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WHFD Installation of Officers.
Jan 30th, 2011 by Father Chris

 

Today has been a very special day for our local Fire Department here in West Harrison.  At 1:00 PM we celebrated the Installation of new officers with a very beautiful ceremony at the Fire House on Lake Street.  This is a special year for our Fire Department as we are celebrating our 100th Anniversary.  The Department was established in 1911 and has served our community faithfully for all of these years!

We owe a particular word of thanks to all of the outgoing officers and, in particular, to former Chief Pat Galluzzo who has served the West Harrison Fire Department with great distinction and loyalty for so many years!

I would like to congratulate all of our new officers including our new Chief Steve Mancini and Assistant Chief Mike Pelegrino.  And, I wish you all well in the year ahead in the duties that you have assumed today.  Thank you all for the service you render so unselfishly to the people of the community always.  We do not take you for granted and are so grateful for all you do!

Below I include a few photographs from the ceremony earlier.

Four of the new Department Officers are sworn in by Judge Dennis Donovan.

Judge Dennis Donovan adminsters the Oath of Office to Assistant Chief Mike Pelegrino.

Judge Dennis Donovan administers the Oath of Office to Chief Steve Mancini.

Here I am pictured with Judge Dennis Donovan and Chief Steve Mancini following the Installation Ceremony.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY MATT!
Jan 30th, 2011 by Father Chris

 

This a personal post but I hope you do  not mind!  I wanted to take this opportunity to wish my brother Matt a HAPPY 41st BIRTHDAY!

Matt lives in Atlanta and is an Officer with the Atlanta Police Department.  He is planning to be with us on May 13, 2011 for our 4th Annual Blue Mass here at Saint Anthony of Padua making our Blue Mass not only a local, county and state happening but now a NATIONAL event! 

Happy Birthday Matt and God keep you and all Officers safe and bless you with many more happy, healthy years!

This photo was taken of Matt and I on December 23, 2010 at Arlington Memorial Park in Sandy Springs, Georgia following the burial of our good friend Monsignor Paul Reynolds.  Matt is dressed in his Atlanta Police Department uniform.

Blessed are you…
Jan 30th, 2011 by Father Chris

 

The Gospel reading for this 4th Sunday in Ordinary Time is from Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount and is known very familiarly as the “Beatitudes”.  The word “Beatitude”, of course, means “Blessing”, and so Jesus reminds all of us, as He reminded His followers long ago, that if we follow Him and remain faithful to His teachings He will BLESS US! 

Below I am including a couple of photographs from the “Mount of Beatitudes” which we visited on our pilgrimage a couple of weeks ago.  I include these photos in the hope that they might bring “to the eyes of faith” a vision of the place where Jesus spoke these words.  I hope these pictures are a “blessing” to you!

This is the Church at the Mount of Beatitudes.  We were there late in the day and you can see the sun is beginning to set.  This is a very peaceful place and in the background you can see the Sea of Galilee at the bottom of the hill.  Jesus spoke the Beatitudes from this place!

This is the view from the top of the Mount of Beatitudes.  This is the hillside that the people gathered on to listen to Jesus speak when he preached about the Beatitudes.  The sun is beginning to set but you can see the Sea of Galilee at the bottom of the hill in the distance.

Egypt…Unrest…Unreal!
Jan 30th, 2011 by Father Chris

 

It is hard to believe, as I watch the accounts of the unrest, riots, protests and looting  in the streets of Cairo, Egypt, that we were there just a week and a half ago!  And, I continue to say to myself, “this is unreal!”  

Below, I am including two photographs that I took in Cairo.  The first is a view of the “6th of October” Bridge crossing the Nile River.  The picture is taken from the balcony of my hotel room at the Ramses Hilton where we stayed during our visit.  The other photograph is taken in front of the Egyptian Museum which is just on the north side of Tahrir Square, the center of Cairo and the epicenter of all of the unrest.  I was so disturbed to see that looters had broken in to the museum and destroyed many of the Egyptian antiquities that date back more than 5000 years and which houses the largest collection of artifacts of “King Tut” in the world.  What is housed there is priceless.  What is most disturbing however is to see the violence, injuries and loss of life that have come as a result of these protests.   

Let us PRAY FOR PEACE in Egypt and among the people of that region!

The 6th of October Bridge crossing the Nile River.  This bridge has been at the center of the unrest in Cairo.

This is the very famous Egyptian Museum in Cairo which  houses the largest collection of Egyptian artwork and antiquities in the world.  This museum was reportedly looted during the recent unrest in Cairo.

Brief Pausa…
Jan 26th, 2011 by Father Chris

 

I hope you will forgive the brief “pausa” in my blogging since we returned from our pilgrimage late last week.  Immediately upon our return I got a bad flu “bug” and have been virtually bed-ridden for the past few days.  Today is the first day I have had the energy to do much of anything.   I appreciate your understanding as I try to get caught up on phone messages, hospital visits, etc.  It is going to take me a few days to get back to 100%.  In the meantime, I’m doing my best.  God bless you all and stay out of the snow, AGAIN!

THE TIME OF OUR LIVES!
Jan 21st, 2011 by Father Chris

 

I am happy to report that ALL pilgrims who traveled to the Holy Land and Egypt have returned home safely!  I am sure that over the next few days and weeks you will be hearing all about it, viewing pictures and listening to memories of these very important days in the Holy Land.  However, perhaps the best way to sum it all up is to say it was “the time of our lives”!  Words are inadequate to try to describe what we all felt and what we experienced. 

 In a couple of days I will be uploading some of the photographs that are some of the “highlights” from the trip here on my blog.  There are simply hundreds and hundreds of photographs that were taken by everyone during the course of the pilgrimage.  So, what we will do is collect them all, put them together and then offer an evening in church where the entire parish can come together and experience “the best of the best” with a description of where we were and what we did.  This will happen in the next 2 or 3 weeks perhaps.  We will let everyone know through announcements and through the bulletin.  This way, again, we can all experience it together.  I am going to include below a couple of nice photos, however, to “wet your appetite” until then!

Also, I would like to offer to all of you two quotes I used during my homily at our last Mass in Cairo.  I offer them for your personal meditation because they have always been meaningful to me.  The first quote was given to me by a priest friend of mine several years ago, “the most important thing in life is to live your life for something more important than your life”!  And, the second quote was given to me by Dr. Robert Schuller, Pastor of the Crystal Cathedral in Garden Grove, California during a visit with him in 2005.  He told me, “always remember, He IS, He CAN and He WILL”!  Think about those two quotes and let them change your life!

And, now a few photos I hope you will enjoy!

On the Mount of Olives overlooking Jerusalem.

The entire group at the Western (Wailing) Wall in Jerusalem.

At the Western (Wailing) Wall in Jerusalem.

Here you can see I am placing into the Wall the petitions that our parishioners submitted in the weeks leading up to our pilgrimage.  Actually each person received several envelopes and we each placed them into the Wall.  We pray God hears and answers these prayers!

A wide view at the Western Wall in Jerusalem.

In Bethlehem at the place where Jesus was born.

At the Church of the Holy Sepluchre where Jesus was Crucified and Buried.

We actually visited 3 countries on our pilgrmage Israel, Egypt and Jordan.  Here we are in Jordan at the very place at the Jordan River where Jesus was Baptized.

At the Great Pyramids of Giza in Cairo.  I am consulting with Father Peter and Father Pete to see if we can get a pet camel for the backyard of the Rectory.  I will keep you posted!  Keep your fingers crossed!!

A wide view of the Pyramids with a camel in the foreground.

Here I am standing at the base of one of the Pyramids. 

This is the path you take down into the burial chambers of the Pyramids.

One of the hallways in the depths of the Pyramids.

Here I am in the inner burial chamber of the Great Pyramids. 

Here I am giving the “thumbs up” as I exited the Pyramid.  I made it!  I told everyone before I went in that if I passed away while I was inside to just leave me there.  When they got home to celebrate a Memorial Mass and when everyone asked “where Father Chris was buried” to just tell them…”in the Great Pyramids of Giza”.  I figured the standard response would be: “well, I know he always liked to do things up big, but this is rediculous!”  Anyway, no need to worry, I made it out safe and sound!

Here I am standing in front of the Sphynx.

Here I am at the Tomb of President Anwar Sadat, the former President of Egypt, who was assassinated on October 6, 1981.  Those of us who are old enough will remember that event very well.  I recall watching it on television and thinking that if I ever went to Egypt I wanted to visit that place and we did!

The reviewing stand where Anwar Sadat was killed is directly across the street from the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier where Sadat is buried.  It has remained unchanged and unused since his assassination in 1981.

A wide view of me in front of the reviewing stand.

This is one of my favorite pictures of the whole trip.  This little puppy was huddled with 4 others at the door of a restaurant we ate lunch at in Cairo.  I couldn’t resist picking him up for a little attention and a picture.  He is very photogenic!!  I am consulting with Father Peter and Father Pete to see if we can get a pet puppy for the rectory.  I will keep you posted!  Keep your fingers crossed!!  I am just kidding of course.  We don’t want this to turn into Saint Anthony of Padua Petting Zoo! 

 We’re getting closer to home! (photo of the map inside the airplane indicating our location).

32 minutes till touchdown!  About this time we were bringing our seatbacks upright, stowing our tray tables and all of the other “stuff” that goes along with landing.

Our El Al 747-400 at the gate at JFK just after we landed.  We’re home safe and sound!  Thank God for a beautiful pilgrimage and THE TIME OF OUR LIVES!

PILGRIMAGE, Tuesday, January 18, 2011
Jan 18th, 2011 by Father Chris

This is the first opportunity I have had to access the internet since we arrived in Egypt and it will probably be my last until we get back to New York on Thursday.  I do not have the ability to upload any photographs at this time and so I thought I would just give a brief description of what we have done here in Egypt up to this point and then wait until we get home to upload some of the photographs of many of the highlights of our journey.

Egypt has been a very different experience from Israel.  The security here has been very tight.  And, we have had nonstop security guards traveling with us on our bus and accompanying us everywhere we have been.  They have been very nice and have been with us for our protection. 

We arrived here in Cairo on Sunday evening rather late and were very tired when we got to our hotel.  We have been staying at the Ramses Hilton.  It is a beautiful hotel right on the banks of the Nile River in downtown Cairo.  The food has been delicious and the rooms are very comfortable and spacious.  Every room has a beautiful view of the Nile River.  Our tour guide, Yasser, has been exceptional and we have been very blest by his care and his knowledge. 

Monday, after celebrating Mass at the Church of Saint Mary near our hotel (on the feast of Saint Anthony of Egypt) we visited the Egyptian Museum here in Cairo.  The Egyptian Museum is a world famous museum and it houses some of the greatest Egyptian Antiquities including the famous headdress of Kind Tut.  We visited all of these exhibits.  Later we traveled to the Great Pyramids of Giza.  This was a major highlight of course.  We spent plenty of time at the Pyramids and most of us took a camel ride on the sands around the pyramids.  Don’t worry – plenty of pictures were taken!!!  We had some wonderful group and individual photos taken at the pyramids that you will love to see.  Only four of us were adventurous enough to travel into the depths of the pyramid – me, Frank, Raymond and Nicole Corona!  It was very exciting.  I have dreamed of visiting the pyramids since I was a child and we finally did it! 

After the pyramids we drove down a short distance to the Sphynx – the Lion/Man monument that was erected to guard the pyramids and the whole Giza plateau.  Again, this is a very famous site.  At 6:30 PM we attended a sound and light show at the Pyramids.  It lasted about 45 minutes and gave a voice and light history and description of the significance of the entire Giza plateau.  We returned last night to our hotel rather tired and looked forward to a good night’s rest. 

This morning we got to sleep in for about an extra hour.  This was a welcomed treat after 9 days of touring.  Today we traveled to the “hanging church” and then visited the great Citadel and Mosque of Muhammed Ali (No, not the boxer).  We visited a few other local sights as well seeing the Old City of downtown Cairo and going to a papyrus factory and museum.  They had some very beautiful things there and most of us made a few purchases.  Tonight we returned to the hotel about 6:15 PM after sitting in heavy rush hour traffic for about an hour.  The traffic here in Cairo is the worst I have ever see anywhere in the world.  There are 22 million people who live in the City of Cairo and each person must have 6 cars!  We ended the day today by celebrating a very beautiful Mass at a small chapel near the Pyramids called Saint Francis Chapel.  It was actually the Chapel of  a convent that we were able to use for the Mass.  We pray for the Nuns who hosted us and ask God to continue to watch over and protect them.

Tomorrow we bring this pilgrimage to a close and head home.  Tomorrow we will visit the grave of President Anwar Sadat who was assissinated in Cairo during a military parade on October 6, 1981.  His tomb is directly across the street from where he was assassinated and it is all part of the same monument.  We will be taking a boat ride on the Nile River and then we will head on to the airport to catch our flight back to Tel Aviv and then to New York.  We will arrive at JFK on Thursday morning. 

Please pray for a safe journey as we travel back home.  And, we look forward to sharing all of the photographs, stories and memories with all of you when we return.  Until then,  God bless you all!

PILGRIMAGE, Sunday, January 16, 2011
Jan 16th, 2011 by Father Chris

It is 6:30 AM here in Jerusalem (11:30 PM Saturday in New York) and the sun is rising out the window of my hotel room here in Jerusalem.  Today is our final day in the Holy Land.  I wish I could spend an indefinite amount of time here because it has been such a beautiful and holy experience in this place! 

As I mentioned in my earlier post, today we will be traveling to the house of Lazarus in Bethany.  Also we will walk the Via Dolorosa (the Way of the Cross).  Today we are going to end our pilgrimage by celebrating Mass in the Church of the Holy Sepluchre.  This is a very famous and sacred site where Jesus was buried.  We will be at the site where Jesus was Crucified on the Hill of Calvary – in Hebrew it is called “Golgotha” or the “place of the skull”.  It will not end there however.  As we ascend upward into the sky on our respective flights this evening, in a sense, it is a most appropriate symbol as each one of us will also be rising with God into Heaven.  It is the Resurrection that is the ultimate destination and the final consummation of our lives and our “pilgrimages” on earth.  Everything that we have done this week and everything that we do throughout our lives we do with the hope and blessed expectation of sharing in the Eternal Banquet in the New and Eternal, the Heavenly Jerusalem. 

Peter’s Way Tours has been the agency that we have used for this Pilgrimage and it is Peter’s Way that arranged all of the details of our visit.  I want to thank Peter (the owner) and his son Elias and everyone at Peter’s Way Tours for all of their help.  They have made this a most exciting, enjoyable and easy visit.  And, their very attentive care has made it possible for us to pray, visit and learn so much without undue care, worry or anxiety about anything.  In the future I must say that when planning pilgrimages and tours I will always call Peter’s Way first and will try ONLY to use them.  I encourage others to do the same if you want to have an unforgettable, most pleasant and spectacular experience!!!

I shall end this pilgrimage by giving the earth here a symbolic kiss before we depart for the airport.  As I give this land that embrace I shall thank God for leading us here and for all of His gifts, blessings and graces that He continually gives to each one of us.  Most of all, I will thank Him for loving us even when we do not deserve to be loved and for even dying and rising for us so that we might share in His life completely. 

As we take our leave from this most sacred and beautiful place, let us pray for the peace and the love of Jerusalem.  Yes, not only the peace but also for the LOVE of Jerusalem, for without love there can be no peace at all.  This is my prayer and my thanksgiving today and always.  AMEN!

PILGRIMAGE, Saturday, January 15, 2011
Jan 15th, 2011 by Father Chris

 

It is hard to believe that our visit to the Holy Land is quickly come to an end.  Tomorrow night some of our group will head home to New York and the rest of us will travel on for a few days to Egypt.  In any case, this has been an experience of a lifetime that will never be forgotten by any of us!  This truly has been a pilgrimage that was inspired, and carried through with God’s inspiration and grace. 

Today was another very full day.  We began this morning by going to the Mount of Olives to have a group photograph taken with the entire city of Jerusalem in the background.  This is the “typical” view of Jerusalem that you almost always see on post cards and in news accounts of the City of Jerusalem.  At this same site we visited with Kojack the camel and several of us took a ride on him.  He was a very nice camel but each time he would get up or go down on his knees he would make a very deep grunting noise which sounded something like the acid reflux I sometimes get when I have had a very spicy meal.  As I was getting off Kojack he grunted very loudly and I just gave him a pat on the neck and said, “its ok Kojack I know how you feel!”  After I said that I could almost see him smiling as I dismounted!!  Camels are very filthy animals but there was something cute about Kojack! 

After our camel rides we walked a short distance to the Chapel of the Ascension.  It was on this site that Jesus Ascended into Heaven.  And, it is believed that it will be on this site that He will return again in His glory. 

From Jerusalem we traveled about a half hour to the southeast to the actual site of Jesus’ Baptism in the Jordan River.  We traveled into the country of Jordan in order to visit this beautiful location.  The Jordan River at this point is very cloudy and filled with silt.  The river is very narrow at this spot but this is the exact location where Jesus was baptized.  Here each of us was able to collect water from the Jordan River and we had a brief prayer service in which we were able to renew our own baptismal promises.  This was a beautiful experience for all of us. 

Here in the Jordan River Jesus was Baptized.

From the Jordan River we traveled a short distance to Qumran.  It was here that the Dead Sea Scrolls were found.  The Dead Sea Scrolls are the Old Testament Scriptures that were discovered in the jars in the caves at Qumran. 

Qumran where the Dead Sea Scrolls were found.

After Qumran we visited Masada, the winter palace of King Herod.  Masada is not a religious site per se but it is very famous and is well known throughout the world for its historical and archealogical value.   In order to reach the palace ruins it is necessary to take a cable car about 4 minutes to the top of the mountain.  Once at the top of the mountain visitors are treated to the most spectacular view of the Jordan Valley and the entire Dead Sea.  This is some of the most spectacular scenery in all the world without question.  Following our time at Masada we drove a short distance to one of the beaches on the shore of the Dead Sea and we were able to touch the water and a couple of people actually ventured into the sea to swim.  The water was very warm and filled with salt.  Nothing lives in the Dead Sea because of its extraordinarily high salt content.

You must take this cable car to get to the top of the mountain where Herod’s palace was.

A view from the top of the mountain at Masada.

In this shot you can see the Dead Sea in the distance.

The Dead Sea is warm and perfectly clear.

This map will give you a sense of the locations of the places we visited today.

We drove back to Jerusalem praying the Rosary and singing songs on the bus.  It was a most pleasant penultimate day in the Holy Land. 

I want to take this opportunity to thank Sam our guide and Abed our driver for their wonderful work and for treating us so well this week.  They have made us feel very special and they have taken extra good care of all of us.  We felt as if we were part of their family and they watched out for all of us the entire week.  We could not have been in better hands!  May God bless both Sam and Abed. 

Tomorrow we will end our week-long visit to Israel and Jordan but not without a few final sites.  We will go to Bethany to the house of Lazarus.  And, we will also walk the Via Dolorosa (the Way of the Cross).  Tomorrow we will celebrate Mass at the Church of the Holy Sepluchre where Jesus was buried.  I am very much looking forward to tomorrow. 

About 3:00 PM tomorrow we will depart to Tel Aviv Aiport to get checked in for our flight to Cairo.  And, those traveling back to New York will take a later bus to the airport to catch their flight which departs at 1:00 AM Monday for New York.  They will arrive back in New York at 6:00 AM Monday.  A bus will meet them (and us on our return Thursday) at JFK and transport everyone back to the front plaza at Saint Anthony’s Church.

When I get to Cairo I will attempt to keep my blog updated using the computers in ther business center in the hotel.  I will have to play it by ear as we go along so please be patient.  Thanks for your understanding.  God bless you all.  Shalom!

PILGRIMAGE, Friday January 14, 2011
Jan 14th, 2011 by Father Chris

 

I have just returned to my room after waiting almost 45 minutes for a lousy salad at dinner.  After numerous requests I decided to call it quits for the evening.  It’s ok, I had a large lunch!  You may wonder why the wait?  Today is Friday and it is the Shabat here in Israel and there is a great deal of activity in both the hotel in general and in the restaurants.  I was tempted to pass out yalmukas to everyone in our group to see if that might affect the service but I observed that they were simply understaffed for the number of people who needed to be served.  Thus, you benefit from the update of my blog!!

Today has really been another exceptional day filled to overflowing with memorable experiences.  We began the day by traveling to the Western Wall of the 2nd Temple.  This is the very famous site that is frequently seen in photographs.  People from all over the world travel here to deposit prayers in the Wall.  At the end of each day the prayers are collected and burned and the prayers, it is said, ascend to God.  Earlier today we distributed the prayer requests that had been submitted by all of our parishioners over the weeks before this pilgrimage to those on the trip and we took them and placed them all in the crevaces of the Western Wall.  On the south side of the Temple wall is the staircase where Jesus often taught the crowds and it was on this exact site the He overturned the money changers tables and rebuked them for turning the Temple into a marketplace. 

Here you can see the “Western Wall” beneath the gold domed mosque which stands on the location of the former “Holy of Holies” of the 2nd Temple of Jerusalem.  This was a major highlight of the pilgrimage so far.

The Western  Wall is a busy place of prayer for all peoples. 

Following our visit to the Western Wall we traveled a short distance to the Church of Mary’s Dormition.  It is here that Mary is said to have fallen into a deep sleep before she was taken by angels and assumed into Heaven.  Next, we went to the Church of Saint Peter which is on the site where Saint Peter denied Jesus.  In the lowest level of this Church there is a prison where Jesus was placed.  The prison is really a “pit” into which the prisoners would be lowered  so they could not escape.  We descended into the site where Jesus was imprisoned and it was very moving and very erie.  I read from Psalm 88 (Out of the depths, I cry to you O Lord – I have gone down into the pit) at this location and the words of the Psalm took on new meaning for all of us.    Outside of the Church of Saint Peter there is a staircase which is one of the few actual locations that have been completely preserved totally unchanged since the time of Christ.  Jesus actually walked on the same stones that are on the staircase today. 

We ended the day with a short trip across the Kidron Valley to the Mount of Olives and to the Church of the Agony.  It was on this spot that Jesus withdrew to pray before His Crucifixion and where he was tempted.  Here in the Garden of Gethsemene there is an olive tree that has been dated to the time of Christ.  This means that this olive tree was in the Garden of Gethsemene at the time that Jesus prayed there.  We were very fortunate to be scheduled to celebrate Mass at the main Altar in the Church of the Agony.  Immediately in front of the Altar is the rock where Jesus sat when He prayed. 

Above is a photo of the Kidron Valley with its Olive Trees. 

The Church of the Agony on the Mount of Olives.

We celebrated Mass here at the main Altar in the Church of the Agony.  Jesus prayed on the rock in front of the Altar in this Church before he suffered and died.  Here Jesus prayed, “Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass me by, but not my will but your will be done”. 

Tomorrow we travel to Qumran to the place where the Dead Sea Scrolls were found.  We also will go to Masada, the winter palace of Herod as well as to the Dead Sea.  We are also scheduled to go to the Jordan River to the exact place where Jesus was Baptized by John the Baptist.  Here we will renew our own baptismal promises.   There are several other visits scheduled for tomorrow but at the moment I cannot recall the exact itinerary.  There is no doubt that it will be another exciting day.

The weather continues to be perfect and we have all been quite surprised that we have had nonstop excellent weather  and we pray that it continues for the duration of our visit.  Tomorrow at the Dead Sea the temperature is expected to be in the 80s.  Here in Jerusalem the temperatures will continue to be very comfortable in the mid to upper 60s. 

Oremus pro invicem!  Let us continue to pray for oneanother during these days of pilgrimage.  All of us here thank the Lord that we have had the privilege of visiting these Sacred Sites these past days.  The title of this pilgrimage from its very start was “Walking in the footsteps of Jesus”.  This is exactly what we have been doing.  Our hope and prayer however is not only that we can walk in His footsteps here in Israel on the exact sites where He lived and ministered but also that we will walk in His footsteps as we live our lives and in the way we treat all others we interact with.  This pilgrimage will be a success according to the degree that we are able to do that I believe.

I will update again tomorrow as I get a chance.  Until then, Shabat Shalom!

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