Wednesday, December 28, 2011

The New Translation and a Culture of Vocations

My latest for the Catholic Telegraph, which is featuring their annual Vocation Issue this month:

As the implementation of the new translation of the Roman Missal neared, I was often asked what impact I thought it would have on vocations to the priesthood and religious life. While it seemed that some felt the new, more elevated translation might drive some away from pursuing the priesthood, it is my thought that it will actually do the opposite and draw more young men and women to recognize the possibility of a priestly or religious vocation.

There are several reasons for this possibility. First, over the last two years, we have had such a focus on the importance and centrality of the Eucharistic celebration in our identity as Catholics. Hopefully, this has led all of us to a deeper and more profound love for Christ and His Church. This love is what ultimately creates those initial stirrings of a vocation and provides the strength to overcome those sometimes tedious moments during formation when it all seems too much.

Also, a priest friend recently relayed an encounter he had with a parishioner, who admitted that the new translation was forcing her to listen with a more attentive ear. But she also admitted that this was not a bad thing! Yes, the language is ‘higher,’ more poetic and the syntax can be difficult at times; but these are the exact attributes which engage the mind, the heart, the imagination, the desire to learn and grow deeper into what is being celebrated. As we have now entered into these changes, we (priest and laity alike) can no longer just skate through Mass easily, we have to be much more intentional about the words we are praying. Again, the words will shape the heart which will ultimately, hopefully, engage the heart in the stirring of that desire to know Christ, personally, profoundly.

On a further note, the language of the new translation is one of supplication and pleading; rather than one of the sometime presumptuous found in the now outdated translation. I think this is mostly a result of the change from active to passive voice in the newer translation; but in reading the prayers, in meditating over them, as a priest, I get the sense that I do this with a certain amount of fear and trembling before the God of the Universe. It strikes me that the recognition of a vocation often requires a similar approach. One does not presume to take on the priesthood for oneself, but has been called forth to this life by God Himself; mystery surrounds why I was invited to this and not my brother; for instance. (To be clear, I am not denigrating the outgoing translation which nourished my own priestly vocation, just trying to understand the differences between the two.)

It is this encounter with the Living God is the source of any true vocation: priesthood, consecrated, single or married life. Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen was quoted as saying that men, in discerning the priesthood, will not give their life to a question mark, but they are willing to give their lives to a mystery.

As we grow more accustomed to this new translation, as we are formed by the words and actions of the Sacred Liturgy, as we meditate and pray over the mysteries being celebrated; let us all experience that awe inspiring mystery of the One True God, that He might lead us all through our pilgrimage of life closer to Himself.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

What, Tom's son?

The reaction when I felt a call to the seminary and priesthood was mostly positive; but one reaction from an Aunt of mine really caught me off guard: 'What, Tom's son?'

In his younger years, dad was a bit of a party animal.  I would repeat some of his stories here, but it is a family blog, so well, you know.  (Not that anything was illegal, rather more impish; so yes, I come by it honestly.)

I thought of that reaction at Mass this morning as I read the Genealogy of Jesus as found in the Gospel According to St. Matthew:

Nahshon the father of Salmon,
Salmon the father of Boaz,
whose mother was Rahab.
Boaz became the father of Obed,
whose mother was Ruth.
Obed became the father of Jesse,
Jesse the father of David the king.

David became the father of Solomon,
whose mother had been the wife of Uriah.
Solomon became the father of Rehoboam,
Rehoboam the father of Abijah,
Abijah the father of Asaph.
Asaph became the father of Jehoshaphat,
Jehoshaphat the father of Joram,
Joram the father of Uzziah.
Uzziah became the father of Jotham,
Jotham the father of Ahaz,
Ahaz the father of Hezekiah.
Hezekiah became the father of Manasseh,
Manasseh the father of Amos,
Amos the father of Josiah.
Josiah became the father of Jechoniah and his brothers
at the time of the Babylonian exile.

Not exactly the list of characters, if you were going through the Bible, whom you would choose as ancestors of the Son of God.  Rahab was a harlot and prostitute.  The kings were ruthless murders, cutthroats and thieves; among others!

Yet, these are the human ancestors of Jesus.  This is his family heritage.  I hope it gives some solace to those families who have a less than perfect record, that even 'Tom's son' can make it to be a decent priest.  God works in mysterious ways, as we stand one week outside of Christmas; let Him work in your family, too.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Fulfill the Ministry

The Vocation Office is glad to announce a new effort to help in the financial support of Vocations to the Priesthood for the Archdiocese of Cincinnati: Run for the Call!

The idea was developed after 'nun runs,' but with a bit of a twist: Priests, seminarians and those interested in supporting seminarians running the Flying Pig Marathon to gather donations and support for our seminarians in need of financial assistance.   (and before you ask, I'm giving moral support from the sidelines!)

More details will be forth coming in the next few months until the Pig, but if you are interested, see the site here.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Immaculate Conception Chapel at Mount St. Mary's of the West, Cincinnati, Ohio

This past Thursday, on the Patronal Feast of Mount St. Mary's Seminary, of the West, Archbishop Schnurr reconsecrated the Immaculate Conception Chapel for the private and devotional use of the seminarians.  The sanctuary is pictured above, for more pictures, see here.

Monday, November 28, 2011

The Hidden Sacrifice of the Priesthood

Often when I do presentations on vocations to the priesthood and religious life, the introduction includes the instruction to pray for our priests and religious because they have given up so much in order to respond to their call. While it is true that the life of a priest is a particular form of sacrificial living in giving up the good things of the natural world, there are certainly many blessings that nourish the priest both spiritually and emotionally during the course of his ministry in the Church. I would think, based on seeing so many religious who exhibit that deep seated joy in Christ, that they have a similar experience.

However, there is a sometimes hidden cost of responding to a priestly or religious vocation that becomes quite evident this time of year, but not necessarily for the priest or religious, but for his or her family. Because of our responsibilities and assignments, we often miss family gatherings during the holidays, or when we get there, we are so tired and worn down, all we want to do is sleep; yet nieces and nephews, brothers and sisters, parents are all excited to see you and want to hear about what we have been doing.

But especially for members of religious communities, even this is not an option. Often stationed in houses around the globe, families have to make due with a two week ‘home visit’ at different points during the year. In between, hand written letters are often the only means of communication that goes between family and the professed. While the evident joy can temper some of the feelings of loss in the rest of the family, there is still something missing when that son or daughter’s chair remains empty during Christmas Dinner.

On the contrary, there certainly are many blessings that can come to the family of a priest or religious. I know my mother enjoys seeing people she meets make the connection that she is ‘Fr. Schnippel’s mother’ and my father’s favorite pastime is greeting me after Mass with a hearty: ‘Well done, Son!’ (and my sheepish reply: ‘Thanks, Father.’) Plus, family weddings and baptisms take on a special significance when celebrated by your brother or uncle, and it was a particular joy to me to receive my brother’s wedding vows while I was still a deacon.

Despite these great blessings, families of priests and religious can still sometimes feel left out. Perhaps with the upcoming Christmas season, it might make for an excellent awareness to thank those families from among your parishes and friends who have sacrificed in such a way in supporting a son or daughter in their call to the priesthood or religious life.

After all, priestly and religious vocations are not the product solely of one family, but naturally grow forth from a vibrant parish and school life. There is a pride that comes to the whole parish when a son is ordained or a daughter professed; helping a family who greatly loves, yet greatly misses, their child, brother or sister aunt or uncle; is certainly a great way to acknowledge that the fostering of a vocation is too important a task to be left to just one family. It is the responsibility of all.

During this Christmas Season, may Christ richly reward all those who have helped to foster a vocation!

For more on how families and parishes can foster vocations to the priesthood and religious life, please visit

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Collin Raye, A Christmas Musical

December 7, Collin Raye will perfrom a Christmas Musical Event at the 20th Century Theatre in Cincinnati's Oakley Neighborhood, benefiting the Terri Schiavo Foundation.  Looks to be a great time.

Tickets and more information can be found here:

Saturday, November 19, 2011

The Miracle of Life, Mathematical Edition

At nearly ten minutes, it is a fairly long clip for a youtube video, but well worth it. He has reconstructed the conception, maturation and birth process simply by looking at the mathematical data currently available, and readily admits that this is way more complicated that we can truly understand. As my mother just quipped, how can you look at this and not be Pro-Life? Found through New Advent linking to this page at Live Action.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Fr. Barron on the New Roman Missal

I've used the new translation a few times in private Masses just to prepare for the implementation.  Certainly, the new text has a greater poetry than the existing translation.  Because of this, however, there are certain parts where you expect words to be in a certain order, but they are reversed.  It is going to take a great deal of discipline to focus on the text in such a way to get the words all right, and in the correct order.

That being said, I am greatly looking forward to the implementation, as this new translation feels to be more prayerful, especially with the stronger link to quaesemus... clauses, ie: 'Grant, we pray, that...'  There is a much stronger reflection that we approach prayer in fear and trembling, that God is the author of our prayer and He draws us deeper, closer to Himself in prayer; the liturgy is not ours, but Christ's.

As a further note, I am presenting on a few thoughts about the Mass this Thursday at St. Jude's Catholic Church on Bridgetown Road, Cincinnati, at 7:30.  It would be great to have a nice crowd present.

Monday, November 14, 2011

The World is Usually in Crisis, and today is no exception

I'm a bit late on this, but please read Fr. Benedict O'Cinnsealaigh's address from his installation as President/Rector of the Athenaeum of Ohio/Mount St. Mary's of the West, Cincinnati, Ohio.

It really is something else, a great vision of our times and how to move forward.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Radio Double Play

Tomorrow, I'm resuming a media blitz:

7:20 AM on Sacred Heart Radio and the Son Rise Morning Show across the EWTN Global Catholic Radio Network to discuss Sunday's readings. Listen online at

5:30 to 6:00 PM on Radio Maria to discuss our efforts in the Vocation Office. Listen online at, I think.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Diamonds in the Rough

My latest runs in the Catholic Telegraph:

Liturgically, November is certainly my favorite month. Beginning with the two great celebrations of All Saint’s Day and All Soul’s Day and usually concluding with the start of the new liturgical year, there are many things to celebrate and we are naturally called to focus on the question during these last weeks of the Church year of just where we might end up in the life to come: does the pattern of my life and the way that I have cooperated with Christ indicate that I will take the elevator up or down when called to account?

While there are many criteria that are used to define who, officially, makes it into the choirs of heaven, there is one thing that unites them all. It is not that they were perfect, have a particular talent, academic ability, or lived in a particular time or location; saints have come from every land and every age of the Church. Rather, what unites all those who are venerated as saints is that they have a deep, profound and lasting love for Jesus Christ. When Jesus turns and looks at Peter towards the end of the Gospel according to St. John, it is not a question of ‘How could you betray me even after I warned you?’ Rather, Jesus looks at Peter in that deep love and asks him to simply reaffirm that love back: ‘Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?’ ‘Yes, Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you!’ Certainly our goal on this earth is to be able to echo this same statement of faith.

The challenge that this presents, however, is that it becomes very difficult to identify this deep and profound love in those we meet. While this identification will certainly manifest in outward action, it may not always be easy to spot. Among some, this manifestation will be very evident; among others, it may not be so.

In my particular work as Vocation Director, this reality has to be kept in mind, for it is easy to only keep tabs on those who manifest great talent among the Christian people, those who have that personality that simply attracts others to Christ. In working with parishioners, this is often the criteria that are used to identify potential candidates.

Yet, strangely, it is often that quieter young man, the one who is not so much for the limelight, but does the right thing anyway, especially when no one is looking, who forms the backbone of our clergy. So often, we get caught up in looking for the next Pope John Paul II that we miss the St. John Vianney in our midst.

Instead of walking the world stage, as Blessed John Paul II did so marvelously, St. John Vianney toiled in the relative obscurity of a backwoods French town for years. While he achieved a certain fame, he just toiled in the confessional for longer hours, striving only to build up his little corner of the Kingdom of God.

What is needed in our Church today is this ‘worker bee’ mentality. We need men to be priests who will do what needs to be done simply because it is there for the doing. While there are glamorous aspects of the priesthood, more often , the days (just like those of parents) are long, tiring and tedious. It is in these days that true holiness shines through.

Pray for these men to be raised up as priests. Be on the lookout for that quiet, dedicated young man who simply does what is required. These are the men who will lead not just by voice, but by their more powerful example of life. These are the diamonds in the rough who shine so brightly in the Eternal Crown of Our Lord.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Data Dump, Mid October Edition

Lots has been happening, so to catch up:

The rumors are true: my 19th niece/nephew is on the way!  Friday night confirmed that my sister Tania is expecting her 5th.  This news, of course, prompted my mother to look at my other siblings and remark: "Isn't 19 a horrible number to land on for grandchildren?  Doesn't 20 have a much better ring to it?"

Last Thursday night saw the official charter of the Serra Club of Sidney/St. Marys Deaneries, which marks the northern two deaneries of the Archdiocese of Cincinnati.  It was a great evening, with much celebration, and a wonderful reflection on the Call to the Priesthood by Bishop Binzer to culminate the night.  Thanks to all who worked so tirelessly to make it happen.

Yesterday, (October 16) saw the inauguration of Fr. Benedict O'Cinnsealaigh as the 35th President/Rector of Mount St. Mary's Seminary of the West and the Athenaeum of Ohio.  Here's hoping he publishes that speech, it was absolutely fantastic!

(Oh, the Seminary has a new web presence, too; be sure to check it out.)

Tomorrow, I am visiting our college seminarians at the Pontifical College Josephinum, which is always a good time.

This week the Vocation Office is hosting two Andrew Dinners: Wednesday at Our Lady of Victory in Delhi and Thursday at St. Helen's in Dayton; doors open by 5:30, grub at 6:00, all done by 8:00.

Thursday is also the priest's convocation at Incarnation, Centerville.  Pray for us that day, would you?

This coming weekend marks quite a few events:

1) Parrhesia Conference Saturday, October 22, at St. Peter in Chains Cathedral.

2) Deep in History Conference, Oct. 21-23 at the Hilton Easton, Columbus.  I'll once again be leading the Holy Hour Saturday night, if you are there, stop by and say hi.

3) Cast Your Nets - Dayton is Sunday, October 23, 2011, at St. Luke's, Beavercreek, featuring Tony Melendez.  Again, stop by and say Hi if you're there.

Next Monday, I leave, with a priest buddy, for six days of much needed vacation in the Big Apple.  Why we're going to the city that never sleeps when I need more sleep than usual is besides me, but more importantly: what should two mid-western priests see and/or do while in the Capital of the World?

Friday, October 14, 2011

#GratefulTweet Campaign

If you following the Twitter Timeline over there ---> on the right of the screen, you've hopefully seen the #GratefulTweet Day N.:  along with something that I am grateful for on that day.

Admitedly, I shamelessly (hey, what's the world wide interweb for but shamelessly stealing someone else's idea and passing it off as your own?) stole the idea from Matt Swaim, who produces The Son Rise Morning Show at Cincinnati's Catholic Radio: Sacred Heart Radio.

Several others have picked up on the 'Grateful Tweet' campaign; let's make it a Trending Topic, shall we?

From Matt's feed, there are a few simple ground rules:

1. First Tweet of the Day is to be the '#GratefulTweet' to start the day off with a positive spin.  This can be anything, but something you are grateful for, even on the worse days, there's gotta be something.

2. While the challenge is to come up with something each day, if you miss one day, keep on tracking where you left off.

3. Challenge your followers to do the same!

That's about it, really.

So if you're wondering what to do with your Twitter feed (I'm looking at you, Rich!), if all you do is post how awesome your cat is, or just wanna get in the frey to make the interwebs a friendlier place; have at it and #GratefulTweet away!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Jibber Jabber at Mass

This morning on Facebook, I posted a little note re: moms bringing little ones to Mass and the usual 'Jibber Jabber' that goes with it.

The on-going conversation thread afterwards was interesting, especially from the moms who struggle to bring little ones to Mass as they feel it is distracting, and they sometimes get stares from others who are in attendance.

I think there are a few things happening here:

1) Especially in bigger Churches, voices echo like crazy.  Part of a toddler's growth and development (DISCLAIMER: NOT A CHILD PSYCHOLOGIST!!!!!) is learning to interact with their environment.  When they hear that echo, they can't help but make some noise.  For me, this is not interruptive.  I can usually speak louder than a toddler and still get my point across.  Also, it is important to have little ones in the presence of Our Lord, as I quipped: they speak directly to Him!  So, to the rest of us: Suffer the little children!

2) To those who grumble, DEAL WITH IT!  You were likely there once and shouldn't we rejoice, as a Pro-Life People, at the gift of life and little lives, especially?

3) Now, a screaming, wailing child is an entirely different matter.  These children I can't yell over, cause it just encourages them to get louder.  Feel free to take them out back to calm them down, deal with whatever made them so angry and come back in when you can.  Anyone who has been around children should understand.  THEY ARE NOT ROBOTS!  They're not even dogs who are trainable.  We all understand and no, you are not a bad parent because your child screamed out bloody murder at Mass.  It is their way of getting attention, give it to them.

4) Some of the most humerous things I remember about my family involve my nieces and nephews (soon to be 18) doing goofy stuff, even at Mass.  A few weeks ago, two nieces (cousins, not sisters) were sitting on the floor across the main aisle making faces at each other during the recessional at the end of Mass.  I just stopped and looked down at both of them and laughed and then kept on going.

4.b) My oldest sister has a brother-in-law who was ordained to the priesthood when I was in high school (serving his Mass of Thanksgiving might have had something to do with my own vocation, don't ya think?)  During that Mass, my nephew (and Godson) started screaming bloody murder.  So, up he goes into mom's arms and starts to be carried out the back.  Well inarticulate screams turned into very distinct yells: "DON'T SPANK MY BUTT, MOMMY!!!!" repeated down the side aisle (which was now roughly FIVE MILES long for my sister.  I think I heard her mumble, even from up on the Altar: "Well, I wasn't going to, but now....."

Morale of the Story: Life Happens.  With kids, life often takes unexpected turns.  Enjoy the ride; and bring your children to Mass.

Tony Melendez to headline Cast Your Nets

October 13, 2011

Tony Melendez, an international recording artist and inspirational speaker, will be the featured speaker at this year’s high school Cast Your Nets event at St. Luke in Beavercreek on Sunday, October 23, from 5 to 9 p.m.

Due to a medicine his mother took to ease morning sickness during her pregnancy, Melendez was born in 1962 with no arms. At a young age, however, he told his father that he wanted to learn to play the guitar and began practicing using only his toes. At 16, Melendez remembers, he first started “hearing actual music” coming from the guitar he was playing. He has been playing ever since.

In 1987 he had the rare opportunity to play for Pope John Paul II during the pope’s visit to Los Angeles. At the end of the performance, the pope got down from his stage, walked through a small crowd to the stage on which Melendez was playing, embraced him, and kissed him on his right cheek. The Holy Father then returned to stand in front of his seat, where he announced, “Tony, you are a courageous young man. You are giving hope to all of us. My wish to you is to continue sharing this hope with all the people.” Since that day, Melendez has done exactly that. He will be coming to St. Luke to give a witness to that hope and living a life totally dedicated to doing the will of Christ.

“This is a rare and exciting opportunity for the teens of the Archdiocese,” said Wayne Topp, Cast Your Nets event coordinator. “A man with a life story such as this and with such great experience in inspiring teens to live their lives for Christ is a rare gem and one we are very proud to share with the Archdiocese.”

In addition to Melendez, the event will also feature Mass celebrated by the new auxiliary bishop of Cincinnati, Bishop Joseph Binzer.

“Bishop Binzer is a great example for the people of this Archdiocese in living with joy the life of faith,” said Cincinnati Vocation Director, Fr. Kyle Schnippel. “And his presence at this event is a real blessing to us as event sponsors and to the teens who will have the opportunity to meet him and learn from him for the first time as bishop.”

Cast Your Nets is co-sponsored by the Vocation Office and the Office of Youth and Young Adult Ministry, who have worked along side the youth ministers in the Dayton region to put on this great event. The cost of the event, which also includes a live band, pizza dinner, and the Sacrament of Reconciliation, is $5 per person. T-shirts will be sold at the event for $10.

To register, visit: or call Jeanne Fairbanks at 937-229-5916. Deadline for online registration is October 21, but walk-in registrations are also welcomed and encouraged.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Be a Man - Priestly Discernment Version

My friend Emily posts the following video from the Priestly Discernment Program (formerly the Pre-Theologate) at Franciscan University in Steubenville, Ohio:

I've worked with a few men from the program over the years and have found them all to be prayerful, well educated, well formed and well prepared for entrance into Major Seminary.

May God continue to pour out His rich Blessings upon the program!

Grieving the New Translation

Fr. Charles, OFM Cap., has an interesting take on the new translation of the Mass, and a particular aspect of grieving while learing the new prayers.

As I first saw the headline, I tohught it would be another tirade.  Yet, it is rather poinant in connecting his vocation to the priesthood with a priest from his youth:

That's a little thing. Here's another, maybe more important: One of the first priests I ever knew was the pastor of the parish where I was baptized, Fr. Leo Sutula at Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Quaker Hill, Connecticut. May he rest in peace. He gave me my first Holy Communion and also (six days later) heard my first confession. He had a gentleness that gave glory to God. He also had a funny habit, at least at daily Mass, of saying all of the secret prayers out loud. So, until I learned the Mass well myself several years later, his Mass always seemed to have more prayers in it. I remember being especially struck by the private preparation prayer before Communion, which he would say out loud:

"Lord Jesus Christ, with faith in your love and mercy I eat your body and drink your blood. Let it not bring me condemnation but health in mind and body."

When I use this option myself, I always think of Fr. Sutula. Until I came to be a priest myself, he was my only experience of this prayer. As I pray the words myself, I'm aware of my connection to the man and his ministry in the economies of grace in my own journey. The prayer is a glimpse for me of the communion of saints.

When I was a mere youth, we often had the same visiting priest, Fr. Louis, who was a native of India, during times when the pastor was either on vacation or during the infrequent times we were between pastors in my small home parish: Immaculate Conception, Botkins, Ohio.

He also said this prayer out loud, and even 25 years later, I can still hear his distinct Indian accent as I pray this prayer now as a priest.  Looking back, I can see this as a seminal moment in my own discernment of the priesthood.  By hearing that call to Christ's love and mercy instead of condemnation, I started to recognize (even though I would never have been able to articulate it at the time) that the priest did something special and unique while at the altar: he called down Christ.

Fr. O'Connor would often say some of the private prayers of the priest aloud, too, especially those during the preparation of the gifts.  I can remember thinking: this is not something ordinary that we are doing here.  Again, did it begin to form, in me, a priestly heart?  I hope so.  What confirms it, when I was ordained, I didn't have to struggle to learn those prayers because I had already prayed them with the priest from my youth.

hmmm.... I think I might have just struck on my next Telegraph article....

Monday, October 10, 2011

Parrhesia: Bold. Catholic. Now.

Catholic young adults in the Cincinnati area (and beyond) are invited to a new event:


So, just what does this mean?  The website describes it thusly:

The New Evangelization, as envisioned by every Holy Father since Pope Paul VI, seeks not to bring "new" faithful into the light of our Catholic faith, but to bring those who have fallen away (sadly, a growing population of young adults) back to the Church. This is necessarily a job for all the Catholic faithful, as we are the ones who can reach those who have left the Church for whatever reason. This requires faith, knowledge, love, courage and much prayer.

In his encyclical Redemptoris Missio, our late Holy Father Blessed John Paul II said:

Proclamation is inspired by faith, which gives rise to enthusiasm and fervor in the missionary...the Acts of the Apostles uses the word parrhesia to describe this attitude, a word which means to speak frankly and with courage.

In that spirit, Parrhesia (a new event on the New Evangelization) hopes to inspire young adults to boldly proclaim their Catholic faith in word and deed - and in doing so, to inspire others to take another look at the faith they once knew.

With the support of the Archdiocesan Office of Youth & Young Adult Ministry and our sponsoring organizations, we are thrilled to launch what we hope will be an annual event.

DATE: Saturday, October 22, 2011 The inaugural memorial of Blessed John Paul II!

Location: St. Peter in Chains Cathedral, 325 W. 8th, downtown Cincinnati

Time: 10:00 AM to 6:00 PM

Schedule, speakers and registration is all at the Parrhesia site.

Friday, October 7, 2011

'Childless' by Brain Gail

In Fatherless, Brian Gail turned an eye to the past few decades to examine how the Culture of Death grew and became entrenched in American culture. Motherless examined the present day situation and how it has impacted families and the Church. Now, in Childless, (publish date: 11/2/11) the American Tragedy Trilogy series finds its fitting conclusion as he turns his eyes towards the future and what could possibly happen as the forces in the modern world push further towards the New World Order and seek to further marginalize the Church into the far corners of society.

Picking up the story of Fr. John Sweeney as he continues to minister to his small flock in suburban Philadelphia, the trials and tribulations of his parish families serve once again as a backdrop for Mr. Gail to analyze the global movements pushing towards a New Age of Man, and what could possibly happen if the Church were to lose her voice in the Public Square, calling the world to conversion and repentance. The characters continue to have an emotional depth that moves the story forward as they struggle to deal with the trials and tribulation of daily life, especially as living their Catholic faith continues to be more and more an embrace of a White Martyrdom, if indeed, not an actual red Martyrdom.

Certainly, this conclusion is a wake-up call to Catholics: priests, religious and laity; to take our call to be leaven for society seriously. We are called to change society, not to adapt to the whims of the ever-changing modern world. Moral courage will be tested, will we all have the courage to stand against the forces of the Enemy and be joyous witnesses of the great gift that is Life?

A special note of thanks to Brian Gail and the publishing team at Emmaus Road for the review copy, it was greatly appreciated.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

It's On!

UPDATE: over the air viewing: 14.1 or 14.5
Time Warner channel 982 or 1014 on their HD Tier package

Tonight, 8 PM, local Cincinnati PBS affiliate Think TV 14 HD: Catholicism, episode 1

Time Warner Cable digital tier channel 13, I think.


What: The Catholicism Project

Time: 8pm

Dates: 10/5, 10/12, 10/19, 10/26 in Cincinnati (All Wednesdays); see local listings across the country;

Where: Channels 14.1 and 14.5 in Cincinnati (; will also be carried on EWTN - check schedule link above.


For the first time, in breathtaking and high-definition cinematography, the truth, goodness, and beauty of Catholicism are illustrated in a multimedia experience. Journey with Fr. Robert Barron to more than 50 locations throughout 16 countries. Be illuminated by the spiritual and artistic treasures of this global culture that claims more than one billion of the earth’s people.

From the sacred lands of Israel to the beating heart of Uganda, from the glorious shrines of Europe to the streets of Mexico, Kolkata, and New York City, the mysteries of CATHOLICISM are revealed. Learn what Catholics believe and why. Discover the full meaning of the faith.
My review is here.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Am Morgen, die Messe auf Deutsch!

Tomorrow morning will mark the fourth language I have used to celebrate the Holy Mass: German, and I have to admit it is a bit rusty.  There is one German language Mass still said in the Cincinnati area: 11:00 AM at Old St. Mary's in Over the Rhine.  The priest who had been celebrating it is on a medical hiatus, so a few of us who have skill in der Vatersprache are filling in; should be a good time, hoeffenlich!

(English, Spanish and Latin are the previous three, in case you were wondering.  Thankfully, the homily tomorrow is still in English!)

Friday, September 30, 2011

In Honor of the Day

Why, yes, I think I will say Mass in Latin today!

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

The Catholicism Series

So far, I have viewed the first three episodes of Fr. Robert Barron's Catholicism Project, which joyously awaited my return from Detroit.  Since Monday was a brain-dead day for recovery after a week and a half of long days, I watched the first two episodes and caught the third last night, since nothing else was on.

I cannot express how much I enjoy these episodes.  They are well executed, planned, beautifully shot, etc. etc.  Fr. Barron is a master story-teller and covers some very intricate points in great detail, but without too much that he would scare away either the neophyte or non-Catholic.  (For example, his discussion on the Problem of Evil in ep. 3 is superb!)  He draws you into the story of Catholicism, our story, fully presenting it as ever ancient, ever new.  His underlying principal comes across that Beauty (as a Transcendental) teaches and forms and he draws liberally from the artistic patrimony of the Church.

This, I think, becomes key to why I am enjoying this series so much.  He does not re-enact the story, but he 'retells' the story in picture and voice.  He visits the places where some of our greatest mysteries originally ocurred: Nazareth, Bethlehem, Jerusalem, Mt. Sinai, Hagia Sophia, St. Peter's Basilica; but he resists that filmmakers urge to dress up in cheesy costume and have Mary and Joseph with the Christ Child.  Rather, in visiting Bethlehem, he presents the ancient roots of our faith, but in a modern way to convey the connection between the historical events in salvation history and the modern effects of those events.  Ever ancient, ever new; the faith spawned by the Jewish Carpenter inspires and informs the Chicago food pantry.

In a way, this series seems like the Catechism in picture.  He mentions Aquinas' Five Proofs for the Existence of God, but only delves into one.  He sketches the notion of the problem of evil as a deprivation of the Good, but points you in the direction for further study.  He draws imagery out of the Old Testament to illustrate the mission of the Messiah, but resists the temptation to get bogged down in the minutiae of the Torah.  In all of these, he sets the stage that there is much more to be discovered and unearthed, whetting the appetite for the intellectually curious to search more deeply.

Finally, a note has to be made about his use of artwork.  (I counted at least two different Caravaggio's.)  Fr. Barron uses art and architecture, the beauty of nature and the power of man's creativity to enhance his message.  In citing art from across the Christian spectrum, he often gives the interpretive key in how to read that particular piece, and hence then to also read other pieces of the same genre.  And, he uses the great masterpieces from across time to illustrate and reinforce his dialogue.  Therefore, while there is no actor portrayal of Mary and Joseph with the Christ Child, there are severak artistic representations of the Nativity event.  In my viewing, this greatly enhances the overall feel and texture of the presentation.

This series is a great evangelization and re-catechesis tool, either as a stand alone piece or with the accompaning study guide and leader guide.  I cannot wait to view the next seven episodes.

God Bless and thanks to Fr. Robert Barron and Word on Fire Ministries for such a fantastic contribution to the New Evangelization!

The 'Ten Best' vs. the 'Ten Worst' Jobs Surveys

I'm a little late to the party, (hey, Detroit was grand!), but wanted to comment on recent releases of the 'Ten Best' vs. the 'Ten Worst' jobs. sums up the lists here, but the common themes surface:

(For those who don't want to visit the link, Clergy 'The least worldly are reported to be the happiest of all' won again)

1) Those who give of themselves to others find greater fulfillment and happiness.

2) Among the 'Ten Happiest' jobs, many are focused on making the lives of others better, not our own.

3) Creativity and a certain level of autonomy seem to be consistent themes.

Among the 'Ten Worst', let's see:

1) So tech jobs are all the rage, huh?  (5 in this list are in the tech sector)

2) Comments here suggest 'imprisoned by hierarchical bureaucracies' as reasons for 'unhappiness.'  Obviously, I work in an 'hierarchical bureaucracy,' and often admit that I didn't get into the priesthood to work in an office building downtown, but on the whole, the positives outweigh the negatives, at least for me.

3) Among the list, creativity seems stifled and, as described for law clerks, one is often subuject 'to the whims of a mercurial supervisor.'

Where are you in your position?

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Notes from the Field

My latest runs in this week's Catholic Telegraph, reflecting on last week's Vocation Director's Conference in Detroit:

Every year, the national organization of Diocesan Vocation Directors holds an annual convention that brings my counterparts from across the country for formation, training (especially for new Vocation Directors), key note addresses and just plain fraternization among priests. It tends to be an exciting week of activity and sharing of stories as we all compare notes of how we are doing in the home diocese. Admittedly, we do some bragging if we are doing better than others, but always in a friendly.

As we have compared notes so far, there are two very positive things that I thought I would share here. First, vocation numbers are up across the country: the increase that we have seen here in the Archdiocese of Cincinnati (we now have 42 men, up from just 28 a few years ago) is being repeated elsewhere. Several seminaries have reported full enrollment, nearly every seminary reports positive increases, and the vocation directors have all been very aggressive in attracting new men to study for the priesthood.

Secondly, there is a wonderful positivity among my counterparts concerning the men who are entering formation, too. We, as vocation directors, are in awe of the men who are approaching us in their discernment of the priesthood. They are serious, yet fun; prayerful, yet engaged in the world; a sense of holy detachment while still being fully engaged in the modern culture. It is a wonderful and exciting time in the Church, with so many new movements and energies that are flowering in so many wonderful ways. As Vocation Director, I can see the fruits starting to ripen while still on the vine, and it brings great hope for the future.

But among the Vocation Directors gathered here in Detroit, there is also a determination. We recognize the current shortage that we are under, especially as many of my brother Vocation Director also serve in parishes. There is a drive to what we do because there is a strong recognition that in order for the Church to continue her God given mission of proclaiming the Gospel in the modern world, we must reach out to those men whom God is calling to the priesthood.

This last idea, that it truly is God who calls these men to the priesthood, is what focuses our attention. Jesus is truly the Vocation Director and our bishop sets the vision that each vocation director implements. Quite simply, we work for them, and it is an honor to do so. In order to stay in touch with Him who is our strength, we began each morning with an Eucharistic Holy Hour, we celebrated Mass and the Liturgy of the Hours; we prayed the Rosary as a group. In all this, Christ remains the light guiding us in our work, for without Him; our efforts would be in vain.

In our efforts to build a Culture of Vocations within the Archdiocese of Cincinnati, this centrality of Christ helps to foster an environment in which all Catholics work in the Vocation field, for we have all been called to some special purpose. It is in praying with and for one another that we find that true purpose, it is in our communion with Christ that we are given the grace to respond with that generous ‘yes’ that is demanded whenever Christ calls us forward.

May we all work for a greater awareness of the need to grow this culture, let us all continue to pray for those priests and religious we need, so that mission of the Church may continue to thrive and grow not only here in the Archdiocese of Cincinnati, but throughout our nation and our world.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Admit it, you're jealous

You just didn't know it yet.

Wayne, my trusty sidekick in the Vocation Office, and I are heading to Detroit tomorrow (and will be there until next Friday) as the Ohio and Michigan region of Diocesan Vocation Directors meet in our annual Convention.  There will be well over 200 priests (and a few lay folk thrown in, too) present from most parts of the country, internationally too, representing their respective Diocesan Vocation Offices, seminaries, vocation promotion efforts, etc., to chat about how we can do this whole thing better.

Archbishop O'Brien was to give one of two key-note addresses, but the Pope had the gall to move him to Rome without consulting us.

Workshops are offered on relations w/ seminaries, international candidates and immigration issues, social media (your's truly is co-hosting that one), discernment retreats, etc.  We have 'cultural excursions' to the Henry Ford Museum and plant among a few other things; business to attend to (electing two 'at large' board members), training for new Vocation Directors, etc., etc. etc.

If you could, please offer a prayer or two (perhaps even daily) for us all while we gather.  I'll try to post some things here, but keep tabs also on the twitter feed to the right and maybe even a few Facebook updates along the way.

We are meeting right in the heart of downtown Detroit, at the Marriott in the RenCenter.  Our closing Mass is w/ Archbishop Vigneron at Sacred Heart Seminary next Thursday.  (Which allows Wayne and I just enough time to get back to Cinci for CREDO next weekend.)

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Pope Benedict and the Regensburg Moment

An address I gave to the Cincinnati Serra Club:

Yesterday was the 5th anniversary of Pope Benedict’s somewhat infamous ‘Regensburg Address.’ Shortly after he was elected Pontiff, he returned to the school where he first began his academic career to give a lecture to representatives of the Science Colleges on the nature of the interplay between faith and reason, launching from there into a discourse into our understanding of the very nature of God.

It is this aspect that I would like to focus on today, because I think it hits to the core of who we are as Catholics, how we pray, how we worship, how we interact with both one another and with the world, especially as we stand in the shadow of the remembrances of September 11, 2001 and the atrocities committed that day.

Early in his address, Pope Benedict cites a medieval dialogue between the Byzantine Emperor Manuel II Paleologus and educated Persian on the subject of Christianity and Islam, a dialogue which was likely written by the Christian Emperor shortly after this encounter. On a side note, it was the citation of this work that caused a bit of backlash in the Islamic world, but which has ultimately led to a greater and deeper dialogue between the two great cultures, which may be one of Pope Benedict’s lasting legacies, one which is only seen in hindsight.

As Pope Benedict launches from this discourse into the core of his lecture, he ponders the historical growth of Christianity and the intertwining of Christian thought with Hellenistic, Greek thought. For Pope Benedict, it was a marriage made in heaven, as the Revealed Word of God found new expression in the on-going logical reflection upon the mysteries of this world. In summary, the logical approach of the ancient Greek philosophers found their completion in the Revelation of Jesus Christ, the eternal Word of the Father, the Divine LOGOS, as revealed in both the initial versus of the Book of Genesis and the prologue of the Gospel according to St. John. For the Christian, God is knowable, because God acts in a logical, consistent way, unfolding His divine plan of salvation in way that draws the believe deeper into relationship with the One True God, while still in the context of the corporate Body of the Church.

However, the approach taken towards God in both Islam and, frightenly, in some Protestant circles, is much different. Instead of highlighting the nature of God as LOGOS, rationality and logic; the focus is on God’s omnipotence, His power, His Will: Voluntas. This changes the nature of discipleship in a dramatic way. No longer is one to be drawn deeper and deeper into an ever unfolding manifestation of the mystery of God; now all one has to do is follow, obey.

The result of this shift in focus from the rationality to the power of God results, actually, in a split between faith and reason. No longer should reason be used to explore the mysteries of the faith, for to do so is to cheapen the faith into something man-made, or so it is thought. As a result, theology dies a slow and painful death, while the sciences take precedence and priority.

Pope Benedict, however, does not conclude with a call to return to an age prior to the Enlightenment. Rather, we must seek out a new wedding of faith and reason, one that sees these two great approaches to modern understanding wedded back together. For the believer, faith must necessarily take a leading role in guiding reason to the one foundation of Truth: Jesus Christ.

We must also examine our prayer life, seeking out a deeper understanding of to whom it is that we pray. Do we pray to have our will taken away? Or do we pray to come to a deeper understanding of the mysteries of God so that we can then operate in this world as a more committed disciple of the Logos? It is this latter approach that we see the tide of a secular culture turned back and continued new flowering of Faith as the New Evangelization dawns as we still sit at the precipice of the Third Christian Millennium.

Monday, September 12, 2011

We Are Catholic

Fr. JR sent in this video, had to be shared:

Some thoughts on yesterday's observences

As has been remarked in many places, yesterday saw the 10th anniversary of the horrendous attacks of 9.11.2001.

In the lead-up to the commemoration in NYC, news was made about the lack of clergy during the day; for it was argued that to include one, one had to include all and it was a violation of Church/state separation to include clergy members.

I have thought a great deal about this question in the ten years since 9/11; and have a few thoughts to share as to how we have arrived at this position where clergy are now devisive figures in the realm of the secular society.

In the eyes of the secular cutlure, what caused these attacks?   At the most basic level, it was a religious fundamentalism.  Sure, as Catholics, we recognize that it was an Islmacist, Jihaddist, Fundamentalism that was at the core of it all, but to the eyes of a secular cutlure, there is no difference between the terrorists who perpetrated this crime, the members of Westboro Baptist Church who shamefully protest at Military funerals, and Catholics who stand praying outside of abortion mills.  In the eyes of a completely secular culture, anyone who takes their faith seriously ultimately leads to flying planes into buildings.

We know it is not so, so how do we convince the world otherwise?

First, we must pray, for Christians are to be noted as a prayerful people.  We pray for the victims, first and foremost, that our ever-merciful Father will grant them rest in the life to come.  We pray for the responders who are a very visual embodiment of Jesus' statement: 'No one has greater love than this, to lay down one's life for a friend.'  We pray for our country, that she may be healed of the deep wounds that continue to bleed.  Perhaps the greatest challenge: we pray for those who perpetrated this crime that their hearts might be changed from anger and violence to peace and justice, cooperation instead of conflict.

We must also act, for our faith demands it of us.  We act in charity to those who have lost, we must not stop doing so.  We act in reparation to offer ourselves as a living sacrifice that all might know the love we have for God and He has for us.  We act in love, that we might draw others to the Truth.

Only in Christ will true peace and justice reign, and that only by members of His Body being willing witnesses of His Truth to the world.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

The Ongoing Treasures of World Youth Day

My latest runs in the newly revamped Catholic Telegraph, now beginning her monthly, instead of weekly, circulation:

Every year, when the Center for the Applied Research in the Apostolate releases their survey of the men being ordained to the priesthood, the statistics, facts and figures get bantered about by those who work in the vocation business. The surveys show some consistency, however, in what leads a man to realize the potential of a call to the priesthood. While the direct invitation from a current priest remains the greatest influence in a future priest’s possible vocation; the second factor is usually attendance at one or more World Youth Day pilgrimages. Conveniently enough, as I type this article, hundreds of thousands of youth from around the world are gathered with Pope Benedict XVI in Madrid, Spain, for World Youth Day.

As I reflect on my own time at World Youth Day in Toronto, Canada, nine years ago, what is it about these ‘Catholic Woodstocks’ that elicit the call to the priesthood and/or religious life among the young? I have a few theories:

1) There are scores of young priests and religious among the pilgrims. It seems every group has a fairly newly ordained priest with them. Young, vibrant, joyous religious mingle among the scores of teens. The joy that is evident from those who are still growing into their chosen vocation is infectious, and the teens are drawn to them. During the meal breaks, walking around the common areas, the teens invite the priests and religious over to tell their story, how did they hear the call? In these stories, the teens hear their own story, that even though he or she is now a priest or religious, their childhood was no different from what that teen experienced, and the happiness that they have now can be found nowhere else but in Christ.

2) The international aspect of World Youth Day opens one’s eyes to the breadth and depth of Catholicism that is rarely experienced ‘back home.’ Growing up in a small town, I thought most Catholics were just like me. Heading off to college, I realized that this was not the case. Attending World Youth Day in Toronto, this notion was absolutely blown out of the water. We met Catholics from across Latin America, the United States, Europe, Africa and Asia. In listening to coverage from Madrid, in a two minute span, a reporter met pilgrims from Spain, South Africa, the United States, Iran, the United Kingdom, Denmark, Italy and Germany. This international flavor helps our young people see that the Church is much bigger than just my local parish. And while there is a sense of the immensity of the Church, there is still a strong sense of belonging. Even at Mass with over one million in attendance, it feels as if the Pope is still speaking to me, one on one.

3) While the joy and the fun get all the media attention, the backbone of World Youth Day are the daily catechetical sessions led by the bishops. There is a deep beauty in the intellectual tradition of our faith, that for us as Catholics, faith and reason go hand in hand as we explore the depths of what it means to be Catholic. For many attendees, this might be the first time that they get to explore these depths in a challenging way. (The fact that the new YOUcat was distributed to this year’s attendees is a real bonus.)

4) Last, but not least, the connection with the pope brings it all home. When I attended in Toronto as a chaperone, one of the boys that went was a fairly typical high school student: into sports, girls and not so much into school and religion. I think he attended because his friends were going, and hey, it was a trip out of the country, even if just to Toronto. He was the social butterfly of the trip and loved talking with new folks and peers from around the world. His comment at the end of the week was telling, however, as he reflected: “Before I came on this trip, my heroes were athletes: Michael Jordan, Sean Casey, etc., but now, after spending time in the pope’s presence, there is something different. I can really look up to him and hear that challenge he is giving me.”

As our young people return from Madrid, let us all pray that they continue to be open to Christ call to something more.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Data Dump

I would call this a '7 quick take' for a Friday, but I don't do those, so I won't.

Sorry for the radio silence over the last few weeks, been focused on a few projects we have coming due, and they've been taking all of my (admittedly) limited brain power.

First, we had 12 men enter formation this fall for the Archdiocese of Cincinnati, assigned to the following locations: 4 to Mount St. Mary's Seminary, Cincinnati (three into Pre-Theo I, one into I Theology, with 2 men who transferred from College Seminary programs); 4 to Bishop Simon Brute College Seminary in Indianapolis; 3 to the Pontifical College Josephinum; 1 to North American College, Rome (but he is studying for the Oratory in Formation that is part of the Archdiocese of Cincinnati).  All told, we now sit at 42 seminarians, which is getting closer to our goal of 100.

Speaking of Mount St. Mary's Seminary, there have been some updates to the Chapel:
Looks nice, eh?

This weekend, I'm heading back to my home parish to celebrate the 10:30 Mass on Sunday with my grandmother on the occassion of her 90th Birthday!  I think all of my cousins and the next generation will be there, hmm.... rough tally, I know my math is wrong: Grandma and a few of her sisters who are still kicking; my mom and her five siblings and spouses; 23 grandchildren (and quite a few spouses); 25 (really, I have no idea, I think it is higher than that now, 17 are just my nieces and nephews, and there has to be maybe 15 from my cousins?) great-grandchildren.  It promises to be an excellent time.  If you could, say a prayer for Grandma as she continues to recover from hip replacement, because she didn't want to be confined to a wheel chair, at 90.  YOU GO GRANDMA!

Tonight, I have second of three weddings in a row; after the one next weekend, only one more this year.  I think that makes 8, total, this year.  All my brother priests in parishes are throwing stuff at me right now!  (My fee: first born son to the seminary!)

I was very happy to recieve a review copy of Brain Gail's latest, Childless, which is to be published and released on October 7th.  All I'll say now is that it is a good read, I'll publish my full review closer to publication date.

Our Vocation Awareness Week materials are taking the lion's share of my brain power.  We're focusing them around the Mass as a Well Spring of Vocations.  If you could spare another prayer for inspiration that I might finish my section!  (They were only due in rough draft form July 1st, and I have five sections yet to write.....)

Finally, point #7: the National Conference of Diocesan Vocation Directors are meeting later this month in Detroit.  I am doing a workshop of use of new media in vocation promotion, teaming up with Sam Alzheimer of Vianney Vocations, he's hitting facebook and email marketing, I'm hitting blogging and twitter.  Should be fun!  Archbishop O'Brien of Baltimore was supposed to do our keynote address, but something about the pope calling pre-empted him.  There BXVI goes again, pulling rank!  ;)

I think that's all the randomness floating around in my head right now, make sure to follow me on Twitter, like us at Facebook, and visit our main page, where the Vocation Prayer is now translated into Spanish!

Friday, August 12, 2011

2 to 1 Reduction

Yesterday, I posted a link to an article from National Right to Life on the new phenomenon of '2 to 1 Reduction Abortions.'  It seems some expectant mothers feel they are not up to the task of raising multiples and have selective abortions to 'reduce' the number of children being carried from 5 to 2, or 2 to 1.  This orignally began as fertility treatments were in their infancy (pun intended) and a women would concieve of 5 or more children at the same time.

What struck me hardest about the article was the comments by a mother who underwent the 'procedure:'

Finally, there is an almost throwaway paragraph that is worth pondering, about a woman who aborted (“selectively reduced”) two of the three babies she was carrying.

Today, her daughter is 2½ years old. Shelby intends to tell her about the reduction someday, to teach her that women have choices, even if they’re sometimes difficult. “I am the mother of a very demanding toddler,” she says. “I can’t imagine this times two, and not ever knowing if I’d have another person here to help me. This is what I can handle. I’m good with this. But that’s all.”

This mother considers it a badge of honor to wear proudly—telling her daughter she’s the sole survivor. This came long after Padawer gingerly touched the topic:

Even if parents work hard to conceal it, the child may discover the full story of his or her origins, and we don’t know what feelings of guilt or vulnerability or loss this discovery might summon.

A riveting piece, which I hope you will read tonight.

What struck me:

I am an identical twin, and conveniently enough, my parents are heading out to Iowa to visit him, his wife and two daughters this weekend.

But the story of our gestation and birth is, um, complicated.  The long and short:

My parents were 27 when my twin brother and I were born, with 4 other children already at home, and running a business together, which they still do.  They didn't know there were two of us in residence, and mom was having all kinds of difficulty with this pregnancy, including several months of bedrest.  (Which my next oldest sister has still never forgive us for!)

Mom started labor 8 weeks early, which is when they found out there were two of us (our hearts were beating in sync up until that point).  They slowed everything down, at least for overnight; meanwhile my older brother fell and and busted his head open, so mom is on the 2nd floor, brother is on the 5th floor, dad had slipped and fallen on ice in the parking lot, grandma and grandpa had the other three (all girls) at home, etc.

What would have happened?  Would my parents, if this was presented today, been offered/invited/pressured?  (That they would have said 'absolutely not' is of no doubt.)

After all, this is the 'loving' thing to do, right?  Because, after all, you can't handle 6 kids, all under 7, right?

(See how the lies of the abortion industry stack up so quickly?)

A priest friend of mine is also an identical twin, but his twin brother died at birth.  In talking one time, he mentioned that he was always looking to be 'complete,' that there was a hole in his heart where his brother had been.  What will this woman's daughter think when at last she knows?  Will she be able to forgive her own mother?

Friday, August 5, 2011

Where do Deacons Come From?

Elizabeth Ficocelli continues her 'Where do ____ Come From?' series with the third installment, now on Deacons, mostly of the Permanent variety.  Geared mainly towards the youngest readers, or to be read by parents, she once again explains the process for becoming a deacon, what role deacons play in the parish and in the Church, and why it is important that we have deacons in our parishes as an aid to priests; all while still maintaining and clarifying the distinction between the priest and the deacon.

I also shared the book with the Director of the Permanent Deacon Office, who concurs: "It is written at an appropriate grade level, lays a good foundation to explain the Diaconate, and will help children appreciate the role of Deacons in the Church."

At just 20 pages, it packs in a good mix of info and illustration, even including a short glossary to give children basic definitions of ecclesiastical terms.

All in all, well done, again.

Order directly from the author here.

Or from Amazon here.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

A few prayer requests

As I type this out on Wednesday morning, my grandmother (at one month shy of 90 years old) is hitting the operating table to have her hip replaced.  If you could, please spare a prayer for her and for a speedy recovery.  A few years back, she fell and broke her left hip and had that replaced.  (We think she just missed grandpa, who was in the hospital at the time w/ congestive heart failure, and wanted to be by his side for his last days here on earth.)  Now, she's having the other hip done, because otherwise she might end up in a wheelchair.  (At 90, would that be so bad?)  I annoited her while I was home on Monday, so she's good to go from that end.

Another request: a good friend of one of my nieces (10 years old) was recently diagnosed with a tumor on her brain stem.  She's undergoing therapy, but it's something that no 10 year old should ever have to go through!  Prayer for her strength, her parents, sisters and friends, if you can.

Thanks in advance.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Scouting and Vocations

Fr. Barron turns the reins of his all encompassing blog over at Word on Fire to his seminarian intern who reflects on the relationship between Scouting and vocations to the Priesthood:

Many Catholics in America speak of a “vocations crisis,” or the decline in men seeking to become Catholic priests. Recently, Catholics have observed a spike in vocations wherein many talented men are beginning seminary studies. This has resulted in many seminarians throughout the country finding their communities full. Admittedly, there are many factors that affect this increase in vocations, but a significant percentage of the men ordained priests today are the fruit of one American institution, the Boy Scouts of America.


Tuesday, July 26, 2011

RTL Summer Speaker Series

Right to Life of Greater Cincinnati, for whom I serve as a spiritual advisor, announces their 2nd Annual 'Summer Speaker Series' event coming up August 11, 2011:

Summer Speaker Series

You are invited to attend Cincinnati Right to Life's 2nd annual Pro-Life Summer Speaker Series featuring compelling national speaker Rev. Arnold Culbreath, Urban Outreach Director, Protecting Black Life for Life Issues Institute. Join us Thursday, August 11, 2011, 7-9 p.m., the Kolping Center, 10235 Mill Road, Cincinnati, OH 45231.

For the past 4 years, Arnold has been a member of the NAACP, collaborating with other national Black pro-life leaders to persuade the NAACP to use its influence to educate its members about this silent annihilation. And his efforts are paying off!

At the Cincinnati NAACP's May meeting, Arnold participated in a panel discussion with representatives from Planned Parenthood, the leading promoter and provider of abortions in our nation, addressing abortion's devastating effects on the African American community.

This event is free & open to the public. Any free will donations will be given to Protecting Black Life.

I've hear him speak, you will not regret it!  Rev. Culbreath is passionate about the subject and brings a great zeal for life to his ministry.

Friday, July 15, 2011

"I will take the cup of salvation...

and call on the name of the Lord"

Today's Psalm response reminded me of the priest's preparation for the reception of the Most Precious Blood during the Extraordinary Form of the Mass, prayers athat are not in the Novus Ordo Missal of Paul VI.  After he has received the Precious Body, the rubrics state: 'He pauses for a moment, and in thanksgiving says some verses from the Psalms (115:3-4 and 17:4):

Quid retribuam Comino pro omnibus quae retribuit mihi?  Calicem salutaris accipiam, et nomen Domini invocabo.
Laudans invocabo Dominum, et ab inimicis meis salvus ero.

Trans: What shall I render to the Lord for all the things that He hath rendered to me?  I will take the chalice of salvation, and I will call upon the name of the Lord.
Praising, I will call upon the Lord, and I shall be saved from my enemies.

Perhaps a good thing to note down and pray as you prepare to receive the Chalice, if you choose to do so, during Mass.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

More thoughts on the walk...

At one point late Friday/early Saturday (time started to blend together after a while), the other chaperones and I had a wonderful and frightening thought at the same time:  This is the high point of our career with youth ministry kids; we will never have a group of 10 teens like this again.

What do I mean by this?  Well, best described by an example:

Wednesday night, half way through the journey, hot, tired, sore.  We had gone through Dayton that day, see the post below for specifics, and were ending up at St. Charles Borromeo, Kettering for dinner and sleep.  As I developed the habit since I couldn't walk, I would meet them outside, toss water bottles, bring them in to wherever we were meeting/eating/praying/whatever.

As they approached at about 8 pm, and we started at 6 am that day, I met them on the sidewalk: 'Great to see you guys, dinner's ready, come on in.'  I started to walk to the room where we were eating, which passed by the Eucharistic Chapel.  I got to the meeting room, turned around and felt like a failed dad: no one was behind me.

They all stopped in the Chapel to pray.  "Of course they did, that's what these kids do!" 

Boy, didn't I feel like an idiot going into the chapel as the preist to say the following: 'Guys, I know you want to pray, and as a priest, I love that you love to pray, but they are waiting on you to eat, so you have to stop praying now.  Relax, we do have a Holy Hour later.'

They lifted each other up, carried burdens for each other, encouraged each other, stayed back on the bus so that no one would be alone, sang, prayed, chanted, translated Latin, discussed theology: 'What does it mean that Jesus is the Son of Man?' among so much else as we walked, slowly, from Maria Stein to the Cathedral.

It was absolutely awesome.  Of the 10 young people, they are all seriously considering a call to priesthood and/or religious life.  I could easily see 8 of them enter formation, if not all ten.  There will never be another group like them, that's for sure.

It gives great hope for what this group, as well as their peers, will do into the future.

Called to be More

I apologize for the Radio Silence last week, well unless you follow my twitter feed or to the right, as I was on pilgrimage.

Sadly, no, not to Compestello or Guadalupe, but right here in the Archdiocese of Cincinnati.

Last summer, two seminarians wanted to get to know the diocese better, so they spent two weeks visiting parishes and walking up then back across the diocese (they got rides, too.)

Their journey inspired a young lady who is discering a religious vocation to do the same thing, only with a group of teens, and since it was to be vocation oriented, I was recruited to go along.

To say I was skeptical (it's my nature) is an understatement, but I have returned with a new appreciation for what our teens can do.

(To read thoughts from the teens as to why they were doing this, see Emily's blog at Unshakeable Hope, pictures, too.)

On July 3rd, ten teens (5 boys, 5 girls from around the Cincinnati area), four other adult chaperones (2 seminarians, 2 young women (both current or former chastity educators)), and I spent the day on retreat preparing for our walk.  Most gathered for Mass at St. Gertrude Church in Madiera, where the Eastern Province of the Dominicans have their novitiate.  Turns out, their Vocation Director was also in town and gave a great talk on the call to holiness.  As the afternoon got later, we jumped on a small tour bus and rode to the Spiritual Center of Maria Stein, roughly 120 miles from Cincinnati (near Sidney, Ohio.)  After dinner and a holy hour, a few last minute details and time to bunk down.

To explain how the walking worked, the bus stayed with us all week to transport gear and keep water and gatorade cold.  A group would leave walking, and the bus would go up three miles or so.  When that group would get there, a new group would set out.  Sometimes, walkers would continue, sometimes they would jump on the bus.  Sometimes, to make up time, the next group left as soon as the bus pulled up to the three mile mark, etc.  It played out more smoothly than I anticipated.

July 4th began the walk and we visited Holy Redeemer, New Bremen; St. Augustine, Minster (with a quick visit from my sister!); St. Michael's, Fort Loramie; and concluded at St. Remy, Russia.  20+ miles of walking. We ended with a cookout out a local family's house, where they even let us have showers!  (stay tuned for next shower update....)  We bunked down in the parish hall, first night of 'floor sleeping.'  As one of the seminarians said: 'Father, I thought my time of sleeping on the floor in a bag was over.'  I agreed, but sleep came relatively quickly after all that walking.  Some had blisters already, legs were sore, but spirits remained high, as they would all week.

July 5th was a long day: St. Remy to St. Boniface, Piqua (newly renovated/restored, and it looks better in person than pictures), to St. Patrick, Troy, to St. John the Baptist, Tipp City.  By the time was got there, my legs were really sore, but I thought I could keep going.  I was wrong.

July 6th, Tipp to St. Chris in Vandalia, 6 miles.  I did the 2nd shift, and it turned out to be my last.  By this point, my left shin was in piercing pain and I stumbled around during Mass.  The other adults bussed me for the rest of the day, thinking I would be better tomorrow....   The walking continued to St. Peter's, Huber Heights and on to St. Barbara, Byzantine Chapel and Holy Family, Dayton, a parish assigned to the Priestly Fraternity and dedicated to the Extraordinary Form of the Mass.  These two stops really helped broaden some of the teens understanding of the 'catholicity' of the Church present in the Archdiocese of Cincinnati and provided great fodder over the next few sessions of walking about priestly celibacy, the nature of Mass and worship, Latin in the liturgy, etc.  As a fellow chaperone quipped: 'I didn't know I needed a Ph.D. in Theology to be on this trip!' so deep were the questions being asked, and worked out, by the teens.  From there, we made it down to St. Charles Borommeo, eat and spend the night, another long day, but another close w/ a Holy Hour, nursing sore blisters, knees and ankles, and quickly falling to sleep.

July 7th, I taped up my shin, hoping it would be better.  It swelled up in protest, to the point I couldn't see my ankle, staying on the bus.....   We left St. Charles after Mass and headed down to St. Francis of Assisi, Centerville.  From there, to Our Lady of Good Hope, Miamisburg and St. Augustine's, Germantown (up a massive hill, too.  The bus barely made it, they prayed a rosary up the ascent, taking only two decades.)  Sadly, St. Augustine's was locked up like Ft. Knox, we still prayed, reflected and then hit the road to Holy Family, Middletown, where we were welcomed by their Thursday night Bocce League.  We joined them for food, conversation and an explanation of just what exactly we were doing before heading in to Church for another Holy Hour.  Luckily, we had reinforcements to help in the walking: one chaperone's boyfriend and a local youth minister heard us on the radio and wanted to walk, too.  It was greatly appreciated.

July 8th, Friday, red shirts for the Passion, still a swollen ankle.  The YM returned to walk a few shifts again this morning as we went from Middletown to Our Lady of Sorrows, Monroe, for Mass.  (While we were welcomed everywhere we went, OLSorrows was particularly gracious in their hosting us for Mass.)  From there, St. Max in Liberty Township for lunch, to Dr. Martin Haskell's new place in Sharonville.  (He developed the partial-birth abortion procedure and has opened a new abortuary, we felt it important for the teens to stop there, too.)   A quick jaunt to St. Michael's in Sharonville prior to stopping at Sts. Peter and Paul in Reading for dinner, Holy Hour, and sleep.  This was the next place showers were available, and I (who wasn't walking at all) was the only one to take advantage.  Luckily, we had more 'fill-in' adult walkers to help, too.  By this point, we couldn't smell our own stink, but I think I saw paint peeling from walls of places we stopped....

July 9th, blue shirts for the Blessed Mother, saw us complete our walking: Sts. Peter and Paul, to St. Cecilia, Oakley for Mass and breakfast, to Immaculata in Mt. Adams to Old St. Mary's for lunch, to st. Francis Seraph for a visit with the Franciscans, and finally concluded at St. Lawrence, Price Hill where we joined their festival for dinner and a quick visit in the Church.  More fill-ins helped spell the adults who were present, too.  We drove to the Holy Spirit Center to sleep (AND SHOWER!!!!!), and of course, one last Holy Hour.

Sunday, we visited St. Francis Xavier, downtown and St. Louis, downtown, prior to Mass at the Cathedral.  Lunch, and a return to St. Gertrude's to send them back to their parents, and for the adults to collapse!

That's our itinerary, I'll keep posting more reflections through the rest of the week.  150 miles, total.  I did maybe 20 before being sidelined.  The teens all walked between 50 and 120 miles out of the 150.  They were awesome in how they lifted each other up, supported when they needed breaks and prayed, sang, conversed along the way.  As far as I know, not one argument in 7 days of pretty intense physical stress.  God truly was with us.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

The Scandal of the Cross

My latest runs this week in the Catholic Telegraph:

With the advent of the 24-hour news channels, it seems that there is now a greater desire to, in a way, manufacture news. With 168 hours of news coverage to fill per week, there is a great deal of time to rehash and recover stories that even just 10 years ago might have fallen quickly to the wayside, especially when those stories center around the fall from grace of a public figure who has become bigger than the law, the constituents, the cause which he or she serves.

Recently, Rep. Anthony Weiner resigned from the U.S. House of Representatives over a texting scandal. Hollywood stars and starlets seem to live for the front page of the tabloids. Even the vicar general for the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph has had pressure applied for failing to uphold his responsibility in the protection of children.

My point in this article is to not argue that a free pass should be offered to anyone, but rather to muse on the question of how it has come to this, specifically in regards to the people involved, and on the phrase from the investment scandals and the bank bailouts which has returned to the front of my mind: “Too Big to Fail.”

Lord Acton’s oft-quoted summary seems to apply once again: “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” Original sin continues to manifest itself, as the initial refrain from the evil one echoes through the ages: “I will not serve.”

Power, hubris, thinking that one is above the law, all are rooted in the most ancient, yet most modern of sins: pride. It is so easy to read your own press clippings, to ignore the criticisms rightly leveled, to rationalize one’s behavior while scoffing at the right reasoning of others; suddenly, the world does revolve around me and everything should serve my purposes.

As we have found out, even priests are not immune to this trap. We are complimented frequently, people tend to listen to what we say and we can be treated very kindly by strangers for nothing other than being a priest. It is easy to think that I can walk on water, instead of pointing to the One who actually did walk on water.

How is one to combat these temptations to pride? It certainly is not easy, but we have great examples of those who have come before us to follow. In 2 Samuel 16:5 and following, as David is leaving Jerusalem in scandal and fleeting from his son, Absalom, Shimei, a man from the same clan as David’s predecessor, Saul, starts throwing rocks and insults at the downtrodden king. Many who are traveling with David want to rush upon Shimei for these insults, yet David recognizes that he speaks for the Lord God and humbly takes his punishment.

In the New Testament, Peter is often chastised for his hubris before Our Lord, yet he is humbled by his inability to stay true to his promise to be with Jesus ‘even to the point of death’ during His passion and death. Yet, returning to the Lord, has there ever been a greater statement of faith than his pleading: “Lord, you know everything, you know that I love you! “(John 21:17)

So many saints who have been wrongly accused, even by the church, responded with a quiet submission and trust in God’s providence and care. They knew it was never about them, but rather always about leading others to Christ. If their suffering helped that to happen, they rejoiced with St. Paul that they had been found worthy to suffer for the sake of the Gospel.

As we all face those temptations to pride, those temptations to hubris, to putting our selves above the law, let us always turn to the cross of Christ, for only in Him do we find our strength. Every saint has lived under some version of St. Ignatius of Loyola’s motto: “All for the Greater Glory of God.” May we, too, echo these same words.