Wednesday, May 30, 2012

The Catholic Priesthood: Here Comes Father Everyone

My latest missive, for the Ordination Edition of the Catholic Telegraph:

A few weeks ago, I had to be on Long Island for a meeting with a few other Vocation Directors to talk about some national strategies and plans that effect all of us who toil in this field.  As I had not had time off for a while, I went up a few days early to spend some time in the City prior to the meetings, and while I truly love Cincinnati and do not desire to live anywhere else, New York is a city like no other and offers an unique insight into our world that just does not come across in any other city that I have visited.

But where this comes across with the greatest clarity, at least for me as a visitor to the ‘Capital of the World,’ as Pope John Paul II famously called the Big Apple, is in the trips under the streets and into the New York City Subway; for those who like to ‘people watch,’ there is no better environ than the closed off tunnels of the Five Burroughs.  Simply, the New York City Subway takes everyone.  As you wait for the next train, the indigent poor are plying music to make a few dollars; school students heave backpacks; college kids are immersed in the world of their own, shielded by their iPods; families travel together who knows where; men and women in business attire scan the paper for the latest news; and older men and women go about their day, carrying their purchases back home.  Every land and culture intermingles in a way that happens in few other places.

It struck me that the Catholic Church is so much like the New York City Subway.  Simply, both take in all who apply.  At Mass, we see the same people who ride the subway; the poor sit next to the three-piece business suit; parents of young children rub elbows with octogenarians; immigrants and long established families are nourished from the same paten and chalice.  As the subway takes people from point A to point B along their daily journey, the Church brings her sons and daughters from the here-and-now to an awareness of the hereafter; and every is welcome to ride along, at whatever stop they enter.

It is not so among some of our Protestant brothers and sisters.  In talking with converts into the Catholic Church, especially those who entered from a smaller congregation, this diversity of souls was part of the initial draw that brought them home to the Church.  In their previous congregation, they state, everyone was just like ‘me,’ whoever that ‘me’ is.  In the Church, as in the subway, we are constantly confronted by those who are different, other; and this can be such a good way of growing in the awareness of the great benevolence of God who establishes such beauty on the Earth.

In my role as Vocation Director, this is something that I have also become increasingly aware of: our need to cultivate vocations from all corners of the Archdiocese of Cincinnati, while continuing to support areas that have traditionally been fertile ground in this cultivation.  The priesthood is a rich diversity of talents and abilities already; and our seminarians certainly do reflect this diversity.  We have men who had offers for Doctoral programs and law schools to men who worked as general laborers for years prior to entering seminary.  We have men who were chefs to former military officers, men who are just out of high school to those who earned a retirement package from their previous employer.

Yet, we must continue to be aware of the increasing need for Spanish speaking priests and priests from a variety of culture backgrounds; for our priests not only ought to reflect our people, they need to reflect our people.

Please pray for our priests, pray for our seminarians; pray for those whom God is calling but do not yet have the courage to respond. 

For ideas on how to create this culture of vocations in your parish and home, please visit.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Homily from Mass on my anniversary of the priesthood

With the Serra Club:

8 years ago today, I was ordained to the priesthood by Archbishop Pilarczyk at the Cathedral of St. Peter in Chains, downtown.

It was a memorable day and my family joked that they had to tie a rope around my waist I was so excited and ready to start my task of working in the Lord’s vineyard.

After 8 years, I wanted to reflect a bit about what I have learned and possible things to reflect upon in our work as the Serra Club of Cincinnati.

First, I have come to appreciate more and more that the Lord is never outdone in generosity.  As we give ourselves to Him, as priest (or Bishop), religious or even as a lay person (single or married), He takes what we give Him, blesses it and gives it back to us.  This is the model of Mass and the pattern of our lives as Catholics.  Last night, I was walking through Kroger to pick up a few things and while I was only there five minutes, tops, I was met by a family that welcomed me and mom remarked: ‘we’re going to have you over soon, I promise!’  (as she has been promising for, I think, a year and a half!)  It is probably the most striking lesson as a priest: many, many more know you than you will ever know them.  And it is such a beautiful thing to be able to witness.

Secondly, I am struck by the amount of work that truly needs to be done, as I am sure Jesus was struck by that same impression as well.  My generation, especially, is lost and needs the direction that comes only from the Gospels.  I am frightened there will be few to minister to, eventually.  Frankly, I do not see many my own age at Mass.  If there is anything else that drives me in my work as priest and vocation director, it is this.  I am scared that my generation has bought into the lies of this world so deeply that we will not be able to be rescued.  But Jesus did not preach only where he knew he would be successful, He preached everywhere.  So must we.

Finally, point three, today’s First Reading gives us all a great context when we get a little too caught up in thinking I have to do this or that.  Simply, St. Paul hands on his work to the next generation.  This is the life of the priest.  I have baptized many babies, married many couples, heard countless confessions; and I have no idea where they are now.  Every once in a while, someone will come back and say, ‘you did this for me….’  Truthfully, because of the way my brain works, I usually have no idea what it was, but I’m glad they remember.  More often than not, we have no idea.  But we still preach, we still present the beauty of the Gospel, and then we hand it on.  It is for another to reap.  The Church Militant marches on through the passage of time, and is bigger than any one individual.  And again, something beautiful about that, too.

I continue to be struck by the love outpoured to our priests and bishops.  I had many, many facebook and twitter messages, phone calls and texts today congratulating me on 8 years as a priest.  I can honestly say, I still feel like I am getting started and I am eternally grateful that God has seen fit to call me to this most wonderful way of life.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Silent No More and Vocations to the Priesthood

Yesterday on Patheos, The Crescat posted a very personal, moving account of the lasting effects she suffers from mistakes she has made in the past.  Please head over there to read the whole thing, say a quick prayer for her and all those who are agonizing with such mistakes that they might be healed by Christ's loving call and then comeback over here.  Ok?  Ok.

Back?  Good.  A few thoughts, if I might.

I am involved in the Pro-Life Movement.  Gladly.  I say Mass once a month for the Helpers of God's Precious Infants at Holy Name Church, Mount Auburn.  (I'm on 1st Saturday of the Month, 8:00 AM, stop by if you get the chance.)  I pray regularly for an end to abortion and the conversion of hearts of those who are in that industry and the lawmakers who shelter and coddle them.  I've been to the March for Life, but need to go more often.  I am an advisor for Cincinnati Right to Life, where the Pro-Life Movement was founded.  (Really, I mean that.)

With all the above, I also recognize that I am not going to be the one who wins the war against abortion on the everyday level.  I can't.

However, those who, like the Crescat, come forward after an abortion and admit the terrible and lasting effects that it has had on them in their lives.  The depression.  The feeling of absolute inadequacy.  The imprisonment. The Shame.

I have counseled women who have had abortions, at least initially.  It is beyond my limited abilities.  I have seen the same pain and turmoil that the Crescat talks about in her post face to face.  I have also seen the courage that it takes to publicly admit that mistakes have been made.  The fear that paralyzes.  The evil one whispering in the ear that 'because of this, you are unloveable.'

It is not so.  I look at the Gospels and see the ones Jesus called closest to Himself were not the perfect and the 'Holy,'

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

The Priesthood and Spiritual Motherhood

On Mother's Day Weekend, I was asked to address the Spiritual Motherhood of Priests Retreat on the topic of the Priesthood and Spiritual Motherhood.  Here are my remarks:

I am Fr. Kyle Schnippel, Vocation Director for the Archdiocese of Cincinnati.  I originally hail from the northern reaches of the Archdiocese, as I say, where the faith is still very much alive.  I am very honored that my mother drove down this morning to be here as part of this retreat.  As every priest knows, he would not be at the altar without the loving support of his mother.  I’m very lucky in that not only my mom but my whole family was very supportive of my vocation to the priesthood and continue to pray for me as I do for them.  In fact, Grand-Baby Schnippel #19 is due any time now.

However, my task today is to reflect on three interrelated topics to set the stage for launching this apostolate: The Importance of the Priesthood, Spiritual Motherhood and ‘Why this apostolate?’  I will visit each of these topics in due course of my reflections this morning.  I have been given an hour to share my thoughts, which is probably about 45 minutes too long!  But nonetheless, away we go.

On the question of the importance of the priesthood, we begin not with the priest himself, but in the very nature of the human person, all the way back to the creation of Adam.  As Adam was created in the Garden of Eden, there was an incompleteness, a lack within the self, for he was out of relationship.  In His infinite wisdom, God recognizes that ‘it is not good for the man to be alone, let us make a suitable partner for him.’  And God sets out to create all the plants and animals for the man to name, yet none are suitable, none are reflections of God Himself, until, at last, bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh, Eve is created from his very side as the one suitable partner in all of creation.  Man was created for the transcendent, there is a longing for more at the very core of who we are as human beings.  As we use our thought to reflect on the nature of the world around us, we see that there is more than meets the eye.  Nature itself reveals the fingerprints of God and points us to both the source of all creation and the goal of all creation.  In this recognition, we hear the echoes of St. Augustine’s great awareness: ‘You have made us for Yourself, O God, and our hearts are restless until they rest in You!’

This plays out repeatedly in the Scriptures, but perhaps never so clearly as when Jesus, following the Sermon on the Mount in Chapters 5-7 or Matthew’s Gospel begins to go around Galilee performing miracles and forming his closest disciples.  As He looks to the crowd that follows after Him, as he visits the towns and villages, Saint Matthew reports that ‘at the sight of the crowds, his heart was moved with pity for them because they were troubled and abandoned, like sheep without a shepherd.  Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is abundant but the laborers are few; so ask the master of the harvest to send out laborers for his harvest.”’[1]

Isn’t this interesting that the most often quoted passage that speaks of the need of praying for vocations to the priesthood follows Jesus recognizing the hunger in our hearts of the transcendent?  This shows the connection that exists between this longing and Christ establishing the priesthood as His continual presence in the Church and the World after His Ascension.

For, right after He commands us to pray for shepherds after His own heart, Jesus then calls the Twelve forward to begin forming them in the mission they will have after His Resurrection.  At

Now What?

My last missive for the Catholic Telegraph, which I should have posted a few weeks ago:

There are so many wonderful things that we celebrate during the Easter Season, it is so difficult to pick out different memories or thoughts and keep them from blending into one seamless fabric of thoughts.  From the joy of Easter Sunday itself, to reflecting on the growth of the Church as we read the Acts of the Apostles, celebrating vocations on Good Shepherd Sunday (the 4th Sunday of Easter, this year April 29), to the Feasts of the Ascension and Pentecost; the entirety of the Easter Season gives us a ‘plan of attack,’ as it were, for us to move forward into Ordinary Time.

However, one memory always comes to fore, as I think it does for many priests: my ordination.  May and June is ‘Ordination Season’ when many dioceses celebrate the ordination of the new crop of priests, ready to be sent into the fields of the Lord’s Harvest for the first time.  In particular, my ordination in 2004 was on the Feast of the Ascension, and as these words from the Acts of the Apostles were proclaimed at my Mass of Thanksgiving, I could so relate:

“While they were looking intently at the sky as he was going, suddenly two men dressed in white garments stood beside them. They said, "Men of Galilee, why are you standing there looking at the sky? This Jesus who has been taken up from you into heaven will return in the same way as you have seen him going into heaven.  (Acts 1:10:11)’

I had just spent 8 years in seminary formation, preparing for this day.  And while I knew it was coming, I could identify with the Apostles as I felt them looking toward one another with the same question rolling around in their minds: ‘Now what?’  Paralyzed by the unknown, they were locked together on that hill.
Yet, Jesus promised that He would not leave us orphaned or alone, and that, soon, the Paraclete would come to be their guide.  As we move from Holy Week into the Easter Season, we are able to see the Apostles finally responding to the prompts of the Spirit as they move from a rag-tag group of eleven men huddled in the Upper Room to fierce debaters of all comers as they proclaim Christ, and Him Crucified.

Thankfully, the same Spirit who so animated the Early Church continues to inspire and guide us, their spiritual descendents.  There have been many times already in my eight short years as a priest where I have walked into a situation without a clue of what to say or what to do.  I try to take that step back and whisper a short prayer to the Holy Spirit that He might continue to guide me in this very moment, as He has up to this point.

For me, it is a great comfort to know that it has always been this way.  The Eleven, after the Resurrection and Ascension of Our Lord, looked at each other and surely had that thought: ‘Now What?’  History reports so many of the saints having that same thought: St. John Chrysostom as he was banished repeatedly from Constantinople, for example.  Yet, the Spirit continues to lead.

As Jesus calls, he does not look for just talent, he does not look for intelligence, he does not look for just the gifted speaker.  He looks for trust.  For those who are called to follow Him as priest and/or religious, this gives great hope in the midst of that quaking fear.