Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Labor Day Thoughts 1

     With Labor Day nearing, I would like to share today a portion of the United States Bishops' Labor Day Statement "Human Costs and Moral Challenges of a Broken Economy" by Bishop Stephen Blaire of Stockton, California.

"Church Teaching on Work and Workers

Our faith gives us a particular way of looking at this broken economy.  From the prophets of the Old Testament to the example of the early Church recorded in the New Testament, we learn that God cares for the poor and vulnerable, and he measures the faith of the community by the treatment of those on the margins of life.  Jesus in his time on earth taught us about the dignity of work and said we would be judged by our response to 'the least of these' (Mt 25).  Christians need to study carefully what Jesus taught about the use of money and wealth, a spirit of stewardship and detachment, the search for justice and care for those in need, and the call to seek and serve the reign of God.  Based on these scriptural values, our Church has focused on work, workers, and economic justice in a series of papal encyclicals beginning with Rerum Novarum [encyclical of Pope Leo XIII in 1891].

This long tradition places work at the center of economic and social life.  In Catholic teaching, work has an inherent dignity because work helps us not only to meet our needs and provide for our families, but also to share in God's creation and contribute to the common good.  People need work not only to pay bills, put food on the table, and stay in their homes, but also to express their human dignity and to enrich and strengthen the larger community (Gaudium et Spes, no. 34).  Human labor represents 'the collaboration of man and woman with God in perfecting the visible creation' (Catechism of the Catholic Church, no 378).

Over the last century, the Church has repeatedly warned about the moral, spiritual, and economic dangers of widespread unemployment.  According to the Catechism, 'Unemployment almost always wounds its victim's dignity and threatens the equilibrium of his life.  Besides the harm done to him personally, it entails many risks for his family' (no. 2436).  One of the most disturbing aspects of current public discussion is how little focus there is on massive unemployment and what to do to get people back to work.  In Gaudium et Spes, the Second Vatican Council declared that 'It is the duty of society to see to it that, according to prevailing circumstances, all citizens have the opportunity of finding employment' (no. 67).  As Pope Benedict warns, 'Being out of work or dependent on public or private assistance for a prolonged period undermines the freedom and creativity of the person and his family and social relationships, causing great psychological and spiritual suffering' (Caritas in Veritate, no. 25).  A society that cannot use the work and creativity of so many of its members is failing both economically and ethically."

     The entire letter is well thought out and presented, but as most often happens, will go largely unread.  If interested in seeing the entire letter go to

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Build one another up

     There is a good word found in the first reading for today's Mass, which comes from the first letter of Paul to the Thessalonians (1 Thes 5: 1-6; 9-11).  In the letter Paul reminds this community that they have been given the light which is Christ, when he was preached to them.  Because of this, they do not need to fret or panic when things get tough, or when the false peace and security that we so often buy into begins to dissolve.  They, and we, are children of the light and of the day.  We have been destined to gain salvation through Christ and our unity in him rather than be destined for wrath and darkness.  Paul says: "Therefore, encourage one another and build one another up".

     There is so much  negative and destructive behavior in our lives, whether we are on the giving or receiving end, that Paul's words need to be heeded.  All too often we feel isolated and alone.  One of our priests was in the news recently in a controversy with some parishioners and their accusations, and he too feels abandoned by everyone.  Forty years of priestly service seems to count for nothing as he is placed in limbo.  I sent him a note and am keeping him in prayer.  But even that is rare among priests.

     I try to be positive in these posts.  There are things that need to be spoken about in a less than flattering way, sometimes, but I will try to keep them few and far between.  The reason is simple ... we are children of the Light, and the darkness that is enveloping the world needs that light brought to it.  We need to encourage one another.  The Thessalonians could do it, and so can we.


     With Labor Day approaching, the U.S. Catholic Bishops issues a statement (which all too few read).  This year's statement was written by Bishop Stephen Blaire of Stockton, California, the chair of the Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development.  It is entitled "Human Costs and Moral Challenges of a Broken Economy".  I will share some quotes in the next few days, but if you want to read the entire letter, it can be found on the USCCB website at

Monday, August 29, 2011

The TRUTH will set you free ...

     ... possibly even free of your head!  That's what happened to John, the Baptizer.  Having leaped for joy in the presence of the Messiah, having embraced his mission of being the proclaimer of the truth, having acknowledged the Christ in his cousin Jesus at the Jordon river, John spoke the Word of God and called all to repentance and renewal.  The power of the truth was appealing - Herod wanted to listen, but was afraid.  The power of the truth was disturbing because it made the sinner uncomfortable and angry.  The power of the truth was challenging, for it could not be ignored and demanded a response.

     Herod's response to John's challenge to turn from his sinful relationship was to pretend that he did not hear.  But Herodias heard.  She heard and was not amused.  She could not let John get away with it.  And she made sure that he paid.

     Thus John, the last of the great prophets and, by Jesus' own words, the greatest person born of a woman, lost his head.  In doing so, he gained his freedom and the joy of the Kingdom.  In his martyrdom, John championed truth and led the way to another death that brought freedom and joy to the entire world.  Again, he pointed the way to the one whose death and new life really mattered - the long awaited Messiah Jesus.

     Three of my assignments were at Saint John the Baptist parish in Scottdale, Pennsylvania, where I came to celebrate the life of the Baptist.  Six weeks in a deacon summer assignment thirty-nine years ago, six years as the associate pastor from 1978 through 1984, and eight and a half years as pastor from 2000 to 2008.  I love preaching, and I loved the example that John provided in that regard.  His task of "pointing the way to Jesus" was what I attempted to do.  I thank the good people of the parish and the town for their patience and love, and I pray for them daily.

     I may have shared this before, but aside from Joseph and Mary and John there are no other saints that celebrate more than one feast day.  In fact, the feast of a saint is usually the date of their entrance into new life - the date of their death.  There are only three exceptions, where the date of birth and the date of death are recognized:  Jesus (of course), Mary, whose birth is September 8th and death (falling asleep) we just celebrated on August 15th, and John, whose birth is honored in June and whose death is honored today in his martyrdom.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Of many things

     In yesterday's post I mentioned that the weekend was about family (I mentioned Monica and Augustine specifically).  This past week for me was about family as well.  My sister, Janie, and her puppy Sammy spent the week with me as part of her vacation.  We didn't go anywhere or do much but relax and enjoy a great week of weather, but it was good being together.  Janie is not only my sister, but a great friend, and I love her dearly.  She returned home this evening, and will get back to work tomorrow.  Janie lives in our family home in Uniontown, PA.

     Our prayers and thoughts go out to those affected by the devastation of the storm that hit the East Coast of the U.S. this week, hurricane Irene.  The lives lost, the destruction of property, the flooding and power losses I'm sure took a great toll on countless people.  Thank God the worst is over.

     I had the opportunity to view some of the upcoming changes in translation for the liturgy that will begin with the first Sunday of Advent.  I'm sure we'll talk about this a great deal more, but many prayers at the Mass will be a little or a lot different, for both the congregation as well as the priest.  Some day soon I'll try to explain the why of what is happening, for there is a logic to it ... but I am not impressed with some of the translations, primarily because they definitely challenge my comfort levels of prayer.  I looked at the Easter Proclamation - the Exultet - one of the most beautiful prayers of the Easter Vigil, and (please forgive the personal opinion) I almost cried.  It will take time and effort, patience and persistence to find beauty and ease of praying in this translation [again - my opinion].  Please excuse the mini rant.

     Sunday is winding down, and God continues to be good.  For that we must be grateful.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

A family weekend

     Today is the feast of Monica, a Christian woman who lived in the mid 300's in Northern Africa and was married to a man named Patricius, a non believer.  Tomorrow, August 28th, is the feast of one of her children, Augustine, a Doctor of the Church and the Bishop of Hippo in Africa.  Augustine is well known and esteemed as a saint of God.  I believe that Patricius also embraced the faith before his death.  An ideal family, living the faith that God placed in their hearts.

     Wrong!  Tradition tells us that Patricius treated Monica, as most men of his time did, as his property.  He may or may not have been abusive, but it definitely was not a life of respect and honor for her.  One tradition says that she may have had a bit of a drinking problem for awhile?

     Patricius insisted that Augustine and his siblings be well educated and "free" of the superstitious belief of religion, insisting that he could make up his own mind when he was of age.  Augustine had a wild streak and his rebellion had few limitations.  He ran away from home, lived a reckless life of immorality and gambling and sexual excess.  He embraced heresies of the day that allowed him to thumb his nose at the faith of his mother. He brought his girlfriend home to live, fathered a child outside of marriage, and was best described as a "wild thing".  Monica prayed for him constantly.

     One day while in Milan, he overheard a portion of a sermon of the bishop there - Ambrose (saint).  It touched his heart and stirred his mind.  He sought out Ambrose, who brought him to Christ and the Church.  This conversion was so inspiring that the people of God called him as a leader as the Bishop of Hippo.  The rest is, as they say, history.

     Hardly an ideal family, yet definitely a source of inspiration for families that struggle and for parents of faith.  How often have parents asked me what they can do about the child/children who are on a quest without direction.  I point out Monica and Augustine as models of what can happen when trust in God is deep.

Friday, August 26, 2011


     I received the Summer edition of the Pennsylvania Catholic Conference newsletter "VIEWPOINT" this morning, and since they explain how they take positions on proposed legislation, and since most Pennsylvania Catholics know little about the PCC (I hope I'm wrong on that), I thought I would share a little info in today's post.

     The PCC is the public affairs agency of the ten Diocesan Bishops of Pennsylvania (eight Latin Rite Dioceses and two Byzantine Rite Dioceses).  It reviews, tracks and takes positions on hundreds of the thousands of bills introduced to the State Assembly.   Bills that relate to the interests of the Church are discussed and debated by the laity, religious men and women, and the clergy who make up the PCC's departments, the Pennsylvania Catholic Health Association and the PCC Administrative Board.

     Each proposal is evaluated by asking:
  1. Does the program or policy affect the common good?
  2. Does the proposal uphold the life and inherent dignity of the human person from conception to natural death?
  3. Does the legislation concern morality, human life and dignity, health, welfare, the family, education, civil rights, religious liberty, social justice?
  4. Does the program or policy offer preferential treatment for the poor and vulnerable?
  5. Will it affect the Church as an institution?
  6. Will it affect other Catholic institutions such as schools, hospitals or long-term care facilities, charities or other ministries?
  7. Will it affect individual Catholics in the practice of their faith in the workplace, school or in the community?
  8. Is there a potential conflict with religious liberty or the freedom of conscience?
    The PCC weighs the gravity of moral questions and the impact or benefit to the church's members to determine the stand it takes.  They also weigh the prospects of passage of a bill.  They make efforts to affect and shape public opinion.    More info can be found at the Pennsylvania Catholic Conference web site.  I took much of this material directly from their newsletter, and would recommend that you check out further information through them.  They work hard for the needs of the members of the Church and beyond.

     Here are a few stats taken from the Official Catholic Directory as of 1/1/2006 (sorry I'm not current).  23% of the U.S. population is Catholic.  In the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, the percentage of the Catholic population is 29.4%, the sixth highest among the States.  We are not an insignificant group ... nor should we be deprived of our rights as citizens because we are people of faith.  The PCC is in our corner.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Stay awake!

     Years ago I picked up a framed piece of "art" from the Three Rivers Arts Festival in Pittsburgh.  It was a hand printed phrase done in calligraphy that stated "Procrastination: making sure that there is always something to do tomorrow."  It spoke to my heart ... and describes an aspect of my life that is well known - procrastination.  I am forever "waiting" to do the things that need to be done.  In school, I never did a paper early ... I always said that I work better under pressure (somewhat true).  I am notorious at being late with things, whether reports or bills or bulletin deadlines (my taxes are usually filed on April 14th - despite the best of intentions the previous year).

     In the gospel of Matthew which we heard today, Jesus says to his disciples: "Stay awake!  For you do not know on which day your Lord will come."  Be prepared!  Even as you read this, officials on the East Coast are encouraging people to "be alert and prepared" for hurricane Irene.    There is so much good common sense in being prepared, in staying alert, of staying awake.  So, why am I /we all too often scrambling to get things done and to save our necks?  I wish I knew.  I wish I could free myself of the reputation as a "procrastinator".

     When it comes to our relationship with the Lord, and our eternal life of blessing, there cannot be and should not be any "putting it off" until tomorrow.  We need to act NOW, not out of fear of losing out or not getting in, but because the relationship involves the blessings of the present moment as well as eternal life.  Why should I / how can I miss out on those blessings, when they have been won for me / us at so great a cost?

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

A moving experience

     Here I was on Tuesday afternoon, sitting on the back porch (actually a wooden deck) reading, my sister, Janie who was visiting sitting on the couch with Sammy her puppy, when it felt like someone jumped onto the deck, giving it a little shake.  We looked at each other and both said "What was that?"  She kept dozing and I kept reading on that beautiful late Summer afternoon.  About an hour later I saw on the news that and earthquake struck central Virginia about the time we felt the "shake" on the porch.  An earthquake!  Who would have thought.

     Back in the Fall of 1996 I spent four months in Central California on Sabbatical at the School of Applied Theology (SAT) at Berkeley.  Every week San Francisco listed in the papers the tremors and their magnitude.  There were many.  But in four months I felt not one.  Now, at home in Southwestern Pennsylvania, I felt the earth move.  Strange world!  It has become one of those "Where were you?" moments.


     One of the twelve was a man named Bartholomew, also called Nathaniel, a native of Cana in Galilee and a student of the Jewish Law.  He was one of the seventy-two, and was introduced to Jesus by Philip.  Jesus recognized the integrity of the man in words of praise: "Here is a true child of Israel.  There is no duplicity in him."   With the promise of Jesus that he would "see heaven opened and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man",  Bartholomew took the good news to remote places of Asia and the East and was martyred  in Armenia.  Today is his feast.

An Observation

     Recently I read an article that reported that the rector of the Cathedral of Ss Simon and Jude in Phoenix had instituted a new policy that restricts the role of server at the altar to men and boys, excluding the women and girls.  The reasoning is that this could/would serve as a vehicle to encourage boys to consider a vocation to the priesthood.  A good friend of mine, Mike Ripple expounds upon this move in a recent post on his blog pray-lium.  Here are three observations that come from my experience.

     First, my own vocation was not a result of my being an altar boy from the fourth grade on.  Being a server did not hurt the nurturing, but it was, following the call of God, the example of good priests in our parish, the encouragement of the nuns in school, and the climate of the time that saw a response to the call to priesthood as something worth pursuing.

     Secondly is an experience in my time as pastor at All Saints Church in Masontown, Pennsylvania.  I opened the ministry of acolyte to girls as well as boys, and the response was great.  These were the days before girl servers were "approved".  But Masontown was far enough away from the central offices that it did not matter. 

     The bishop came for Confirmation in the parish.  Not being foolish, I scheduled only boys to serve.  All went well.  A few weeks later I get a call from the Vicar General (the second in command) asking if we had girl servers.  I hesitated a moment, then admitted that we did.  He said the bishop asked him to remind me that it was still not officially allowed, and to use my pastoral judgement.  I thanked him, and judged it prudent to keep the girls.  The Sherlock Holmes in me wanted to know how they found out.  It seems that, waiting for the Confirmation to begin, the bishop casually asked what the guys thought of girl servers, and they replied that it was great with them and they enjoyed having them here at All Saints.  I give the administration credit for not pursuing the matter further.

     Thirdly, though, when I was transferred, my successor soon called a meeting of all the servers in the Church [ by this time girls were permitted to serve], and then told the girls to go home or back to class, for their service was no longer needed.  It was devastating for them, and a challenge to charity.  I don't know what his reasoning was, but it was, in my judgement, a poor decision.

     Vocations at all levels come from the call of God, the respect shown to the children of God, and the lived example of God's people.  Policies like in Phoenix may or may not help.  I hope they do ... but from my observation, they are not the reason for priestly vocations.

Monday, August 22, 2011

A study of contrasts

    The condemnation of the scribes and Pharisees by Jesus in the gospels is harsh.  He accuses them of blocking the way to heaven for those who even attempt to get there - seeming to indicate that if "we're not going in, neither are you", of their going the extra mile to bring a convert into a wasteland devoid of relationships to God and to his People but full of "pious practices" and "empty ritual".   He condemns them for missing the boat for themselves and even worse bringing others along with them.

     By contrast, in writing to the Thessalonian church, Paul, Silvanus and Timothy sing the praises of that local church because they heard the message, were inspired by the example, responded to the call, and became outstanding examples of faith and love which flowed from Christ himself.  Those who were inspired became the source of inspiration for their teachers and friends.

     Which are we?  Can it be said of us that "The Lord takes delight in his people"?


     The feast of the Queenship of the Blessed Virgin Mary is celebrated by the Church today, the Octave of the Feast of the Assumption. Mary is acknowledged as Queen simply because her Son is the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords.  She is acknowledged as Queen of Heaven and Earth.  In the Litany of the Blessed Virgin there is an entire listing of her queenship titles.
     Celebrated in various forms from at least the fourth century by Saint Ephrem as well as church fathers and doctors, it was Pope Pius XII who established the feast in the Universal Church in 1954, with its present date being of more recent doing (I seem to remember the feast celebrated on May 31st) in the new Roman Missal.

     Foreign as the concept of royalty is to us today (and yet still at times appealing) we can and do hold a very special place in our hearts and lives for this great woman of faith, she who was entrusted to us as Jesus gave her into the keeping of the Beloved Disciple, John.


Saturday, August 20, 2011

A Global Church

     If there is one thing that World Youth Day does, it is to remind us that we are a global church.  Young people from 193 countries worldwide have come to Madrid for this event, which celebrates who we are as Church and the depth of our Faith lived out in over one million youth.  The Stations of the Cross on Friday brought that home as the WYD Cross was carried from station to station by youngsters from various ethnic groups as well as those who share common bonds through prejudice, persecution, cultural clashes and the like.  The beautiful representations of the Stations in art highlighted the rich tradition and heritage of Spain, the host country.


     Today and tomorrow on the Church calendar the Catholic community places before herself two great saints that touched lives in previous centuries.  Today is the feast of Saint Bernard, the Benedictine abbot of the monastery of Clairvaux who lived from 1090 to 1153.  In seeking a return to a primitive poverty and austerity of life, he established the Cistercian Order.  A man of great holiness and wisdom, an inspiring and prolific writer, he is considered a Doctor of the Church.

    And tomorrow, the 21st of August, the Church would (except that it falls on a Sunday) celebrate Pope Saint Pius X, a Venetian born in 1835 of poor parents, who was ordained at 23 and became bishop of Mantua and Venice before being chosen as pope in 1903.  The theme of his life was to "restore all things in Christ".  He did much during his life, and was instrumental in encouraging the frequent reception of Holy Communion and lowering the age of reception to the present age.  The outbreak of hostilities in World War I led to his death on August 20th, 1914.  His influence continues to touch our lives.

     The global dimension of Church is powerful, whether in the reform of monastic life in the 11th century France, or in the universal leadership of Church by a 20th century Italian pope, or in the exuberant Faith of a million plus young people in Spain.  In all time and in all circumstances may the Name of the Lord be praised.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Wherever you go, I will go

     At weddings there is a hymn/song that is sometimes chosen for its beautiful melody and powerful words.  The words go something like this: Wherever you go, I will go, wherever you live so shall I live, your people will be my people, and your God will be my God too. 

     Those words come to us from the Book of Ruth in the Hebrew Scriptures, and were heard today.  They are the words of Ruth to her mother-in-law, Naomi.  With the death of her husband and then her two sons, she was left in a foreign land with her two daughter-in-laws.  She blessed them and sent them  home to their families as she prepared to return to her home in Bethlehem, now that the famine was over.  But Ruth had grown to love and respect her mother-in-law, and she spoke these words: "Do not ask me to abandon or forsake you!  For wherever you go, I will go, wherever you lodge I will lodge, your people shall be my people, and your God my God."  It is the beginning of the story of Ruth.

     Sometimes the witness that we give by simply living our lives with faith and love bears fruit.  Naomi was not out to "impress", but impress she did.  She inspired Ruth to leave everything and travel with her to a foreign land that she would call home, to a people that she would call family, and to a God that she would readily embrace.  She was ready to accept this new setting, for in it she found life ... and a home.


     The story of Ruth is one of many biblical stories that have been brought to the stage at the Sight and Sound Productions in Lancaster in Eastern Pennsylvania.  They are wonderfully inspiring musicals that the local community there produce each year.  I have seen a number of those productions over the years [Noah, Ruth, Joseph, the Miracle of Christmas] on bus trips (about three hours East of here).  You always return uplifted.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Reason for our joy

     The Holy Father has arrived in Madrid, Spain, for World Youth Day 2011.  At an opening prayer service in the evening, to hundreds of thousands of young people, Pope Benedict had much to say.  I would like to quote two paragraphs that touched my heart.

     "If you build on solid rock, not only your life will be solid and stable, but it will also help project the light of Christ shining upon those of your own age and upon the whole of humanity, presenting a valid alternative to all of those who have fallen short, because the essentials in their lives were inconsistent; to all those who are content to follow fashionable ideas, they take shelter in the here and now, forgetting true justice, or they take refuge in their own opinions instead of seeking the simple truth.

     Indeed, there are many who, creating their own gods, believe they need no roots or foundations other than themselves.  They take it upon themselves to decide what is true or not, what is good or evil, what is just and unjust; who should live and who can be sacrificed in the interests of other preferences; leaving each step to chance, with no clear path, letting themselves be led by the whim of each moment.  These temptations are always lying in wait.  It is important not to give in to them because, in reality, they lead to something so evanescent, like an existence with no horizons, a liberty without God.  We, on the other hand, know well that we have been created free, in the image of God, precisely so that we might be in the forefront of the search for truth and goodness, responsible for our actions, not merely blind executives, but creative co-workers in the task of cultivating and beautifying the work of creation.   God is looking for a responsible interlocutor, someone who can dialogue with him and love him.  Through Christ we can truly succeed and, established in him, we give wings to our freedom.  Is this not the great reason for our joy?  Isn't this the firm ground upon which to build the civilization of love and life, capable of humanizing all of us?"

     These are some of the great thoughts shared with the young people at WYD ... but words that ring true to all of us.  Our Holy Father is a great teacher, and we are blest.  World Youth Day is a great event, and we are blest.  If you get to watch any of the proceedings on EWTN or elsewhere, do so.  Especially the Stations of the Cross Friday evening (I remember the powerful Stations in Sydney three years ago.)


     On a personal note, yesterday's post saw the readership reach the 5,000th hit.  I am overwhelmed, and most grateful for those who check out these reflections.  God bless you.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

World Youth Day 2011

     It has begun.  For those unaware of a momentous event in the life of the Church that is presently taking place, World Youth Day 2011 began yesterday, August 16th and runs through August 21st in Madrid, Spain.  Between a million and a million and a half young people will gather in the Spanish capital to celebrate their Faith in Jesus Christ.  They will gather with youth leaders, with the leaders of the Church, including Pope Benedict XVI to witness to the world the power and strength they possess as children of God.  These World Youth Days are held every three years (the last one was in Sydney) and were initiated under the late Pope John Paul II.  As Rocco Palmo in Whispers often refers to the gathering .. it is like our Catholic Youth Olympics.

     The theme this year is: "Planted and built up in Jesus Christ, firm in faith."  The program began Tuesday with gathering and registrations, cultural programs of concerts, exhibits, museum visits, plays, etc. and ended with an opening Mass at 8:00 pm Madrid time led by the Archbishop of Madrid.  Today's schedule includes the beginning of three days of catechises (teaching) led in language groups by bishops from around the world.  In the English speaking section, U.S. bishops like Bishop Ed Burns of Juneau, Alaska (a priest of Pittsburgh), Archbishop Timothy Dolan of New York and President of the Bishop's Conference and Archbishop Charles Chaput, our newly appointed Archbishop of Philadelphia.  These sessions meet throughout the city in churches, school, sports areas, auditoriums, etc.

     I have never participated in a WYD (the schedules and physical exertion are more than this body can take) but I understand that they are ... awesome!  Pray for the young people and those who journey with them through these days.  Pray for a new awakening of Faith - a new Pentecost - in the life of the Church.  And pray for all of our young people that they may come to know and love Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.
If you would like to check the official web site, it is


     I saw in the paper this morning the notice of the death of Retired Bishop Bernard W. Schmitt of the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston in West Virginia.  Bishop Schmitt died Tuesday - one day shy of turning 83.  He served as bishop of the Wheeling-Charleston diocese for more than 15 years.  A good friend of mine, Sister Kathleen McCauley of the Sisters of Charity of Seton Hill was a principal in Wheeling for a number of years, and often spoke of Bishop Schmitt's warmth, down to earth personality, and spirituality.  He was a great guy.  Please remember him in your prayers today.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011


     There is an interesting passage in the Book of Judges from the Hebrew Scriptures this morning.  A battle was imminent with Midian when an angel appeared to Gideon, the son of Joash.  The angel said: "The LORD is with you, O champion!"  Gideon was confused, for things did not look promising to his people and it seemed like God's intervention was a thing of the past, ancient history.  The LORD said to him: "Go with the strength you have and save Israel ... It is I who send you."

     Gideon, keenly aware of his limitations and nothingness, this time was confused because he was being sent as a "champion" of his people.  He wanted proof, and asked for a sign that he wasn't imagining things.  He asked the LORD to wait on him.  When he returned he brought an offering to God, which was consumed in fire.  He realized that he had seen an angel of the LORD face to face, and feared for his life.  The LORD said to him: "Be calm, do not fear.  You shall not die."  He built an altar to the LORD there, and called it Yahweh-shalom.  Then, at peace with himself and the LORD, went on to champion his people.

     Are you ever aware of how unsuited to a task or unprepared for the responsibilities entrusted to you?  I am.  Continually I am amazed, not at the ability of God to work with me, but at the wisdom he gives me to trust in him and let go.  Even as I write this a phone call came from a friend who spoke of the words I shared at a recent event that spoke to many hearts.  Those words were not mine, but came from the Lord who spoke through me.  I am humbled and blessed to be a conduit of his grace.  Knowing God and knowing myself, I could or should stand in fear; but the relationship that I have with him, even with my weaknesses, is the altar that gives me peace - my Yahweh-shalom.  I am grateful beyond measure.


Monday, August 15, 2011

The Dormition

     The Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary into Heaven ... the Falling Asleep of Mary ... Mary Assumed into Glory ... this is the feast that the Church celebrates today, on this August 15th.  It is a dogma of the Faith that was defined by Pope Pius XII on November 1, 1950: "We pronounce, declare and define it to be a divinely revealed dogma that the immaculate Mother of God, the ever Virgin Mary, having completed the course of her earthly life, was assumed body and soul to heavenly glory."

     This "new" declaration was rooted in "long standing" traditions that go back to homilies on the assumption of Mary found in the sixth century and celebrations dating to the fifth century.  Why this feast?  What is it that we believe?

     When God created humanity, we were destined for eternal happiness and eternal life.  Death, and with it the corruption of the body, came through sin.  Not a part of the original plan of God.  In the process of restoration brought about by the Sacrifice of the Death and Resurrection of Jesus, eternal life was restored for those washed clean in the Blood of the Lamb.  The effects of sin, though - death and corruption of the body - remain until the final judgement at the end of time, when we will be reunited, body and soul, and stand before the throne of the Father for all eternity to sing the praise of God.  That is our destiny as children of the New Covenant, washed clean in the waters of baptism and made pure by the love of Christ.

     The Church acknowledges that Mary, at the time of her death, shared in what we all will one day share, to stand before the throne of God, body and soul united in grace, and sing the praises of God.  The Preface for the feast today says it well:

Today the virgin Mother of God was taken up to heaven
to be the beginning and the pattern of the Church
in its perfection,
and a sign of hope and comfort for your people
on their pilgrim way.
You would not allow decay to touch her body,
for she had given birth to your Son, the Lord of all life,
in the glory of the incarnation.

    We long with great anticipation for the moment when we can join the angels and saints, with Mary our mother, and sing God's praise for all eternity.  And we thank God for allowing her to show us the way.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Embracing the Cross

     As I mentioned yesterday, I would like to place before you two examples of stepping up to the plate and witnessing to the power of the Gospel message of Christ. I spoke of one in Tuesday's post - Saint Teresa Benedicta of the Cross (Edith Stein), a Carmelite nun who because of both her Jewish origins as well as her faith in Christ in a time of tremendous darkness in the world stands as a shining example of the light of Christ.  Through her death in the gas chambers of Auschwitz in 1945, but more importantly through her journey of Faith, she lifted high the cross as she embraced it.

     The other witness is recognized in his feast today, August 14 (although overshadowed by the 20th Sunday of the Year), and that is Saint Maximilian Kolbe.  Born in occupied Poland in 1894, he entered the Franciscans and was ordained a priest in 1918, seeing his country become free and independent for the first time in 120 years (although short lived - poor Poland).  He founded a newspaper and a Sodality called Knights of Mary Immaculate, and was heavily into publishing and radio.  He went to Japan in 1930 and brought the Christian message to the people of Nagasaki, where he set up a "garden of the Immaculate" which survived the atomic bombing.  Back in Poland, he was arrested in 1941 for sheltering many refugees, many of them Jews.  Sent to Auschwitz, he ministered to his fellow prisoners, and in August of that year he stepped forward and offered his life in place of a prisoner with a family who had been singled out for death by starvation in reprisal for an attempted prison escape.  He was one of the ten who died in that circumstance - of an injection, I believe, since he was lasting too long.  Interestingly, the man whose place he took was present at his canonization.

     Both of these witnesses are not ancient history, but very real modern day witnesses to the brutality of hatred and war and prejudice.  We must begin to learn our lesson if we are to survive, and we must recognize those who embrace the cross as lighting the path.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Saying YES to being chosen

     On of the things I remember as a catch-phrase in theology is the saying "God calls, man responds".  The Call, and the Response are both vitally important.

     There is a hymn by Bernadette Farrell entitled "God Has Chosen Me" that states that "God has chosen me ... to bring good news to the poor ... to bring new sight to those searching for light ... to set alight a new fire ... to bring to birth a new kingdom on earth ... to tell the world that the kingdom is near ... to remove oppression and breakdown fear ... for God's time is near."   The call of God, the invitation to enter into the mystery of life as it is found in Christ Jesus, is unique and yet universal.  But it requires a response, it demands our YES!

     In this Sunday's Scriptures we are reminded that the Call goes out to a specific people, the Children of the Promise, the People of Israel, Saul of Taursus' people.  Yet when their response was less than enthusiastic, the invitation was extended to the Canaanite woman who longed for the scrapes that fell from the master's table, to the foreigners who joined themselves to the Lord, ministering to him and loving his name, to the Gentiles, to whom Paul became the Apostle.   They too were recipients of the graces of God, but they too were called to respond - and they did.  Their YES included them among the "beloved".

     Tomorrow I will share a little of the story of two of those whose YES brought them to the Cross. 

Friday, August 12, 2011

Calling to mind

     As I mentioned in the second part of yesterday's post, I attended a funeral yesterday for the mother of a good friend of mine.  As those of us who have been involved with funerals know, the reality of death brings out a desire to remember - to call to mind the experiences that we have had with the deceased.  Remembering is vital to the experience, and with the remembering comes, hopefully, the celebrating of the blessings that have touched our lives or the heightening of the awareness for forgiveness ... asked or given.  It is a milestone event.

     In the reading from Joshua today, the new leader of Israel leads his people through a time of remembering - all that the God of their Fathers had done for them, all that they had been given, all that was expected of them.  This remembering came at the moment when they were to begin a new adventure as they entered into the Promised Land.   They were invited to "Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, for his mercy endures forever."   We are invited to do the same.  It does not hinge on an experience like death, but should be found at every moment of our day.  In recalling the goodness of God, we dedicate the day to him in our waking moments.  Throughout the day we pause and give thanks.  At the end of the day we seek forgiveness for our shortcomings and sing the praise of God for his giftedness to us as we entrust ourselves to his care.  Our entire existence is to be caught up in the experience of "God with us".  In that way we are prepared to "enter the promised land" at a moment's notice and to celebrate our blessedness in the present moment.

+++++++++++++++++++                                                 +++++++++++++++++++++++

     Yesterday's news announced 5 troops killed, 30 a few days before, added to the countless lives lost in our two wars being fought for the past ten years.  We pray for those who lost their lives, we pray for our men and women serving so nobly, but we ask: When will it end?  When is enough enough?  We seem to accept it as part of the normal course of things.  It cannot be seen in that way. 

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Clare of Assisi

     There is a wonderful story about two young people from the mountain town of Assisi in Italy.  They lived at the end of the 1100's.  They were deeply in love - first with themselves, then with God, and then with each other in Christ.  Their names were Francis and Clare.  Today is the feast of Saint Clare.

     After Francis experienced Jesus, renounced his family and possessions, embraced poverty and accepted the task of "rebuilding the church", he would often preach in the square in front of the Cathedral Church of Assisi.  Clare, who lived with her well to do parents, looked on and listened.  She was moved by his passion, and after awhile desired to commit her life to God, following the example of Francis.  At 18 she left home, and with Francis' help, went to the Benedictine Sisters to embrace a Religious Life.  Her family was not pleased, and they came and "rescued" her, locking her away at home.  Escaping once again, she renewed her commitment to lead a religious life and founded a community of women that embraced the spirit of poverty and humility - the Poor Clares.

     She was a strong woman of Faith who lived a full and active life of service to the poor and needy.  There are many stories about her life.  In death she is laid to rest in the Church of Saint Clare in Assisi, where her body is able to be viewed.  Clare is one of the "incorruptibles", those saints whose bodies did not decompose.  I remember seeing her a number of years ago without the wax mask that is commonly placed over the face ... and even though she looked a bit "mummified", you could clearly discern her facial features.  Not bad for someone over 800 years old.  Francis is nothing but bones (the power and grace of women).

     I've included a few pictures of the picturesque town of Assisi that I took years ago ... one is a view of the square in front of the Church of Santa Chiara, another of the "old" Cathedral bell tower, and a third is of the view of the valley from Assisi proper.


     And speaking of Clare, I had the honor of celebrating the funeral liturgy of a woman whose one year old great granddaughter's name is Clare ... a real charmer.  Clare's great grandmother's name was Magdalene Doblick, and she lived in Boston (Pennsylvania - not far from here).  She was just shy of 91.  A lovely woman whose grandchildren called her "sweetheart", I described her as being a woman of Faith, a woman of family, and a woman of food.  She lived her love and relationship with Jesus in ways that centered upon her joy in her sisters, her four children and their families, and the loving embrace that she gave to everyone that she met.  The third aspect of the description lay in that fact that the kitchen table was the heart of her home, and all were welcome.  She recognized that same truth in the Table of the Lord.  May she share in that heavenly banquet.

     I was asked to preside because her daughter, Marie Konopka, is a great friend of mine and was my Director of Liturgy during my time at the Church of Saint Paul in Greensburg.  Marie and Jim's kids were growing up during those years.  I was truly honored to be invited to share in this great moment in their lives.  It was good to be with so many of the Saint Paul crowd, and to share lunch with many of my former staff. 

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

The Treasures of the Church

     The Church is often criticized for her wealth and treasures.  In a world that struggles with poverty and need, the Church can appear to be wallowing in material wealth.  There may be times when those criticisms may bear looking into, but there are also circumstances when the wealth and trappings that the Church possesses are held in trust for the good of civilization.  Whether it is property or building or art or history or learning, the Church has preserved tremendous legacies that other civilizations have let go.  This, too, is a part of the mission of the Church.  We get into trouble when we lose our sense of balance as to the priorities of our mission and goal.

     Lawrence, whose feast is today, was one of the deacons of the Church of Rome during the pontificate of Pope Sixtus.  When the pope was martyred in 258, Lawrence was skipped over, and was upset.  Pope Sixtus assured him that he would follow in a few days, which proved to be the case.

     Lawrence was the guardian of the stewardship of the church.  The emperor called him in and demanded that the treasures of the Roman Church be handed over.  Lawrence assured him that he would show him riches exceeding all the wealth of the empire in three days time.
When he returned to the emperor, he brought the poor, the infirm, and the religious who lived on the alms of the faithful.  He told the emperor that these are the treasures of the Church.

     For this "lesson", Lawrence was raised to the honor of the Saints through his martyrdom.  He joined Pope Sixtus in dying for the Faith.  He did so by being roasted alive on a gridiron or grill.  It is reported that he even joked with his executioners that he was done on the one side and that they could turn him over.  We too must always remember that the true wealth of the Church lies not with her holdings or artwork or history, but with all of those, from least to greatest, who share the love of the Father and are formed in the image of Christ, and that Christ had a special love of the poor and outcast.


     Today is the patronal feast of our Diocesan Bishop, Lawrence Brandt.  He has, on his coat of arms, a representation of that "gridiron" of Saint Lawrence (even though it looks more like a spatula).  Say a prayer for Bishop Brandt today, that he be a good steward of God's Church.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

An Example of Faith

     In Breslau, Germany (now Wroclaw, Poland) a young girl was born into a prominent Jewish family in 1891.  Her name was Edith Stein.  She grew to be an intelligent, dynamic student of philosophy, in particular phenomenology, at the University of Gottingen and earned her Doctorate.  She taught until 1922.  During her early years she abandoned her Jewish Faith.  She read the autobiography of Saint Teresa of Avila which led to a spiritual journey that brought her to the Catholic Church in 1922.  In 1934 she entered the Carmelite Order and took the name Teresa Benedicta of the Cross.

     With the rise of the Nazis, the Order moved her from Germany where she lectured and taught to a monastery in the Netherlands, for her safety.  When the Nazis occupied that country in 1940, the Dutch bishops spoke out against them, and a persecution followed.  The Nazis arrested all Dutch Jews, even those who had become Christian, and thus Sister Teresa Benedicta of the Cross was sent to Auschwitz, where she died in the gas chamber on August 9, 1942.

     She was canonized in 1998 by the late Pope John Paul II and declared, along with Catherine of Siena and Bridget of Sweden, as co-patroness of Europe.  There were many who witnessed for the Faith in those dark days of World War II, and she and Maximilian Kolbe stand out as great examples of Faith.


     Today also marks the dropping of the second atomic bomb on civilian cities in Japan, this time on the city of Nagasaki.  One of the results was the death of some 74,000 people.  Thank God that the world has never seen that kind of devastation again, even though we have lived in fear for the past 66 years.  By the way, did you know that Franciscan Father Maximilian Kolbe, the martyr of Auschwitz, was missioned in the city of Nagasaki during his priesthood.  He died in the Camp in 1941, a few years before Edith Stein and before the bomb.
We pray for all who lose their lives to war or hatred.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Choose wisely

     As I was listening to the reading from Deuteronomy at Mass this morning, and reflecting upon a message for this post, it struck me that the reading itself was a great reflection upon what it is that we should do in response to the goodness of God, while we appreciate all that God has done for us.  The colors will signify (red) what is is we should, must, ought to do in response to being chosen and blessed, as we reflect upon (blue)  the goodness and generosity of God's actions toward us.

Deuteronomy 10: 12 - 22

Moses said to the people:
"And now, Israel, what does the LORD, your God, ask of you but to fear the LORD, your God, and follow his way exactly, to love and serve the LORD, your God, with all your heart and all your soul, to keep the commandments and statutes of the LORD which I enjoin on you today for your own good?


The heavens, even the highest heavens, belong to the LORD, your God, as well as the earth and everything on it.  Yet in his love for your fathers the LORD was so attached to them as to choose you, their descendants, in preference to all other peoples, as indeed he has now done.  Circumcise your hearts, therefore, and be no longer stiffed-necked.  For the LORD, your God is the God of gods, the LORD of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome, who has no favorites, accepts no bribes; who executes justice for the orphans and the widow, and befriends the alien, feeding and clothing him.  So you too must befriend the alien, for you were once aliens yourselves in the land of Egypt.  The LORD, your God shall you fear, and him shall you serve; hold fast to him and swear by his name.  He is your glory, he, your God, who has done for you those great and terrible things which your own eyes have seen.   Your ancestors went down to Egypt seventy strong, and now the LORD, your God, has made you as numerous as the stars of the sky."

     This little summary or recap was presented to the people as they prepared to enter the Promised Land.  They were given the choice - accept and move forward or reject and go back.  But I love the one word sentence in the middle of the reading ... "THINK!"  What is being offered ... what is expected ... what are the consequences.  Choose wisely.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

The challenge of being God-like

     The reality of God is continually unfolding before us.  Invited into the very heart of God and embraced by his life giving love, we need to know him so that we may love him and serve him.  This process is ongoing.  The more we know him, the better we know ourselves and understand the parameters by which we are to live our lives.

     The Church today celebrates the feast of the Transfiguration of Jesus.  He took his three closest friends to the mountaintop, and was transfigured before their eyes.  They knew him as a man, a great friend and teacher, a miracle worker blessed by God, possibly even the long awaited Messiah.  Jesus knew that the immediate days ahead would challenge their perception of him, so he revealed to them the fullness of his holiness and power.  On that mountaintop, there was a blinding light, one that they could not gaze upon.  They saw beyond what was known and comfortable, beyond what was possible and survivable, they saw the glory of God ... and lived.  They saw not only power, they saw that he was the center of all that was, of all that is, and of all that would yet come to be.  In their unredeemed sinfulness they caught a glimpse of what no other man before saw since the days of Adam and Eve.

     And yet it was not in his glory and power that Jesus chose to reveal himself, but through the love and friendship, through the unexpected gentleness of his healing touch, in his willing sacrifice.  In that way he destroyed the hold that death and evil had on his creation, and restored life.  He calls us to be like him in love and compassion, in gentleness and mercy, in that relationship of friendship and peace with those entrusted to our care.  The Kingdom and the Power and the Glory belong to God, and he shares them with us in eternity.  But in our journey in the here and now he desires us to embrace his love.  In that love we find the strength and power to live our lives fully rooted in him.  In that love we find our best image of the God who calls us to be like him.


     Today, August 6th , a little over 1,900 years later, the world saw another blinding light that exhibited power beyond our imagination.  Today marks 66 years since the first atomic bomb was used on Hiroshima in Japan and three days later on Nagasaki.  It brought a swift end to World War II.  It undoubtedly saved countless lives, for which I am grateful.  It also took the lives of about 140,000 in Hiroshima alone (mostly innocent civilians), in an instant and for many years to come in suffering and continued death.  It ushered in to atomic/nuclear age which is filled with fear even to our day.  I remember climbing under our school desks for protection and people building bomb shelters

     We developed the ability and proved the courage to stand against wrong with right and might.  But just because we could do it, does not mean that we should do it.  The U.S. bishops  in the pastoral letter "The Challenge of Peace" of the late 1970's said that until we repent of that action on August 6 & 9 in 1945 and acknowledge that we stepped beyond our pay grade into the realm of God, we can never truly be at peace or be peacemakers.  When he called us to be God-like, it was in love and mercy and compassion, and not power and might.  A thought.


And finally, today marks the anniversary of the death of Pope Paul VI in 1978.
He was the first papal world traveller of modern times.
I remember him standing at the U.N. and making
an impassioned plea for peace before the world community.
"No more war ... war never again."
If only he had been heard.
May he rest in peace.


Friday, August 5, 2011

In honor of Mary

     In 431 at the Council of Ephesus the Church declared that Mary was indeed, as the mother of Jesus also the Mother of God - Theotokus.  This declaration, rooted in long held belief, was formalized in that Council, and emphasises the central truth of the Incarnation: that Jesus was not only a true human being, but God as well; and not only God, but born of a woman.

     Soon after that declaration, the Holy Father, Pope Sixtus, built a church on a hill in Rome in honor of Mary, the first church in the West dedicated to Our Lady.  On this site has stood a church since that time.  Today that Church is the Basilica of Saint Mary Major.  It is one of the four major pilgrimage churches in Rome during a Holy Year, the others being Saint Peter's at the Vatican, Saint John Lateran (the Cathedral church of Rome) and Saint Paul Outside the Wall.  The Holy Father concludes the Corpus Christi procession in June at this Church.  It is in the heart of the city, as Mary is at the heart of our love and Faith.  May we always make a place for Theotokus in our lives.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

A good pastor

     When I was a kid growing up in Uniontown, somewhere in my early high school years, I entered the Third Order Secular of the Franciscans at the Friary located in town.  I remember choosing the name Jean Marie in honor of Saint Jean-Baptiste Marie (John the Baptist Mary) Vianney, the Cure of Ars.  His story facinated me.

     As I went to the seminary, I related to his struggles with academics, especially his difficulty with Latin, which in his time was essential but in my time was fading.  So much did he struggle, that special permission had to be sought for him to be ordained, and it was because of his devoutness rather than his academic achievement or promise.  But ordained he was in 1815.  My language skills left much to be desired, only to be surpassed in challenge by my philosophy skills (thank God for theology).

     But where to put Pere (Father) Vianney so that he could do little harm?  The bishop sent him to the small villiage of Ars-en-Dombes as the pastor or cure.  Ars was some distance from Lyons in France, and had a reputation of sparce attendance at Mass and large attendance at the bars.  The cure's of the past had litle effect.

     He was a good priest.  He was prayerful and holy, a noted preacher and a remarkable confessor.  God blessed him with insight into his penitents' souls and their futures, and his reputation began to spread.  It got so that he would spend up to eighteen hours a day in the confessional, and people from the village, from the taverns, from the countryside, from all over France and Europe came to Ars to meet the man and be reconciled.  He died there, still pastor in Ars, in 1859.  Before his death, he was recognized by the French State with the medal of the Legion of Honor in 1848, which he sold, giving the money to the poor.  He is the patron of parish priests, for obvious reasons.  I am glad that I chose him as a spiritual example long ago, and he still stands as an inspiration to me as a priest.

     Today, August 4th, is his feast.  Thank God for this shing star, and pray for your priests.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Pencil wisdom

     My cousin, Carol, sent me this today.  I'm not sure who gets the credit, but I thought it was good.

A pencil maker told the pencil 5 important lessons just before putting it in the box:

1)     Everything you do will always leave a mark.

2)     You can always correct the mistakes you make.

3)     What is important is what is inside you.

4)     In life, you will undergo painful sharpening, which will only
        make you better.

5)     To be the best pencil, you must allow yourself to be held and
         guided by the hand that holds you.

     Good advice for a pencil ... better advice for a Christian.  Thanks, Carol.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Hey, God, what about us!

     Moses was chosen by God to stand for the people and lead them from the bondage of Egypt through the sea and the journey to the promised land.  He was a reluctant leader.  God placed Aaron as his spokesman, and Miriam was part of that supportive family that helped him do his appointed task.  And God was pleased.

     But Moses was getting all the credit.  He was the one that conversed with God on the mountain.  He was the one whose face shown with glory.  He was the one who laid out the Law and called the people to a commitment to the covenant.  He was the center of attention.  And boy, were these two jealous.  They wanted their due also.

     In Numbers (Nm 12: 1 - 13) today they started to speak against Moses, trying to tarnish his image.  After all, he had his flaws and weaknesses.  Why should he get all the attention?  And God got upset!  He called them together and made it clear that he was in charge, and that Moses was his spokesperson, "throughout my house he bears my trust: face to face I speak to him; plainly and not in riddles.  The presence of the LORD he beholds."

     So angry was the LORD against them that when he departed, Mariam was a snow-white leper.  Aaron turned to Moses for mercy, and Moses interceded with God on their behalf.

     Do we seek to be noticed?  Are we clamoring for attention?  Do we want our due?  Or is it enough to do what God asks of us and be a part of his plan.  I would rather be known to the heart of God than to be exalted before others.  The recognition that is given by God is enough for me.


     I was watching the opening ceremonies of the 129th annual convention of the Knights of Columbus taking place in Denver this week.  It is being covered in part by EWTN.

    The Supreme Knight, Carl Anderson, was giving the "state of the union" presentation, and, not surprisingly, I was overwhelmed by the statistics given that reflect the deep Faith and commitment of my brother Knights.   The Knights are found around the world, serving as an international organization.  Membership is up for the 40th consecutive year, with members numbering 1,816,826 in 14,174 Councils.  The total amount monetarily that was contributed to charitable works last year by the K of C was nearly $155 million.  In addition, brother Knights donated over 70 million hours of service around the globe this year alone.  Within the past ten years, those service hours totaled 653 million hours.  Outstanding work and wonderful Catholic witness to the Faith lived well. 

     I have been a Knight of Columbus since 1975.  If you are a Knight, you know what a great group of men they are.  If you are not, check out a local Council and get info on this Catholic Fraternal Organization.  It will be worth your while.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Poor Alphonsus ...

     I was not very inspired today when approaching this post.  The gospel was the same as yesterday, and the first reading listed the vegetarian preferences of the Hebrew people.  I'm not a vegetable person, and would have enjoyed the "tasty cakes", even if they were made from manna.

     Anyway, I was showing our secretary an app that I had downloaded called the Roman Catholic Calendar.  It gives a run down of the saints of the day.  Today is Saint Alphonsus Liguori, and I knew a little of him as founder of the Redemptorists and as a bishop and Doctor of the Church.

     But as I read the description of his life on the Calendar app, I had to laugh.  He was from Naples, and was trained as a lawyer.  But he lost a high profile case by misinterpreting a key document which in fact proved the case for his opponent.  It says that "he immediately left the law and studied for the priesthood."  Talk about a career change.  I wonder if the seminary questioned his reasons for entering?

     But God works in mysterious ways.  Alphonsus became a priest, and boasted that he never delivered a sermon that the poorest old woman in the congregation could not understand.  Actually, that is a tremendously powerful boast, and a wonderful gift that God gave to him.  He loved the liturgy, and prayed it in a dignified way.  He founded the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer in 1749.

     The other thing that made me smile was that, according to this source, the founding of the Congregation proved to be troublesome.  Their formal establishment was delayed for ten years because of bickering, and in his retirement in his 80's he tried to make peace within the factions, but with no success.  In fact, the two separate Congregations at the time each rejected him.  The group that he founded didn't want him.  It wasn't until after his death that unity was restored.

     If these facts are not accurate, I offer apologies to the Redemptorist Community.  But it made for some very real and human response to difficult situations.  In the end, Alphonsus is a great saint known for his holiness, his moral teachings, and his patience and moderation with sinners.  God is very good and generous - to Alphonsus, to his brothers, to you and me.   "Poor" Alphonsus is indeed "rich" in blessing.