Thursday, December 1, 2016

An early moment in the journey

     While in the seminary, I had a number of summer jobs to broaden my horizons and to make a little money.  For two or three summers I worked at the McDonald's in Uniontown, my home town.  There are two McDonald's now, one is in a new location near the Mall, and the former is at a new location in the old Uniontown Shopping Center.  The old one was "the" gathering place for the younger crowd, especially during the summer months.  I worked there in the late 60's, maybe early 70"s.

     They hired a lot of kids in those days, and with my age I was one of the older persons at the counter, my usual station.  We worked hard, and at that time, for small wages, but it was a good experience.  I remember the very limited menu (compared to today), and some of the prices: they sold a hamburger, a cheeseburger and a fish fillet sandwich (the burger was $0.20, cheeseburger a quarter, and fish was $0.35).  My second year there they expanded to include a large french fry as well as the small.  Drinks included coke, root beer and orange as well as vanilla, strawberry & chocolate shakes.  There were also seasonal specials.  But the special item on the menu was something new - the Big Mac.  It had been created at our store by the franchise owner, Jim Delligatti ... marketed in the Pittsburgh area ... and placed on the menu at McDonald's in 1967.  It sold in my time for $0.55.  It was a hit.  I remember a shift when the local Reserve unit called in an order for 55 Big Macs and other assorted items to be picked up in a short while - we hustled to get it ready along with our usual business.  There is a "Big Mac Museum" at the McDonald's in Irwin, where I am now serving.  It's location here has nothing to do with me, or Uniontown or Pittsburgh, but it is do to location near the highly traveled PA Turnpike (so I read).

     All of this was brought to mind today as I heard the news of the death of the Big Mac creator, Mr. Jim Delligatti, at his home in Pittsburgh at the age of 98.  I never met Mr. Delligatti, but his creation, and his business acumen, helped in some small way to create the memories that enriched my journey.  And his Big Mac and all that McDonald's provided us over the years, has brought enjoyment to countless peoples.  Remember when their signs read - "Over 1 million served".

     My sympathy to Mr. Jim Delligatti's family as he is laid to rest this weekend.  May he rest in peace.

Monday, November 28, 2016

A Fresh Start

     There is a great tendency in our lives to run from one thing to the next, to seek after the novelty, the new thing of the day, or to wander aimlessly in life.  Our reason to be is all too often rooted in the fleeting.  There are occasions when we follow a particular way for awhile, resolving to "stay on course" [ as a new subscriber to Netflix, I have spent my free first month committed to watching past seasons of two tv shows that I never watched before - five seasons of the one and now three of the other - so that I can be caught up ].  But even with that I will lose interest and move on to something else, which is okay, since I have a clear idea of my reason to be, and it is not founded on being current with tv programs or the latest things.

     The season of Advent began yesterday with a call to commitment, perseverance and vigilance on our quest toward our ultimate goal, not a thing or experience or hope, but rather the concrete reality of a life giving relationship to Jesus Christ.  In that relationship we are embraced by the Father of all creation and possess the Spirit of love that belongs to the Children of God.  It has been revealed to us that the Father has chosen us to be his own. He has called us to life and holiness.  And when we struggled to find our way, he sent his Son, Jesus, as friend and brother, to show us the way home.  Jesus came in time, born in Bethlehem of Judea two thousand years ago, taught us, healed us, loved us, and died for us so that we may live.  He gave us his Spirit as our strength, and his Church as our family, and a promised return as our hope.

     Advent reminds us to renew our journey toward Christ.  We are to prepare to celebrate his birth those many years ago, but we are more importantly to welcome him each morning, actually each moment, into the depth of our hearts.  And we are to ready ourselves for that moment of encounter when he comes at the end of time to walk us into the promise of an eternity of joy and gladness.  He will come in glory to judge each of us and all of humanity with an embrace of love.  Advent reminds us that our daily journey is a pilgrimage to the mountain of the Lord, and that his Spirit is our strength and his Church is the rope line, the thread, that makes sure that we do not lose our way. 

     May this Advent be a time of renewal and blessing, and a source of peace.

     Our bishop, Bishop Edward Malesic, is on facebook, and his reflection yesterday was great.  Check him out - Bishop Ed Malesic - on fb.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Thanks for Giving

     On this Thursday morning, November 24th, we are into our Thanksgiving Day celebrations.  Many of our parish family joined me at morning Mass to celebratre Eucharist, our greatest act of thanksgiving as members of the Body of Christ.  Along with our morning prayers, it is a wonderful way of beginning the day, and of celebrating this National Holiday.  The parades are on tv (90 years for Macy's), turkeys are in the oven and foods are being prepared, families will be gathering to break bread, to share fellowship, to watch football or holiday programs, and to ready ourselves for shopping.  We will be tempted to binge, but hopefully we will do everything in moderation.  And most especially we will pause somewhere during the day or before digging in to give thanks to the Lord, personally and as family, for His countless blessings.

     Our reason to do so is rooted in a deep seeded need, one that we may not even be aware of ... to give thanks to God for his countless gifts of love and of his infinite goodness.  Our prayer is that our hearts be open to have, as the Collect of this day says, "concern for every man, woman, and child".  The proper Preface of the day reminds us that with the gifts of God given to us comes a responsibility and commitment to think of others, to advance their dignity, and to share with them "the good things of time and eternity".

      One of my personal practices and traditions is to express my gratitude to people, to say "thanks".  I thank the people at Mass for their attendance and prayers, and often hear people say "you don't need to thank me for being here ... it is what I want to do or it is my responsibility".  But I take nothing for granted, and I want them to know that they are a gift to the Church and to me.  Saying thanks is such a little thing, yet such a powerful recognition of how aware I am of the blessing that have come my way.  And those blessing originate with our loving Heavenly Father.

     The ads for St. Jude's Hospital are a great reminder to "Give Thanks" for all of our blessings.  Our Diocese has a Thanksgiving message that highlights the lessons learned and the love shared in this past Year of Mercy - the theme of which is "Thanks for Giving".  And the conscious awareness of just how loved and blessed we are and how much the world needs reassurance of that love and care of God, prompts us give of ourselves for the glory of God.

     HAPPY THANKSGIVING to all on this day ... and THANK YOU for your Faith, Hope and Love shared with me and with your sisters and brothers.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

A milestone for this blog

     Recently JOURNEY THOUGHTS has reached another milestone - surpassing the 100,000 pageview mark.  The count as of this moment stands at 100,425.  As I have mentioned before, this author is astounded and humbled at the number of readers, frequent and occasional, that have surveyed the sight over these years.  I often encounter readers in the most unusual of circumstances telling me of their loyal following of this blog.  To all who have sought out these thoughts, thank you!

Friday, October 21, 2016

Impressive statistics from the Knights of Columbus

    In the October issue of "Columbia" magazine from the Knights of Columbus, there is a report on the Catholic Fraternal Organization from the Grand Knight given to the 134th Supreme Convention held in early August in Toronto.  This "state of the Fraternity" report is always impressive, and as a fellow Knight, I am very proud of the accomplishments and influence of this group in the United States and on the world stage.  There are 1,918,122 brother Knights across the world, from an organization that began in New Haven, Connecticut, founded by Father Michael McGivney.

     The Knights of Columbus is noted for many things, but high on the list is its dedication to the Catholic Church and its commitment to be of service to those in need and to the Church herself.

     In the year 2015, the Knights of Columbus donated more than $175 million to charitable causes, more than $1.5 million more than the year before.  In addition, the volunteer hours of service added up to a record 73.5 million service hours - on average, an entire workweek from each brother Knight.  Independent Sector, a network for nonprofit foundations, listed the value of a 2015 volunteer hour as $23.56.  Using that figure, last year's time donated to charity was worth more than $1.7 billion.  In the last ten years, service hours totalled 700,765,880 or a value of more than $15 billion.

     Some of the service projects include: Coats for Kids, Food for Families, Habitat for Humanity, the Global Wheelchair Mission, medical equipment and supplies for needy areas of the world, Special Olympics World Games, sponsoring blood drives, pro life projects and countless other worthy and necessary projects. 

     As the Supreme Knight, Carl Anderson stated in his report, "Our charitable works are a light to the nations.  They are a powerful witness to love of God and neighbor that reaches to every corner of the world."  And this is only one part of the mission of this great Catholic Fraternal Organization.  Check out the Knights ... they are worth your inquiry.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

New Priests' Stats

     The November issue of "The Priest" magazine lists this year's results of a survey of newly ordained in the United States.  This survey, commissioned by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, is conducted by CARA (The Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate).  Of the 548 men ordained as priests this year in the U.S., 440 responded.  Here are some interesting findings:

* The average age of those ordained in 2016 is 35 (it was 27 in my time)
*  82% list both parents as being Catholic
*  92% have been Catholic since birth
*  59% completed college before seminary
*  41% attended a Catholic college (compared to just 7% of all U.S. Catholic adults)
*  70% indicated that they were altar servers
*  51% said that they were discouraged from entering the priesthood by family or friends
*  73% said that they participated in regular Eucharistic adoration and prayed the rosary daily.

     What does this tell us about this year's group of priests?

     They are older, more mature, well educated, and strongly influenced in their Faith by the practice of their Faith, by family and the institutions that guided their growth ...  this despite the discouraging words of some.  They are men of prayer and devotion.  Altar servering is a great entrance into the ministry of service at the Altar.   They enter into a ministry and respond to their vocational call at a time of challege, both in the Church and in society ... but they come well prepared to be servant leaders.

     In our own diocese this year, Bishop Malesic ordained Father Ryan Ravis, a fine young man who is enjoying his introduction to priestly ministry.  Pray for him and for the 547 other men ordained in the U.S. in 2016, and pray for all of your priests whose ministry spans many years.  May they have "many fruitful years".

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Cathching up with random thoughts

     Yesterday, as the Church celebrated the memorial of Pope Saint Callistus the First, an early Pope and martyr for the Faith (he died in 222), I shared with our Mass attendees my visit to the Catacombs in Rome that bears the name of this early Pope.  It was in 1975 as I attended the first International Catholic Charismatic Conference held during that Holy Year.  Of course, the conference took place on the beautiful grounds above the catacombs, but we did have the opportunity to visit the catacombs themselves, a powerful experience.  Callistus was a deacon of the Church of Rome who was enrusted with the care of this burial ground outside of the city, and was later chosen as the pastor of that local Church.  If I remember correctly, there were about 10,000 who attended the conference.


     Recently I had a number of great experiences with our Regional School family at Queen of Angels.  Over the summer, a group of parents transformed a classroom into a beautiful chapel for the students and faculty.  The Chapel of Saint Michael the Archangel will be blessed by Bishop Malesic on November 1st, the Feast of All Saints.  He will celebrate liturgy for the entire school in the auditorium (the new chapel only seats about forty five) and then bless this new sacred space.  We look forward to his visit.

     I had the honor of celebrating the first school liturgy in the chapel on the Feast of Saint Francis of Assisi with the fourth and fifth grades.  It is a wonderful setting for prayer and litugy, and I commended those who dedicated themselves to make this transformation possible.  The singing was great, and I encouraged the youngsters to always be ready and willing to lift their voices and become troubatours of the great King.  Here are a few pictures of the Mass.

     Also at the school, the Drama Club sponsored a production of "Late Night Catechism" last Friday, and despite a pouring rain, over 300 attended this fundraiser and enjoyed themselves tremendously.  "Late Night Catechism" is a production that has a Religious Sister (an actress) sharing a catechism session with her class (those in the audience) with humor and faith that brings back memories to any of us who attended Catholic School or CCD classes in the "olden days".  Lots of laughs and many memories (hopefully most of them good).  It was a huge success, and those involved are to be commended.

The guy in the punishment / prayer seat is Father John Moineau, one of our local pastors.

     Queen of Angels was also well represented recently at the annual Catholic Schools Mass at Blessed Sacrament Cathedral in Greensburg.  Check out the Queen of Angels facebook page - Queen of Angels School, 1 Main Street, North Huntingdon, PA.

Maybe a future bishop?

     And on October 4th we celebrated the feast of Francis of Assisi, one of my favoprite saints.   I cherish the three times that I visited his home town and prayed at the tomb of Francis and of Claire.  Despite the tourists, it is a most peace filled and prayerfulplace.  I include a few pictures from the past that I took.
The lower entrance to the Basilica of Saint Francis

View from the plaza in front of the Basilica of Saint Claire

View of the "old" Cathedral in Assisi

View from the entrance to the town.

Even the Assisi residents like pizza.