Fr. John's Letter Archives

Enjoy re-reading Fr. John's weekly bulletin letters for the past year.


Albanian Dwarf or Giant Saint?

08-28-2016Fr. John LettersFr. John Bonavitacola

Dear Friends,

Was she a “lying, thieving, Albanian dwarf --less interested in helping the poor than in using them as an indefatigable source of wretchedness on which to fuel the expansion of her fundamentalist Roman Catholic beliefs" as Christopher Hitchens, not known as a great humanitarian, wrote in his book Missionary Position: Mother Teresa in Theory and Practice? Or was it true that she had, as a group of Canadian Academics once opined: "her rather dubious way of caring for the sick, her questionable political contacts . . . and her overly dogmatic views regarding abortion, contraception, and divorce." Then there was always the criticism that the houses she set up in Calcutta for the sick and dying were subpar and the medical care was medieval. In that view I guess it was better for people to die on the streets of Calcutta than die in a house that didn't measure up to Western medical standards. And of course there was the accusation that she was in love with poverty and not the poor.

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Is the Past just the Past?

08-21-2016Fr. John LettersFr. John Bonavitacola

Dear Friends,

You might not be living in the past but the past might be living in you.

A current example of this is Germany. As much as Germany tries to not repeat the mistakes of its 20th century past by being hyper vigilant with anything that smacks of Aryan racism, anti-Semitism or xenophobia it also makes it difficult to deal with current refugee challenges. Case in point: Bavaria’s intelligence gathering agency, announced “ISIS ‘hit squads’ had entered Europe with the flood of migrants that came across the borders over the last year and a half and irrefutable evidence that there is an IS command structure in place that will likely launch a coordinated attack on Germany.” Even with such evidence the German Chancellor still insists, “We can make this work”. At all costs Chancellor Merkel does not want to be seen in anyway as racist or xenophobic. If it wasn't for her country’s past she might be more sensitive to the dangers that the tidal wave of refugees pose to her country.

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Why Lock the Door?

08-14-2016Fr. John LettersFr. John Bonavitacola

Dear Friends,

I imagine that at night before going to sleep most people lock their doors, some might even put an alarm on, or live in a gated community. But what is the motivation for locking your doors at nighttime? Is it because you hate the people outside? No I doubt that is the rationale. Rather you lock your doors at night not because you hate the people outside but because you love the people inside.

Most of us don't worry too much that our neighbors will come over at 3am to borrow a screwdriver or return the lawnmower. In fact the few people walking around the neighborhood at night are either walking the dog, coming home from the late shift or stayed too long at the casino. But still now and then there might be a person lurking around with bad intentions. So you take a simple measure like locking the door because you love your family.

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The Blood of the Martyr

08-07-2016Fr. John LettersFr. John Bonavitacola

Dear Friends,

Over the last few weeks we have witnessed mass murder and murder at Mass. Both shock the conscience. But the latter I take very personally: Je suis Jacques Hamel. Fr. Jacques Hamel, priest in Saint-Étienne-du-Rouvray in Normandy, France, in his 80’s and had been a priest over 50yrs, martyred while saying Mass. Fr. Hamel was not the first priest to be killed at the altar and probably not the last. We have been down this road before.

Consider a bit of history: 732 Charles Martel at Tours in France, 1571 Don Juan and Andrea Doria at the Battle of Lepanto, 1683 the Battle at the gates of Vienna and the long line of Spanish martyrs that preceded them as the West fought back a very aggressive form of Islam. It was because of the victory at Lepanto that St. Pius V gave us the feast of Our Lady of the Holy Rosary (formerly called the Feast of Our Lady of Victory). St. Pius had asked everyone to pray the rosary as the battle commenced and he attributed the unlikely victory to the Rosary.

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The Most Dangerous Drug

07-31-2016Fr. John LettersFr. John Bonavitacola

Dear Friends,

A lady that I know just came from Columbia,
She smiled because I did not understand.
Then she held out some marijuana, ha ha!
She said it was the best in all the land.

And I said,
"No, no, no, no, I don't smoke it no more,
I'm tired of waking up on the floor.
No, thank you, please, it only makes me sneeze,
And then it makes it hard to find the door."

— No, No Song by Ringo Starr

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God's Plan Redux

07-24-2016Fr. John LettersFr. John Bonavitacola

Dear Friends,

I keep telling you to trust in the plan of God, His timing and His ways. God has a way of making things happen when they need to and we just muck it up when we try to force the issue, exert our own will on events or try to control the outcome. If there's one thing the Bible demonstrates again and again or that the lives of the Saints teach us is that God gets His plan accomplished right on time. And for those who trust God, God has a way of arranging the circumstances of our lives to get us where we need to be, when we need to be there and at the right time.

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Justice For None

07-17-2016Fr. John LettersFr. John Bonavitacola

Dear Friends,

My years as a prison chaplain brought me into close contact with the criminal justice system and gave me a lot of firsthand knowledge of how the system works. Sadly I discovered that the justice system was often unjust. While the virtue of Justice is blind, human beings who administer that justice often are not. The system is often tilted in favor of the politically connected, economically advantaged, and educated. Probably the biggest corruption of our legal system is caused by the fact that it is so often politicized and reduced to serve partisan viewpoints. That is seconded by the imbalance of power that loads up prosecutors with unlimited resources and virtually no accountability for misconduct and political bias. No matter how fair on paper and how many safeguards are in place including ethical standards in our legal system, no average Joe, yet alone, a poor minority can really compete with the power that a Prosecutor, District Attorney or Attorney General has.

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A Bad Idea

07-10-2016Fr. John LettersFr. John Bonavitacola

Dear Friends,

In a democracy, or a republic such as ours elections, laws and polices are ideally a reasoned discussion on ideas. Each side presents its positions for or against and through a sometimes messy and cumbersome process the best idea wins. That's the ideal but we know that often the battle over ideas becomes very partisan, personal and divisive with each side accusing the other of nefarious or malicious motives like discrimination or trying to impose its values on the other. And sometimes as we have seen that debate is cut off by a Judge or Court that usurps the right of the people to debate ideas and allow them to percolate through our political system to form consensus or compromise and that usurpation in turn causes more divisiveness in a society.

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A Period of Great Difficulty

07-03-2016Fr. John LettersFr. John Bonavitacola

Dear Friends,

In Vietnam they often refer to the War years (1964-75 or so) as "the period of great difficulty". A very polite way of recalling a very painful time when the country was split between North and South and the people were pitted against one another. We are entering our own period of great difficulty. Not a war but a very divisive and likely chaotic time in our country.

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Stormy Weather

06-26-2016Fr. John LettersFr. John Bonavitacola

Dear Friends,

I realize the future usually gets a bad rap since none of us will actually live through it all. But if we "read the writing on the wall", to use a nice biblical phrase (via the Prophet Daniel), the walls are collapsing in the present. The immediate future is looking very stormy. When Jesus was accused of casting out demons by the power of Satan, he pointed out the absurdity of that position, saying, "a house divided against itself can not stand".

Case in point the explanations given for the Orlando massacre have an Alice-in-Wonderland sort of perspective. First the NY Times claimed, "…while we don't know for certain the motives of the shooter". Really? The shooter called 911 and a TV Station, saying he was the shooter, pledged his allegiance to ISIS, was doing this for Allah and wanted the US to stop bombing Syria and Iraq. But why take him at his word when your editors have clairvoyant powers. The Times and many others divined the real motives of the shooter: homophobic violence inspired by Christian opposition to the redefinition of marriage. It was really the ghost of the late Justice Scalia possessing the shooter.

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06-19-2016Fr. John LettersFr. John Bonavitacola

Dear Friends,

Growing up in Philadelphia, Flag Day (June 14) was always a special day marked by celebrations at the Betsy Ross house and honoring the great symbol of these United States. But what about that other symbol the Bald Eagle? It seems our government has mixed feelings about it.

If you remember in the 1970's the eagle population was declining greatly and the US government listed it as endangered and with the help of ornithologists successfully increased the amounts of eagles both bald and golden in the US. Today it is still a protected species and you can be given a hefty fine or imprisonment for killing or injuring one.

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More Nun-sense

06-12-2016Fr. John LettersRev. John Bonavitacola

Dear Friends,

Once again our Parish has a Convent! I have to tell you like most things it was very easy to buy! Paying for it however is another thing…that’s where you come in. We were able to secure a 15yr Mortgage at 4.5% with a term of 10yrs. (My goal is to pay it off in under 10yrs.) The purchase price of the building was $450,000. We start off with a generous donation of $100,000 that served as the down payment. That leaves us with a balance of $350K and a monthly payment of around $2500.

Here is what I propose as a way for everyone to take ownership of this newest phase of our growth as a community: Individuals and families can consider taking on one or more of the monthly payments. It would work like this: you may decide you can pay for one month ($2500) or maybe only a half of a month ($1750) or just one week ($875). Or you can go bigger: two months ($5,000), three ($7500) or six ($15,000) or entire year. I think you get the point. Consider doing that now or at anytime in the near future. Of course as you know the more we pay on the principal the less the interest.

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An Unexpected Visitation

06-05-2016Fr. John LettersFr. John Bonavitacola

Dear Friends,
Nine years ago this June we celebrated our 75th Anniversary, which means this month our Parish will officially turn 84! The theme for our Diamond Jubilee was taken from the prophet Haggai 2:9: “Greater will be the future glory of this house than the former and in this place I will grant prosperity.” That was our prayer for the entire year and this is how that prayer is being answered today among us.

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