of Our Lady of Lourdes and Vatican City’s “national holiday” was, to use a modern colloquialism, a “game changer”. Never before had a Pope voluntarily and freely stepped down from the Chair of Peter solely on the basis of increasing age and fatigue. Popes had been “pushed” into resignation by outside pressure of various types, and one, Celestine V in 1294, abdicated after only a few months in the Papacy due to his unsuitability as a former monk and hermit to hold the office effectively. No one ever would have thought of Benedict XVI as “incapable” or “unsuitable” and no exterior force or pressure was brought to bear on him.

We enter this Sede Vacante with a living “Pope Emeritus” and without the usual, and so often moving, experience of a Papal death-watch, decease, and solemn ritual of burial.

The College of Cardinals must feel their way in a new situation and determine the date of the Conclave with 115 electors drawn from all over the world.

However, unlike 2005, when hardly any had been in Conclave before (the last one being 27 years before) they are probably able to focus in on issues and challenges more quickly.

This time as well, there are no real “Catholic monarchs” in the old sense to “cast a veto”; but there is the new pressure of the 24/7 news cycle, social media, the “blogosphere”; and the “talking society” of instant commentary and opinion. The Cardinals bind themselves by solemn oaths to be silent about all the details of the Election. This is contrary to the “spirit of the age” as well as the natural tendency of men ( even Cardinals) in public life in this media age to be interviewed and to make friends with the media. Also, do not be scandalized that the basic human tendency to self-promotion is not automatically removed by Sacred Orders, or even the “Red Hat.”  The tendency to be a “blabbermouth” is not limited to Ralph Kramden’s mother-in-law in the Honeymooners.

Most of us in the clergy (including your writer), in the words of a doctor I knew, “make our living by talking.”

Now is the time for prayerful words, judicious enquiry, and discrete silence in the days to come.

March 6, 2013.


Huge-IT Third Slide.

Declaro me ministerio Episcopi Romae, Successoris Sancti Petri.renuntiare..,

February 11, 2013.

There are certain dates that stand out in our mind as unforgettable. Depending on our age or historical sense dates like December 71941, November 22, 1963, and of course September 11, 2001 ring like bells in our memories. I say “of course” for the last named but one has to admit that as time goes on even “9-11” will become another “historical date” not a lived memory for future generations.

Today when I woke up I glanced at my “smart phone” to see an “alert”: “Pope Announces Resignation”.

At first I thought that I was still groggy from sleep or perhaps some guy named “Pope” whom I’d never heard of was famous enough that his resignation merited a news alert.

But, no.

Pope Benedict XVI announced to an astonished group of Cardinals (and to the whole Church) in the words that headline this entry that for reasons of failing health he was resigning the “Petrine Ministry”, the Papacy, as of 8 PM Rome time February 28th. No Pope has “resigned” or abdicated the Papacy in over 600 years. An event thought theoretically possible; an exercise in “what if’s” for canon lawyers, is to be a very stark reality. In 17 days from this writing (February 11) Pope Benedict XVI will hear the clock strike eight PM in Rome and will become Bishop Joseph Ratzinger,Retired (?). That morning I will offer Mass and commemorate “Benedict our Pope”. That afternoon (our time) there will be no Pope to commemorate until the next Conclave meets and elects a new Pope.

As of this date it is announced he will go into prayerful seclusion and play no part whatsoever in the election of his successor or in the governance of the Church.

I must tell you I am still too stunned to assimilate the news or even begin to appreciate the reasons for it. Like most of you I had come to view being the Successor of Saint Peter, the Supreme Pontiff and Pastor of the Universal Church, the Vicar of Christ on Earth as a life-time vocation to end when the Lord saw fit by death.

Much comment has ensued in the secular media, much of it uninformed if not deliberately hostile. Frankly I wish that that the Vatican spokesmen could be more forthcoming and indeed illuminating as to the state of the Pope’s health and state of mind.

I can only silently and with trust in the Providence of God pray for the man who is our Pope until February 28thand his intentions as well as for the man who will succeed to the Shoes of the Fisherman to use the evocative title of a novel and movie of some years ago.


Father Hewes


Huge-IT Third Slide.

“Whatever can be done by smiling…”

The title of this entry above is taken from my favorite movie: the 1966 production of Man For All Seasons. The film was a cinematic version of Robert Bolt’s play of the same name about the the last few years of the life of Sir ( Saint) Thomas More (1478-1535).

Thomas More, as I think most of my readers would know, was a 16th century English statesman and man of letters as well as a well-informed, devout Catholic layman. It was his fate ( or providence) to achieve prominence in the reign of Henry VIII (1509-1547) at the very time when this passionate and powerful monarch was determined to acquire a new wife by annuling his first marriage to Catherine of Aragon. Henry would do this either with Papal approval or without. He did in fact threaten, and did accomplish, a complete break of the hitherto solidly Catholic realm of England with the Holy See in order to get that new wife. As King he forced through acts of legislation that denied the primacy of the Pope over the Church in England (ecclesia anglicana) and substituted himself in the role of Pope over his own new national Church. These acts also involved severe penalties for non-compliance with the ultimate penalty of death reserved for all would refuse the Oath of Supremacy that would proclaim Henry and his successors as “Supreme Head on Earth of the Church of England”. ( To this day his distant descendant Elizabeth II holds the slightly modified title of Supreme Governor of the Church of England.)  Henry unleashed powerful forces of persecution and compulsion that fragmented English ( and Irish) society for generations: the “dungeon, fire, and sword” of the hymn Faith of Our Fathers.

Thomas More was then a knight and Henry’s “Lord Chancellor”: a sort of prime minister. More was unprepared to accept the destruction of the authority of the Successor of Peter over the Church and tried to fend off the King’s final break with Rome. Henry was a dangerous man to oppose.

The line that forms the title of this piece occurs when More’s wife cautions her husband not to anger the impulsive monarch unnecessarily. In reply, More ( in the person of the splendid actor Paul Schofield) replies that “anything that can be accomplished by smiling ” he would do.

In the end, smiling was not enough. Thomas resigned his office and not long after Henry imprisoned him and had him executed for the “high treason” of remaining loyal to Papal authority and the marraige laws of the Church.

Today the Catholic Church in the United States, and almost all of the Western world is in an analogous situation in my opinion.

Here at home, and I know these words will disturb some, the Church has lost the political battle against the forces of aggressive ant-religious secularism. First, contraception, then abortion, then the homosexualist agenda, now “gay marriage”. One wonders what is next. After all the hopes of the 1980’s it seems the body politic has shifted to the “progressive left”. With the aid of many Catholics ( at least in name) both in office and in the voting booth States with large Catholic populations are strongly embracing policies and values directly contrary to Catholic ( and some Protestant and Orthodox) teachings.

Bit by bit, we retreat.

While I do not say there could not be a change; it seems to me practically and politically clear that Roe v. Wade will not be overturned anytime in the foreseeable future; that “gay marriage” will be law throughout the country; that  real restrictions  placed on the “abortion liberty” will be extremely difficult to achieve; that even to oppose the agendas of these interests groups will be branded as “hate speech.” In Canada, it is now legally perilous to  preach in church that homosexual behavior is sinful.

There is no guarantee that even Catholic hospitals will not be forced to offer procedures and services contrary to the teachings of the Faith in the new “health regime” looming in the near future.

To be even more frank, this has happened because decades ago the official teaching Church lost the battle for the hearts and minds of the Catholic population. Our teaching, preaching and leadership has failed to convincingly proclaim, explain, and , defend our teachings in the public arena. This is not due to poor quality of the above efforts solely, but a general “revolution’ all across the board in our culture and social life.

Yet, through it all, we have been “smiling”.

Our “Catholic” and non-Catholic politicians are still the hailed and honored guests at our Midnight Masses; our conventions, our parades, our Al Smith dinners. They are invited to speak at, and be honored, by Catholic institutions of learning. We smile, ‘reach out’, and ‘dialog.” Yet, we still get the proverbial stick in the eye.

Even the most genial and gregarious of our leaders get nothing for all their efforts other than more abortion, more gay marriage, no state aid to schools, restrictions on our religious freedoms, contempt and dismissal. We ignore the personally immoral lives of even our Catholic elected officials in order to somehow “not to burn bridges”.

We’ve been smiling for decades now.

I wonder if we have achieved already “all that can be done by smiling.”

Just saying…

January 15, 2013.


Huge-IT Third Slide.

“Jerry was always a goofball…”

The sentence above came from an article I recently read online. Originally published in The New Yorker it was about the sexual scandals at Penn State, specifically in its football program of which an assistant coach, Jerry Sandusky, was the protagonist. Accused and now convicted of repeated and often totally unimpeded acts of criminal and inappropriate sexual contact with underage boys in his organization and program, Sandusky (and others) was the subject of the article.

The sentence stood out in my mind immediately: “Jerry was always a goofball.” As the writer developed the story “Jerry” stood out in the tightly controlled, buttoned-up, football-obsessed culture created by the legendary “Joe Pa”, Joe Paterno, at Penn State. He was always the clown, the slap stick guy who provided a more “human face” to the grimly determined and straight-laced Paterno and his demands on his team. As they said, he was “good with kids” and always seemed to be around them. He took an interest in them, their stories, their family problems, and, as he said, refused several offers of jobs as a head coach at other colleges so he could “stay with his kids.” He created a foundation for kids needing a “second chance”, palled around, and played with them, ‘rough housing” as “jocks” do. He took them home, brought them on trips, and gave them gifts.

The article stated that at times Paterno was irritated by Sandusky’s “goofiness” and lack of restraint, but was led to believe that maybe he was too hard on his assistant coach.

After all, Jerry was” good with kids.”

Sandusky often spoke of his devotion to “the kids” and how was a foster father to many, and could never “leave them” even to take a better and more lucrative post elsewhere in the world of college football. Then again, maybe the job offers didn’t come in as much as led others to believe.

His “quirky” goofball persona led the University to just “let Jerry be Jerry” even when he was found showering with adolescents in Penn State facilities. Even after he “retired” at a rather young age, he still had the run of the extensive athletic facilities.

As I read this article I felt a sickening sense of recognition.

This was exactly the same type of reputation that many of the priests had who were later to be brought down by the sexual scandals that devastated so much of the Church in the last decade. There was the same sense of resigned tolerance, and even approval by authority, of the “goofball priest”. There was also the same reaction on the part of some “old pastors” who weren’t too thrilled that their young curate was always clowning around with the kids; dressing in lay clothes all the time, using their “slang’, taking them into his room, or with him on trips, and such. But he too was led to believe, sometimes even by authority, that he ought to “loosen up”, realize “it’s a new world now”, and “get with it.”

And if it was going on in the 70’s, it was also caught up in that fascination and craze for novelty of the “post Vatican Two” era that prized the quirky, the new, the “relevant”, the “clown” priest. After all, they could “reach the young.” They not only had the approval of those in charge, but often the adulation of many laity who enjoyed the fact that “Father” was taking such an interest in their “kids”, was so often in their house, etc.

This was a phenomenon not only in the Church, but in secular society. The oddball, the goofball, the unconventional were valued above the “normal”.

Right now, the BBC and British society in general is absorbed over the revelation that a very popular TV personality, largely unknown to us here in the US, was a serial and aggressive sexual abuser of adolescents. The late Sir Jimmy Saville, a knight courtesy both of the British Crown and the Holy See, was a long-haired, goofy, rings-on-every-finger, grown man devotee of “kids” who MC’d many TV shows in which child acts were featured, and actually lived on the grounds of a children’s hospital of which he was a “devoted patron” who “did so much for the kids.” It was the 70’s and such types were “in.” It now seems he used all these contacts and charities to feed an urge to sexually molest many of the young who came his way, and his superiors at the “Beeb” knew it. Some have written in the British newspapers that they always knew Jimmy was a “weirdo”, but after all, it was the psychedelic 70’s and “Jimmy was just being Jimmy.”

“Jerry…Jimmy…Father….was always a goofball…”

While not all the “goofballs” turned out to be abusers by any means; I wonder if it really is a compliment to a grown man to be considered such, and to find all his social outlets and friends among adolescents.

Is it really good that “Father is always with the kids?” Or, to be more precise, acting like one?

A priest of course has to be “with the kids”, as he has to be with the old, the middle-aged, but not to BE a kid.

I think now we all sense that perhaps all this wasn’t such a good idea after all. We want our priests to be kindly, responsive, understanding, but to borrow a bit of advice from an unlikely source (Marlon Brando, aka “Don Vito Corleone”) , to also Act like a man!

November 18, 2012