Saturday, May 31, 2008

Three Yesses

Filed under 'things I'm wasting time on while I should be writing out a homily.'

Heart of a Father

Rocco has posted Archbishop Charles Chaput's homily for the ordination of an auxiliary. Quite good, as is expected.


The love of mothers and fathers is both instinctive and deliberate. It's instinctive in the sense that sometimes it makes no sense at all. It's irrational. There's no "gain" in loving a child who, by the measure of the world, is a failure or defective. The love of a parent is also deliberate in the sense that a mother and father will use all of their skill and all of their intelligence, and sacrifice nearly everything they have, to try secure the safety and happiness of that same wounded child.This is how we need to read Deuteronomy today. This is what Scripture means when it says that the "Lord has set his heart on you and chose you," even though Israel is the smallest of all nations and completely unworthy of God's attention. There is no "rational" basis for God's choice of Israel -- or his choice of us. The only motive for God's love is His own interior identity, the tenderness of a father's heart; a father who treasures his children simply because he does. As St. John says in today's epistle, "God is love," and the nature of love is to give itself away radically. When Christians say that "God is love," we don't merely mean that God loves His people "a whole lot," but rather that God Himself is the essence of love, a relationship of love, from all eternity.

It is not enough to say 'Lord, Lord,'

we must also act out our faith in the world.

One easy way:


click yes

submit vote.

Let's throw their expected results out the window!

Thanks to Theresa in the combox for the link.

This horse is already dead

but the issue just will not go away.

Today's 'Your Voice' column in the Cincinnati Enquirer argues that male-only priesthood isn't Biblical:

On Thursday, Reuters reported that the Vatican newspaper L'Osservatore Romano included a decree that women priests, and those who ordain them, will automatically be excommunicated.
The Roman Catholic Church, which already bans the ordination of women priests, now forbids those who participate in such activities from receiving the sacraments or sharing in acts of public worship.
Why does the Catholic Church ban women's ordination? Because Christ chose only men for his apostolate, the pope says.
There are two serious problems with this assertion.
First, Jesus also selected women apostles. In fact, Jesus selected Mary Magdalene for his original apostle. At the tomb scene, Jesus deliberately did not appear to his male disciples, including Peter and John; he waited until they left before appearing to Mary Magdalene (John 20). Then he commissioned her to tell his followers he had appeared, making her the primary witness to the Resurrection. This transformed her into the unique role of first apostle, the earliest person sent to tell Jesus' followers he had risen from the grave. If Jesus could entrust a woman with the status of primary apostle, why can't the Vatican?
Even the Apostle Paul commended a female apostle. In Romans 16:7, he commended the woman He HJunia (later translated into a man "Junias" during the 13th century) as prominent among the apostles.
A second critical problem lies with the Vatican's explanation for excluding women. Even if we were to agree that Christ chose only males for his apostolate, it also is true that he selected only from among Jews. If we follow the Vatican's reason to its logical conclusion, then the church should be ordaining only Jewish men from the Middle East for the priesthood.
Loveland writer Heidi Bright Parales is the author of "Hidden Voices: Biblical Women and Our Christian Heritage" (Smyth & Helwys, 1998).

I will write a response, and I will submit it to the Enquirer, as well as post it here.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Day of Prayer for Priests

Checking around my blog links, I see that today is the Day of Prayer for Priests! Who-hoo!

Theophilus makes the obvious connection with Feast of the Sacred Heart, as priests are dispensers of Our Lord's great mercy in the Sacrament of Confession.

He also cites the prayer by the Congregation for Priests:

Prayer for Priests
Lord Jesus, present in the Most Blessed Sacrament,and living perpetually among us through Your Priests,grant that the words of Your Priests may be only Your words,that their gestures be only Your gestures,and that their lives be a true reflection of Your life.
Grant that they may be men who speak to God on behalf of His people,and speak to His people of God.Grant that they be courageous in service,serving the Church as she asks to be served.
Grant that they may be men who witness to eternity in our time,travelling on the paths of history in Your steps,and doing good for all.
Grant that they may be faithful to their commitments,zealous in their vocation and mission,clear mirrors of their own identity,and living the joy of the gift they have received.
We pray that Your Holy Mother, Mary,present throughout Your life,may be ever present in the life of Your Priests. Amen

I have a few friends who insist on mentioning: "You know you are prayed for daily, by name." While my first instinct is to be embarrassed, I also recognize that through their prayers, I am never alone. I take strenght from their presence and encouragement.

In my first assignment, I was teaching full time so I had the 6:30 AM Mass before heading to the high school. I, admitttedly, am not much of a morning person, and it took me some time to get used to the schedule. However, I soon found that those who had gathered there at the start of their busy day were a great boost in the arm for me. It was wonderful to come out and see 60 people present (80 to 100 during Lent!), marking their day in Worship of the Lord.

We pray for each other. Please pray for your priests, and for seminarians. (If you've got time to throw one in for the Vocation Director, please do so!)

For an idea of what to do to pray for priests (and seminarians and vocations), consider joining Prayer Warriors!

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Priests Must Life a Martyr's Life

(Make sure to read all the way to the end, or just skip to the last line if time flies.)

Priests Must Live a Martyr's Life
Transcription of a conference given by Fr. John A. Hardon, S.J.
The Catholic priest in the modern world can he be martyred for his faith in the priesthood?
No words of mine, nothing I could say, if I spoke for fifty years, would be too clear, that we are living in the age of martyrs. Only one mistake we can make is to think this is exaggeration or some kind of pious fancy. I wish to concentrate, for the reasons we already have said, on the priesthood - it is a living martyrdom today - and on the fact that we have lost so many thousands of priests. The Vatican, as I have said before, may not reveal the exact figures. It's close to one hundred thousand priests who have left the priesthood throughout the world in the past half-century. Nothing, nothing like it ever before!
What are some of the forces at work? And now, the two buttons as we call them. The rampant secularism seeing our bodily life as ending with bodily death. Doctor Kervorkian - you know, the doctor of death. Richard Thompson, whom I received into the Church, prosecuted Kervorkian. When Thompson asked Kervorkian what happens when men die, his answer was, "They stink." On these terms there is no need for the priesthood whose function it is to prepare people for a heavenly destiny. If there is no life after death then the priesthood is worse than a sham. Then again the preoccupation with material possessions in what we call developed countries, like the United States which is three trillion dollars in debt. And the whole preoccupation is with material prosperity. Consequently, in a society like ours which becomes secularized and preoccupied, there will be a corresponding lack of interest in the priesthood. In the United States, vocations to the priesthood have dropped ninety percent since Vatican II.

And how well I know, our media is not, not only unfriendly, but is positively hostile to the priesthood. In two dioceses Santa Fe in New Mexico and Dallas in Texas are both bankrupt because of lawsuits against priests. Of course, there have been and there are unfaithful priests, but nothing, nothing like this against the ministry of a, let's say, Presbyterian or Lutheran or Methodist minister.
Our government, beginning with the president, is out to destroy the priesthood, period! I hope I'm being taped. And in the United States, hear it: in 1930 there were some six hundred declarations of nullity. Six hundred in 1930, but in 1997 there were sixty thousand.
For a priest to still talk about a lifetime commitment in marriage, he is well, out of tune with the times. However, in my judgment, the main grounds for claiming that a Catholic priest must expect to live a martyr's life in the modern world, the main reason, is the spread of strange ideas in, not only Catholic circles, as to what exactly is a priest. My Vatican superiors have more than once told me, (I’m sure I’ve said this before) most of your priests in America who have been ordained since Vatican II need to be reeducated!
Articles have been in popular magazines, studies in scholarly journals, lectures and seminars, whole volumes are being published disclaiming that Christ instituted the sacrament of Holy Orders. I'll never forget, and I know Fr. Richard McBrien, then head of the department of theology at Notre Dame University. He has written many books. He spoke for one hour to one hundred priests and Protestant ministers. In his whole one hour lecture he was saying that Jesus never instituted the priesthood. “The Catholic priesthood came into existence about 300 A.D.” (according to McBrien). That's what our priests (shall I still call them priests?) that's what they are being taught in the seminaries. Let me quote at length from a standard book on the subject by a priest.

"Ordination as a rite and ceremony that confers power or office does not exist in the New Testament. Ministry does not need to be empowered by a mandate or delegation or superior possessing power. The forms of ‘ordination’ are subject to the dispositions of the churches in a given period of history. Priesthood, as a specific type of ministry, does not exist in the New Testament. ‘Ministry’, or diakonia, is a nonsacral word. The early church leaned heavily on this secular term to describe its main ministering activity. Ministry in the New Testament is primarily functional. It is concerned with doing, like teaching, preaching, governing. The historical Jesus was not a priest."
Once you deny that Christ himself was a priest, you have to provide for some one person who is to "preside" at the liturgy of the Eucharist. Let's see, where did I speak most recently? O yes were you there? There were no kneelers. No, no kneelers, St. Edmunds in Detroit. And by now, how clever the devil is! All kinds of reasons have been given except the real reason, the denial of the Real Presence of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament. There are those who deny that Christ ever ordained the Apostles as bishops or priests.
Bishops who are also priests and can ordain other men to the priesthood. Here is his, (McBrien's) following explanation of what happened in the early church. Underlying this explanation you have got to give the idea of the distinction between the laity and the clergy. In other words the claim is that there should not be any real distinction between the laity and the clergy. It is so, as it is claimed again, to be a later invention and not found in the New Testament.

And would you believe it, one whole page is devoted to this?
In the early Church there existed a plurality of church organizations. Some churches were ruled by a committee or council of lay elders, others were ruled by prophets and teachers. Still other, were ruled by a committee or council of lay elders, others were ruled by prophets and teachers. Still others, were ruled by traveling apostles, depending on who was ruling a given church, so we are told. Different persons would be "Eucharistic Presiders."
Is that ever going on now!
Once the leader of the early community presides over the community, and also presides over the Eucharist, one would assume that the person presiding over the community has arrived at his leadership position, called by leadership qualities discerned by the community. The said “Eucharistic Presider” would be ordained to pull together the community, also to continue building community and then to celebrate it. This presider would be the public embodiment, the living symbol of the community's goals and values. As such, the presider would be a sacrament of God's presence in the community. “At the same time”, I am quoting, “he or she would be a unifying symbol to reconcile the members of the community to God and to each other.” He or she would bring order and harmony in the community so that all its ministries would build up the Church. In the immediate future this “Eucharistic Presider” will probably be a diocesan or religious priest, already ordained. However, as these priests die the future presiders will have to come from the communities. Leaders, male and female, married or single presiding over the Eucharist, will always remain one among many shared ministries to the community.

And that is widely, widely taught! These books, I repeat, are used in seminaries. I would like to say a little more before we go on to our conclusion.
It would be serious enough if this kind of thinking was only among, say, certain theologians and especially feminist theologians. This thinking is among bishops. Without identifying the bishop, I faxed a list of twenty bishops requested by a bishop friend of mine. "Can you send me the names of twenty bishops in the United States whom you are sure believe in the priesthood?" Do you hear me?
As I celebrate my 51st (now 53rd) year of ordination to the priesthood, please pray and sacrifice for the bishops and priests in one so-called developed country after another.
Now you hear these statements widely circulated by priests. You say to yourself, “Am I dreaming or is it real?” It is real. That is why I have said what I have said so far. We Catholics must be ready to live a martyr's life for our faith in the priesthood. We priests must live a martyr's life for our faith in our own priesthood and the religious and the laity for faith in the priesthood. What is this faith? It is the Faith professed now for twenty centuries except for the apostates. What do we believe when we believe in the priesthood? We believe that Jesus Christ did institute the sacrament of Holy Orders on Holy Thursday night when he ordained the Apostles bishops with full power of the priesthood.

And even the English translation of the consecration, "Do this in memory of Me" (at the raising of the chalice ) "When supper was ended, He took the cup". In English it is “He took the cup” in Latin it is chalice. We don't say take grape juice or water in a chalice. A chalice is sacred, not for profane use. However I especially want to note, the words in the consecration of the chalice "Do this in memory of Me." It is not memory, the word is "commemoration." And that is why, (and I am sure) I have said this at some time. Pope Paul VI published a formal document for the whole Church. For the meaning of the word in the Liturgy, is never that of the vernacular. Never! It is always that of the original Latin. This Sacramentary has been deeply tampered with. We believe as Catholics that bishops are ordained and ordain other bishops. We believe that from the very dawn of Christianity it was only given to the priests.
What was given the priesthood? Only priests could offer the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.
I was giving a lecture to a group of people. After the lecture about five seminarians came to me and asked if I could help one of their seminarians, who had just been dismissed from the seminary just before ordination. So I asked what happened. What happened was that one of the priest professors told about a half dozen seminarians to attend a special Mass he was saying, con-celebrating with a womon. They were told never to tell anyone. He could not keep it to himself, it was too serious. So he told the rector, the rector told the bishop, and the seminarian was evicted from the seminary. So they asked me to help him get back into the seminary. I asked the seminarian to come see me in New York. We talked. He was genuine. So I called up the bishop president of Saint Joseph's Seminary of the New York Archdiocese. He was accepted and ordained. I have never seen anyone so grateful!

And consequently, only priests from the beginning could offer the Sacrifice of the Mass. Only priests could change bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Christ. Only priests could absolve sins in the sacrament of Confession and reconcile people with an offended God. Only priests could administer the sacrament of Anointing,
Once you believe this, you have no choice as a priest, you can not deny your faith. All the learned jargon about the lay ministry is just that, jargon, it's a lie.
However those priests who believe that they have been empowered by Christ to do what no one else can do like change bread and wine into the living Body and Blood of Christ and reconcile sinners with God - such priests will have to pay dearly for their faith convictions.
And, as in the literal transcription of my talk.
I know ! I know!
And I can say this on the fifty-first , now (fifty- third) anniversary of my ordination, I've paid dearly. And I am still paying and the miracle is I’m still alive and I’m sane.
And now the closing two sentences or maybe three - the Church is going through the worst crisis in her Catholic history. She will not only survive she will thrive only on one condition that we priests be not only willing to live but are willing to die for faith in the priesthood given to us by Jesus Christ on the night before He died.

And it is great to live like this. I work with priests, exiled priests, priests removed from their diocese, priests removed from their communities because they believed what the Catholic Church has taught for two thousand years.
(I am speaking to all women religious and Marian Catechists).
Women have a very great influence over men, a very great influence. I think I should spend a little time explaining what I have learned in these (fifty-one) now fifty-three years in the priesthood. Women have very deep influence first of all over men.
In giving retreats I think I have said this before to men. I ask who has the stronger will, and I ask men or women? Some women are not so sure and some men are not so sure, but no husband I have ever talked to has any doubt they find out in six days after marriage. This applies not just, nor does it apply mainly, to say wives. It applies to all women, to all women. I cannot tell you how much priests need to be supported by dedicated believing and shall I say it out-spoken women.
Over the years dealing with so many priests I can't tell you how many saintly women have helped priests to be faithful to their priesthood. Let me tell you, there are women - I think I should say this - whose profession is to seduce priests. They are specialists. And priests like numb sculls, don't realize what this woman is after.
And this is really what is behind the plague of wanting women to be ordained priests. In other words the priesthood as instituted by Christ provides the priest with power and authority and influence, and this is being envied, envied by many women
The breakdown of religious communities of women in the United States (I don't think I have ever said this publicly) - the breakdown of communities of religious women in our country is religious women envying priests. They will not take orders through priests including the Bishop of Rome. I know, how well I know!
Our focus is however, on the priesthood instituted by Jesus Christ.
Do you Sisters have a custom in your community of praying for the priest? Is there any single prayer for the priest?
This is good.
God, we recommend to your fatherly care of the Pope, Cardinals, Bishops and all priests and all religious for all those who have asked for prayers and for whom we should pray.
What I would like to propose before we end this conference is the need for prayers and sacrifice for priests. The need is gigantic.
Never before in the history of the Church has the priesthood been so opposed as it is now. And sadly, from the inside, from apostate bishops and apostate priests. But the need for prayer and sacrifice for priests and bishops, I believe this should be an apostolate.

In one diocese after another in the United States, (it's worse still in Canada) there are parishes without priests. Do you know that? We need priests so that those who are priests remain faithful and I must say they pay a heavy, very heavy price!
And I think I told you, for twenty-five years I have been teaching the Handmaids of the Precious Blood. They are in the diocese of Santa Fe. The diocese in Santa Fe is bankrupt, completely bankrupt. Millions, millions have been given out because of lawsuits involving unfaithful priests and priests who have been calumniated and were innocent. So now you know and they have first of all their own community but they also have associations. The first association is for the priesthood. Some sixteen thousand are praying for priests. The Holy Father is deeply, and I mean deeply, concerned about the future of the priesthood in countries like our own and in South America. There is another problem, as you know.
The United States and South America are controlled by the Freemasons.
In one country after another and as a result, in our country, so many dioceses are, if not priestless, at least parishes with thirty or forty thousand people which can extend two or three thousand miles,
What ever you can do especially with your prayers there must be an apostolate for priests.

Caption Contest!

For the first time in our history, we here at 'Called by Name' are pround to present a 'Caption Contest!'

"You don't like the Pope? Getta outta here!"

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

It's Live!

Just noticed that our crack web development team has posted the page for Prayer Warriors, and the associated pdf's!

For the indepth explanation, click here.

For the June 2008 newsletter in color.

and here for Black and White!

I can't tell you how proud I am of this little project. But I can't take the credit, as one concerned parishioner felt moved by the Spirit to bring it up. She kept after me, and this is just the initial fruit. Much more to come, including a great increase of vocations. After all, He tells us to ask, and He will respond.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Corpus Christi

Homily delivered at two parishes today on this feast of Corpus Christi, the second (at Guardian Angels) was prior to a Eucharistic Procession.

Corpus Christi 2008
Our Lady of Visitation and Guardian Angels

Familiarity can breed, I do not want to call it contempt because I don’t think that’s right, but something along the lines of a laziness, taking things for granted and forgetting that what is present right in our midst is not just special, but is truly otherworldly. For example, there can be that family heirloom that has been passed down for several generations, but it sits now forgotten on a shelf. That precious gift received from someone special on your graduation, marriage, ordination, that is stowed away in a closet. We walk past every day and no longer blink an eye; yet when we stop to think about it, memories flood back of that day this precious gift was received; that day is made present once again. We relive, we re-enter into that great day.
What we have gathered here to celebrate today can often undergo this same sort of lackadaisical ‘taking for granted.’ We celebrate today the Feast of the Body and Blood of Christ, the Feast of Corpus Christi where we turn and purposely look at the one unique gift that Jesus has given us, that we may walk past time and time again without realizing just how special this gift is. And what makes this gift so special is that it does not just represent Christ, it does not just merely bring back memories of an event that happened two thousand years ago. No, to hold that position is to miss the great mystery that we celebrate every Sunday, every weekday if possible: Jesus Christ himself is as present here in the Eucharist as he was to his disciples when He gave the discourse we just heard. He is as real here today on the Cross offering Himself, as He did on that fate-filled Passover around the year 33 AD. What we celebrate today is not just a memorial, it is not just a remembrance; it is real, true, present act of worship that Jesus made while on the Cross; which we now enter into again as if we were with John and Mary and Mary the wife of Clopas, and the soldiers, and the crowds. We are there with them, and Jesus is here with us; really, truly present as if he were standing by my side.
As we realize this, as we come to that deeper realization that our eyes of faith see better than our physical eyes ever could, we should be changed by this mystery. We receive Christ, anew, every Sunday. It is as if we take that family heirloom down and have our ancestors not just in mind, but speaking, challenging, giving us the courage to live up the legacy that they have given us; because Jesus gives us an even better legacy: He gives us Himself so that we can be emboldened to live out our faith in the world. So that we can experience life to its fullness not just here on earth, but that we might experience that greater gift of Eternal Life: life forever with God in heaven.
So a question to leave you with today: what do you do to come to a deeper realization of the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist? How do you ‘take it down off the shelf’ so to speak? Did you know that every Thursday, you have a chance here at Visitation to come before Christ as if he were right in front of you, staring you in the face, challenging you, encouraging you to be His witness in the world? Periods of Adoration are unique times to come to know Jesus at the deepest level as we place him out on the altar, and he calls us out of ourselves, he fills that hunger for something more that is deep down in our souls. Take advantage of such a wonderful gift that is made present daily, really, but in a unique way during these periods of Adoration.
(Guardian Angels only!)
Insert story of missionaries to Japan who came upon the hidden Catholics present in the hills.
There is an intimate connection between the Eucharist and the priesthood. The simple fact remains that without priests who stand in the person and place of Christ today, there is no Eucharist. We cannot get around this fact. There are some in our Church who would advocate that in order to alleviate this problem, we should change the admission standards, we should change the criteria for who is eligible for ordination. I argue that if we want to refill the seminary across the street, we do not need some type of new program, what we need is faithfulness to the Gospel; radically; and it begins in the family with a longing to be formed as Catholic Christian disciples; disciples who are hungry to receive Christ truly present in the Eucharist.
What we do here today in the procession around this little ‘Catholic Corner’ on the east side of Cincinnati has to be just the beginning of something new; actually something old. It has to be the re-invigoration of your faith, that just as we will take Our Lord from here and process/journey with Him to the high school across the street, to the seminary down the block; you have to take Him with you in your life as well.
Do your co-workers know that you are Catholic by the way you act, dress, and speak in the office? Do your neighbors know that your house is a house of prayer that serves the Lord and Him alone? Do you have a statue of Mary in the front yard as a witness?
This Eucharistic Procession is just the beginning of a pattern where we all recognize that Christ walks with us throughout our life, and calls us to be His Disciples, even when it is inconvenient, difficult, or dangerous. Are we all willing to accept the challenge, the dare, the risk to be His disciple out in the world?

Saturday, May 24, 2008

'Prayer Warriors'

Responding the Holy Father's call for an increase in prayer for vocations, the Vocation Office of the Archdiocese of Cincinnati is pleased to announce the formation of 'Prayer Warriors,' a lay apostolate formed to encourage Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament for the renewal of the priesthood and an increase of vocations.

"A member of a local parish approached me several months ago with this idea of gathering the laity to pray for their priests," remarked Fr. Kyle Schnippel, Director of Vocations for the Archdiocese of Cincinnati. "She noticed that priests were 'under attack' and that morale among the presbyterate was, seemingly, low. She wanted to do something about it, which I was happy to oblige."

Members of 'Prayer Warriors' agree to the following three aspects: 1) one hour of prayer before the Blessed Sacrament for stated intentions, 2) voluntary acts of penance and/or sacrifice for the renewal of the priesthood and for vocations, and 3) acts of charity in support of bishops and priests.

Communication of the monthly prayer requests will be done through a monthly newsletter which will be distributed both electronically through and at a Mass on the fourth Friday of every month held at the Our Lady of the Holy Spirit Center. Information will also be sent to parishes within the Archdiocese, through pastors and parish vocation committees, with the expectation that they will make the materials available to their parishioners.

To help spread the message of the need for prayer for priests and vocations, a Prayer Warriors Kick Off event will be held in September at the Our Lady of the Holy Spirit Center. Details are still being worked out, watch this space for further developments.

Those interested in recieving monthly email updates when the newsletter is posted are asked to send an email to vocations(at)catholiccincinnati(dot)org with 'Prayer Warriors' in the subject line.

Further information, as well as the initial June newsletter, will be published next week at (Again, watch this space for when the link goes active.)

Supporting priests is supporting vocations; Supporting vocations must also entail supporting priests.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Cafeteria Catholicism and Vocations

Homily for Mass for the Renewal of the Priesthood and Vocations

Fourth Friday of every month

Our Lady of the Holy Spirit Center

Cafeteria Catholicism and Vocations

Over the last few decades, really since even before I was alive, there has been a rise in so called ‘Cafeteria Catholicism.’ There is an argument in some circles that ‘The Church can’t really tell me what to do in all aspects of my life!’ Slowly, aspects of the Church’s teaching that truly are constitutive start to be eroded by a desire to have an easy life, instead of a desire to have a holy life.

As this trend has increased, it moved from a wide acceptance by Catholics of artificial means of birth control (contraceptives) all the way down to a so-called ‘Vacation Exemption,’ where it is commonly held that if you are on vacation, you don’t have to attend Mass. (Believe me, I’ve searched for that one in Canon Law, and haven’t found it!) As even little rejections of aspects of the teaching authority in the Church start to infiltrate the lives of even good Catholics, we approach a very slippery slope to where, eventually, everything is rejected and the practice of the Faith is a ‘do what feels good’ or ‘God doesn’t really care about that, does He?’

It plays out in interesting ways. Before I was appointed as Vocation Director, I spent two years teaching at the high school level. Every once in a while, we would come across a point of doctrine, say the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist as we covered John 6, sort of a key aspect of Catholic doctrine, and the students would look back at me and respond: ‘Well, that’s what you believe, but don’t expect us to believe that as well.’

In ten years of Catholic education, they had never met anyone who bought the whole system and presented it as a coherent whole, that to reject one aspect of it was to reject the whole thing. So, when they come to the statement “You can’t be both Catholic and Pro-Choice,’ for example; because of the relativism that they have been formed in, they think that they are able to hold both.

Into this void, we have Jesus’ teaching on marriage. Certainly, He does not subscribe to the ‘take the easier of the two roads’ theory of Catholicism! Rather, he challenges us to the maximum, to die to self to live for the other. And in fact, with the teachings that we hear in our Gospel today, along with the great Letter of James, one of the things that Jesus exhorts, I think, is that the family become a model of holiness, a model of authenticity, a model of faithfulness to Christ, and hence then also to the Church.

It is not a secret: good priests come from good families. And while certainly there are good priests that come out of very broken and damaged families, it is much more difficult for sons of these families to make it through the seminary.

So, help your families (or the families of your grown children) to become the basic building block of not only the Church, but also society. As James indicates today, be a home of integrity, a home of honesty. Form those whom you come into contact with to be outstanding Catholic Christians in the world.

The secret to fostering vocations does not begin with some program that the Vocation Office runs. It starts in the home, where the full teachings of the Church are practiced, where respect is given to the priest and bishop, where prayer is integral to the daily life of the family.

Then, when your sons or daughters begin to look at career options, priesthood or religious life is instilled in them as viable, worthwhile, fruitful options, and they will be open to it if God so calls them in that direction.

As families, live a life of holiness, seek to model that holiness consistently and completely, be examples of generosity; and encourage your children (or grandchildren) to do the same. Then vocations will flourish.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

I'm 4 today!

Four years ago, this very day, seven men and I were ordained to the priesthoood in service to the Archdiocese of Cincinnati. What a memorable day, yet it seems so long ago that it has faded off into history. (Has it really been just four years?!?!)

We are the largest class ordained since 1980 and most of us spent the five years together in the seminary bantering back and forth, having a good time and supporting each other through the years. We were by no means a cohesive unit, though! Two were very involved in the Pro-Life movement, (well they still are, too), one was much more interested in liturgy, others were just trying to make it through. Me? Bar Jonah was a fun place to hang out!

Ordination weekend is a blur. From my own ordination, what I remember the most was the litany of saints, and hearing very clearly the saints who were watching over me. In talking with my classmates afterwards, we all heard different names clearly. "St. so and so was louder than the rest!" "Was she even mentioned" I responded, sheepishly.

My First Mass was attended by seven other priests, which was a real honor. The Church was full that day, and it was impossible to thank everyone who came. I think my mom might have forgiven me for what I did to her at the end of Mass, might have. I know that Cindy hasn't! (That's a post for another time.)

Anyway, what to do to celebrate? Heading off to work, what else? I've got a Mass in a parish covering for the pastor who's at a workshop, meeting with a priest, Mass at noon at the cathedral and lunch afterwards with a good friend. The afternoon is a meeting with a potential candidate, and the evening is preparing for Mass tomorrow at the Holy Spirit Center and for a wedding I have this weekend.

All in all, a good day. (And the sun is even shining!)

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Busy Time

Please excuse the silence over the last few days. It's been a busy couple of days, first with ordination last Saturday, and the assorted festivities over the weekend.

Other news will be announced Friday at the conclusion of Mass at Noon at the Holy Spirit Center in Norwood. Mass this week will be for the renewal of the priesthood and an increase of vocations. Been working pretty hard on getting the announcement ready.

Props and a request

First, the props to the Elder High School boys volleyball team, and their coach Sean Tierney.

Second, is there a way to post PDF's on Blogger, or do you have to host them somewhere else and then link to them?

Monday, May 19, 2008

Prayer of Consecration of a Priest

From the Roman Pontifical:

Candidates kneel before the bishop.
Come to our help,
Lord, holy Father, almighty and eternal God;
you are the source of every honor and dignity,
of all progress and stability.
You watch over the growing family of man
by your gift of wisdom and your pattern of order.
When you had appointed high priests to rule your people,
you chose other men next to them in rank and dignity
to be with them and to help them in their task;
and so there grew up
the ranks of priests and the office of levites,
established by sacred rites.
In the desert
you extended the spirit of Moses to seventy wise men
who helped him to rule the great company of his people.
You shared among the sons of Aaron
the fullness of their father's power,
to provide worthy priests in sufficient number
for the increasing rites of sacrifice and worship.
With the same loving care
your gave companions to your Son's apostles
to help in teaching the faith;
they preached the Gospel to the whole world.
grant also to us such fellow workers,
we are weak and our need greater.
Almighty Father,
grant to these servants of yours
the dignity of the priesthood.
Renew within them the Spirit of holiness.
As co-workers with the order of bishops
may they be faithful to the ministry
that they receive from you, Lord God,
and be to others a model of right conduct.
May they be faithful in working with the order of bishops,
so that the words of the Gospel may reach the ends of the earth,
and the family of nations,
made one in Christ,
may become God's one, holy people.
We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.

Friday, May 16, 2008


This weekend is always a special weekend. Three 'baby priests' will be floating around the diocese causing astir and being the celebrity, at least for the weekend!

Pray for Jason Bedel, Ryan Ruiz, and Ed Pratt in their last 24 hours as 'mere' deacons!

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Come One, Come All!

The Cathedral of St. Peter in Chains in the Great City of Cincinnati joyfully announces a new endeavor: ARK BUILDING!!!

That's right, you, too, can get in on the action before its too late!

Join your brothers and sisters in Christ in this exciting adventure of reliving the voyage of Noah and his sons and daughters-in-law as the Biblical Mysteries come to life before our very eyes!

Sponsored by the Home Depot and Cincinnati Shipworks, the lumber is being delivered to the south parking lot of the Cathedral tomorrow afternoon; with festivities begining after the 5:15 Mass. Bring your own hammer, nails will be provided. (However, if you have spare power equipment, we ask you to bring that along as there is a limited supply here; and the Ohio is already covering the lower sections of downtown, so time is of the essence!)

Spots on the Ark will be limited, and those volunteering the time or talent (treasure's worthless, it'll just weigh us down) will be given three chances in the lottery system.

Ensure your survival and join the Ark Tour 2008!

If you haven't heard, its rained, alot, here in the last two weeks, with more rain forecast nearly every day for the next week.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Understanding Your Personal Vocation

With a shout-out to Sherry W, (whom I had the distinct pleasure of meeting a few weeks back), it seems the bishops, or at least a bishop has jumped on board.

Jeff Miller (aka The Curt Jester) points to a new book from Basilica Press: God's Plan for You: Understanding Your Personal Vocation. Jeff is quite praiseworthy of the text, which runs to a brief 42 pages, and at just $5.95 would make an excellent gift for confirmation candidates, graduates, discerners, et al. (hmmm.... having a supply on hand to give to new contacts.....)

The Jester's take is the middle paragraph here.

Basilica Press's blurb is here:

Every person in this world has a vocation, whether to the married life, the single life, the priesthood, or religious life. The key question that all of us must answer, then, is how do we discern which vocation is right for us? And once we determine that answer, how do we respond in a way that pleases God and builds His Church?
In ways that are both dynamic and practical, Bishop Fabian Bruskewitz tackles this issue with the vigor for which he has become famous. He leaves no stone unturned, and the result is that the reader will come away with a new perspective on their life and on life in general. This book will make saints, starting with you.
Learn how to:
Discover your vocation.
Deal with a conflicted heart.
Use Scripture in discernment.
Cure “vocation paralysis.”
Enrich and develop your vocation.

This is one of five books in The Shepherd's Voice series from Basilica Press. It seems that they have quite the heavy hitters in their line-up.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Have you invited anyone to consider the priesthood?

Always an interesting read for those in the business of vocation recruiting is the annual CARA report on the newly ordained. As is usual for CARA reports, heavy on data, leaving analysis up to the reader. Of highlight, according to Rocco:

For yet another year, "people, not paper" won the day -- CARA reports that "relatively few ordinands say that TV, radio, billboards, or other vocational advertising were instrumental in their discernment." (Most influential media, however: websites... but only for 14%.) Yet again proving the adage that "the best advertisement for priestly vocations is... a happy priest," four out of five responded that it was a priest's invite to consider entering formation that got 'em thinking, with "personal witness of priests, brothers, and other seminarians" ranked first among the group's most-cited factors toward discernment. In addition, forty-four percent of the group had participated in parish youth ministry prior to the seminary, and one in five had attended a World Youth Day pre-sem.

Question to consider, especially among the priests readers: have you invited anyone to consider the call? It remains the one single biggest motivator for attracting men to the seminary; yet so many priests 'don't want to force the issue.' It is not 'forcing the Spirit's hand,' but allowing the Spirit to work through you! That's what you were ordained to do, afterall.

My case is similar, but different. While I certainly had priest encouragement, the biggest influencer in my vocation was one of God's Blue Haired Army. Every time I saw her during high school, which was frequent, she would look up at me and say: "You're going to be a priest someday!"

I would yell back: "Stop it! Doctor, not priest!"

She simply chided: "I'm praying for you!"

Moral of the story: if you need something, don't ask the preist, ask God's Blue Hair Army, they're the ones that get it done!

Monday, May 12, 2008

Evil Bacon Wrapped Hotdogs

What would we do without the protection of Mommy State?

Swing of the Thurible to Inside Catholic Video Room

Knights and Vocations

It is no secret, the Knights of Columbus are one of the biggest supporters of vocations to the priesthood and religious life. They've been promoting The Call much longer and across a broader spectrum than most. Every month, Columbia magazine features a back cover highlight of a newly ordained, seminarian, or religious; driving home the point: these men and women are regular guys/ladies who have felt a unique call to follow Christ in a bold and dramatic way.

Keep it up, Knights!

Two of their apostolates at the local level are worth mentioning:

1) Pennies from Heaven: at meetings, they pass the jar and empty their pockets of their pennies. At the end of the year, all of these pennies are collected and giving to the Vocation Office for the respecitve diocese. Last year, this total nearly ten grand just for Cincinnati! (Small things make a difference!)

2) RSVP: Refund Support for Vocations: local chapters support a seminarian with a grant check as a way of supporting the seminarian during his formation. It always seemed that the Fourth Degree Knights from the Gaspar del Bufalo Council from the northern part of the diocese always knew when our checkbooks were reaching critical level because their check arrived shortly thereafter.

Please pray for the Knights and their important ministry and the apostolates that they run.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

What's with this crowd?

The Brothers and Sisters of Perpetual Discernment?

I'm finally catching up on my Google Reader from the weekend and saw that Adoro and Jeff Miller both pointed to this new site. Jeff hints that a good paradoy blog is never a bad thing, let's hope 'Mother Frangelico' can keep it together over there, b/c the other two seem to be more interested in getting on a movie set that any actual discernment!

Living Like a Father

Fr. Fox returns to his periodic 'Day in the Life' posts, but adds a further reflection:

To all you young men thinking about the priesthood: you know what this is like? I think this is like...being a dad.When I was a boy, I saw my dad go off to work, and I sometimes went with him, and I saw him at his desk, in the evening, working away; I only had a vague sense of what was so demanding. And I saw him working in the garden, and around the house...and then taking time to take the family out for dinner, for vacations, and of course we were brats, as original sin has its effect...It involves a lot of work, on my father's part, and for what? For his family! This is what a father does. It's not glamorous, it's often thankless, but he did it, and he wasn't sorry he did it, it's what fathers do. And of course, there are any number of compensations and joys, but also sorrows.Now, I don't mean to discourse on what being a father in the conventional sense means; 0thers are better suited to that. My point is, to be a priest is to be a father--that's why you're called that! And when you are a priest, and you have these days with work, and you get your share of grief, and you wonder if people appreciate what you do...then congratulations, you are a father!I can't really complain, because while I do get some difficulties and some flak, it's not really all that much, and so many have far worse things happen to them. And I get lots of moments that are gratifying: celebrating confirmation and first communion; watching the children grow up and having a share in that; seeing how hard so many people work on so many things for the parish; seeing how great the faith of so many is; realizing how many people are quietly praying for you, constantly; getting lovely notes and presents, often sacrificial; seeing various plans come together, and knowing, this will last, this will make a difference. Not earthshaking, just building something in people's lives. It's how 99% of us will make our mark, if we actually do make a difference.And there are very delicate moments, yet still so privileged. People come to you when in trouble. A divorce; a child in trouble. An infant that doesn't survive, and you are priviliged to baptize that infant but then you are asked to have the funeral. You get to see people cry with tears of pain, but also release, as they pray on such occasions, but also when they come to you for the anointing, or for confession, or they walk up for the Eucharist at Mass.You bet I say, think about being a priest! It's not the only way to make a difference, but it's a great way; and if you think, "but I want to be a husband, a father" I'm telling you, if you are a true priest of Jesus Christ, you will be. That's what a priest is.

Fr. Fox, thanks for being a great dad and giving your life for your sons and daughters. Good priests like you make my job a lot easier!

Look at that beard!

From Padre Steve comes a short video (5:00) featuring a young priest monk at St. Vincent's Archabbey in Latrobe, PA:

It feels like it's already Thursday!

Where did Saturday go?

It was quite the hectic and crazy day, to say the least.

Most of the day was happily consumed by the Discernment Day for High School Men held at Mount St. Mary's Seminary of the West, here in Cincinnati. We had 16 attendees from throughout the diocese, even one from my old parish!

The seminarians did a bang-up job in putting it together again this year and all seemed to take away a greater clarity for 'what's next?' Please pray for these young men that God may lead them to where He truly wants them.

While that finished at about 5:30, it wasn't off to home. Rather, the Our Lady of the Holy Spirit Center here in town was hosting their second annual 'Rock YOUth Rally.' While the attendence was down a bit from last year (perfect weather on the eve of Mother's Day, with storms predicted for today certainly didn't help!), all the teens seemed to really get into the music, and Michael Walsh threw out a great talk, as always.

Even though 10:30 was quickly approaching, a friend whom I had been meaning to chat with was there with his wife, and it was as good a time as any to go for a celebratory beer.

As we were at the table, I was sitting next to the husband, the wife across from me. Every once in a while, as he was talking and looking at me, I could see her looking at him in with those 'googly eyes' of one who is truly in love. It was nice to see, and they are doing great things to help spread the Kingdom of God.

All in all, a long day, but a great day.

Friday, May 9, 2008

Post 500 Couldn't be Better!

Developments contnue to be made over at

Today's update features questions and answers by the parents of some of our current seminarians.

Questions range from the observed changes in the family since a son/brother has entered the seminary to the more humorous 'Would you go to your son for confession?'

Dan Hess' father had the best response: Sure - this way I can tell him that he really didn’t lose the autographed Ken Griffey Jr. rookie card, but I got $35 for it on EBay.

Hopefully Dan will be easy on the penitent! (Although, it doesn't sound as if his dad is sorry about this trangression!)

Three Prepare for Priestly Ordination

This week's Catholic Telegraph, local paper for the Archdiocese of Cincinnati, features the annual 'intro' on the men being ordained to the priesthood. This year's candidates are: Deacons Jason Bedel, Ryan Ruiz, and Edward Pratt. As mentioned earlier, all three are fourth degree Knights of Columbus, highlighting the great work that the Knights do to promote vocations and the Culture of Life.

Of a particular joy in my situation is the ordination of Ryan Ruiz, as he's the first ordinand in the last four years to be in his twenties, and therefore also younger than me! I greatly look forward to passing on the 'Baby Priest Trophy' to Fr. Ruiz in a week's time, good riddance!

All three of these men are holy, prayerful, and committed to serving Our Lord as priests well into the future. Please pray for them as the embark on their pre-ordination retreat today through Wednesday.

(Inquiring minds want to know, how did Brad Watkins beat me to this story?!?!? He's in North Carolina, after all!)

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Clericalism and Anti-Clericalism

Inside Catholic has the first two parts of a multi-week, mutli-column conversation on Clericalism in the Church.

Part 1, On Clericalism, by Russell Shaw has been up for a few days.

Part 2, On Reverse Clericalism, by Todd Aglialore, appeared yesterday.

(It's taken me a couple of days to write this post.)

Of particular note in the second article was this:

Today's clericalists aren't little emperors; they're middle managers. They don't have too much pride in the sacredness of their vocation; they have too little.

Indeed, the root of this kind of clericalism may be the same as the root of the ostensibly anti-clericalist attitudes of some clergy: a crisis of confidence (which may be itself a crisis of faith) in the ineffable wonder, power, and glory of the priesthood.

I felt a slap in the face when I read these two paragraphs. I've encountered this approach, the 'Don't do damage, don't make anyone mad, don't make waves' approach. In a time of increasing secularity in our culture, this approach contributes to the 'silent apostacy' of the faith. By our leaders (which I realize I am squarely in the midst of) approaching true ministry in a management style; we have lost the power and dynamism of the faith. We have lost the zeal that led to the early Christian Martyrs. We have lost that zeal which led Dominic, Francis, Ignatius, Norbert, et al, to ground religious communities which led to renewal and re-invigoration in the Church.

However, the flip side is dangerous as well, which is what Shaw seemed to be critiquing. (Aglialore seems to accuse him of constructing a 'straw man' of the 'Clericalist Priest,' as he is short on anecdotes.) The last thing we need are autocratic, dictatorial priests. This is not in the mold of who Jesus was, or who priests should be.

Yet, there truly is a difference between priests and laity, and this difference cannot be mitigated. It is there whether we want it to be or not. As a priest, I can confect the Eucharist, free others from their sins, baptize, confirm (if necessary and with proper permission). Without priests, these things cease to happen.

At our regional meeting for vocation directors, we discussed these aspects in relationship to religious life. One of the sisters who was present lamented that all the generic (ie, non-community specific) videos and promotions for religious women's communities in particular seem to focus on the 'look at all the great things that we can do as women's religious. I agree, women's religous communities have diversified and are active and present in many realms of the Church and the world.

But the question that elludes them: "What makes you, as a woman religious, different from a regular lay ecclesial minister?" Why should a young woman who wants to serve the Church join you instead just working as a lay minister and still be able to get married and have a family?

Sister's point was that religious communities, in their striving to be like everyone else, lost the sense of community: this is a group of women who have left behind the trappings of this world to come together as one, as brides of Christ, to be living witnesses of the Gospel.

Does this denigrate the lay apostolate in the world? Hardly, because they are different callings! The crisis in both priesthood and religious life is because these two callings have been confused and mishmashed.

The priest remains the Captain of the Ship, but he should also be willing to go down with the ship, too. His first concern is the safety and lives of his crew members: his parishioners.

We need to stop de-clericalizing the priesthood and clericalizing the laity. Our roles are complimentary.

New Strategies for Young Adult Ministry

The priest founder of Theology on Tap has weighed in on new strategies for young adult ministry in the Church:

SAN ANTONIO (CNS) -- Every diocese needs a comprehensive pastoral plan specifically aimed at young adults to reverse the hemorrhage of Catholics in their 20s and early 30s leaving the Catholic Church, a national pioneer in young adult ministry said.Father John Cusick, director of young adult ministry for the Archdiocese of Chicago and the father of the Theology on Tap program, said the church needs a savvy "new apologetics" and "satellite sites" away from the parish grounds where young adults can gather to form quality relationships without feeling pressure from the church.Addressing a youth ministry symposium in April at the Oblate School of Theology in San Antonio, Father Cusick cited a recent USA Today poll indicating that 10 percent of Americans are former Catholics and said the percentage is much higher among people in their 20s and early 30s."If Catholic youth ministry is so good, where are all the young adults? They're missing in action," he said. "For the moment (in their teens), they have a good sense of church, but then they fall off the end of the table."When they come back temporarily for such events as baptisms and marriages or seek out the church in times of serious illness, death or life-changing decisions, Father Cusick said, the church needs to celebrate such moments of return rather than scold young adults for having stayed away.

This was something we discussed as Directors of Vocations the last two days: teens and young adults today are much more social than my generation (which wasn't too long ago!)

Think about it: these are the kids of the 'Soccer Moms.' They've been part of teams and sports and groups their entire lives. They do not have the experience of going out in a field and dreaming interesting and stupid ways of wasting away a day. They go to tournaments, they go to practices, they play video games in a community. Let's face it, the popularity of sites like Facebook, MySpace, and Twitter are results of this generation of togetherness.

In my field, this highlights the necessity of plugging young people into groups that are immediately welcoming of new members, and gives them a place to belong, and encourages them in their pursuit of holiness. So many young men that I talk to are in non-supportive environments for hearing a call to the preisthood, hence the importance of virtue programs, Youth2000 type retreats WITH FOLLOW UP!. Theology on Tap for the older set.

For the most part, today's youngest generation have not had to foster their own communities, but have had those already established and just join up. (Remember, not a sociologist here!)

How do we help them to plug into the Church to a real way, take ownership and responsibility of and for their faith, and make them radical disciples of Christ?

(As if I didn't have enough on my plate today!)

Ordination Class of 2008

The Annual report on the new ordinands is fresh off the presses. Well, ok, it's electronic.

A particular highlight:

Some share involvement in church activities. The three men from the Archdiocese of Cincinnati, Ryan Ruiz, 26; Jason Bedel, 34; and Ed Pratt, 45, are all fourth degree Knights of Columbus.

The World is Just Awesome

Discovery has a new ad compaign out, centered with the following advert. (Song Addiction Alert: HIGH!)

(Caveat: don't support all the programs highlighted, but it's dang cool when Mac blows up the building!)

We need as catchy a tune for the priesthood, eh?

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Back from UpNorth

After two days of great conversation and just a bit of socialization with Ohio and Michigan Diocesan Vocation Directors, we've returned to the Queen City. Great times had by all, but still dazed and confused after a five hour drive in the rain.

Details will follow, I hope...

Monday, May 5, 2008

Life in my sisters' houses

I think this could be anyone of my three sisters:

Heading to Detroit tomorrow for a meeting of the Region VI Vocation Directors, so itll be quite around here.

Jesus for President

Those crazy guys at Outside da Box have a campaign video for Jesus' presidential run.



Catholics are bad at this, generally. I've seen several posts around St. Blogosphere's lately on this. But now comes one on what to do, ok, actually what not to do, when talking with atheists. Common sense, really, but a good reminder.

Thanks to Jen's post for the heads up.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

A gentle reminder

A Thorn in the Pew has a unique, sometimes challenging family situation in her own right. She shares a bit of her story here.

Get Service

Friday, May 2, 2008

Life with a Special Needs Child

My sister sent along an update and a speech she gave at her daughter's rehab center. It was too good not to share:

Greetings, my name is Tania ***** and this is my husband Aaron. Aaron and I would first like to congratulate the Rehab Center on their 36th Anniversary and all the work that it took to reach this milestone. The Rehab Center asked us to give a little story on our experiences with the center.
So how did we get here? Aaron and I are the parents of 4 children, Taylor, Tristyn, Ashlyn and Alex. Tristyn our daughter is the second of four children with only 15 months separating her and our oldest daughter Taylor. At around four months of age we started to notice that Tristyn did not seem to be meeting her milestones. After many months of trying to persuade the doctor’s on a “mother’s instinct” that something just was not right we finally had an MRI at 10months of age. The MRI showed that Tristyn has Agenesis of the Corpus Callosum, ACC for short. ACC is a rare birth defect in which the structure/nerves that connects the two hemispheres of the brain (the corpus callosum) is partially or completely absent. What does this mean you wonder? I am sure most are aware that the right side of your brain controls the left side of your body and the left side of the brain controls the right side. For Tristyn, her brain itself is fine but she does not have the nerves that allow the right and left brain to seamlessly communicate with each other. Hence leaving her with the struggle of getting information back and forth. Imagine taking all the traffic from a 16 lane superhighway and trying to route it down a single dirt lane road. ACC can occur as an isolated condition or in combination with other cerebral abnormalities. In our case we were fortunate that Tristyn’s condition is isolated with no other anomalies, genetic conditions, etc. She did have eye surgery at one year of age and has also dealt with extremely low muscle tone which has been the biggest cause of motor delays in fine motor and gross motor skills. The neurologist painted 2 pictures of a life with ACC, the first is one without struggles as many people are walking this world without their corpus callosums and are even unaware that they are missing this important structure of their brain the second is one that is severely impacted. Unfortunately our situation is closer to the second and as a result of Tristyn’s struggles we sought out services at the Rehab Center nearly three years ago. Tristyn presents very similar to that of an autistic child – self-stimming behaviors, non-verbal, isolated in her own environment, etc. So needless to say our struggles were numerous prior to starting here. We could not run the sweeper or garbage disposal without Tristyn screaming. She hated bathtime which ultimately led Aaron and I to playing paper, rock scissors on who had bath duty and it was the fastest bath that either of us could give. We were also very limited on public places we could go due to being unsure how Tristyn would handle the people, the noises, etc. As a result we would do things with family as they tolerated what we were going through and understood the behaviors she would have. Relationships with others seemed to be limited due to it being easier to avoid the situation than have to explain everything with Tristyn. There were even a couple of family weddings in which we were forced to leave prior to supper due to Tristyn being unable to handle the situation and the sensory overload. These times were very difficult for our family and resulted in many tears, many struggles, and an older sister that was wondering why we were always the first to leave places.
We started Tristyn at the Rehab Center the summer she would be turning three. She came four days per week the first summer with myself, a high school babysitter and a future sister-in-law covering the times she came. Honestly, in the beginning I thought we made the biggest mistake ever by enrolling her for services. Tristyn would scream through the entire session and I could not believe that it took five adults to manipulate a three year old with severly weak muscles – guess she was stronger than what she led on!!! I would cry every Friday on my way home with her questioning myself on what we were doing. Looking back now I can not imagine what life would be like if we had listened to my gut and pulled Tristyn from the program. Tristyn has made some wonderful gains during her time at the Center. We no longer have the serious aversion to noises making it much easier to do your day to day activities around the house. She has even taking a liking to dancing to Hannah Montana with her two sisters! She also loves the water, sometimes swimming in the bathtub for an hour, she frequently giggles during her sessions in the pool with Jason, and she really thinks she is special when her dad takes her in the hot tub at home. She has gone from a child that could not walk on her own when she started to walking independently, going up and down the steps independently and doing her best run to the school bus in the mornings. We no longer deal with the aversion to touch and has learned to give some of the best unconditional hugs ever! We have also seen a dramatic increase in her eye contact and attention to things going on around her. She also knows the way to my heart as she is quickly becoming a great shopper loving to walk and ride in her stroller through the stores and malls – what mom does not relish in spending the day shopping with their daughter! As you can imagine we have seen more improvement than we can summarize into words; however we still have a long way to go in some areas. We are hopeful as Tristyn continues to improve and as new activities and exercises are tried that we find that key to continuing to unlock the hidden treasures within. We will not give up on our daughter and we hope to see as much progress in the next three years as we have seen the first three.
When preparing this speech I looked back over the reports and evaluations from Mr. Burns, Beverly and Christine and this also made me realize the progress Tristyn has made over the years. She has gone from uncooperating with all activities and exercises to actually maybe even enjoying her time at the center – especially with her buddy Christine! It is rewarding to see things she does do summarized in the reports when most reports discuss the shortcomings.
We are forever thankful for the dedication of the staff and their willingness to continue to push Tristyn to reach her greatest potential. It is rewarding for us to see how much the staff cares for Tristyn and all the clients that come to the center – although they can be unforgiving when you make a mistake such as sending your child dressed as if she were a member of the red hat society!!! Guess I will have make sure not to make that mistake again!!! We also would not be where we are today without the help, love and nurturance of Tristyn’s great aunt Lois. Lois could not be here tonight due to a previous commitment but she truly has been a huge key in making this all work for Tristyn. She has the most unconditional love for Tristyn and strives on the amount that Tristyn has taught her about life and how much many of us take for granted on a day to day basis. I think many of our family members and those around us have realized how precious life is and how your outlook on life can change by watching someone like Tristyn develop and learn new things. Life with Tristyn has been a struggle but it has also been a blessing and an eye opening experience. We will continue to endure the daily, weekly and monthly struggles along with the celebrations of each new task Tristyn learns to do independently and hopefully with the help of the activities and staff at the Rehab Center the struggles Tristyn faces decreases and the triumphs increase!

Thursday, May 1, 2008

The Arena of the Masses

My latest for the Catholic Telegraph, weekly paper for the Archdiocese of Cincinnati, appears this week. (Loyal readers here will notice a common theme with my Easter Homily.):

The Final Four always draws a big following. From the moment the brackets are released to the final horn of the tournament, college basketball seems to be the only thing discussed. Productivity reports even suggest that the first two days of the tournament are the least productive work days of the year in America. Everyone seems to be listening in online, predicting the upsets, and if your team is not in the ‘Big Dance, then rooting for Cinderella to keep that slipper on becomes a primary focus.

What amazes me every year during this tournament is the amount of energy and passion devoted to researching the next opponent, analyzing math-ups and actually watching the games. It is an annual holiday!

This year, the first two rounds of the tournament coincided with Holy Week and the celebration of Easter. I wonder what would happen if we spent the same energy and enthusiasm in our faith that is spent on a basketball tournament. After all, as enjoyable as the tournament is, it will not bring us to Eternal Life like our pursuit of the faith!

Imagine if we researched our Catholic All Stars (the saints) as we did potential MVPs for a basketball game; if we idolized and emulated Saints like Peter, Paul, Agatha, Lucy, or Anastasia as we do some of our professional athletes. Instead of the horrific examples offered by modern celebrity, we would have heroic examples of self-sacrifice, purity, passion for Our Lord and the desire to give it all over for Christ. Would not the world be a better place?

Really, it is not that difficult. One of the simple ways to do this is have a ‘home team’ of saints. List a patron saint for each member of the family, either based on their name, their birthday, confirmation patron, or chosen profession. This would be a constant reminder that we are not alone in our journey, but have constant companions leading us closer to Christ. Praying for the wisdom and guidance of these saints during meal and evening prayers reinforces this continual presence.

I see another interesting paradox in life as well. During so many sporting events, from the grade school fields surrounding parishes all the way to the two massive ‘cathedrals of sports’ on the Cincinnati riverfront, we often argue about the interpretation of rules: whether this was a called third strike or was really out of the zone; was that drive through the lane really a charge or a block, did the receiver get both feet in-bounds; but we rarely argue about the rules themselves. The Official Rulebook is seen as the guide to keep all things fair, and to promote safe and equitable play on both sides of the ball. Because of this, coaches, players and fans all pour over the rulebook so that they can keep each other on task and in the playing field.

Yet, the rules of life as dictated by the Church (the Ten Commandments) are often seen as nuisances, bothersome, or irrelevant. This is a dangerous position to inhabit, as the One who gave us life is the designer and source of these rules; and just as a rulebook for a particular sport is designed to promote fair and just play; our rule book for life is designed to bring us to Eternal Life, which supplies a greater and more lasting joy than a Super Bowl championship ever could.

G.K. Chesterton stated that “it is not that Christianity has been tried and found wanting, rather it is that Christianity was found difficult and therefore not tried.” Living the ‘Rule Book of Life” as found in the Catechism of the Catholic Church and based in the Ten Commandments is not easy. Jesus never promised that it would be. But what He does promise is that He will be with us until the end.

To reach any championship in sports takes dedication, sacrifice and perseverance. The saints have used these traits, plus that great abundance of grace from Christ, to reach the great championship of a life in heaven. Should we not also strive for the same?