Baptisms During Lent

This year Ash Wednesday occurs on February 26. It is the beginning of Lent which will continue to Holy Thursday on April 9. Baptisms are not celebrated at Sunday Masses during Lent. Therefore, there will be no Baptisms at the 11:15 AM Mass on March 22.

The most perfect day for Baptism is Easter, April 12. We encourage families to have your child baptized on that day at the 11:15 AM Mass or to wait until May 24.

As there are many reasons why either of these alternatives might be impossible, there will be a Baptismal Mass on Saturday, March 28 at noon.

Baptismal classes will be Sunday, February 9 and March 8 in the church at 2 PM. There will be no Baptismal Class on April 12 (Easter).

Please contact the rectory to reserve a place at the classes or for further information about baptismal times.

Representative Homilies 2019

As the parish’s year-end gift to you, we have compiled 6 remarkable homilies from this year from all three of our priests. This study of the Gospel of Luke provides vignettes of Catholic faith life in today’s world.

  • Fr. Smith talks about going to visit the sick, and how people can find community here.
  • Msgr. LoPinto describes the wonder of the Moon landing 50 years ago, and a child’s Christmas today.
  • Fr. Gribowich recounts an unusual bus ride from the airport, and asks who is God?

We hope this will be enriching and thought-provoking as we enter a new year and a new decade. PDF: St. Charles Brooklyn Homilies 2019

Pope’s Message on Meaning of Nativity Scenes

Selections from the Apostolic Letter Admirabile signum
on the meaning and importance of the nativity scene
Pope Francis
December 1, 2019Under the sponsorship of the Religious Education Ministry, we at St. Charles Borromeo have for several years have blessed the baby Jesus figures that will be used in our home crèches at Sunday Mass. Pope Francis understands the need for all of us to have family traditions and devotions which are passed down from one generation to the next and has given us this year a wonderful meditation. The full text may be found at Selections however may be found below:

The enchanting image of the Christmas crèche, so dear to the Christian people, never ceases to arouse amazement and wonder. The depiction of Jesus’ birth is itself a simple and joyful proclamation of the mystery of the Incarnation of the Son of God. The nativity scene is like a living Gospel rising up from the pages of sacred Scripture. As we contemplate the Christmas story, we are invited to set out on a spiritual journey, drawn by the humility of the God who became man in order to encounter every man and woman. We come to realize that so great is his love for us that he became one of us, so that we in turn might become one with him.

With this Letter, I wish to encourage the beautiful family tradition of preparing the nativity scene in the days before Christmas, but also the custom of setting it up in the workplace, in schools, hospitals, prisons and town squares. Great imagination and creativity is always shown in employing the most diverse materials to create small masterpieces of beauty. As children, we learn from our parents and grandparents to carry on this joyful tradition, which encapsulates a wealth of popular piety. It is my hope that this custom will never be lost and that, wherever it has fallen into disuse, it can be rediscovered and revived.

The landscapes that are part of the nativity scene also deserve some mention. Frequently they include the ruins of ancient houses or buildings, which in some instances replace the cave of Bethlehem and become a home for the Holy Family. These ruins appear to be inspired by the thirteenth-century Golden Legend of the Dominican Jacobus de Varagine, which relates a pagan belief that the Temple of Peace in Rome would collapse when a Virgin gave birth. More than anything, the ruins are the visible sign of fallen humanity, of everything that inevitably falls into ruin, decays and disappoints. This scenic setting tells us that Jesus is newness in the midst of an aging world, that he has come to heal and rebuild, to restore the world and our lives to their original splendour.

God’s ways are astonishing, for it seems impossible that he should forsake his glory to become a man like us. To our astonishment, we see God acting exactly as we do: he sleeps, takes milk from his mother, cries and plays like every other child! As always, God baffles us. He is unpredictable, constantly doing what we least expect. The nativity scene shows God as he came into our world, but it also makes us reflect on how our life is part of God’s own life. It invites us to become his disciples if we want to attain ultimate meaning in life.

St. Saviour’s Academy

St. Charles is linked to St. Saviour’s School in Park Slope. I will be attending an open house this Tuesday, December 17 at 9 AM. St. Saviour’s was my first assignment as a Priest 40 years ago. I revisit older assignments rarely and I think this is my first time back in over 20 years. I hope that some of you may be able to join me. If you cannot, I will ask any questions you may have. So far, I have been asked to discover:

  1. How much is Prospect Park used, especially for athletic events?
  2. To what museums and other cultural activities are the students brought? Are they involved with any of the programs in the Brooklyn Museum?
  3. What kind of transportation can be arranged?
  4. How is it Catholic?
  5. What is the process for entering in middle school?
  6. What competitive high schools have the graduates attended?

December 8 Collection for Religious Retirement Fund

Thank You Gathering for Sisters of St. Joseph, Oct. 2010

The priests who have served St. Charles in its almost 150 year history have been “diocesan” priests. That means that they were ordained to serve the people of the Diocese of Brooklyn. The bishop and people of the diocese have the responsibility of caring for us when we are sick or infirm. Your generosity in the “Generations of Faith Campaign,” 40% of which went to build up the trust funds for priests, was deeply moving to us all.

The sisters and brothers as well as priests from religious orders who were not ordained for the diocese were not covered in this campaign. As members of religious communities, they can come from anywhere and serve anywhere. A national solution was needed to help them. This is the origin and meaning of the collection for retired religious which will be taken up next week in every parish in the country. It is, to me, the most important collection of the year and will be taken up next week, Dec 8th.

The religious women, who did so much to form me and my sense of vocation, and the religious men, who I met later in life worked incredibly long hours for little payment. If there were any plans for retirement at all, it would have been based on new members filling the ranks. As we know the numbers have declined and they now need our help.

Although this collection is national and it may seem to bring in considerable money, it really does not even touch the surface of the problem. Orders have had to sell off property and join together to save money. This collection is helpful financially but, as my “religious” friends tell me, it is usually the largest special collection and they take that as a sign of support and love.

Let be so generous that they will all know our love for them and gratitude to them. You can give online at or at the collection taken up at Mass next Sunday, December 8.

In Christ,
Fr. Bill

PS – A letter – hand written the way they taught so many of us – means more than anything else. If you know the address of a religious who taught or inspired you: WRITE HIM OR HER NOW!

33rd Sunday Ordinary Time – “Rule the Earth with Justice”

St. Elizabeth of Hungary from our sanctuary stained glass. A princess, she gave up her position of royalty and wealth to serve the poor, endearing her as the patron saint of charities. Her feast day is November 17.

From the Bishops Conference

This week, the American Bishops met to discuss issues facing the Church. One of them was Catholic participation in electoral politics. They decided to reissue “Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship” with an update but without substantial revision. This was written 12 years ago before the election of Pope Francis and there was concern that the document did not recognize his perspective especially on the interrelatedness of all matters of life. The suggestion to include paragraph #101 from Francis’ Apostolic Exhortation “GAUDETE ET EXSULTAT” in its entirety was  rejected as too long. You however may find these less than 200 words enlightening and informative.

101. The other harmful ideological error is found in those who find suspect the social engagement of others, seeing it as superficial, worldly, secular, materialist, communist or populist. Or they  relativize it, as if there are other more important matters, or the only thing that counts is one particular ethical issue or cause that they themselves defend. Our defence of the innocent unborn, for example, needs to be clear, firm and passionate, for at stake is the dignity of a human life, which is always sacred and demands love for each person, regardless of his or her stage of development. Equally sacred, however, are the lives of the poor, those already born, the destitute, the abandoned and the underprivileged, the vulnerable infirm and elderly exposed to covert euthanasia, the victims of human trafficking, new forms of slavery, and every form of rejection.[84] We cannot uphold an ideal of holiness that would ignore injustice in a world where some revel, spend with abandon and live only for the latest consumer goods, even as others look on from afar, living their entire lives in abject poverty.

Malachi 3:19-20a
33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time
Nov. 17, 2019 

The prophet Malachi, who we read today, lived in Jerusalem after the temple was restored (515 BC) but before Ezra came to reform its administration. (450 BC).  About 460 BC would be a good estimate. This situation is reflected in his message.  

As we have seen many times, the Jews who responded to the call to return to Jerusalem and rebuild it were pioneers despite themselves. They began with high hopes that they could replace everything which was lost but discovered that clocks do not move backwards. None of them would have had personal memories of Jerusalem or the temple and they often lapsed into romanticizing the glories of the past and underestimating the difficulties of the present. These illusions were quickly ended.  

The rebuilt temple was adequate, but no more than that, and the institution of Kingship was effectively eliminated. The Persian overlords would support a restored temple but not a king. The temple alone would be the sign of unity for the Jews. Malachi’s job as prophet was to strengthen it, despite the less than stellar quality of the religious leadership.  

As our Patron Charles Borromeo discovered, reforming the clergy is not for the faint of heart and it takes the direct action of God himself to accomplish anything. Malachi uses the traditional language of the “Day of the Lord”.  

God tells the people:
Lo, I am sending my messenger
to prepare the way before me;
And suddenly there will come to the temple 
the LORD whom you seek (Mal 3:1)  

This will not be a social call:  

For he is like the refiner’s fire, 
or like the fuller’s lye.
He will sit refining and purifying (silver), 
and he will purify the sons of Levi, (Mal 3:2–3). 

Then, as now, reform needs to start with the clergy, “the sons of Levi”. Where the clergy contains the priesthood, as with the Jews of this day and Catholics always, the integrity of the sacrifice is of key importance.  

Refining them like gold or like silver 
that they may offer due sacrifice to the LORD.
Then the sacrifice of Judah and Jerusalem 
will please the LORD (Mal 3:3–4). 

 After the clergy have been cleansedthose who are most influential need to be confronted: 

 I will draw near to you for judgment, 
and I will be swift to bear witness
Against the sorcerers, adulterers, and perjurers, 
those who defraud the hired man of his wages, 

Against those who defraud widows and orphans; 
those who turn aside the stranger,
and those who do not fear me, says the LORD of hosts (Mal 3:5) 

Note how he puts all of these together as those who do not “Fear me”. These are people who through great success or great failure have lost their awe of God.   

They show that by ceasing to obey the law of God: 

Surely I, the LORD, do not change,
nor do you cease to be sons of Jacob.
Since the days of your fathers you have turned aside 
from my statutes, and have not kept them.
Return to me, and I will return to you, 
says the LORD of hosts. (Mal 3:6–7). 

This robbed them of their enthusiasm, but they must begin to be restored to the Lord’s favor: 

Yet you say, “How must we return?”
Dare a man rob God? Yet you are robbing me!
And you say, “How do we rob you?” 
In tithes and in offerings!
10 Bring the whole tithe
into the storehouse,
That there may be food in my house, 
and try me in this, says the LORD of hosts. (Mal 3:7–10). 

The decline is most clearly seen in failing to supply the needs of worship. Worship is a matter of Justice. We owe God obedience and submission. It is mandatory. Tithes not only supported the maintenance of the temple but the care of the clergy who at that time had no other source of income and we have seen again the care that God wishes of the poor in Mal 3:3-5. 

If they return to proper worship and wider justice, all nations will call you blessed, for you will be a delightful land, says the LORD of hosts. (Mal 3:12). 

We now come to the section selected for us this week. Malachi is structured around six pronouncements with several debates. Each debate begins with the Lord accusing the people of turning away from Him. Today we hear:  

13 You have defied me in word, says the LORD, 
yet you ask, “What have we spoken against you?”
14 You have said, “It is vain to serve God, 
and what do we profit by keeping his command
(Mal 3:13–14) 

They then list the times they have seen the wicked prosper (Mal 3: 15) but God assures those who fear him that there is a record book which lists them as well as those who do not (Mal 3:16) This book will not opened in heaven at a final judgment of all but in this world when the Lord comes to judge the world: 

Then you will again distinguish between the just and the wicked,
Between the person who serves God, and the one who does not. (Mal 3:18)  

The day of the Lord is like the power of the Sun. For those who do not fear the Lord the Sun will be experienced as an oven that will set them on fire and render them into stubble, mere cut stalks of grain. Indeed, they will be burned so completely that there will not even be that:  They will set them on fire, leaving them neither root nor branch. (Mal 3:19) 

For those who fear the Lord, however, the sun will be experienced as justice with healing rays or wings. 

There is much that we could say here but let us limit ourselves to two: 

Malachi assumes that this reckoning will be a purely earthly affair. The just will be given honor in the sight of their enemies. But this did not happen. There was improvement with the reforms of Ezra, but nothing was really overturned. Compare this to the reading from Maccabees last week. There we saw that the reward for the just would be physical, because they would get their bodies back – but in the future. In the 300 years between Malachi and 2 Maccabees, the Jews came to realize that there would not be purely earthy vindication of God’s justice. Yet God is just before all else, and so there must be an Afterlife. We can never emphasize enough that the resurrection of the Body was revealed and understood to proclaim the LORD’commitment to justice for His people. If there was no afterlife, then the LORD would be accused of not fulfilling his promises and be thus either a charlatan or simply deluded. This is not true to revelation so there must be something after this. The afterlife is not to reward our faithfulness, but to proclaim God’s truthfulness 

The other observation is that Worship is a matter of Justice. I was underwhelmed when I first heard this in the seminary decades ago. Yet, as the professor assured us that with experience, we would not only see this, but its effects as well. He was certainly correct. Failing to worship God is doing Him an injustice, and if we treat Him unjustly, should we be surprised if we treat others unjustly as well? It works the other way as well. Those who treat others unjustly will pull back from worshiping a living God. They may build wonderful buildings but will not give their hearts. Justice and Worship are always linked.  

At the inaugural meeting of our group for young professionals, one of the members said: “Don’t let Monday ruin your Sunday”. We might add, nor the LORDs SundayOn Sunday at St. Charles, we praised Him in word and song, offered our hearts, and pledged to rebuild His Church, but if we do not act justly, then all this is empty and hollow 

Malachi tells us that the sun of justice will arise with healing in his wings. Let us show that we love Him on Monday by fulfilling the words of the prophet Amos: “But let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream. (Amos 5:24) 

31st Sunday Ordinary Time/St. Charles Borromeo – 11:15 am (Fr. Smith homily)

We celebrate today the feast of our Patron Saint, Charles Borromeo. To list even the most basic facts of his life, much less his accomplishments, would be an impossible task for a brief homily. Even more amazing is that he was only 46 when he died in 1584.

High points are found in the main window above the main altar. The principal scene is St. Charles distributing communion to a sick person on a stretcher. This commemorates his distribution of the Eucharist to the sick during a plague and for having Mass said in the open air, allowing the afflicted to more easily attend. If you look above the main window there are three windows with angels: the one on the left shows a scroll referring to his institution of religious education in his Diocese of Milan. He is considered the founder of both Catholic schools and Sunday school. On the right, the window reflects his emphasis on the Sacrament of Penance. In the central window, two angels bear a crown which foretells his canonization after his death. Not on our window is the clearest sign that he was a reformer: one of his priests who did not want to be reformed tried to assassinate him.

We remind everyone that there is more information on St Charles and the art in the church on our website.

We could say much more about St Charles, but more relevant for us today is his cousin and successor Federico Borromeo. Like Charles, he was born a rich man destined for effortless success. He originally wanted to become a Jesuit, but although he did not, he was nonetheless claimed by the Church and named a cardinal at the age of 23. A most cultured man, he was dedicated to scholarship and moved by beauty. He created leaned societies and the first truly public library on the European continent. He wrote over 100 books and monographs on many subjects and, why we remember him especially today, can be credited as publishing the first hymnal for lay people. He also renovated the Cathedral in Milan, shoring up its foundations and beautifying its interior.

Now I do not mean to suggest that he was a mere aesthete. During the great famine of 1627-1628 he fed 2,000 poor people daily at the gates of his residence from his own income. He was an example of such absolute heroism that nearly one hundred of his clergy died caring for their flocks in the famine and resulting plague. This is beautifully told in Alessandro Manzoni’s novel “The Betrothed”. I should note that this is Pope Francis’ second favorite novel; coming after only the Brothers Karamazov. In it, Federico is portrayed as the model priest, and I must admit that I give it to young priests particularly to read his admonition to a well-meaning but cowardly pastor. I have no reason to believe that this did not reflect his actual beliefs and actions. After his death, the citizens of Milan erected a statue in his honor and wrote on the pedestal: “He was one of those men rare in every age, who employed extraordinary intelligence, the resources of an opulent condition, the advantages of privileged station, and an unflinching will, in the search and practice of higher and better things.”

He demonstrates the connection between beauty, worship and charity. Much of our efforts as a parish for at least the next 3 years will be to renovate the fabric of the Church building. There will be no major changes in the sanctuary or nave – the major visible changes will be decent bathrooms and a usable basement. Through it all, we must seek not to lose the forest for the trees and must remember that this building exists for worship: turning our minds and hearts to God. Beauty has always been the handmaid of worship, and a church needs to be a place where we recognize that we are doing something different. A church such as ours can literally stop us in our footsteps, slow us down and center us on the most important things. Given the distractions of our times, this is more important and needed than ever

Although I hope that people leave here feeling blessed and holy, worship is ultimately judged not by what we feel on Sunday but what we do the rest of the week. Who is better off among your family and friends or in our community because you went to Mass today? Did you help someone at work, did you show kindness to an annoying person, did you take time to offer your services to someone who needs them? The needs are endless, the opportunities without limit, and the power that comes from true worship beyond comprehension. Yet, how much of Jesus do we see in a country in which most people call themselves Christian, and more to the point what does St Charles add to this community? Who outside these walls would know or care if we disappeared tomorrow?

Today we will add another aid to our worship with our new hymnals.

We are bodily creatures and the more senses we can engage in our worship, the more effective it will be. Philosophers (eg. Suzanne Langer) tell us that each art form allows our bodies to connect with a dimension in the real world. Buildings engage us in space. A grand church building can be literally awesome and an intimate one engenders a serenity that no other structure can provide.

Music in this theory connects and develops our sense of time. Many of us seem dominated by time and trying to make each second effective. No wonder time itself may seem exhausting. Great music can suspend time and give us a taste of the infinite and a moment’s peace to gather ourselves together to praise and worship God

Please embrace this opportunity. We bless not so much the hymn books as ourselves, and desire to offer not only everything to God, but every moment. Unlike Federico Borromeo, we may not have extraordinary intelligence to display, nor either the resources of an opulent condition nor privileged station, but we can ask for an unflinching will to – by our worship – search for and practice higher and better things.