Monday, December 27, 2010


It will be even quieter than normal this week and into the next, as I am off for retreat the rest of this year and into the new year. If you can, please offer a quick prayer that it will be a fruitful time.

God Bless

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Only an Ox and Donkey to Welcome Him (Christmas Homily)

Delievered at St. Mary's of the Woods, Russell's Point, Archdiocese of Cincinnati.

On Christmas, it is easy to focus on the Manger scene, after all, I think it is one of the most tender images we have in Christendom: The Child, Mary, Joseph and the shepherds in a peaceful scene, snow falling (at least in my image); it all adds up for a heart warming image.

Yet, I would like to focus this year not on the ‘how’ of Jesus’ coming, but more the ‘why.’ What we recognize, and where the readings all point, is that all of history was leading up to this point. But why did it have to happen?

Since Adam and Eve, a gulf had existed between God and humanity, which the whole of salvation history had as the goal of overcoming. The Covenant of Abraham, the Law through Moses, the leadership of the Judges and Kings, and the call to repentance of the Prophets all had the goal of restoring the relationship broken with Original Sin, yet it never worked. The chasm was too great, it could not be overcome by ‘normal means.’

Why not? Why could we not overcome it on our own? Obviously, sin blocks the path. The distortions from sin do not allow us to see straight, as God would like us to do. This sin is not just the original sin, but also our own participation through personal sin. Here, we follow the sins of our ancestors, mostly in falling to Pride. It seems to me that in the Old Testament, God was always approached through pride, out of a quest for vainglory and power. He responded: the GloryCloud was God intervening directly in history, but through ways that the people of the time expected.

This pride and desire for vainglory also formed the expectation for the Messiah, for He would come to reestablish Israel as an independent country, the country which the rest of the world would serve.

Into the midst of this expectation, Jesus comes in a manger. The Messiah, the savior of the world, is not born in a palace with kings and queens present to worship and adore. Rather, he comes in a manger, in a small town, with only an ox and a donkey to greet him.

This becomes the key to His mission: not power, but HUMILITY.

The Second Reading for the Mass during the Day, from the Letter to the Hebrews, reflects on this reality. The Divine Second Person of the Trinity, He who is the Word Made Flesh, the one who ordered all of creation, does not come in that power, but leaves it all behind to come as a child. He freely lays that aside to become a man like us in all things but sin.

Only in Christianity is there such a mystery, would such a statement ever be echoed: ‘God so loved the world that He sent His Only Begotten Son to be our Savior.’ In Judaism and Islam, God is master, we are servants. In Eastern Religions, Nirvana is emptiness, not union with the Divine. In the Greco-Roman Pagan religions, you really just hoped the gods left you alone.

Yet, in Christianity, we see that God so desires for us to be reunited with Himself that He comes down to earth so that He might lift us back, not just to an earthly paradise, but a heavenly one.

What we must learn, however, is that how God deals with us, we must pay back to God. This is the flip of the approach between the Old Testament and the New.

No longer do we approach God in fear and trembling (although that should be a part of our approach), in the New, we come in humility and emptiness, offering our gifts to God to use as He will.

Hence, as we gather on these Christmas days, sharing gifts with one another as expressions of love for one another, let us also recognize those gifts that God has given, those unique talents and abilities that are personal to each one of us.

Not just to focus on those gifts, but to also recognize how God is asking us to share those gifts with our families, the Church, and the world.

Then, Christ will be revealed not just as a small child on Christmas day, but every thought, word and deed uttered by those who claim the name Christian will continue to bear Christ to the world.

Then, we will echo John the Baptist: He must increase, I must decrease.

Then, we will have a place not just here, but in that Heavenly Paradise He came to establish.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

A few posts to consider

I've posted a few things recently over at the Vocation Office page:

1) we've started a thread where questions submitted at recent high school presentations are being answered one at a time. The third was, um, interesting in how it was worded.

2) Elizabeth Ficocelli has released her second work, 'Where do Sisters Come From?' It is a joyous read.

3) Vocation Awareness Week is getting closer......

4) The 'Upcoming Events' page was updated.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Friends for Life

Yahoo Sports' 'Puck Daddy' blog features a short story of Chicago Blackhawk Jake Dowell going the extra mile: (get the tissue box ready)

View more news videos at:

(Thanks to my brother for sending over the link)

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Just because you can, doesn't mean you should.

Checking out the news coverage with another priest, he was stunned at the fact that Westboro Baptist Church is protesting at Elizabeth Edwards' funeral. Frankly, I am, too, but it doesn't surprise me with this group. I don't see how this is going to help their cause, in fact I think they do more harm than good.

Do they have a 'right' to be there, I guess so. If you frame the question purely in terms of 'rights,' where does their 'right' to speech end with the Edwards' family 'right' to privacy and/or decorum for the funeral of the loss of their mother and friend, a woman who suffered much in her last years?

As a priest, I am often asked about the nature of the magisterium in the Church. Why is it important that we have a teaching office? I think the example of this baptist church gives an eloquent reason as to why we should. Do they have the 'right' to protest, yes; but, I would argue, this is not the most advantageous way to get their point across. (To me, they are doing this much more for their own noteriety than any quest for the truth.) If a Catholic parish would attempt something so callous, I would hope the bishop would call them in and make them stop.

There is a call to conversion, but this approach just raises rancor.

I recently saw an editorial cartoon that argued along the lines of: 'Science flew us to the moon; religions fly planes into buildings.' I would argue that what Westboro Baptist Church is doing leads to more of this kind of approach, especially to secularists who do not know anyone who is truly religious, in the best way.

Anyway, too many other thoughts going through the brain this afternoon to make this much clearer. I am glad this week is over!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Vote Early, Vote Often!

From My Little Saint:

Please, help create a Handicapped accessible "Sunshine Playground"

in Western Ohio

by voting for New Bremen New Knoxville Rotary Club "Sunshine Park"
in the $250,000. category in the Pepsi Refresh Project.
Here's what you do---

click $250,000. category
Sunshine Park is ranked about #14 so far
"Vote for this idea"
(you will need to sign up but I have not
received any junk emails thus far from them)

PLEASE, vote everyday!!!

Side note: I have a niece who could take advantage of this park.
UPDATE: here are more specific instructions:

Here are a few steps to help you find the right link:

Click the link

underneath a big 'ALL' tab, there are four boxes with money amounts: $5K, $25K, $50K, $250K.

click the $250K tab.

right above those four boxes is a drop down menu 'Vote For:' click that and set it to 'current leaders' which pops up 10. At the bottom, click 'add more' and the Sunshine Playground is current #15.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Judge Rules against Murder, Inc.

The Cincinnati Enquirer offers an update on an ongoing battle in the local pro-life world:

Hamilton County Common Pleas Court Judge Jody Luebbers ruled Tuesday that the doctor for Planned Parenthood of Southwest Ohio breached a legal duty by not having a meeting with the teen 24 hours in advance of the abortion to explain her options, something called an "informed consent" meeting.

"I think it's the first time ever Planned Parenthood has been in breach of that order," Brain Hurley, the attorney representing the teen, said.

"The question now is what (money) damages do we get?"

The attorney for Planned Parenthood didn't' return calls.

By law, any health-care professionals who suspects child abuse - a 13-year-old engaging in sex with an adult, for example - must be reported.

Tuesday's ruling is the latest in the case filed in 2005 by the girl and her parents. In it, she is identified only as "Jane Roe" in a case where the judge ordered all of the documents sealed.

Friday, December 3, 2010


For Catholics in the Tri-County area just north of Cincinnati, Catholic Radio is now available over the air!

A few months back, WNOP Sacred Heart Radio, an affiliate of EWTN Radio and producer of The Son Rise Morning Show, which airs on the EWTN Radio Network, heard of a potential station coming up for auction in Hamilton, Ohio: WHSS: the Hamilton City Schools Station. After much scrambling to rustle up some funding, Sacred Heart Radio was able to purchase the station at public auction. FCC clearance has gone through and, as of yesterday 3:30 pm, the station was plugged into Sacred Heart's feed and is now live! Those in the Hamilton, West Chester, Liberty Township, Fairfield, Millville areas of Butler County, Ohio, should hear it loud and clear on 89.5 FM.

This station augments Sacred Heart Radio's current main signal of 740 AM in Cincinnati and Newport, Kentucky, and the current 89.5 FM in Versailles, Indiana.

Send a note of praise over to the station here!

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Anna as a Guide for Advent

My latest missive runs in this week's Catholic Telegraph. Fighting the secularism of the lost season of Advent, the Prophetess Anna provides an excellent model of how to prepare for Christmas. A snippet:

As the days continue to shorten and the weather turns colder, we prepare once again for the coming of the Christ Child. His birth had long been foretold through the prophets of Israel, but they had fallen silent over the past 200 years or so. Into the silence, the angel Gabriel steps into human history to announce tidings of great joy: the Messiah is on His way!

As we go through Advent, we must still have this awareness, but with the rampant commercialism that has become of Christmas, it can be hard to recognize His coming. Between Christmas music starting before Halloween, loud sale advertisements filling TV and radio waves and the necessities of trimming the tree and decking the halls, it can be very easy to miss the deeper meaning of this holy season: Christ is coming to bring us salvation!

In the midst of the sometimes chaotic nature of this season, the prophetess Anna, mentioned above in the infancy narrative from Luke’s Gospel account, presents a model of how we should anticipate the Lord’s coming. It is based in three things: prayer, fasting, and sacrifice.


Friday, November 26, 2010

With God as my witness....

(too good not to share, a favorite in these parts)

Swiped from Lance.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Thoughts on Thanksgiving Day

First, I found the Preface for Thanksgiving Day to be a good initial reflection on the nature of this day. The line that really struck me: 'It happened to our fathers, who came to this land as if out of the desert into a place of promise and hope.' Reflect on that for a moment.....

And let's continue:

Naturally, on this day we stop to give thanks, and recall those things we are thankful for. I'm thankful for spending the day with my folks; I'm thankful I don't have to buy shampoo (really, is there any that's not froo-froo?)

But, really, it has to be something more than, eh? What's the most precious gift that we have been given, for which we should be most grateful? What is better than gift of Salvation wrought for us by Christ, the Lord?

On this day where we give thanks, let us focus most on that gift, from which all others flow.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Theology of the Laity, Part 2

A continuation, here focusing on Pope John Paul II's Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation on the role of the Laity in the Church and in the World.

Theology of the Laity, Part 1

Reflecting on Vatican II's Decree on the Apostolate of the Laity, Fr. Schnippel shares some thoughts with how the laity are called to help build the Church in the modern world.

Monday, November 22, 2010

The Role of the Laity in the Church

My talk from last week, lasts about 35 minutes.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Read 'The Book' lately?

If you are looking for something to do while you're waiting for the popcorn in the microwave to pop or for your nails to dry or for your flight to board or for the light to turn green ... Hey, what are you doing checking email while you're driving?!? ... Anyway, when you have some time to kill and you are feeling especially holy, try this quiz about Famous Bible Stories.

Don't worry, nobody will know your score.

Except God.

(I'll post my score in the combox.)

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

The Priesthood and the Holy Grail?

Tomorrow night, I've been asked to speak on the Priesthood of the Faithful at the Holy Grail Tavern and Bar, West, located at the intersection of Ebenezer Road and Cleves-Warsaw Pike, Cincinnati.

The evening starts at 7:00 pm and generally follows a Theology on Tap format, so come and enjoy some food, drinks and an enlightening conversation on Vatican II, JPII, BXVII, and how the laity are called to remake the world in image of the Church.

As sources, we're using the Decree on the Apostolate of the Laity from Vatican II and JPII's Christifideles Laici, with some highlights from Benedict's writing and pontificate as well.

Should be fun, eh?

Friday, November 12, 2010

Lord, Teach us to pray!

With these words, the Disciples make a request to Our Lord that He might teach them to pray as He prays. Recognizing that it is only the heart that prays who is able to recognize the call of the Lord to service in the Church; we have built this year's Vocation Awareness Week materials around this theme.

The packet is finally published online over at the new home of the Vocation Office. We hope that these materials are used widely throughout the Archdiocese of Cincinnati, and offer them to the Church throughout the country.

Vocation Awareness Week falls from January 9-15, 2011, this year, following the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord.

Can't Resist....

A man comes into the Confessional. "Forgive me, Father, for I have sinned, it has been a long time since my last confession."
"How long, my son?"
"Since grade school, Father."
"Tell me your sins."
(details omitted for obvious reasons, but it was quite the list!)
After some counselling, praising God for the gift of Faith, the priest continues:
"For your penance, pray 10 Hail Mary's."
"I'm sorry, Father, but I don't know that prayer."
"What about the Glory Be?"
"I don't know that one, either."
"The Our Father?"
"What prayer do you know?"
"Father, I could say the Angelus."
"Ok, say the Angelus as your penance."

Curious as to how he could not know some of the basic prayers, but still knows the Angelus, Father had to check it out.

Sneaking out of the Confessional, he approaches the man from behind when he hears him saying in a soft voice: 'Bong, Bong, Bong, Bong; Bong, Bong, Bong, Bong."

Thank you! I'm here till Tuesday! Try the veal, it's delicious.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Patron Saint of Vacationers?!

Today is the Feast of St. Martin of Tours. No, not those kind of tours (although they need our prayers, badly!), but Tours, France!

Former soldier, hermit, founder of monasteries and Bishop; he packed a lot into 80 years of life.

For more, his wikipedia page (yeah, I know, DON'T TRUST WIKI!; I have it on good authority that the page is legit, where I also swiped the pic above.)

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

And we're live!

If you get a chance, head on over to the NEW! The site looks great, very, very happy! Big thanks to the tech wizards at US Digital Partners for all their work.

It's almost here......

The new online home of the Vocation Office of the Archdiocese of Cincinnati is nearly launched, keep tabs for more updates. I'm loving the new look, can't wait to share it.

In honor of the day...

Today is the Feast of the Dedication of the Lateran Basilica, the Pope's Cathedral in Rome, seen here with the sun setting behind the statues at the top from my trip to Rome this past summer.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Verbum Domini!

Dr. Brant Pitre brings very welcome news, indeed!

The Holy Father's Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation on the Word of God will be published this week!

From Zenit:

The papal text will gather the reflections and proposals suggested during the 12th Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, which took place in October 2008, and which reflected on the theme "The Word of God in the Life and Mission of the Church."

My day just got better!

Friday, November 5, 2010

Remember, Remember, the Fifth of November...

No, it's not just the line from a movie, but a remembrance of the failed gunpowder plot on this day, 1605, in Merry Old England. (Wikipedia Alert!)

At the time, however, it wasn't so Merry for Catholics. It was a tough time for the Recusants, those who kept to the Catholic Faith while facing stiff penal laws for doing so during the time of Elizabeth and her successors on the Throne of England.

Guy Fawkes, among others, was trying to establish some sort of freedom for Catholics on the Islands, and attempted an act of treason in trying to blow up Parliament. However, they were caught before the plan could be executed, and were summarily executed themselves.

However, it seems the joke was on them. Gunpowder was tightly controlled by the government at the time; so there is speculation that it was all a foil by the government to ensnare the Recusant Catholics. Anyone else love a good conspiracy theory?

For more, check Stephanie Mann's excellent blog: Supremacy and Survival or the Coming Home Network's 2006 Deep in History Conference on the English Reformation, a better series of lectures, I have not found.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

How to Grow a Priest

So you still check New Advent daily, right? If not, missing great content!

Today, Good Sir Knight linked to Summa This, Summa That, which is a new blog to me, on 'How to Grow a Priest. It is a reflection on the Pope's recent 'Letter to Seminarians,' and includes the realization of the obvious (which is sometimes the hardest to see):

Here’s something I learned a little too late in life: Faithful priests come from, well, the faithful. The call to the ministerial priesthood grows out of the common priesthood that all the baptized share, since the People of God participate in the Christ’s three offices of priest, prophet and king.

So let us consider just how deeply we live out our own intimacy with Christ. We never know – we may be influencing a future priest in our midst!

Read the rest here.

What about hobbies?

A frequent question for guys discerning the priesthood involves, strangely enough, hobbies. Guys have interests beyond just the Church (we could safely assume St. Paul was a runner, no?), and want to know if they will have to leave all that behind.

Strangely enough, there is a movement afoot to enshrine a Catholic Priest in the Hockey Hall of Fame.

Intrigued? I thought so:

Okay, Costello only played 15 regular season games and the 5 playoff games, but he is a Stanley Cup champion, and a junior superstar with two Memorial Cup championships before that. He spent most of his three professional seasons in the minor leagues.

That is hardly a Hall of Fame worthy resume. So why should the Hall of Fame induct Costello?

Campbell argues "Costello deserves to be inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame because, when you think about it, no man has ever used the game for a more noble purpose. That he died doing God's work through hockey makes the case for his induction as a builder that much stronger."

Friday, October 29, 2010

Safety Warning

Apostles and Fathers

Two articles for your reading pleasure this fine Friday morning:

First, by your faithful local scribe and appearing over at the new Catholic Exchange: 'Built Upon the Foundation of the Apostles' which reflects on yesterday's Feast of Sts. Simon and Jude and the upcoming Feasts of All Saints and All Souls:

The month of November is set aside as a month to pray to and for our predecessors in the faith. Beginning with the Feast of All Saints and the Commemoration of All the Faithful Departed (commonly ‘All Soul’s Day’), the last few weeks of the Liturgical Year cause us to dwell on our own destiny in faith as well. The readings for Mass turn to the Four Last Things (Heaven, Hell, Death and Judgment) as we approach the Feast of Christ the King and recognize our place in God’s Eternal Kingdom.

As I was recently praying over these mysteries, a new connection was made. The end of October finds the Feast of Sts. Simon and Jude on the Liturgical calendar. What is strange is that even though these two men are Apostles of the Lord, travelers with Him and part of His earliest missionaries, we know next to nothing of their lives. For all intents and purposes, these two great figures are anonymous to us today.

Yet, even in their anonymity, the Catholic Church is built upon their faith. In the Book of Revelation, we see the new City of Jerusalem built upon a foundation of twelve courses of stone, each marked with the name of one of the Twelve Apostles of the Lamb (Rev. 21:14).

Secondly, over at The Integrated Catholic Life Channel, Dr. Donald DeMarco on the meaning of Fatherhood. I think it applies to both physical and spiritual fatherhood. You?

There is a certain immediacy about motherhood that cannot be said of fatherhood. Nature goes a long way in helping a mother know what it means to be a mother. Ovulation, pregnancy, childbirth, lactation, and breast feeding are natural and immediate experiences that teach a mother a great deal about the meaning of her motherhood. Motherhood is imminent, but fatherhood is transcendent.

If nature does comparatively little to teach a man the meaning of fatherhood, his wife, his children, and his culture must help to fill in the blanks. Yet, secular feminism, the high divorce rate, and abortion most emphatically do not help a man to understand the meaning of his own fatherhood. In fact, agencies are busy at work trying to “deconstruct” fatherhood and “deculture” paternity.

Yet, fatherhood and good fathers are of inestimable importance to society. David Blankenhorn, in his book, Fatherless America: Confronting Our Most Urgent Problem (Basic Books), provides evidence that fatherlessness is the leading cause of the declining well-being of children and the engine that drives our most urgent social problems from crime to adolescent pregnancy to child sexual abuse to domestic violence against women.

The following 10 distinctions shed light on the critical, yet subtle nature of fatherhood. Whereas motherhood is unmistakable because of the power of nature, fatherhood requires no small degree of sophisticated understanding.

Happy Friday, all.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Politics makes for...

strange bedfellows, indeed:

COLUMBUS, Ohio — An elections commission in Ohio will convene today to consider whether a pro-life organization can put up billboards criticizing a candidate on his vote for Obamacare.

A federal court Oct. 25 allowed Democratic Rep. Steve Driehaus’ case to proceed against the Susan B. Anthony List.

The SBAL, which supports pro-life women running for public office, wanted to put up billboards saying Driehaus’ vote on the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act in March was a vote for taxpayer funding of abortion.

The contentious sign reads: “Shame on Steve Driehaus. Driehaus voted for taxpayer-funded abortion.”

Taking SBAL’s side in the dispute is the American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio, which said in an amicus curiae (friend of the court) brief, that the Ohio elections law Driehaus claims prevents the SBAL statement is unconstitutionally “vague and overbroad.”

Read the rest at National Catholic Register

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Jason Evert

My friend Alicia reports on the upcoming appearence by Jason Evert at Cincinnati's 'The Underground.'

He speaks to over 100,000 high school students each year and is the author of “If You at Really Loved Me: 100 Questions on Dating, Relationships, and Sexual Purity,” as well as “Pure Love.” He will be here at the high schools from November 3 – 5, and will also do a special presentation at the Underground in Cincinnati (1140 Smiley Ave) from 7 – 9 p.m on Thursday, November 4th. This FREE event is sponsored by Ruah Woods Theology of the Body for Teens Program. You can check out Jason’s website,, or check out a clip of one of his talks:


Reader (and sometime commentor) Jamie is pleased to announce the birth of her 11th child: Anne Therese.

reports are the mom and baby are doing well. Stop over at her place to wish them well. (gonna have to update the name on the blog!)

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Ephesians 5 at the Seminary

Today was, I believe, the first time I had the opportunity to preach the community Mass at Bishop Simon Brute College Seminary in Indianapolis, where we currently have 7 men in formation. Archbishop Schnurr and I made our fall visit there over the last few days. As he prefers to preach 'every-other' time he visits, and the guys 'hear us all the time' (said the rector), lot fell to me to preach on that reading, reproduced (kinda) as follows:

This is one of 'Those' passages which is easy to dismiss as out of date, dictated simply by the age and milieu in which Paul lived and wrote, and no longer has any validity for today.

While it is easy to do so, it is not wise to do so. 2 Timothy 3:16 states that All Scripture is inspired by God and necessary for salvation (paraphrase), so we can't simply dismiss this as out of hand, we have to make sense of it, otherwise we might lose our salvation if we cannot grasp fully the meaning of this passage and present it for our people, today.

There is a distinction to be made, here. Prior to Mass, I saw one of the guys reading Pope Benedict XVI's 'Jesus of Nazareth.' While it is a phenomenal work of meditation on the Scripture, a Catholic can honestly disagree with what the Holy Father has written. (Not that it would be wise to do so, but it is simply his personal reflection for the face of Jesus. It is not necessary for Salvation as Scripture is.)

We cannot simply discount what is in Scripture because it is hard, or difficult, or uncomfortable, or 'dated.' We must examine it carefully to make sense of how this particular passage makes sense, even today; and not just in an allegorical or typological way; but as it is actually written.

So: wives are to be submissive to their husbands, so says St. Paul.

In reading any Biblical quote, as a Catholic, we place the verse in context. The initial verse of this Reading gives us a frame of reference in how to interpret this verse: be subject to one another out of reverence for Christ! St. Paul is drawing an analogy between our relationship with Christ and the relationship between a husband and wife. (In the spiritual masters, the soul is always presented as a feminine before the face of God; even for men.) (If I had more time, I would have gone down through the passage as well, I will come back to this later, too.)

Another key tool in interpreting a difficult passage is to see what the Church, in her wisdom, has said about a particular passage throughout history. I have only been alive for 33 years, not even a drop in the ocean to the Church's 2,000 year history of thought and development.

Of particular note for this passage is Pope Pius XI's Casti Connubii (1930), his encyclical on Christian Marriage. In this Encyclical, the Holy Father notes that this passage 'does not oblige her to yield indiscriminately to all desires of her husband, which may be unreasonable or incompatible wtih her wifely dignity.' He continues that while this passage from Paul stresses the authority of the household rests in the husband, the heart of the household rests with the wife. Once again, we note the complimentarity of spouses, even long before Pope John Paul II's Theology of the Body.

Hence, we see the submission of the wife to the husband is tempered by his love for her, even as Christ loved his spouse, the Church. Jesus does not just talk about love, He shows it by laying his life down completely, to the last drop of His Blood so that she (the Church) might have life, and life abundantly. The husband is to do the same for his wife: give of himself completely, to die to his own desires and carnal pursuits so that he might hold her up as an image of Jesus' spotless bride in the Church. On a purely natural level, this is impossible (look at our culture, today). On a spiritual level, is it not only possible, but fruitful!

By looking at the roll of the husband in marriage, as outlined in this passage, we are then also able to apply this passage to our lives as priests and seminarians (God-willing: future priests). A husband who truly loves his wife more than himself will gladly sacrifice all that he is and has so that she might live life to its fullness. In his love for her, she becomes his all and he desires most of all to see her enter heaven.

As priests, we lay down our life so that our bride, the Church, might have life as well. When we as preists (or future-priests) have a deep and profound love for the Church, the sacrifice is easy. Yes, it is true that priests give up much; but we truly do receive so much more than we sacrifice, that the sacrifice becomes a joy and a burden that is easy and light.

When we come to a passage that is difficult; don't just dismiss it out of hand, but read it from the heart of the Church and in the heart of Christ; then we will be true and effective agents of salvation, as we have been called to be by Christ himself.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Inhale! Exhale!

Well, for the relative silence this week, a time to catch my breath this morning, return phone calls and stop for an noontime holy hour with priests. Until then, a few things:

First, my latest article that ran last week in Cincinnati's Catholic Telegraph has finally appeared at Catholic Exchange.

*As a side note, after the article appeared in the print edition, someone emailed me to say: 'You must be the smartest priest in the Archdiocese!' Honestly, I wasn't sure if it was a compliment or derision (I took it as the first), so I sent back: 'Not really, just the best plagarizer!' To which she responded with a laugh, so I guess it was the former, after all.

Be sure to look around the new site over there, looks great, more content, better layout, etc.

You know those prayers offered for my mom yesterday, well, keep em coming. Today is her birthday! (for the sake of staying in the will, I will not reveal what number it is....)

Last night, we had our first Andrew Dinner for this fall. 35 young men from the northern part of the diocese attended!!!! From my count, mainly from just 5 parishes scattered around a four county area. Vocations are out there, don't let anyone tell you different! Please offer a prayer for those who attended that they might truly be open to a vocation to the priesthood.

Finally, one last prayer intention: my spiritual director when I was in college died unexpectedly this week. He was only 61 and now serving as a spiritual director at Blessed John XXIII National Seminary in Weston, Mass. A good and holy Jesuit, he helped me walk through that difficult transition from secular college (THE Ohio State University) to life in the seminary, and I am eternally grateful. A favorite memory of mine regarding him. We were in a play together, I guess it was my first year at teh Josephinum; he, too, was in the play. At one point, I guess for the dress rehearsal, he walks in wearing a neck-tie, instead of his usual collar. One of the brothers quipped: 'Ah, Father, you finally look like a Jesuit!' He retorted: 'That was perhaps the unkindest cut of all!' God rest this laborer in the Lord's Vineyard.

three days in a row of leaving the house by at least 6:30 AM; the last two nights saw a return of 10:00 PM or later; today is dragging. COFFEE!!!!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

There's hope, yet.....

The Saints Blog (no, not these Saints, go here for a priestly perspective, there!) at SPQN has a post on twins (or related to twins) who are saints.

Why strike my fancy? I have an identical twin* in Iowa (of all the corny places...)

Also, there was a set of identical twins in seminary for Detroit, I think they might be ordained now.

One of our seminarians (at least) is a twin as well.

And I saw a set of twins being carried into the penance service last night.

* My first weekend in the seminary, he showed up with his girlfriend (now wife) in tow, bout got me kicked out!

* At my ordination, everyone kept asking him why he wasn't in clerics and with an alb on. 'Seriously, I AM NOT HIM!!!!'

* My first weekend in the parish in my first assignment, I mentioned: 'If you see me around town with a girl, it's not me, but my twin brother.' Yep, got that disbelieving look; until they showed up at the festival five weeks later.

* He gets me back when I visit him, in similar ways.

* Best one yet, he and I were together in Iowa, he was wearing an 'I'm the evil twin' t-shirt (I was in civies), the waitress didn't get why it was so funny that he was wearing it, not me.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

We couldn't help but follow....

We had heard about John’s preaching down by the Jordan River for some time now; but to actually be experiencing it, that is a whole other story! He is passionate and zealous, and many say that he might be the one to restore Israel to her rightful place among the nations.

However, John pointed to Jesus with words I still don’t fully understand: ‘Behold the Lamb of God!’ Something about Him drew me, and I had to follow. There is a peace in His presence, an obvious connection with the Lord God; I wanted to be a part of it.

And then Jesus turned, looked into the depths of my very soul, it seemed, and asked: ‘What are you looking for?’ I simply wanted to stay in His presence! I could tell He had a knowledge that seemed deeper, more powerful than anyone else I had met, even John! “Rabbi, where are you staying?” was all I could muster. “Come and see.” A simple invitation, a call to follow Him….

But I couldn’t, just yet. Something told me I had to find my brother first. We had left our boats behind in Galilee to come and see John, to be baptized by this preacher out in the wilderness. Now, here was someone John pointed to, someone he wanted us to follow, instead of following himself. Something told me that I had to get Simon. “We have found the Messiah!” The words were scarcely off my lips before I realized what I had said, but we rushed ahead anyway to find this Jesus whom John had indicated.

Simon fell to the ground upon meeting Him, especially at those words Jesus spoke to my brother: ‘You are Simon, Son of John, you will be called Cephas, the Rock.’ He drew us closer and we couldn’t help but follow….

Andrew Dinners upcoming:
A key component in so many who continue to follow Our Lord, even yet today, is the invitation by another to ‘Come and See’ that the Lord might be calling. The Vocation Office of the Archdiocese of Cincinnati is sponsoring three upcoming ‘Andrew Dinners,’ named for this very encounter from the Gospel according to St. John, where priests and pastors are invited to bring young men from their parish or ministry to meet Archbishop Schnurr, to hear about the possibility of a vocation to the priesthood, and to learn more about seminary life. Consider inviting, on behalf of your pastor, a young man (junior or senior in high school) whom you know and see in the makings of a possible vocation, to join us at one of the following dinners:

• October 13: Holy Trinity, Coldwater
• October 20: Cincinnati, St. John the Baptist, Dry Ridge
• November 3: Incarnation, Centerville

The Andrew Dinners begin at 5:30 pm and are completed by 8:00. For more information, contact the Vocation Office: 513-421-3131, x2890 or vocations (at) catholiccincinnati (dot) org.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Just because....

NL Central CHAMPS!!!!

I won't say it's because we started saying Mass for the team earlier this year......... but I also won't say it didn't help......

Lend Your Voice to Christ

My latest runs in this week's Catholic Telegraph:

The middle week of September saw diocesan directors of vocations from across the country gathering in the fair city of Milwaukee for our annual convention. As we tend to be on the younger side of the clergy and dominated by extroverts, this tends to be a rather fun conference. Laughs were shared as friendships fostered in seminary and over previous conferences renewed and the frustrations of a challenging ministry were commiserated.

(A snippet:)
Amid the frivolity, there was work to be done. Perhaps the most significant piece to come out of this year’s convention is a guide for priests to help call forth men to the priesthood. “Lend Your Own Voice to Christ” is a response to the annual survey of men being ordained to the priesthood. Consistently, 80 to 88 percent of newly ordained priests report that they first considered the priesthood upon the recommendation of a priest. However, only 30 percent of priests actually make the invitation! This short booklet grew out of the question of how to encourage more priests to make this invitation to share in their life.

The invitation to consider the priesthood is not rocket science but does have some sure and certain connections with the faith. Most basic of these is that Jesus first calls a man to the priesthood through the pastor of his soul. The priesthood is the living icon of Christ, His enduring presence to the world. He uses those whom He has already chosen to select the next generation to lay down their life in service at the altar. It remains a clear fact that the witness of a joy-filled priest is the best recruitment tool for the priesthood, just as happy and fulfilled marriages beget the same in the next generation.

Also in this week's Telegraph is a report on the two new men from the Archdiocese of Cincinnati who have begun studies there this fall.

Finally, now that I know how to do this, the Vocation Office has relaunched our newsletters!

September 2010 can be found here.

July/August 2010 can be found here.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Mary, the New Eve

Considering a few posts around on Mariology, I wanted to weigh in, too. (A prospect that gives my Mariology professor in seminary nightmares, I'm sure!)

It seems Mary is being given a new place and status that can't be found in history or in the person of Mary.

Last week, while in Milwaukee, we had the closing Mass in the Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist; Mother Church of the Archdiocese of Milwaukee. Prior to the Mass, there were a number of tour guides present to show us around and give us some sense of the history and art contained there-in.

One particular statue, this of the Blessed Mother, caught our eye, especially as the tour guide described her: 'Did you notice that she has a Rabbi's stole over her left arm, signifying her teaching authority?' Um, no, I didn't notice; especially as the statue makes Mary look like more of a man than I'll ever be!

As we were leaving the Cathedral, several of the priests (and the layfolk we let tag along) were chatting about the statue, in particular, as we walked back to our hotel.

What struck me as off about it was that the artist was assigning much more to Mary than she claims for herself; and totally misunderstood the authority that Mary has: her's is not an authority claimed by power, but rather assumed by humility.

This becomes the key difference between Mary, the New Eve, and the original Eve in the Garden of Eden: what Eve stretched out her hand and took by her own initiative; Mary freely accepts as gift to her from God. In a very real sense, Mary begins the undoing of what had been caused by Eve; and Mary then gives us the model of how to relate to her Son: in openness and in receptivity, not by striving to take out of a sense of entitlement or power.

Mary is the Primordial Disciple of her Son because she freely accepts the gift of His life; she does not take it as her own. In this sense, let us all humbly open our hearts to also receive the gift of Her Son, the gift of Divine Life which brings about our salvation.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

That was surreal

Today is the national kick-off of 40 days for Life. As an advisor to Cincinnati Right to Life, I have heard about the tremendous success this program has had in helping change hearts of those who were seeking abortion and led them to embrace life; even to the point of one planned unparenthood exectuive leaving her post and joinging those who were praying in front of the mill. (She's speaking at Greater Cincinnati Right to Life's Evening for Life next month!) I have been in front of Murder, Inc., many times before, as I celebrate the Mass on first Saturday for Helpers of God's Precious Infants; which includes a Rosary procession to Cincinnati's branch of Murder, Inc.

Well, today was different.

The local chapter had heard about the start of the 40 Days for Life, and as they are wont to do, didn't want to take it quietly. We heard they were planning a rally for 12:30 this afternoon, so the Pro-Life movement rallied right on back. A few members of a local parish were to be manning the station today for, hopefully, a quiet kickoff to the fall campaign. Fearful it would be overwhelming for them, about 40 or so Pro-Lifers showed up to pray with them, to support one another, and to not let Murder, Inc., get the lead on this.

As they charged out from the back alley, waving signs, chanting slogans; we started praying the rosary, the sorrowful mysteries. We stood aside against the fence while they circled up and down the fence. I led those with us in the calm recitation of the Rosary, while routinely being bumped and chided. (My personal favorite was the guy chanting: 'Keep your Rosaries off our ovaries!' Ummm..... 'Our'?!?!?) We finished the Rosary with American Life League's prayer before a Murder, Inc., facitility and a consecration of the spot to Mary; all the while being chanted down and attempts to mute us came back our way. (One older lady proudly boasted to the other side that she has 14 children; which prompted the response: 'You could have used this place, then!')

TV news coverage was there, I will be interested to see how it is portrayed. I will post the link, if it becomes available.

As I drove back to the office, I thought: 'And we're the angry, 'anti-choice' hate-mongers?' We prayed quietly, we did not try to shove our thoughts down their throats, we stood aside as insults rained down upon us. Not in righteousness, but in offering.

As this new 40 days 4 Life campaign starts, find a center near year and go pray. Don't worry about what you are to say, Jesus promises that He will give you the words. Don't worry about trial and persecution; it is a way of embracing the Cross.

Yeah, I felt a risk, I felt adrenaline coming on as I pulled past Murder, Inc., and parked my car. But the children in those centers have no voice but ours. Who will speak for their 'choice'?

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Hanging with The Fonz!

Last week, diocesan vocation directors from across the country gathered in the great city of Milwaukee for our annual convention, which tends to be a great time, to say the least. (bring together 200 mostly young, extroverted priests, shake, and see what happens......)

Unique for this year was the opportunity presented by gathering with representatives from MATS (Midwest Association of Theological Schools) and NCEA Seminary Division; both sanctioning bodies for Catholic seminaries in this country. It provided a rich opportunity to discuss issues and build relationships between the two groups and to see how we can work together better.

Some of the highlights of the convetion:

1) Anecdotal reports indicate an increase in enrollment in seminaries across the board, with many seminaries reported record enrollment since the early to mid 80's. (One benefit of a continued slide in the economy???)

2) Annual reports continue to indicate that while 80-90% of men being ordained first considered the priesthood upon the recommendation of a priest; only 30% of priests actually invite men to consider it. Into this void, NCDVD has published a second discernment guide: 'Lend Your Voice to Christ.' What this space for a further review shortly.

3) Cardinal George delivered the final keynote address and gave some great points to ponder, very practical ideas in moving forward with attracting vocations.

4) finally, a reminder: It is not up to the vocation director to recruit and attract candidates for the priesthood; it is for every single Catholic! We try to assist you in that endeavor. Pray for that young man you know who might have a vocation, that he might be open to it if God calls; encourage him by word and deed; finally, ask him to consider it, and praise him while doing so. It is an honor to be considered for the priesthood; it is an honor to be used by Our Lord as a conduit for that invitation. If He is asking you to be His spokesman, you have an obligation to do so.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Martha Dinner at Immaculate Heart of Mary

Perhaps you know a young woman who might be called to Religious Life? Please consider inviting her to Immaculate Heart of Mary’s 1st Martha Dinner, providing an opportunity for those interested in Religious Life a chance to meet Sisters and others considering the Vocation.

Young, single, women interested in Religious Life are invited to Immaculate Heart of Mary Parish’s first annual Martha Dinner on Wednesday, September 29, 2010 from 6 - 8:30 p.m. Immaculate Heart of Mary is proud to sponsor a night dedicated to women’s religious vocations. Women from several religious orders will make short presentations and entertain questions about their personal vocation story and everyday life as a religious sister. Please join us for this wonderful and informative night. To be a part of this evening, and dinner, please contact Fr. Robert Hadden at Immaculate Heart of Mary Parish frrobert (at) ihom (dot) org or 513-388-4466.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Inspiring Examples of Aged Faith

Catholic Exchange was once again kind enough to run one of my articles:

Last week, I had the opportunity to con-celebrate Mass with two priests who, together, have 120 years of priestly experience. Only bringing 6 years to the Altar myself, I was somewhat in awe of the two aged servants who have toiled long in the vineyard of the Lord.

As I reflect back on this Mass, and as I have continued to grow in friendship with these two men (who are both old enough to be my grandfather!), I continue to marvel at the great gift of the priesthood for the Church. Here we are, three men from two dramatically different generations, united by a common bond of priesthood, sharing in the one Sacrifice of Our Lord.

As I stood back, I pondered what drew me to these two men. In any other profession or career, I doubt our paths would have crossed. They would both have long since been retired; yet here we were, united by the Altar. I marveled at their deep love for the Eucharist, the joy in celebrating Mass, in preaching to the people, and an obvious love for the Blessed Virgin Mary — whom we were celebrating at this Mass.


Friday, September 3, 2010

Rescuing the Miners

Mary Kochan at Catholic Exchange has an excellent article on the trapped Chilean miners:

In Chile they have started drilling operations to rescue thirty-three miners trapped after the August 5th collapse of the main exit tunnel of the San Jose gold and copper mine.

Thirty-three, 33.

Sometimes the Holy Trinity is very subtle.

This is not one of those times.

The entire world watches with interest, hoping. Because we know they are there.


Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Deo Gratias!

Word reached me late this afternoon that Sacred Heart Radio's attempts at a winning bid for WHSS in Hamilton have proven successful! Thanks to all who offered prayers on behalf of the radio station and to all who made pledges to help make this a reality. While there is still much work to do, it looks as good that Catholic radio continues it's expansion, here into Hamilton, Ohio.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Prayer Bleg

As regular readers of this blog might recognize, I appear on Sacred Heart Radio somewhat frequently. During the Year for Priests, we discussed all of Pope John Paul II's Letters to Priests. I regularly have announcements and blurbs on the station for things in the Vocation Office, too.

As a point of clarification, I also serve on the Board of Directors for the Station, and in that role, I have a prayer favor to ask.

Today, we are bidding on a station in the Hamilton, Ohio, area. (Just north of Cincinnati.) We are after the former Hamilton City Schools station, and apparently there is some competition in the area. Please pray for a successful bid and auction, that if it is God's Will, we might be able to purchase the station with the amount we have pledged and collected from area donors.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

To know the Shepherd

Today's Psalm, Psalm 23: The Lord is my Shepherd...., reminded me of a story.

Both Orson Wells and Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen were at a gathering. The host, recognizing two of the greatest orators to be in his midst, proposed a contest. Each of the two would recite Psalm 23, and the crowd would testify who won.

Orson Wells came first. He read with passion, zeal, power. His booming voice filled the room, holding the crowd in rapt attention. As he completed the last line, applause erupted.

Next, Archbishop Sheen stepped forward. He recited the Psalm from memory, reading it quietly, prayerfully, meditatively. Those in attention strained to hear his voice as he completed the last few lines. When he finished, silence.

The host turned to his wife: Ahh, one knew the Psalm, the other knew the Shepherd.

Are we in touch with the Shepherd of our souls, the author of the Psalm?

Monday, August 16, 2010

On Facebook?

Are you a friend of the Vocation Office?

Where do Priests Come From?

"Do they grow on a farm? No. Are they made in a factory? No. Priests come from God's people. They once were young boys, just like you.

"As children, some of these boys played baseball. Some of them climbed trees. Some of them were altar servers, helping out at Mass. They may have dreamed of becoming an astronaut, a doctor or a fire fighter. But somewhere along the way, these young boys also thought about being a priest."

(from the Introduction)

With this short intro, Elizabeth Ficocelli begins her short children's book: 'Where do Priests Come From?' Sensing a need to address this question among young readers, she walks through the discernment and training of a priest from the time he is the age of the intended readers up through his ordination and the beginning of his priestly ministry. Everything is explained in very simple terms even the youngest of readers should be able to grasp, maybe with the help of a little explanation by the parents. It is also nicely illustrated by Shannon Wirrenga, showing the priest in his day to day life, serving the people of God, but also the reality that priests do take time off to recharge their batteries and reconnect with Our Lord through the taking of his yearly retreat.

I often receive many questions about resources for young families to help form their boys for a potential vocation, or at least open them up to the idea that God might be calling them to something different and unique. (Which is true in every case!) This is a very nice resource to begin these conversations, after all, 'maybe the next young man God calls will be you!'

A special note of thanks to Elizabeth for sending me a review copy, which I will gladly pass along to my nephews.

A gracious thanks to Bezalel Books for publishing this short work, may it bear much fruit both now and in the future!

The Sacrament of Confession and Vocations

Over the weekend, Fr. Z posted a link to 'Transfiguration Today' on the impact of the Sacrament of Confession has on vocations to the prieshtood.

Fr. Bill Baer posted three ways the Sacrament helps to promote vocations:

Specifically, a good confession is the source of a good vocation in at least three ways:

1. God has forgiven me! I recognize His divine, generous, merciful love in this confession, and now my heart wishes to offer generous love toward Him in return.

2. God has forgiven me! Now I wish for others to taste and see this same mercy, perhaps by means of a priestly vocation, through which I might be a channel of God’s ministry of reconciliation to countless others.

3. God has forgiven me! Even though my sins cling to me so closely, and I consider myself far from ready to enter a vocation of celibacy, of religious poverty, chastity, and obedience … nevertheless, I have witnessed Christ Jesus beginning a good work in me in the Sacrament of Reconciliation, a work that might one day be brought to perfection!

These simple statements could not be more true. Any response of a vocation has this same progression:

1) an awareness that, despite one's sins, God still has a powerful and dynamic love for you; and He calls us all to greatness, no matter the vocation.

2) a desire to share: When one experiences this deep and profound Love of God, it is, in a sense, too grand to keep to one's self, it must be shared. This is the example of the saints whose striving for holiness attracted others to imitate them.

3) perfection in Christ: perhaps the most difficult, but slowly the realization dawns, sometimes not until after one is ordained, married, professed, that God is able to marvelous things through you. Not because you are particularly talented or gifted, but rather that the desire has been fostered to echo John the Baptist: HE must increase, I must decrease. In other words, let the Spirit flow where He will, try to stay out of the way and go along for the ride.

Finally, Fr. Baer has these words of wisdom:

If your parish is attempting to promote vocations among your young people, don’t waste your time on slick and silly programs. Get the youth back into God’s good graces. Get them back within earshot of the Holy Spirit.

God does the calling, we have to provide opportunities for Him to meet these young souls, souls in growth, souls open to a unique and powerful Grace. Certainly, the Confessional (in addition to periods of Adoration) is an opportune place for this encounter to happen.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Surfin' the Net

to bring stories of interest from around the World Wide InterWeb:

First, Dr. Peter Kreeft from the Integrated Catholic Life on Discernment:

Does God have one right choice for me in each decision I make?

When we pray for wisdom to discern God's will when it comes to choosing a mate, a career, a job change, a move, a home, a school, a friend, a vacation, how to spend money, or any other choice, big or little, whenever there are two or more different paths opening up before us and we have to choose, does God always will one of those paths for us? If so, how do we discern it?

Many Christians who struggle with this question today are unaware that Christians of the past can help them from their own experience. Christian wisdom embodied in the lives and teachings of the saints tells us two things that are relevant to this question.....

Secondly, Dan Egan at Bible Tidbits on 'Fishers and Shepherds in the Old Testament':

There are some phrases that we hear so often we never stop to ponder their meaning or where they come from. In the Gospel of Mark this year we will hear the phrase "fishers of men." Where does this come from and what does it mean?

The idea "fishing for men" comes originally from Jeremiah 16 - The context is that the 12 tribes of Israel are scattered among the nations and are there in bondage, just like they were in Egypt. So God is planning a new Exodus to bring them out of the nations, which will be greater than when He brought them out of Egypt....

Finally, from Fish Eaters, 'The Truth about Men and Church':

Most of us, I suspect, are not great students of "the small print." We employ lawyers and accountants because we recognize that carefully constructed small print may contain disclaimers, definitions, and information that effectively drive a coach and horses through our assumptions about the general argument and make utterly null and void the common understanding that we thought we had. Allow me to introduce you to a piece of very small print.

Not many will have whiled away the long winter evenings by reading "The demographic characteristics of the linguistic and religious groups in Switzerland" by Werner Haug and Phillipe Warner of the Federal Statistical Office, Neuchatel. It appears in Volume 2 of Population Studies No. 31, a book titled The Demographic Characteristics of National Minorities in Certain European States, edited by Werner Haug and others, published by the Council of Europe Directorate General III, Social Cohesion, Strasbourg, January 2000. Phew!....

Thursday, August 5, 2010

The Calling

From 'The Power of Life, Inc.,' comes a 10:00 minute video on the calling to the priesthood:

Snow? In August?

Yep! Today is the joint feast of the Dedication of St. Mary Major in Rome and of Our Lady of Snows.

Why joint?

The link above describes:

The first church here was founded in the 350's by Pope Liberius, and financed by a Roman patrician and his wife. They were childless, and had decided to leave their fortune to the Blessed Virgin. She appeared to them in a dream and told them to build a church in her honour. It lies on the summit of the Esquiline Hill, which was mainly laid out as gardens in ancient times. Legend claims that the plan of the church was outlined by a miraculous snowfall in August (possibly in 358). The legend is commemorated every year on 5 August, when white rose petals are dropped from the dome during the Mass.

Pope Sixtus III had it restored, or more likely rebuilt, to commemorate the declaration of St Mary's Divine Motherhood by the Council of Ephesus in 432.

The church was damaged in the earthquake of 1348, and restored some years later.

See video of the 'snow fall' from today's Mass:

By the by, this was the Church in which Mom stood agape by it's size and beauty. When informed 'this is the small one,' she looked at me askance. Well, at least until we entered St. Peter's. Then she knew I wasn't pulling her leg!

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Many are Called

The fruits of the 'Year for Priests' continue to ripen on the vine.

One such fruit that I recently had the joy of reading is Dr. Scott Hahn's 'Many are Called: Rediscovering the Glory of the Priesthood.'

In his typical style of weaving both the Old and New Covenant together in a modern language, Dr. Hahn lays out the biblical perspective of the priesthood for the present day. Yet, he also covers many of the current 'hot button' issues, not shying away, but giving a beautiful interpretation of priest as father, mediator, provider, teacher, warrior, judge, bridgegroom, celibate father and brother. (To give the titles of the chapters included.)

Perhaps the best aspect of the book is his weaving together of his own story as a former Presbyterian Pastor, and the difficulties therein, and how his appreciation for a celibate priesthood has grown in his years leading up to and after his conversion. To be a father of a family is to give your life for your children; Dr. Hahn outlines the ways that the priest as celibate father gives life to his spiritual family, in both spiritual and material ways.

But at the bottom line, he articulates that which every priest recognizes: the priest is a regular man, called to something greater. Why is it that God calls certain men and not others? We will never know (at least on this side of the curtain), but yet this is how God's plan of salvation continues to be worked out in the Church and in the world.

I would highly recommend this book for those discerning a call to the priesthood, as well as for a parish adult faith formation group who would like to come to a deeper understanding of aspects of the Catholic Priesthood that so often are maligned or misunderstood.

Dr. Hahn's website is here.

Purchase the book from Barnes and Noble here.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

The Battle for Prayer

Making a rare Monday appearance, join Son Rise Morning Show host Brian Patrick and me as we discuss my latest for both Catholic Exchange and The Catholic Telegraph tomorrow morning at 8:00. Listen in locally on 740 AM or online at

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

The Heart that Prays is the Heart that Loves

My latest missive runs today at Catholic Exchange, and will eventually appear in the Catholic Telegraph:

‘In the New Covenant, prayer is the living relationship of the children of God with their Father who is good beyond measure, with his Son Jesus Christ and with the Holy Spirit.’ With these words, from the introduction to the fourth section of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, we are reminded that the life of the Catholic Christian is not simply about blindly following a set of rules, but is ultimately about being drawn deeper into unity with our Triune God.

For those who have read it, this last section of the Catechism is amazingly beautiful, as it is profound. Describing the joys and struggles of personal prayer, as well as the history and development of prayer in the Scriptures and life of the Church, it provides a wonderful basis for all of us wishing to grow in prayer; for left alone, we do not know how to pray as we ought.

While there is much to recommend, I want to focus on one section: paragraphs 2725-2745, entitled ‘The Battle of Prayer.’ Acknowledging that ‘prayer is both a gift of grace and a determined response on our part,’ these paragraphs affirm that prayer is not always easy, sometimes there is dryness in prayer and the heart aches for a response from God, yet only silence is heard. When one experiences such things, it is tempting to think that the method one is using for prayer is wrong or that God has somehow left you alone in the desert to wander on your own.

Rather, it is often the case that God might be asking for strength and discipline in prayer, refining the impure motivations and helping to dispose the heart to be set only on Him. Many of the spiritual masters in our tradition talk of prayer like a muscle, that unless it is exercised, it will atrophy and disintegrate. Then when need arises and one turns to prayer, nothing happens. The will has been so weakened, it is unable to respond, truly a frightening proposition!

But the Catechism gives some helpful guidance in this regard. In the face of difficulty in prayer, the Church calls for vigilance. The bridegroom comes in the middle of the night, and blessed are those who are prepared for his return. This vigilance calls for an attentiveness of heart to the promptings of the Spirit, but the heart will only hear those promptings if it has been conditioned to do so.

The Catechism also highlights temptations found in a lack of faith and acedia. The prior is getting caught up in the cares and concerns of this world, only turning to the Lord as a last resort, highlighted by the phrase: ‘I have tried everything else, I might as well pray.’ Perhaps if we had the habit of praying first, God would help us find the pathway out of this particular mess quicker! Acedia, on the other hand, is becoming too comfortable, a ‘lax ascetical practice.’ In this, the will is not conditioned to deny itself, untrained by fasting and almsgiving; even the smallest temptations are unable to be resisted.

As we grow in prayer, three fruits begin to manifest: trust, hope and charity. The heart that prays trusts in God’s providential care that no matter the storm, the Loving Father will help you to see it through to the end. In essence, ‘Do not tell God how big the storm is, but rather tell the storm how big God is!’ The heart that prays is formed to hope that that there is more here than meets the eye. It recognizes that this world is not all there is, but that there is a paradise awaiting on the other side. Finally, the heart that prays is the heart that loves. It is the power of love for both God and our fellow men that enables the heart conditioned by prayer to persevere over difficulty for the sake of the other, that they too might dwell in God’s Eternal Home in the life to come.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Christmas in July?

Last week, the whole Schnippel Clan finally got together in celebration of mom and dad's 40th Anniversary of Marriage. (Their anniversary was in April, but we had this trip planned out in celebration for some time, as it was the best slot that worked for all of us.)

Seeing as how we come from Western Ohio, Cincinnati and Eastern Iowa; we tried to find a place that was (somewhat) convenient for all and settled on Holiday World in Santa Claus, Indiana. (Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus, Indiana.)

We left a week ago this past Sunday and returned on Wednesday, July 21. And while my snarky side really wants to come out, we did end up having a pretty good time, all in all. (which is no small feat when you bring 31 different personalities together!)

The reason for my post, however, is that Holiday World makes no apologies about being a Christian environment. There is a large nativity set displayed prominently upon entering the park, the dress code is strictly enforced: nothing too revealing (i didn't venture into the water park), no offensive slogans on t-shirts, etc. One of the sound stages was playing Praise and Worship music during the day. The park was clean and well kept, the staff very friendly and cooperative, and best of all: free drinks! They have Pepsi Oasis stations around the park, go in, grab a cup and fill-er-up. When it is well into the 90's, as it was last week, these are life-savers!

If you are looking for a good, family-friendly vacation spot in the eastern Mid-West, consider Holiday World.

A Special Thanks

goes to the Knights of Columbus of the Archdiocese of Cincinnati.

On Saturday, July 17, the Knights of Columbus from the Archdiocese gathered for the annual State Officer Training/State Tour, something like that. Anyway, it was mostly the heads of the local councils to bring them up to speed on what the initiatives and agendas will be for the upcoming year.

Over the last few years, the state treasurer presents the diocesan vocation office with the funds collected from the diocese through the Knights' Pennies from Heaven Campaign. (Side note: the Pennies from Heaven is the jar that the Knights pass around during their meetings and they collect the spare change and pennies from members' pockets; all to be presented to the local Vocation Office.) This year, I was presented with a check for a little over $15,000, which we can all agree is a bunch of pennies!

We use this money for our media outreach and development, setting it aside until we can do something big with it. Past examples: the revisions that brought about when I came on board four years ago were paid for out of these funds. The 'Man Behind the Collar' videos were paid for out of these funds. The upcoming revisions to the main page of the Vocation Office are also funded by this. We use any left over funds to support the production of our annual Vocation Awareness Week Materials as well. We try to stretch each penny to it's max, and I think we have been successful in developing a good product with what we have been given.

As I had a Mass that I needed to get back for, I was going to leave right after the check presentation (I know, ingrateful lout that I am!). However, they told me to hold on for a few minutes.

Unaware, I sat back down to be awarded with the 'Religious of the Year' award from the Knights in Archdiocese of Cincinnati for my work in the Vocation Office: helping raise the awareness of the importance of vocations, for diligience in traveling far and wide for the work of the office, and for the long hours it seems I work. (Yes, Dad, more than three hours a week!)

I was truly humbled and thankful for the recognition. However, as I said in my remarks upon receiving the award, I truly feel that this is just what I have been obliged to do. I very much enjoy the work I get to do as Vocation Director, and am just trying to be a servant in the vineyard of the Lord.

Anyway, a special note of thanks for all that the Knights of Columbus, both here locally and nationally, do to support vocations to the priesthood.

Fr. Michael McGivney, Pray for us!

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Thank a Priest

Dr. John Zmirak, author of the riotessly funner 'Bad Catholic's Guide to ....' series, has an article over at Inside Catholic: 'In a State of Grace? Thank a Priest!'

His second paragraph, after talking about the joys priests have in celebrating the Eucharist, states:

I cannot imagine taking the same satisfaction in hearing confessions. In the church where I go to be shriven here in New Hampshire -- no, it's not my parish . . . I don't evacuate where I eat -- the priest who faithfully staffs the booth each Saturday sounds like he's in his 70s. His old voice creaks through the grille, gentle but serious, and on my way out after penance I find myself wondering about the man. What path drew him to this place? Is he sick at heart, after all these years, of hearing week in and week out how stubborn and irreformable are our hearts? How is his health? And then, more selfishly: What will we do without him?

Truthfully, this is one of the hardest things for laity to understand. Until you sit 'in the box' and hear Confessions, you can never know how you will react, and the graces that flow directly in front of your eyes during these moments. Many priests, this humble scribe included, report never feeling more like a priest than when sitting in the box, 'shriving' the faithful.

Why is this? First, as mentioned, grace is palpable in this Sacrament. Hearts open up before you, not because of any particular talent or gift you may have as a priest, but simply because you are a priest. It is in the Confessional that the priest is truly called to be an 'Icon of Christ,' merely a bridge between this person and the saving grace of Our Lord on the Cross. It is humbling that some will tell me their deepest, darkest sins and fears, faults and failings, not for me to hear, but for Christ to hear. To offer a bit of counseling, at which I often feel very inadequate, and to echo the prayer of Absolution. I tell you, I can often feel the power of Christ channeling through.

Does this mean that every Confession is like this? Unfortunately not. Some, one can tell, are reciting the same laundry list of sins since their First Confession. Yes, they are there, but as a priest, I want to work with them to get at the heart of those sins that they might not fall back into the same traps. Some, I can tell (and I do not have the gift of reading hearts, that would be very scary!) only mention a few minor things, and I wonder what else is there. (Six months between Confessions, and all you've done is look cross-eyed once?!?! Should I start the canonization process now?) It happens infrequently, but does happen that some confesses something but does not have firm purpose of amendment to change their ways, and yes I have refused absolution, but only very rarely and never lightly, as a way of trying to help bring about the conversion. I hope and pray I was right in these situations.

One last point: anonymity and 'remembering' the sin. As priests, there are particular graces that do help priests forget the sins, whether face to face or behind the screen. Plus, I know I make a conscious effort not to remember, but when I am finished with my 'session' in the box, try to say a short prayer before the Blessed Sacrament: 'Lord, these were offered to you, I place them at your feet that you might take them all and forgive these sins offered in hope.'

It helps me, and I imagine other priests have their own way of coping, too.

That, and we hear so many confessions, it is hard to remember what went with who. In the box, you're not that important, Jesus is.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Why Visit Rome?

Having returned from a visit to Rome, my fifth visit to the Eternal City, I have recapped the events of the journey, but am yet to offer the 'why' of a visit.
Why should a Catholic, otherwise of good standing, visit the Eternal City? It is certainly not a requirement, for many a good Catholic, even Saints of the modern times, have never visited. But ask anyone who has journeyed to the Tombs of the Apostles, and they will relate a lasting impact.
What is this lasting impact? I have five thoughts:
1) Universality. To visit Rome is to experience the universality of the Church, which is rarely experienced in the local parish. At the Pallium Mass on the Feast of Sts. Peter and Paul, 38 Archbishops from all five inhabited continents were present: the Americas, Europe, Asia and Africa; each bringing his own local flavor and character; exemplifying 'unity in diversity.' For while there were many languages spoken, we were united in Latin and by our common Faith in Christ Jesus under the leadership of the Holy Father.
A quick story illustrates: While the pilgrimage group was in St. John Lateran Basilica, a priest approached me and asked in, I think, either Italian or French, if I could hear a few confessions. Um..., 'Inglese?' Nope, he didn't speak English. German? AH! We have found a common language and could discuss what was needed. He was a chaplain of a small boys boarding school, high school or college, I couldn't tell which, and the eight or so young men would like to avail themselves of the Sacrament. I couldn't accomadate, as I don't speak French, but here we were, all pilgrims from various lands, seeking out a commong heritage.
2) Historicity. The Catholic Faith lives and breathes History, and in fact is the author of so much history. To visit Rome is to be steeped in the movement of the Spirit across the sands of time. It is a relatively short walk from the Mamertime Prison, where St. Peter was held prior to his trial, to the famous basilica bearing his name. In Rome, it is so easy to make those connections, to walk the levels of history to experience the growth of the faith from a persecuted minority, the Church of the Martyrs, to some small remnants of the medi-eval times, through the glory of the Renaissance and the emergence of the Modern Papacy, and so much inbetween.
Yet, it is not just the 'impressive' stuff, that attracts. The tomb of Philip and James are kinda off the beaten path and you have to know they are there to find them. The smaller Churches in and around Rome fostered the devotion of countless saints and heroes in the faith, many of whom have been lost to the passage of history. The Catacombs reveal a tenderness for the body which we have lost today. Yet, in all of this, one recognizes very clearly: Catholicism loves history, embraces her past and looks forward to the future.
3) The Papacy. We have been blessed in the last 30 years with exceptional Popes, and one could easily extend that over the last 100 plus years. Freed from the confines and trappings of the Papal States (even if I did not honor the tomb of Vittor Emmanuel in the Pantheon!), the Modern Papacy has had some of the clearest teachers and defenders of the Faith among those who have sat on the Throne of Peter. What treasures they are. It has been an honor to be at Masses celebrated by both Pope John Paul II and Benedict XVI, and while it is the same Mass, the same Lord Jesus Christ as is present at any Mass, to experience the charisma of JPII and the quiet power of BXVI is to experience the Mass in fullness. What a blessing it is that we have been given the Papacy, men to lead us through the trials and tribulations of the Modern World and to constantly remind what it is to be Christian and Catholic. Long Live the Pope!
4) Cultures. One of the charms of the Eternal City is the mixing of many cultures present therein. To walk from the Flavian Ampitheatre (aka Colosseum) up the Via Forii Imperiali, past the Vittor Emmanuel Moment (aka Wedding Cake) and continue past the Gesu to St. Peter's and the Vatican is to experience 2000+ years of cultural development, and how the Church has 'inculcated' herself across time, even in the face of difficulty. The Church does not exist in a vacuum, but has constantly upheld what was good in the culture in which she dwelt, while simultaneously challenging that which was evil. I thought of this as I passed a Methodist Church yesterday while driving back to the parish. The sign on the door: 'Open hearts, Open minds, Open doors.' Yes, fine, ok; come as you are; but with Catholicism one must add: 'be conformed to Christ, Crucified!' The Church has always been the leavening agent to bring Him into what we do.
5) Art. (possibly tied with the last point.....) Rome is a city of Art, and so much of it free to view. At the dawn of the modern age, the Church was the patron of the Arts, she commissioned the best and brightest artists of the day to compose phenomenal works that still imbibe a passion: the Pieta, the Sistine Chapel, works of Caravaggio, the Gesu, etc, etc. The Church has seen these as part of not only her patrimony, but the patrimony of the human race, expressing in form St. Augustine's maxim: 'Our hearts are restless until they rest in you, O Lord.' We have all heard the critique that 'the Church should sell off all those works and give the money to the poor!' (Haven't we heard this before, from lips I don't want to be quoting!) Yet, if the Church did indeed sell the Pieta to the highest bidder, one would no longer have the free access to see one of the most powerful sculptures ever made. What would be the cost of admission to that museum, if it was even shown?
I am sure there are more, this is what I could think of for the day. Every time I visit, I see something new, experience something deeper and come home enriched in my faith and more in love with the Church. Hopefully those who have not yet made it to Rome will experience something of the Eternal City in these humble reflections.