Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Priesthood Celebrated

     It has been a long time since I posted.  A good friend of mine from high school days called last week to make sure that I was okay, since he hadn't seen a post on "Journey Thoughts".  I thank him and all who missed these missives for their concern.
     All is well with me.  We at our priests retirement residence have remained careful and are generally well, God willing, free of the virus that threatens us all.

     Today, by way of the Diocesan facebook page, many of us at Neumann House live streamed the funeral Mass of Father Donald Mondello, a long time retired priest whose funeral liturgy was limited by the restrictions of even this "yellow phase" of quarantine.

     Later this afternoon we gathered in our chapel for our special Marian devotions which we are celebrating every Wednesday during May.  Following the devotions, we gathered as a family for a brief social before a festive dinner in our larger, socially distanced dining room.  The occasion was the recognition of the priesthood anniversaries of the thirteen men who reside here in retirement.  Those anniversaries range from 44 years to 63 years ordained as priests … with a grand total of 640 years of priestly service represented.  Imagine the people  ministered to with mercy and compassion … the countless Masses, confessions and sacraments celebrated … and the impact of the faith shared with the local church and the larger community.  May 5th was 47 years for me.  Those years have gone by swiftly and have brought me great blessings and joy.
      This year the Greensburg Diocese has one young man to be ordained to the priesthood - later in June.  Pray for him and for an increase of priestly vocations.

     There is an observation that is well known which I would like to share here.  It is called:
If a priest preaches over ten minutes, he's long winded.
If his sermon is short, he didn't prepare it.
If the parish funds are high, he's a businessman.
If he mentions money, he is money-mad.
If he visits his parishioners, he's nosing;
If he doesn't, he's being snobbish.
If he has fairs and bazaars, he's bleeding the people;
If he doesn't, there isn't any life in the parish.
If he takes time in confession to help and advise sinners, 
        he takes too long;
If he doesn't, he doesn't care.
If he celebrates the liturgy in a quiet voice, he's boring;
If he puts feeling into it, he's an actor.
If he starts Mass on time, his watch is fast.
If he starts late, he's holding up the people.
If he tries to lead the people in music, he's showing off;
If he doesn't, he doesn't care what Mass is like.
If he decorates the Church, he's wasting money;
If he doesn't, he's letting it run down.
If he's young, he's not experienced.
If he's old, he ought to retire.
But … if he dies ...

Please pray for vocations to the priesthood, diaconate and religious life!

Friday, April 10, 2020

The Day the Earth Stood Still

     The striking images of well known places around the world that are empty or nearly so, devoid of crowds and the normal activity of life, are chilling.  To see empty churches, and an empty Saint Peter Square and Basilica with a handful of faithful joining the Holy Father in these Liturgies of the Sacred Triduum, is disconcerting.  To hear of the sufferings of so many worldwide through illness or economic hardships, added to the never-ending world at war, rips at our hearts.

     Today our Triduum takes us to the hill of Calvary, not to a mountaintop wrapped in glory nor to a city jubilant with pilgrims for a feast nor to the quiet intimacy of family gathered for a meal.  On this mountain, on this hill of sacrifice, in the midst of a fragile and needy world stands a Cross, an image of death, which, by the One sacrificed on that Cross, draws us from death and despair to the truth of Eternal Life.

     I was born and raised in Uniontown, Pennsylvania.  Outside of town, on Summit Mountain the Methodist church has a training camp at Jumonville Glen.  On the top of the mountain stands a large Cross which everyone from miles around can see and reflect upon.
This first image is of the Cross on a winter's day ... and the second is a striking image of the place of the Cross in the midst of the world.

    On Golgotha those many years ago, the world stood still.  The universe paused in its existence to witness the end of everything the world held important.  This was literally "the end of the world".  No longer would/could things be the same.  A death came and touched our life in order that a Life beyond imagining would bring us to the beauty of Truth and the Glory of God as He had desired for us.

     Pilate asked: "What is truth?"  He knew of power, influence, Caesars, politics, loyalty, all the things held important by the world ... but he did not know truth because he did not recognize Jesus.  In his dwelling among men he would not look upon Jesus Crucified and therefore would still hunger for truth.

     Even those who were given the promise of God's love through the Law and the prophets, the religious leaders of the people, cried out to Pilate: "We have no king but Caesar."  Blinded to the truth, they were blinded to the reality of life that God had called them to treasure.

     On that day the earth stood still.  In our day the world is in a "pause mode" because of a pandemic.  In the depth of our hearts on this Good Friday, there must be a moment to stand still, to pause and pray and to encourage each other when we gaze upon the Cross of Christ: "Come, let us worship!"

Thursday, April 9, 2020

The 2020 Triduum

     40 Days ago we began a time of "stepping aside" from our normal schedules and routine to journey through a season of reflection, penance, prayer and sacrifice.  This time we call LENT.  As the image above describes, it begins with Ash Wednesday and proceeds through a period described by the words surrounding LENT.  Those 40 days are like a mini retreat.  Bishop Malesic in a response to an email from me noted that this year's "retreat" was unlike any we may have ever made.  Our lives are so changed from the "ordinary" that we approach these transitional days with hearts ready for the Good News of the Resurrection ... the good news of hope and of an Easter morn that will see us through our Good Friday of this pandemic and the silence of waiting that is Holy Saturday of waiting for the end of death and the joy of the Father's promise.

     We move through Three Sacred Days, the first of which is this Holy Thursday.  It is the day of preparation ... a time of gathering as family in the intimacy of our common table, to be fed with the food that will sustain us on our road to the Cross.

    But this year our churches are closed, there are no liturgies with the faithful present, and we rely upon a spiritual nourishment that will see us through but will have us hunger even more for the Bread of Life.  These are terribly difficult moments for the faithful of every faith ... but for us, who cherish the Eucharist, the hunger is overwhelming.

     A suggestion ... since this celebration of the Evening Mass of the Lord's Supper involves the gathering of family around the table ... if you have not done so today, gather with those you can tomorrow and share your love, share your table, and share your faith story.

     Christ instituted the priesthood at this Holy Thursday Supper, so pray for the Holy Father, Pope Francis ... pray for Bishop Malesic of our Diocese, Bishop Brandt, and all bishops ... pray for your priests and all of those who have shared in the ordained priesthood ... and pray for and be there for each other in love and charity.

In 1st Corinthians 11 Paul has Jesus say: "This is my body that is for you.  This is the cup of the new covenant in my blood ... Do this in remembrance of me."  

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

A Prayer

The following is a prayer 
put forth by the Knights of Columbus, 
adapted from the prayer of Pope Francis.  
I encourage you to use these words of peteition 
in your daily prayer.


O Mary,
you always brighten our path
as a sign of salvation and of hope.
We entrust ourselves to you, Health of the Sick,
who, at the Cross, took part in Jesus' pain
while remaining steadfast in faith.
O loving Mother,
you know what we need, 
and we are confident you will provide for us
as at Cana in Galilee.
Intercede for us with your Son Jesus,
the Divine Physician,
for those who have fallen ill,
for those who are vulnerable,
and for those who have died.
Intercede also for those charged with
protecting the health and safety of others
and for those who are tending to the sick
and seeking a cure.
Help us, O Mother of Divine Love,
to conform to the will of the Father
and to do what we are told by Jesus,
who took upon himself our
sufferings and carried our sorrows,
so as to lead us, through the Cross,
to the glory of the Resurrection.  Amen.

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

A New World

     I last posted 14 days ago.  Since then the world has changed.  Normalcy as we know it has given way to extraordinarily precautious restrictions.  All this due to the caronavirus that is afflicting the world community.  There is no way that you cannot have heard of or been affected by this pandemic.

     Nations are on lockdown and quarentine.  The tally of those who tested positive skyrockets and the death tolls continues to grow.  I just heard that Italy saw over 350 deaths in the last 24 hours, and they are not at the peak of the epidemic.  We are just at the early stages in this country, and drastic efforts are being taken to contain the spread of the virus, which is particularly dangerous to the elderly and those suffering from other chronic illnesses. These are frightening times.

     We even find that the public celebration of the Mass and our public prayer life have been suspended for the forseable future.  I cannot remember that ever happening before in my years of priesthood and even in my lifetime.  And yet, the time to pray has never been more vital.

     A part of me balks at these drastic restrictions to the living out of our faith life.  We do trust in the love and providence of the Lord in our lives.  Then why act as if we do not trust?  If it involved simply myself, things might be different.  But these precautions are meant to curtail the spread of the virus, and therefore are for the sake of others.  We must do our part.  And that includes intensifying our prayer and sacrifice, of sharing our love and concern, and of awaiting that turning point when life will once again return to normal and the new life of Spring will come again.  Meanwhile, nothing will be regular or the same ... not even our faith ... which must deepen with every harship and restriction placed before our lives.  

     Be strong!  Keep the faith!  Be careful and responsible!  And renew your deep friendship with the Lord of Life, Jesus the Christ!

Tuesday, March 3, 2020

How Should We Pray?

     As our Lenten journey continues, the Gospel for this Tuesday of the First Week of Lenrt is taken from chapter 6 of Matthew (Matthew 6:7-15).  

     Jesus speaks of praying.  He warns that praying is not simply the multiplication of words or "babbling like the pagans".  Still, I'm sure that you have heard someone, even a priest (maybe even myself) babble on in prayer.  We have a good priest in our house who is into brevity, and when the prayer chosen is the long form, or if the presider is expansive, will audible sigh (reminding us to cut it short).

     Jesus in today's Gospel gives us "the perfect prayer".  He shared it with his followers when they asked him to give them a prayer that would identify them to him.  This was a common practice among teachers - to share their charism or gift (the Chaplet of Saint Faustina ... the Prayer of Saint Francis ... etc).

     Jesus says, when you pray:
a) remember who you are addressing: Our Father in heaven, you are holy!
b) acknowledge God's plan and your place in it: Your kingdom come, here as in heaven!
c) place yourself before him in supplication: Give us what we need - our earthly needs of daily bread and our spirotual need of forgiveness!
d) willingly place yourself within his plan: We will share with others and we will forgive those who trespass against us!
e)  express your heart's desire: Lead us not into temptation and deliver us from evil! 

     To this perfect prayer we add our AMEN!

Sunday, March 1, 2020

An arrogant enemy

     On this first Sunday of Lent we are reminded of our enemy, the serpent of Genesis, the reason for the Fall of Adam and the tempter of Jesus.  We see him for who he is: a self-obsessed lier and thief whose claim of lordship is of darkness and death.

     We know who he is, for we too are tempted by him to turn away from the Lord and stand on our own.  We know who he is, for we live a world touched by darkness and sin, embraced by selfishness and failure.  We know who he is, for he plants the seed of doubt and despair in our hearts.

     This lord of darkness is the devil who tempts Jesus in today's gospel of Matthew.  Filled with jealousy and pride, he declared himself equal to his creator ... on a par with God in those first moments of creation.  Not satisfied with his legions, he appears in the Garden to tempt those who are children and friends of God, leading them to step out of grace and favor.  Through him, humanity fell into personal sin which has led to a world of pain and suffering, bondage and despair.  He claims dominion over that which is not his, and is blinded by his arrogant selfishness.

    When he tempts Jesus today, his temptations are reflected in those temptations that continually confront us.  

     He tempts Jesus in his hunger, after 40 days and nights of fasting and prayer.  He does not give Jesus bread to eat, but asks him to "turn the stones into bread" … telling him to personally mistrust the blessings of the Father.  Jesus did not buy into the lie.  Our hungers are many, and he tempts us to trust in ourselves or others rather than the Father who has pledged us his loving care.

     He tempts Jesus with self-preservation.  "Throw yourself from the temple" ... God's angels will protect you!  It does not matter what you do, we are told, God will protect you and keep you from harm.  Like Jesus in the desert, we need to tell the evil one that we will not put the Lord to the test.  We will live in his love without compromising our safety or existence.

     And he tempts Jesus with all the power and riches of the world  ... which he mistakenly claims as his own.  The lord of darkness offers these things to Jesus (and us) if we but "bow down" in worship of him.  What arrogance!

     What the Lord created as we hear in Genesis was seen to be good!  And God was pleased!  We are the crowning moment of that creation!  We must not allow temptations and lies, sin and darkness, confound the vision of God.  Lent is our time of repenting of our sins, turning to the Lord, and embracing his merciful grace and live!