Tuesday, October 30, 2007

May you live in interesting times!

I love this line, which is apparently from an ancient Chinese curse. (I have neither the time nor the inclination to verify the veracity of this claim, readers?)

The thought goes that 'interesting times' will not be quiet times. There is going to be a great deal going on, and there will not be much rest available: everything is up for grabs.

I think, for example, of the American Civil War, the Reformation, the Barbarian Invasions, as periods in history that were 'interesting' to say the least.

Are we entering another?

What brings this up, you ask? It was stirred for me by today's First Reading from Mass, (Romans 8:18-25), which begins thus:

I consider that the sufferings of this present time are as nothingcompared with the glory to be revealed for us.For creation awaits with eager expectationthe revelation of the children of God;

In response, I offered the Mass for Persecuted Christians to go with this reading. I wonder if we are moving into a period of outright persecution for the Church. Some could already say that we are living in a time of implicit persecution, but will it get worse? Are we heading for a time of martyrdom, and not just white, not even green martyrdom (financial penalties), but down and dirty, outright red martyrdom where to profess faith in Christ is to meet him face to face?

The cynic in me wonders if this would be all bad. Afterall, the Church usually flourishes during periods of persecution and hatred. Sure, we may loose members as there was also Apostasy (denying the faith during periods of duress) during the Persecutions under Domition and Diocletian. But there were also wonderful heros during those times, as one need not search any further than the letters of St. Ignatius of Antioch.

Christ has raised up for us wonderful examples already in John Paul II and Blessed Teresa of Calcutta, and is currently raising up new witnesses.

So, the question continues to echo through time from Our Lord, himself: "Do you also want to leave?" Will any answer with Simon Peter: "Lord, to whom else shall we go? We have come to know and to believe that you have the words of Eternal Life!"

Monday, October 29, 2007

The importance of the Rosary

Catholic Exchange is a great wealth of articles and support for the faith. They are running an article on Bartolo Longo which is well worth the read.

Among the wayward students in Naples, one stood above the rest in the depths of his depravity. As a young man, Bartolo not only participated in the anti-Catholic demonstrations, he not only preached publically and vehemently against the faith, he not only sought psychic mediums with his friends — he went even further and became a Satanic priest. Later on, Bartolo would describe how, in the rites of his blasphemous "ordination", he promised his soul to a spirit-guide, a demon, which shook the walls and manifested itself with blasphemous shrieks.

Following the Anti-Hero

My homily, as heard this past week on Sacred Heart Radio's 'The Gospel Today.'

Every once in a while, especially in the Gospel of Luke as we have been hearing over the past year, Jesus presents us with a type of ‘anti-hero,’ someone who on the surface should not be held up as an example for us to follow, yet there is a depth to this person’s own self-awareness that we cannot help but be drawn into the experience. This happens again this week as it did in last Sunday’s Gospel with the Unjust Judge. Today, we see the contrast between the self-righteous Pharisee versus the humility of the tax collector. The former, the Pharisee, is the example that every believing Jew at the time of Jesus would want to follow after: they looked the part, they said the right things, they held the prominent places at the synagogues, in the Temple and at banquets.

Yet, Jesus tells us that his prayers are not answered, they fall upon the deaf ears of God.

In contrast, Jesus holds up the example of the tax collector: one who is shunned, one who is reputed to be a thief, a cheat, a cooperator with the evil Roman Government. I always get the sense that when the tax collectors are named in the Gospels, there is this underlying booing and hissing that comes from the crowd, the Imperial March from Star Wars plays in the back of my mind. These are not people to follow, these are not people to be respected; yet Jesus tells us that his prayers are heard by God. Hold on a sec, here, this sinner is the one who has God’s ear? Yep, and he gives us a model to use for our prayers.

You see, the tax collector was the one who recognized that he needed the Grace of God in order to go about his day, he was the one who recognized that he was a sinner, that he was imperfect, that he made mistakes. And coming to these realizations, he also realized he needed God’s presence in his life to overcome his shortcomings. And this is where the Pharisee, who should have recognized all of this, was actually blinded by his own pride and arrogance, and approached God not out of humility, but out of a sense of entitlement. And for this, his prayers went unheard.

Now, the challenge is to apply these lessons to our daily life, to examine our own motivations, our own prayers, and hopefully to recognize that we also need to approach the Father as did the tax collector, and not like the Pharisee. We have to recognize that without the Grace of Christ, without His presence in our lives, we fall short. We would be unable to live the life that Jesus has called us to. We have to recognize that we have done nothing to earn the love of Jesus other than just be, and he loves us deeply just because of that.

So, there needs to be a balance in our lives between the recognition that we are unworthy versus that gift of grace of God which gives us the dignity to be call a son or daughter of God.

But our starting point is to be that recognition of our own weakness, our sometime ineptitude, our own mistakes. We lay these at the foot of the Cross, for only in the strength of Christ are we able to overcome them and shine forth the grace of our own redemption.

One thing I have come to realize in my work as Vocation Director, in my work of walking along with the men who are in formation to the priesthood, is that while God does call us to perfection, He also recognizes that this is something that we will never be able to achieve, especially if we go it alone. His grace is what enables us to be able to live the life He calls us to.

And honestly, in can be frustrating. We want to be perfect, we want to be completely transparent, leading others to Christ in all that we say and do, yet we still sin, we still fall short, we still are in need of a deeper conversion.

And as we recognize this need, that is when Jesus is able to do the most in us. I am convinced that the best healer is a wounded healer, and this is where the Tax collector shines forth in a greater beauty. As he recognizes his short comings, he will eventually be able to lead others to Christ so that they may experience the same healing that he experienced.

Let us all learn from the example of the tax collector, and lay our weaknesses at the foot of the Cross, so that Christ, who heals all things may heal even our souls and lead us to a closer union with himself.

Anyone seen my desk?

After nearly a week out of the office (and the time here was slight at best, too), one question surfaces: Where is my desk??? At least, I think I still have a desk under the piles of mail that has accumulated over the last two weeks, as I was everywhere but Cincinnati it seems.

A little review of the weekend is in order, I believe.

Thursday, I made a brief visit to the Josephinum, again, to drop off a few things for our guys there, and made my way over to Franciscan U in Steubenville afterwards.

Franciscan hosts what I would love to see as a model in every Catholic institution of higher learning: a Vocation Awareness Fair. This isn't a 'job fair,' either. They invite close to 80 dioceses and religious communities of men and women in to present their charism to the students, perhaps sowing the initial seeds of a vocation. For the vocation directors, it is also a good chance to steal, umm... I mean, coordinate ideas in how others promote either the diocese of religious community.

For example, I had the distinct misfortune of being across the aisle from the Salesians, priests brothers and sisters. I say 'misfortune' because their particular charism comes from St. Don Bosco, their founder: "Run, jump, skip; just don't sin!" So how do they promote that: yo-yos! How can I compete with four of their young aspirants yo-yo'ing in front of their booth? Even worse, they were passing them out to everyone! (Shh, I have one, too!) Actually, they were great and a lot of fun as well. Find them here.

Well, after spending an extra night along the Upper Ohio, I made the trek to the other side of the state to celebrate my Grandfather's 90th! birthday party. It was a great time for most of the family to get together and celebrate his legacy. His health is surprisingly good for his age, as well. He and grandma still live together on the same farm where they raised their six children. (I think grandpa has lived in a total of two houses, which happen to be neighboring farms! Who says German farmers are conservative?) Each family was responsible for bringing either a pot of chili or vegatable soup, which we threw into two pots to cook over a camp fire. Great time had by all!

After the 8:00 AM Mass in my home parish, I finally returned to the Queen City of the Midwest to take in the Bungals' game. Disappointment is all that need be said about that.

Today, I am trying to relieve my desk from some of its burden, but not doing well so far! YIKES!

The Power of the Internet

in a good way.

Catholic Exchange was kind enough to run my last article from the Telegraph on their site. It spawned an interesting conversation in the posts below, specifically on the connection between the lack of vocations and the contraceptive culture.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

A life lived in faithfulness

Rocco has the story of a contributor to his site, a frequent email correspondant:

Not until the past week did I know any of this.

All I knew were the things that, to him, were clearly the most important, the things he radiated: his love of God, his people, this faith and the priesthood.

In fact, even with just a few words, now it can be told that his last note spoke to each of these. Over the summer, following a certain catastrophe in the Midwest, a photo had circulated of three young clerics looking on at the scene, each with hand-over-mouth, but nothing more.

Msgr Ed shared the shot with me, informing that it had already been given a caption: “No stoles. No oils. No beads. No clue."

“Aren’t priests supposed to DO something in a crisis?” he wrote.

“I don't think this would have happened in Philly!”

…and, clearly, it wouldn’t have in Dubuque, either.

Silence is Broken

A brief stopover during a busy week.

The visit to the Josephinum went well, our four men there are all doing well and studying hard. Please keep them in your prayers.

Theology on Tap's Fall Refresher was a hoot last night. We sampled a number of different beers from Europe and North America. A new beer type for me was a MILD beer, lower alcohol content, strong peaty and hoppy flavor. It's known as a 'session beer,' from the fact that everyone in the group would have to buy a round (up to 8 or 9 pints 'a session') so these are weaker content, but still full of flavor.

I'm off today for a round trip to Franciscan University in Steubenville before heading off to home on Saturday for my grandfather's 90th birthday party. (Now, if he would stop acting like a teenager!)

Sunday, I'm covering the morning Mass in my home parish, before running back to the Nati to see the Bengals thrash on the Steelers.

Have a great weekend, I'll post more when I get the chance.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

The Other Shoe Drops

One of the criticisms aimed at the Mass Market Media during the blowup over the priestly abuse scandal was the underreporting of similar instances of abuse among public school teachers. (I post this here to help illustrate that this is a much larger problem than just celibate priests.)

The Lima News runs a feature article from the AP this morning on the widescale impact that sexual misconduct has in our nation's public schools. (Link is to the AP article.)

An Associated Press investigation found more than 2,500 cases over five years in which educators were punished for actions from bizarre to sadistic.
There are 3 million public school teachers nationwide, most devoted to their work. Yet the number of abusive educators - nearly three for every school day - speaks to a much larger problem in a system that is stacked against victims.
Most of the abuse never gets reported. Those cases reported often end with no action. Cases investigated sometimes can't be proven, and many abusers have several victims.
And no one - not the schools, not the courts, not the state or federal governments - has found a surefire way to keep molesting teachers out of classrooms.


The findings draw obvious comparisons to sex abuse scandals in other institutions, among them the Roman Catholic Church. A review by America's Catholic bishops found that about 4,400 of 110,000 priests were accused of molesting minors from 1950 through 2002.
Clergy abuse is part of the national consciousness after a string of highly publicized cases. But until now, there's been little sense of the extent of educator abuse.
Beyond the horror of individual crimes, the larger shame is that the institutions that govern education have only sporadically addressed a problem that's been apparent for years.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Blogging in Botkins

It might be a little quiet around here the next few days. I'm back home at my parents today and Saturday for a short visit. My brother Kurt is in town from Iowa for his brother-in-law's wedding, and my goddaughter (and niece) turns two, so a birthday party is in the works as well.

Sunday is back to the Nati for a Mass before running to Columbus for Jesus Jams and a visit to the Josephinum to see our college seminarians. The whirlwind tour concludes with a stop in Centerville for the annual priest's convocation. Tuesday evening is an engaged couple back at the Cathedral. (My fee is that their first son has to go to the seminary.) I'm gonna be exhausted by that point, I have a feeling.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Ministry Evening Report

Last night, Mount St. Mary's Seminary and the Archdiocese of Cincinnati Vocation Office held our first Ministry Evening for the year. Sadly, only four attended, but there were a number of candidates for next year who were unable to make it last night due to other commitments. Please keep them all in your prayers.

Ministry Evening is equivalent to Andrew Dinners held in other dioceses. (In fact, we are contemplating a name change.) It is a chance for prospective seminarians to visit Mount St. Mary's to see what the place is like, to meet some of the men already in formation, and learn a little about the program. If you wanted to attend, or know someone who should attend, there is another Evening event on January 16, the Wednesday of National Vocation Awareness Week. Other opportunities include the Discernment Retreat on November 2 and 3, and the Welcome Weekend on March 28 and 29. High schoolers shouldn't feel left out either, as we host the Discernment Day for High School Men on May 10. I hope to see many more there.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Online Discernment?

With many communities experiencing fewer numbers of inquirers and entrants, more are turning to a stronger presence on the web to promote their own unique story. From the Louisviller Courier Journal, comes the story of Ron Schultz who has recently joined up with Gethsamani in Kentucky after searching through a website. You have to admit, the mixing of 21st Century technology and a medieval lifestyle are interesting to say the least.

The service he used? http://www.vocationsplacement.org/

They run a survey asking about interests and desires, and match those up with prospective communities that serve in those areas. So far, they have had over 19,000 respondants, oh and their budget is purely supported through benefactors, mainly dioceses and communities that use them for referral.

If you are thinking about religious life but are not sure where to get started, they provide an excellent service.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Teresa of Avila

Two weeks ago, we celebrated Theresa, the Little Flower. Today, her patron and namesake Teresa of Jesus is celebrated in the Liturgy. Interestingly, the activity in St. Blogosphere seems to be much quieter today than the 1st of October.

Why? The Little Flower seems to follow the model of St. Francis of Assisi, in that she gives us a simple, easy way to follow after Christ: "Don't do great things, do little things with Great Love."

Teresa of Jesus is a little more intense. Her remarkable work of the Interior Castle remains a masterpiece of Catholic Spirituality, but it is much tougher, at least in my limited understanding, b/c the process of growth in the spiritual life in T of Jesus' writings is more about abandonment. The final stages into the Interior Castle are done by Christ, and are fueled by a simple desire to grow in the depth and mystery of Christ's love.

Both of these tremendous women continue to play a very important role in teaching us about how to grow in relationship with Christ

Vocation Awareness Week 2008

The Vocation Office of the Archdiocese of Cincinnati is please to announce the publication of 2008 Vocation Awareness Week materials, under the theme: "Come, Follow Me!". This year, the Vocation Awarness Week runs from January 13 to 19. I invite anyone who so desires to use these materials as much as possible to help encourage our young people to consider the option of the priesthood and/or religious life. We are trying something new this year in only publicizing them electronically, instead of mailing hard copies to all of the parishes. Any and all help in promoting this is greatly appreciated. A special thanks to Wayne Topp in the Vocation Office for his great work in the production of this year's packet.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Beer? God? Catholic?

Must be Theology on Tap!

ToT Cincinnati is hosting a "Fall Refresher" on Wednesday, October 24th, 2007, at Mama Vita's, 6405 Branch Hill-Guinea Pike, Loveland, OH 45140.

The plan is to open the doors at around 6:30, with a program of beer tasting starting at 7:00. For a fee of merely $24, you will be able to sample a variety of Oktoberfest Beers, from a variety of different breweries. We have an 'beer expert' on the way (How do I get that job?) to help guide our way through the differences in this traditional Autumn Brew. Food will be provided by Mama Vita's, and lest the 'Theology' gets dropped from 'Theology on Tap,' we will close the evening with a chance to stump your faithful and dedicated author here at Called by Name, with hopefully a few fellow fathers there for backup.

To register, head over to www.totcincinnati.org and fill out a simple form, and payment can be made through paypal, too! (Wow, who says the Church is against technology?)

And remember, "We put the FUN in FUNdraising!"

(Moneys raised will be used to help pay for speakers and related costs for the Spring, 2008, series.)

The other side of the coin

As fallen creatures, we often look across the fence to see a bright green yard, neatly mowed. We see the outward appearances of a happy family. The house is painted in bright colors and all seems perfect and peaceful.

In the Catholic context, especially as the Church continues to face a decline in the number of clergy (which I am trying to stop!), we look at married Protestant clergy and think that this might be a possible answer. This particular answer seems even more favorable when we look to our own history and know that there used to be married clergy in the Catholic Church.

But, we also need to look at the cracks that can appear in the foundation of the house next door, that there are some weeds in the yard, and that the family next door has their own issues which they face and can make life difficult.

I just found an article in April 23, 2007, edition of Newsweek, well actually someone brought it to my attention. In the Beliefwatch section of the Periscope, there is a short article on Mary Winkler, who is on trial for the killing of her husband, a pastor in the Church of Christ. Certainly, this is a sad story and one deserving of prayer, and while this is an extreme case, it does not seem to be an isolated case.

The article states:
Though Winkler's case is, to say the very least, extreme, her apparent frustrations are not. Statistics indicate that beneath the smiling, steadfast veneer of a pastor's wife, there often lies a deeply isolated woman who, due to her husband's constant commitment to his congregants, frequently feels neglected and left without a support system of her own. According to research by the late B Bright, founder of Campus Crusade for Christ, 80 percent of pastors' wives feel left out, unappreciated and underqualified. A survey by Focus on the Family found that 88 percent have experienced depression. The divorce rate among pastors, about 50 percent, is no better than the national average.

If this were to be a viable option (and not that I advocate for it, just raising the question), the stresses and experiences of married clergy in the Protestant communions needs to be addressed.

In a recent conversation with a Lutheran pastor, who is married with two small children, I asked him about this very situation. He mentioned that he has to be very diligent with his time, and how he balances that out with his congregation, which he considered to be of a fairly large size at around a couple hundred families. "Any bigger and I couldn't do it by myself," he told me. When I told him that the parish down the street where I used to serve, and with which he was familiar, was considered average size at 2,000 families, his jaw dropped.

The crux of the matter is that married priests is not the quick fix that idealists make it out to be.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Grateful for Gifts

Anonomous gifts. Never expected, sometimes dreaded, perhaps stunning (although that can be a rarity!)

I had an all school Mass at McNicholas High School this morning. Nothing extraordinary about that.

But, since Mass ended a little before noon, I headed next door to the seminary for lunch. (Membership has its priveledges.)

As I'm heading through the line, Jim stops me and says: "Hey, someone dropped off a painting for you last night while I was working in the library. It's up in my room, get it after lunch?"

(Cut to Father scratching his head...) Jim: "Oh, he thought you lived here and didn't seem to inclined to driving downtown." Right.... Father's getting nervous at this point.

Maybe I should explain. I've gotten art work in the past that reflected the giver's taste, but I wouldn't hang it in a closet in a spare bedroom! So, anytime something shows up, especially when unexpected, I always get a bit nervous.

Luckily, my nerves were unfounded. It was a good size, limited edition (#6 of 1,200!), print of Pope Benedict XVI. It was framed in a very nice frame, too! The card was signed: "You are such a blessing to spreading the faith and promoting vocations to the Church. God Bless and all your work." Unfortunately, I can't read the signature, but I greatly appreciate it.

Now my biggest concern is where to hang it, hmmm....

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Priests and clerics

UPDATE: With a swing of the thurible to Uncle Jim in the combox at Adam's Ale, comes this, umm..., interesting story from the UK.

One of my early posts was part of the homily I used to give on the priesthood, the part on obedience. In the middle of the post, I mentioned an encounter with someone downtown who spoke to me because I was wearing clerics, and he simply asked me to send an email to his parents because he hadn't seen them in a while. His invitation to speak to me was because my clothes represented and spoke to the world who I was.

There is a conversation going on at Adam's Ale on the same topic, and I have not posted on it over there, but still wanted to share my thoughts.

One commentator mentions that if she were a priest (not that she is, nor advocates for a female priesthood), she "would only wear my 'collar' while working."

The problem I have with that is how do you stop working when by your very presence you represent Christ to the world? As a priest, you come to realize that you are always 'on,' even at dinner at a friends house, a friend you have known your entire life. You are looked at differently because you are priest.

Yes, it can be absolutely frustrating. But it can be a moment of grace as well, as my wearing clerics invited a total stranger to approach me in confidence that I could do something that no one else could: send an email to give reassurance to his parents. Why did he ask me? Not because of any good gift that I have, because I was Christ to him. (Trust me, I know how inadequate I am for such a representation!)

Now, I certainly do not wear clerics constantly, in fact as I sit at my computer typing this post, I have jeans and a sweatshirt on. But any time I am 'on,' I try to wear clerics, including a sport coat. To me, it looks official, it causes me to think that I am not here because of me, I am here because I represent Christ!

(Funny enough, because I often now wear a 'rabbi' collar, which is just a half shirt, or shirt front, I often take that off to celebrate Mass. Clerics are our secular garb, for wearing out in the world. Our particular priestly garb for Mass is the stole and chasuble. That's one thing that drives me crazy, priests who wear a tie into the Church where they are assisting or presiding at a liturgical service and then proceed to take the tie off and put on clerics before the alb and stole. WRONG! In fact, the legislation seems to state that civil clothes, of which clerics are a part, should be covered by the liturgical vesture; hence the wearing of an amice.)

My own thinking on this subject has changed, and I am now much more apt to wear blacks than not, even on a hot sunny day. Not out of ego, but as I have seen mentioned several times, it is a great witness to the faithful that a (fairly) young man has embraced this call and is not afraid of proclaiming Christ through his mere presence and vesture.

Families as Building Block of Vocations

My next submission for the Catholic Telegraph is now posted at the Cincinnati Seminarian blog:

First, families must recognize that they are the basic building block of the Church. The Domestic Church is where your children learn to pray, to give thanks to God for the many gifts He gives, and to share their talents for the building up of the Kingdom of God. Aspects of this Domestic Church can be simple to build, too. Do you have Crucifixes in your homes? Do you pray before meals? My family had a tradition of praying the rosary together every Monday evening. It helped bring the faith alive to me. Some families celebrate the patron saint of each child, in addition to birthdays.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007


I've been debated about posting about this for a while now, but with others posting about their own pasts and struggles, I finally have the gumption to do so as well.


Look it up in Wheelock's Latin, and you'll get the definition of 'wolf.' But look it up at WebMD, and you get a slightly different definition:

A term originally used to depict erosion (as if gnawed) of the skin, now used with modifying terms designating the various diseases listed below.

The term was applied to a skin disorder where the afflicted had blotchy red skin patches usually on the nose, face and scalp which resembled the facial structure of a wolf, hence the name.

As science progressed, it was discovered that Lupus is an Autoimmune Disorder where the immune system slowly attacts and can destroy connective tissue. There are three types: Discoid, Systematic, and Drug-induced.

Now, either why am I writing this or how do I know so much? I've got it, the Discoid kind with a few small manifestations internally. They say there is some sort of genetic predisposition to develop the disease, and as Mom has the much more serious internal form of the disease, I can somewhat believe them. But identical twin brother, nothing. You figure it out, it is a stupid disease.

Before I get much farther, my history with the disease. Looking back at annual school pictures, I started to develop red blotches on my nose somewhere around 6th to ninth grade. They slowly developed, but I remember by High School, my nose tended to be pretty bright red constantly. For a guy who was top in the class, in the band and not gifted athletically in a small town that seemed to only value athletics, this situation = death knell. Yep, heard em all. My particular loathing was Rudolph. Hated it, still won't watch it. While I did date during high school, and I am still friends with some of them, my high school experience was not one of immense joy. By the time I graduated, I hit the road running never to see that s**thole town again. (At least, I thought, God had better plans.)

During this time, I had gone to about every dermatologist in the area. (West Central Ohio does not have a plethora of dermatologists, either.) We never got a very clear answer as to what was going on. I was finally given a diagnosis during my first year of seminary (my second in college). I went to the GP of the seminary community for the flu, and he asked what my nose was all about. (You see, Doc, I use it to smell things and to keep my glasses on my head...) He referred me to a derm in Columbus, who took a core biopsy of my left temple to confirm what he thought was a classic case. Turns out, I hit enough triggers to be diagnosed with Lupus.

I thought, finally, get a cure and go on with my life, thank you very much. Not so easy. Trying to find the right level of the right type of medication is still a problem. I've been on them all. I've been injected, on topicals, steroids, anti-malarials, you name it, I've taken it. They all seemed to work for a while, but then the side effects took over and made them unbearable. (My personal favorite was Aralen -> totally bleached out pigment from my system. Now, I am a German by descent, and a northern German at that, but this was to the extreme! My hair (when I still had it) wasn't white, exactly, it was more of a clear color, sorta like a bleached blond, only worse.) If you look at pictures from Kurt's wedding, you can easily tell the difference between us, I'm the white one.

Well, I moved from Columbus to Cincinnati, and the best Derm was down the street from the sem, so something seemed to be looking up. But the same pattern repeated itself. A new drug would work for a while, but then the side effects got worse or the symptoms seemed to grow more resilliant.

So, we took another step up: Thalidomide. Yep, one of the drugs that helped lead the charge for the pro-death abortion movement. I hated being on it for that reason, but it was working. The lessions had cleared up, I could go outside and do things without too much worry. Sure, it was a pain having to take survey's every month, "Yes, I have abstained from sexual contact in the last month." But then, the side effects raised their ugly head. I noticed one day that I couldn't feel my toes, and then larger parts of my feet. My legs started cramping up badly. All possible side effects of nerve damage. WHAT!!! GET ME OFF OF THIS POISON!!!

Back to square one. Ok, not really, we had already eliminated squares one through 27. I think there are only a few left! I'm now on Humira Epi Pen where I get to inject myself every other week. It could be worse, I supposed.

Now, the lessons. I went through all the different stages: anger, denial, hiding, anger again. I thought: "Listen, God, I'm trying to do what you want me to do, why not heal me of this cause it would make it a lot easier for me!!!" That Quid pro Quo argument that I mentioned in my Sunday homily, know it well.

After several years, I finally started talking to my spiritual director about it. How to either accept it, or let it be a part of me. (I hate the "It's God's Will" arguement, let Him go 'Will' someone else!)

I think the biggest lesson that I take from this is humility. It is so tempting when I look in a mirror that I just see the outside manifestation of a disease that I have. I often don't look at my face, just my nose. I forget to look at the person below. Not in an egotistical sense, more like I get focused on the external and forget to stay focused where I need to be: God.

After now about ten years of having a diagnosis, I would say at least fifteen of actually having the disease, I am starting to get to some type of acceptance.
Could God cure me tonight? Yep.
Do I still pray for a cure? Yep

But I also recognize that it is out of my hands. I take my medicine, I use stronger sunblock than I can buy in the states, I always have a hat (or three) with me. But, God will have to do this. Apparently, something in my heart still needs to be broken before He will fix this.

Anyway, I do not type this out asking for prayers for healing. God'll do it when He wants to. I rather ask that you pray for those who face much, much worse situations and do not have the friends and support and have to walk a difficult journey alone.

The temptation when you face something like this is to think that I am going it alone. Especially in the Christian context, that is never the case. When one hurts, we all hurt; when one rejoices, we all rejoice

Back home again, in Ohio?

Really, didn't travel out of state today, unless you count the west side of Cincinnati. Their own little world all to themselves!

This morning, I had the all school Mass at St. Jude's. I've rarely had the opportunity to have the all school Masses as a priest, first two years I was teaching whenever they had Mass at the parish, and now not really in a parish, so it was a fun time this morning. Please, preaching about how Jonah gets all mad and stuff at God is great fun!

We finished up the Vocation Awareness Week materials today, and sent them off to the web firm to get loaded up on the website. By Monday, they will be good to go!

Mass this evening at the Cathedral, how often do you get to quote and talk about someone really getting fired up mad at God? Wow, Jonah really was going strong! "Yes, God, I have a RIGHT to be mad as heck at YOU! I knew You were all good and loving, and I can't stand this stupid Ninevites! BLOW EM UP! LOOK AT EM< THEY'RE PAGANS!!!!"

Whew, I'll take "How not to be a Prophet for $1000, Alex."

Why did Jonah blow it? What is wrong with what he said? Simply, he never embraced the role of the prophet, he never accepted his calling as one who was to stand between God and His people, calling them back into relationship. Jonah didn't want to see the Ninevites return to God. He wanted to see them blown to smithereens! As a prophet, he should rejoice when they repent, not become jealous. That's where he blew it the biggest.

I think it has repercussions for priests, as well. We get so used to being the center of attention, we get so used to people doing what we say, we forget that we are there to serve God, not ourselves. When Bishop Moeddel was ordained a bishop, one of his new fellows came up to him and said: "Get used to not hearing the truth." People only tell us what they want us to hear, and when we get criticized, it is easy to take it as a personal insult. Or, we see a new priest take all the glory, or someone steals my thunder, and who's he?!?!?!

Go back to Jonah and learn from the via negativa. Compare him (or Jeremiah or Elijah, for that matter) with Isaiah (and Elisha). These two remain faithful and true to the call that God has given to them, and as a result the country flourishes.

The important thing for priests is to remain faithful and true to God. Let all the other stuff sort itself out.

One last note, big thanks to Mary and family for dinner tonight. I greatly appreciate it, and Kateri is just too cute. God Bless!

Weight Training and Trusting God

How does that go together, you ask?

See Fr. V's post over at Adam's Ale!

Ideas for Parish Vocation Committees

of things to be implemented in parishes to help promote vocations.

I recently sent a letter to all the pastors in the Archdiocese of projects that could be (should be?) implemented in parishes across the Archdiocese to help promote vocations. Topics I included were:
* A Traveling Chalice or Crucific program
*Adoration for Vocations
*Weekly Petitions at Mass
*Bulletin Announcements
*Poster Displayed from the Vocation Office and Mount St. Mary's Seminary **
*Personal Invitation
*Participation and Promotion of Vocation Awareness Week
*Fishers of Men DVD
*Group Tours of the Seminary Grounds
*Way of the Cross for Vocations
*Vocation Fair
*Rosary for Vocations
*Adopt a Seminarian

The full letter can be found at the Cincinnati Seminarian Blog.

** If your diocese does not have a poster of the current roster of seminarians displayed in every parish, this needs to happen!!

** The updated poster for the Archdiocese of Cincinnati will be available shortly, I hope.

Today's Proverb

When going through an automatic car wash, make sure the sunroof is fully closed.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Two Takes on Friendship

First, no sissy long spam emails about friendship at the Catholic Caveman's site. Read how men are friends to men.

Then read a slightly modified version over at Adoro's blog.

I think you'll agree, both are hilarious.

That's enough for tonight.

A Meme Making the Rounds

on the blogs recently:

1. YOUR ROCK STAR NAME: (first pet & current car) – Zack Mazda
2. YOUR GANGSTA NAME: (fave ice cream flavor, favorite cookie)- Pineapple Gelato Monster
3. YOUR “FLY Guy/Girl” NAME: (first initial of first name, first three letters of your last name) – K Sch (Uhhh, can I buy a vowel, please?)
4. YOUR DETECTIVE NAME: (favorite color, favorite animal) - Purple Python
5. YOUR STAR WARS NAME: (the first 3 letters of your last name, first 2 letters of your first) Sch Ky (Darn Tuetonic Nomen!)
6. SUPERHERO NAME: (”The” + 2nd favorite color, favorite drink) – The Black Scotch
7. NASCAR NAME: (the first names of your grandfathers) – Edward Eugene
8. TV WEATHER ANCHOR NAME: (Your 5th grade teacher’s last name, a major city that starts with the same letter) – Clevinger Columbus (b/c Cincinnati just didn't work.)
9. SPY NAME: (your favorite season/holiday, favorite flower)- Christmas Lilac
10. CARTOON NAME: (favorite fruit, article of clothing you’re wearing right now + “ie” or “y”) Pineapple Socksie (Isn't fruit poisoness?)
11. HIPPY NAME: (What you ate for breakfast, your favorite tree)- Cheerios Elm
12. YOUR ROCKSTAR TOUR NAME: (”The” + Your fave hobby/craft, fave weather element + “Tour”) - The Road Rally Blizzard
13. YOUR SOAP OPERA NAME: (middle name, city where you were born) – Eugene Lima
14. WITNESS PROTECTION NAME: (mother’s & father’s middle names) – John Ann (So, my father married Sharon Dietz, only guy I know married SAD.)

Engineering in Hell

(In honor of my nearly all engineering family:)

An engineer dies and reports to the pearly gates. St. Peter checks his dossier and says, "Ah, you're an engineer -- you're in the wrong place."
So, the engineer reports to the gates of hell and is let in. Pretty soon, the engineer gets dissatisfied with the level of comfort in hell, and starts designing and building improvements. After awhile, they've got air conditioning and flush toilets and escalators, and the engineer is a pretty popular guy.
One day, God calls Satan up on the telephone and says with a sneer, "So, how's it going down there in hell?"
Satan replies, "Hey, things are going great. We've got air conditioning and flush toilets and escalators, and there's no telling what this engineer is going to come up with next."
God replies, "What??? You've got an engineer? That's a mistake -- he should never have gotten down there; send him up here."
Satan says, "No way. I like having an engineer on the staff, and I'm keeping him."
God says, "Send him back up here or I'll sue."
Satan laughs uproariously and answers, "Yeah, right. And just where are YOU going to get a lawyer?"

Another day and...

no new posts. I keep telling myself, making promises that I will post something new every day, and well, here it is, 9:15 in the evening, just got upstairs from a day's work, and the last thing I want to do is sit at my computer and post something. So, could I offer this up for a cause?

Why so late this evening? Two reasons: first I had a Kairos Mass for Elder High School at Marydale Retreat Center in Erlanger, KY, followed by a Holy Hour for Vocations at St. Julie Billiart in Hamilton, OH. If you know the geography of the area, they aint exactly close to one another and I had an hour between the two. Rats, late. But luckily only by a few minutes.

First the Elder Kairos Mass: I taught at the school two years ago, and the current crop of seniors were my second crop of sophomores (and last, it turns out.) So I know all of the guys, as they have literally all occupied a desk in my classroom for one semester. I am not sure if it is a good thing that they are so happy to see me when I walk in, but that's another story. The Kairos thing is still something that I am not entirely comfortable with. I think it has run its course, but I am not sure how to say that. I would rather that there be more Adoration, more focus on Christ, and not on feelings and sharing and blah blah blah that guys don't do well. Make it about being a Catholic gentleman, make it about living the faith as a man, make it about modeling our lives after the saints. Obstacles to God's Friendship? What the Hell does that mean???? My biggest problem that I see is that this retreat equates a religious experience with an emotional high. By that measure, Mother Terese of Calcutta had no religious experience for nearly the last fifty years of her life. I don't think so, Tim!

The hour drive between events was a time warp. Hmm, a Holy Hour for Vocations, what'd we do? Well, Adoration was all day at the parish, from the morning Mass to Evening Prayer with Benediction at 7:00. (Ok, well, we started at 7:07, but that's beside the point!) St. Julie's has 15 copies of Shorter Christian Prayer, and happily we needed twice that number for tonight, maybe closer to 3x. We were very happy for the turnout. Evening prayer could have been much smoother, but we plowed through it. We had a few in attendance that read what was on the page, fast. A few were of the opposite tendency, and read what was on the page slowly. (They were trying to keep their children caught up.) The end result was that the recitation of the psalms ended up being rather chaotic. Oh well, that leaves room for improvement. The reading from Romans fit very well with an idea for vocations, so I reflected on that for a few minutes. I really wish I would have had some notes, as I felt like I was hitting all over the place and didn't have a clear idea of what I wanted to say. (It isn't good to say "One final point..." and talk for as long as you had already been talking!) Alas! After the Magnificat and the Intercessions, we prayed the Litany for Vocations together, and that seemed to go much better. I love doing Benediction, and wish I had more opportunity to do it. Maybe again at St. Julie's, who knows?

So, I find myself back at my palatial estate here at the Mother of All Churches, at least for the Archdiocese of Cincinnati. I am scared to look at my calendar for tomorrow, as I know it starts early and ends late again. Inbetween, I have to get notes together for a meeting next monday, and find out what I am doing for this coming weekend for Mass. (Are we supposed to look at the readings ahead of time?!?!?!) Anyway, keep the faith out there, it's a mad world, and they are trying to get us down. Smile, say hi to someone on the street, and if all else fails, think remember, God loves you. Everyone else? hmm, what do they matter anyway?

Monday, October 8, 2007

A Pro-Lifer's painful experience

The Mom of a good brood of children posted a very heart-wrenching story of her experience that all too many women have had to go through.

She does use her experience to highlight what the Anti-Life crowd never seems to get:

I am not sure what the answers are, but I do know that women deserve better than to be treated this way. Our bodies and our minds deserve better protection. People can chant and scream about the rights of women, but I know that women and girls have a right to something better than this. They have a right to something better than abortion.

A swing of the thurible to Jen.

Sacerdotal Tepidity and Ministerial Malaise

Fr. John Trigilio, author of John Paul for Dummies, has posted on his blog a great article warning priests of getting lazy, of neglecting their spiritual life and focuses solely on 'Priest as CEO' model of parish leadership. It is a worthwhile read for priests and seminarians, as well as laity for understanding a good and healthy model of priesthood in the Church today:

One of the most immanent yet diabolically latent threats to the priesthood is not the recent clergy sex scandals nor the alleged vocation crisis. The real, critical and urgent danger to many priests, whether young, old or middle-aged, is business. The current paradigm many parishes and dioceses use is a corporate business model in which the priest (or deacon; pastor or parochial vicar) defines his identity in what he does and not in what he is. Doing things, i.e., performing tasks, becomes the primary directive after ordination and it is the measure by which priests are evaluated by their superiors, their peers, their parishioners and even by themselves.

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Expectations (Sunday Homily)

Gospels such as today's are the reason that priests have no hair. I was scratching my head all week trying to make sense out of these reasons. What is Jesus getting at in this Gospel?

I had some insight into the Gospel yesterday, and two questions came forward: what is our expectation for God? and what does God expect from us?

I want to start with the latter of these two questions: what does God expect from us? The answer, as presented in this Gospel account is simply that we remember that we are not the ones in charge, that's God's job! We are to remain as humble servants, we are to remain faithful to God's commands and to His instructions in our lives.

The problem is often with our expectations from God, that is where we tend to get in trouble. We can often expect God to reward us for our faithfulness, perhaps with a better house or car (I'm still waiting for the car!), perhaps a lack of suffering, or maybe we wager with God for a cure: "God, if I go to Mass these four weeks, You will cure my grandmother from Cancer!"

In a lot of little ways, we can put these Quid pro Quo arguments to God: "If I am faithful to this, You must do this for me!

This approach is deadly in the spiritual life, and I think this is one of the things that Jesus is warning us in this Gospel.

We must remember that we are not the ones in charge, God is! Part of faith is accepting this, recognizing that we are just servants, and not in control.

There might be a danger if we leave it at this point, however. We might be tempted to a passivity, waiting for God to give us instruction, waiting for God tell us clearly what exactly He wants us to do. The 2nd reading we heard today helps balance out this temptation.

In this reading, St. Paul is instructing Timothy in the ways to be a bishop. But it is not just a snapshot into the life of the early church, it is also an instruction for all of us to take up our call.

Notice the strong language Paul uses: "Stir into flame the gift of God" and "God did not give us a gift of cowardice but rather of power and love and self-control."

Dynamic words calling us all into action, calling us to live our faith out in the world, as servants, each with a unique role to play in the life of the Church.

If we go back to that servant image from earlier, it is important to recognize that in the time period that the Gospels were written, the life of a household was managed by servants. There was the Major Domo, who was in charge of the affairs of the house, but there was also the cook, the housekeeper, even the porter who sat by the door, ran errands, or introduce guests who came to visit the owner of the estate.

Something to keep in mind is that if even one of these roles ceased to happen, the whole household suffered as a result.

So, returning to the question posed at the beginning: what does God expect from us? He expects us to be good and faithful servants, to help in building up His Kingdom, and to give back to Him what He has given to us.

If we accomplish this, my hope is that we all may hear those comforting words of Jesus at our own particular judgement: "Well done, my good and faithful servant."

As an aside, I know now that this was Respect Life Sunday, but one of the dangers of not being in a parochial assignment is that these things slip off of your radar screen.

Wow, it's messy in here!

Well, after nearly a week's silence, and just running past this place, I finally get a chance to stop back in and clean up the place.

First off, why the silence? The Vocation Office is a week away from launching this year's Vocation Awareness Week materials. It has been taking most of my time in the last week, going over the details, fixing last minute corrections, making adjustments to layout and such. It should be up by next Monday, links will be provided.

Over this weekend, we had a visitor at the Cathedral: Fr. Chad Zalinski, who is a priest for the Gaylord Diocese, but is also a chaplain in the Air Force. His current assignment is as chaplain recruiter, so he spends lots of time on the road visiting seminaries and bishops to try to get priests released to serve in the military. He had a weekend free, between visiting Mount St. Mary's here in Cincinnati and on to St. Meinrad's in Southern Indiana. He needed a place to crash for the weekend, so we toured around the city a bit and even cooked in yesterday. He presided at the morning Mass here at the Cathedral while I preached.

Today, I had the three Masses at the Cathedral, and I usually let mom and dad know if I have the 11:00 Mass here, as it is the 'High Mass,' so to speak: choir, incense, full compliment of ministers; a true smells and bells, all stops out. (I think if every parish had this, we might not be in such sad shape liturgically.)

As I actually had to preach on the readings this weekend instead of the usual comments on vocations. I will post the notes here as soon as I type them up.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007


The Ohio Young Adult Conference that was supposed to happen this weekend is hereby CANCELED! It was deemed that 38 participants was not enough. So, no mini-retreat for me this weekend.

But hey, got Saturday free now to tour around the city with Fr. Chad Z. of the Air Force!