Monday, March 29, 2010

Holy Week and the Priesthood

My latest ran at Catholic Exchange over the weekend and will appear in The Catholic Telegraph this week:

This week is a study of contradictions. We begin the week we call ‘Holy’ by welcoming Christ triumphantly into Jerusalem. Just a few short moments later, we proclaim the story of his Passion from one of the Synoptic Gospels. Holy Thursday begins the final moments of Jesus’ earthly life, while also marking the beginning of our entrance, through Him, into Eternal Life. Good Friday’s solemn veneration of the Cross and Holy Saturday’s Proclamation of the Exultet continue the contrast right up to the end, as we proclaim the ‘happy fault of Adam that earned us so great a Redeemer.’ Prayerfully re-entering these mysteries year after year, we know that these events had to come to pass so that we might be able to enter into a deeper communion with God, the Father, who loves us so much that He sent His Son for our Redemption.

In the life of a priest, this week also contains many contrasts. Lent is a mad dash of penance services, RCIA rituals and rehearsals for the Triduum. Then Holy Week itself dawns: Palm Sunday, the Chrism Mass, the celebration of the Triduum; taken together, they present a microcosm of the priest’s life: ups and downs, running from one thing to the next, hardly a chance to breathe and take in the mysteries that we celebrate, until the morning of Holy Saturday stirs quietly, as the parish sits awaiting the Light’s appearance at the Vigil.

In the midst of this chaos, a detail is easy to miss: Holy Thursday is the anniversary of our priesthood. Even though we were each ordained on different dates, we all share in the one eternal priesthood of Christ, who ‘ordained,’ as it were, the Twelve as the first priests of the New Covenant as He simultaneously established the Eucharist. These two Sacraments, the Holy Eucharist and Holy Orders, are intricately bound together in the mind of the Savior and are primary instruments in the plan of salvation He has laid out before us.

As Pope John Paul repeatedly pointed out in his annual ‘Letter to Priests’ for Holy Thursday, what we enter into over these days is the great banquet of Love. Not the false saccharin sweet notion of love that our modern culture presents, but the tough, dynamic true Love that desires a sacrifice of self so that others may live. During the Mass of the Last Supper on Holy Thursday, Jesus looks into our eyes with a love that is so powerful, personal and profound, that he goes forth to offer himself for each one of us. He loves us so much, he is willing to die that we might be with Him.

This cuts to the heart of the matter as to why a priest, as a living symbol of this death out of life, wears black. The priest is a living sign that directs others to the redeeming death of Christ. But the priest is also called to follow in the footsteps of the Master, as Jesus promises: ‘They have persecuted me, they will persecute you also.’ Therefore, his garments are also a constant reminder that he is to die to this world to live in the next.

But this embrace of the Cross is not out of a morbid fascination with suffering and persecution. As always, the priest is the example for his people. If he shies away from a willing suffering for the sake of the Gospel, how will his people embrace their cross? If he is unwilling to die to earthly joy, will his people ever taste the glory of heaven?

In these days that we call ‘Holy,’ take extra time to pray for your priest. Pray not that he be a good priest, but that he might be an excellent priest, a holy priest, an inspiring priest.

Then, hopefully, we might all enjoy the true fruits of this season: the joy of the Resurrection to new life, in a deeper, more profound, way; for Jesus Christ continues to be present among us, and we thank our priests for helping to make this so.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

A Day of Contrasts (Palm Sunday Homily)

Today is a day of contrasts.

We begin Palm Sunday Mass with the triumphal entry of Our Lord into Jerusalem. We chant with the crowds from that day: 'Hosanna to the Son of David!'

Shortly thereafter, the mood turns much more somber and severe as we yell out with the crowds just a few short days later: 'Crucify Him! Crucify Him!'

This day (and indeed this upcoming week) is jarring, moving from one extreme to the other.

By doing so, the Church invites us to reflect upon our own lives, to consider by our words and deeds, by our action or inaction, which crowd are we truly a part of.

Do our actions, does our testimony to Christ chant with that welcoming crowd: 'Hosanna to the Son of David!'

Do our sins, our inability to give testimony to Christ, scream out: 'Crucify Him! Crucify Him!'

I know I like to think that I am always in the prior grouping, rather than the latter. But I am not always so sure. St. Josemaria Escriva, in his reflections on this day, recognizes this tension: "I like to think that I am always welcoming to Christ, but then I recognize my sins, my weaknesses, the times in my life when I have been too much like Peter in failing to testify that I even know Jesus. Even worse, have there been times when I was even like Judas in betraying My Lord?"

As we begin Holy Week, the Church invites us to take some extra time this week to focus and pray on whether we are in the first group (Hosanna!) or in the latter (Crucify!). We invite you to take part in these three special days of the Triduum. To walk with Our Lord over his last days on earth that we might truly enter into His Passion, so that we might enjoy the fruits of His Resurrection all the more.

We walk this journey with Him, that we might continue our path of conversion, our continued turning of the heart to the Lord, so that we might always and everywhere proclaim by thought, word and deed: Hosanna to the Son of David, rather than cry out: Crucify Him! Crucify Him!

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Fr. Rudemiller

This morning, Our Lady of Lourdes (my parish of residence) hosted the funeral of our retired pastor, Fr. Edward Rudemiller. A priest for 50 years, he was truly one of a kind. Early in his career, he served on faculty at Elder High School, where I also taught (albeit much later!). One of my seminary classmates was a frosh in his last year at the school. At the time, 'Fr. Rudy' was serving as Athletic Director. As he crossed the field of 'The Pit,' Elder's infamous football stadium (10,000 seat concrete horseshoe), the student section began to chant: 'Green Socks, Greek Socks, Green Socks!' It seems Fr. Rudemiller got tired of losing his socks in the laundry, so he bought bright green socks to wear, so that that all would know they were his.

He had a certain way with things, a unique spirit to say the least.

Anyway, 50 some priests showed, two Archbishops, and a church full of folks came to see him off. He had suffered greatly over these last few years, may he now rest in the peace of the Lord.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Chaplains in Afghanistan

The Frame has a photo series of Chaplains serving with the US Army in Afghanistan.

Truly moving pictures of the trials that these (mostly) men face on a daily basis in serving the needs of the troops.

What strikes me, though, is that I know one of the priests featured: Capt. Carl Subler. He and I grew up about 30 minutes from one another, but didn't get to know one another till we were in College Seminary at the Josephinum together. He was studying for Cinci at the time, but had a great desire to be co-sponsored with the Archdiocese for Military Services, US. We didn't do that, Columbus did. Hence, he is a priest for the Columbus Diocese on loan to AMS. God Speed and stay safe!

The Crescat pulls some of his photos out in a separate link.

Thanks to David for the link.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Franciscan Daughters of Mary win Court Decision

in Covington! Local 12 has the story.

I occassionally say Mass for the Sisters who run the shelter, what a great group of ladies: prayerful, serious, fun, etc. This is a great victory to allow them to continue their very needed work of advocacy for the poor and homeless, with a direct pro-life mission guiding their cause!

Laudate Dominum!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

The Holy Spirit and the Priesthood

Join host Brian Patrick and me at 8:40 AM on 740 AM Sacred Heart Radio as we discuss Pope John Paul II's 1998 Letter to Priests on the Holy Spirit in the life of a priest, part two of three in the final run-up to the new millennium. Listen online at

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Our Lady of Lourdes Blessing of Bells

Recenrly, with the help of a grant, the bells from Our Lady of Lourdes were removed to be repaired, retuned, and fixed up. With the help of Verdin Bell Co, they are now ready to be re-installed. However, they have never been blessed. Today, we took care of that last iten.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Ring Bells, Ring, Ring, Ring

The bells removed a few weeks ago from Our Lady of Lourdes have been returned, polished up, ready to go back into their home, calling the faithful to prayer.

However, in our research we cannot find that they were every consecrated or Christened. (and yes, bells can be Christened.

So join us tomorrow after the 11:30 Mass, for the Blessing and Consecrating of the Bells, which will be returned to the tower on Monday morning. It is one of those rites that we don't get to see all that often. I will try to capture video of it and post here later that day.

Have a good rest of the weekend.

(And remember, it's Manhood Sunday, as only real men wear Rose!)

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Kudos to my Niece

Earlier this week, my eldest sister emailed me that he eldest daughter had been nominated to represent FCCLA (what used to be, in a less politically correct time, known as Future Homemakers of America, I have no idea what 'CCLA' stands for!) in our hometown's annual Carousel Pageant for junior girls entering their senior year of high school. She is the third generation of our family to take part in the proceedings.

Well, mom forwarded something else on to me this morning: the reason she was nominated.

There is one boy in 'FCCLA,' which admittedly is one more than when I was in school. The moderator, when selecting who would represent the group, asked if anyone would want him as her escort. Several girls said no, straight away; several waffled for a few minutes; my niece said yes right away, which brought other girls to say yes, eventually, too.

Why the hesitation? He is special needs, with Down's Syndrome. Her having a cousin who is special needs, another niece of mine, has helped her see the beauty and talents that each one of us has, and how we are all unique creations of our loving Father in Heaven.

I am very proud of my niece, who has always been a wonderful girl and now a superb young lady. I am also honored that she has asked me to be her confirmation sponsor this April.

Way to go, knock em dead at the pageant!

Thursday, March 4, 2010

The Bishop as Steward

My latest runs this week in the Catholic Telegraph:

In a gathering, once upon a time, a Catholic priest was getting a good-natured ribbing from a friend. “You Catholics,” the friend quipped, “divide the world to conquer it.”

“It’s true,” the priest answered back. “We feel like we own the whole world!”

There is a measure of truth in this short back-and-forth among friends. As the church spreads to new territories and lands or grows in existing areas, these new territories are divided among dioceses, and a bishop is placed in charge to erect a new local church. In fact, the last Latin-Rite diocese to be erected in this country is the Diocese of Laredo, Texas, which was established in 2000, having been split from the Diocese of Corpus Christi.

A bishop does not erect the diocese of his own accord, but rather, as a direct commission from the Holy Father, for the bishop exercises his authority only in collegiality and partnership with the pope. As we have discussed in this column before, this is another example of the way in which the authority of Jesus, which He rightly claims as the Lord of the universe, is passed down to our very day through the laying-on of hands and apostolic succession.

In his mandate as a bishop, the leader of a local church has a responsibility to order all things not according to his own wishes, but in accord with the wishes and dictates of our God in heaven. As such, he is not just responsible for the souls of his Catholic parishioners, but for every soul that has residence within his diocese. As Uncle Ben reminds Peter Parker in the first Spider-Man film, “With great power comes great responsibility.” It is also a reminder as to why the pope and bishop are prayed for by name at every Mass.

Certainly the governance of a bishop is directly commissioned and guided by the dictates of our faith, for the bishop becomes the primary representative of Christ among the lay faithful in a certain diocese. It is the dictates of the faith which guide his establishment of parishes throughout his diocese, that the Gospel may not go unheard. The faith guides his teaching and preaching, how he interacts with his priests and parishioners and how he sees the world. And, his priests and faithful give assent and agreement to his leadership, for it is as if Christ were leading us.

However, there is another source of authority that the bishop rightly claims as his own: the dictates of natural law. Through our reasoned study of the universe, we are able to discern the fingerprints of God found written on the human soul, in the mysteries of creation and in the stirring of the spirit. It is here that the bishops find the universal aspect of their teaching authority. It in the dictates of natural law that the bishop is able to comment on the constructs of the world, for natural law applies universally.

But this governance, whether by mandate of the Gospel or dictate of reason, is not for its own sake. Rather, this governance is entrusted to the bishop, who shares it with his priests so that he may offer all things back to the Father in heaven. All that we are given is but a mere gift, a loan entrusted to us, and happy that man whom the master finds waiting and expectant upon his return, as Jesus instructs us in His parables.

The bishop governs so that he may sanctify. The goal of what we do here below is not merely social justice, it is not merely the education of children or the celebration of the sacraments, as important as each of these are. The goal is to make the Gospel known to all people, to go forth and preach, teach and sanctify, and by this to aid in the establishment of the kingdom of God in our world, in our day and age.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Christ, the Eternal High Priest

Join host Brian Patrick and I tomorrow at 8:40 AM for our continued series on 740 AM, Sacred Heart Radio, covering the annual Holy Thursday Letters to Priests.

We have arrived at the letter for 1997, during the proximate preparation for the Great Jubillee Year of the New Millennium. The letter begins with a reflection by Pope John Paul on his 50th Anniversary of Prietly Ordination and concludes with a reflection of Christ, the Eternal High Priest, using the Litany of our Lord, Jesus Christ, Priest and Victim, as a starting point. The Litany was prayed in the seminary in Krakow the night before a priestly ordination, and the Holy Father brings us back to that momentuous day in his life.