Monday, March 31, 2008

Gonna be a long afternoon

I'm eight blocks from the BallPark, its raining, and I'm stuck in my office. :(

At least I have Marty, Thom and Jeff on the radio.

Gonna get nothing else done today.

A Uniquely Cincinnati Holiday

The crack of the bat, the smell of the new leather glove, and the freshly painted baselines; yep, Opening Day is here, finally!

As the home of the first professional baseball team, Opening Day is one of those unique holidays in Cincinnati, as it takes on a special prominence here in the Queen City. The parade is going on now, and first pitch is shortly after 2:00. All the talk radio in the city is currenlty focused on the team's hopes of breaking nearly a decade of futility (seven straight years of losing seasons, nearly halfway to the Bengals!)


Sunday, March 30, 2008

Be a Disciple

Rough sketch of my homily, delivered at St. Mary's Hyde Park and the Catholic Campus Ministry Center at Wright State University:

There is a natural tendency after going through a traumatic experience to slide back into an old way of life, especially experiences of a profound conversion, a profound spiritual encounter; if it does not ‘take hold’ so to speak, we can find ourselves very easily backsliding into our old way of life, our old existence, and nothing really is changed from before.
In a very real sense, that is what we see here in today’s Gospel: the Eleven are still shaken from the events or a week ago, even though Jesus warned them that it was coming up, and they are starting to back slide into an old way of life: they are hiding, fearful, almost shamed that they knew Jesus. And their lives are still in danger.
Change -> personal encounter with the Risen Christ, moved them from their own human limitations to a deep desire to share the message of salvation wrought by Christ with all the world.
Kerygma, core, was His death, not ‘be nice to everyone’ but ‘This Christ, whom you put to death, God raised from the dead for the forgiveness of your sins!’
The power of their preaching, and the authenticity of their lives, that they were truly converted and won over by Christ, allowed that ‘every day, more and more were added to their numbers.’
Question: Is the way I am living inviting people to a closer discipleship of Christ, or am I a stumbling block to my brothers and sisters?

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Chicken or the Egg?

In the comments section of the previous post, the highlight seems to be that we have to help our faithful realize that there is a place marked 'X' for every person within the Church. We have to help our faithful realize that they are disciples in the Lord, as we see witnessed during the Easter Season's readings from the Acts of the Apostles.

But in order to be a disciple, we must first know the Lord, and this involves a deep and profound catechesis as to whom Jesus is, why is it important that He founded the Church, and why and how does the Church teach with authority.

But to fully accept these positions, one must be converted by Christ, which means one must be His disciple.

But to be His disciple, we must know about Him.

Hmmm..... I'm sensing a circle here that could get us bogged down.

To keep this from happening, all catechesis must be formational, and formation in discipleship must be solidly catechetical, rooted in and with the Church.

Creating a Culture of Vocations in the Parish

This is the text version of the PowerPoint Presentation I gave at the Annual National Catholic Education Association (NCEA) National Convention this past week in Indianapolis. It's pretty long, so I'm gonna try to break the post, if I can figure out how.... (didn't work, sorry for the long post) BOLD text is the slide header, and the bulleted points are what was actually displayed, with the text block below a general outline of what I said.

General Overview
· Four Themes:
o Catechesis
o Family Life
o Vocations
o Respect for Life

About a year ago, the Diocese of Cleveland developed a new pastoral plan that was consisted of the following four aspects: Catechesis, Family Life, Vocations and Respect of Life. They struck a cord with me, as these four aspects can also help in the promotion of the priesthood, as they form four key, constitutive elements of Catholic life, each informed by the Gospel, and they obviously build upon one another.
Catechesis begins in relationship with Jesus and learning all there is to know about Him and the religion He founded. But it is not enough to just know the faith, it is to be lived in the family, put in to practice. By doing so, I am convinced that vocations to the priesthood, religious and consecrated life will erupt.
And a key way to energize and enliven the faith is to speak for those who are less fortunate, and that is the building of the Culture of Life in the parish and home, and standing against the culture of death which the world advocates.

Catechesis: Formation for Mission
· What is the point of Catechesis?
o “To lead boys and girls to Christ.”
§ Incomplete answer!
· Henrietta Mears:
If you stop there, you will never be successful. Every man and woman,
every boy and girl, must feel that there is a task for them to do, that there is
a place marked X for every person in God’s Kingdom.

We begin with Catechesis, the foundation of religious education, and I ask: What is the point of catechesis? Henrietta Mears, who worked as a catechist for 35 years at Presbyterian Church in Hollywood, California, and had over 400 of her students go into full time church ministry (including a young Billy Graham) stated that she often got the answer: “To lead boys and girls to Christ.”
Her response: NO! That, of course, is part of the answer, but if you stop there, you will never be successful. Every man and woman, every boy and girl must feel that there is a task for them to do, that there is a place marked X for every person in God’s Kingdom. Here is my X, no one can stand in this place but me. I must help others to find their places. (From Dream Big: The Henrietta Mears Story, 191; as quoted in Making Disciples, Equipping Apostles from the Catherine of Siena Institute.)
Catechesis is not just another subject in school, or something done on just Sunday mornings or Wednesday evenings; it is formation to live a life in Christ! We must help our students come to realize their need to ask the question of the Rich Young Man in the Gospel: “Teacher, what must I do to inherit Eternal Life?” If they ask that question, honestly, they are trapped!

Catechism: Know the Faith!
· In order to equip our faithful to be able to find their place in the Church and in the world, they need solid catechesis!
o Take advantage of new resources:
§ Didache Series of textbooks
§ US Catholic Adult Catechism
§ Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church
· Catholics are reluctant to share their faith because they feel like they do not know it well enough.

How did John Paul II introduce so many young people to the faith? Because he led with Christ and drew them into the mystery of the personhood of Jesus, and then began to teach them about what it means to be a Christian in our world today.
Once we have, through our own personal witness, introduced our students to Christ, we need to equip them to be able to live their faith, and defend it in the world, to both the secular challenges and to the Evangelical Protestants. In order to do this, they need to know the faith, deep down, backwards and forwards, in the end: solid catechesis.
Often, we think we have to reinvent the wheel. We don’t. Take advantage of the newer resources that have come out in the last five years, resources that are finally translating the Universal Catechism into language that our people of today can take advantage of.
As an example, because I come from a family of engineers, I can read and understand blueprints, I can talk competently about building and understand the concepts involved. But I cannot take lines on a sheet of paper and actually construct them into a building. We need to equip our faithful to be able to take the faith in the books and apply it to their daily life so that they can confront the challenges that they will face.

Catechesis: Living the Mystery
· Archbishop Edwin O’Brien:
o Young people will give their lives for a mystery, but they will not give their lives for a question mark.
· What is different about the study of the faith versus the study of math, science, literature, languages?
o We have to help our students to realize that the Faith is there to help them in good times and bad!
· GK Chesterton:
o Mysticism keeps men sane.

Archbishop Edwin O’Brien new Archbishop of Baltimore, and former Big Boss of the Archdiocese of the Military Services. He is a past Rector/President of two seminaries: Dunwoodie in New York and the Pontifical North American College in Rome. He has seen his soldiers die, he has seen his priests (who are on loan from other dioceses) give their lives for their men. He gave this quote at the Catholic Men’s Conference last March in Cincinnati: “Young people will give their lives for a mystery, but they will not give their lives for a question mark.”
In a sense, we are forming our young people to be martyrs in the world today. I think they want that challenge, they want to stand for something more, and they are ravishingly hungry for it.
In order to pass along that mystery to them, you must model and live that mystery for them. Your example, as their catechist, will inspire them to embrace the fullness of the truth. Do not give them watered down crap, they can see through it and they will reject it. If it is not of value to you, it will not be of value to them.
You have to help your students realize the value and Truth of the Faith. You have to believe it yourself! Ask yourself the question: How is the study of Catholicism different from the study of mathematics, science, literature and modern languages?
I don’t know about you, but when I am in crisis (usually on a daily basis), I do not turn to my college Chemistry book! I look to the Bible, I hit my knees, I grab a rosary. All of those other subjects are important, but will they help when my wife nearly gives her life in bearing my children? Will they help when my husband goes to serve in Iraq? I don’t think so!

Family Life
· Primary Building Block of Church and society
o Primary place where the faith is handed on!
· Young parents need formation in how to hand on the faith to their children.
· Programs on the parish level need to encourage and support what is happening at home.
o You can use already existing methods to accomplish this task.

All of this emphasis on catechesis, however, will be pointless if we do not have an impact into the life of families.
Family life remains the basic building block of the Church and society, this is also the place where the initial foundations of the faith are formed, as well as where the most effective catechesis happens, and most of it happens implicitly! Think of how children learn the language: they listen, they slowly start to put together the basic building blocks and then start to use it themselves, and it is something that continues to grow throughout their lives. I am still learning new words, are you?
The same thing happens in the faith! The most effective form of catechesis happens at this level, this is where the next generation learns to pray, learns to hope in God, and begins to discern how they are being called into the world, forming the foundations of an adult life of faith.
The problem is, the current generation needs help to do this! I’ve seen it, there is a hunger to know the faith, you must help your parents to know the faith and how to pass it on to their children. I had it easy, I had an eight year formation program of preparation for the priesthood, and I still wasn’t ready! And we think six months will be enough for a couple preparing for marriage?!?!?

Defense of Marriage and Family
· Be cautious of ‘Rights Talk’
· Remember:
o All that we do as Christians should be based in LOVE!
o A love that is sacrificial, giving, and complete.

It is no secret that marriage is under attack. The more progressive elements of our society are attempting to redefine marriage into something that it is not. The Rule of Law is no longer about a reflection of the Natural Law of God, but is now who has the most power to implement their own interpretation of how things should be.
Obviously, this has some very dire consequences for the life of the Church as well. What is important to keep in mind is that we, as a Christian community, not fall into the “Rights” talk that pervades modern society. We need to keep the conversation on obligations, on a reflection of the Natural Order, as established by God.
If we allow marriage laws to start to erode, there is no end. It will continue to erode until we even question the meaning of the word ‘is’!
So, how do we combat this, especially in the realm of vocations: Love! We hold to a higher degree, a higher standard, that does not let us embrace a false teaching of sin.

Family as Seedbed for Vocation
· Equip parents to address:
o What is the unique set of gifts that each of my children have?
o How is God asking me to enrich and nourish those gifts to send my children into the world?
· To Teens:
o Don’t ask: “What do you want to do with your life?”
o Rather: “What does GOD want you to do with the gifts He has given?”
§ A subtle but important distinction.

One of the challenges that I give parents is to realize that they are called to prepare their children to be able to go out into the world, to enable them to embrace their call from Christ, and take up their own Cross to follow after him.
So, how do you do that? What I challenge parents to do is two-fold: first, they must come to realize the unique combination of gifts that each child has, and then how is God calling you, as their parent, to nourish and enrich those gifts so that you can send them out into the world.
I see it often that parents want to live vicariously through their children, they want their children to have what they wanted when they were that age. That is fine and noble, yes, but is it what God wants for that child? That is the more important question.
In fact, as they get older, especially into high school, we often ask teens the wrong question: what do you want to do in College, in the working world? It is a fair question, but a wrong question nonetheless. Rather, I propose that we ask them: What does God want them to do? That begins to address the question that each Catholic Christian is called to be an active disciple of Christ in the world. I am also convinced that this second question will ultimately lead to a greater happiness in life than the first.

· Starting aspect:
o Priesthood and religious life
o Leads to self-examination about how one is being called to follow Christ.
· After this initial introduction, introduce married and single life also as vocations in the Church.
o Helps break the mentality that ‘this is the next thing for my life.’

As we start to enable parents and teens to approach those questions, we then need to introduce them to all the options. First among them are questions about priesthood and religious life. I start with these because they are the toughest questions to embrace, and they also require the most soul searching for the person asking these questions.
When I first met a friend of mine, Kelly, she was a single young adult volunteering her time as a youth minister in a parish where I was stationed for a year. As I got to know her, she asked me a lot of questions about how I knew that I was called to the priesthood, and how she might figure out if she was called to religious life. (She had a lot of people suggesting that she consider it!) She kept coming to the answer that she was not called to religious life, but was called to get married. The problem was, she hadn’t found the right guy, yet! But an interesting thing started to happen in her life, as she came to the conclusion that she was called to get married, she started changing the criteria that she was using in looking for a spouse. Instead of looking for a handsome fireman, she started looking for someone she could have a spiritual connection with, someone she could make a lifetime commitment to and with. Because she had to ask herself questions about religious life, she came to a very definite conclusions about marriage.
By addressing the questions in this order, what starts to happen is that it breaks the routine that so many young people implicitly fall into in their lives: I’m 25 now, I have to get married. No you don’t! You are to get married if you are called to it and if God has placed you with the right woman/man! It is too easy to get a divorce today, and hence too easy to get married, because there is a way out. Help your young people to see this as a call!

Nurturing Vocations
· Children want to be heroes, especially boys.
· Introduce the option of the priesthood and religious life before adolescence.
· That way, they are formed with the idea already in their heart.
o Then, when they ask the question: “what does God want me to do?” they already have this option in the background.

The topic of priesthood and religious life is not something that can be addressed once, and then dropped. It is something that needs to be fostered early on, and nourished and enriched throughout a young person’s formation for life as a Christian. Joe Campo is the producer of the Fishers of Men DVD which has gained very wide acclaim in Church circles for its strong promotion and identity of the priesthood. His idea, as reported in an interview with National Catholic Register, was to show the video during preparation for First Communion, not just at later stages of formation. He says, “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.”
Obviously, not all are called to be priests and/or religious life, that would certainly cut down on the Catholic population after one generation! But, if you form all young people with this idea of the priesthood, they will be more likely to support their friends and peers whom might be considering the idea. One thing that holds back many young people from considering the idea of priesthood and/or religious life is the concern that they will be made fun of/experience negative peer pressure. Hence the need to change that around to help them experience positive peer pressure to consider the idea.

Public Support of Vocations
· Priests and religious are not as visible as they once were.
· Use positive steps to help combat that lack of visibility.
· Show a variety of religious sommunities.
o Highlight the unique charisms of each order.
· Make the parish support of vocations OVERT!

As the numbers of priests and religious have unfortunately continued to decline, there is a direct correlation with a decrease in the visibility of priests and religious among our young people. They may recognize that the priest is ‘up there’ at Mass on Sunday’s, but do they realize that he is also a real person, has the same hopes and dreams that they do? Do they even know a religious sister? The first one I really met and got to know was when I was in the seminary!
In response to this, there should be a permanent, but not static display of vocations present in every parish! One of the things that we provide in the Archdiocese of Cincinnati is the display poster of all the seminarians currently studying for the Archdiocese. Is that prominent in the school and parish? Do the children see it at CCD? As part of the rotating display, include items from the myriads of religious orders, they are always more than happy to send out information on what they do and what their specific charism is.
Things that we once soaked up just because we swam in a ‘Catholic Culture’ now need to be much more overt, because our young people do not get it in that way anymore.

Respect for Life: Lesson in History
· Communism fell through:
o Prayer
§ Consecration of Russia
o Witness of the faithful
§ Those here who prayed
§ Those here who gave their lives
o Leadership, civil and ecclesiastical
§ Pope John Paul II and President Reagan together

There is power in prayer, and there is power in a consistent ethic of life that informs all aspects of life for the community of faith. For those who are my age and older, how many of you thought that Communism would fall without a single shot being fired? (It is starting to come out the Gorbachov was a closet Christian and one of the figures in history he most admired was St. Francis of Assisi.)
Young people have a natural sense and curiosity about justice. If you are inconsistent in your classroom, they will jump on it immediately, trust me, I know! What they need help with is steering that justice and forming their conscience so that they can recognize social justice as an outgrowth of their faith, as a way of speaking for those who have no voice, especially the unborn but also the poor, the marginalized, the homeless, etc.
Again, look what happens when we set aside our differences and work for the coming of the Kingdom: Pope John Paul II and President Reagan were able to bring down Communism. That should give us a great deal of hope to recognize that God will triumph in the end.

Respect for Life
· A growing movement among young people
· Tap into their desire for justice, action, and witness.
· The recognize the emptiness of the culture of death and desire to embrace the culture of life!
· Respect for Life => Mission

Respect for Life helps to give direction and purpose to our relationship with Our Lord. He does not want us to sit and just adore, rather we pray so that we can also do. Laity are called to be active in the world, to bring Christ to their homes, their places of work and recreation, and through your witness to help bring the faith alive to all those Catholics that have grown lax in their faith.
So, in the growing secularism of our culture, direct your young people to embrace a culture of Life. The witness that they provide, especially at the March for Life, witnesses to their desire to stand up for change and to live for something greater than themselves, and it helps to prepare them for whatever God might have in store for them later in life.
By having a solid foundation in the mission of the church, that a relationship with Christ leads us to speak for the poorest of the poor, those for whom no one else will speak, the energy of our young people starts to be focused and driving to living for Christ and standing for change in this world.

Gifts to be Shared
· Respect for Life establishes:
o All are ‘Gifted’ by the Lord
o Gifts are meant to be shared.
o Without the sharing of these gifts, the world suffers; but by sharing these gifts the world rejoices!

Through all of this, the great challenge is to break the cycle of narcissism that our world engenders and to help our young people to recognize that they are called and gifted by the world; and that He gives them a specific and unique mission in the world. And if they fail, the world suffers.
Granted, I know you will not reach them all. Even Jesus failed to convert all of His disciples. Yet, there are those in your classrooms and parishes who are waiting to hear the challenge of the Gospel. Give them that challenge.

o resources and links in support of vocations
o Didache Series textbooks
o The Catherine of Siena Institute
o Intentional Disciples Blog
o Prominent Catholic Blogger and author of “Prove It!” series
· Footprints of God DVD series
o 10 volume series on Church History
· Fishers of Men DVD from Grassroots Films
· The Catholic Priest Today
o DVD from Midwest Theological Forum
· The Passion of the Christ
· Catholic Blog Awards
o Lists of the best and brightest writers on all things Catholic

Friday, March 28, 2008

Theology on Tap is Back

Theology on Tap Cincinnati is proud to announce our 2008 schedule:

April 3rd, 2008 Fr. Kyle Schnippel Giving it Over: Following God's Plan in Your Life
April 24th, 2008 Betsy and Gerry Greenwell Happily Ever After: How to Make a Marriage Last
April 10th, 2008 David Endres, Ph.D. Church History Myth Busters
May 1st, 2008 Fr. Earl Fernandes Are There Still Saints?
April 17th, 2008 Kate Iadiapaolo The Genius of Woman
May 8th, 2008 A Panel Discussion Mission Possible: Meet Your Local Missionaries

Events are held at Ticket's Sports Cafe in Covington, Kentucky, and there is no admission charge, but we do accept free will offerings!

(Notice that first speaker, YIKES!)

Also, David Endres is in third theology, and will shortly be ordained a transitional deacon for the Archdiocese of Cincinnati. Fr. Fernandes is newly returned from Rome after completing his Doctorate in Moral Theology and is assuming duties on faculty at Mount St. Mary's Seminary.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Back in the 'Nati!

Made it back to the Queen City of the Midwest late this morning and unfortunately trudged my way into the office. For being gone for most of a week, the mail pile wasn't too bad. The week was interesting, tho, with some pretty garring contrasts, but informative at the least.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Away for a few days

I took off after a short lunch at a friends and am now at Shellbourne Conference Center for a workshop on the New Evangelization and Youth. It is a conference specifically for priests and seminarians, so it looks good so far. I'll check in as possible, but expect the blog to be pretty quiet this week.

Wednesday, I head back down to Indy to present a workshop at the National Catholic Education Association national convention entitled: Creating a Culture of Vocations in the Parish. I'll be sure to post the notes when they are finished.

Thursday, I am visiting a potential candidate at Marrion College in Indy before heading back to the Queen City of the Midwest.

Friday begins Welcome Weekend at Mount St. Mary's Seminary.

So, a slightly busy week this week.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Share the Good News! (Easter Homily)

The good folks at Our Lady of Lourdes in Westwood heard the following message:

Over the last week, more than anything, we hear about a certain little tournament going on, the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament. Reports show that nearly 70% of Americans enter at least some type of pool, arranging brackets and studying up the teams, and the most often heard question this time of year: who’s in your Final Four picks? (Just a show of hands, who here filled out a bracket?)
Don’t get me wrong, I certainly enjoy the tournament as much as the next guy, and I hope Xavier makes a good run, hopefully even to ….. But the question I have with regard to the other ‘Big Thing’ we celebrated this week is this: no matter who wins this tournament, will it actually have a day to day impact on our life, on my life? As much fun as the tournament is, I don’t think so. We watch, we root, we enjoy, we clamor for the coach to be fired if he doesn’t win it all; but regardless our lives go on.
This ‘Other Event’ that I spoke of, though, has a drastic impact, not only in our daily lives, but also a dramatic effect on our souls into Eternal Life. And again, as much as I enjoy the tournament, I think this event is much more dramatic, much more important, much more life changing than any basketball event could ever have. Obviously, the event I refer to is the Passion, Death, and Resurrection of Our Lord: a singular event which happened nearly two thousand years ago, yet an event which we enter into every time we celebrate the Mass. It is a life changing event that we can enter into every day of our lives, if we so choose. Yet, the temptation is to talk of something so mundane as a sports tournament.
Looking back to the First Reading today, we hear Peter’s impassioned speech in the house of Cornelius in Caesaria by the Sea. Truly, Peter is a gifted speaker and through his words many came to believe on this day and the faith is opened to those who were Gentiles, no longer just Jews, thanks be to God! Peter sums up the whole of the faith in these few short words, and presents it with such passion, such conviction, such vigor that the crowds are immediately opened and welcome the Holy Spirit.
Sadly, I only see this passion today when it comes to sports, and our conversation about the faith is relegated to something you just do not do in polite company. My argument is that this is nothing more important to talk about than our faith! Do you understand what we celebrate today? Jesus was DEAD, story over, see ya later, turn out the lights on this whole movement. As of last Friday, it was DONE!
Then this morning, low and behold, Mary Magdalene goes to the tomb, and it is empty! Peter and John run to meet their Lord, and He is not there! This is the moment when their lives are changed forever! They are no longer afraid to acknowledge that they even know Jesus, now they will proclaim Him from the rooftops!
This is what we need for today, this same zeal that led Peter to give his life in Rome, that led ten of the other eleven to give their lives for Christ; (all except John, who remained faithful at the Cross and believed at the moment he entered the tomb.)
And it is not just from me, and its not from just the deacon; it is this zeal that we need from everyone.
Ask yourself the question: how much time did I spend this past week preparing for Easter versus preparing for a, really, meaningless game. If we spent as much time pursuing the Truth from Christ (who is Truth embodied) as we spent arranging and rearranging brackets for a tournament; what would our world be like?
Now, will you seek him out, run to the empty tomb, come in and believe?

Cathedral at Easter

The Main Altar

The main pulpit

The Baptistry

Altar in the Daily Chapel

Sanctuary in the Main Cathedral

Long Range view of the interior

Sorry if some of the images are not quite clear, I need to get a tripod.

Holy Saturday

The best reflection for this day is found in the Office of Readings from the Liturgy of the Hours:

From an ancient homily for Holy Saturday
The Lord's descent into the underworld
Something strange is happening – there is a great silence on earth today, a great silence and stillness. The whole earth keeps silence because the King is asleep. The earth trembled and is still because God has fallen asleep in the flesh and he has raised up all who have slept ever since the world began. God has died in the flesh and hell trembles with fear.He has gone to search for our first parent, as for a lost sheep. Greatly desiring to visit those who live in darkness and in the shadow of death, he has gone to free from sorrow the captives Adam and Eve, he who is both God and the son of Eve. The Lord approached them bearing the cross, the weapon that had won him the victory. At the sight of him Adam, the first man he had created, struck his breast in terror and cried out to everyone: “My Lord be with you all”. Christ answered him: “And with your spirit”. He took him by the hand and raised him up, saying: “Awake, O sleeper, and rise from the dead, and Christ will give you light”.I am your God, who for your sake have become your son. Out of love for you and for your descendants I now by my own authority command all who are held in bondage to come forth, all who are in darkness to be enlightened, all who are sleeping to arise. I order you, O sleeper, to awake. I did not create you to be held a prisoner in hell. Rise from the dead, for I am the life of the dead. Rise up, work of my hands, you who were created in my image. Rise, let us leave this place, for you are in me and I am in you; together we form only one person and we cannot be separated. For your sake I, your God, became your son; I, the Lord, took the form of a slave; I, whose home is above the heavens, descended to the earth and beneath the earth. For your sake, for the sake of man, I became like a man without help, free among the dead. For the sake of you, who left a garden, I was betrayed to the Jews in a garden, and I was crucified in a garden.See on my face the spittle I received in order to restore to you the life I once breathed into you. See there the marks of the blows I received in order to refashion your warped nature in my image. On my back see the marks of the scourging I endured to remove the burden of sin that weighs upon your back. See my hands, nailed firmly to a tree, for you who once wickedly stretched out your hand to a tree.I slept on the cross and a sword pierced my side for you who slept in paradise and brought forth Eve from your side. My side has healed the pain in yours. My sleep will rouse you from your sleep in hell. The sword that pierced me has sheathed the sword that was turned against you.Rise, let us leave this place. The enemy led you out of the earthly paradise. I will not restore you to that paradise, but I will enthrone you in heaven. I forbade you the tree that was only a symbol of life, but see, I who am life itself am now one with you. I appointed cherubim to guard you as slaves are guarded, but now I make them worship you as God. The throne formed by cherubim awaits you, its bearers swift and eager. The bridal chamber is adorned, the banquet is ready, the eternal dwelling places are prepared, the treasure houses of all good things lie open. The kingdom of heaven has been prepared for you from all eternity.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Southern Women

I know this post is going to get me in trouble, but the secret needs to get out. No man is safe until it does.

There is a false stereotype out there, and it involves none other than this demure, apparently sweet Southern Ladies who present themselves as saintly little creatures.

This is, quite simply, a LIE! They use that sweet little accent to get men to do things for them, and the repayment? They viciously rip him to shreads! They leave men quaking, no longer even able to form coherent words, much less complete sentences!

What brings on this tirade, you ask? Let me explain.

There has been a disturbance in the force here in Cincinnati. Two long lost Southern Bells have been reunited. As I said above, this is NOT a good thing for any male around!

The 'host' is a good friend of mine, on her own, she is formidable. However, I learned as I spoke with her this morning, that when paired with 'the Visitor,' HELL is breaking loose! Even the Devil is scared!

The 'Visitor' asked to speak with me on the phone. Less than two minutes later, I was quaking, fear oozing from every pore. This is from a woman I have not yet even met, and I am scared.

Now, lest you think I am just a chicken and don't know how to deal with women after 12 years in primarily male dominated arenas (8 in sem, 2 teaching in all boys school, and 2 as vocation director), I need to remind you that I had three, count em: THREE! older sisters growing up. While my dear sisters are all formidable in their own right, they stand no chance against these two supposed 'Southern Bells.'

The secret is now out, gentlemen. Avoid these apparently sweet and innocent creatures called 'Southern Bells!' They will destroy you!

Good Friday

Considering our familiarity with the readings, I wanted to touch on other aspects of the Liturgy today for this reflection.

This is a liturgy of paradox: we commemorate His death, but don't have Mass; sadness is tempered by the bright red vestments; the Cross is our sign of victory, yet we lay prostrate before the altar at the start. It is jarring.

To begin, the priest enters the sanctuary in silence and lays for a period before the altar in prostration. This is a supreme act of humilty, an act of submission, and an act where we ask Our Lord's blessing and strength to be with us this day. We rise and go straight to the Opening Prayer. There is no greeting, no sign of the Cross, nothing. The jarring nature of this liturgy continues.

Here at the Cathedral, even for a penitential day, there is much more singing than usual. But it is somber and severe. More of it is unaccompanied than normal. The Psalm was simple chant, in one voice. The Passion was chanted by three cantors, and powerfully done. The narrator is sung by a baritone, the voices by a tenor, and Christ by a bass, because He is the fullness of humanity. It adds a dramatic effect to the reading, as Pilate's voice is so high when asking about Truth, and Christ responds in that deep basso profundo. Who speaks with the greater authority?

Archbishop's homilies have been pretty good this week, much more of a personal application than he has had in the past.

The prayers of petition again are unique, developed, and ancient. We pray for everyone and their brother, showing our need to pray not just for ourselves and those who are dear to us, but to follow Jesus' example from the Cross and pray for those who persecute us. (Cardinal Zen has great meditations on this from the Way of the Cross in Rome. These are the only 'Zen Meditations I endorse, hee hee.)

The Veneration of the Cross is equally dramatic and jarring. Here, we use an 8 foot cross, or thereabouts. Three deacons carry it in and elevate it while the Archbishop intones the verse and response. The quality of the choir in singing while the faithful come forward, chilling.

Communion proceeds, simply, with any remaining Species reserved in the private chapel. The main Cathedral is empty, His presence is gone. "Why is this night different from all other nights?"

We have Stations a little bit later today.

Overheard today at the Cathedral

"If you were brought before a tribunal and ordered to give an account, would there be enough information to convict you of being a follower of Christ?"
- Archbishop Daniel E. Pilarczyk, Homily for Good Friday

"Why does beef always sound so much better on days when you can't have it?"
- Fr. James Bramlage, while trying to scrounge together some lunch

"Well, I could either take a nap, or watch basketball. Neither one sounds too penitential."
- Fr. Kyle E. Schnippel, after completing said lunch

Holy Thursday

Here at the Cathedral, the Archbishop presides at all the Holy Week stuff, seminarians serve, and we priest get relegated to the 'flower pot' role: stand there and look good, don't get in the way. (There were six present last night, and as that was more than the required number for Communion, I didn't even get to do that!)

Actually, as I posted earlier this week, I don't mind it, as I get to relax and just enjoy the ceremony, and not be worried about what to say in the homily, do the servers know what is happening next, will the choir catch my signal, etc. It is one of the few perks in working in the central offices.

I still wanted to post something of my thoughts about the events of this week, though. It gives me something priestly to do!

First off, thanks for the comments on the posts regarding Judas. There were things brought up that I hadn't considered, and interesting viewpoints. I hope to be able to do more of this sort of thing in the future, as time permits.

While I know that some do not prefer the Washing of the Feet, I think it is a powerful reminder to the priest as to what he is about: his authority comes about from service, and there is an intimate connection between the Eucharist and 'doing as I have done.' Without both dimensions, things can start to fall apart: you get a priest who loves the power and glory, but never visits the hospital; or you get all social justice without the foundation that we experience Christ in the service of others.

I think it is profoundly telling that Christ's last bit of teaching to His disciples is one of humility. It is something I know I need more of, I just wish He didn't make it so obvious!

Chrism Mass Homily

No, not by me, by someone emminently more qualified, His Holiness:

The "temptation of humanity", since the time of Adam, "has always been that of wanting to be completely autonomous, to follow only our own will and to maintain that only in this way will we be free", but in this way "we pit ourselves against the truth". This is also true for priests: "we do not invent the Church as we would like it to be, but we proclaim the Word of Christ properly only in communion". Benedict XVI dedicated entirely to the figure and responsibilities of the priest the reflection that he presented today during the "Chrism" Mass: the rite that, in all the cathedrals of the Catholic world, precedes the celebration of the Triduum of Holy Week.

Further interview with Fr. Toups

Fr. Toups, author of the forthcoming Reclaiming Our Priestly Character, has an interview posted at Zenit. Thanks to Rich for the email.

Q: Your book focuses on recovering what you call the “doctrine of the priestly character.” Can you describe this “doctrine” in a nutshell?
Father Toups: The “doctrine of the priestly character” is about the permanent relationship the priest enters into with Christ the High Priest on the day of his ordination. The priest is always a priest; he is not a simple functionary who performs ritual actions, but rather he is configured to Christ in the depths of his being by what is called an ontological change. Christ is working through him at the altar, “This is my Body,” and in the confessional, “I absolve you of your sins,” but also in his daily actions outside the sanctuary. The character that the priest receives is a comfort to the faithful inasmuch as they realize that their faith is not based in the personality of the priest, but rather the Person of Christ working through the priest. On the other hand, the priest is called, like all of the faithful, to a life of holiness. The character received at ordination is actually a dynamism for priestly holiness. The more he can assimilate his life to Christ and submit to the gift he received at ordination, the more he will be a credible witness to the faithful and edify the Body of Christ.

Q: Is it your view that the nature of the priesthood is unknown or misunderstood by many priests? Is mandatory “continuing priestly education” the answer?
Father Toups: Studies show that there has been confusion regarding the exact nature of the priesthood among priests themselves depending on the timing of their seminary training.Immediately following the Second Vatican Council, there was confusion among priests and laity alike about the difference between the priesthood of the faithful and the ministerial priesthood. Vatican II’s intention was not to suppress one in order to highlight the other, but rather to recognize the universal call to holiness and the dignity of both. The ministerial priesthood is a specific vocation within the Church in which a man is called by Christ in the apostolic line to offer the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. Priests are different by virtue of ordination, as confirmed by the council itself in paragraph 10 of “Lumen Gentium,” which emphasized that the baptized and the ordained share in the one and the same priesthood of Christ, but in a way that differs “in essence and not only in degree.” This difference certainly does not mean better or even holier -- that would be a major error -- but it does mean that there is a distinction. Cardinal Avery Dulles points out that, if anything, the priesthood of the faithful is more exalted because the ministerial priesthood is ordered to its service. Hence, a recovery from the confusion lies in the need to understand the balance a priest is to find; he is both a servant and one who has been set aside by Christ and the Church to stand "in persona Christi" -- not as a personal honor, but as “one who has come to serve and not be served.” The priest need not be embarrassed about this high calling, but should boldly live it out in the midst of the world. Pope John Paul the Great regularly reminded priests: “Do not be afraid to be who you are!”This brings us to the second part of your question, namely, is mandatory “continuing priestly education” the answer? In the book, I use the term “formation,” not education -- though learning is an important, component part. Ongoing formation is essential for every Christian vocation. In the midst of full liturgical schedules, parish councils, leaking roofs and hospital visits, the priest must continually open his heart and mind to Christ in prayer and study, annual retreats and seminars, as well as times of recreation and vacation, if he is to thrive as an individual and as a man of faith. Ongoing formation is about deepening one’s interiority and fostering a relationship with Jesus Christ. It is about an ongoing conversion that reminds the priest who he is as a minister of the Gospel and whose he is as a son of God. So is ongoing formation the answer? It is certainly a part of the solution to a happier, healthier presbyterate. Pope John Paul II wrote, “Ongoing formation helps the priest to be and act as a priest in the spirit and style of Jesus the Good Shepherd” ("Pastores Dabo Vobis," 73).

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Judas, Part III

Continuing our series from Monday and Tuesday, we take a look today at Wednesday's Gospel, this time shifting from John earlier in the week to Matthew's account of the betrayal. Because of Judas' treachery, this has commonly come to be known as 'Spy Wednesday,' because 'from that hour, he looked for an opportunity to hand him over.'

As you can see from the combox postings of the previous two iterations of this series, there are certainly a variety of thoughts and theories as to the question of 'Qhy did Judas stay?' While all these are certainly valid interpretations, one seems to have been missed: Judas as a Revolutionary.

There seems to be some tradition that Judas was a member of the Zealots, one of four distinct parties within Judaism at the time of Jesus (Pharisees, Sadducees, and Essenes being the others.) The main thrust of the Zealots was a desire to see Israel re-established as an independent nation, free from the tyranny of Roman authority. This polictical movement was spawned by the longing of the Israelites for a return of the Davidic Monarchy, which was crushed by the Babylonians, yet God promised that 'I will establish your dynasty for ever.' I can see the Zealots thinking: "Hmm, maybe we should force God's hand..."

In this line of the thinking, the Messiah was NOT one who came preaching peace, forgiveness, 'turn the other cheek.' I think we are so used to hearing these maxims that we do not realize how revolutionary they are. Instead, the Zealots desired a Messiah who was a warrior king, a terrible figure who would establish Jerusalem as the center of the known world over and against the Romans.

If we bring these possible expectations to bear, and incorporate the great insight that Tara had in yesterday's post, that Judas was a 'hanger on,' he had these political machinations in the back of his head and found himself as part of the 'Center of Attention' hanging on to Jesus' coattails, so to speak, plus he had some type of control over the group because he had the money bag, it seems a pretty easy jump to where he starts to get an idea of where this whole thing should go, yet 'the authority' is going that way, so let me see if I can force his hand...

This interpretation, and it is my rumination on a Thursday morning, nothing more, has some interesting impact for today, as well. We have all heard stories of lay ministers run amok, or as Sharon also asked in yesterday's combox: "Why do some priests remain in the Church and make it very plain to their congregations that their heart is not in it?" I don't know the answer to that, but there is a pithy little saying that has a fair amount of truth to it in this case: "Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely." Priests have power, and just a ruler can begin as a Benevolent Dictator, the result of no one challenging you, questioning your authority (with respect and in love), it is very easy to drop the 'Benevoent' and just turn into a Despot.

The moral, or a moral, of this week's Gospel Lections during Mass: beware of power, remember we come to serve, and we experience a great lesson in that this evening at the Mass of the Lord's Supper.

One further point of clarification from yesterday's readings: 30 pieces of silver. Noting that Matthew's intended audience is primarily Jewish, any detail like this should have us scouring the Old Testament (aka Jewish Scriptures) to find a connection. In Genesis 37:28, the sons of Israel "sold Joseph to the Ishmaelites for twenty pieces of silver."

This begins the process of Joseph considered to be dead (note bene: Jesus did truly die!) and 'comes back to life' to save the people, in his case from starvation in the land of Canaan. In the case of Our Lord, Jesus saves the people from Sin and death, but Matthew gives us another indication here of the great mystery of our salvation that began way back when and is now coming to fruition here in Jesus. This is not a solitary event that happens in a vacuum, this is the restoration of the 'Happy Fault, oh necessary sin of Adam, which earned for us so great a Redeemer.'

Have a great Holy Week!

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Judas, Part II

In yesterday's combox post, an anonymous poster is baffled as to why Judas remained with Jesus if his heart wasn't into it. It is certainly a perplexing question, and one that does not present any easy answer. Any thoughts out there?

Today, the story picks up at the beginning of the Last Supper, and what always strikes me is that Jesus still hasn't given up on Judas, but rather continues to call him to something greater. The small details in the story, when placed into the context of life at the time of Our Lord illustrates this dramatically, if we pay attention.

First, it is important to remember that DaVinci's Last Supper is anachronistic. At the time of Jesus, they did not 'sit' at table, rather they reclined at low level tables and relaxed on cushions. (To me, one of the funniest scenes in the Passion of the Christ [if there could be anything humorous about that particular movie!] is when Jesus is making the table as we would today and Mary gives him a rough time about it.) Also, the tables were not usually square, but were shaped like the letter 'U' so that the servants could serve the meal without reaching over those eating. (I would diagram it, but my two year old neice has better art skills than I do!)

So, as Jesus says 'The one to whom I give the morsel to is the one who will betray me,' there is a clear indication that Judas is next to him, or at the least close at hand. Peter, on the other hand, isn't, as he has to indicate to John to ask Jesus for more info.

So, if they are laying on their sides at an angle to a low laying table, who's next to whom? Another detail clearly shows that John is 'in front of' Jesus, as he leans his head back on the breast of Our Lord.

Putting it all together, then, Judas is behind Jesus.

Ok, it should come as no surprise that I'm not Him, but I don't think I would put the guy trying to kill me with a clear shot at my neck with a knife! (The knife is an embellishment.)

The way this passage comes about, it really seems that Jesus is fully in control (especially in the Gospel according to John!), and is inviting Judas to repentance. He shows Judas that Jesus knows what Judas is doing and about to do. Yet, ultimately he accepts His fate and recognizes that 'His Hour has finally come.'

Finally, one last detail with regard to Judas for today. "He took the morsel and left at once. It was night." Flip back to the beginning of the Gospel, the prologue: "A light shines in the darkness and the darkness shall not overcome it." In the language of the Scriptures, and even stronger in John's parlance, light is the realm of God and darkness is the realm of the evil one. Judas has left the presence of the 'Light of the World' and has entered the realm of darkness. By his failure to repentant and be open to Christ's presence and call to conversion, Satan was able to enter his heart and bring about the apparent downfall of the Son of Man.

Tomorrow, we'll examine Judas' possible motivations a little more indepth.

I missed my chance!

So, for Palm Sunday Mass at the Cathedral, the Blessing of Palms was done in the Daily Chapel, not back in the Narthex. To make room, the little 'face the people' altar was moved off to the side.

Well, in her haste, the sacristan did not replace it for Monday morning, so Fr. Snodgrass walks down for Mass and actually calls the maintenance guys to come in and move it back! WHAT?!?!? It was a perfect opportunity to say Mass as God intended, wasted!

So all during dinner, the conversation was something like this:

Me: "So do you think I can..."
Pastor interrupting: "No."

Little time later:
Me: "So, that thing's on wheels, huh?"
Pastor: "No!"

Towards desert:
Me: "Since it's so easy to move..."
Pastor interrupting again: "NO!"

Hmm..., got some work to do to soften up the guy....

Monday, March 17, 2008

With friends like this,

who needs enemies?

Delievered in the mail today was a card with a picture such as this on the front cover:

Inside was the following text:

Just so you know, Father Flanigan will be praying for your sick, depraved soul on St. Patrick's Day.

Thanks, Kelly.


One of the things that always puzzles me during Holy Week is how could Judas have done what he did? He walked and talked with Jesus on a daily basis for three years!, yet still had the audacity/gall/nerves to betray him to the authorities.

However, it strikes me that this wasn't a spur of the moment decision, but it was something that was lead up to over a course of weeks and months where Judas refused to deal with the hardness of heart, refused to truly be open to the teachings of Jesus, refused to 'die to self and live for the other.'

We see the seeds of what will happen later this week with the betrayal already present in today's Gospel lection. Judas dismisses an extraordinary gift presented to Our Lord, under the guise of serving the poor. But his heart is already mal-formed, for he does not do this under true care for the poor, but because he would steal from the money bag.

The application for today is poignant. If we do not change, if we do not recognize our need for Christ's healing and grace, if we do not recognize His leadership in our life; beginning with the small areas and leading to the bigger; will we be much different than Judas when the time comes that 'our faith in [Him] will be shaken'?

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Be the Tartar!

Quickly, before Lent is over, comes the new marketing approach where vocation offices world wide are joining up with the uber-marketer: McDonald's. New posters will be appearing soon:

A swing of the thurible to Paul Cat at the very funny Alive and Young.

A Hidden Joy of being the Vocation Director

As most know, this is a busy week for priests. Penance services have been going non-stop for the last few weeks, and as they get tacked onto all the other stuff we do, Holy Week can rush upon us quickly!

But I hate to say this because some of my brother priests will no doubt want to hunt me down and shoot me, I actually get to enjoy Holy Week again this year! Since I don't have a parish assignment, I get to sit back and enjoy the wonderful liturgies at the Cathedral, the smells and bells, the choir, the sights, the liturgies done in ways that few parishes are unfortunately able to match (we have the seminarians do all the serving at the Cathedral this week.)

And, best of all, no homily to prepare until next Sunday! So, fellas, when you see me at the Chrism Mass on Tuesday, don't kill me, please! It is one of the few perks of working in the Central Offices!

"Hey, do you remember me?!?!"

I hate to break to folks, but this question is usually a 'death knell' to a priest. In the last few days, I've had this question repeated to me frequently, as I hit a few places that I hadn't been in a while.

One particular conversation sticks out:

Me leaving the confessional, encountered by an older gentleman. He says: "Hey, do you remember me?"

Me: Blank Look "I'm sorry, but I'm drawing a blank, can you give me the context?" (I was trying to be nice.)

Him: "Oh, you heard my confession back a few months ago!"

Me: "Oh, great, well have a great day."

The truth was, I didn't have a clue. I tend to maybe recognize faces, but even that can sometimes get me in trouble as people have unknown identical twins out there. But for the most part, I don't remember.

It is a shame, really, and in a way an honor that you've been able to connect with someone by doing something that they remember, even several months (or years!) later.

The difficulty now, though, is that I see and talk to so many people in my position, I don't stand a chance of remembering everyone, so that person that walks up and says: "Hey, you remember me, you had Mass in my parish a few weeks ago!" ummmm... Can you be more specific on the time frame, there, I have Mass in so many different places, which one was it?

On a deeper level, though, it shows the respect that is still out there for priests. People tend to love their priests, and want to give him the benefit of the doubt; it is a reminder of the unique role that the priest plays. As the line from Fishers of Men states: "You walk in, semi-stranger; but because you are priest, you are a part of their family." Gets me every time.

So to all those who come up to that priest who was a seminarian in your parish, perhaps a long ago associate, or just a one week visitor, help him out and give him a clue. It is good to know the impact we have with one or two people, because it is also a reminder of the impact we have countless others through our ministry.

Have a great Holy Week!

Friday, March 14, 2008

In theory, communism works!

Since we tend to work weekends, most priests get a day off during the week. As mine is typically on Friday, it gives me a chance to catch up and prepare for the weekend after several days in the office and running around the diocese.

But, as we found out about communism, what works on paper, doesn't always work in practice. So today, my 'day off,' I left at 8:00, had Mass at a parish at 9:00 with a short presentation afterwards. Since I was in the area of the seminary, there was a quick meeting with the Rector there, as well as the librarian about website details. Lunch was with a friend partway across town before hitting the Catholic Shop in Madeira to pick up a few things, Chesterton's Orthodoxy among them. Heading up north a bit, next was a meeting with a potential seminarian before heading back to the Cathedral just in time for dinner at 6:00. Hmm, a day off and I got back home later than when I am just at the office. How's that work?

Oh well, this evening was a chance to relax at the 'Sean PATRICK'S DAY Party.' A former colleague hosts a very generous gathering at his place, so a good chance to catch up with friends that I hadn't seen in quite a while, including a couple whose wedding I celebrated last year.

So, here it is about 11:00, and ready to hit the sack. I don't complain, cause a friend always reminds me: 'I don't get a day off from being a mom!' and I've agreed that I 'want to die tired.' I just didn't think He'd take me up on that offer next week!

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

From the Land of Osteen vs. Obama

(aka Apoloblogology) comes the first sane interpretation of the 'New 7 Deadly Sins' that I have seen:

Much has been made of a Vatican pronouncement of seven new deadly sins, which, after reading the sources, was neither a pronouncement, nor an enumeration of seven sins. You gotta love British journalism. It makes real news into tabloids, and tabloids into real news.


Sin #4: Thou Shalt Not Pollute The Environment

What it is not: An assurance that you will go to hell if you drive an SUV or don't recycle.

What it is: A reminder that a correct environmentalism has to have the dignity of human life at its center, as opposed to having a hatred of human life at its center. Whenever we pollute water sources or waste food, we should realize the effect that it has on the poor nations and peoples of this earth, rather than thinking about how those poor people should freaking stop procreating so us Westerners can continue to drive SUV's and throw our Wendy's bags out the window.

Thanks, Mr. Swaim, for bringing a little does of sanity into an otherwise insane world

A CS Lewis Retort

Apparently, all this talk of Chesterton has made CS Lewis upset, so today's pearl of wisdom comes from the one who never made the leap all the way to Catholicism, but is still more Catholic than a great many Catholic theologians of today:

The trouble about trying to make yourself stupider than you really are is that you very often succeed.

This also comes on the heels of sending one of my sister's three girls a copy of the Chronicles of Narnia two nights ago, as the older received The Golden Compass for her recent birthday. Since I forbid my sister from letter her daughter read that crap, I had to make up for it with something that will actually edify her faith instead of destroy it.


This is the 100th anniversary of GK Chesterton's magnum opus: Orthodoxy.

Carl Olson over at Ignatius Insight has a great commentary, especially focusing in on the 'Paradoxy' of Christianity.

I have to look on the shelf, but I think I may have to pick this up with a few other things from The Catholic Shop later this week.

Need a laugh?

Check out the translations of this site into:

Elmer Fudd (Think 'Bishop' in the Princess Bride)

Redneck (for all my friends back home!)

Pig Latin

Thanks to Adoro for the think (Pig Latin of Latin is funny!)

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

The Papal Effect?

Reports that followed World Youth Day celebrations throughout the world always included a rise in vocations to the priesthood for the host diocese and region.

Picked up in today's Enquirer was a report from New York hoping for the same: (This is Detroit's version:)

"It is a wake-up call," Walsh said. "We have to do something. I'm a believer that difficulties can be opportunities, not disasters. It depends on what you do with them."
The hope is that the visit by Pope Benedict will
inspire young men to listen for God's call to the priesthood and rouse Catholic families to mention the priesthood around the dinner table.
"His mission is really to encourage us in the faith, to strengthen us in our belief and commitment to Jesus Christ, make us better disciples," said the Rev. Luke Sweeney, vocations director for the archdiocese. "If he does that and that alone, vocations will come from it."
But Sweeney hopes the pope will go a step farther when he's speaking directly to New Yorkers.
"I presume that the Holy Father will make an appeal to some of them, to say that God wants you to be priests," he said. "That, coming from the pope, will mean a world of difference to young people."
Nationally, the number of diocesan priests dropped from 36,000 in 1975 to 28,000 last year. But the number of seminarians, after falling sharply since the 1960s, rebounded in the last decade to 3,300.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Humiliation for Christ

As I heard the Gospel proclaimed today at Mass, I sympathized for the poor woman caught in adultery. While I certainly do not approve of her sin, to stand there before, as St. John seems to hint at, all these oogling men ready to destroy her for her crime is beyond humiliation.

Yet, Matt Swaim sends along the story of those who willing took on that humiliation in later years, so that they may be known as Christians, as told by Mike Aquilina:

A subsection covers what the authors call "humiliating names." These names, they explain, "were sometimes used by some faithful as a life-long act of modesty, precisely because of their unpleasant significance . . . This is the case of Proiectus and Proiecticus, which meant ‘exposed,’ and the unpleasant Stercorius, [which] can be understood as ‘abandoned in the garbage.’ . . . At the Catacomb of Pretestato, one of them was in fact named Stercorinus."
The authors are being polite. Stercorius means, literally, "crap." It’s most accurately translated by what kids call "the S-word." Thus, Stercorinus (the diminutive) means "Little S***," or "Dear S***."
Why would Christians bear such a name? It is likely that these particular Romans were, as infants, rescued from the dungheap-the place where Romans abandoned "defective" or female newborns. They were exposed there, like trash, to die quickly from the elements or the claws of the scavenging beasts. After all, as the pagan philosopher Seneca said: "What is good must be set apart from what is good-for-nothing."

I admire those who are willing to undertake such bold moves to witness to their faith in Christ. And the great thing, it is still happening. There are those who suffer persecution and insult, lies and ridicule because of Christ. I know, I've faced it, to a small degree. Yet, He who submitted and was silent before the slaughter gives those who face similar trials to be strong in their witness, to overcome their weakness (because we are all weak!), so that His glory may shine through our lives.

Rome through new eyes

A few days ago, now, Zenit posted an insiders view of the Vatican that few these days get to see. The occasion? Ms. Mary Ann Glendon's installation as US Ambassador to the Holy See, as told through the eyes of her daughter Elizabeth Lev, who teaches art history in Rome for Duquesne University. Her poignant tale is found here.

Art historians secretly dream of going back in time to see artistic masterpieces in their original environment, rather than as museum pieces. In their wildest flights of fancy, they fantasize about being part of that world.
Last Friday, this art historian lived that dream when I accompanied my mother, Mary Ann Glendon, as she presented her credentials to Benedict XVI as U.S. ambassador to the Holy See.
As we donned our black mantillas at the embassy residence, we were already entering into a different criterion of beauty and worth. Covered head to toe in long skirts and jackets, all I saw were the radiantly happy faces of my mother, sisters and daughters.
Draped in black lace, I thought of the tabernacle and the chalice swathed in exquisite cloth to indicate the preciousness of what was concealed from view. Furthermore, the precariously perched veils made one stand taller and conferred a stately dignity to our New England stride.

Reclaiming Our Priestly Character

In the ever expanding 'to read' file goes the new effort by the associate director of the Secretariat of Clergy, Consecrated Life and Vocations, Fr. David Toups:

Please discuss your book's timing.
The timing follows Pope John Paul II's pontificate, who certainly was a man who called priests to know who they are and to not be afraid to say that we are called to be different. That doesn't mean we are better. Certainly, following the 2002 outbreak of scandals and in a day and age of fewer priests, this book is meant to be part of the solution, giving us the tools to be renewed in our own lives and also to regenerate the priesthood by joyfully living the vocation that Jesus has called us to.

What is the Roman Catholic Church's view of the unique nature of its priests?
The unique gift of the priesthood in the Catholic Church is the fact that it is an institution which began with Christ and the 12 apostles - his first priests - and through the laying on of hands, or ordination, that unique gift has been transmitted in the Catholic Church for 2,000 years. The priest who participates in the very priesthood of Jesus Christ makes present Jesus to the holy people of God as he celebrates the sacraments for them.

A swing of the thurible to Brad Watkins.

Wisdom from GK Chesterton

To have a right to do a thing is not at all the same as to be right in doing it.

I really need to read more Chesterton.

The sometimes ugly reality

of being a priest is highlighted in the following post from Clerical Whispers, which I found through Fr. Z, who traced it through The Deacon's Bench:

Since last weekend, I have had to officiate at the funerals of 2 family members and in between all of that, I have had to try and comfort their families which is in essence my own family but in their eyes, you are a priest...not a brother, son, nephew etc...And this is why I sometimes find it so difficult because when one becomes ordained, a bond of family is lessened as the priest now stands to serve all and favour none. This can involve making sacrifices such as not being available at Christmas or Easter, missing on a birthday and other such family events.Despite becoming the religious / spiritual father to so many, we are never meant to become paternal fathers which lessens our ability to engage with families in the community or to understand the intricate workings of family life.I personally believe that over the last 9 years of my priesthood, I have never so strongly felt the sense of loneliness and aloneness of the last few days and yes I have indeed questioned my vocation...It can be very challenging to be on one's own and reflect on life and the role we are asked to consider playing in it with sometimes more serious issues being raised and needing to be addressed.

I think we've all had days like this, as we struggle to meet the demands that are placed upon us by so many, from superiors, to co-workers, to brother priests, to parishioners, to family, to friends. It can be a challenge to deal with these issues, it can be frustrating at times, especially when the prayer is dry as He sometimes steps back.

So, in all of this, what can the faithful do more than anything? PRAY FOR YOUR PRIEST! He is praying for you, please return the favor.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Snow, lots of snow

This was Friday night about 6PM
This was Saturday morning

We ended up with about a foot of snow on the table in the courtyard.

Prayer Request

Adoro alerts us to the following, from Tara:

My daughter Cheryl is missing for over a week. Cheryl told her husband she would be home in two hours, more than a week ago--No one has heard from her since. We have no idea where she is--this is the most current picture I have of her with her husband--please pray for her!

I can't imagine the grief and fear that Tara and her family are going through, prayers will be sent for sure.

Straight from 'the Center of the Universe!'

(Also known as Perry, Florida)

Gay weighs in on her favorite parables, to go with Meg's in the comment box below:

Ok, Father, here are my favorites. I don't know any other bloggers either. I am humbly grateful to have "made it" on your blog. And with the proper title of my hometown to boot!! Take Care and KNOW that you are prayed for,Gay
A world that has lost its innocence hastrouble appreciating beings who are innocent. - Rabbi Shmuley Boteach

1. The parable of the Sower (Mark 4) - always challenges me to not just "take it & run with it" but to persevere (the much bigger challenge for me).

2. The parable of the Talents (Matthew 25:14-30) I use this one with my kids (much easier than applying it to myself, you see?) to help them develop and use their gifts when they'd rather not. We all need a boost to deal with our shyness, insecurities, laziness, etc.

3. The Pharisee and the Tax Collector - humility, humility, humility. There is never enough of this virtue. God have mercy on me, a sinner. 'Nuff said.

4. The Prodigal Son - I mean who really does NOT relate (in some way, at least) to this one?? Yes! Thank you Lord for welcoming back into your arms.....more than once.

5. I think I resemble the Persistent Widow (Luke 18)....It has been said about me that I can latch on "like a junkyard dog" when engaging in apologetics. Hopefully I am gaining more temperence though. The widow in Jesus's story does encourage us to not give up when we feel called to an action.

Friday, March 7, 2008

Bible Boot Camp

Looking for a good way to get into the Scripture, check out the podcast from 'Meg in Virginia' as i affectionately know her. (She's the friend of a friend, and fellow #1 type Catholic, that whole 'zeal of a convert' thing going for her.)

Anywho, her podcast can be found at Catholic Bible Boot Camp. Good Stuff, I tell you.

White Death Arrives, City Panics!

Ok, so it is now MARCH, but apparently the saints in charge of the weather forcast didn't get that memo, because it is snowing to the nines here in the Queen City of the Midwest. Kroger is empty, sold out of everything, especially milk and eggs. The weatherforcasters haven't slept in days and are starting to get that ragged, drug behind a bus look to them, and well, just board up everything else, 'cause its DANGEROUS OUT THERE!!!

Me? I'm in the best possible place: home, on my regularly scheduled day off. Confessions at the high school were canceled, and I am about to cancel my other appointment for today, so I'm slowly sipping a hot cocoa, and enjoy the pretty sites.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

I've been tagged!

Apparently, Adoro is feeling sorry for me that I wasn't nominated for a blog award, so she had the audacity to tag me for the 'Parable Meme.' (By the way, how does one say 'meme' anyway? Is it one syllable, with a long 'e' sound, or two, sorta like Drew Carey's Arch-nemisis Mimi?)

1. You name your five favorite parables
2. You tag one blogger per parable.
3. It would be nice if you linked back to this post.

Ok, here goes, (does she realize how difficult this is for me?):

1) (not really a parable, but my favorite:) John 21:15-19, the 'Healing of Peter,' even though Peter messes up big time, he is still commissioned as the head of the twelve because he truly does have a heart for Jesus. An inspiration to all priests, to all sinners, really.

2) Matthew 25:31-46, the Parable of Judgement: I hope I'm on his right, and it reminds me to see Christ is the present moment, and respond!

3) Matthew 13:44-46, the Treasure and the Pearl: Don't go half heartedly in discipleship, but give it everything and go for the highest treasure. (Where your treasure is, there also will your heart be.)

4) Matthew 20:1-16, the Laborers in the Vineyard: we all get the same pay: a place at the Altar in Heaven, my job is to bring others to work for the Lord.

5) Luke 11:33-36, the Parable of the Lamp: we have a great treasure in our faith, and it enlightens (or should enlighten) all that we do, do I let that joy that comes from my relationship with Christ shine forth through my words and actions?

ok, so that's done, now I have to tag five folks, hmmm.....

I hate to do this to him, but what the heck: Fr. Fox at Bonfire, he's got a great insight.
Leonardi never does these things, but I'll still tag him.
Jackie is a regular reader and commentator, but doesn't run her own blog (YET!), she can post in the combox (even if she is currently enjoying Europe, well at least if Alitalia decided to find her bag, yet.)
Theophilus has got good insights as well at A Knight's Walk in the Kingdom.
And just because I admire the zeal that converts have and their passion for the faith, Sara at Pur Autre Vie gets the final tag.

UPDATE: Two 'Bonus Tags' go to Meg from Virginia and Gay from The Center of the Known Universe, aka Perry, Florida

The Grim Reaper is a Communist

So says Tarek Saab in the book mentioned below.

Then comes this from

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Here Come the Men in Black

Ok, not those men in black, but these men in black: young faithful priests who wear the collar, even when it is inconvenient; and in a related note, this explains the religious orders that have stayed with the traditional habit and are now adding on to their residences.
Don't take my word for it, but rather get Fr. Damian Ference's point of view. (He's a young priest from the Diocese of Cleveland who is in the Graduate School of Philosophy at CUA.):
Generation X and millennial Catholics have never experienced a pre-Vatican II church and don't carry around the baggage of the previous generation when dealing with the issue of religious garb. Habits and collars are not oppressive or clerical, but courageous, especially in the post-scandal era. As a matter of fact, the first time I ever wore my cassock at a youth gathering at my first parish, the young people thought I looked like Neo from The Matrix. Rigid seminary formation was the last thing on their minds.
Brad Watkins at Roman Catholic Vocations and Fr. V. at Adam's Ale both posted on this first. I am way late to the game, hence they get the Blog Award nominations and I get the scraps that fall from their table.


How does this work?

( - Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) told a crowd at Hocking College in Nelsonville, Ohio, Sunday that he believes the Sermon on the Mount justifies his support for legal recognition of same-sex unions. He also told the crowd that his position in favor of legalized abortion does not make him "less Christian.""I don't think it [a same-sex union] should be called marriage, but I think that it is a legal right that they should have that is recognized by the state," said Obama. "If people find that controversial then I would just refer them to the Sermon on the Mount, which I think is, in my mind, for my faith, more central than an obscure passage in Romans." ((Hear audio from WTAP-TV)) St. Paul's Epistle to the Romans condemns homosexual acts as unnatural and sinful.

Carefull, tape recorder is recording

Over at a Knight's Walk in the Kingdom, Theophilus has a great post on his growing awareness that as a father, he is also a role model:

I know my son is watching - he sees what I am doing - what I do, he also will do. I see it in how he plays, how he battles his temper, how he loves his mother, how he cares for his sister, his fearlessness in some things and his timidity in others. He insisted that my wife buy him a toy razor so he could shave. He occasionally will insist that he wears ties. He pounds away on the keyboard of a dead laptop.

Pray for Our Priests

Out of Erlanger, KY, comes news of a new lay apostolate: Pray for Our Priests.

The whole point is to pray for those who pray for the us, so to speak. Sounds like a worthy cause to me, especially as I know of the many who pray for this priest.

Gut Check

From Tarek Saab's book Gut Check, pg 124:

Catholic Churches are like a box of chocolates, to borrow the analogy from Forrest Gump, you never know what you're gonna get--especially in California. I attended Mass at my local parish like I had every Sunday, but I still failed to connect with the promise of mystery in my Catholic belief. Absorbing the mind-numbing strum of sappy, seductive guitar hymns, os the fiftieth iteration of the "God loves you" sermon from a happy-go-lucky preacher, was a gut-wrenching experience for any man with an ounce of testosterone. Flowery emotional appeals don't resonate well with pragmatic men, which is probably why men have an aversion to modern churches.


Catholic Blog Awards

Voting is now open for the Catholic Blog Awards. You do have to register to vote, but it is a fairly simple process.

Good News: lots of blogs to choose from.

Bad News: Called by Name isn't one of them. :(

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Response to Penance

Since it's been a few days, I thought I would add a new post rather than just submit a combox entry.

The conversation ensued as to what makes for a "run of the mill psychological excuse," to which Theresa added:

I think I spent many years making the kind of confessions you are talking about -- nothing terribly specific, and nothing that accused myself of much. I think the problem was that I needed to "grow up" in my ability to make a good Confession. A confessor once directed me to an Examination of Conscience at St. Gertrude's website, (, under "Resources") and he recommended that I review it every day. It has helped tremendously as I try to get at those specific sins and accuse myself appropriately. Maybe you could hand these out to penitents who are struggling to make a good confession!

I think she nailed what i was thinking: nothing terribly specific, nothing that accuses of anything. It is just a bunch of generalities, with a lot of story, yet not much content. Think a Danielle Steele novel. (Just to be clear, I've never read one!)

So, if you find yourself giving long, drawn out explanations as to why, perhaps, this might or might not possibly be sinful, think to yourself: "Less story, more sin." Give the priest the context, but don't go into gory details. Especially this time or year, as we usually have lines and have to get through a number of penitents in a short amount of time.

Since my brain is running at 50% at best currently, examples:

- My husband did this and I got a little upset at him. (Remember, confess your sins, not your husband's!)
- I felt bad about this. (Ok, guilt can be a sign of the sin, but guilt is not in itself a sin.)
- excuses are out, let the priest figure out if there are extenuating circumstances.

Ok, brain is going quickly and I have to hear more confessions tonight, so I got to recharge somehow. I'll fill in as I remember.

Sunday, March 2, 2008


Ok, really, penance services, but sometimes they can be penance for the priests.

First, Fr. Jay T. has a great post on Communal Penance Services over at Young Fogeys, which was also highlighted by Rich Leonardi.

If you read Rich's post, I have the following comment there:

Also, part of the rationale for celebrating Communal Penance Services is to show the ecclesial dimensions of sin; i.e. that sin not only affects our relationship with God, but also damages our relationships with one another. The thought is, that by celebrating the Sacrament together, it highlights this dimension.
Of course, the corollary to that question is if we lose that first dimension that sin, first and foremost, damages our relationship with God. They have to be kept together, which is not always done.

Unfortunately, last night I was helping out with a penance service as part of a Christ Renews His Parish retreat at a parish here in Cincinnati. (Caveat, it was also a women's retreat, and remember, since I entered seminary in 1996, I've been in male dominated worlds: eight years in seminary, two years in an all boys Catholic high school, and now working with seminaries and potential seminarians again.)

What struck me last night at this parish was that even during the Sacrament of Confession, there wasn't a lot of confessing going on, at least at my station. (I was one of three priests.) Instead, I got the run of the mill psychological excuses that have been substituted for real sins, sins that these people are committing, but have either been deceived into not believing, or never formed with the ability to recognize. (Woe to those who lead astray these little ones, it would be better if they had a millstone strapped around their neck and thrown into the sea!)

I was left scratching my head, not to mention frustrated that it started an hour later than they told me!

Sin is real, people. I see it every day when I walk to work, when I talk to young men who have a vocation, yet cannot respond because the power of the Evil One is over them, and they do not recognize it!

The Devil's greatest trick in the last 100 years is to convince the Modern World that he does not exist. He certainly does, and he is dancing a jig at the success he is having.

The Response to Conversion

My thoughts on the Gospel of the Man Born Blind, shared this week at St. Luke's in Beavercreek:

I am one of those unlucky few, relegated to the world of eyeglasses. Because of a slight stigmatise, I am unable to wear contacts, and any type of lasik procedure is too much to hope for. Even worse, mine is not a slight vision impairment, but a rather dramatic version, so that if I do not have my glasses on, I’m bumping into tables, missing steps, squinting in vain attempts to read even my large digital clock from across the room. Without the glasses, I am blind. In a small way, I identify with the man in today’s Gospel reading, helpless without the correction.

However, this man’s blindness is contrasted with the apparent sight of Jesus’ adversaries. While this man is not able to see, the Pharisees and those with them think that they can see; and here is the rub, the crux, of the problem.

But what's even more interesting to me, is that he is really an innocent bystander in this whole event. He's sitting there, minding his own business, and all of a sudden, this guy is smearing mud on his eyes and he's told to go and wash. Maybe he did it just to get the mud off of his face, maybe he knew who this was, but imagine his surprise at opening his eyes, and the flood of color, sights, textures that rush into his brain! Unbelievable! I wouldn't want to shut my eyes ever again!

There is something more that strikes me in this account, and it is again something that resonates with my experience. After he has that healing encounter with Jesus, the tension he gets, the adversity he meets because of his conversion. Looking back through this story, he gets challenged by people who used to know him, he gets hauled before judges and magistrates (the Sanhedrin was the governing body of the Jews at the time.) 'Maybe this is his twin brother, and not really him?'

I can hardly imagine the tension that he is feeling as he wants to erupt in joy and share those experiences with everyone he meets, yet he is also then hauled before a tribunal and nearly charged with a crime! It is a dangerous thing, having an encounter with Christ, something that continues to bear out in the life of the believer today.

When I first entered seminary, I had friends from high school who ridiculed me, and laid some very unkind accusations at my feet. I had acquaintances at college that mocked and scorned me, both to the group I was involved with, as well as behind my back.

At the time, it was painful. Yet looking back now, with the eyes of faith, I see that it was not me that they were rejecting, but rather Christ whom they saw through me because I was responding to His invitation.

This is one of the challenges that I see coming from today's Gospel: "How do we treat those who have had conversion experiences?" The temptation is to see that person as he or she once was, yet they have been changed, we have been changed. Are we able to see beyond who they were to who they now are, and to help them experience that joy of meeting Christ, deeply, profoundly, dynamically, in their life?

With all that, though, I think that there is another question that the Church poses for us, and one that might be a little harder to hear: Are we like the Pharisees who miss the signs of what is happening around them? This is an easy temptation to fall to, and it is easy to miss when it happens, as well. We can get so caught up in our own reading of events and happenings, that we miss the direction, we miss the surprise, we miss the depth of what God is doing right in our midst.

Back to the story we have heard, the Pharisees are so hard hearted that they cannot rely on the word of the man born blind (and now able to see), but rather have to call in his parents! (who are none to excited by the prospect, apparently.) Still, the Pharisees are so obsessed with their single-minded pursuit that Jesus is disrupting their flow of life, they absolutely miss every thing that he offers.

The problem, however, is that there is not an easy solution to this dilemma. We, as faithful Catholics, certainly need to trust the wisdom and guidance of the Holy Spirit as expressed through the teaching authority of the bishops; we have to have the discipline to study and understand what the Church teaches and to make that teaching our own. Yet, we cannot be so obsessed with ironing out the minutia of our faith that we miss those blessed interruptions where Jesus challenges us to take that next step of trust, that leap of faith, that when we are sent to wash that we will be healed.

To me, this is part of the glory and wisdom of the Catholic Church: nothing moves in a hurry, rather we take our time to discern and reflect, as we balance the exuberance of faith with the calm discipline of theology.

So, as we continue this journey in Lent, we pause to recognize these two tendencies, to see if we have fallen into the very pitfalls that Jesus warns us against: the shunning of a converted sinner or the obsession of the self-righteous. We lay our weaknesses at the feet of Jesus so that we can experience that great joy that comes with knowing Christ, and experiencing his power and authority in our lives.