Ladies and gentlemen: Baby Jesus

Scenes from our parish Christmas pageant, held during tonight’s 5 p.m. Mass. Kudos to little Madison James, who portrayed the Baby Jesus with subtlety, nuance, humility and panache—and no crying. [Read more…]

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Hitting the road: The Bench and CNEWA visit Long Island

The past couple of days I found myself on a rare weekend away from my home parish, giving talks at Curé of Ars Catholic Church in Merrick, New York.  I was there with two of my colleagues from CNEWA, Norma Intriago and Chris Kennedy, to raise awareness about the plight of persecuted Christians and enlist support [Read More…]

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Hello, Long Island

If you’re in the neighborhood this weekend: I’ll be visiting Curé of Ars Catholic Church in Merrick, Long Island and preaching at all the Masses. The topic: persecuted Christians. Four months after ISIS began its purge, so many Iraqis are still homeless and in need of basic necessities. I’ll be there on behalf of CNEWA, along with [Read More…]

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Want to evangelize the young at your parish? Try this.

It’s these guys: the altar servers. Sunday, we installed 27 new servers—in the picture above, they’re lined up in the rectory, waiting for the processional—and that brings our number of servers to a grand total of 130. You read that right. 130. We are blessed beyond belief. Kids join in the 4th grade, and many stay [Read More…]

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Together at last: Jimmy Fallon, Thomas Merton and me

I’m pleased to report that my blog neighbor (and fellow Queens resident) Pat McNamara has just published a new book, “New York Catholics,” with Orbis Books. It’s available today on Amazon.  Check it out.  From the publisher: The historical and spiritual legacy of New York City’s largest denomination comes alive in these biographies of 76 [Read More…]

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Holy Toledo

I spent part of last week in Ohio, and in four days visited three dioceses: Cleveland, Youngstown and Toledo. A highlight was having a chance to meet some of the deacons of Toledo, where I gave a talk to them and their wives about my own vocation and my career in the media. We all [Read More…]

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The deacons got ashes

With Deacon Bill McNamara, my classmate and the DRE at my parish.   [Read more…]

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“How to Build an Awesome Altar Serving Program in 10 Easy Steps”

People who visit The Bench regularly know that I never tire of gushing about my parish’s altar servers. We have about 140 of them, boys and girls, aged 9-22.  As I’ve posted pictures and sung their praises, readers have asked repeatedly, “How do you do it? What’s the secret?” Well, after much prodding, the moderator [Read More…]

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How I spent Epiphany Sunday

I spent part of the day with these guys: Our 11:30 Mass included the presentation of gifts by the magi, and a lovely procession of altar servers, carrying candles and torches. Our administrator, Fr. Frank Passenant, also began the liturgy with an old tradition: blessing chalk, and then scrawling the date above the entry to [Read More…]

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Want to nurture young Catholics? Here. Try this.

We installed new altar servers at my parish this morning: 38 kids, the largest class ever. This brings the grand total of servers to something close to 150 (not sure the exact number…it might be 140.)  The picture here shows the new recruits lined up in the main foyer of the rectory, waiting for the [Read More…]

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