Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Random Thoughts

I need to download some files to make room for new things, so this could be stream of consciousness.

I think I'm on the wrong side of the street. Saturday morning, as I returned to the Cathedral from a planning meeting for Cincinnati2000 retreat, there was an event of some kind going on at the Plum Street Temple. I saw a very sleek looking, black Mercedes SL500 and a Maybach sitting on the street! I admit that cars are a particular weakness of mine, so if any of my loyal readers (all 5 of you!) have an extra Mayback laying around, I can take that off your hands for you.

Why would anyone want to work in an office? After 8 months now of working in an office building, I can firmly say that it is driving me crazy! I think of all the souls that I release from Purgatory every time I ride the elevator up to the 8th floor. I can't imagine that there are going to be very many souls left after a few months. How do you that have worked in office buildings for years handle it? I miss being around people! The extrovert in me is screaming!

Back to the cars, the entry lists for both Sebring 12 hour and the LeMans 24 have been released. No big surprises that I saw, except that the French classic stacked 6 Aston Martins against 4 Corvettes. Once again, I'm rooting for the boys in Yellow to triumph. (Man are those cars LOUD!)

Hospital runs. Another call that I hate to get came yesterday. My friend was at the hospital with her one month old facing the possibility of surgery. YIKES! She calles to ask if she should baptize him, then I can supply the rites in a few weeks when scheduled. "I don't know! I work in an office!" Two of my priest buddies came to my rescue to say: "STUPID, YES! Get up there and do it for her!" I grabbed my books and headed up to Children's. Luckily, by the time I got there things had settled down and there was no surgery in little Jack's future, just a week's worth of anti-biotics.

Well, that gives a little bit of room in my head. What kind of useless junk will fill it next, I wonder?

Monday, February 26, 2007

Part 1 of a longer article

Part 1 of 4 of an article penned by your's truly is now up on Catholic Exchange. It is a longer discussion of the short response that I had in the Telegraph, and was first published at the CincinnatiVocations page.

Thanks to Rich for helping me get the article published at Catholic Exchange, and to a few other loyal readers who proofed the copy for me before it went up. (I'm sure she'll make her way here while surfing in Germany.)

Saturday, February 24, 2007

More thoughts on the Priesthood

Daniel Avila nails it in a recent article for The Pilot, of the Archdiocese of Boston. When challenged by the teaching of an all male, heirarchichal priesthood, instead of just blindly going along with the status quo, he looked it up! In reading the document he states:

It struck me upon reading these documents just how important sexual difference, and the anthropological reality of being human through two means, male and female, are to the Church’s sacramental understanding of the priesthood. As this column has indicated in the past, the same regard for sexual difference and the male and female identities plays a central role in the Church’s understanding of marriage and sexual attraction.

One of the elements of the teaching in “Inter Insigniores” is that holy orders, being a sacrament, must contain within it a sign that is “perceptible and which the faithful must be able to recognize with ease.” The Church understands the ministry of the priest to be the unique sign of Jesus, truly present. That is, “the bishop or the priest, in the exercise of his ministry, does not act in his own name; he represents Christ, who acts through him.” To be effective as supernatural signs, the sacraments must “represent what they signify by natural resemblance.” Jesus “was and remains a man.” Thus, the presence of Jesus in the priesthood is obscured in a fundamental respect if the priest is not also a man.

Now, if we could just get people here to read the document, it would do wonders.

Friday, February 23, 2007


Another prayer request to pass along, this time a little more joyous.

The three men who are up for ordination this May have one last hurdle to cover: comprehensive exams. Covering five years of study, these tests are by no means easy, and now entail an oral exam before a board, a written and an objective test spread over two separate days: Friday March 2 and Monday March 5. They have been studying hard in preparation, send them some prayers when you're able.

Also, stay tuned for more developments from Mount St. Mary's Seminary of the West, here in Cincinnati. I often get questions regarding what life is like inside the seminary, so we are going to take you there. Stay tuned for further developments shortly.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Words of Remembrance for Mollie Summers

Mollie's parents asked me to read the following at the end of the Funeral Mass for their daughter. I share it here because I think it speaks to what many families with special needs children go through. Tom and Sue, thanks for your honesty and allowing me to share in the life of your daughter.

Tom and Sue would like to take this opportunity to thank all of you for being here today. The emotions of the day wouldn’t allow them to deliver this message themselves, so they have asked me to speak on their behalf.

Parents like to dream of the ideal life for their children. That definition normally includes words like healthy, happy, and success. So we were completely devastated when Mollie came 3 months early. But we were reassured by the medical staff that she would be fine. It was not until a year and half later that we were told that Mollie’s life would not be fine, in fact, it might not be good. Having always felt complete control of our lives, this left us lost and out of control. We were devastated that we had a child that would never be a normal child and there was nothing we could do. We tried everything, every therapy, every piece of equipment that would give her some chance. We prayed everyday that Mollie would be perfect – that God would make her healthy. We became angry and frustrated when as time went by it was clear that Mollie would be not be normal, but severely handicapped and would require total care.

There were days, when Sue would cry out "So you think this is funny God – why would you do this to us." Sue lost hope for everything. It was at this lowest level, that Sue called her dad up and said, "Dad I can’t handle having a handicapped child – I can’t do it." And her dad’s simple reply was "Do you love her?" Saying "Of course," her father replied, "Then that is all you need."

After that we realized that this was not about God punishing or being unfair to us. It was about His will. We couldn’t fight it anymore. It was at that point that we gave everything back to Him. We realized the greatest gift we could give to God was to accept His will and trust that He would be with us and Mollie always.

At that point, God’s graces began to pour. We opened our eyes not to what we felt we wanted or deserved but to all the gifts that surrounded us.

We began to accept and even enjoy Mollie at her level. We no longer looked for perfection, but took pleasure in simple things: her smile, her curly hair, her laugh especially at bodily sounds, her effort to put her arms around the babies when we would put them in her lap, holding her head up for a few seconds, making a picture on the computer, and screaming with delight when she knew she was going to school or when Kristi, Bernie, or Grandma were going to be her nurse.

We saw what Mollie did for the world. We don’t believe people felt sorry for her, instead we like to believe Mollie helped them to see the blessings and graces in their lives and appreciate the simple things. That they walked away from Mollie feeling God and His gifts.

We were given the gift of the most incredible friends and family who always knew exactly what Mollie and her family needed. Even if it was a silly hello or a touch of the hand, those things that brought such joy to Mollie. It was always a game to see which neighborhood kid could make Mollie laugh. In the end, we all won.

Mollie gave us the gift of everyone of you sharing in this mass today. If not for Mollie, we may have not had the honor of knowing some of you. Thank you to Kristi and Bernie and all the nurses who brought her comfort, to Beth and Julie and all the therapists who kept her moving, to Lori, Nancy and all the teachers and classmates who brought her fun and joy by including her in everything. We feel so blessed that God sent each and everyone of you to make Mollie’s and our lives a little sweeter.

Lastly, we thank God for Mollie. While we prayed for a perfect child, thinking He had left us and didn’t care, God actually answered us far beyond what we could have dreamed. God did give us a perfect child. Although her body was broken, her soul was perfect. She did not know sin or hatred, only love. We are truly honored and humbled that God entrusted Mollie to our family. We thank Him for giving us 10 years with a perfect child and eternity with a special angel.

Homily for Mollie Summers

When you are studying to be a priest, they never tell you the gory details. Today was one of the hardest days I have had as a priest. Things hit a little too close to home. I hope the words I shared gave some solace and comfort to the family. I share them here because some asked about having a copy:

Tom and Sue, Emma, Elizabeth, William and Henry, Grandparents, cousins, and friends,
on behalf of the staff here at Visitation,
I offer you my condolences and sorrow.
I want to thank you for inviting me to be a part of this celebration,
whatever little I may be able to say at a time like this.

As a priest,
there are days that are tremendous joys,
but there are also days that I feel very small
and insignificant.

With Mollie,
I have now felt both.

One of the highlights
that I will always remember in my life as a priest
is the privilege of giving Mollie her First Communion,
the same day that her brother Henry
was welcomed into the community
through Baptism.

There were very few dry eyes that day
as she was brought forward
to receive Jesus for the first time,
my own eyes included.

It was special for me not just because of Mollie,
but because I also have a niece who is special needs.
I saw in Mollie my niece Tristyn, and vice versa.
These two girls
who have taught me so much
about what it is to embrace life,
who teach us all what Jesus means
in the Gospel passage that we just heard proclaimed.

The world tells us that someone like Mollie is a burden
that our lives will now be better off because she is gone.

If that was case,
why were there so many tears in my eyes
as I wrote out this homily?
Why do I miss this girl whom I really,
barely knew?

It is true that to have a child such as Mollie is a sacrifice,
for her parents,
her siblings,
and her friends.
There were certain things that the Summers family
could not do because of Mollie.
Is that fair?
Is it just?
No, I would be lying if I said it was.

But I challenge anyone who knew her
to say that Mollie was a ‘burden.’

Because in reality,
there is something about Mollie
which teaches us all something more.
We hear this passage:
"Unless you become like little children,
you cannot enter into the Kingdom of God,"
and we think of cute little thoughts and smiling faces.
We have that image
of a perfect life for our family and children.

With a child like Mollie,
The image of perfection is unfortunately shattered.
Hopes, dreams, wishes
all must slowly evaporate.
We grieve for our child while she is still alive.

But as these dreams die,
something else grows in their place.
We open our eyes to what God is doing instead.
It takes some time to realize,
but eventually every family with a child like Mollie
needs to see her as a gift from God,
and a gift meant to teach us something more,
something different,
something unique.

What Mollie was able to teach us,
in her own unique way,
is that to be a little child in God’s eyes
is to be totally reliant on someone else
for everything that we need.
And when we have those needs met,
there is a joy that is contagious.

The world cannot answer how this is could be.
But with faith,
we are able to not only see the answer,
but to embrace the love that comes to us from God.

For some strange reason that only He can understand,
God sent Mollie to all of us to teach us a lesson:
embrace life to it’s fullest every day.
And, just as Mollie relied on so many people
to be able to thrive in her own way,
we also need to rely on God to thrive in this world,
to overcome our own suffering,
and to experience the joy that comes solely from God.

In another passage,
this from Gospel according to John,
Jesus tells us that he is going to heaven
to prepare a place for us,
a room in God’s mansion that is just for me or you.

If we believe,
if we look at the example of the Gospels,
Jesus always reached out to those most in need,
Jesus always reached out especially to little children.

It gives me some comfort,
some solace,
to know that Mollie
is now able to run and jump and play
in a way that she was never able to do
while she was here on earth.

Her chair on earth sits empty,
a reminder of the loss that we have suffered.
But she needs no chair in heaven.

take this chance to stretch your legs,
to reach out with your arms,
to laugh and smile.
Jesus is there to welcome you
and to give you what you did not have in this life.
We now send you home to heaven,
and we ask you to continue to help us,
to prepare our place with you,
so that we may join you
when our time here on earth is over as well.

God Bless, Mollie,
we all love you and will miss you.

Job Opening

From the Archdiocese of Cincinnati:

ASSOCIATE DIRECTOR FOR VOCATION OFFICE - Archdiocese of Cincinnati, Cincinnati, OH (Posted 2/12/07)
Seeking qualified candidates for Associate Director of the Archdiocese of Cincinnati Vocation Office. Major responsibilities include working with the Director in his efforts to attract more candidates to study for the priesthood for the Archdiocese. This is accomplished through follow-up and maintaining contact with candidates who have expressed an interest in the priesthood. Assist in the initial screening and application process of candidates. Act as liaison between the Vocation Office and support groups such as Serra Club, Knights of Columbus, Parish Vocation Committees, etc. Assist in developing materials, information sheets and other literature pertaining to seminary life as well as the challenges and rewards of a religious vocation. Represent the Vocation Office at sponsored events including Cincinnati 2000, Men's Conferences, Career Days, etc. Position Qualifications Include: Minimum Bachelors Degree in Communications, Theology, Marketing, or related field, experience in preparing and making presentations with a strong interpersonal and writing skill and a familiarity with priestly life, organizational and motivational skills to follow-up with potential candidates, and knowledge and familiarity with current technologies. Please respond with resume and cover letter by March 15, 2007 to: Personnel Office, Archdiocese of Cincinnati, 100 E. Eighth St., Cincinnati, OH 45202. This position has been funded for 17 months.

The only bad news is that you have to work with me.

A great idea

from the CatholicSphere.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Family, the Seedbed of Vocations

This is from a talk I delivered this past weekend at the Marriage Renewal Day, sponsored by Regnum Christi:

First, to begin I would like to quote Archbishop Charles Chaput, of Denver, writing in the foreword for Christopher West’s The Good News About Sex and Marriage:

Very few [discussions about the vocations crisis] deal with the most fundamental
vocations crisis of all: marriage and family life.
It’s no accident that
priests and religious emerge from believing, practicing, loving Catholic
families…The love between a husband and wife is the foundation stone upon which
every other Christian vocation is built.
If you want to do something about
the "vocations crisis"…you can begin right here [referring to West’s book, which
applies to this topic as well.]

In response to that, I received one challenge on the materials that the Vocation Office produced for Vocation Awareness Week: there was nothing included about marriage. At the time, we made a conscious decision to focus solely on vocations to priesthood and religious life. The challenge correctly pointed out that if marriage life is extolled for all of its beauty and challenge, then vocations will also flourish, which I whole-heartedly agree to!

If a couple preparing for marriage wants to live in a ‘snow-globe,’ thinking that their life together will be all happy and bliss and joy, reality has another thing coming to them! While living the married life certainly has days in a snow-globe, there are also many days that are far from it.

In the Church’s theology of Marriage, we speak of two ends: unitive and pro-creative. And they are correct: the secret to a successful marriage (at least partly) is to keep anything from coming between you and your spouse, and to be open to life in all that you do. However, I think this definition needs to be fleshed out some more. In the Rite of Marriage, the Church says that ‘the love of husband and wife symbolizes that love that Christ has for his Church." That is a sacrifice, dieing to yourself to live for the other. This is not easy in today’s day and age. I also propose that there must be something of the mystery of the Christian world contained in the Sacrament of Marriage as well, for no matter how long you are married, there is always something more to learn about each other, you are still a gift from God to each other. Successful marriages are built upon open and honest communication, one of the reasons that Natural Family Planning is successful in cementing a marriage together: they have to discuss many things in the monthly living of their married life. Two final points are that it really helps to have a sense of humor, and a willingness to embrace the Cross in daily life.

One lesson that I learned quickly is that I had to embrace these same ideas and concepts in the seminary: an idea of sacrifice for the sake of the Kingdom; giving life in a unique way; being drawn closer to my beloved, the Church; a priest is daily calling the mystery of Christ upon the altar; communication built in prayer; being able to laugh at the hardships; and a daily embrace of the Cross in my life as a priest.

To extol these virtues in the married life helps them to be formed in the next generation of priests, as well as putting them out there for priests and seminarians should help to foster them in married life as well.

Family Life
There are certain things that children must be taught in the family, for they will not get it anywhere else, especially in this day and age: virtue.

Young people today are inspired by the idea that they can live up to something higher, and I think that they want that challenge. They recognize the passing world, the illusory world; help your children to live up to something more! Teach them to be virtuous!

I know this sounds like I want to make your children boring and lifeless, but that is far from the case. The four Cardinal Virtues (from Ancient Greek philosophy) help to navigate the world:
- Prudence: making the right decisions.
- Strength: being able to do the right thing.
- Fortitude: doing the right thing when under stress.
- Temperance: finding the path of life down the middle, avoid extremes.

These four are balanced and expanded by the three Theological Virtues:
-Faith: trusting in Someone unseen.
-Hope: an orientation to a future life in Heaven
-Love: a willingness to die to ourselves to live closer to God

God has hard-wired us in this way. A person who embraces these teachings has a greater awareness of life, of the joys that come out of this life and how Christ ultimately leads us closer to Himself.

Development of a Vocation
A vocation must be nurtured and strengthened before it can flourish. How?
1) Silence: the world is so noisy, help your children to find a comfort and ease in the quiet, for that is where God speaks to the heart.
2) Prayer: a conversation with God and an entrance into grace, do you take your children to Adoration where Jesus can speak directly to them?
3) Listening: Prayer is not just asking God for something, and this takes a while to develop. It is a two way conversation, so if we are doing all of the talking, it isn’t really prayer.
4) Obedience: teaching your children that to follow your wishes is actually a way that they show love to you, just as it is a way of our showing love to God, by embracing His commands. (notice, you better have the best in mind for your children, just as God does!) Obedience is not a four letter word!
5) Response: a vocation requires action, even when the path is not fully clear. If we sit back and wait for God to clearly outline every step we will ever take, we will never get anywhere!

Priests and religious do not fall out of the sky, they are born and raised in loving Christian families and parishes.

Implicit Modeling of a Vocation
To promote vocations in the family starts very simply: by living out the faith at home. There are very simply ways to do this:
-having a crucifix in every room, plus other religious images
-praying together before meals and bedtime
-celebrating the cycle of the Church year at home
-Seasons and feasts
-trusting God’s presence even in the rough times

The faith of the family at home should be nurtured by events at the parish as well:
-Participation at Mass
-Lector, Eucharistic Minister, Usher, Choir
-Singing and responding with the community
-Involvement in other aspects of the life of the Parish as well
-Retreat programs
-Adult Faith Formation
-Parish Picnics
-Sports programs

If your parish is missing something, start it!
If you have these programs but find them wanting, work to develop them!

Other aspects:
-Do you attend Mass when you are on vacation?
-Does your pastor know your name and your family?
-Have you ever had him over for dinner?
-Do you speak well of your priest and bishop, even if/when criticizing?
-Do you respect your (Arch)Bishop?

All of these aspects show that the faith is something that is important to you, and that you want your children to have it as well.

Explicit Modeling of Vocation
The specific seed of a vocation to the priesthood and religious life needs to be planted. Joe Campo, director of Grassroots Films in New York City and producer of the DVD, Fishers of Men, said the following in a recent interview published in the National Catholic Register:

My suggestion is that they show (Fishers of Men) to second graders. Where I come
from, little boys want to save the world. They want to be police officers and
fireman. Why not give them the option of saving souls? That's the priesthood.
And you have to give it to them before adolescence. If you do, then adolescence
will be formed with this in the heart.

Plant the seed of a vocation in the heart of your children before the cynicism of adolescents blocks it from growing! Help your children to realize that the Faith is not just a static thing, but is something that is active and alive. You can do this by sitting in the FRONT of the Church. Yeah, there will be times when they cry and act up, but they are more apt to be engaged if they can see what is happening. A friend of mine made vestments for her son while he was a toddler and in grade school so that he could ‘play Mass.’ When he graduated from high school, he asked himself the question about priesthood. As of now, he does not feel that calling towards the priesthood, but he had to ask himself the question.

My same friend, as her son grew, had him critique and grade the homilies every week at Mass: what were the good points, what were the bad points, what was the Scripture reference; what would you have said differently and how? He was actively involved in the parish and in the life of faith.

Having taught in a High School and worked in youth ministry before that, young people (teens) often are lacking the vocabulary to be able to talk about how God is active in their lives. Doing these things will help them to develop this vocabulary, and see that the faith is something that is participatory!

Questions for Parents
As a former teacher, I have to give homework:

As a parent, ask yourself these questions:
-What gifts has God give to each of our children?
-How is God asking us to help develop these gifts?
-How can I help our children to find their vocation in life?

Another friend of mine recently gave birth to her second son (plus an older step-daughter). When I first got to know her, she was single and not dating. She really had to wrestle with the question of whether God was calling her to be single for the sake of the Kingdom, to enter religious life or to the married life. She kept getting the answer that she was called to be married. With that assurance, she was very selective in whom she was looking for as a spouse, someone with whom she had a deep spiritual connection. When she finally met her future husband, it just clicked into place. She is convinced that this would not have happened if she had not asked herself the question of what vocation God had planned for her in her life. Get your children and young people to ask the same questions.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Another Prayer Request

Just before the Confirmation Retreat started yesterday (see previous post), I received a phone call about Molly Summers. I had given her First Communion less than a year ago, while at the same Mass also Baptizing her little brother (at least I remember it being a brother?) Molly is a special child, who also happens to be special needs. I cannot remember what exactly the diagnosis was, but she was bound in a wheelchair and was not very communicative, but her mom was insistent that she receive communion, which I fully supported. I know it sounds clicheish, but it was one of the most touching things that I have done as a priest. I tried to say at the end, through my own emotions, that Molly is a special child and a unique gift to the world from God. I knew this because I also have a niece who is special needs. Tristyn has ACC (Agenesis of the Corpus Colosum) in which the center point of the brain (which allows the left and the right halves of the brain to communicate) didn't form. In my dealings with Tristyn, which Molly's mom shared, they both taught all whom they came into contact with how to love. They have an implicit trust and awareness that God is there to protect, guide and nourish them, for they cannot do it themselves. Yes, it is not easy on the family, but the family is enriched by the gifts that these two girls are for them.

Sadly, God asked for his gift of Molly back early Sunday morning. As the family awoke, they found Molly unresponsive. After trying CPR and transporting her to the hospital, they knew. Please pray for Molly, for her parents and siblings, and for all who knew her. As I mentioned at the Mass where she received her First Communion, children like Molly and Tristyn are called by the world 'burdens.'

Nothing could be further from the truth.

Children like these two are blessings who teach the rest of us how to live each day to its fullest.

Molly, the world is darker for not having you in it. Please take our needs with you as you join Jesus in his Heavenly Home. Be freed from the confines of the wheelchair that held you, run and stretch your legs, and prepare a place beside you for those of us who are behind who love you and miss you.

What a weekend!

Whew, glad this is a holiday!

The silence over the weekend, which is when I normally do most of my posting, is for several reasons. It was an absolutely crazy weekend!

Friday, new brochures for the High School Discernment Day came in and needed to be dropped off at the seminary. The evening hours were spent tieing up loose ends for the rest of the weekend.

Saturday, Daily Mass at the Cathedral at 11:30, followed by confessions from noon to 1:30. Thanks to Fr. Snodgrass, who covered the last 45 minutes for me so that I could get a bite to eat. By around 2:00, I trudged my way over in the snow to the Hyatt Regency for the Marriage Renewal Day, sponsored by Regnum Christi. I was to give a talk entitled: "Family, the Seedbed of Vocations," which I had shamelessly ripped off from this past years Diocesan Vocation Director Conference in Minneapolis. Initial reports were well received, stay tuned the talk will likely be posted by the end of the day tomorrow. Shortly after the talk was finished, I headed out to Higher Ground for VisiRetreat, a high school retreat attended this year by 72 students, and led by 20 some college alums of the retreat. The Mass for the retreat is one of my favorites all year. Can you believe it, 80 some teenagers SINGING and RESPONDING!!!! The room shakes! After Mass was a talk by Kurt Oblinger, a student at University of Dayton, on his recovery from a heart transplant, very powerful! (We wished another heart transplant survivor would be there, but Sean has not yet returned to the Nati.) I made it home at about midnight, and had to sit down to relax before bed.

Sunday, up at around 5:30 to leave at 6:30 for Russell's Point, Ohio, and St. Mary's of the Woods Parish, (or Indian Lake for the un-initiated.) Seminarian Matt Lee went along for the ride as we had a Vocations presentation to the Altar Boys (not servers, as there are only boys there, and Karen treats it as a priesthood recruitment tool.) We made it there for the 9:00 AM presentation, which Matt handled for the most part, as it is his home parish. We skipped out of the 10:30 parish Mass and went to breakfast instead. After killing time by driving around the lake (which looked positively like the Tundra!), we made our way to the Marianist House on Governor's Island for a pre-Confirmation retreat. Twenty high schoolers are making their preparation for this final Sacrament of Initiation in a few months. They were extremely attentive and supportive to what I was saying, and we closed off the day with the Celebration of Mass in the little Marianist Chapel. Instead of driving home, we crashed at my parent's place in Botkins.

Monday, slept in a bit this morning before making our way to meet with some of my classmates for lunch in West Chester. I had the 4:30 confessions and 5:15 Mass today, with about 40 people in attendance at the Cathedral (pretty good, for us!) Afterwards, the other two Fathers and I tried out the new Sully's Tavern where Redfish used to be downtown, the Fish and Chips were very edible.

So, now, I am sitting at my computer, trying to come up with something for tomorrow and the beginning of Lent on Wednesday. All the while, I'm thinking about the pillow that will soon be near.

Pope gives advice to Roman Seminarians

From Zenit, Benedict XVI addressed the seminarians of his diocese this past Saturday, on the feast of their patroness, Our Lady of Confidence.

I was struck by how he "urged them not to put faith in those who promise a happy and comfortable life." It could be very easy to be a priest. We have meals provided, a (usually) nice house, stipends for cars and such. But Jesus never promises that it will be easy, in fact just the opposite: "To truly be my disciple, you must deny yourself, take up your cross and follow me." These are not words that are easy to hear, but are necessary for one who is to lead others closer to Christ. (I have to remind myself daily of these words, trust me!)

The Holy Father addressed topics on pain, discernment, and memories among those asked by students at the seminary. He mentioned that Pain is how we grow in maturity, something that the Prozac Nation needs to hear.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

I made the paper!

From this morning's Enquirer, Letters to the Editor.

Tip to Tom Snodgrass, who brought it to my attention.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

The Faith is Growing

So says Dave Hartline, a former Catholic School principal and teacher, who makes this bold (yet true) statement in his new book: "The Tide is Turning Toward Catholicism."

The book discusses what Hartline calls an under-the-radar resurgence, referring
to statistics such as an increase in the amount of men interested in entering
the seminary and becoming priests. He said more people are embracing the
traditions of the Catholic church, but what often makes the papers is scandal
and bad news about cases of clergy sexually abusing young parishioners.

He backs this up by citing examples and by exploring what is drawing people back to the faith: their search for answers.

When you give people the Truth, they will know it in their hearts and respond to the invitation by God. Let’s help this renaissance by living the Truth of the Gospel in a dynamic way.

Tip to David Brecount

Vocations are out there

Cardinal Sean OMalley of Boston posts on his blog about the recent vocation retreat at St. John's in Beantown. Over 60 men in their 20's and 30's attended the retreat! He mentions that vocations are being prayed for in the parishes throughout the archdiocese, and that this is evidence of those prayers bearing fruit.

Here in the Archdiocese of Cincinnati, we've seen a slight increase this year in the number of men attending discernment events and weekends. To find out more about the events here, check out the upcoming events page at the Vocation Office.

Tip: Rich Leonardi and BettNet

Minor Prophets give it a run

From this morning's Enquirer, there's an update on how the guys did over the weekend. They finished the tourney 1-2, stunning Kenrick-Glennon of St. Louis in the first game, before losing to the eventual champs from the Josephinum in the second game by just a few points. All in all, it was a good showing by the Minor Prophets, and I am looking for a good inside man to enroll at the seminary if anyone knows of some one....

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Catholic Matters by Richard John Neuhaus

If you have not read "Catholic Matters" by Fr. Richard John Neuhas, I highly recommend it. The book is his personal reflection on why he became Catholic (from Lutheranism) and on the Truth contained in the faith. One short snippet on page 42 describing his childhood and the comparison with the Catholic Church:

St. John's (the church of his Lutheran Pastor father) had a high altar, as did the other Lutheran churches I knew. As did the Catholic cathedral. On the few occasions I ventured to peek into the cathedral, however, I saw there were also statues of saints, and flickering votive lights, and, most impressively, the Real Presence of Jesus in the tabernacle above the high altar. When the people were not present for Sunday morning service, St. John's was behind its locked doors an empty auditorium awaiting its next use. But the cathedral was sacred space. Its doors were always open and, scattered about in what seemed to me the vast and darkened space, there were a few people praying and saying the rosary. They and what they were doing did not make the space sacred. They were drawn to a space made sacred by an other, by Another. There one was encountered by a Presence not of our pious creation. It was objective, it was given, it was real. It did not need or require anybody's agreement in order to be. Ex opere operato.

Another update on Sean

Click the link to the left to get another update from my dear friend Sean Tierney who is still up in Cleveland recovering from a heart transplant. Great news of this week is that rejection indicators in both the heart cells and in the arteries is a ZERO which is the best rating!

All Thanks to God in Heaven!

More love for the Minor Prophets

From today's Enquirer Editorial Page, the love for the guys keeps coming.

From my time playing for the MP's, 1999-2004, we had a great time playing together on Wednesday nights, even if the gym was a cage (the wall was out of bounds, not the line two inches from it!) If I hear any details about how they are doing, I will pass it along.

Friday, February 9, 2007

World Youth Day survey

From a combox below, for those who have attended a World Youth Day, there is a survey here.

I attended Toronto with a group of nine teenagers and a fellow adult (who just became a mom for the second time!) chaperone. It was a great experience for me as I was preparing to head back to the seminary for my last two years of formation. I think the teens that we took were also opened to the universality of the faith. I found it interesting that during the week, the chants of the teens changed. At the beginning of the week, it was all either state or local chants, by the end of the week, they had become Catholic chants, proclaiming the Truth of the faith. It was wonderful!


Ok, I apologize for the difficulty in reading the posts I include with block quotes. I can't seem to figure out how to get them to read right.

Please forgive me, I'm a Liberal Arts major in college!

Saving the MTV generation

For those who are familiar with the Fishers of Men DVD which was produced for the Secretariat for Vocations of the USCCB, the producer, Joe Campos, wants to keep the message going. In an article that appears in the National Catholic Register (their site is subscription based, bummer), he outlines his vision not only for the Fishers of Men, but also for other projects that he is working on with his Grassroots Films and as director of St. Francis House in the Bronx.

First off, is it any surprise that he is associated with Fr. Benedict Groeschel? Campos recalls hearing Groeschel and partner Fr. Glenn Sudano preach a parish mission. At the time, he was Catholic, but mainly in name and not complete. After a conversion at Medjugorje, he hooked up with the then still new CFR group and took over as director of St. Francis House.

Grassroots Films started shortly after 9/11/2001, when a new residence of the house was persuaded to use his gifts of movies to work for the Lord. Their mission:

The point is to preach to the unchurched, and to get our message out to the
world. That's what we did with "Fishers of Men." We made it for the
people who are not priests and not in seminary, to show that the priesthood is a
challenge. This is for real men.
Catholics, of course, are going to watch our films, and they should.
But the messages in our films are for everyone, to make them see and
The way we use music in the films also helps you have a spiritual
experience. Music does something that no other sound does. It
bypasses reason and logic and goes directly to the soul. It's perfectly natural
for a human being's soul to reach for their Creator, and music is a vehicle to
do that.

He also has a great use for the Fisher's of Men program:

When we showed the "Fishers of Men" to about 600 people in Yonkers, N.Y.,
at the Catholic Underground, a young lady told us, "I know I can't be a priest,
but this film strengthens me for whatever I do in life. It will help me
follow my vocation."
They're showing this in seminaries, high schools, and churches. My
suggestion is that they show it to second graders. Where I come from,
little boys want to save the world. They want to be police officers and
fireman. Why not give them the option of saving souls? That's the
priesthood. And you have to give it to them before adolescence. If
you do, then adolescence will be formed with this in the heart.

Campos is currently seeking funding for a new project that is explicitly Pro-Life: The Human Experience, without mentioning abortion. There is a clip posted at his site to see what an early version looks like.

With all the discussions in the blogosphere about what the laity's role should be in the Church in the post-Vatican II era, I can't help but think that Joe Campos is leading the way to the authentic spirit of the Council: engaging and challenging the culture to something more, and it is all based in a radical commitment to the Truth.

Bill Tonnis is back in concert

Bill Tonnis is back in Concert on Feb.17, 2007 at Mount St. Joseph. You won't want to miss this special night! It'sgoing to be a wonderful evening with really great music, a great venue, gourmet food, fellowship and the Spirit! And the celebration of a goodfriend realizing his dream and calling.

This event is unique because of the participation of the other musicians from the CD and Dion Clay coming in from Nashville. There won't be another concert like this. Dion's a great person and an extremely talented drummer who plays with Santana.There's a party afterwards (8:30 -10:00pm) where you'll have a chance to meet the musicians and see a lot of old friends. Feel free to invite other friends, family, and coworkers...all are welcome. Please keep Bill and the concert in your prayers especially for good weather, safe travels and healthy musicians and volunteers.

Bill Tonnis Concert
Day/Time: Saturday, Feb. 17 at 7:30 p.m.
Where: College of Mount St. Joseph Chapel
Parking: Free, Garage Near College Entrance
Details: Bill Tonnis will release his first solo CD of original Christian music with a live performance. Bill will perform all 12 songs from his Listen to Your Heart CD, accompanied by accomplished professional musicians Bobby Fisher and Jeff McLemore as well as Nashville-based drummer Dion Clay.

Tickets are $10 in advance and $15 at the door. The Listen to Your Heart CD will be on sale there for $15 and on the web at www.billtonnismusic.com. A reception will follow the concert in the Fifth Third Bank Hall with free hors d'oeuvres and refreshments, plus beer and wine at a nominal charge. Make sure to purchase you tickets soon!

Send a check payable to Bill Tonnis Music, c/o Rick Dammert, 1228 Poplar Ridge Rd., Alexandria, KY 41001, or call 859-635-5644 or email rad140@fuse.net for reservations or more information.

Good Luck, Fellas!

In a great article in this morning's paper, John Erardi, of Enquirer Sports, features the Mount St. Mary's Minor Prophets as they head north to take on the Pontifical College Josephinum tournament. Keep the faith, have fun and stay safe!

(This is the tourney that I blew out my knee in my second year of theology!)

Thursday, February 8, 2007

more good, some bad, news

Progress keeps getting made, even after a setback.

Check out the next update on Sean Tierney.

Also, we add Mr. Joe Acito, a wonderful friend and fellow teacher at Elder, to the prayer list after his surgery yesterday.

Wednesday, February 7, 2007

6 Effective Habits of Vocational Recruiting

Zenit picks up an article by Tim Drake from the National Catholic Register.

To sum up, Drake's six points:

1) Eucharist, esp. Adoration

2) Invitations by priests to consider the priesthood

3) Faithfulness of the seminary

4) Strong father figure in a candidate's life

5) Interaction with priests, especially as altar servers

6) World Youth Day

They all seem pretty self evident, don't they?

Sunday, February 4, 2007

Priest Hero

From the Twin Cities, we add him to the prayer lists for a speedy and complete recovery.

What I liked about the article, a priest is called to die to himself and live for his parishioners and people. I feel Fr. Vakoc has done this.

It is also good to recognize that, as a priest, I often do not get to see the results of my ministry. It is good to read:

A woman whose husband was stationed in Germany with Vakoc now sits with him
each Thursday afternoon in the D.C. hospital, spelling his sister from her
bedside watch. The woman credits the chaplain with saving her life by helping
her through a difficult time in Heidelberg.

Get well soon, Fr. Vakoc!


Yesterday's Gospel account (Mk 6:30-34) got me wondering about something. Why did the crowds search Jesus out so diligently? What led them to rush to an out of the way, deserted place to listen to this preacher, as they would have seen him? As I think about it, the only thing that makes sense to me is that he was preaching and living the Truth, and they were intrigued by that. Jesus was not being relevant, not telling them what they wanted to hear, but he was telling them what the needed to hear and something in their hearts stirred, opened up. As St. Augustine so aptly says: "Our hearts are restless until they rest in you, O God."

As I also look back over my week, I had to put my foot down over this challenge to be relevant. A group wanted to act out the Gospel at Mass, instead of having the priest read it. (So that it can be relevant.) "It's the GOSPEL, it is relevant!"

A wise priest once said: "The gates of Hell have the word 'relevant' spray painted on them in bright purple iradescent paint!" Don't call me relevant, because that is too wishy washy. I hope to preach the Truth, as St. Paul says: Woe to me if I do not preach the Gospel!

Saturday, February 3, 2007

More Updates on Sean

Check the new link to the left -->

Sean continues to do well, but the one thing that is heavy on his heart is that his new friend and roommate is still in need of a heart. Let's storm heaven for Jonathan as we did (and continue to do so) for Sean.

Good Thoughts

There's a good post over at Catholic Ragemonkey on Vatican II and our response.

Whew, thank God it's Saturday!

Well, as has been mentioned in many places, Catholic Schools Week has come and gone for another year. My quip while I was teaching that 'We celebrate Catholic Schools by not teaching for the week!' It was usually enjoyable at the High School as we got extra treats during lunch (personal favorite: Skyline Day!)

For me, this year was about hitting different places to promote vocations: Monday was Elder High School, Tuesday was support group, so that was nice, but I had to leave early to head to Millville for a presentation, Wednesday was Mass at Moeller High School, Thursday was a presentation to the St. Margaret Mary Deanery, and Friday was Mass at St. Catherine's and three class presentations at Ascension in Kettering, and the opening prayer at the Elder vs. Moeller Basketball game last night. What an excellent game! (and a better outcome!) And, I got to shake Coach Tressel's hand, too. This morning was Mass with the Archbishop at Holy Name Church in Mt. Auburn and the rosary procession to Planned (un)Parenthood.

Looking back at this week, no wonder my office desk is somewhere under piles of stuff, and my residence is an equal disaster. Oh well, just as long as I get my taxes paid!

Church Status

The recent edition of Crisis Magazine has an article on the Status of the Church in America, Diocese by Diocese. It is an interesting read to see what the authors consider to be a healthy diocese, as they focus on ordinations, growth or decline in numbers of priests, and the number of converts. They ran the numbers for 1995 and 2005, as based out of the Kennedy Directory. I am glad to see that Cincinnati made a sizable jump, but we are still below the halfway mark at 117 out of 176 dioceses. We are in line with where Columbus and Cleveland are, but Steubenville really jumped up to #20 (way to go, Bishop Conlon, a Cincinnati priest).

What about me?

LogoThere are:
people with my name
in the U.S.A.

How many have your name?