Thursday, January 31, 2008

Catholic Schools and Vocations

This week, as many know, is Catholic Schools week, a celebration of Catholic education marked by doing all kinds of things that interfer with educating! (As I used to joke when teaching.)

To me, one of the goals of Catholic education is to instill in our students that desire to serve God as a priest or religious. And for sure, the Franciscans continue to pick off guys from Roger Bacon, as the Jesuits do from St. X.

To that end, Catholic schools should help students to be able to answer the question: 'What is God calling me to do?' instead of the more narcissitic 'What do I want to do?'

Looking over our current list of seminarians (29), I see what I count as 6 men whom I know have graduated from Catholic High Schools. 20% of our current roster. This from the 6th largest system of Catholic Schools in the country.

I raise this not as a complaint, but as a challenge.

For example, Elder High School in Cincinnati is the school that has the greatest history of alums going to the diocesan priesthood here. It is easy to see why: alums from the 60's tell me that there were TWO LAY TEACHERS! The rest were PRIESTS! The very building was soaked in a Catholic clerical culture (in a healthy way, not a clericallism.) As such, there would be ten to twenty men each year that would enroll in the seminary. Most of these were not ordained, but they sought the possibility, asked the question and responded to the invitation!

Now, there is one Elder grad currently in formation. Is that a coincidence that there is now only one priest on campus, and he is only parttime? There are certainly more contributing factors, but this certainly weighs large in the result, I think.

But Elder is not alone in this, the four boys high schools and rough estimates of enrollment, with current number of alums in formation with the diocese:

St. X: 1,513 boys; zero with the diocese
Elder: 960 boys; one seminarian
LaSalle: 785 boys, one seminarian
Moeller: 980 boys, one seminarian

For the record, the other three schools that I know about with an alum as a current seminarian: Badin, Alter, and Carroll.

On the memorial of St. Don Bosco, I think these stats should give us reason to pause. Our we, as Catholic educators, fullfililng our mission?

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

The Media Blitz Continues

Late breaking news, I'll be appearing on Sacred Heart Radio tomorrow at 8:40AM. As always, listen online here.

Wisdom from an elderly priest

Amy Welborn reflects on the wisdom shared by a sometimes shaky, sometimes slow, but powerfully present, priest.

Video is now posted!

Rich was kind enough to find the video link to yesterday's news story here.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Priest Recruitments are Up

The report from Channel 9 is now posted. Quoted during the story were two of my former students:

Schnippel reaches out to students at Catholic schools including Elder High School.
Schnippel tells them about the various careers one can choose within the church.
"His sermons and times I've heard him talk have made me think about whether I want to join the priesthood or what I want to do for the rest of my life," said Elder senior, Kyle Smith.
Chad Ratterman, also a senior at Elder, said the talks have been helpful as he plans his future.
"Just being able to hear him talk about vocations has really led me to start to think about what I want to do with my life and what my vocation will probably be," said Ratterman.

I think I need to go back and raise their grades!

A big thanks to Mark DiStasi and Jeff Brogan who work at Channel 9 for helping to put this together, in addition to Jenell Walton for the well done report.

The article is a transcript of the segment, but I can't seem to find the video just yet.


For Channel 9 News this evening, during the 5:00 to 6:30 news slot!

Anchor/Reporter Jenell Walton interviewed me, a few high school students, and a seminarian about the increasing need for vocations and the increasing response to vocations.

I'll post a clip of it when I get it.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Humanae Vitae

I mentioned in my homily last Friday for Sacred Heart Radio and the Mass for Pro-Life causes (ok, not the real name, but I'm drawing a blank, you get the idea, I hope) that the faithful, especially those who are active in the Pro-Life movement need to go back and read Humanae Vitae by Pope Paul VI. Here is the link from

Why should the faithful read it? To my reading, it was a first shot across the bow of the culture of death, one of the first shots in the Culture of Life that was picked up so dramatically by JPII. How?

-- One, it is prophetic, especially in light of abortion on demand:

17. Upright men can even better convince themselves of the solid grounds on which the teaching of the Church in this field is based, if they care to reflect upon the consequences of methods of artificial birth control. Let them consider, first of all, how wide and easy a road would thus be opened up towards conjugal infidelity and the general lowering of morality. Not much experience is needed in order to know human weakness, and to understand that men -- especially the young, who are so vulnerable on this point -- have need of encouragement to be faithful to the moral law, so that they must not be offered some easy means of eluding its observance. It is also to be feared that the man, growing used to the employment of anti-conceptive practices, may finally lose respect for the woman and, no longer caring for her physical and psychological equilibrium, may come to the point of considering her as a mere instrument of selfish enjoyment, and no longer as his respected and beloved companion.
Let it be considered also that a dangerous weapon would thus be placed in the hands of those public authorities who take no heed of moral exigencies. Who could blame a government for applying to the solution of the problems of the community those means acknowledged to be licit for married couples in the solution of a family problem? Who will stop rulers from favoring, from even imposing upon their peoples, if they were to consider it necessary, the method of contraception which they judge to be most efficacious? In such a way men, wishing to avoid individual, family, or social difficulties encountered in the observance of the divine law, would reach the point of placing at the mercy of the intervention of public authorities the most personal and most reserved sector of conjugal intimacy.
Consequently, if the mission of generating life is not to be exposed to the arbitrary will of men, one must necessarily recognize insurmountable limits to the possibility of man's domination over his own body and its functions; limits which no man, whether a private individual or one invested with authority, may licitly surpass. And such limits cannot be determined otherwise than by the respect due to the integrity of the human organism and its functions, according to the principles recalled earlier, and also according to the correct understanding of the "principle of totality" illustrated by our predecessor Pope Pius XII.

-- Two, the Holy Father gives the lay faithful who embrace this teaching a very direct challenge:

25. And now our words more directly address our own children, particularly those whom God calls to serve Him in marriage. The Church, while teaching imprescriptible demands of the divine law, announces the tidings of salvation, and by means of the sacraments opens up the paths of grace, which makes man a new creature, capable of corresponding with love and true freedom to the design of his Creator and Savior, and of finding the yoke of Christ to be sweet.31
Christian married couples, then, docile to her voice, must remember that their Christian vocation, which began at baptism, is further specified and reinforced by the sacrament of matrimony. By it husband and wife are strengthened and as it were consecrated for the faithful accomplishment of their proper duties, for the carrying out of their proper vocation even to perfection, and the Christian witness which is proper to them before the whole world.32 To them the Lord entrusts the task of making visible to men the holiness and sweetness of the law which unites the mutual love of husband and wife with their cooperation with the love of God the author of human life.
We do not at all intend to hide the sometimes serious difficulties inherent in the life of Christian married persons; for them as for everyone else, "the gate is narrow and the way is hard, that leads to life."33 But the hope of that life must illuminate their way, as with courage they strive to live with wisdom, justice and piety in this present time,34 knowing that the figure of this world passes away.35
Let married couples, then, face up to the efforts needed, supported by the faith and hope which "do not disappoint . . . because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to Us"36; let them implore divine assistance by persevering prayer; above all, let them draw from the source of grace and charity in the Eucharist. And if sin should still keep its hold over them, let them not be discouraged, but rather have recourse with humble perseverance to the mercy of God, which is poured forth in the sacrament of Penance. In this way they will be enabled to achieve the fullness of conjugal life described by the Apostle: "husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the Church . . . husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no man ever hates his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, as Christ does the Church . . . this is a great mystery, and I mean in reference to Christ and the Church. However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband."

Do yourself the favor of reading this ground breaking document, it is only 31 paragraphs long and these are short Paul VI paragraphs, not the long and winding mental exercises of JPII!

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

What Makes you so Lucky?

My latest from the Catholic Telegraph:

'What makes you so lucky?'

Truly, this is a daring response to offer a young man who thinks he should get married. Why do you think God has called you to married life, when perhaps He is calling you to something different, something daring, something extreme?

Certainly married life can be all of these, but yet it is often something so easy to fall into, we do not think about the calling that it takes. Marriage can be seen as ‘just the next step’ in life.

To break that trend, the first question I always ask young men and women is about priesthood or the religious life: “Have you considered the Call?” The answer to this question about priesthood and/or religious life is one that takes serious thought, prayer, and contemplation. Ultimately, the question concerns self-sacrifice, as these two vocations require giving your life so that others might come to know Christ through you. This is the more difficult question, hence during this National Vocation Awareness Week; this is the question we focus on.

The fact is, our world is noisy. It is difficult to hear that ‘small, still voice’ that drew Elijah to the mouth of the cave, as ‘the LORD passed by.’ All Catholics have the responsibility, the duty even, to promote vocations to the priesthood or religious life, to encourage the next generation to consider the option, and to pray for those who are seeking to follow God’s Call.

The temptation is to think that we might be forcing someone’s hand to accept what they may not want to do. However, if God is leading that person to a different direction, He will make it known. In my own life, if I did not have the consistent encouragement and prayers of one woman in particular, I would have never made it to the priesthood. Every time she saw me while I was in high school, she would look up at me and say: “You’re going to be a priest!” When I finally settled down and thought about what she was saying, her prayers helped prepare me to enter the seminary.

The fact remains, every single Catholic has a vocation by virtue of Baptism, a vocation to live out a relationship with Christ in the world, and a majority of the faithful lives this in the Sacrament of Marriage. But what I said about people ‘falling into’ marriage is true. ‘It is the next thing to do in life, so I better find a wife or a husband quickly.’ The church asks more of her members who are considering marriage. And in fact, asking the question first about priesthood or religious life helps prevent this ‘falling into’ from happening.

A dear friend of mine kept wrestling with the question of if she was called to the religious life. She kept feeling the answer that she was not, she felt called to be married. She now admits that because she went through the stage of discernment to arrive at that answer, she changed the characteristics she was looking for in a potential husband. She needed someone with whom she could have first and foremost a spiritual connection, and it was a great joy for me to be a part of their wedding day.

Finally, that initial question: “What makes you so lucky?” It was posed by Bishop Estabrook, auxiliary of the Archdiocese of the Military Services to a young man whom he thought had the gifts to be a priest, but who was, at that time, thinking he should get married. This young man is now in formation to be a priest, all because he was challenged to consider that God might be calling him to something other than married life.

As we all strive to follow Christ’s leadership, and search out our vocation within the Church, ask yourself the question: “What does God want me to do within the Church?”

The life of a priest is one of great joy, and if God is calling you, or you see in someone the gifts that would make for an excellent priest or religious, do not be afraid to name it.

For more information on the priesthood, and links to the religious orders present within the diocese, visit

The Silence is Broken!

Ok, I've been gone from the place and it's a bit dusty around here, and the piles of things that need attended to are worse than the piles on my desk at the office! YIKES!

To begin with, many thanks for the prayers for Grandma. While Hospice has been called in, she is not yet 'actively' dieing. It seems the infection that she has is starting to spread. Mom, Dad and I are going to sit down this weekend and plan out her funeral liturgy, which is not something that I am particularly looking forward to. Please continue to keep her in prayer. (The complicating factor is that Mom, Dad and I have planned a trip to Rome in the middle of February....)

This week is National Vocation Awareness Week, so extra prayers for that is always appreciated. For plans on what to do in the parish and/or school, see here.

The Son Rise Morning Show on Sacred Heart Radio is heavily focused on Vocations this week in response. I'll be on during the new eight o'clock hour on Friday, as always you can listen in.

Also on Friday, I've been asked to be the priest celebrant for the Mass for Life at Noon, also on Sacred Heart Radio. The Mass is broadcast from the old seminary chapel at the Holy Spirit Center, and this time there will be seminarians in attendance!

An update on my friend who had a significant heart attack just before Christmas: he's doing great! (Thanks be to God!) He was home a few days later, and even attended Sunday Mass that weekend! He still gets tired easily, and with seven children to attend to... (ages 20 to 4). I'm sure they appreciate any extra prayers as well.

Other than that, I am about to go on a full force attack of the animal currently living on my desk, if you don't hear from me in the next few days, forward my mail!

Monday, January 14, 2008

Quote of the Day

from iGoogle:

If everything seems under control, you're not going fast enough!
- Mario Andretti

I think I'm going too fast, cause nothing's under control right now!

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

update on Grandma

Mom and Dad met with the Docs and Hospice this morning regarding my grandmother's condition. (She is dad's mom.)

They pretty much confirmed that any type of major surgery is not an option, as it is likely that she would never make it through the procedure, given her state. The decision was made to 'let nature take its course' and slowly let the infection take over while trying to maintain her in as much comfort as possible, through medication. The docs did state that she will likely be in a fair amount of pain at a certain point, but it is hard to tell since she can no longer communicate.

Please keep her in your prayers, as well as my dad (and mom), as they are the ones on whom this decision rests.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

I'm still here

But covered up to my eyeballs in things that need to happen like, right now, and my father passes this along:

All, have a meeting with the Dr. Herman and Hospice over Mon’s condition, it is not good and she is going down hill pretty fast. In her feet the small blood vessels are completely blocked not letting any blood to support live tissue. Her toes are completely black from dead tissue and will have to be cut off, it is starting to creep up her feet and the heels and ankles are starting to turn black, so the purpose of the meeting is cut her feet off and continue her existence in pain and in a vegetable state or let nature take it course and slowly poison her to death by gang-green. How would you like to make these decisions, I’ll let everybody know the outcome of the meeting.

So, if you have any extra prayers, Grandma could use them. (Her name is Betty.)

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Report on Midnight Mass

Now that I am somewhat caught up on sleep, but could still use some more, I thought I would pass along a short report on Midnight Mass from New Year's Eve.

After the usual daily 5:15 Mass at the Cathedral (approx 175 in attendance), the daily chapel was right full for the start of adoration (60+). As I left the sanctuary, someone stopped to ask if I could hear his confession, which I was glad to do. I went back to the sacristy and took off the cope and alb, and threw on my surplice (over the cassock, of course!) and came back out to hear confessions. (I had a feeling that if I started, it could go a while.) After a little more than an hour in the box, I emerged to find a crowd of about 25 still there praying.

As the evening continued, the crowd dwindled to a low of one or two around 9:30, 10:00, but soon started to grow again to 49 for Mass at Midnight, which is almost the breaking point to have to move back out into the main church (a goal for next year?) Three guys came from the seminary to help serve (Their Director of Vocations forgot to send an email to ask more to come, D'OH!), and they are all good singers, so we did everything sans accompaniment. I did the plain chants for the Presidential Prayers, and the chant for the Preface leading to the Sanctus simple chant in Latin (Oh, to know the Missa de Angelis well enough to lead it!) and the Roman Canon, with the insert for Christmas, and all the saints mentioned. (Why some priests drop the names, I'll never know.)

Even with a long (for me) homily, we were done in 45 minutes. It was a wonderful tribute to our Blessed Mother (and Mother of priests), and a chance to start the New Year on the right foot.

As a side note, I am hearing more and more of places having a midnight Mass on New Year's, or at least of having Adoration with Benediction at the stroke of the New Year. What a great way to transition from one year to the next.