Sunday, July 31, 2011

Keep us strong in your love

    On this 18th Sunday in Ordinary Time, the alternate opening prayer spoke to my heart.

God our Father,
gifts without measure flow from your goodness
to bring us your peace.
Our life is your gift.
Guide our life's journey,
for only your love makes us whole.
Keep us strong in your love.

     The Hebrew Scriptures invite us to come and receive what we need, to come without cost into the generous love of our God.  Everything that we have is a gift.  As stated above, our very life is God's gift

     Paul reminds us that there is nothing that can come between us and the love of God that is found in Christ Jesus.  Nothing can or will stand in the way of his love finding a home in our lives, unless, of course, if we build a wall to shut it out ... but why would we shut out that which brings us peace and makes us whole.

     Yet we so often seek answers and solutions to our problems apart from God.  We struggle with our ways and ideas, propose our plans and approaches, and wonder why things just don't come together.  Our government leaders are struggling to avert a financial crisis this week.  Each group has a proposal, is convinced it is for the best, is reluctant to compromise.  Their ultimate solution will be stop gap, at best.  The stakes are enormous, the results, like the national debt, is astronomical, and the results are less than satisfying.

     The challenge in the gospel story  -  a huge crowd of hungry people with no where to go to be fed  -  was met in the love of Christ Jesus for his people.  The miracle of the feeding of the multitude was, in my mind, not the stuff of magic miracles, bread and fish multiplying in the baskets so that all would have enough.  The real miracle was the selfless giving of the five loaves and two fish for the good of the whole ... the acknowledgment of thanks to the Father by Jesus ... and the sharing of the gift in trust.  I believe that when the people saw that, when they remembered the words of love that they had heard, they reached into their lunch bags, into their hampers, and shared what they had.  What they had was a gift from God, not for them alone, but for all.  In the sharing they experienced love in action.  A solution to an overwhelming challenge was found, and there were "left-overs" so bountiful that all could eat again.

     Lord, keep us strong in your love, so that we might share your love and giftedness and transform our needy world into your bountiful kingdom.


     This afternoon I shared with the people of Saint Hedwig Parish in Smock, PA, in our Diocese their 100th Anniversary Celebration as a parish.  This small congregation in their little community church still has great Faith.  Bishop Lawrence Brandt led the celebration along with their pastor (actually Administrator) Father Bob Lubic and their Senior Priest Active Father Jim Petrovsky.  Congratulations.  As the bishop commented, the singing and prayer at the liturgy was a fitting act of praise for blessings received over these years.   Our diocese is filled with such coal mining patches and small ethnic parishes.  It is one of our great strengths.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

A fresh start

     Since 1300 the Catholic Church has been celebrating a Jubilee Year roughly ever twenty-five years.  It is a year set aside for pilgrimage to sacred places -Rome or the Holy Land or great places of pilgrimage like Santiago de Compostela in Spain.  In making these pilgrimages, and offering prayer and sacrifice, a new beginning could touch the life of the pilgrim.  Graces from Reconciliation would touch their lives, and plenary indulgences could be received.  What this meant was that the residual effect of our sins, temporal punishment, could be dealt with and removed.  It would give a person a fresh start, a new beginning, an openness to the loving mercy of God.  I made my first Holy Year pilgrimage to Rome at Pentecost in 1975, as a young priest, to attend the international Catholic Charismatic Renewal gathering.  One of the highlights was concelebrating, along with hundreds of priests, a liturgy at the Papal Altar in Saint Peter's celebrated at the invitation of Pope Paul VI by Cardinal Suenens.  Following that liturgy, we welcomed the pope at a special audience.

     I mention it because the reading from Leviticus today gives the groundwork for a jubilee year to be declared and celebrated by God's people every fiftieth year.  This jubilee year would be one of celebrating the relationship that the people had with God, and to restore the freshness of the relationship that had been lost or complicated by the passing of time and our own limitations.  It was a dramatic moment.  It involved a literal restoration of everything.  For example, slaves were freed, debts forgiven, property restored, liberty  and freedom for all peoples guaranteed.  It would be a year of celebrating the blessings of God and the hard work of the previous forty-nine years.  Fairness and honesty would prevail. 

     The idea of a new beginning, a fresh start, is indeed refreshing.  We find that in the gift of Baptism, in the Sacrament of Reconciliation, in the transforming moments of our lives.  But rarely to this degree.  This is life changing.  What would the world be like if we trusted enough in the love of God and relied enough on his grace to make such new beginnings ... not every fifty years, but whenever our lives are in need of a new or renewed direction?


    A CORRECTION ***  I mentioned yesterday that there would be a Memorial Mass for Archbishop Pietro Sambi on August 6th at the Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington and that EWTN would broadcast the Mass.  I understand the date has been changed, possibly to September.  I will inform you of the date when it is set.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Losses ... and prayers

    Although I missed yesterday's post, there were many on my heart and mind.  I would like to share them with you.  They have been called home to the Lord, and I ask for your prayers and remembrance.

     A few days ago I asked for your prayers for Archbishop Pietro Sambi, the Papal Nuncio to the United States, who was gravely ill.  He died late Wednesday evening in Baltimore.  He served the Church in this nation for a number of years and brought a grace and smile to Church and State alike.  Those who encountered him say he was a man of personal charm and great wisdom.  Pray for the repose of his soul.  I noticed that a Memorial Mass will be celebrated at the Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington on August 6th, which will be televised on EWTN.

     Today I am at the funeral of Louise Zaccagnini of Export, PA, the mother of one of our priests - Father Ken Zaccagnini.  Mrs. Zaccagnini was 78 and had suffered in the past few years in a battle with cancer.  Father Ken and his brother Joe benefited from the deep faith and strong love of Louise and their Dad, Joe.  Father Ken is a good friend and a great priest, and as is our custom, I am sure that many of his brothers will join him in praying for his Mom at her funeral liturgy at Saint Mary Church.
Pray for the repose of her soul ... they say that there is something special about the mother of a priest, so I entrust her to your thoughts and prayers.

     Yesterday saw the funeral at Saint Pius X in Mount Pleasant of Sister Virginia Tortora of the Sisters of Charity of the Immaculate Conception of Ivrea (in Italy).  Sister Virginia was 87, and in her 66th year of Religious Life.  The Sisters have a mission and operate a Montessori School in Mount Pleasant, of which Sister Virginia was the founding principal.  She served there from 1969 to 1999.  The Sisters, when they first came to the Diocese, served at our Minor Seminary as cooks and sacristans.  Although Sister Virginia was not one of those who was there during my High School years, I cherish the ministry of the Sisters and offer my prayers.  I ask you to join me in prayer for Sister Virginia.

     Today is the funeral for a gentleman that I did not personally know, but whose parents, the late Doctor Joseph Bucci and his mom, Ester Bucci, formerly of Scottdale, and his sister Carol of Greensburg, are great people.  His name is Robert Bucci, and he was only 57.  He was involved in the medical field, following the inspiration of his father.  His death occurred during recovery from spinal cord surgery.  God grant him peace.

     And lastly, yesterday I celebrated the funeral of a parishioner, Margaret "Peggy" Kapfer who died very unexpectedly last Saturday evening at the age of 49.  She and her husband Rob are parents of three children and several grandchildren.  She had not been ill, and her sudden death was devastating to not only family but many friends.  The turnout for her funeral Mass was wonderful, and spoke of her friendly personality and many involvements, including our Christian Mothers.  She will be deeply missed.  Pray for her and her family.


Wednesday, July 27, 2011


     Yesterday was the 65th time that the Benedictine Community of Saint Vincent Archabbey hosted "Priests' Day".  This annual event sees the Latrobe Community inviting priests from the local dioceses of Greensburg, Pittsburgh, Altoona-Johnstown and Erie, plus alumni and friends, to join in a relaxing day.  The day began with a concelebrated Mass led by the new bishop of Altoona-Johnstown, Bishop Mark Bartchak.  Joining him at the altar was Auxiliary Bishop William Winter of Pittsburgh, Archabbot Douglas Nowicki and retired Father Abbot Paul Mayer of Saint Vincent, Msgr. Lawrence Persico of the Greensburg Diocese, and Father Earl, the prior and Father Justin, the seminary rector.  I'm not sure how many priests were present, but I'd say at least one hundred.

     Following Mass were refreshments and a sit down luncheon at the Fred Rodgers Center on campus, then a free afternoon which concluded with a cookout on the grounds of the monastery.  The monks of Saint Vincent are noted for their hospitality, and those of us who attended are most grateful.


     In a reflection on today's Scriptures (Exodus 34: 29 - 35) I am reminded of the old song "You Light Up My Life".  When we speak of heaven, we speak of the "beatific vision" - our seeing God face to face.  This awesome experience transforms us into that glorified state that comes from intimacy with the Creator.  He indeed "lights up our lives" to the degree that we reflect the very glory of God.  He shines forth in us.

    That was what happened to Moses.  After his "one on one" encounter on the mountain top, having conversed with God and received the tablets of the law, he returned to a fearful people.  The skin of his face "had become radiant while he conversed with the Lord".  So awe inspiring and fearful were his looks that he covered his face when among the people, less they become frightened.

     We do not want nor need people to be afraid of us, but are we transformed enough through our relationship with the Almighty that people will recognize the presence of God in us?  Or do we hide?   Do they recognize that we are friends with the one who "lights up our lives"?  That is what it means to be holy, like God.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

The Original Grandparents' Day

    There is a National Grandparents' Day for honoring our grandparents, set by President Jimmy Carter in 1978 for the Sunday following Labor Day.  Hallmark has their Grandparents' Day where the cards and sentiments for these important people in our lives can be expressed.  When I was in Scottdale, Grandparents' Day at the school in May was the best attended event on the calendar.  We love our grandparents.

     We within the Church celebrate a sort of Grandparents' Day today, on the feast of Saints Joachim and Anna, the parents of the Blessed Virgin Mary and therefore the maternal grandparents of Jesus.  I would say that ours is the "original".  Today would be a day to honor, show our love, celebrate, but most especially to pray for the parents of our parents.

     Scripture does not tell us about these two, but ancient tradition, already known by the 2nd century, gives us their names.  Devotion to Saint Anna became popular in the 6th century in the East and the 10th century in the West, with devotion to Joachim coming much later.  Why devotion to these two?  They did a great job preparing their daughter in Faith for the working of God.  It was their Faith and their love and trust in the providence of God that set the stage for Mary's YES.

     My grandparents all died while I was still young.  My Dad's dad was a coal miner who worked hard all his life, and along with grandma, who died all too early, raised six great kids along with two who died in infancy.  They lived in a coal mining "patch" but with great pride, deep Faith and a wholesome family life.  They were already second generation Americans (the name was originally Stachowiak)  I've included a picture of my grandfather, John Stoviak, coming home from the mines with his lunch bucket ... and of grandma, Bessie, with some of the grand kids (I'm in the front row left).  My memories of visiting (and eating - you were always fed) are blessings.  The other picture is of Mom's mom and dad ... Frank and Mary Lenard at my 2nd birthday party.
Grand pap came to this country from Poland, and was a skilled tailor.  Together they raised five girls.  Grandma was from Youngstown, Ohio ... by way of Slovakia where she grew up.   I lived four houses down the street from my maternal grandparents, and as such, was probably spoiled.

    I truly give thanks for these four great
souls who gave life to those who brought me into this world ... and I pray for them on this Grandparents' Day.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Saint James

     James and John were brothers, the sons of Zebedee.  This James, one of two to follow Jesus as an Apostle, is called "the Greater", simply because he was the first of the two to follow him.  He was given a level of honor because he shepherded the Church in Jerusalem.  He was the first to give his life, having been beheaded by King Agrippa I in about the year 44, and was buried in Jerusalem.  Today is his feast.

     About the ninth century a tradition developed that said that the relics of James were brought to Spain sometime after his martyrdom, and his shrine at Santiago de Compostela grew in importance until it became,  if not the major, then at least one of the greatest pilgrimage sights in all of Europe.  It was on a par with Rome and Jerusalem in importance. Pilgrim routes from every direction in Europe led to Compostela.  Many churches along those routes have as their name Saint James.  The scallop shell, which is the emblem of Saint James, has become the emblem of pilgrims universally.  I seem to remember that the Holy Father 's visit last November had him wearing a brown pilgrim's cape with that shell emblem.

    In 1987 the pilgrimage routes to Compostela were designated by the Council of Europe as historical cultural routes of international importance.

     World Youth Day 2011 takes place in Madrid, Spain next month, with a million young people journeying to Spain in a pilgrimage of Faith in the spirit of Santiago de Compostela.  Pope Benedict XVI will also be in attendance.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

An understanding heart

     What if the Lord spoke to you one evening and said: "Ask something of me and I will give it to you."  Wow!  What an opportunity, what a goldmine.  No strings attached.

     That is exactly what God said to Solomon, the king.  And Solomon answered this way: "Give your servant, therefore, an understanding heart to judge your people and to distinguish right from wrong."  The Lord was pleased with this request, and granted Solomon a heart so wise and understanding so deep that it was unlike anything ever experienced before and without equal.  We still speak of the "wisdom of Solomon".  The Lord said ... you could have asked for a long life, or for riches, or for the life of your enemies ... but you chose wisely.  I am pleased.

     And yet God does speak to us and asks us what we want.  He already desires us to want a heart unto his own, a heart of wisdom and love, a heart of understanding and justice.  Do we want that for ourselves?

     A great question ... one that in the lived experience seems at times to indicate that the answer is no.  May that NOT be the case ... may we who have been called and justified and glorified by the love of Christ truly desire his heart, an understanding heart.



Saturday, July 23, 2011


     In this past week while I was away, two significant Church things happened that  seek our prayers.  Both were beautifully presented by one of my favorite bloggers, Rocco Palmo, of Whispers in the Loggia fame (see the link on my favorites column).  Rocco has the ability to discover church news sometimes before it happens, and has a deep insight into the effect that this news has on the Church.  Obviously I enjoy his blog.

    The news on Tuesday was the announced acceptance of the resignation of Cardinal Justin Rigali as Archbishop of Philadelphia and the appointment of our new Metropolitan Archbishop, Archbishop Charles Chaput.  Archbishop Chaput comes to Philly from Denver.  He will be installed on September 8th at the Cathedral in Philadelphia.  It is an important moment for the life of the Church in Philly, but also important for us, since Philadelphia is our Metropolitan See.  The Dioceses are clustered into groups under an Archbishop/Archdiocese.  The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania comprises one such group, with Philadelphia as our umbrella.  The Commonwealth has the Dioceses of Erie, Pittsburgh, Greensburg, Altoona-Johnstown, Harrisburg, Scranton, Allentown and Philadelphia.  Thus, Archbishop Chaput will soon become our spiritual Father, on one level.

     Prayers are in order for Cardinal Rigali for his service to the Church and to Archbishop Chaput as he begins a new aspect of ministry with us in Pennsylvania.

     Also this week it was announced that Archbishop Pietro Sambi, the Vatican Nuncio to the United States and the Holy Father's representative to the U.S. Church, has been hospitalized following surgery and is in need of our prayers as well.  He has served the U.S. Church very well these last number of years, and is a charming man who brings life to a diplomatic job.  He needs and deserves our prayers.

     Add to them the many who have asked for or are in need of our prayers and love, and we have a full agenda.  Yet that is what we are about - love and caring, prayer and support.

Friday, July 22, 2011

A Witness and Follower

    Home from Louisville.  Just stepped in the door, made a necessary pit stop, and here I am.  It is good to be back on a regular key board.  My tablet is nice, but my fingers are not as nimble on the small board, thus the errors these past few posts (especially yesterday - my grammer teacher would be ashamed).     Louisville was lovely, but it is good to be home.  More on Louisville later.

    Today is the feast of a great woman of strength, Mary Magdalene.  She is called the "Apostle to the Apostles" because she, who was present at the empty tomb and encountered Jesus, was sent to the apostles (hiding in the Upper Room) with this Good News.  She was a loyal disciple, one touched by the healing power of Christ, who stood faithfully at the foot of the cross with Mary, his mother, and who was the first to witness the risen Christ.

     Pope Benedict said in a 2006 Angelus reflection that "The story of Mary of Magdala reminds us all of a fundamental truth: a disciple of Christ is one who, in the experience of human weakness, has had the humility to ask for help, has been healed by him and has set out following closely after him, becoming a witness of the power of his merciful love that is stronger than sin and death."  I borrowed this from Whispers in the Loggia which continues a great reflection of Saint Mary Magdalene.

    Mary is a unique and important character in the story of the Resurrection, chosen by Christ as one of the first witnesses of the event that changed the world.  We too are called to be followers of Christ Jesus and winesses of his death and resurrection.  We need to acknowledge the fact that we have seen the Lord, and we are his witnesses.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

May I have your attention

Why do speak in parables? That was the question asked by the his friends. Speak plainly, they seemed to say. But Jesus made it very clear that the heart of the people is gross, 'they will hardly hear with their ears, they have closed their eyes, lest they see with their eyes and hear with their ears and understand with their hearts and be converted and I heal them.'

Yet the Lord desires to bring healing in our lives and lead us to conversion from sin and death. How to get our attention? How to get us to see and listen? How to shake or shock us out of apathy?

With the Hebrew people he had to make sure that they paid attention, whether it was lightning and thunder, or a visible, dense cloud, or a smoke covered mountain top. He did this to say, look, I'm here. Pay attention. Listen and learn. Do we need these signs to pay attention? Or will his Word be enough?

Since I have posted this from the NPM convention in Louisville, let me say that there are nearly 3,000 musicians, choir leaders, and people involved in ministry. The program has been exhausting but great. Like at home, the heat is oppressive. But Louisville has been a gracious host, with wonderful Southern hospitality. In the opening session, in the home of Churchill Downs and the Kentucky Derby, they had the trumpter from the Downs call us to the starting gate. Then we sang My Old Kentucky Home, and were welcomed by the local church and civic community. It was great.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Complain, complain, complain ...

     "Father, it's too cold in church".  "Father, it's hot in church, do something about the air conditioning!"  "Boy, Mass was so long today, I should have brought coffee."  "You know, it's almost not worth coming if I can't spend at least an hour."  "Why do we have to sing so much?"  "Why do they play so loud?"  "Can't we have a quiet Mass so that I can pray?"  "What's with these office hours?  Why can't they be there when I want them?"  The litany goes on.  I've had people ask me how I put up with it sometimes.  I try to listen and reflect rather than react.  Then again, some say "He never does anything about it."

     I mention this not because I have had a rash of complaints.  Maybe there are, but I'm still in Louisville, so I'm oblivious to the possibility.  No, I mention it because the children of Israel in Exodus today, sojourning in the desert, were complaining.  Nothing good to eat, nothing to drink, then this manna stuff, and quail, and water from the rock.  We want more, we want variety, we want, we want, we want.

     But our God is not only our champion, not only our redeemer, not only our savior, but he is also our provider.  He is steeped in patience and extremely generous.  He gives us the new manna, the new bread from heaven.  He gives us the Body and Blood of his Son, broken and poured out for us.

     In the Lord of the Rings trilogy there is an elfin bread called lambus.  It is not much in looks or taste or substance (much like manna and our Eucharistic hosts), but a little will go a long way.  It gives strength and sustains life.  The elves are spiritual beings, "heavenly" creatures, angels (if you will) ... it is the bread of angels that the Lord gives to us - not manna or lambus - but his very self.  Gratitude should be our song, and complaints far from our lips.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

A story to remember

     I remember going to see the movie The Ten Commandments while in grade school.  We went as the Catholic School kids from the three schools in Uniontown to the State Theater for the showing.  We marched from the schools through town, two by two, with the Sisters shepherding us.  It was a sight to behold.  But so was the movie.  A true "blockbuster".  I still remember the plagues and the angel of death passing over and later the anger of Moses upon coming down from his encounter with God and the earth swallowing up the blasphemers and idolaters.

     But what I remember most is Charleston Heston as Moses lifting his staff and parting the Red Sea ... and after the crossing, bringing the waters together upon the heads of the army of Pharaoh.  It was a sight to see, an epic story told with great effect by the filmmakers.  But the story is to be remembered because it told of God championing the Hebrew people, his "fighting for them against the Egyptians".  Whether embellished in the telling in Exodus or spectacular in the viewing by Hollywood, it is a great story of victory and freedom won on behalf of a people weak in faith by a God strong in love.

     Again, as I mentioned before, this epic story, this exodus event, is the precursor of the greatest story ever told, that of the victory over sin and death won for us by Christ in his death on the tree of the cross.  It is the story of freedom won on behalf of a people weak in faith by a God strong in love.  It is our story.


Did you know that the Diocese of Bardstown,
Kentucky (moved to Louisville in 1841)
was established on April 8, 1808,
along with Boston, New York and
Philadelphia ... formed from the first Diocese,
Baltimore, which at that time became
an archdiocese.
It was the first diocese West of the Mountains.
It is a historic place, and beautiful.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Let us sing to the Lord ...

    Today's Psalm Response is actually NOT from the psalms, but from Exodus (15:1bc-2,3-4,5-6).  It echos the first reading, and I would like to share it with you.

Let us sing to the Lord; he has covered himself in glory.
I will sing to the LORD, for he is graciously triumphant;
horse and chariot he has cast into the sea.
My strength and my courage is the LORD,
and he has been my savior.
He is my God, I praise him;
the God of my father, I extol him.

The LORD is a warrior,
LORD is his name!
Pharaoh's chariots and army he hurled into the sea;
the elite of his officers were submerged in the Red Seas.

The flood waters covered them,
they sank into the depths like a stone.
Your right hand, O LORD, magnificent in power,
your right hand, O LORD, has shattered the enemy.
Let us sing to the Lord; he has covered himself in glory.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Confronting death

     Friday I contributed to a statistic.  I was one of a "few" people in the U.S. who helped set a record first day opening of a movie.  "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2" brought in a total of $92.1 million on Friday, with $43.5 million in midnight showings alone. Add to that $157.5 million worldwide since Wednesday, and the total is $250 million.  I have some friends whom I drive bonkers with my love of the Harry Potter series, both books and movies.  A review of Cindy Wooden for the Catholic News Service quotes a review in the Vatican Newspaper L'Osservatore Romano that says that the film(s) teach that "it's possible to change the world.  It is Harry, with his inseparable friends, who demonstrates that it is possible to vanquish evil and establish peace.  Power, success and an easy life do not bring the truest and deepest joys.  For that we need friendship, self-giving, sacrifice and attachment to a truth that is not formed in man's image."

    For Harry Potter fans, I liked the movie.  It was dark and filled with tragedy and death, but it brought the story to a good conclusion.

     One of the reasons for mentioning my Friday experience was because during the film, after the violent deaths of some key players, there was someone a few rows behind me that began weeping, and continued uncontrollably for a prolonged time.  Judging from the tone of the sound, it was probably a young girl.  It became distracting and annoying after awhile.  I wanted to say: "Get a grip.  It is only a movie.  They're only characters."  But then I began to think.

     Those deaths on film, of "old friends" from the series, killed violently in the struggle between good and evil, even brought a tear to my eye.  Yet here was someone weeping with abandon.  Why?  Probably this person, in fact, many of the young Harry Potter devotees, have rarely experienced death, especially violent death, to this degree.  These were friends in the mind and imagination who were wiped out.  I can't imagine what it must be like for a young person to have to deal with that.  It caused me to be patient and a little more understanding.  Death is all too often unreal for the young.  Our love and understanding are needed to help them see beyond the loss, to see the future possibilities, to see life continuing.  The series does that ... after all that death and destruction and the overcoming of the forces of the dark lord, we see 19 years into the future, with a new generation leaving for Hogwarts, the children of Harry & Ginny and Ron & Hermione and Draco.  Life rebuilds and goes on, fears are reassured, and, as in Harry's case, love triumphs.


     I'm off today on an adventure.  I will be travelling to Louisville, Kentucky for the National Pastoral Musicians annual Convention with some of our music ministers.  Now, before you chuckle or express wonder at my being on this trip, ignore the third word of the title (musician) and focus on the second (pastoral).  Those that know me will realize the stretch at my being at a "music convention".   I'm looking forward to this week.  This year's gathering promises to be important because of the upcoming revised translations in the liturgy.  I hope to do some reporting from there, but I'm not sure of my technical abilities.  Say a prayer, and hope the posts keep coming your way.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Lily of the Mohawks

     Lest the week slip by without mentioning a simple yet powerful witness to the Faith who was celebrated this past Thursday, I wanted to mention Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha, who lived a short life from 1656 to 1680.  Born in what is now New York State, she was the daughter of a Mohawk warrior and a Catholic Algonquin woman whom he had saved from captivity with the Iroquois.  Smallpox took her parents and brother when she was only four, and left her scarred and with limited vision.  Her uncle adopted her, and she was desired by many for marriage.  Having been taught the Faith by Jesuit missionaries at about the age of eleven, she vowed to live her life as a Christian virgin.  Baptized at twenty, persecution and potential death was her cross until she escaped to a Catholic community in what is now Quebec.  For the next four years her life was one of intense prayer and mortification.  She died at the age of twenty four.  The late Blessed Pope John Paul II beatified her on June 22 in 1980.

     Those involved in Girl Scouting know of Kateri.  There is a Catholic Religious award given in her name.  This award is reserved, at least in our Diocese, to the diocesan bishop at the scout convocation.  I remember, however, in my first assignment (1973 or 1974) presenting this award in the parish setting.  [I hope it was "legal"]  It was a great honor, and it reintroduced me to this wonderful young Native American woman.  She, along with the North American Martyrs, give us examples of courage and deep faith.  Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha, pray for this nation, for your people, and for those involved in Scouting.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Our Passover Feast

     Since we are referring to the Passover in the Reading from the Hebrew Scriptures today, let me begin by acknowledging how easy it is to "pass over" a post.  In talking to a cousin yesterday, she mentioned that she did not receive a post, and I assured her that I had posted one.  Well, my apologies, to her and to you.

     In Exodus (Ex 11:10 - 12:14) the Lord gives instructions to his people to prepare for a day of intervention.  He had heard their cries, and having been rejected by the obstinate heart of Pharaoh, was about to set them free.  The intervention was to be momentous, one that would touch the lives of all who lived, death.  In preparation, the Hebrews were told to take the blood of the lamb that was slaughtered for their journey of freedom and mark their doorposts.  This was so that the Lord would "pass over" those homes and not bring the death of the first born of the land, both man and beast, to those households.   Death is the ultimate plague of a hard and obstinate heart.

     After that terrible night they began a journey to freedom, the journey to a promised land flowing with milk and honey.  Leaving that place where they had been welcomed but now were dispised, they were led by the Lord himself.

     Jesus is the new Moses, who, having heard our cries for freedom from sin and death has led us through a new "passover".  The blood that marks our lives is the blood of the paschal lamb, Christ Himself.  The angel of death has passed over us when we entered the waters of baptism.  We are journeying to the Promised Land that is beyond this life, the table that the Lord has set in the Heavenly Banquet.  And most importantly, the Lord walks before us.  In the Church we find our family, in his Word we find the Truth, and in his Love we find salvation.  Journey with confidence.


Wednesday, July 13, 2011

A Tale of Two Henrys

     Today is the feast of the Holy Roman Emperor Saint Henry II, who lived from 972 to 1024.  From Bavaria, he succeeded his cousin, Otto, as emperor, and ruled with relative fairness and justice.  He encouraged a spirit of respect and cooperation between Church and State.  He personally assisted the poor, and as emperor he respected the Church's freedom.  He fostered church and monastic reform and established the See of Bamburg as a center for missions to the Slavs.  His wife, Cunegunda, is also a saint.  For this Henry, the state's role was to foster the best with gospel values and truth.

     There is another Henry II.  This one was the King of England in the mid 1,100's, following King Stephen.  This is the Henry who was great friends with Thomas Becket, who in the end was a martyr for the Faith.   The relationship between Church and State suffered under this Henry, who desired the wealth of the Church.  In appointing his good friend and buddy, Becket, to the role of Archbishop of Canterbury, he thought he would have control of the Church.  Thomas warned him that there would be problems with this arrangement, and there was.  The rights of the Church were undermined by Henry's rule, and Thomas Becket became a champion of Church rights. For this he was murdered in Canterbury Cathedral (and acknowledged a saint in two short years).  For this Henry, the Church was meant to support and uphold the State.

     The struggle in the relationship between Church and State still exists.  Hopefully it does not lead to the martyrdom of the defenders of Church rights nor to the subservience of State to the whims of the Church, but rather to mutual respect and cooperation.  Together we must build a better society, rooted in Gospel values and strong in respect and freedom for all peoples.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Getting away ...

     Summertime and the living is easy ... vacation and get away time for many of us.  Just changing the routine is sometimes enough ... at other times we desire to be elsewhere (like in Sunday's gospel when Jesus taught the crowds at the shore - oh how I wanted to be there ... Galilee or Maryland or Jersey or the Outer Banks).

     Even the Holy Father takes a vacation and escapes the heat of Rome.  He goes to Castel Gondolfo in the hills some thirty or so miles outside of Rome.  He relaxes by reading and writing, taking a break from the ordinary routine.
     Castel Gondolfo is a beautiful small town that rides the crest of a hill and overlooks a beautiful lake.  The Apostolic Palace is located just off of the town square.  I visited there a few years back.

     As our Holy Father enjoys his stay there, I post a few pictures that I took of the place.  Enjoy.


     As I mentioned in a previous post, two Sisters of Mary Immaculate - Sisters Gratia and Ann - visited our parish last Sunday for a Mission Appeal.  They spoke of their Order which is based out of India, but ministers many places, including a House in Leechburg in our diocese.

     They mentioned that their founder, Bishop Louis LaRaviore Morrow (1892 - 1987), a native of Texas and bishop of Krishnagar, West Bengal, India for thirty years, was a great communicator of the Faith.  They brought me a sample of his works, and I thought I might pass this info on to you.  They say that the books are good, and some geared toward children make great gifts.

     Bishop Morrow (who was a good friend of our own late Bishop Connare) wrote a catechism entitled OUR CATHOLIC FAITH, written in an easy to read question and answer format in a hard back edition that is reasonably priced.
     He also wrote a booklet of 116 pages entitled MY FIRST HOLY COMMUNION and a 48 page booklet entitled MY JESUS AND I.

     If interested in more information, you can contact the Sisters of Mary Immaculate at OUR MISSION HOUSE, 118 Park Road, Leechburg, PA 15656.  There is also a website at and an email address at  The Sisters would be most grateful for your interest.  And I thank the Sisters for these additions to our parish library.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Ora et labora

    On this feast of Saint Benedict, the patron of Europe and founder of Western Monasticism, I would like to recognize my relationship with the sons and daughters of Benedict.

     First are the monks of Saint Vincent Archabbey in Latrobe, led by Archabbott Douglas Nowicki.  I've spoken of Saint Vincent's before.  The very first person that I met upon arriving that day in 1961 at the Prep was the headmaster, the late Father Louis Sedlacko.  Many monks helped shape me spiritually and intellectually in those early days, and even though I studied theology elsewhere (at Saint Francis in Loretto) I have and continue to have the blessing of working with these men in our parishes and their friendships.  Those of us in the trenches try to make it a point to let them know what a true blessing it is to this diocese to have this great Abbey (with Monastery, Seminary, College and pastoral missions) in our midst.  Father Earl Henry, the Prior, is a friend who makes every effort to assist the guys in the parishes, and we are most grateful.

     Secondly are the Benedictine Sisters at Saint Emma's Monastery in Greensburg, led by Mother Mary Ann.  These women, most of whom came from Germany years ago and have been joined by a growing number of American members, came to serve at Saint Vincent as cooks long ago and to found a Retreat House at Saint Emma's.  I was fed with tender love while at Saint Vincent and have visited the retreat house often, made my ordination retreat there, met for days of prayer, and enjoyed their hospitality.  They commit themselves to prayer and the service of the Children of God with wonderful graciousness.

     And thirdly, there is another group of Benedictine women that I worked with in Scottdale whose community is located in the North Hills of Pittsburgh - the Benedictine Sisters of Pittsburgh located on Perrysville Avenue.  We had a small group serving at Saint John the Baptist parish ... during my time there were Sisters Anne Lazar, Eleanor Easly, Norma Weigand and Suzanne Chenot.  I got to know the community, presently led by Sister Benita, and cherish the shared ministry and friendships.

     The motto that Benedict established for his communities is : ORA ET LABORA - Latin for "Pray and Work".  It has served these three communities well as they continue to serve the larger community of the Church.  We are most grateful and continue to lift them in prayer.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Remarkable women - a remarkable day

     This afternoon in a special Liturgy celebrated by Bishop William Winter of Pittsburgh at Our Lady of Grace Church in Greensburg, the Sisters of Charity of Seton Hill, the U.S. Province, celebrated their 2011 Jubilee Celebration, honoring eight Golden and one Silver Jubilarians.  I had the privilege of being present.  It was a joyous celebration.

     Sister Vivien Linkhauer, Provincial Superior, in welcoming us, shared statistics about this group.  In addition to the four hundred twenty-five years of Religious Life, the stats were outstanding.  These are remarkable women!  The Golden Jubilarians are: Sister Mary Elizabeth McCauley, Sister Catherine Meinert, Sister Kathleen McCauley, Sister Donna Marie Leiden, Sister Patricia Laffey, Sister Judith Marie McKenna, Sister Mary Jo Mutschler and Sister Bernadette Manning.  The Silver Jubilarian is Sister Rachel Blais.

     Their Renewal of Vows along with all the Sisters present, read:

In response to God's call to follow Christ more closely,
I, Sister ___________, vow to God chastity, poverty and obedience for life
according to the Constitutions of the Sisters of Charity of Seton Hill.
By this consecration I unite myself with this religious congregation
and its mission.  I ask the grace of the Holy Spirit
and the help of the Blessed Virgin Mary that, faithful to this consecration,
I may strive for perfect charity
in the service of God and the Church.

     It was a powerful and moving proclamation of faith and commitment.  The theme for the gathering was:
Sisters of Charity
are called to live in
and to remember that
God is ever present.

     Sister Kathleen McCauley whom I have worked with and known for years shared these thoughts on the final page of the program.  I'm sure she would not mind me mentioning them here.

Gift of Love
The call was heard
in the depths of our hearts ...
our Yes faltering ... yet sure
united us in prayer ... community ...
friendship ... and ministry ...
woven with the threads of
humility ... simplicity ... charity
into the tapestry of our
vowed life as
Sisters of Charity
to be God's presence ... to find
God's presence ...
wherever we are!


     This was for me a day of sharing with Religious Women.  At the three Masses this weekend Sister Gratia Kuttianickal and her companion, Sister Ann, religious women of the Sisters of Mary Immaculate, spoke to our parish family regarding their work in India and Africa, as well as their mission in our own diocese.  Their visit was part of the yearly Mission Co-operative Appeal held in each parish of the diocese.  As I reminded everyone at Mass, it has not been that long since we in the United States were considered "mission territory".  Today we help bring the Gospel to all parts of the world and to all peoples through our prayerful and financial support.  As the Sisters shared their mission, it became clear that they, too, are remarkable women ... and the church is truly blessed.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

A sower went out to sow ...

     The seed sown is the word of God, the word of truth, the message of the kingdom.  The sower is the living Word of God, Jesus the Christ.  The seed is intended to be sown in the rich soil of our hearts.  But not all hearts are ready, not all hearts are receptive.  The parable in the gospel from Matthew for this 15th Sunday in Summer Ordinary Time reminds us of that reality.

     Our task is to prepare the soil of our hearts for that Word.  Our task is to make sure that the Word is not snatched away, plucked from us by the enemy before it has a chance to be embedded and take hold.  Our task is to make sure that the Word reaches, not rock, but rather soil where it can establish roots, and not be carried away by trial or tribulation.  Our task is to make sure that the lure of riches and worldly anxiety do not choke off the Word of God.  Our task is to make sure that our hearts provide the rich soil that will allow the Word to produce a yield of a hundred or sixty or thirty fold.

     There are all too many who seek to deny us access to the Truth, presenting their alternatives as "gospel".  There are those who are more subtle in luring us away from the Truth with their lies that tell us that we can't understand nor do we need to know the truth.  There is so much in our lives that provide distractions and alternatives to "the" Truth of Jesus Christ, and everyone and everything wants our undivided attention.  But for those who hunger, for those who thirst, for those whose hearts and minds are open ... the Lord places within us that which is Life-Giving, and asks us to take it and run with it ... to make it a part of who we are and what we do.

     We recall the words of the gospel acclamation:

"The seed is the word of God,
Christ is the sower.
All who come to him will have life forever."

Friday, July 8, 2011

Will we never learn?

     The relationship between Egypt and Israel has often been difficult.  Although neighbors, they were all too often at odds with each other.  In our scripture stories we recall Moses leading the people of God from the bondage of slavery in Egypt to the freedom of the Promised Land.  It is a pivotal moment in our salvation history and sets the stage for another delivery from sin and death to the promise of life and happiness found in the new Moses, the new Adam, in Jesus.

     But we must remember how Israel/Jacob/God's family got to Egypt in the first place.  If it were not for Egypt, the People of God may not have been here.  In the midst of a worldwide famine, Jacob's sons came to beg for help.  They were met by their brother, Joseph (betrayed and unknown to them at first), the steward of the Pharaoh.  Having planned for the famine through God's providence, Joseph allowed Egypt to be the dispenser of blessing for peoples of the world.  And, when reunited with his family, Joseph welcomed them to Egypt and gave them the fertile Nile delta, the best land, where they became a great nation.

    In the intervening years, a number of things happened.  The Israelites grew prosperous, they integrated into society to the point of losing their identity, they forgot the blessing of God that came through Egypt (in fact, they all but forgot their God), and resentment grew among their hosts as they adopted an attitude of entitlement.  Thus, over the years, they went from welcomed and honored guests to the work force that were all but slaves.  Only in this moment of dire need did they remember something of this God of history, and called upon his name.  Enter Moses and the Exodus event.

     This morning we heard of their welcome to Egypt as foreigners.  We are reminded that most of our ancestors were foreigners who were welcomed into a land of blessing.  Sometimes that welcome was difficult to see. We are reminded that as we sought to fit in, we too became prosperous, we too stand on the threshold of losing our identity as people of faith, and we forget the blessings that have come our way from God.  We lose sight of who He is and who we are.  We change to the point of losing not only our identity but also our moral compass and our rich Judeo-Christian traditions.  We are becoming slaves in a land of freedom.  We redefine laws to suit our purposes, we look down on the immigrant as undesirables, we deny life and liberty and happiness to those who do not fit our standards or interfere with "our" happiness.

     Why do we let history repeat itself?  Will we never learn?

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Why are we afraid?

     Yesterday morning at the conclusion of Mass, we celebrated the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick.  We do so on the first Wednesday of each month, in addition to a larger communal setting in the Fall.  It affords those who are ill or aged or in need of the grace and strength of the Sacrament to share in the grace provided.  I picked up on the monthly celebration idea from Father Bob Washko, a priest of our diocese and a former neighbor.

     I mentioned our Anointing Service because just the day before I received a call from a family to visit a local hospital and Anoint one of their family members who was ill.  The individual, who was in his eighties and having some heart problems, had come to the conclusion that it might be good to call the priest and get things in order.  The family was very upset, the one child saying that their dad's stats were improving, why this phone call now?  The family member was near tears.

     So I went to visit.  Despite having some heart issues that are being addressed, I found the person in good spirits and ready to be blessed.  We talked, we prayed, we shared the Sacraments, and we had a great visit.  If only the rest of the family could have been there and seen the peace and contentment.

     This is the one Sacrament that is most misunderstood and most feared.  I have had calls in the middle of the night to go and anoint Mom, but don't let on that we called.  Tell her you were just making the rounds (at 2 am?).  Why do we live in fear ... of this Sacrament ... of death itself?

     The Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick is a sacrament of the living, a sacrament of healing.  We should expect strengthening, both physically as well as spiritually.  It is part of the continual process of healing that we constantly need as human beings.  There is also a prayerful preparation for the great healing embrace of death - the anointing of the body in preparation, the healing forgiveness of God's love in reconciliation, and the reception of the Lord Jesus in Holy Communion in Viaticum.  This "Extreme Unction" - this last anointing - is to be a wonderful celebration of the Family of God easing the transition from life in this world to the joy of life everlasting. We never know the will of God, but I would guess that this gentleman that I saw on Tuesday has a way to go before those "last anointing" prayers.  But he's ready for whatever the Lord has in store.  May we always be ready ... and not out of fear but rather out of joyful anticipation.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

The Twelve

     Even if you do not play the lottery, numbers mean something.  Some people look at dream books, or calculate the number of an event or an action.  Some people give numeric value to a name or a person.

     Twelve is one such number that has great symbolism in the scriptures and various traditions.  Twelve is the number of that which is complete, that which forms a whole, a perfect and harmonious unit.  It speaks of fullness, the completion and integrality of a thing.

     From all of his followers, Jesus chooses twelve and gives them "authority over unclean spirits to drive them out and to cure every disease and every illness."  He gave them the commission to proclaim that "The Kingdom of heaven is at hand."  In today's gospel from Matthew we hear who they are: Simon called Peter, Andrew his brother, James and John, the sons of Zebedee, Philip and Bartholomew, Thomas and Matthew the tax collector, James the son of Alphaeus and Thaddeus, Simon the Cananean and Judas Iscariot.  Not all were perfect - they doubted, they complained, they ran away in fear, one even betrayed him. Yet in their brother, Jesus, they found forgiveness, redemption and strength. They formed that perfect foundation for the Church, the new Jerusalem, for they were "the twelve".  Even when the betrayer departed, he had to be replaced to bring completion.

     There was another group of twelve, the sons of Jacob/Israel, who formed a family that provided a perfect whole for the tribes of Israel.  Their story is a wonderful story, one that we get a glimpse of in Genesis 41 & 42 today.  They were not all perfect either.  Yet in their betrayed brother, Joseph, they found forgiveness, redemption and strength.

     In the vision of the New Jerusalem, the Heavenly City of God, the city was built upon twelve courses of stone to provide a strong and complete foundation.   Upon this "rock" Jesus has built his church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.

     The power of THE TWELVE is the foundation of our lives.


     And speaking of completion and wholeness in the number twelve, today the Church celebrates Maria Goretti, a girl whose inspiring life was lived in twelve short years.  She lived an exemplary life from 1890 to 1902 in a small Italian town with her family.  She resisted the sexual advances of a man who had threatened to rape her, and in anger he stabbed her multiple times.  She died within a day, and in that time became a Child of Mary, received the Last Sacrament, and specifically forgave her murderer.  She was canonized in 1950, in the largest crowd to that time gathered for such an occasion, with her mother present.  Courage has no limits.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Placing blame

     Did you ever have a bad sciatic attack?  The back hurts, you limp along, you're miserable.  If you ever wanted someone to blame, today's first reading from Genesis gives you the scapegoat - Jacob.

     It seems that Jacob, in his journey, found himself in a wrestling match one night with someone that he didn't know.  It was intense and lasted the night.  Jacob gave this man a run for his money.  In fact, after struggling through the night, at the first light of daybreak, when the man wanted to end things, Jacob persisted.  The man struck and wrenched Jacob's hip socket, causing him to yield, and leaving him with a limp.

     What Jacob did not know was that he had wrestled with a messenger of God, and angel in human form, and prevailed.  And when he asked for a blessing from the man, he received a "new name" - no longer Jacob, but now Israel "because he had contended with divine and human beings and had prevailed."   He recognized that he had survived seeing God face to face, and was grateful.

     So, if you ever have sciatica, thank Jacob / Israel.  It is his fault!


     I hope that your 4th was enjoyable and relaxing.  I give mine an "F" ++++++ = friends, food, fellowship, festivities, fireworks and fun on the fourth. A good day.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Independence Day

On this 4th of July, I would like to share Preface I for Independence Day and other civic observances from the Sacramentary.

all powerful and ever living God,
we do well to sing your praise forever,
and to give you thanks in all we do
through Jesus Christ our Lord.

He spoke to men a message of peace
and taught us to live as brothers.
His message took form in the vision of our fathers
as they fashioned a nation
where men might live as one.
This message lives on in our midst
as a task for men today
and a promise for tomorrow.

We thank you, Father, for your blessings in the past
and for all that, with your help, we must yet achieve.
And so, with hearts full of love,
we join the angels today and every day of our lives,
to sing your glory in a hymn of endless praise.

Have a safe and blessed Fourth of July!

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Real Freedom

     I would like to share the Scripture reflection that I wrote this weekend for the Diocesan Web Site.

     With the Fourth of July this week, we are already into the freedom mode.  We prepare to celebrate our Freedom from tyranny as we commemorate the Declaration of Independence that our Founding Fathers boldly proclaimed on July 4, 1776.  Ever since that day, we have cherished our freedom.

     Our Gospel passage from Matthew reminds us, though, that true freedom can only be ours when we are "yoked" to Christ and willing to carry His "burden".  "Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for yourselves.  For my yoke is easy, and my burden light."  The yoke is meant to give guidance and direction and oneness of purpose.  The team of oxen or horses plowing, for instance, would not work together or travel in the same direction without being "yoked".   And the burden they bear, the plow or wagon they pull, is necessary for the work to be accomplished.

     We are yoked to Christ.  It is His Spirit that unites us for one purpose, the praise of God, and directs us in the work at hand.  That work is to bear the light burden of the love of Christ for the world in which we live and for all those entrusted to our care.  When we trust Him, are united with Him, allow His Spirit to empower us to do the will of the Father, we are truly free - as Paul reminds us today in Romans " ... if you live according to the flesh, you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live."

     We give praise to the Father in our worship and in our lives lived well in freedom.  We approach our God with the openness and trust of children, for our God's power rests in His love rather than might, His purpose is to give life and freedom rather than reign death, destruction and subjugation.  For as the psalmist says "The Lord is faithful in all his words and holy in all his works.  The Lord lifts up those who are falling and raises up those who are bowed down."  The Lord is our king and our God, deserving of our praise forever.

     Celebrate your Freedom by acknowledging you Dependence.  Have a wonderful Fourth of July.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Seminarian News

     Our seminarians are few in number, but men of fine and even exceptional quality.  The process of discerning the Call to priesthood is a challenging one.  Please pray for all of our seminarians.

    Father Jonathan Wisneski, the Co-director for Clergy Vocations, recently shared news of some things touching the lives of a few of our seminarians.  I'd like to share them with you.

Matthew Morelli and Daniel Ulishney are students at the North American College (Seminary) in Rome.  They have returned home for the summer after two years abroad, and will be returning to Rome later this summer.  They will be on summer assignment while home and visiting with family and friends.

Anthony Klimko of my home parish of Saint Joseph in Uniontown was admitted to Candidacy for the Orders of Deacon and Priest last Sunday in Uniontown by Bishop Brandt.  He will be leaving on July 17th for his theology studies in Rome.  We wish him well.  God willing, when ordained, he will be the seventh priest from Saint Joseph parish. The other six of us are all active withing the diocese.

Tyler Bandura has received a full scholarship from the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem for a pilgrimage to the Holy Land and Rome.  Bishop Brandt is a member of the Order.  Tyler will spend three weeks in Israel and a week in Rome with a dozen other seminarians.

     When I was in the seminary, there were no such exciting opportunities.  Oh, well.  Congratulation to these men on their achievements and their opportunities.


I probably have mentioned that I am a American Civil War buff.
Today marks Day Two of the three day conflict
that took place around a small Pennsylvania town
called Gettysburg in the middle of the
Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.
July 1, 2 & 3 in 1863 were momentous moments
in a devastating Civil War between the North and the South.
Gettysburg was a decisive battle of that war.
Today, Gettysburg is a peaceful little hamlet that pays testimony
to courage and honor on both sides.

Friday, July 1, 2011

A Heart filled with Love

     This morning, at a funeral blessing service for a parishioner, John Troy, his niece, Sissy, who could not be present, asked that a letter she wrote about her uncle be read.  It was a beautiful reflection on the man.

     She began by remembering how, as kids, we used to cut out paper hearts and express our sentiments about another, and give them to the person on valentine's day.  She mentioned the practice of carving a heart on a tree with the initials of the couple expressing their love for one another.  She spoke of how we know of people who wear their heart "on their sleeve".  And she mentioned that while these things are okay, they were unnecessary for her uncle, John.

     His heart was seen and known in a life lived well, rich in family and faith.  Everyone that knew him or dealt with him knew where his heart was.  He did not have to show it ... he lived it.  Good words and a great tribute.

     I mention it today because the Church celebrates the feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus on this day.  In artwork we need to portray the image of Jesus with his heart glowing on his chest.  Rays stream from the heart.  Sometimes he points to the heart.  There are often flames above the heart.  Facially he is often seen as pious and sweet.  I say "we need" to see him this way, but Jesus does not need to wear his heart on his sleeve to be known.

     In his heart, his Sacred Heart, is found our reason to be.  Rooted in pure love, he gave himself for us.  The love of his Sacred Heart encourages us to be all that we are called to be.  He did not have to point to his Sacred Heart ... he lived the love that it represents.

     I would like to conclude with the Alternate Opening Prayer from today's liturgy:

Let us pray that the love of Christ's heart
may touch the world with healing and peace ...

we honor the heart of your Son
broken by man's cruelty,
yet symbol of love's triumph,
pledge of all that man is called to be.
Teach us to see Christ in the lives we touch,
to offer him living worship
by love-filled service to our brothers and sisters.
We ask this through Christ our Lord.   AMEN.