Saturday, December 30, 2006

Priest Reinstated

Fr. Jim Kiffmeyer was reinstated to the priesthood yesterday after publication of a decree from the Vatican.

While I have only met Fr. Kiffmeyer occasionally, I know his legacy from when he was teaching at Elder, as I followed him there, with Fr. Anthony Brausch actually in between. Many of the students who had him in class respected him and spoke highly of him, so my hope is that he can pick up where he left off in his ministry as a priest. As much as I know that he enjoyed teaching High School, which I did as well, I do not think it would be appropriate to re-assign him to a High School, especially considering the directive from the Vatican.

One thing that tends to get lost in all of the talk around the issue of clerical sex abuse is forgiveness. There are some who would like to see any priest who committed such a crime hung right next to Saddam. I do not think that holding on to such anger is good, spiritually or psychologically. Now, I am not saying that a priest who has a credible allegation of child abuse should be allowed to do anything he wants as a priest, and with the current environment, they have to be removed from the priesthood. One thing that needs to be included is a dimension of forgiveness for these men. We are all on our journey to salvation, these men have made a horrible mistake, yes. But we all make mistakes, let's not forget that.

Friday, December 29, 2006

Getting the hands dirty

I've spent the last few Fridays working on the Mazda, as it needed new brakes and a foglamp went out earlier this week. After spending the week in the office, it is fun to get the hands all greasy once in while. It is a good to every once in a while to see a project through to completion and feel like you've accomplished something worthwhile.

Also, I am reminded of John Paul's dignity of work, where he learned a great deal about the dignity of the human person by working in the quarry during the Great War (admitedly, a bit more daunting of a task than changing rear brakes on a hatchback!) I am always amazed at the creativity of fabricators, such as Monster Garage and American Chopper. The ability to make something out of a blank sheet of steel is great.

Yesterday was funny, though, as I was in full blacks as I was coming back from a funeral, and stopped at Advance Auto Parts to get a new lightbulb for the car, I admitted that it was a pain to change, the guy behind me offered to help. I certainly appreciated it.

And the good news: Bowl Week! I'm looking forward to the Bucks choking the Gators!

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Another Positive Example

Archbishop Raymond Burke continues to lead by example in St. Louis, once again proving that Vocations to the priesthood and religious life are out there, if they are supported in positive ways.

I liked several things about this article, 1) it was a student led initiative, having taught in a High School for two years, that is the best way to get things done; and 2) the students recognized that to join the club did not necessarily mean that he would go to the seminary or she would go to the convent, but that they were wrestling with the idea.

We had a student that started this past fall and left the seminary after only a few weeks. When I met with him a short time later, he said that he felt like a failure. I tried to reassure him that this was not the case. I am convinced that it is better to explore the option and discern that priesthood isn't for you at this time, but that it hopefully led you to a stronger faith and a deeper commitment to the Lord, which is what every Christian believer needs to do.

I also told him that there was a guy that was in the college seminary for a week several years ago who just wasn't ready for it at the time, but he finished his undergraduate program elsewhere, worked for a few years, and returned to the Major Seminary and is now flourishing in a parish. God works in His own way, you never know where He is going to lead you.

Real Men

In the video, Fishers of Men, the comment is made that it takes a real man to be a priest, which is the absolute truth. Just didn't know it work out this way!

Frodo the Priest?

I'm a huge fan of The Lord of the Rings, by JRR Tolkien. I think it is one of the best pieces of Catholic Fiction written in the last 100 years, but that is a decidedly narrow opinion.

As I moved through the Seminary and got closer to Ordination, I always found something sympathetic in the character of Frodo, he who was chosen for this task that is much beyond him, he does not know why he was chosen to do it, but he humbly accepts and gives it his all, and the world was changed.

As I couldn't fall asleep last night, I picked up The Fellowship of the Ring again to just page through it. I hadn't really read it since the movies came out, and the amount of detail that Tolkien included that just had to be dumped from the movie is a surprise. There is so much that adds to the richness of the story.

In the second chapter, "The Shadow of the Past," the following few lines really struck me:

'I do really wish to destroy it!' cried Frodo. 'Or, well, to have it destroyed. I am not made for perilous quests. I wish I had never seen the Ring! Why did it come to me? Why was I chosen?'

'Such questions cannot be answered,' said Gandalf. 'You may be sure that it was not for any merit that others do not possess: not for power or wisdom, at any rate. But you have been chosen, and you must therefore use such strength and wits as you have.'

How many of us that have responded to a unique call to the priesthood have wrestled with the same question that Frodo wrestled with? Yet his journey is much the same as ours, we are not alone. Yes, there are certain things that we must do ourselves, but I know I have always found the support of friends and family along that way, just as Frodo has the support of friends on his long journey. (Both friends he knew from his youth and companions he met along the way.)

Anyway, I love the books, if you haven't read them, please do so. It is only a thousand or so pages, which isn't long when compared with an Encyclopedia!

Have a wonderful Christmas and a Blessed New Year!

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Homework Assignments

A good friend of mine yells at me if I don't give 'action items' at the end of my homily. (Hi, Jackie!) As I have posted the two main parts of the homily that I usually give to promote vocations, I feel I should add the last section as well.

Surveys in this country and in Europe state that 36% of young people have thought about the priesthood or religious life at some point in their life. 36% That's one of three! (If there are three servers, I usually ask which one gets the application after Mass. They usually look back and forth at each other and point at anyone put themselves.) Vocations are present and God is calling people, we, as a Church community, need to help that call by encouraging and lifting people up in prayer, BY NAME!, to respond to the invitation that God is giving. If you see in a young person the qualities and characteristics that would make a good priest or religious, TELL THEM! Chances are, they are already thinking about it in the back of their mind and this will help to confirm that thought process. This is how I ended up in the seminary. A dear lady from the parish kept telling me every time I saw her that I would be a priest. "No, Cindy, I'm going to Medical School." "No you're not, you are going to be a priest." Low and behold, two years later I was in the seminary. (Never underestimate God's Blue Army!)

The second homework assignment is to pray specifically for more vocations to the priesthood. A fellow priest puts it simply: add the following five words after Grace at meals: "Please send us holy priests." (If you want to add "and religious," do so!) Jesus promises us that he will give us what we ask for sincerely in prayer. He also tells us to ask for the Master of the Harvest to send more laborers into the field. Vocations are there, and they are abundant. Those being called need the courage and strength to respond to God's invitation, with the prayers of the faithful, they can have that strength.

We have 34 men studying for the Archdiocese of Cincinnati right now. I want to double that number, at least. (Hey, it is good to set goals.) With the prayers of the faithful, we can achieve that, and much more.

(Ok, so now I have to develop a new homily for vocations.)

edit for speeling...

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Real Men wear Rose!

Just to prove that I didn't just spend the weekend in Iowa roaming around a cornfield, (after all, what else is there to do in Iowa???) I wanted to post some pics of my wonderful niece. Unfortunately, she was under the weather, but everyone says that there is a slight resemblence between us. I don't know where it comes from.
(By the way, I'm the one on the right!)


A big congrats! goes out to seminarian David Endres for his successful completion and defense of his Doctoral Dissertation at the Catholic University of America: Under the Cross and the Flag: The Catholic Students' Mission Crusade and the American Quest to Christianize the World.

He earned marks "with distinction" for his work as well.

Dr. Endres is in his second year of theology at Mt. St. Mary's Seminiary in Cincinnati, and attended a youth mission trip with me over the summer to Harlan County, Kentucky. He is an excellent young man and is to be congratulated for his efforts.

Way to go, Dave!

Thursday, December 14, 2006


Since I mentioned that the other topic addressed was obedience, I best say something about it.

The second promise that a priest makes upon his ordination is that of obedience to his bishop, and his successors. Interestingly, while we make the promise of celibacy, for the sake of the Kingdom, standing; we make this promise while kneeling before the bishop, with our hands held between his. When he asks: "Do you promise respect and obedience to me and my successors?" The answer is not: "Ummm, maybe?" "I DO!" is the response, with the bishops conclusion: "May the Lord. who has begun the good work in you, bring it to fulfillment."

So, why have this promise of obedience? What fruit does in bear in the life of the priest? To me, it is a gift of humility, knowing that what we stand for and who we are is actually much bigger than just me, one lowly priest for the Archdiocese of Cincinnati. It is a reminder that when I wear the blacks, I am representing 2,000 years of history and tradition, and that I am as much a servant to this as any member of the Church; I am not the owner of the Liturgy, the Church is. I am not free to change the readings at will, to make up my own Eucharistic Prayer. As a good griend says, "It's simple, do the red and say the black." With the discipline of obedience and the virtue of humility, the priest is able to minister to God's people, whom He has placed under the priest's care. If the priest is preaching his own interpretation, his own version of the Gospel, he is short changing the people he is supposed to be leading, and he is short changing the Gospel he has been charged to preach when he was ordained a deacon.

A story that happened in my life may help illustrate the point. Living at the Cathedral, my office is a few blocks away in Downtown Cincinnati. I like to walk when possible, as there is a nice little park on Eighth Street that is pleasant to stroll through. Wearing clerics, I tend to get hit up for cash fairly regularly by the homeless, which isn't really a problem as I give them a card for Catholic Charities or something like that. One day, I was unusually frustrated by something in the office, and a fellow stopped me as I was walking:

Him: "Hey, are you a priest?"
Me: "Yes, hence the black." (I told you I was frustrated, hence the snippiness.)
Him: "Can I ask you for a favor?"
Me: "Sorry, no cash."
Him: "I don't need any cash, can you send an email to my parents?"
Me: (abashed) Huh?
Him: "I'm in a bit of trouble, and I am going to jail for not paying child support. I haven't seen my parents in a long time, could you just send an email to them to say you met me, that I am doing ok and that I love them?"
Me: "Sure, I can do that."

With that, he wrote down their email address, we said a prayer, and I continued my way home.

I am always a little embarrassed when I tell that, as I was really a doofus in my interaction with him, but I am also very much humbled. Why did he stop me and invite me into a very personal section of his life? Because I'm a good listener? I don't think so. Simply because of what I was wearing and what it represented.

Obedience and a simplicity of life can allow the priest to be that other worldly sign, a sign of something different, something more. It is never for his own sake, but always for the sake of the Gospel. I think it more of us priests can embrace that, and I have to just as much as any other priest, we would have a new flourishing of the Church.

Christ is our savior, we don't need another. We need good, holy men who can be transparent enough to lead others to Him.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006


When I go out to parishes to preach on Vocations, I usually address two topics: Celibacy and Obedience. These are two main characteristics of the priesthood in the Latin Rite. Celibacy has been much in the news lately, mostly in the negative sense. I wanted to offer my reflections, not on a why of celibacy, but more on a fruit of the charism.

To me, celibacy is about freedom; a freedom to serve God's people in a radical way. It is about allowing the priest the flexibility and to respond to the promptings of the Spirit in this service. The concept and gift of a celibate preisthood is in complimentarity to the married life as well. I think it is important to keep in mind that in the Church's theology of marriage, especially as developed by John Paul the Great, Christ primarily comes to each member of the couple through his or her spouse. It is a one on one on one relationship, Christ in the midst drawing the two together so that they might be one.

As a celibate man, my relationship with Christ is different. In the parallel to marriage, instead of Christ in the midst of a one on one relationship, I see it that he comes to me through the community that I have been called to lead and serve. In the inverse, Christ should also then come to His people through the leadership and guidance of the priest. He acts in persona Christi, shepherding and leading God's people. That is why he is called 'pastor' and 'father.'

There is a spirituality about celibacy, and if it is not approached prayerfully and with an idea that it is a sacrifice, I think it can be fruitful. Jesus never promises that it will be easy, he does promise that He will be with those who call on Him and ask for His guidance.

May God Bless you during this Advent Season.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Alternative New Year's Eve?

If you're looking for something different to do on New Year's Eve in Cincinnati this year, the Cathedral is bringing in the New Year in the best way possible: prayer. After the 6:00 pm Mass on the 31st, we are hosting Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament until Benediction at Midnight, with another Mass starting immediately afterwards.

"What better way to end the Old Year and start the New Year than with the Lord?"

Is guilt such a bad thing?

Spero news has a commentary on 'Catholic Guilt,' which raises some interesting questions. What I can't help but ask is if we might all be better off with a healthy dose of guilt, recognizing that we make mistakes and we need to come to God for forgiveness and guidance.

Mind you, I do not mean or advocate scrupulosity, but a healthy awareness that we need God's presence in our lives, and that the moral code set by the Church actually leads to freedom, not oppression.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Sunday Mass at St. John Neumann

One of the things I enjoy about being Vocation Director is that I get to go around to various parishes in the Archdiocese to celebrate weekend Masses and preach on Vocations. It is a good opportunity to meet the faithful throughout the diocese and to get them to hopefully think a bit more about vocations to the priesthood and religious life.

It is also neat to see the way that the various parishes celebrate Mass in their own unique way. I spent this weekend at St. John Neumann on the northwest side of Hamilton County. The generosity of the parish really struck me. In their bulletin, they noted that they give 5% of each collection to charity, what a wonderful witness. This weekend was also the return of gifts for a sister parish or a school, I didn't hear exactly what it was. The amount of gifts brought in was staggering. Nearly every family brought in at least a few gifts, many bringing in a good stack of packages. That type of generosity can help to foster that gift of self that is required for someone to respond to the gift of a vocation.

Yikes! Only two weeks left until Christmas!

Friday, December 8, 2006

passing the time in the confessional...

I generally hear confessions most days, as it is scheduled 3x a day each weekday at the Cathedral. Usually, there is a pretty steady line of penitents and there isn't much dead time. However, I bring something with me to read more often than not, b/c if you don't bring anything, no one shows up for the sacrament.

Most of the time, I bring something spiritual to read: Letters to my Brother Priests, by JPII; the recent edition of First Things, the breviary. However, the other day (I won't say which) my Autoweek came in just before I hit the box, and I had to take it with me. It was the Racing Year in Review, and I wanted to catch up on the series I follow (NOT NA$CAR!). I know, not the most spiritual of reading, but you gotta have down time as well.

December 8th: Immaculate Conception

One nice thing about working in the Downtown Office building is that you get the religious holidays off, which I haven't had the last two years while teaching at Elder. It gives me a nice chance to reflect on the nature of the day and to catch up on things around home.

As I celebrated the morning Mass today, I was struck by the parallel between the first reading from Genesis (Eve's disobediance) and the Gospel of Mary's 'fiat' to God that reversed Eve's blame game. God was able to intervene into human history because one young woman was able to say yes to an absolutely mind blowing invitation, and all of history changed because of it.

It would be so simple if we all followed Mary's model: say yes even when we can't fully understand. God has the best in mind for us, yet we are often so reluctant. Too many times, we follow Eve's example of passing blame to someone else: "I'm not responsible, that serpent tricked me!" I have often wondered what salvation history would have been like if Eve had owned up to the mistake and asked for forgiveness instead of passing blame to the Serpent. (Heck, back it up a step and ask the same thing about Adam.)

Oh well, what is important is that the feast we celebrate is the beginning of our Redemption by Christ. This is when Mary was prepared, from the beginning of her life here on Earth, to be a suitable dwelling place for her Creator. What a wonderful day and we rejoice to see it come!

By the way, the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception is also the Patronal Feast of Mount St. Mary's Seminary of the West, here in Cincinnati. Beginning last year, I believe, this is when the First Theology students are admitted to Candidacy for Orders. This is the Church's official recognition that these men have been accepted and are preparing for Holy Orders. Please keep them, and all seminiarians, in your prayers.
Eight men were admitted as Candidates for Holy Orders yesterday at the 11:00 AM ceremony at Mt. St. Mary's, five of the men are studying for the Archdiocese of Cincinnati, with one each from Toledo,Youngstown and Kalamazoo. In his homily, the Archbishop compared the feast and the ceremony as both relating to Salvation: on the part of the feast, this was the beginning of a new turn in Salvation history, Mary was the first redeemed by the action of her Son on the Cross. In regards to the ceremony; these men are to prepared themselves to be agents of salvation by their leadership in the church as priests, and specifically in their role of the celebration of the Sacraments, which aid the people on their way to salvation. It was a wonderous and joyous celebration, as it is always uplifting to see men take the next step towards ordination.
On a side note, Archbishop also mentioned that Candidacy is also about the future of the seminary, for if there are no candidates for priesthood, there is no seminary. My response: "I'm doing my best so that we have to add on to the place!"

Thursday, December 7, 2006

Holy Hour for Vocations

As we did last year, the Vocation Office of the Archdiocese of Cincinnati is once again sponsoring a Holy Hour for Vocations at the Cathedral of St. Peter in Chains Cathedral. They are to be held on the Fridays of Advent from 6 to 7 pm.

I firmly believe the way to reverse the shortage in priests (and in religious life) starts with prayer. This is an opportunity to gather as the Archdiocese to pray that more young men and women have the courage to respond to the invitation that God is sending them. Every time I go to Youth2000 retreats, I am amazed at the number of young people that say they are thinking about responding, the need the prayers and support of the faithful to realize that this is a tremendous and fulfilling way of life. If you can make it, please join us for this important ministry.

God Bless!

Monday, December 4, 2006

Clear, strong, deliberate, careful

Rich Leonardi cites a National Catholic Register article about the increase in vocations to the priesthood in English speaking seminaries. The article mentions Bishop Robert Carlson, who is the new bishop of Saginaw, Michigan, whom I had a chance to meet at the recent national convention for diocescan vocation directors in Minneapolis.

In reading the article, that men are attracted by living a life for the Gospel, and not some watered down, half-baked truth, that is why we spent so much time researching our new website for the Vocation Office and trying to make it content heavy. If you haven't yet done so, check it out:

Lessons and Carols

Yesterday, in our wonderful Cathedral, we had our annual celebration of Lessons and Carols. Mr Tony DiCello, music director both here and at the seminary, does a wonderful job of assembling traditional hymnody, carols, and motets that really lift the heart in preparation for Christ's coming at Christmas.

On a side note, I celebrated the 8:30 Mass yesterday morning here at the Cathedral. As it is the only Sunday Mass that I will celebrate during advent here, I had to wear the fancy set of purple vestments. I felt positively medieval wearing them, and would have felt right at home on the set of the next Harry Potter movie! I will try to post a pic of them soon. What is interesting is that you can tell they were designed before the Council because the back is much more ornate than the front, hmmm....

Saturday, December 2, 2006

What a Week!

I returned last evening from a week spent at the feet of Fr. Benedict Groeschel at Trinity Retreat House in Larchmont, New York (just north of NYC). It was a great time of growth, prayer, and community as I got to know some wonderful priests from around the country. Fr. Benedict's order is an inspiration to anyone in vocation work because they have grown so much over the twenty years since their foundation. (They now have over 100 members from their start of eight!) A synopsis of the retreat can be found in Father's book, The Virtue Driven Life. It is as his other works, filled with insight and wisdom, balanced by the touch of pessimism of a native of Jersey City. (His words, not mine!)

I am glad to be home, though, and I am looking forward to a wonderful Advent and approach of Our Lord at Christmas.