"In verbo veritatis" (2 Cor 6:7)

October 29, 2017

30th Sunday in Ordinary Time – 2017

Filed under: Homilies — Tags: , , — komonchak @ 3:16 pm

30th Sunday in Ordinary Time – October 29, 2017 – St. John’s, Goshen

Some things never change. To illustrate the second of the great commandments stated by Christ in today’s Gospel, we heard an extract from the Book of Exodus. The events described in this, the second book of the Bible, date from around thirteen centuries before Christ and were first handed down in oral traditions which began to be written down and combined into a narrative some centuries later. The section from which our reading was taken is known to scholars as “the Book of the Covenant,” because it sets down prescriptions that embody Israel’s responsibility in the covenant, or pact, that God struck with her at the foot of Mt. Sinai. It may have become part of the book long after the Israelites entered the Promised Land, that is, around six centuries before Christ. In other words, we have listened to moral prescriptions, commandments, that are at least 2,500 years old, and were written for a land far away and a culture far different.

But, as I said, some things never change. It is not possible to hear those words without thinking about circumstances and challenges of our own time and place. Let’s look at the text closely, and allow me to illumine the prescriptions by citing a commentary on the Book of Exodus [by Martin Noth], published in Germany 75 years ago, that describes them as “aiming to protect those who are underprivileged in law, work and society (personae miserabiles)”.

And so we have, first: “You shall not molest or oppress an alien, for you were once aliens yourselves in the land of Egypt.” (more…)

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October 22, 2017

Fr. Joseph N. Moody

Filed under: Uncategorized — komonchak @ 3:44 pm

It was a great blessing in my life to have had Fr. Joseph N. Moody as a teacher, mentor, and, eventually, friend. Some years ago, I wrote this appreciation of him for dot-Commonweal, the blog which, unfortunately, has since been dis-continued for reasons that continue to escape me.

Fr. Joseph N. Moody was one of the great priests of the Archdiocese of New York in the last six or seven decades. Tall, athletic, and handsome, he was first encountered by most of us as a professor of modern history at Cathedral College, the minor seminary of the Archdiocese of New York. We knew him to be the nearly polar opposite, physically and ideologically, of another great character on the faculty there, Florence D. Cohalan. Fr. Moody was a passionate teacher who could come close to tears in describing a particularly dramatic moment in history. He took a great deal of interest in his students and actually sought their views on historical personages. He was also the only teacher whose language in the classroom occasionally betrayed his experience in the navy.

We were eventually to learn that Fr. Moody was an acknowledged expert on nineteenth-century French history, was a participant in the National Council of Christians and Jews, a vigorous defender of the rights of labor, and a champion of efforts on behalf of Negroes (as the word was then). He edited a 914-page volume, Church and Society. Catholic Social and Political Thought and Movements, 1789-1950 (New York: Arts,. Inc. 1953), many of whose chapters, including especially his on France, are still worth reading. He served as pastor in two parishes in the suburbs of New York City. He also taught at the College of New Rochelle and at The Catholic University of America. (Upon his death in 1993, a lovely appreciation of him appeared in the American Historical Review.)

During World War II, Fr. Moody served as a navy chaplain, and would receive citations for his service on the USS Massachusetts and the USS Yorktown. While at sea, he arranged for $50.00 to be sent to Commonweal every month so that its editors could send books from current reading lists. He sent a letter of thanks to the Editors which included this encomium:

The Commonweal is more valuable to me than ever before, for it keeps me informed, better than any other vehicle, in those areas that are of deepest significance. Each week, after reading my copy, I place it in the officers’ wardroom, and I have found that it is the only bridge we possess to reach the secularized American mind. Recently when our officers drew up a list of magazines they wished to obtain, they included The Commonweal, a striking testimony of its power to reach a segment of our reading public that would otherwise be untouched by things Catholic.

In March 1944, Commonweal published an article by Fr. Moody: Moody as naval chaplain , “Routine: Days in the Life of a Navy Chaplain,” which recounts with his typical combination of down-to-earth realism and hearty optimism the challenges and joys of his work with the men at sea. The whole piece is worth reading, but I draw attention to the last two paragraphs, which can usefully go into any account or appreciation of pre-conciliar Catholicism:

A census showed that the great proportion of Catholics aboard were more active in the practice of religion than they had been at home. The explanation is obvious: the intimacy with which the priest lives with them and his opportunity to influence their personal lives; the activity of lay apostles; the increased occasion for reflection that came in lives freed from all distraction. In practically all cases where a radical change for the better occurred, it was necessary to buttress it with a full course of instructions, for lack of religious training is the prime defect in our adult Catholic. Rarely was fear an important element, as modern naval war-fare is too impersonal to inspire terror, and men’s mental habits are too firmly grooved to be deeply affected thereby. The conviction was always present that although the spiritual results were gratifying, they could have been achieved by intensive missionary activity on Main Street, almost as well as aboard a man-o’-war.

The chaplain’s greatest help in bringing his men to God is the liturgy. The use of Father Stedman’s missal is universal among them, and the regularity of their attendance is increased by their growing appreciation of the beauty of the Sacrifice. They frequently aver that they had no concept of its meaning until they had learned to follow it intelligently. The numbers at daily Mass tripled once the “Missa Recitata” [jak: the “Dialogue Mass”] was introduced, and the response on Sunday was almost as noteworthy. There is little doubt that they were being prepared for a real interest in liturgical participation, which gives one hope that some abiding spiritual result may have been obtained from their experience aboard ship. At least in their religious life, the influence of routine was diminished. Coupled with the aid furnished by the Confraternity Home Study Courses and pamphlets, it was felt that a firm basis was afforded for their further religious development.

Here is the AHA tribute:

Monsignor Joseph N. Moody, professor emeritus of history at the Catholic University of America and a founding member of the Society for French Historical Studies, died in Statesboro, Georgia, on March 2, 1994. He was 89 years old.

A New York City native, he received his A.B. from St. Joseph’s Seminary in 1925 and his Ph.D. from Fordham University in 1934. His graduate major was classical history and literature, but he later switched to modern European history, doing postdoctoral work at Columbia University under Carlton J. Hayes.

Father Moody was ordained a Roman Catholic priest in 1929 and soon became renowned as one of the best preachers in the archdiocese. Additional responsibilities included teaching at Cathedral College and the College of New Rochelle, where he founded a labor school and acted as its first dean.

During this time, he started speaking out against the “vicious new” anti-Semitism. With strong backing from Cardinal Hayes of New York, he wrote an important pamphlet debunking anti-Semitic canards. He also gave a nationally broadcast speech attacking anti-Semitism at Madison Square Garden before Mayor Fiorello La Guardia and a large audience. For his efforts, B’nai B’rith honored him with its 1938 Human Rights Award. When war finally came, Father Moody, a naval reserve chaplain, was assigned to the Pacific theater, where he served with distinction on both the USS Massachusetts and the USS Yorktown. Later, he received both a naval and a presidential citation.

After 1945, he taught successively at Notre Dame College, in Staten Island, N.Y., Ladycliff College, in Highland Falls, N.Y., and Catholic University, where he became a full professor in 1965. He retired in 1975, but he loved teaching so much that he continued offering courses at Catholic for an additional year. Then he moved on to teach at the College of New Rochelle, Boston College, St. John’s Seminary, in Brighton, Mass., and, finally, Georgia Southern University. Countless students over the years remember him as a vibrant teacher who won their enduring affection and inspired them to a love for both history and rigorous scholarship.

Father Moody published a variety of books and pamphlets, including Church and State: Catholic Social and Political Movements, 1789–1950 (1953); The Church as Enemy: Anticlericalism in Nineteenth-Century French Literature (1968); and French Education since Napoleon (1978). He also contributed seminal articles to major historical journals and a steady stream of book reviews. A member of several professional associations, he was especially active in the Association of New York State European Historians, serving as president in 1960 and 1977; the Society for French Historical Studies, serving as vice president twice and president once (1969); and the American Catholic Historical Association, serving as president in 1978. Editorial commitments included acting as consulting editor for Church History, modern European history editor for The New Catholic Encyclopedia, and from 1965 until his death, associate editor of the Catholic Historical Review.

Father Moody continued to participate in history conferences even after his health began to decline. At the bicentennial conference on the French Revolution, in Washington, D.C., in 1989—his last conference—the Society for French Historical Studies awarded him a distinguished service medal.

Father Moody had a great many friends in the profession, all of whom fondly recall his enduring human qualities. A full list of these qualities could be given here, but perhaps the most important were his unfailing cheerfulness and his genuine concern for the careers of young historians. Father Moody will be greatly missed.
James Friguglietti
Montana State University at Billings
Sandra Horvath-Peterson
Georgetown University

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