Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Radio Goo Goo

Tomorrow morning, the Son Rise Morning Show on Sacred Heart Radio returns to Cincinnati after their sojourn to Alabama. Apparently desperate for guests, the local Director of Vocations will be appearing at 8:10 to discuss deacon ordination and upcoming discernment days and priesthood ordination.


Looking over the Diocese of Lansing's website as the installed their new bishop: Bishop Earl Boyea, yesterday, I found a good, concise, explanation on the steps involved in the selection of a bishop for a diocese. Considering we are approaching this process in this diocese, it seemed prudent to shate.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

The End of an Era

Word from the Archbishop's Office brings sad news: Msgr. Larry Breslin passed away this afternoon after a lengthy battle with various illnesses. He was the last monsignor in the Archdiocese. Please pray for the repose of his soul, that the angels may lead him to paradise.

A Simple Program

In the comments of this post at Roman Catholic Vocations; 'A Simple Sinner' makes the following suggestion:

Very simply, the diocesan vocations director should contact each pastor of each parish and ask for a 3-5 name "short list" of young men. Several times a year using the contact info they should be invited to the Cathedral for Mass, and dinner at the Episcopal residence or in some restaraunt that has a private dining room where the bishop himself can say "I invite you to pray and consider this". 14ish years ago I was 18 and working with a buddy of mine on a volunteer project on a Saturday afternoon at an inner city parish. We were doing some landscaping on a really beautiful day when we could have been playing some softball or drinking some beers one of our older brothers scored for us... but there we were.For about 5 min the pastor made small talk with us after he saw us working... Just enough small talk to know we were Catholics, we were active members in our Catholic parishes, we went to Catholic school and well - by observation! - we cared enough to do some volunteer work at a Catholic parish on a day we could have found "funner" (as my kid sister would say) things to do.A month or two later we would come to find out that he was the vocations director for the diocese. And what he NEVER said "boo" about - not even close was "You guys ever think about the priesthood?"That just MIGHT explain why the diocese I grew up in had no more than 2-3 seminarians at a time for two decades and why - with a changing of the guard - the same diocese has 25+ every year now.Moral of the story that you already well know? Find the men, ask them, pray with them, pray for them... and 4-8 years later you will be ordaining some of them.

While I certainly agree that this should be something that us poor vocation directors should do, it is also the responsibility of all the faithful to encourage and support!

Monday, April 28, 2008

Rite of Ordination of a Deacon

Considering we had ten men ordained as deacons this past weekend, I found the Rite of Ordination of a Deacon online. This whole interweb thing is great, eh?

As I imagine that married couples remember their wedding day when they attend a wedding; so does attending an ordination bring back memories of my own ordination.

A few things stick out in my mind of the day I became a cleric for the Archdiocese of Cincinnati.

First, I was the only one of the seven ordained that day (an eighth joined us later that year) who wore an off-white alb. I had several people ask if we were all seminarians since my alb was different. My quip back was "Oh, yeah, we are, it's just that I am a little off color!" The looks turned even stranger after that.

Secondly, I was going back to preach at the parish where I interned during seminary for the weekend. A few weeks earlier, Fr. Tim (my pastor) asked me if I wanted to jump in with both feet; as there was a baptism of twins at the 4:30 Mass that same day. Hey, that's pretty cool, I'm a twin so why not also baptize a set of twins for my first baptisms?!? That was great fun, and a real honor. The next weekend began the onslaught of family functions as I think I got one of my nieces, but I can't remember which one, Elizabeth, maybe?

It is great to see the guys so happy and excited the morning before the ordination; 'bouncing off walls' seems to be the most apt description. Please keep them in your prayers, as well as the three men being ordained in less than three weeks now.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Deacon Ordinations

Today, at St. Peter in Chains, ten men will be ordained as Transitional Deacons for service to the Archdiocese of Cincinnati and the Diocese of Toledo.

I recently was asked the question as to if all priests were first ordained deacons, to which I gave a strong affirmative!


First, the Diaconate is about service. The deacon assists the priest (or bishop) at Mass, proclaiming the Gospel and preparing the gifts at the altar are his primary duties. He also leads the Prayers of the Faithful (Intercessions). All of these roles show that he is to be a man in and among the people; bringing the needs of the faithful with him to the altar and placing their concerns and prayers along with the gifts that the priest can offer them to the Father in the Eucharistic Prayer.

Finally, what's the difference between a Transitional Deacon and a Permanent Deacon? In form and function, not much. They serve in the same roles liturgically, so the faithful will notice much difference between them.

However, in the Archdiocese, there are some practical differences. First among them, transitional deacons automatically have faculties to preach, which permanent deacons must do a bit more schooling to be granted. Also, transitional deacons are permitted to wear clerical attire, whereas permanent deacons are not.

Other than that, much else is the same.

Remember, pray for priests, seminarians, and those ten who will be ordained this day; as well as the three who will be ordained priests in May.

Friday, April 25, 2008

It's happening here, too.

Fr. Luke Sweeney, Vocation Director of the Archdiocese of New York, has seen a sudden swell in the interest in vocations to the priesthood.

I've gotten more calls than normal this week as well. Awareness, prayer, encouraging; this is what it takes to reverse the trend!

Feast of St. Mark Homily

St. Mark is one of those figures from the Early Church where most of what we know about him is speculation, or has been transmitted down through history in an almost mythical way. However, that is not to say that it is not accurate, we just do not have some of the sure details that we, as 21st Century Americans, like to have.

This speculation, or these indications, from history include the following points:

1) He was not part of the original Twelve Apostles, rather it seems that he is a native of Jerusalem and it is speculated that it was his house that was used as the meeting place for the Last Supper; he was likely a teenager at the time.

2) During the Passion Narrative, there is one curious figure who appears: “Now a young man followed him wearing nothing but a linen cloth about his body. They seized him, but he left the cloth behind and ran off naked." (Mark 14:51-52) This singular young man is speculated to be the future evangelist, and lends credence that the Last Supper was held at his place, and he sort of ‘snuck out’ to join Jesus and the Twelve during their night of prayer.

3) Finally, there is a figure who appears periodically in the Acts of the Apostles, and we’ve just heard about him over the last weeks: John Mark. Again, there is ancient testimony that links this man with this Evangelist. This John Mark is a some-time companion with Paul and Barnabbas, especially during their first missionary journey to Asia Minor. However, it seems that the persecution that they were facing was too much for him at the time and he had to leave Paul’s side and returned, apparently, to Jerusalem where he joined up with Peter. This final detail is important because as Paul and Barnabbas were preparing to go on their second journey, Barnabbas wanted to bring John Mark with them; but Paul refused because he had deserted them once and was fearful that he would desert them again.

Now, these points of history are certainly interesting from the historical point of view and give us some of the intriguing story lines from the early church, but they also have some impact in what we have gathered here today to celebrate and prayer for: perseverance of priests and an increase in more vocations.

The first point relates to the fostering of Vocations. The young evangelist is home, when the preparations begin for an unexpected visitor. (Is he the ‘certain man’ Jesus’ Apostle’s were sent to find?) This unexpected encounter leads to a thirst to get to know Our Lord better, apparently even leading him to sneak out of the house to join with this band of men. He aspires to join with them, he aspires to be near to Our Lord. His life is changed forever from this one encounter.

For today, we have to help our young people to have that same desire to ‘be with Jesus.’ He is the one who opens the heart to call to follow, a radical call to discipleship. His presence is the one that changes the path of life forever. Yet, our young people of today often do not have the witness of the older generation, of their parents, of having a radical discipleship with Jesus. Hence the need to model that ourselves: first the priests, but also among the family. Is the family a house of prayer, ready to welcome Our Lord should he be passing by the way?

Second, for some, this encounter with Our Lord is a unique call to leave it all behind to follow after Jesus. Here, in the case of St. Mark, he apparently gets up in the middle of the night and goes forth wearing only a cloth. He follows Jesus out into the Garden; he leaves behind his family and the life he has known. On this night, he experiences the first challenge in response to discipleship: the possibility of arrest. This was a counter-cultural movement, one that placed him at odds with the established government and culture at the time. It does not take much examination of the wider culture to recognize we are in a similar situation today.

Often when I meet with a potential candidate for the first time, I ask about the potential challenges he faces. Family support is often mentioned, but also the demands that the wider culture and his peer support seem to go against his response. He is nearly trapped by the expectations for money, the rampant sexualization of the culture, and the challenge ‘to be successful.’ Admittedly, some do get grabbed by these traps and fall away from the potential call to the priesthood. Hence the importance of prayer for the perseverance of vocations, the perseverance of those called that they can give everything to follow Jesus. Just as John Mark was nearly overwhelmed by these demands, so are so many of those who have a potential to be excellent priests and religious.

Finally, the demands placed upon those who ‘make it through to completion’ and are ordained as priests are many, varied, and difficult. Often, through the demands of obedience we are placed in situations that are not of our own choosing, just as John Mark was elected and joined with St. Paul in the initial stages of his journeys throughout the then known world. Sometimes it can be overwhelming for the man, and he experiences the need to step away, as John Mark did. This can be catastrophic for the man who desires to give more, yet is feeling some reluctance, a reluctance that he may not even be able to articulate and clarify. Why did St. Mark leave Paul and Barnabbas? We will never know. What we do know is that it did cause further division and strife. This can be exceedingly difficult to overcome, and has a lasting impact, as it did between Mark and Paul.

Yet, in the midst of this and ‘the rest of the story’ is that Mark did not give up, but saw this as a new path, a new direction in his journey. After he left Paul, there is a vein of history that says that he joined up with St. Peter, and that the Gospel according to Mark is also the Gospel according to Peter: Mark becomes Peter’s stenographer, as it were, giving us this image of Jesus on fire with preaching, moving from event to event eager to spread the message that the Father had given him. Interesting. What would have happened had Mark given up after his dismissal from Paul? We might not have this depiction of Jesus as the roaring lion of Judah, as presented in this shortest of canonical Gospels.

Hence the final application for today: prayer for your priests. We are often asked for things that we have no training for; demands are placed upon us which seem to be above and beyond what we are capable of. Sadly, sometimes we fail to meet these expectations and it can cause a crisis of faith, a struggle to follow our Lord, yet knowing that I am a sinner in need of redemption. There can be a constant struggle within the priest that he is an agent of salvation for others, yet also in need of that salvation himself. Your prayers and support for the priest, for your priest, can make a world of difference to this man. On a personal note, I fondly remember those 6:30 AM Masses before I would head off to teach for the day as I was first ordained. Having a crowd of 60, 80, even 100 of the faithful gathered to begin their day in worship and prayer of Our Lord energized me, allowed me to look forward to spending my day at the high school, bringing Christ with me as I went. I thank them for this one particular blessing. And as I work now as Vocation Director, I have come to know all the more that a happy priest is the best recruiter for more priests: help you priest to be happy!

In closing, what are the steps we need to take at this point in history? I think they are simple, yet profound; easy to begin, yet hard to bring to fruition:

First: introduce our young people to Our Lord, especially in the Blessed Sacrament; in the context of the Church; among the faithful.
Second: prayer for vocations, our Holy Father reminded us of the great importance of prayer in this endeavor during his address to the Bishops of our country. The call to a vocation is difficult to respond to, is difficult to even hear; pray that those who are being called can respond generously to this invitation.
Finally: support, not only our seminarians, but also the priests you know. Support them through your prayers, again, but also through the acts of kindness and charity. We so often only hear the bad news: someone who has a bone to pick with a homily we have given, questions as to why we missed a particular meeting; why we haven’t done more to support the school, etc. It is nice to hear that a homily has been well received and that the faithful have heard the challenge given in a loving, yet direct way.

I am convinced that we are on the cusp of a great tide in vocations to the priesthood, religious and consecrated life; yet we need the support of all the faithful that this tide not be missed. Thank you for your continued prayers for my ministry, and please be assured of my prayers for you.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

I feel like a proud papa!

Well, they've made it back and are now posting on the experience. Our seminarians, both college and theology, all had the opportunity to attend the seminarian and youth rally at Yonkers last weekend. Dan has finally gotten around to posting on the experience, and some really great pics to boot!

My guys made the big time! (Plus, don't they look great in their blacks!)

A Simple Suggestion

Last night, I got to the Union Center area of West Chester (northern suburb) a bit early for a meeting with an engaged couple prior to their wedding. As the restaraunt we were meeting at was close to a bookstore, I decided to do some perusing.

While strolling through, I saw that they had a 'Thought Provoking' table in the center of the store. Hmm..., being the intellectually curious fellow that I am, and already having too many books on my 'to read' shelf, I still had to examine the titles.

Of the twenty or so books on the table, two were from a decidedly anti-religious perspective. Disappointed, I started to walk towards the check out when I happened upon one of the clerks who had asked me earlier if I needed any help. "Ah, why not?" thinks I. Simply asking him a question, "I was wondering why you had two books on the table that are atheistic, but nothing here that was from a pro-religious or Christian perspective? Obviously it is important for me, and it seems like a bias to me."

To his credit, this young man was very pleasant and responded: "Hmm.. The list comes to us out of New York, but I'll ask my manager and see what she thinks." I was pretty satisfied with that answer and proceeded to check out with my small stash of books.

I had to walk back through the store to exit, when I passed this same young man (early twenties, I guessed) as he was combing through the Christianity section looking for books to place on the table. I thanked him, gave him the suggestion of GK Chesterton's 'Orthodoxy,' as it is celebrating 100 years in print, and left the store.

It seems to me that as Christians, Catholics especially, we're used to getting run over and not letting our voices be heard. Sure, I could have demanded that he take off the atheistic books; but a simple suggestion of wondering why their were no Catholic/Christian books led to a change. Who knows, perhaps someone will pick one of those newly arrived Christian books off the table and be opened to the Spirit's movement.

A simple suggestion and the courage to speak up in a loving way for 'Positive Orthodoxy.'

Next 'Gotta Have' game!

Word from this week's Archdiocese of Cincinnati 'E-pistle' brings news of the next 'must have' game for all Catholic households: "Vatican, the Board Game." The tag line is even greater: "Unlock the secrets of how men become Pope."

If only I had a birthday coming up.....

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Papal Trivia, Answered

Michael and dbb both had majority right, although I didn't figure up their exact grade. I hope this was enjoyable and thought provoking.

1) Prior to John Paul I, when and who was the last pope to be the first to take a particular name?

Landus, who reigned from 913-914 AD

2) Pope Benedict XVI is the 263rd legitimate pope, how many unique names have been used by popes?
(With the caveat about Stephan II who was elected but died before being installed, and Benedict IX who served three times, making Benedict XVI the 265th successor of Peter;) there have been 89 unique names used by the popes.

3) After St. Peter, who is the longest reigning pope?
Yep, Pius IX, 31 years, 7 months, and 22 days

4) Which century has had the fewest popes? (Not counting the present one, that's cheating!)
The Nineteenth Century, with six, had the fewest for a complete 100 year period. (Certainly Pius IX’s long reign helped, as did Pius VII and Leo XIII). The First Century had five.

5) Which century has had the most popes?
(This one took some time to figure!) The winner is the Tenth Century with 23 in a hundred year period! The Seventh and Ninth Centuries tied with 21. (I counted the aforementioned Benedict IX as one, therefore 20 in the Eleventh.)

6) Which name has gone the longest between the first and second iterations?
Pius, at thirteen hundred years: Pius I (142-157) to Pius II (1458-1464); Paul was a ‘mere’ 700 years.

7) Before John Paul II, who was the last non-Italian pope?

Adrian VI who reigned from 1522-1523

8) How many popes were there during the Avignon Captivity?
Seven (Pope Clement V in 1305 to Gregory XI in 1376; however two Anti-Popes were elected in Avignon: Clement VII and Benedict XIII, who was expelled from Avignon in 1403)

9) What is the name of the first pope, alphabetically?
Adeodatus (615-618)

10) What is the name of the last pope, alphabetically?

In answer to the Bonus Question posed by Michael in the combox (you know, this is a death knell to any agenda, hence I’m glad to do it!): “If elected Pope, what name would you choose?” Probably Eugenius V, the previous four were generally strong popes who helped advance the development of the papacy. (Plus, it would be in honor of my grandfather.)

Just what I've been looking for!

From Disputations blog, comes the texts of all the Holy Father's addresses in pdf format, i.e. easy to print off!

No one has stepped up to answer the papal trivia, yet...

Guard of the Tomb

Surfing through St. Blog's Parish, I stumbled across a new priest blog: Da Mihi Animas, run by a Salesian priest of Don Bosco. (I have to admit, I really like his template!)

Lots of great posts on the Holy Father's visit, but also one of the Guard of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. This last section particularly struck me:

In 2003 as Hurricane Isabelle was approaching Washington , DC , our US Senate/House took 2 days off with anticipation of the storm. On the ABC evening news, it was reported that because of the dangers from the hurricane, the military members assigned the duty of guarding the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier were given permission to suspend the assignment. They respectfully declined the offer, 'No way, Sir!' Soaked to the skin, marching in the pelting rain of a tropical storm, they said that guarding the Tomb was not just an assignment, it was the highest honor that can be afforded to a service person. The tomb has been patrolled continuously, 24/7, since 1930.

Deacon Ordinations this Weekend

This coming weekend, Archbishop Pilarczyk will ordain ten men from Mount St. Mary's Seminary of the West to the Transitional Diaconate. They are as follows:

For the Archdiocese of Cincinnati:

Marty Bachman, St. Jude's, Bridgetown
David Endres, PhD, Sacred Heart, Fairfield
Robert Hadden, St. Mary's, Greenville
Shawn Landenwitch, Our Lady of the Visitation, Mack
Matt Lee, St. Mary of the Woods, Russell's Point
Barry Stechschulte, St. Philip the Apostle, Morrow; St. Augustine, Minster
Tony Tozzi, St. Gabriel's, Glendale

For the Diocese of Toledo:

Chris Bohnsack, St. Thomas Aquinas, Toledo
Jason Kahle, St. Michael's, Kalida
Tony Recker, St. Augustine's, Napolean

Please keep these ten men, along with all seminarians and priests in your prayers.

Good Things Happening at ND

Pics of the Eucharistic Procession are here.

We need more of this.

Papal Trivia

There's lots of love flowing in regards to the Holy Father right now.

With that in mind, a few questions regarding Papal Trivia:

1) Prior to John Paul I, when and who was the last pope to be the first to take a particular name?

2) Pope Benedict XVI is the 263rd legitimate pope, how many unique names have been used by popes?

3) After St. Peter, who is the longest reigning pope?

4) Which century has had the fewest popes? (Not counting the present one, that's cheating!)

5) Which century has had the most popes?

6) Which name has gone the longest between the first and second iterations?

7) Before John Paul II, who was the last non-Italian pope?

8) How many popes were there during the Avignon Captivity?

9) What is the name of the first pope, alphabetically?

10) What is the name of the last pope, alphabetically?

All answers, given tomorrow, to be verified by 'The Popes, Twenty Centuries of History" by the Pontifical Administration of the Patriarchial Basilica of St. Paul.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Oddities of Language

Sent in by my brother in Iowa: (He found this on an engineer's forum, I can't imagine how exceedingly dull that must be, but alas as Dilbert proves, there might be some humor in an engineer's brain.) ((P.S. This is even funnier if you've happened to study German.))

English is not my wife's first language, in fact it comes in at a poor fourth or fifth; she is fluent in German having lived for much of her life in Berlin. But, there are some oddities which I cannot eradicate from her English. Yes, apparently it is my job to correct her English, no matter what traumas this produces. I have been quite adept at learning her version of English so I often fail to note and correct the errors. This is also because she lacks consistency; if I interrupt her in full flow to correct some minor aberration I am not Mr. Nice Husband but some pedantic male chauvinist oaf always finding fault. On the other hand, when some one else looks blank and asks her to repeat something it is my fault because I have not been helping her improve her English. This is a gargantuan task because, as a recent study has shown, on average women speak three times as much as men and we are way way beyond average here.

The average is 7000 words a day for men (possibly this many because it includes some time at work talking to other men) and 21000 for women, what my wife gets through just for breakfast.

Like most husband/wife dialogues, all I usually need to do is say "Yes Dear" and "Uh huh" at various intervals to show I am awake and paying attention and thus I guess that enough repetitions soon add up to 7000 words. I have no idea what the 21000 words consist of except I am pretty sure there will be numerous repetitions of "Are you listening to me?" (the automatic "yes dear" always takes care of this one except sometimes she will ask me what I think. This isn't because she cares what I think, it is only her way of testing if I really have been listening. Naturally, when caught out this way, the next 3-4000 words are as familiar to her as to me and I doubt either of us is actually listening. Many a long car journey can be passed in this manner.

One never ending game is helping her spell when she is in mid-email. This is a priority task and the words "Just a minute Dear" are usually guaranteed to provoke some over the top reaction which usually ends up with me agreeing to us going out for dinner or her buying a new pair of shoes. This is probably because we used to have dial-up internet for some time and she would edit on line producing a once a month rant from me (before I learned better) when the phone bill would arrive. The peace that broad band brought I have never satisfactorily explained, especially as she is happy to believe she has so thoroughly trounced me on the phone bill issue that I don't like to disillusion her, especially as the money saved would be then spent on shoes. Besides, I am not sure I have enough remaining life expectancy to devote to the task of explaining something she will never willingly understand.

"i" and "e" are a common problem individually and in combination, both with spelling and pronunciation.

Every time she needs help with spelling I will say "F", "L", "I", "E" and "S" (Big Bill doesn't like "fleis". Please, please, PLEASE: don't ask why I don't explain how spell-checker works. I tried this one time and we nearly got divorced so I paid up and sent her to evening classes. If they didn't explain they must have had good reasons. Besides, she doesn't actually want to spell correctly, just to eliminate all those red squiggly lines and the moment she discovers the "add word" feature her dictionary will flood the hard disc with all possible permutations of every word and I'll have to buy her a computer with more memory than the CIA needs). We will get the "I" fine but at the "E" we always go through a routine of me saying "E" and she asking "Is that eeh-punkt or eeh-Eberhart?" Eeh-punkt is "i" of course.

If I get smart or lippy or impatient because we repeat this several times until Big Bill is happy, I'm in trouble and can and have spent the rest of the day in the dog-house (being let out only to take her to some expensive restaurant).

This is not helped by the fact she has hand corrected her keyboard to overwrite each key with farsi symbols often obscuring the original alphabet and so we have many typos on route to an acceptable spelling. If you have gathered that I have some reservations about Big Bill's spell checker or grammar checker, then hear my wife after she has struggled to respell some German place name some forty times and can never get the UK spell checker to approve the spelling. Remember, the dog house looms and I could spend the rest of my days explaining the limitations of the spell check dictionaries or I could get a life. If Big Bill were to appear in person he would need to do so in full body armour. In our house Big Bill's mansion is where the devil will go when he dies.

The real problem is the pronunciation of some words. This starts with the German pronunciation of the letters "w" and "v". So far as my German language skills allow me to say, there is no "w" sound in German.

Wein is pronounced vine.

Vier (4) is pronounced "fear" .

(Note that the ei and ie sounds are always the wrong way round for English.)

Hence the well known TV/Film comedy phrase "Vee Haf vays to make you talk." in any scene featuring a German soldier. Now the oddity: say the following sentence in Native English:

"Please open the window and close the vent." She will say:

"Please open the vindow and close the went."

Note that I show her saying "the" and not "zee". She has mastered that "th" sound in all its variants, it is just this new "w" sound that irritates the hell out of me. It doesn't exist in German and here she is translating the V into W. But she is not alone, I have noted a similar tendency in other native German speakers.

Anyone else noted this or have any similar "show and tells" for other "native language into English" oddities?


The Lost Generation

Ok, I realize that there's no mention of God, but if we add this dimension, which underlies all things, this is a good video:

Blantantly stolen from Adam's Ale! (Me, the world's best plagarizer, and I yelled at my students for doing the same thing!)

No More Wonder Bread

Today's Joke of the Day from Comedy Central seemed appropriate:

A salesman from KFC walked up to the Pope and offers him a million dollars if he would change "The Lord's Prayer" from "give us this day our daily bread" to "give us this day our daily chicken." The Pope refused his offer.

Two weeks later, the man offered the pope 10 million dollars to change it from "give us this day our daily bread" to "give us this day our daily chicken" and again the Pope refused the man's generous offer.

Another week later, the man offered the Pope 20 million dollars and finally the Pope accepted. The following day, the Pope said to all his officials, "I have some good news and some bad news. 'The good news is, that we have just received a check for 20 million dollars. The bad news is, we lost the Wonder Bread account!'''

Personally, I would've held out for more.

Ben Stein for President

In an increasingly inane world of media and higher education, one sane voice continues to come from the man who knows it all: Ben Stein. He has a new documentary out, Expelled, which examines how institutions of 'higher learning' have embraced Darwinism and shun everything else.

A write up from Yahoo! News:

Evolution is another one of those one-sided debates. We know the concept of Intelligent Design is stifled in academic circles. An entire documentary to state the obvious? You can see my reluctance to view it.
I went into the screening bored. I came out of it stunned.
Ben Stein's extraordinary presentation documents how the worlds of science and academia not only crush debate on the origins of life, but also crush the careers of professors who dare to question the Darwinian hypothesis of evolution and natural selection.

Pentecost = 'Busy Day'

The great feast of Pentecost is approaching: May 10th. The outpouring of the Spirit upon the Early Church completed the conversion (mostly) of the Apostles and drove the Church forward now for two millennia.

It continues to be a 'Big Deal' in the Church, exhorting the faithful to live out their life in 'Christ, our Hope,' as a recent visitor to these shores reminded us.

Locally, it is one of those days where the ability not only to bi-locate, but tri-locate, would be beneficial:

First, the annual 'Discernment Day for High School Men' is being held at Mount St. Mary's Seminary. It is an opportunity for high school aged men who are feeling a call to priesthood to come together to pray in the seminary setting, to meet others their own age who are also feeling the call, and meet seminarians who are exploring the call in a much deeper way. The day runs from 9 am to 6 pm, and more information and registration is found at the Vocation Office website. Last year, we had nearly 40 attend, so far for this year we have 15 registrants. Spread the word so that we can beat last year's total! (I know, the Holy Father encouraged us to look at quality, not quantity, but if they never visit, they never know...) Did I mention, it's free?

(Counter-point! Lest anyone think we neglect the young ladies in our midst who are considering religious life, the seminarians have worked hard to develop a weekend discernment retreat for young women (age 15-30) who are considering a call to religious life. The retreat is (thankfully!) being held on June 6-8 at the Our Lady of the Holy Spirit Center, as is being co-sponsored by a number of the religious communities in the area. Unfortunately, there is a cost to the event of $35.00 to cover food and housing, but please do not let that be a deterrent! Registration and more information is found at the Vocation Office website. This is a first time event, but there are already registrants and space is limited, so sign up early!)

Secondly, for those young people who are interested in the faith, but maybe not in the priesthood, comes word of the second annual Rock Youth Rally to be held May 10th from 7-10 PM at the Our Lady of the Holy Spirit Center in Norwood, a sorta suburb of Cincinnati. Music is by Last Day, a meditation and witness by Michael Walsh, and Adoration and Benediction by yours truly. For tickets and information, contact the Our Lady of the Holy Spirit Center at 513-351-9800. It was a great event last year, with about 100 youth present, again looking to grow...

Finally, word comes again of the annual Pentecost Celebration to be held at St. Gertrude's here in Cincinnati. This one is geared towards young adults, and they send along the following info:

Pentecost Celebration! Young adults from across the Tri-State will be gathering at St. Gertrude Parish in Madeira. The St. Gertrude 20s Group ( is sponsoring a day of free activities to celebrate the Feast of Pentecost on Saturday, May 10, 2008. Last year's event gathered over 100 young adults from as far away as Lafayette, Indiana .
The event will begin at noon at McDonald Commons Park (next to 7455 Dawson Rd, Madeira, Ohio 45243 ) with such outdoor games as Ultimate Frisbee and Corn Hole among others. The day will also include an opportunity to meet members of other young adult groups to share ideas and experiences, faith discussion, and a supper generously sponsored by JTM Food Group. In the evening (7:00 p.m.) the celebration will continue at St. Gertrude Parish (7630 Shawnee Run Rd, Madeira, Ohio 45243) there will be Eucharistic adoration and the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Followed by an energetic celebration of the Pentecost Vigil Mass. After Mass the evening will conclude with game time in the parish center. In case of rain the whole celebration will take place at St. Gertrude Parish. For more information check us out on the web: or email us at Eric (at) 20sgroup (dot) org.

This Public Service Announcement is now over, return to your regularly scheduled programming!


Rich mentions in his post, linked below, that as they were leaving Yankee Stadium and a five hour marathon, a few of our separated brethren took the opportunity to 'pamphlateer' Catholics leaving the celebration.

I share the experience.

World Youth Day, Toronto, in 2002, was a fabulous experience. I attending with another chaperone and nine teens from the parish where I had just completed my pastoral year. (It's mandatory for us in Cinci.)

During the Friday way of the Cross in downtown Toronto, which was open to the public, there were a number of 'pampheteer-ers' working the crowd, so to speak. The other chaperone and I were, in hindsight, a little too lax with our charges, and let them wander about a bit. As they were late in returning, I was getting a little hot under the collar, waiting to tear them to shreads upon their return. (Now I know what my mother felt like all those times my twin brother and I managed to sneak off!)

(As a side note, it is not the custom here that seminarians wear clerics until ordained transitional deacons, so at best I had slacks and a polo or dress shirt on, can't really remember, so I looked like any ordinary Catholic.)

Well, as I am glaring down the street, some poor young, fairly inexperienced, pamphleteer-er handed me one of those ever popular 'Jack Chick' tracts. In an extreme show of a lack of charity, I absolutely tore the young guy to shreads. Well, I tried to tear his position to shreds, not actually him. I had all the objections down pat and was hardly letting him get a word in edge-wise. After about fifteen minutes of this on-going tirade, our truents finally showed up and saw my face and heard bits of the barage I was letting loose on this poor fellow, his eyes now about as big as dinner plates, when I turned and said: "Where have you two been?!?" Turning back to my evangelizer friend, I said: "These are my two lost students, I need to go."

He absolutely took off! He apparently had never come into contact with a Catholic who could answer everyone of his objections and fire back twenty others. Evidently, this conversation didn't go exactly as planned!

Turning around to where the rest of my group was, they applauded me! A couple of the guys looked and said: "I never saw you do that before!" "Wow, the vein on your forehead is popped out!"

On the subway back out to where we were staying, I tried to explain that I wasn't the most charitable in my dealings with this unfortunate youngster, but they didn't have any of it.

I do feel bad for this poor guy, I admired his audacity and courage, but he barked up the wrong tree on that occasion!

Monday already?

Are you kidding me? Where in the world was the weekend? YIKES!

This is to catch up on things and items I missed over the weekend, running throughout the diocese.

First, if you missed the Sunday Enquirer's Forum section, Peter Bronson had an excellent article on the Holy Father's visit. (He writes with a greater esteem and respect than many Catholic authors!):
I'm not a Catholic. But somewhere during the funerals for two fallen firefighters April 9, I thought: Nobody does this better than the Catholic Church. When an uncertain world cruelly reminds us how fragile life can be, the magic, tradition, ritual and beauty of a mass soothes the aching heart. It speaks of eternal truth.
So does Pope Benedict XVI. His visit to America is packed with eternal truth like an overstuffed suitcase. But it gets distorted by our carnival-mirror culture.
Dozens of media reports called the pope a "rock star." Not quite. "He's a very kind gentleman like somebody's grandfather," said the Rev. Earl Fernandes of Mount St. Mary's Seminary, who knows Benedict from three years in Rome studying moral theology. "By nature he is a quiet and shy man. He's not concerned about being the center of attention. He wants the attention on Christ."

If you missed the talks and addresses that the Holy Father addressed, visit Rocco's site or the USCCB, as they have excellent coverage and the addresses all published.

Another Blogger Extraordinaire joins St. Blog's parish: a frequent commentor here at Called by Name, Miss Meg proudly announces Life in the Abundant Lane. (Don't miss her Cultured Pearl and Cow Patty Awards!)

Adam's Ale is sharing the love as well, and gives props to my esteemed Associate Vocation Director, who is starting up the youth ministry program at his parish. Helping get the word out is the blog he administers. (For those keeping track at home, that's five blogs between the two of us!)

Rich Leonardi had the great priviledge to assist at the Mass at Yankee Stadium, and posts on it here. As a snarky aside to my friend, one would've thought that being on the same side of the altar as the Holy Father would've been acceptable to this Reformer of the Reform. (Just kidding, Rich, looking forward to hearing about it first hand!)

I think that catches me up so far, more thoughts to come later in the day as I get a chance to read over the texts that I missed over the weekend, oh and GO REDS! The hated Dodgers are in town, and I will be assisting them to victory tonight!

Thursday, April 17, 2008

The Questions

Last night, three bishops asked the Holy Father questions after his address to the Bishops.

The first was by the newest consecrated bishop, of Springfield-Cap Giraedu (sp?) on secularism.

The second was by Archbishop Pilarczyk (of Cincinnati!), chosen because he is the longest serving (non-retired) bishop currently in the conference and was on 'fallen-away Catholics.'

The third was by the chair of a committee of the Eastern Catholic Bishops in the US and was on vocations.

Rocco has the transcripts of the talk on his site.

The video link can be found at the USCCB website, click the top link "The Holy Father's exchange with the US Bishops."

When introduced by Cardinal George of Chicago, Pope Benedict gave a friendly wave to Archbishop Pilarczyk. But what has everyone here in the office talking is the banter and exchange after Archbishop addressed his question. The Holy Father responded, before his prepared response: "I remember well our meetings in past times, we had interesting discussions." (followed by a good chuckle by the other bishops.) The Holy Father and Archbishop shared a warm handshake as the Pope was leaving as well, from what we could tell the only bishop that he shook hands with.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

The Holy Father addresses the US Bishops

The texts, both the Holy Father's address and his responses to the questions are posted over at Rocco's site.

Of particular importance to me was the response to the last question (with all due apologies to Archbishop Pilarczyk, whose question was also good!):

3. [Losten] The Holy Father is asked to comment on the decline in vocations despite the growing numbers of the Catholic population, and on the reasons for hope offered by the personal qualities and the thirst for holiness which characterize the candidates who do come forward.
Let us be quite frank: the ability to cultivate vocations to the priesthood and the religious life is a sure sign of the health of a local Church. There is no room for complacency in this regard. God continues to call young people; it is up to all of us to to encourage a generous and free response to that call. On the other hand, none of us can take this grace for granted.
In the Gospel, Jesus tells us to pray that the Lord of the harvest will send workers. Only the Lord can give the workers, and we always have to pray that He gives us the workers. He even admits that the workers are few in comparison with the abundance of the harvest (cf. Mt 9:37-38). Strange to say, I often think that prayer - the unum necessarium - is the one aspect of vocations work which we tend to forget sometimes or to undervalue!
Nor am I speaking only of prayer for vocations. Prayer itself, born in Catholic families, nurtured by programs of Christian formation, strengthened by the grace of the sacraments -- prayer is the first means by which we come to know the Lord's will for our lives. To the extent that we teach young people to pray, and to pray well, we will be cooperating with God's call. So I think learning prayer, being prayerful people, is an essential point for the living church. Programs, plans, projects are necessary and have their place; but the discernment of a vocation is above all the fruit of an intimate dialogue between the Lord and his disciples. Young people, if they know how to pray, can be trusted to know what to do with God's call.
I think there is a growing thirst for holiness in many young people, and that those who come forward show great idealism and much promise. It is important to listen to them, to understand their experiences, and to encourage them to help their peers to see the need for committed priests and religious, as well as the beauty of a life of sacrificial service to the Lord and his Church -- this is beautiful, to have a sacrificial service for the Lord and the Church. To my mind, much is demanded of vocation directors and formators: candidates today, as much as ever, need to be given a sound intellectual and human formation which will enable them not only to respond to the real questions and needs of their contemporaries, but also to mature in their own conversion and to persevere in life-long commitment to their vocation. As Bishops, you are conscious of the sacrifice demanded when you are asked to release one of your finest priests for seminary work. But I urge you to respond with generosity, for the good of the whole Church.
And finally, I think you know from experience that most of your brother priests are happy in their vocation. What I said in my address about the importance of unity and cooperation within the presbyterate applies here too. There is a need for all of us to move beyond sterile divisions, disagreements and preconceptions, and to listen together to the voice of the Spirit who is guiding the Church into a future of hope. Each of us knows how important priestly fraternity has been in our lives. That fraternity is not only a precious possession, but also an immense resource for the renewal of the priesthood and the raising up of new vocations. I would close by encouraging you to foster opportunities for ever greater dialogue and fraternal encounter among your priests, and especially the younger priests. I am convinced that this will bear great fruit for their own enrichment, for the increase of their love for the priesthood and the Church, and for the effectiveness of their apostolate. Thank you very much!

Finally, of particular humor as the banter between Archbishop Pilarczyk and the Holy Father after Archbishop asked his question. The Holy Father said something along the lines of: "I remember our many frank discussions during your visits to Rome." I'd love to ask what that was all about. Does anyone have a YouTube clip?

So, did you hear

that the Pope's in the US? If you hadn't, can I borrow the rock you've been living under?

Full text of his address at the White House is found here, thanks to CNS blog. (Does anyone else think his voice pitch is too high? I guess for an octagenarian, it's not too bad.)

The White House has posted President Bush's address and welcome here. (Good, except he butchered Saint Augustine's name [pronounced it like the city in Florida] and the Latin of Pax Tecum really came off with a Southern Draaawwwwl.)

The other big news is that three bishops of the US have been asked to pose a question to the Holy Father during the meeting this evening. One of whom is my very own Boss: Archbishop Pilarczyk! There is rampant speculation about what the Local Big Boss is going to ask the Universal Big Boss, but no one really seems to have a clue. Tune in at the 5:30 meeting tonight on EWTN to find out.

Finally, thirty seminarians (and two priests) from Mount St. Mary's Seminary of the West are journeying to Yonkers for the meeting with the Pope on Saturday, as well as the seminarians from the Josephinum; please keep them all in your prayers for safe travel. Humpf, they didn't invite their vocation director. :(


Fr. V. has a good post regarding 'Dogma,' what it is and why it is important.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

I thought technology was supposed to make our life EASIER!

So, we've finally entered the 20th Century here at the Cenral Offices of the Archdiocese of Cincinnati. We have a brand, spanking new phone system that is supposed to make life easier.

One thing we can do is set the phone to do an automatic call forward to another extension, even a cell phone if your really feeling frisky.

But it can also be a nuissance. For example: this morning I received a call from a member of the Serra Club here in Cincinnati. (NOT Sierra, that's 'hug a tree;' Serra is 'hug a priest.') After that call, however, my phone went totally Bat Shit Crazy! I am telling you, ringing off the hook, stacking five, six calls at a time. What in the world is going on here?!?!?

First call I answer is for religious certification. HUH? How did you get to the Vocation Office?!?! Next call I answer was for the fingerprinting department. WHAT?!?!? I am really getting flustered at this point. My phone keeps yelling at me: "ARE YOU THERE? ARE YOU THERE?"


Nine calls later, I've had enough!

I storm down to the switchboard (ok, I rode the elevator), and ask why she is sending all these calls my way.

"Huh, the phone hasn't rang in like 15 minutes." She looks at me as if I've got three heads.

Then why has MY phone rang non-stop for the last 15 minutes??? The guy in the office next to me (Permanent Deacon Office) is about to jump out his window! We're on the 8th floor, I think that might cause a mess!

Turns out, when she forwarded that last call, she inadvertantly hit 'Call Forward ALL,' so that EVERY CALL coming into this building, all five floors for the Diocese, were coming to MY office!!!

Luckily, we got it straightened out without too much more trouble, but it did sour my mood a bit right before I had the 11:30 Mass down the street, which was not improved when dealing with the sacristan at said Cathedral.

I knew I should've stayed in bed this morning!

Monday, April 14, 2008

I'm still alive!

Made it through the weekend, barely.

Today is a few meetings at the seminary, spiritual direction and taxes.

After all the excitement from the weekend, I needed a light day.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Welcome, Holy Father,

from the Archdiocese of Cincinnati:

It's a slow day

and I'm waiting for a phone call return.

So, to add to the whimsy of the place for today, the best name to come around in racing circles lately (hee hee) is none other than Team Australia's Will Power in the Indy Car Series.

For my money, way better than 'The Man' of the 1980's NASCAR circuit.

Scott Speed, puh-lease. Typical F1, all flash, no results.

Prelude to a Crazy Weekend

The 'Dance Party Friday' was just a prelude to a crazy weekend. (Aren't they all?!?!)

Tonight begins Cincinnati 2000/Credo: I Believe retreat at Moeller High School here in Cincinnati. The weekend retreat, in the spirit of Youth 2000, should be a great time, but is also exhausting as well. Because of my time constraints, I haven't been as involved with the planning as in past years, but the lineup looks to be pretty solid.

Sunday is crazy as well. I have two early Masses at Holy Redeemer in New Bremen, followed by my niece's birthday party, she turns two or three.... I really need to figure that one out!

Sunday night is our inaugural 'Cast Your Nets' program at Sacred Heart in McCartyville.

Monday morning is the 7 AM Mass and collapse! I'll catch back up with you on Monday, if its quiet around here during the weekend.

Dance Party Friday!

Proving Cincinnati aint go no rhythm:

Blantantly ripped from Adam's Ale.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

World Day of Prayer for Vocations

This coming Sunday is the World Day of Prayer for Vocations. The Holy Father has released a letter marking the occassion:

5. Among the persons who dedicate themselves totally to the service of the Gospel, there are, in a special way, priests, called to preach the Word of God, administer the sacraments, especially the Eucharist and Reconciliation, and who are committed to help the least, the sick, those who are suffering, the poor, and those who experience hardship in areas of the world where there are, at times, many who even today have not had a real encounter with Jesus Christ. The missionaries announce for the first time to these people Christ’s redemptive love. Statistics show that the number of baptized persons increases every year thanks to the pastoral work of these priests, who are wholly consecrated to the salvation of their brothers. In this context, special thanks must be given “to those fidei donum priests who work faithfully and generously at building up the community by proclaiming the word of God and breaking the Bread of Life, devoting all their energy to serving the mission of the Church. Let us thank God for all those priests who have suffered even to the sacrifice of their lives in order to serve Christ ... Theirs is a moving witness that can inspire many young people to follow Christ and to expend their lives for others, and thus to discover true life” (Apostolic Exhortation Sacramentum caritatis, 26).

As an interesting confluence of events, the Vocation Office will be kicking off our first 'Cast Your Nets' program this Sunday at Sacred Heart Church in McCartyville, OH, 6-9 PM. See you there!

Fallen Heroes

Last Friday, two Colerain Township Firefighters (northwest side of Cincinnati) were killed while fighting a house fire. While the details are sketchy at best, yet, it appears that they entered the house to search for anyone still inside. While searching, there was 'a catastrophic structural failure' that either sent them tumbling to the basement or had the first floor collapse on them while in the basement. Either way, sad, as it has come to light that all the occupants had gotten out safely. (I think just a couple.)

The city has been in mourning since, and heartfelt well wishes have been pouring in from around the country, as well as from overseas.

On top of this, the only soldier who had been listed as MIA in Iraq was also from the Cincinnati area. His body was recently found and identified.

To say that the bright sunshine of spring has been tempered by dour feelings is an understatement.

Today, the two firefighters (one the first female captain of the department) will be laid to rest after a dual Funeral Mass at the Cathedral. There is an expected crowd of 5,000. The issue is that the Cathedral only sits 1,000 in the main Church, plus potentially another 1,000 in the undercroft. The plaza out front will be wired for sound to help with the overflow.

In reading the reports from the paper over the last few days, what has struck me is the bond between those in public service. In today's paper, there was a report of a retired EMT who has deeply felt the loss of a brother and sister, even though she never knew them.

I feel much the same way for a brother priest. When I hear of a priest who dies an untimely death, I sense the loss of a brother. When someone injuries a brother priest, I feel that injury. In soe analogous way, I understand and empathize with what the firefighters here in this area are suffering and grieving.

As another aspect, my uncle (mom's brother) is Chief of the volunteer department of my hometown. He was on scene a few years ago in a neighboring village when two or three firefighters were killed in an explosion. It was difficult for him, as for the entire community.

As always, pray for those who protect others, whether spiritually or physically.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Monday, April 7, 2008

On the Road

No, I am not heading out of the office again!

Rather, a few reflections on yesterday's Gospel lection on the Road to Emmaus.

One of the first aspects of the application process that we have guys go through is to write a 10 to 12 page life history. This is more than just a 'I did this, then I did that, then this happened.' Rather, we look at this as a 'spiritual biography' where we ask the candidate to reflect on his life and how God has been active and involved leading him up to the point that he is applying to the seminary.

As part of this, the potential candidate comes to realize that Jesus has been forming and shaping him for this since the beginning. The call to the seminary and priesthood should not be something that occurs all of a sudden, but has been formed and shaped over time. Surely, the awareness of the call can be rather instant, but yet there is that dawning that 'my heart was burning within while I was walking the journey of my life.' Much like Cleopas and his companion, when our eyes are finally opened and we recognize that Jesus has been walking along with us, there is that desire to get up and to go and share that news with other disciples.

If you are thinking about the priesthood, or know someone who should be thinking about it, I encourage you to pray over this passage and to look back over your life to see how Jesus has been 'walking with you on the way,' preparing you for this moment of response.

Adoration => Priests

Through Brad Watkins, comes the report from Archbishop O'Brien of Baltimore and the Pontifical North American College.


Another impressive and, indeed, inspiring hallmark of today’s seminarians, in Rome and in our own distinguished St. Mary’s Seminary in Roland Park and Mount St. Mary’s in Emmitsburg, is a return to a Eucharistic-centered spirituality. At NAC, all are “on deck” at 6:15 a.m. for morning prayer and 6:30 a.m. community Mass before walking a typical 25 minutes to classes across town. Come evening, one would have to be impressed by the numbers in prayer before the Blessed Sacrament during the voluntary holy hour of exposition. Many seminarians volunteer the fact that they discovered their vocation through devotion to the Blessed Sacrament in parishes where Eucharistic adoration was regularly scheduled with special prayers for vocations.Nationally, I am told that there are dioceses such as Wichita, where an abundance of priestly vocations can be traced to diocesan-wide Eucharistic adoration. Nor do I think it a coincidence that the three parishes in our Archdiocese with the most success at present in “growing” seminarians for Baltimore all offer parishioners opportunities for Eucharistic adoration outside of Mass:St. Louis, Clarksville – 4 seminariansSt. John, Westminster – 3 seminarians, 2 applyingSt. Peter the Apostle, Libertytown – 2 seminarians, 1 applyingThese three parishes provide half of our homegrown seminarians. They have taken seriously the Lord’s solution for great harvests, but too few laborers: “Pray the harvest-master to send laborers into his harvest.”We are blessed, indeed, to have many deacons, religious, and laypeople working the harvest. But without the priest, there is no Eucharist. Without the Eucharist, there is no Church.How fitting, how necessary, to turn to the Eucharist in our prayer for priests.

Brad has gone on a tear reporting stories over the weekend, his site is found here.

Funny, this internet thing

We track the Vocation Office home page through Google Analytics. One of the good things that it allows us to do is check to see who is referring readers to our site, basically how did they get to us.

While these references usually come from vocation pages, blogs, and other diocese; every once in a while, a site jumps out that causes me to scratch my head. Take today, for example:

Hmm... Not a Church site, not a vocation page, not even a blog. Hmmm.....

So, I dig a bit further. All the hits came from over the weekend. Hmmm....

I find the direct link to the article here:

Turns out, it is an article on recruitment posters that are being used by Vocation Offices and Seminaries that show a current roster of seminarians. Great!

Then I get to this passage, and my inquisitiveness is answered:

The message is clear at, the main Web site of the vocations office for the Archdiocese of Cincinnati:
“If your diocese does not produce a poster of the current roster of seminarians, call your Vocation Director and INSIST that he does this!

“As young men see these faces that look just like their own, they can see themselves in the program. Also, they begin to realize that they are not the only ones feeling this call, others will walk the road along with them.”

Weird how you can throw things out there, and your words echo across the plains.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

An evening to remember

As a priest, the phone call is sometimes dreaded: "Father, can you do our wedding?" What's the couple like? Do they 'get it'? Is the faith important to them?

All of these thoughts ruminate through the mind as you meet the couple for the first time. Where are they on the spectrum?

Every great once in a while, they surprise you. They are 'Number 1's!' Their wedding is only truly important if the Church is included! WOW!

Today was one of those experiences. Joey and Julie were married today at the Basilica of the Assumption in Covington. Joey had discerned a call to the priesthood, but felt that God was directing him to married life. Julie is an identical twin and had looked at religious life, but also felt the call to married life. They got it, and their wedding reflected it.

Before the rehearsal, they had a holy hour for the wedding party. WHAT?!?!? They expected their friends to pray for an hour before everything else got started. They, too, prayed for each other. Wow, what a way to start a life together.

The wedding today was one of those rare ones where there was an obvious spiritual dimension. The reading from Tobit and the Wedding at Cana framed the dimension that prayer is the foundation of all that they do, and Christ is at the center of this marriage.

To be honest, as a priest we get so many weddings where it seems to be a charade. I've never seen the couple at Mass, yet they are here and I work with them. It is refreshing to see a couple begin their relationship with such a prayerful presence. Please pray for Joey and Julie that they may have a long and fruitful life. (Plus, that they have many boys together to send to the seminary!)

Friday, April 4, 2008

Models of Priesthood

Rich Leonardi posted earlier today on an upcoming event in the Archdiocese, but also contains information regarding the developments in the formation of priests and cites the John Jay study. (That's a mouthful!)

I want to focus on the third of those links: the changes in the formation programs in seminaries and the results that have come from these changes.

In my experience (ordained 2004), the formation that is largely available at seminaries today is a very personal experience. By this, I do not mean subjective experience; but rather the seminary takes an individual look at each candidate and assesses both the strengths that he possesses and the weaknesses that he must overcome while in the context of a seminary community. Formation is not a 'one size fits all' program.

The result of this is that the men in formation come to a deeper awareness of their own gifts and limitations (hopefully!), and how they would respond in certain situations as well. As a result of this 'growth process,' (I know, cliche alert!) some guys do go through counseling, some guys receive extra training in dealing with individuals, homiletics, singing, whatever he may need.

The goal of the formation process is to produce a priest who understands his abilities, the implications of living a celibate life in the midst of a hostile world, and that he will truly represent Christ out in the world. That's a lot to take into account.

From my understanding, the formation programs in the 1950's (again, born in 1976, so this is by reputation) were more about fitting into an assigned role, completing academic programs, and, to an extent, looking the part. There was not a strong spiritual direction program. 'Formation' was nearly non-existant. You were expected to meet these criteria, and if you stepped out of line, see ya later!

The result of this, from a decidedly non-psychological perspective, was that a fair number of men ordained in that time frame repressed or hid their true selves, or did not deal with emotional or psychological problems at the time, or did not have the freedom to grow as a human person before taking on the role of 'priest;' that so much of the normal psycho-social development was repressed and came out later in very dramatic ways. So much so, that I feel quite comfortable saying that this contributed to the sexual abuse crisis of the last 7 years. But, for sure, it was not the only cause, and it may not even be the leading cause; but it certainly contributed, of that I am sure.

In my experience, again, we have learned from these lessons and, today, are much more selective in who we admit to the seminary, and there are greater criteria as far as continuing in the seminary as well.

However, my concern is that this is not universal. There is a certain order that is very prominent today that, again in my limited experience, has reverted to a 1950s formation program, where the men have to fit a very specific model of priesthood, and any expression of individualism is squashed. A diocesan priest, from another diocese, was telling me that he explored this particular religious community before entering wtih the diocese. Because he was having back problems at the time, he politely declined going on a canoe outing, or something similar. He stated that because he was unwilling to go on this little outing, he was shunned the rest of the weekend and eventually 'it was discerned that he didn't have a calling with this order.'

Certainly, one unique story is not enough to raise concerns, but I've had enough experience from a formation prespective with both candidates who have experience with this order and priests from the order that I hold the entire group at an arms length, even though I know that they do some very good things. Their secrecy causes me suspicion, and it does not prove to be fruitful in formation, as guys are formed to hide what's going on inside instead of addressing it with formation and spiritual directors.

Finally, a word on the 'two models of priesthood' that are so popular in church circles these days. There is a desire to create a tension between what is called the 'cultic' model of the priesthood versus the 'servant leader' model of the priesthood. The dichotomy sets up in the way that, usually, the priests that subscribe to the 'cultic' model of the priesthood want to be served by their parishioners, they represent Christ in the community and hence have a dignity that others should recognize. They are only interested in the liturgy, and music and transcendence. In contrast, the 'servant-leader' priest is one who leads a community by being collaborative, listens, is among the people, etc. These priests are all about the immanent aspects of the faith, the nitty-gritty stuff.

In the popular parlance of today, the servant leader is extolled as the perfect priest and these newer, younger 'cultic' priests are out of touch with the needs of the people.

In my experience, this is a false dichotomy. The priests that are actually more likely to hold concretely fast to a day off, less likely to get out of bed to make a midnight run to the hospital, are actually the 'servant leaders.'

The model that younger priests and seminarians of today subscribe to is more aptly described as 'Priest as a Living Icon of Christ.' In this idea, the priest wears clerics regularly so that he can be identified as Christ living among his people. He desire to celebrate the liturgy with the respect and dignity it deserves, so that it nourishes the faithful to be able to live out their calling in the world. He wants to give his life for his people as Christ gave His life for us. He will listen to his people, but understands that he is responsible for their souls and is therefore willing to make difficult decisions, unpopular decisions, because he knows it is ultimately better for their souls and will lead them to Eternal Life. These are the priests that also willingly give of their day off to go to the hospital, to have a funeral, to visit the grade school. Because they identify with Christ, but also recognize that they are human, they recognize that their redemption is based on helping others come to Eternal Life. They take the good aspects of this 'cultic' vs 'servant leader' models and combine them in a real and approachable package.

I am convinced that this is the model of priesthood that will help the Church to flourish into the future. This is the model that our seminarians and young priests have been formed and encouraged into, and such, it presents great hope for our future.

Following God's Plan

Sorry for the long post, but what follows is the general idea of what we talked about last night at Theology on Tap, Cincinnati. There was a good crowd there, I'd say at least 50+. The series continues next week with David Endres, Ph.D., on Church History Mythbusters. (Dave is also a third year seminarian with the Archdiocese of Cincinnati.) We tried to record the talk, but alas the recorder didn't pick up. Check for more info.

When you are in my position, really any priest or confidant, you often have folks who give you their life story and expect an immediate clarification, immediate direction as to what this means and where God is leading me in this life. Unfortunately, that is not often the case. From my own experience, I can give some advice, but it is ultimately God who gives the direction and leads us all to a true happiness. Tell my story.

So, as you can see, I didn't really struggle with the response. It helped that my pastor at the time warned me that if I left the diocese, he would see to it that I would never set foot in my home parish again. Very well, my discernment was over!

So, the question arises as to who to look toward for the general population, because the example of a priest or seminarian does not always ring true. The most public examples that I can find in the Church today is that of converts to the faith, because they had to do some serious discernment, especially those converts who have left positions as pastors in Protestant Churches and have given it all up to embrace Christ in the Catholic Church.

In reading stories of these converts, especially through the Coming Home Network, I found two primary aspects that helped them in discernment and following God's will: intellectual study and a deep and profound prayer life; using the two great gifts God has given us: faith and reason. Taking just one of these aspects without the other is handicapping the journey right from the start.

Examining each part in greater detail, let us look at the Intellectual aspect first. In order to know where God is leading us, we must first get to know God, and the faith that He founded. The fact remains, the Catholic Faith is an inherently 'knowable' faith, it is built upon a system of logic and can be examined from so many differing points of view that together give us a deeper, more profound experience of God. God gave us a brain, and he expects us to use it!
There also must be a prayer life, a sincere seeking of the direction that Christ gives to His disciples in this life. Our intellectual study requires that we be changed by this study, and this change only really happens through a deep and profound encounter with Christ in prayer.
Before we get into some of the nuts and bolts aspects of discernment, where we will revist these two topics, I have a few caveats. First, warnings of what happens if you only take one aspect of these two dimensions, and fail to integrate both aspects.

First, the intellectual pursuit is good, but again it needs to be formative as well. Looking at the Scriptures, we have the great example of the Rich Young Man in Luke's Gospel (Luke 18:18-25). He knew all the stuff:"I have kept all the Commandments from my youth;" but they were not formative: "He went away sad, for he had many possessions."

This points to the difference between Theology and Religious Studies. Theology is Faith seeking Understanding, as Anselm so wisely instructs. Theology begins on the knees, Religious Studies begins in a book, there is no personal connection, change dynamism in Religious Studies. Blah! This is why when a man begins seminary formation; he is encouraged, in a way, to bring his study to the chapel. Pope John Paul did most of his writing before the Blessed Sacrament, and it comes across in his writing, I think. So, in the beginning of our pursuit, we do not study about Jesus, we walk, we dialogue with him that He might change us. We do not take the study by itself.

On the contrary, though, we do not just have a prayer life that is unattached. There is a tendency today to say that I am a spiritual person, but I don't go to Church; I pray, but I don't need the Church to tell me how to do it. If you don't belong to a Church, how do you know that you are praying to the One True God, and not a figment of your imagination? (To put it rather bluntly.) There is also the communal aspect of our faith journey, that in the Christian context we are never on a journey alone, rather the community is there to support, challenge, nourish, admonish us when necessary. There has to be a vertical and a horizontal dimension to our practice of the faith, without both it is easy to lose the way.

For a good, well rounded Catholic, there should be the following six dimensions that need to be taken into account for vocational discernment:

1) Sacramental: have a good understanding of the historicity of the faith, how we got to the place we are 'hermeneutic of continuity,' also need to have a deep and profound love for the Sacraments, the way that God reveals Himself and guides us closer to Himself.

2) Spiritual: a prayer life, a life of conversation with God in which you are able to see His presence anywhere you go, well almost. A life of prayer is living a life in the mystery of God, and letting that mystery inform who you are and what you do.

3) Ecumenical: Even though there is a desire that we all be one, we must also have a sensitivity to where others are, both within the Church and our separated brethren.

4) Experiential: Being Catholic, especially, involves our five senses: we taste the Eucharist when we receive, we hear the Word of God proclaimed, we see the vestments, we touch the Holy Water, we smell the incense. There is also an emotional connection that keeps the pursuit of the faith from being just an intellectual study, but also a movement of the heart that draws us deeper into the mystery of the faith. This is a truly beautiful thing!

5) Prophetic: An important aspect for the faith is that we speak for those who have no voice, and this is where the social justice dimension of the faith comes in. Mother Theresa is the great example here, that her deep love for Christ spurred her outwards to recognize His presence in the poorest of the poor. One of the aspects that gives Catholics the greatest regard is that we serve without counting the cost. We do not expect those whom we minister to convert, we give without condition.

6) Community Driven: When I was in the seminary, there was a documentary filmed at our place. What struck the producer, who was at the time nominally Catholic, was that she always remembered that when Catholics got together, there was food and beer. We socialize, we are part of a family who supports and gives life to one another, each in their own way.
These six aspects should be constitutive of a Catholic’s life. Of course, at times certain things come to the fore, and I would argue the sacramental and spiritual dimensions are of the most important; but we should at least be aware of the other dimensions as well.

Ok, so on to the nuts and bolts aspects of what to do to help discern where God might be leading you. Again, this is not hard and fast, these are my thoughts, with a fair amount of unabashed plagiarism as well! I’ve fit them into three categories: prayer, study, and self awareness.

First, Prayer: if discernment is about listening to God’s direction in our lives, prayer is the format for the conversation that happens between me and God. Importantly, especially in the Catholic tradition, prayer is not just between me and God, as there also has to be the communal dimension as well. Again, simple steps to help find that direction:

1) Mass, Sunday Mass is non-negotiable, but Daily Mass is a great idea, as there is a broader use of Scripture, and we hear an ongoing series from the Scripture, both in the First Readings and in the Gospels. Especially during the Easter season, we hear the very beginnings of the life of the Church in the Acts of the Apostles. In these stories, we hear an echo of our own story and response to God’s invitation and action in our life.

2) Adoration: In adoration, we confront Jesus in the most profound way. We are drawn out of our selves and are confronted by Jesus as Other. I think one of the dangers of just praying in a private room, or without Christ truly present is that we can inadvertently morph Him into something He is not, our imagination and disordered natures can take over. By praying before Christ in the Sacrament, He is the one in charge and guiding and directing. It is more like have a conversation with a real person (because He is!) and not just a conversation in our own head. (plus, my own vocation was fostered before the Blessed Sacrament, and tomorrow, before a wedding rehearsal, the couple arranged to have a Holy Hour, what a great way to start a life together!)

3) Rosary: Who knows Jesus better than the woman who carried Him in her womb? The rosary is a meditation on the Scriptures, on the Life of Christ, through the eyes of His Blessed Mother, whom He also gave as our mother! She is also a model and guide for purity, she is the first disciple, conceiving of Jesus in her heart before she conceived of Him in her womb. As we see at the Wedding in Cana, all she does is point us closer to her Son, and gives us the model to follow Him: “Let it be done to me according to your word.”

4) Scripture: Lectio Divina is a wonderful practice of praying with the Scripture to let the Word of God speak to you in your life in the present day. The wonderful thing about Scripture is that it remains profoundly relevant to our lives today because it is TRUTH! As St. Jerome so wonderfully put it, ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ! To have Him speak to us, we read the whole breadth of Scripture, Old and New Testaments.

Prayer is obviously important, but the study of the Faith is vital, because we are all called to be witnesses of Christ in the world, but how to get started? I’ve tried reading the Catechism and it is too dry. Well, finally, there are some great ways that the Universal Catechism is starting to be applied and translated into great catechetical materials. A few examples:

1) The Didache Series of textbooks from Midwest Theological Forum: These were designed as high school level textbooks, and are actually now the prescribed texts for the Diocese of Covington’s high school religious education program. They are serious, but high quality and engaging, and have these four basic categories:
a. Basic Catechesis: this first volume is a great outlining of the basic tenets of the faith. In here, you will find an exploration of the Ten Commandments, the Five Tenets of the Faith, the Seven Sacraments, introductions to the great saints, among other things. If you want to put the faith into a logic system, this is a great place to start.
b. Scripture: Reading the Scriptures are great, but it is sometimes difficult to understand. This second volume was written primarily by Scott Hahn and gives a good walk through not only of the Scriptures themselves, but also provides the background of what is happening in the text and the history of the texts themselves, how did they come to be passed down to us and what about the different variations.
c. History: In a recent visit to Rome, the Historicity of the Faith came alive, again. There is something very comforting to me to know that I do not have to develop my own approach to the Scriptures, to Christ, to the moral life, these have all been done for me. It also says something that this institution that we call the Church has survived for two thousand years with a bunch of idiots bungling their way through it!
d. Moral Theology: To come to know Christ, but not put this relationship into practice is useless. The last volume covers all the areas of the Church’s moral teaching, explaining the source of each teaching from Scripture and papal teaching, and also giving good examples of how it applies in life today.

2) Internet Resources
a. The Didache can still seem unwieldy for some, but there are some great resources available on the internet. A friend of mine from Virginia runs ‘Catholic Bible Boot Camp’ where they went through the Scripture edition of the didache and recorded their discussion on each chapter and posted them on podomatic. They are now going through the introductory text, and it is good because you get a chance to listen in on their discussion, and, I think, even email questions in ahead of time. (I have to check on that section, tho.)
b. Catholic Blog Awards and the Catholic Blog Directory are great ways to connect with things going on in the Church that we do not hear about otherwise. Sites like Whispers in the Loggia, Charlotte was Both, Ten Reasons, among others, provide commentary on things and also give recommendations on what to look out for.

3) Catholic Publishers and Bookstores
a. Ignatius Press is the premier Catholic publisher today, providing both contemporary resources and literary classics.

4) Coming Home Network
a. This network provides assistance to especially Protestant ministers who are ‘Coming Home’ to the fullness of the Faith. Their stories are an inspiration to me, and to many others.

5) Literary Classics
a. The Oxford Movement provided an outlet and support for some of the greatest Catholic spiritual writers and apologists of all time. CS Lewis is perhaps the most accessible, but also the Catholic Mythological underpinnings of JRR Tolkien. This year is the 100 anniversary of the publication of GK Chesterton’s Orthodoxy, which is just as relevant today as ever.
With all the resources available today, there really is no excuse to not knowing the faith, and using that knowledge to respond to God’s invitation.

The third aspect, which takes into account the previous two, is perhaps something that does not get as much play, but can be just as important: self awareness.

What I mean by this is the recognition of the gifts and talents that God has given to you, and then also how He is asking you to share those gifts and talents with the Church and the world. Certainly, there are gifts that can be used in multiple ways, and a variety of gifts can be shared, but there are certain guidelines or so.

For example, if you are terrified of speaking in front of people, even though this can be overcome, the diocesan priesthood may not be the best option. If you can’t stand kids, think that they’re little carpet urchins, or something, perhaps married life isn’t the best option.

Finally, the biggest thing is a response, and again I see this as being multi-faceted.

1) Virtue: The basic response for any Christian to God’s invitation is to live a life of virtue, to live a life of striving for holiness. It is in striving for holiness that we are molded to become more like Christ, and are His witnesses in the world.

2) Action: There’s the old joke: God help me win the lottery! “Buy a ticket first!” The main thing I counsel in this area is to not get too caught up in the end of the journey, but rather to just ask for the next step. If we trust that God has what is best in mind for us, he will not lead us astray but will lead us to what will ultimately make us the happiest. In a sense, we can get paralyzed by trying to find the final destination, making those first initial steps can lead us to that final destination.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

He's a Bad Man

Ladies and Gentlemen, the next president: Johnny Cueto!

1st MLB start:

7 Innings
5 innings of Perfect Baseball
1 hit
1 run
0 walks
10 Strike Outs!

Reds to the World Series?


Horns as Rays

My intrepid readers have come together for a good explanation of the horns on Moses' face:

The first poster is right--St. Jerome's Hebrew was a little shaky & where the text says Moses' face was shining with rays of light after praying at the tent of the Lord, the Vulgate said he had horns of light. St. Jerome's translation was the one available to Renaissance artists.

There is a rather large fountain outside the Church of St. Susanna in Rome of Moses as well, and he's got horns there, too. (By the by, St. Susanna's is the American parish in Rome, administered by the Paulist Fathers. If you're in Rome and looking for tickets to the Wednesday Papal Audience, stop there. They also have Mass in English at 6:00 PM, too, if you need the break from all that Italian.)

The next trivia question:

Said statue of Moses is located in which Church and adorns whose tomb?

Rosary for Men

One of the challenges that is faced in attracting good men to be priests is the false conception that to be serious in the faith is only for women. In reality, to take the faith truly seriously, to live it to the nth degree is a very manly thing to do. (Try it, you'll see.)

To help that cause, Theophilus posts (or directs, actually) some reflections he wrote up on the rosary for men. High quality stuff, this:

Sorrowful (Tuesday/Friday)
1. Agony in the Garden- It’s the most stressful time of your life. You are besieged and know you are going to lose. Your closest friends fall asleep on you - one even betrays you. You pray to God with all that you have . . . and yet you know what you must do. It’s tough but you just know what you have to do and you go do it. You know you have to do the right thing, all of the time, no matter how hard. You look at Peter, John & James. They are asleep. How often are the men of this world asleep? How often do they let God down? How often do they let their family and friends down? How often?
2. Scourging at the Pillar- You are completely alone and experiencing pain beyond your worst nightmares. You know you must offer all of the pain up to God, but too much of you is human and it is tough. Yet, you stay strong. You hope that the next time anyone feels pain that they do not think they can endure, they will think of you on that pillar and gather strength from your endurance. You keep thinking about Pilate. He could’ve done the “right” thing and sprung you. But, he listened to the crowd, to the cheers, and he condemned you, an innocent man. How many times do men take the easy way out? How many times do they give in to the popular sentiment? How many times do they just want an unpleasant situation to go away and take the low road? Men must do the right thing, all of the time. They must remain strong under the worst of adversity. Maybe, this day will give them the strength to do so.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Horns Aplenty

Why does Moses have horns?

(I have access to mom and dad's photos for the first time, hence the new pictures.)

Look, up in the sky!

Something has our attention, no idea what, though.

Any guesses as to which Church we are currently standing in front of? (That's my mom.)

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Two Cows

Over at the Shrine, there is a long post dedicated to the 'Two Cows' theory of community life within the Church. However, no diocescan priest listed.

Any suggestions?

A Different Little Black Book

Theophilus, whom I have had the distinct pleasure of meeting at his parish, has a great reflection on praying throughout the day, and a simple way to do it.

It's gonna be quiet on here the next few days as I am working on my talk for Theology on Tap. See you Thursday night, at Tickets Sports Cafe, across from Mother of God Church in Covington.