Thursday, May 31, 2007

The Feast of the Visitation

Harking back to my old stomping grounds, today is the Patronal Feast of my first parish as a priest: Our Lady of the Visitation in Mack (Westside, Cincinati!)

To my former flock, have a wonderful feast day.

Mary has always had a very special place in my heart. I was raised at Immaculate Conception Church in Botkins, Ohio; heard the initial inklings of a call to the priesthood at Our Lady's Farm in Falmouth, Kentucky; and studied at Mount St. Mary's Seminary of the West in Cincinnati before taking the assignment at Visi as a wet behind the ears baby priest.

Every chance I get, I offer her my gratitude and thanks for guiding me to this point in my life, and I regularly seek her guidance in my work as Vocation Director. She is the mother of every priest, our witness and guide.

Pray for us, O Holy Mother of God!
That we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Safety in an Alley

So, I was hankerin' for a good cup o' Joe this morning, and there's a nice little coffee shop two blocks north of the office building. Hmmm.... Good coffee vs. the sludge that's in the break room? Not even a question, eh?

So, there I am walking between 8th and Court, and catch a group of 4 men: two of Cinci's finest and two other detectives (no one else wears a buttoned jacket on 90 degree days). I've never felt so safe walking through an alley in downtown.

(It sounds like a joke, doesn't it? 4 cops and a priest walk down an alley.....)

To our Boys in Blue, keep up the great work. I've gotten to know a few cops here in the Queen City, and they are all great men. Especially today, they don't always get the respect they deserve, but please know you are in my prayers.

More craziness, this time from Canada

The women priests movement moves further away from authentic communion, not that they seem to really be concerned by that anyway. They "ordained" five women and a married man in Canada this time (Toronto, to be exact).

I think it is a good time to dust off the article written the last time they pulled this stunt, here at the Vocation Office page.

Beretta tip to Adoro te Devote

Centering Prayer vs. Contemplative Prayer

Adoro te Devote has an excellent post up on the difference between Centering Prayer and Contemplative Prayer.

It was Fr. Keating who first developed and introduced Centering Prayer. His
intentions were good; he was looking for similarities in the practices of
Hindu/Buddhism to Christian prayer as a way of assisting converts to the
Christian faith. (1.) Unfortunately, through his dabbling in the Eastern
Meditative arts, he was drawn in and deceived, and introduced an insipient
poison into the Church; a poison people are all too ready to consume and

Monday, May 28, 2007

A nice note to priests

Jen, of 'Et, Tu' fame, has a very nice tribute piece to priests up on her blog.

Priests tend to get the complaints pretty often, please be sure to tell your pastor that he is doing a great job. (Provided, of course, that he actually is doing a good job!)

Happy Memorial Day!

The longer that I am in the priesthood, the more I appreciate the big civil holidays. Why? no extra work for us priests! (Christmas and Easter tend to be crazy days for us, so that by the time we get to family get togethers, wiped out.) Oh, well, I digress.

To those who have served our country (or are currently serving) THANK YOU! We owe you all a great deal of gratitude for the sacrifices that you made to keep this country free and strong. You gave of yourselves so that I could spend the day fishing with my parents.

Especially these days, it seems that it is no longer vogue to support our troops. Please know that I pray for our troops often, and while I certainly wish that there would be no need to serve in such distant parts of the world, I greatly respect the sacrifices that are made.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

A Day of Transiton, Pentecost Homily

UPDATE: I realized as I was going under Cross County Highway on my way to Mass yesterday morning that this text for my homily was still on my coffee table, so I had to wing it. Sadly, I think the ending got left on the cutting room floor. :(

A rough outline of what they will be hearing at St. Max's tomorrow:

This is a day of transition, as we always seem to be moving forward in the Church. Advent leads to Christmas, Christmas leads to the Baptism of the Lord, the Baptism into Jesus’ public ministry, which ultimately leads to His Passion, Death and Resurrection at Easter, Easter leads to the Ascension and the Ascension leads to Pentecost.
And so, Pentecost leads to…. What? In a surprising turn, Pentecost leads to what we have been hearing over the last 50 days from the Acts of the Apostles: the Christian community living out their faith in Christ, evangelizing by their mere presence in the world and showing others the mystery of Christ’s saving death.
So Pentecost is a transition not just to another event or date on the Calendar, but it is a transition to life, a life lived in Christ.
This is the day where we celebrate the true birthday of the Church, the outpouring of the Spirit that finally turned that small band of twelve or so followers of Christ into a world changing group, on fire, bold, dynamic in preaching and living. What they were once afraid of (acknowledging that they even knew Jesus), they now boldly proclaim from the rooftops and in Temples, and synagogues all across the known land at the time.
And because of their faithfulness, because of their unity in the Spirit, they are able to do glorious things. Peter and John heal a paralytic at the Beautiful Gate of the Temple, Philip converts the Ethiopian Eunuch, whom he hears reading the Prophet Isaiah, and Paul wins countless converts as he becomes the Apostle to the Gentiles.
The temptation, I think, is to look back on the days of the early church with a sort of nostalgia, to wish that the events that happened back then might happen again today. It is tempting to ask why the Spirit is no longer as active as He was then. What changed? If only I would have seen the events or heard the preaching of Paul, well then I would believe.
The great thing is, the Spirit is still alive today, He is still present and active. In fact, the events that are talked about in the Acts of the Apostles, that we have been hearing for the last fifty days are still happening. Today! In our midst. We just have to find them, to recognize how God is active and present and moving the events of the world around us.
For example, the miracles that happen at Lourdes or Fatima, Medjugoria even. Events that people alive today have seen and experienced. There is the witness of Padre Pio, who bore the stigmata of Christ with a grace and dignity, even in the midst of the pain. More present than ever is the looming figure of Pope John Paul, already christened ‘The Great’ by legions of adoring fans. Miracles were worked at his hands, and will continue to be worked through his intercession.
The miracle of the first Pentecost is that the faith continues to grow. In fact, there has never been a century when the Catholic Church has gone down in membership worldwide. She continues to grow, she continues to live out the promise made by Christ, that the Holy Spirit is our Advocate, our Guide. He is the one in charge of the Church, the Holy Father, the bishops, the priests are just stewards, entrusted to care for a flock that is not our own.
So we move back to transition, we move back to looking ahead to what comes next. Some are frightened, because there have been dark days in the past few years, that’s true. But there has always been dark days in the history of the Church. What we celebrate, what we transition into through Pentecost is that the Spirit is with us always. Our lives are holy because of His presence. He challenges us here today with the same commission that Jesus gave to His Disciples: “As the Father has sent me, so I send you!”
Let us rejoice in this commission, let us take up anew the call to serve, the call to be radically faithful to the Gospel, the call to forsake all else so that we may have a treasure built up in heaven instead of here on Earth.
If there is any secret to how the Early Church was able to do so much, to change the world that she found herself in, that is it. The early church was faithful, radically faithful. We hear it over and over in Paul’s writings and speeches: Woe to me if I do not preach the Gospel, woe to me if I do not preach the Gospel.
For the church to flourish once again, that has to be our motto, all of us, one and the same take up the same message: woe to me if I do not preach and live the Gospel.
If we do this together, as one, as a body, the world will be renewed and transformed, as it once was by the Early Church, as it will again be by the Church of today.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Radio Ga Ga

This weekend's Homilist for the Gospel Today on Sacred Heart Radio here in Cincinnati is yours truly. It airs at 7:30 and 11:30 Saturday and Sunday.

I enjoy working with Sacred Heart, as it is an important mission here in the city. However, it is weird preaching to an empty chair in a sound studio as opposed to a full church. I'll be at St. Max's for the early Mass this Sunday, c-ya there!

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Random Thoughts

It is time to do a general download of files before the harddrive in my brain crashes again.

Some of you may have noticed a few additions of links under the archives to the right. I will try to include things over there that are my current interests and upcoming events that I have as well.

To explain what they are:
- Theology on Tap should be self explanatory, we meet in a bar to discuss theology, why else would one go to a bar? I'm on the core team for ToT Cincinnati with a great group of folks. Our season finishes up this evening at Ticket's in Covington with Constance Coxon. (Don't ask why ToT Cincinnati meets in Covington, we just do.)

- Pentecost Celebration is something new for Young Adults, and is happening out and around St. Gertrude's Parish in Maderia. Check the link for more info, sounds like a fun day, at least if you are into Churchy-type fun.

- Cincinnati 2000 is our local spinoff of the ever popular Youth 2000. (Again, I don't make the names so no griping about "Why '2000' when it is 2007?") It looks like Moeller again next year, and because the date of Easter is so early, we're looking at two weeks after the Great Feast of the Resurrection.

- BATracer is something new that I just got involved with. It is a browser based racing simulation game, where you manage a team (sort of like a race engineer) during a season. You set the car up for practice, qualifying, and races, and the computer actually does the laps for you and gives feedback. It is pretty fun, and doesn't take a whole lot of time per day, just 15 minutes or so per series. Currently, I have a LeMans Series Porsche 911 GT3 RSR in Flying Lizard Colors, which I have podiumed two races in a row (can a win be far behind?) and a Ford Falcon in an Austrailian V8 Supercars Series, which is getting off to a slow start, but I just finished ninth (out of 31) in two successive races to claw up from 30th in points to 26th.

- The American LeMans Series is currently the best racing on the planet, ok, well the LeMans Endurance Series in Europe is a little more exciting right now, but the ALMS is best in the States. Four classes of cars on the track at the same time, what could be more exciting? I hope to get to the round at Mid-Ohio this year, but this working weekends thing really puts a damped in those plans!

- Sherman's Lagoon is quite simply the best comic strip going right now, even better than Zits. (Check out the bottom of this page for an example.) What could be better than a dim-witted Great White Shark voraciously hunting the Great Hairless Beach Ape?

Monday, May 21, 2007

A study in contrasts

Always a great weekend, when we celebrate Ordinations and three new priests unleashed on the Archdiocese. As always, the Rite of Ordination is an uplifting and joyous event for all who attend. (It should be on every Catholic's 100 things to do before I die list.)

I was honored that I was the first to Impose Hands after Archbishop, and to welcome the new priests to our order. All three really seemed to enjoy the day imensely. (Remembering back three years from tomorrow, I think my feet barely touched the ground all weekend!)

Sunday morning was Fr. McCarthy's Mass of Thanksgiving at the 8:30 at the Cathedral, and smells and bells was the order for the day. Everything was very traditional, as was expected from this new Father, even down to his vestments. He managed to make it through his first solo run (well, with a little back-up) without sending anyone to the hospital. (One definition of a good liturgy, and something not every priest can claim about his first Mass.)

The afternoon brought a short jaunt over to St. Joseph's for a much different celebration in Fr. Rey Taylor's Mass of Thanksgiving. The Spirit was making His presence felt a week early, as there were many 'Amen's thrown out from the congregation. The whole event was a good testimony to the African American Catholic Community, and one that was long overdue. My hope is that it is not another 33 years before St. Joe's welcomes a native son home to celebrate the Eucharist for the first time as a priest. (That's much too long in any parish, not just St. Joe's!)

(One last 'First Mass' to go for me, with Fr. Ron Haft next weekend at St. Antoninus, his internship parish.)

All in all, a lovely weekend, but the grind hit this morning as I finished up the paperwork and sent the files for these three out of my office. It was a good feeling to pass them along to Priest Personal and Priestly Formation offices. Congrats to St. Max, St. Charles Borromeo and St. Peter in welcoming them to their first assignments. It is a unique and special thing to help a 'Baby Priest' to transition from Seminarian to Pastor, be kind to them; but challenge them to grow into the priest that Jesus needs them to be.

From the Catwalk to Christ!

Constance Coxon is speaking at this week's Theology on Tap, Cincinnati. A former Vogue Model, she has left behind the life of glamour for a speaking tour about fatih and happiness. I'm really looking forward to hearing her speak, as her story sounds quite compelling.

Check out for more information.

Friday, May 11, 2007

What Vocation crisis???

Tomorrow, while most teens will be preparing for proms, dances and perhaps a graduation or two, there are 39 young men registered for the High School Discernment Day at Mount St. Mary's Seminary here in Cincinnati. We've been doing this day for the last few years, and before I was the Vocation Director, I would help out with confessions and other aspects. What's new this year, though, is the shear number. 39 is at least double, and closer to triple the usual number that we have had at this gathering. The only reason we've had such a rise in numbers this year over previous years is that the seminarians have been very generous with their time in sharing their vocation stories to so many high schoolers. Please pray for the young men gathering tomorrow, as well as all those called to serve as priests and religious.


We ended up with 38 guys at the Big House on Beechmont yesterday for the Discernment Day. There was a large contingent from LaSalle High School, mainly because one teacher gave a pretty good chunk of extra credit for guys to attend. (She even came out during lunch to take attendance!)

When we first heard that this was happening, we were concerned about how some of the guys would behave, would they take it seriously or ruin it for the guys that were trying to take it seriously? We were all very pleased to note that they were all well behaved, and really seemed to enter the program of the day. In fact, at the end of an Adoration period, they had a chance for Testimony. A few of the football types from LaSalle even got up. After admitting that they only came because they wanted the extra credit and needed to pass the class, they confessed that they really did learn a great deal about the priesthood, what it takes, and why it is such a good thing. One guy even admitted that he had never really thought about it before, but now he saw it as a distinct possibility.

While it is very tempting for me to take all the credit for the day, I deserve none. The whole motivation for this day is by the seminarians themselves. They organize the schedule, they do most of the publicity, design of the flyers and such. They handle the talks during the day itself. The fact that we had 40 high schoolers there is a testiment to the quality and integrity of the men we have studying there. They sell the program, not me. I am very proud of them all. Way to go, guys, the Church has a promising future with you leading her flock.

Lessons from a Holy Hour

Theology on Tap here in Cincinnati continues full steam ahead. I wish that I had more of a chance to listen to last night's discussion on the interplay between faith and science, but I was hearing confessions (not telling my confession, Sarah!!)

Afterwards, we have a Holy Hour with Praise and Worship music at the Basilica of the Assumption. A lesson that I apparently had to relearn last night: don't touch a hot thurible! It leaves a pretty good blister on the right index finger! (Luckily, up by the nail instead of on the underside, so at least I can still type, whew!)

Wednesday, May 9, 2007


So, how far below 500 will the Reds finish this year?

I'm thinking 20 games down, but that might be too generous with the way they are playing right now.

The Old Stomping Grounds

It's that time of year again when the sports teams at the Catholic High Schools are finishing up their seasons with an end of the year Mass, and a rah-rah speech by the seniors to the underclassmen. I was invited to help with the Volleyball team at Elder today to do just that (ok, well, the senior speeches are after the final blessing, so not techically at Mass.) It is always interesting to me to listen to what they tell their disciples: 'take it serious and have fun at the same time' seems to be a dominant theme. However, they also talk about the need to play as a team, that each player improve his skills so that the whole team becomes better. That was certainly a point I brought up during the homily.

The volleyball team has had an important lesson in that this year, much beyond my meager preaching skills. The expected head coach was Sean Tierney, whose blog is on the right, he of the new heart (well, at least new to him.)

The depth of his spirituality and understanding of God working in the midst of pain and confusion are always refreshing to me. We could certainly use more men (and women) like him teaching in our Catholic schools.

To finish off the evening, all three teams: frosh, JV and varsity brought home victories against Fairfield, who really seemed overmatched. Good luck in the tourney, fellas! GO PANTHERS!

Saturday, May 5, 2007

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One every Eight

The editorial for the Fall River Diocese laments that this year, there will be no ordination issue. No issue of hope oriented towards the future. For the first time in their fifty some year history, there is no ordination to celebrate. It is a sad state, but something which (I think) has not happened here in the Archdiocese of Cincinnati.

To combat the decline, the editor suggests a new campaign: One every Eight. He suggests that at least once every eight years, son of each parish should enter the seminary for diocescan priesthood. He notes that with normal attrition rates, that would mean each parish would celebrate the ordination of one of her sons as a priest for the local church on average of every twelve years.

Wouldn't that be GREAT! What a sign to the world that the faith is something meaningful, purposeful and life giving.

Working the numbers in Cincinnati, we have roughly 200 parishes (it makes my Liberal Arts math much easier to do with a round number!) If a man from each parish enters once every eight years, that would mean 25 new applicants each year for the seminary. (We are looking about between 6 and ten right now for next fall.) With normal attrition rates, that would put us at somewhere around 150 seminarians for the Archdiocese each year. (We currently have 32.)

Is this doable? I certainly think so.

The parish where I was assigned before starting as Vocation Director has a school of around 800 children, again with easy math = 400 boys. Is it that hard to think that one or two of those boys currently enrolled there has a vocation to the priesthood? I think it is more than likely that at least 20 boys have potential vocations!

I think this is easily doable. In the last 12 years, my home parish of roughly 500 families has had two enter seminary, one ordained, and another preparing for entrance in another year. (Before my ordination in 2004, the last son ordained from the parish was in 1994, so that is right at the average we need.)

What is the secret? There is no secret. We had a pastor when I was growing up who was (and is) a great and holy man. He was not the greatest of homilists, but we all knew that he was present to the parish as a father to us all. I count it an honor that people compare me to him. In his wake, there has been a pretty good stream of priests coming through the parish who represent Christ to the parish.

It can be done, there is no vocation crisis, it is a crisis in response. Challenge the young men of your parish to respond, because they want and need the challenge.

(Thanks to John for sending me the ariticle, which I couldn't find online.)

CARA 2007 Ordination Survey Report

Over the last few years, the Bishop's Office has commissioned a survey of the guys to be ordained in the coming year. This year's report was just released.

Most surprisingly to me, the average age of ordinands went DOWN! In a reversal of trends, the average age was 35, the same as the first year of the study in 1998, and a drop of almost 2 years in average age from last year!

In a consistant trend, however, the percentage of foreign born priests continues to rise, this year nearly one out of three hailing from outside the US, with Poland a large contributor.

Clergy and Job Satisfaction

In what I think is a self-evident revelation, a new study finds that of some 200+ career fields in the US today, the group with the highest job satisfaction: clergy. The study also looked at self reported happiness levels. Guess who was on top? Yep: clergy!

Of the many priests and even the few ministers that I know, we all find great reward in what we do. As a priest quoted in the story says: "My work allows me to help other people and to see them grow spiritually and personnally." What could be greater? It shows that Jesus really did know what he was talking about in that whole it is better to give than recieve thing.

So, when you hear a parent of someone thinking about priesthood or religious life and say that "I want my child to be happy." Look back at them and say that there is a better chance of it as a priest than anywhere else!

(I forgot to add a thanks to Rich for sending me the link.)

Friday, May 4, 2007

Two congrats!

First off, business:

The Vocation Office of the Archdiocese of Cincinnati is glad to annouce that Wayne Topp is now on board as the Assistant Vocation Director. Wayne was in the sem for a year before discerning out and getting married. He brings a great deal of enthusiasm and energy (too much, he's making me work, now!) He will really pick up the energy we had going with Rob in the office and help us to go in great new directions.

Second, personal:

My twin brother, Kurt, recently took a promotion at his place of employment! He is now the Production Superintendant, Sugar Department at ADM - Clinton. Way to go, Kurt! (of course, I think of Kurt as a Supe in a sugar department, and images of Homer Simpson come to mind, D'OH!)

Get out the dust rags!

Hey, this place is a mess! There is a layer of dust on everything and I hardly recognize the place!

So, I finally made it back from world travels and local responsibilities and can sit down and reflect a bit on my travels.

Two weeks ago from today, I was in Columbus, Ohio, visiting the Josephinum and our four students in the College there. I am glad to report that all are doing well, and that all are looking forward to the summer, as we always did this time of year. (The Lilacs signal the start of break, aahhhh....)

After that, I headed to the parental unit's place for the weekend. My niece Brook made her First Communion on that Saturday. It is a special privilege for a priest to give communion for the first time to his nieces and nephews. Brook was positively beaming during the whole ceremony.

I managed to make it back here to Cincinnati for less than a day (after Mass at Wright State University for Fr. Ed Burns) before heading off to the Eternal City. I have to admit that visiting Rome is much better than living there! I was great to visit with Zack, who will be ordained to the priesthood this summer, and with Frs. Earl and Anthony, who are both working on Doctorates. It is good to know someone when visiting, as they get you in to the good restaurants without too much trouble.

A highlight of the week was definitely celebrating Mass in St. Peter's Basilica. Saturday morning, while the men here were preparing for Deacon Ordination, I had the honor of celebrating Mass there for the three men ordained later that day as transitional deacons and the 33 ordained as permanent deacons. Even though we weren't at the main altar, heck, even a major side altar for that matter, it is still impressive to think that the place where I am offering Mass has been a site of pilgrimage for nearly 2000 years! We were at the 'organ altar,' where the altar piece was of the healing of the paralytic by Peter and John at the Beautiful Gate of the Temple. Impressive!

After nearly a week in Rome, I made it home earlier than expected as I caught the early flight from Philly to Cinci. (A much better option than spending SIX HOURS in the airport!)

I spent a day at the office before taking off again, this time to Detroit. We had a regional DoV meeting between Ohio and the Evil Empire, oops I mean Michigan. We join (well, at least until this year, no more now) with Region VI of the National Religious Vocation Council. The problem that we found is that our interests and needs just don't jive up with theirs, so next year we are going to break it up. It is nice to visit with other DoVs, as there are certain problems and issues that we can really only ask each other about.

On the way home, I stopped over in Indy for a stewardship event with our stewardship director. It was a nice meting, but I got home way toooooo late. I was a zombie in the office all day yesterday.

Then, last night it was great to hear Adam McMahon speak on whether or not the Early Church was Catholic. (According to him, it was. Good, Adam, you can stay in the seminary :wink: )

Today, even with the day off, was still in the office. After two weeks, the stack of mail and phone calls is pretty tall, and I need to get back to a few people yet.

So, here we are, a Friday night, I am exhausted. Can I go to bed at 8:00?