Friday, September 30, 2011


     There was a man named Jerome who lived in the early days of the Church.  He was a devoted monk and ascetic known for many things, but in particular for his translation of the books of the bible into the language of the common people - Latin.  He translated them from the original languages, rather than the 2nd or 1st century BC Greek translations of the Hebrew scriptures (the Septuagint).  In his translation, which served as the foundation of nearly all translations until modern times, he sought to bring the Word of God to everyone - the educated and the common folk alike.  Today the Church remembers him in her liturgy.

     Translations of the scriptures today are rooted in the study of the original languages based on modern linguistic and historical study, and thus are more accurate.  But Jerome set the stage and prepared the way.

     There is another translation that is on our minds these days, that of the upcoming changes in English in the liturgy.  After over forty years of a dynamic translation from Latin into English of the Roman Missal, the Church finds the need to ask the  English speaking world to go back to the original (Latin) and give a more realistic and literal translation into English.  This has been a work in progress for many years, and will be implemented in the U.S. with the First Sunday of Advent.  The goal is to seek to restore the beauty of the words, the poetry of the thoughts, and the majesty of language that is rooted in scripture.  It will be a challenge for us, because we have become comfortable with what we are used to, and the wording  sometimes does not flow well, but we will survive.

     I have heard that one of the reasons why Rome asked the English speaking world to translate more literally was because other language groups were basing their translations on the English paraphrase rather than the Latin original.  It presented the problem that Jerome encountered - a translation of a translation is not always the best way to proceed.  So, be patient and be open.  Accept the challenge.  And use this time to increase your knowledge and appreciation of our liturgy.  In fact, this afternoon I am teaching a class to our 8th graders at Queen of Angels School on this very topic.  I'm looking forward to the opportunity.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Name recognition

     There is power in the names of the ones who came in the Name of the Lord.  Today is the feast of the Archangels: Michael, Gabriel and Raphael.  These heavenly beings are champions and heralds and healers.  They do the bidding of the One who sent them.

     Michael is the champion of God.  The scriptures describe the great struggle in heaven between the "light bearer" - Lucifer and the one "who is like God" ... who is the "gift from God" - Michael.  Needless to say, Michael and the hosts of heaven were victorious, and he became the champion of God.

     Gabriel was the spokesperson of God.  He is the herald of good news, the announcer of the Incarnation, the bringer of glad tidings.  He is the "hero of God", "God's able-bodied one".  His word of good news brings out the very best in the hearer.  Mary's YES is the ultimate proof.

     Raphael was the messenger who brought healing and new sight to those afflicted.  He is "God's healer", and proof that "God has healed".

     O God ...graciously grant that our life on earth may be defended by those who watch over us as they minister to you perpetually in heaven.


Please pray for the repose of the soul of
the retired Archbishop of New Orleans,
who died last evening.
He was 98 years old, and had been a bishop for 55 years.
Those of you old enough may remember him from
John Kennedy's funeral.
He was the last U.S. bishop to have attended
all four sessions of Vatican Council II.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

The Company of Witnesses

     On this 28th day of September, the Church in her celebrations remembers a number of witnesses, to which I would like to add another.

     Today the Church recognizes a member of the Bohemian royal family who became king.  His name was Wenceslaus (of Christmas carol fame) and he lived in the early 900's.  Raised as a Christian, he worked hard to promote order in the kingdom and allowed the free practice of the Christian Faith.  His brother resented him and had him put to death so that he could take over the throne.  He was acclaimed as a martyr, and is the patron saint of the Czech Republic.

     Also today, witnesses from a different time and place - Saint Lawrence Ruiz and his companions, who ministered in Japan and were put to death there in the 1600's.  Lawrence was married and the father of three who joined a Dominican expedition to Japan, and was martyred in Nagasaki in 1637, becoming the first Filipino martyr.  Also included in this group were Spanish Dominican priest Dominic Ibanez de Erquicia, a Japanese Dominican Francis Shoyemon, Japanese Dominican priest James Kyushei Tomonaga, Michael Kuroboiye (a Japanese lay catechist), Lucas Alonso of the Holy Spirit (another Dominican Spanish priest) and novice Matthew Kohioye of the Rosary .

     Also included were Antonio Gonzalez, William Couret, Niguel de Aozaraza, Vincent Schiwozuka and Lazaro of Kyoto who all died during another persecution in 1637.  You rarely see the names of the other "companions" ... so I thought that I would include them here today.

      And then, in the October issue of The Priest magazine, I came across the name of another martyr for the Faith in our time that has a local connection.  In February of 1938 the body of a young Maryknoll priest was discovered in China.  After eleven days of being held by robbers, he was murdered in Huai-Jen.  His name was Father Gerard Donovan.  He had served in missions in China for seven years before he became the first Maryknoll priest to give his life in China.  Father Gerry Donovan was born in our neighboring town of McKeesport, Pennsylvania, one of seven children (two others of whom were also Maryknoll missionaries).  The city of McKeesport is much diminished in numbers and industry (as are so many towns in Southwestern PA), but it continues to be strong in faith.  It lies within the Pittsburgh Diocese.  I had never heard of Father Donovan, but was moved by his witness in China in the last century... and the martyrs of Japan in the 17th century ... and good King Wenceslaus in the 10th century.  They are part of that vast company of holy men and women that strengthen our Faith.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

The poor are Christ

     Today's feast of Saint Vincent de Paul reminds us of our need to see Christ in all people, and to especially seek and find him in the poor and needy, in the orphans and widows, in those most in need.  The man whose name today is borne by a church organization called the Saint Vincent de Paul Society and the Ladies of Charity and the Vincentians was born in 1576 in France.  Ordained a priest, he had two main missions - to live charity that embraced the poor, young and old, peoples that were caught up in war, prisoners and the oppressed.  The poor person, ignorant and degraded, was to him the image of Jesus.  But so were the rich, clergy and lay, who needed - his second goal - to be led to this understanding that Jesus himself had a "preferential option for the poor", and that to be Christ-like one must also embrace this option.

      Within the past month or so, a gentleman from our diocese sent a letter to most, if not all, priests as well as our bishop.  I know him, and he is not some radical nor is he "out of it".  He is a retired teacher from one of our diocesan high schools.   In the letter, he observes that very few Catholics know about or have heard of this "preferential option for the poor", since it is rarely preached or even mentioned by bishops or priests.  He calls us priests and challenges the church to do a better job in this regard.  Much of what he says is all too often true, and the challenge is needed today as much as it was in the days of Vincent de Paul in France in the 1800's.  I was struck by the passion of his words and example and reminded of the growing needs that exist in today's world.

     However, the message is not lost and the need does not go unmet.  The vitality of the Saint Vincent de Paul Societies and the Ladies of Charity in our area is inspiring.  Stores are set up, food pantries and food banks sponsored, outreach is given with kindness, love and generosity throughout this diocese.  Countless people have had their lives touched by this love and concern.  In our own parish, I have spoken of this "option for the poor" and people have responded.  Recently during a visit by our Dean, the bishop's representative, I was asked what social outreach the parish experienced.  As I began mentioning some of them, I was moved by how generous our people are with time and resources - not only in emergency appeals, but in the everyday response to need.  As I think that I mentioned previously, in our recent Diocesan Capital Campaign, a 10% tithe of all monies returned is designated to charity.  We work with the local Food Bank, run by the local SVDP and distributed from our place.  We have a monthly Charity envelope, 10% of which goes to the Food Bank.  We help supplement Meals on Wheels with fresh fruit in season, give seasonal enhancements to the Food Bank recipients, reach out to their children with lunch treats, and so much more.  All this in addition to responding as we can to requests for assistance.

     More is needed, the number of poor and needy continue to grow, the clergy need reminded of our responsibility, and those who respond need to be thanked and have gratitude expressed.  That is the spirit of Saint Vincent de Paul.

Monday, September 26, 2011


     There is a commercial chain out there called "Restoration Hardware".  It features quality, high end products for the home that seek to bring grandeur and beauty to homes as they were once experienced.  I love to wander through such stores.

     RESTORATION is a key word not only to their business philosophy but also a key word to today's reading from the Hebrew Scriptures (Zec.8: 1-8).  The Lord of hosts speaks of his intense jealousy for Zion, for his people.  Dispersed and in exile, down and out in everywhere but Beverly Hills, he expresses his desire to dwell with them, to set up shop in Jerusalem and on his holy mountain, to bring them home, to return things to normal, to restore the glory days.  He says that "even if this should seem impossible in the eyes of the remnant of this people", it shall not be so in his eyes.  The Covenant will be restored.  "They will be my people, and I will be their God, with faithfulness and justice."

       In the Messiah, Jesus, we have ultimately been restored to grace and favor, to holiness and glory.  After 2,000 years, though, that grace has been forgotten by many and that favor taken for granted, the holiness has been diminished and the glory has gotten dusty.  We are approaching the "October Count" once again, to tell us how dismal is our Mass attendance. Survey after survey remind us of how marginal people of faith have become and faith and religion in fact really are.  It is time for a renewed RESTORATION of the church.  Even though this may seem "impossible" in the eyes of the remnant of God's people, know that in his eyes ... and heart ... it is desired and that all things are possible.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

A few thoughts ...

     This morning I shared these thoughts ...  There is an old saying that a person is only as good as his word.  This flows from the relationship that we have with God, who desires us to be god-like.  He, whose WORD created all things and established a covenant, also restored that covenant that was lost be sin through the Living Word of God's death on the cross and his resurrection.

     God is as good as his WORD, Jesus the Christ.  Our difficulty in seeing and believing flows from our sinful, fallen human nature, which makes words multiply and lose meaning.  Words can become empty.  Like the sons in today's story, we say "Yes sir!" and don't follow through ... or we say "No way!" and yet do go into the vineyard.

      There is another old saying that invites us to put our words into actions, as proof of their power.  The Living WORD, Jesus, did just that in embracing the tree of the cross, taking with him to that tree our sinfulness and the death it brings.  He did this out of love.  He did this so that when we give our YES to him, it can be with words fleshed out in a life of service and conviction.

     And yet there may be times when sinful human nature brings uncertainty to our word or a lack of clarity to our action.  But even in those frail moments, we have the assurance that God knows our hearts ... he knows what lies at the center of our beings.  Even when words fail and actions are inadequate, he knows our heart.  For this we must give thanks, and embrace the grace of his love.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

The perception of Church

     In my post around 9/11 I quoted the message of the Holy Father to Archbishop Dolan of the U.S. Catholic Bishops' Conference and the people of America.  It was a message of solidarity and compassion.  I received a comment that basically said that the Catholic Church has no moral basis to comment on the sins of others when they are so caught up in their own sinfulness.  The author was referring to the sexual abuse scandal.  I've heard that many times over ... that the Church has lost her right to speak out with any moral authority.

     Our Holy Father is in Germany on a State Visit.  At a Mass in Berlin's Olympic Stadium the other day, the Holy Father spoke of the decline of religious practice, Mass attendance, and the marginalizing of faith in German society (but it also applies to all of us).  He said that one of the problems is that people mistakenly see only the outward form of the church and consider it merely as another organization in a democratic society.  It needs to be seen also in a broader sense as a communion of life with Christ, a living, vibrant family made up of sinners and saints..

     The Church does contain flawed and bad members, as does every group.  That should not be the case, but as Paul reminds us, the faith has been placed in "earthen vessels".  That is not to make an excuse ... rather it is to state the obvious.  The Holy Father said "if only these negative aspects are taken into account, then the great and deep mystery of the church is no longer seen."  The church then is no longer a source of joy or of hope.  When our notion of a "dream church" falls short, dissatisfaction and discontent begin to spread.  That does not take away our right to challenge or question the church as institution, but it does require us to see ourselves as part of the church and renew our mission.

     When the church goes through troubled times we need to take comfort and strength in the closeness of Christ, repent of our sinfulness and frailty, and with forgiveness embraced, be reconciled and move forward.  For me, one of the proofs of the gift that the church is to the world, is that despite our failings and foolishness at time, the church continues to proclaim the Good News of the Gospel and offer Eternal Life.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

The Ten Commandments

          This afternoon I shared with our 8th grade class at Queen of Angels school during their religion period.  We spoke of the Ten Commandments which they are currently covering.  We had a lively discussion.

     I shared my observation that the tablets of the Law were given to a people who did not have a strong and vibrant relationship with the God of their ancestors, and a community that was not much of a "community".  They needed identity ... they needed structure ... they needed direction.  Through Moses, God gave them what they needed.  The tablets of the Law contained specific instruction regarding their relationship with the God who had provided freedom - He was the ONLY God who chose them and shared His NAME with them, a name that must not be taken lightly or in vain.  Into that unique and intimate bond He invited them to follow His footsteps (the footsteps of creation) and, as the Lord had done, to rest and rejoice in the goodness of God ... to KEEP HOLY the LORD'S DAY.

     He gave them practical guides to living an ordered and respectful life, beginning with parents and family and ancestors and continuing with all who cross our path.  They were laws of respect for human dignity and regard for human life.  These laws were not restrictive, but freeing.  They did not bring oppression, but release and new life.  They were Laws of Love - as Jesus would later point out - Love of God and Love of Neighbor.

     We had a great discussion.

     Our Holy Father, Benedict XVI, is visiting his native Germany.  Today he spoke to the German Parliament, and the topic was the role of the lawmaker and the role of the LAW in the life of society.  He reminded them of King Solomon's request for "an understanding heart" to lead his people, and the praise that God gave regarding that choice.  He pointed out that the strength of European society rests in the mingling of philosophical principles with Roman law and religious values.  This is where the foundation has been laid, and this is where hope for the future can be found.  You can find his full text on Whispers in the Loggia which Rocco Palmo posted today.  It is worth reading.  He ends by saying to the lawmakers that they should ask for a listening heart - "the capacity to discern between good and evil, and thus to establish true law, to serve justice and peace."

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Catholic School Mass

     This morning I concelebrated the annual Diocesan Catholic Schools Mass at Blessed Sacrament Cathedral in Greensburg.  Bishop Lawrence Brandt was celebrant and a number of the priests concelebrated.  Representatives of our two Diocesan High Schools and Junior High Schools, as well as representative classes from the other Catholic Schools in the four counties, gathered to celebrate our identity and the blessing of a Catholic School education.  Today is the feast of Saint Matthew, the Apostle and Evangelist.

     The bishop spoke of the banners that lead us on our journey.  They speak of FAITH ... ACADEMICS ... and SERVICE.  Even though the struggle to continue to provide for Catholic School Education grows, and we are a shadow of what we once were, we are very proud of this part of the Mission of the Church and of our students, faculties and administrations and families, and of the sacrifice of the parishes in making this Mission happen.

     I am the product of Catholic School Education, from kkindergarten through grad school in theology.  I was taught by Sisters of the Holy Ghost from Pittsburgh, Benedictine priests and Third Order Franciscan priests, Diocesan clergy and dedicated lay men and women.  I am very grateful for all that I received over the years.  I am forever in the debt of those dedicated men and women.

     Yesterday I celebrated Eucharistic Liturgy for the students of our regional school - Queen of Angels.  It is always a great experience.


    Today was the first time that I saw the newly (still ongoing) renovated Blessed Sacrament Cathedral of the Greensburg Diocese.  Bishop Brandt has brought his touch to our Cathedral, and the change is dramatic.  More on that later, but I find that I struggle with the loss of the simple beauty that I have known for the nearly forty years of my priesthood, which made it a great place for worship. 

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

To be family

     In today's gospel Jesus was told that his mother and brothers were outside and wanted to see him.  He said: "My mother and brothers are those who hear the word of God and act on it."  What does it mean to be family.  We have the comfort and security of having been nurtured by a family rooted in the Word and challenged to take that Word which transforms our life and put it into action.  For most of us, difficult as it may be at times to do that, it is an easy thing.

     But in our readings from Ezra in the Hebrew Scriptures we also meet Cyrus and Darius and Artaxerxes who were not of the family, but upon hearing the Word of God allowed their actions to reflect the transforming power of the Word that they had heard in their hearts.  They allowed their captives to go home and rebuild a temple for their God, even to the point of supporting the project.  This made no logical sense, it was not the practice of the conquering nation, but they were acting on the Word that had been given them.  They, too, became a part of the family.

    Today the Church honors the Korean martyrs, Andrew Kim Taegon and Paul Chong Hasang and their companions.  These were individuals who were part of a culture that was hostile to outside influences and foreign ways.  Yet when their ancestors, a century before, heard the Word of God,they were so moved that they brought the faith with them and kept it in their hearts.  In the one hundred years following the martyrdom of Paul Youn and James Kouen in 1791, over ten thousand Korean Christians were cruelly executed.  And this was a church of few if any priests, but of a strong and vibrant laity.  Andrew was the first Korean priest, ordained in 1845 and executed one year later.  Paul was a lay catechist, and the 103 companions listed represent an entire people that became part of the family by hearing the Word of God and acting on it.  And they stand as tremendous witnesses.

     Being family involves more than biology or adoption or heritage ... it involves the unique call of God to come to him and follow him and serve him in love.  We are one family.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Yesterday's message

     So many things were happening yesterday that I neglected to share a reflection on the Scriptures of the day.  I would like to use this opportunity to do so.

     Progress and knowledge, experience and creativity move at such a fast pace that its hard to catch one's breath.  As I told the people yesterday, I remember when computers took an entire room and were fed by data punch cards -- now they are as small as a cell phone.  There was a time when to cross the Atlantic from Europe to the U.S. was a long ocean voyage, now it is a few hours flight.  Times change.  And with the changing times come growing difficulty in understanding and appreciating the Word of God.  While we know more about languages and historical context than ever before, our view of ourselves has clouded and confused the issue.  We see ourselves as being god-like.  We have the power and ability to do whatever we want.  We are gods.

     And when we see ourselves in that way, then when we hear the invitation of the scriptures to "seek the lord while he may be found" or to "call to him while he is still here" we are confused.  Aren't we there already?  Are we not on a par with God?  Are not the things that we accomplish god-like?  And we forget what we heard in Isaiah the prophet: "my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways, says the Lord.  As high as the heavens are above the earth, so high are my ways above your ways and my thoughts above your thoughts."

     Without this clear understanding that we are NOT equals, that we do NOT share the same footing, we find it difficult to appreciate and rejoice in the overwhelming love of God for us, his generous spirit that allows him to give to us what he himself possesses.  This is the great mystery, the great revelation, the great truth of God's LOVE ... that he HAS chosen us to share with him - not his godly nature - but his lifegiving love for all eternity.  For this we must be most thankful.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

A not so light day

     In Friday's post I mentioned that there was not much happening.  That could not be said of this morning.

     Before the 8:30 liturgy one of our elderly parishioners fainted in the pew.  He was "out of it" and not alert at all.  I am always thankful for the trained medical people of the congregation who jump in and assist those in need.  That is what happened again this morning, until the ambulance and EMT's arrived.  By the time they took this kind gentleman to the hospital, he was much more alert.  Our prayers are with Bill (his first name) and his daughter, and our thanks to those who helped.

    We began Mass with the ambulance still at the front door of the church.  As I was vesting, a screw to my eye glasses came loose, and a lens popped out.  Needless to say, I could not find the screw [ by the way, its not the only time that I've been told that I have had a screw loose! ], and I had no extra glasses at the church.  So, my glass frames were askew, and I could see clearly out of only one eye.  It was interesting.  By the 11 am Mass I had a replacement pair.

     This was the weekend to begin teaching the new musical setting for our revised Mass texts.  That went over well.  We began with the Holy, Holy, Holy. I shared the Latin (to impress the people), then the present form followed by the new translation ... "Lord God of power and might" becomes "Lord, God of hosts". Then the music people taught the melody.

     Our Seton's Men's Group hosted Coffee and Donuts after both morning Masses outside in the circle of grass in front of the church.  It went over well, and they were gracious hosts.

     This was also the first Sunday for our Religious Formation for grades K through 4 at the Seton Center, our parish office center.  This takes place between Masses, and makes for complicated traffic patterns.

    And following the 11:00 am Liturgy, we celebrated the Sacrament of Baptism for four youngsters, whose parents and families brought them to the Church for welcome.  It was a great celebration, and all four were attentive and beautiful.  I have done multiple baptisms many times before, but this was a large group for this parish.  We had one young lady and three guys: they are Cora Marguerite Anselmino, Jackson David Phillips, Chase Britton Frischolz and Daniel Alexander Schlanger.  Parents were proud, grandparents were beaming, siblings were curious, and friends were excited.  My thanks to these families for sharing the gift of belonging to the Church with their children.

     So ... I am not complaining (many do so much more on a regular basis) but simply pointing out that a simple lost screw or a serious fainting spell can set things in motion that make the day interesting.

     Oh, and by the way ... the Steelers played and won this afternoon at home.  In southwestern Pennsylvania and throughout Steeler Country, this is always welcome news.

Saturday, September 17, 2011


     On the 15th of September, it was announced in our Diocesan newspaper, The CATHOLIC ACCENT, that Bishop Lawrence E. Brandt will honor 31 laypersons and two priests on October 9th by conferring diplomas for Knights and Ladies of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem.  The Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem is a historic lay institution that dates back to 1099 and the First Crusade and was approved by Pope Callistus II in 1122, entrusting members with the guardianship of the Holy Sepulchre and the city of Jerusalem.  Today, the members are charged with providing for the needs of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem and all of the activities and initiatives that support the Christian presence in the Holy Land, especially through charitable works.  The list of names can be found on the diocesan web page.  Bishop Brandt is a member of the Order, and has promoted its presence since being installed as our bishop.  We congratulate the new Knights and Ladies.

     I have included two photos of Archbishops O'Brien (on the left) and Joseph De Andrea (on the right and in the middle).  I borrowed the pictures from Joan Lewis's blog.  See below.

    Yesterday in viewing Joan Lewis' blog on EWTN, she has an article regarding the arrival of the newly appointed Grand Master of the Order, Archbishop Edwin O'Brien of Baltimore to the offices in Rome.  He takes over for retired Grand Master John Cardinal Foley (of Philadelphia).  In Rome, Archbishop O'Brien received the Order's highest honor, the Collar (a chain of office).  I mention it because presenting the Chain to Archbishop O'Brien is his friend and one of our priests, Archbishop Joseph De Andrea, retired now from the diplomatic corps of the Vatican.  "Father" Joe De Andrea served in a number of parishes in our diocese after arrival from Italy and incardination into the priesthood of the Greensburg Diocese.  Subsequently he entered the Vatican Diplomatic Service and was stationed in a number of difficult assignments before retiring.  His brother, Archbishop John De Andrea, also served in the diplomatic corps.  It was good to see a picture of Archbishop De Andrea.


I am overwhelmed and honored at the thought of over 6,006 page views for Journey Thoughts.  Thanks to all who return to read and thanks to those who have stumbled upon the blog.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Light Day

      Some days are busy ... others are not.  Today seems like one of those days.   At Mass this morning, Paul was once again offering practical advice to Timothy.  Hopefully we listened and learned. 
At the office a number of deadlines were met, busy work dealt with, and a view of the wood of the desk top is now visible. 
My sister, Janie has been visiting, and we made a trip home to Uniontown to take care of a few things. 
Upon return, we visited the parish Flea Market and Bake Sale being held in the parish hall ... had a bite to eat, surveyed the "treasures" and bought some goodies for later. 
The evening promises to be free.

     One thing about the Flea Market and Bake Sale, though.  The dedicated group of volunteers that organize, collect and set up the stuff, price the objects, people the four day sale, serve and sale the food, are great!  Most have done this for many years, and have served the parish well.   Despite having "earned retirement", they continue on because of their love of the parish family.  They give of themselves in SO MANY ways.  We don't say thank you often enough ... but I want them to know that I/we are grateful.  The sale ends tomorrow ... and there are great bargains still available.

     Yesterday was a trip to Meadville, PA to visit with family whom Janie and I have not seen for awhile.  Despite the drizzle and chilly temperatures, the visit was relaxing and enjoyable, and the cousins are doing well.

     Until tomorrow, may your Friday eve be peaceful and blessed.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Remembering ... a great day

     We have been in the remembering mode for the past few days.  Yesterday was the Feast of the Exultation of the Holy Cross, a great feast in itself but one that has greater signifigance in my life because of a special celebration on that day eight years ago.

     On September 14th in 2003, the parish family of Saint John the Baptist in Scottdale, where I served as pastor at the time, celebrated the 125th anniversay of its founding.  I had been fortunate enough to be in attendance at the 100th, and now would lead the 125th celebration.  We had a special liturgy that Sunday afternoon, followed by a dinner at the Pleasant Valley Country Club.  For the liturgy, we invited priests with ties to the parish, as well as neighbors and friends.  We invited local clergy who were represented by the pastors of the Mennonite and the Presbyterian Churches in town.  We invited the Religious Communities of the Sisters of Charity of Seton Hill, whose Sisters served there for 99 years, and the Benedictine Sisters of Pittsburgh who continued the mission.  Parishioners and former parishioners joined with us for a wonderfully joyous liturgy.

     We choose that date (the specific first mass was sometime in September of 1878) because it was a great feast - the Exultation of the Holy Cross.  Our focus in celebrating could be the love of Christ found in the sacrifice on the cross and not primarily on ourselves.  It was great.

     That year also marked the 30th anniversary of my ordination, and even though I made it clear to the organizing committee that I did not want to be included in the celebration, they surprised me by doing just that.  At the end of Mass they presented me with gifts and prayers greater than I deserved, and I continue to be most grateful.  Scottdale, as I have shared before, has been a major part of my priesthood, with fifteen of the last thirty-nine years having been spent in ministry there (as deacon, associate pastor and pastor).  They are dear to my heart, and I pray for them daily.

     As we lift high the cross of Christ, may we be drawn to his healing love and led to the table of the Lord.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Celebrating a legacy

    This past Saturday I returned to Masontown Pennsylvania, one of my former pastorates, to join in the festivities marking the 100th anniversary of the establishing of the local Catholic School.  The committee had a wonderful banquet at the Church Social Hall that evening, with a Mass the next day.  The hall was filled with alumni and former teachers of both the grade school as well as the parish high school eventually named after the first pastor, Father Francis Kolb.  The high school is now closed.

     The history of All Saints School goes back to almost the beginning of the parish in 1908.  Father Kolb had a vision and the newly formed parish worked hard to bring that vision to fulfillment.  After the parish was established, they built a church and attached rectory.  The school building and convent was built in 1910/1911, with the school opening on September 25th, 1911.  The All Saints high school opened in 1926.  The photo of that accomplishment shows the complex on the "edge of town" with nothing but fields surrounding the buildings. The school was opened in 1911 and was staffed by the Sisters of the Immaculate Heart from of Mary from Scranton.

     One of the ladies sitting at my table at the banquet was a little upset.  She was from the high school class of 1942, had travelled from the Boston area, and was sure that she was the oldest in attendance.  But there was another, Virginia Tassone, who got the award for being the oldest - from the class of 1938.  I did my best to console the traveller from Boston.

     I recognized a friend from high school days - Roger Abinader - who began high school with us in the minor seminary but left and attended Kolb.  He came in from Chicago for the event.  One of our priests - Monsignor William G. Charnoki - is also a graduate and was in attendance.  His uncle served as pastor at All Saints before I arrived in 1986.

     It was a great celebration of Catholic education and the blessings of a long history.  All Saints School still is open, but now is a Regional Catholic School, continuing the rich traditions of these past 100 years.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Remembering ... in thoughts and prayers

     Our Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, on the occasion of the 10th anniversary of 9/11, sent this word to Archbishop Timothy Dolan, president of the Catholic Conference of Bishops in the U.S.

"Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ!

On this day my thoughts turn to the somber events of September 11, 2001, when so many innocent lives were lost in the brutal assault on the twin towers of the World Trade Center and the further attacks in Washington, D.C. and Pennsylvania.  I join you in commending the thousands of victims to the infinite mercy of Almighty God and in asking our heavenly Father to continue to console those who mourn the loss of loved ones.

The tragedy of that day is compounded by the perpetrators' claim to be acting in God's name.  Once again, it must be unequivocally stated that no circumstances can ever justify acts of terrorism.  Every human life is precious in God's sight and no effort should be spared in the attempt to promote throughout the world a genuine respect for the inalienable rights and dignity of individuals and peoples everywhere.

The American people are to be commended for the courage and generosity that they showed in the rescue operations and for their resilience in moving forward with hope and confidence.  It is my fervent prayer that a firm commitment to justice and a global culture of solidarity will help rid the world of the grievances that so often give rise to acts of violence and will create the conditions for greater peace and prosperity, offering a brighter and more secure future.

With these sentiments, I extend my most affectionate greetings to you, your brother Bishops and all those entrusted to your pastoral care, and I gladly impart my Apostolic Blessing as a pledge of peace and serenity in the Lord.

                       POPE BENEDICT XVI

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Remembering ... a great tragedy

     Ten years have gone by ... fears have intensified ... two wars are being fought with many lives lost ... grieving continues and anger remains ... we are all affected.  The question often asked is "Where were you that morning?"

     I was on Retreat at Saint Joseph Hall in Greensburg (now the Bishop Connare Center).  We had finished breakfast and were waiting for Mass.
We gathered around the TV when the first plane hit, and as everyone was, were shocked by the realization of what the second plane meant, and then the Pentagon, and the collapse of the Towers.  Then suddenly all the State Police cars took off (it was a regional training center) and the State Attorney General's Office (also located there) closed up shop.  Wondering what else happened, we heard about Shanksville.

     It was one of most intensely sorrowful and powerful Masses - Father Tony Ditto was our celebrant.  The staff  joined us.  After lunch I went back to the parish to get things into the bulletin.  One memory was of passing the State Prison in Greensburg and seeing the driveway blocked by a vehicle.  And the skies were empty.

    We prayed and wept, we were empty emotionally, we were shocked and frightened.  Shanksville was not that far from us, and the plane may even have gone overhead.

     Never forget the lives lost and the sacrifices made.  Be inspired by heroic actions and detest terrorism.  And on year ten, continue to remember.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Remembering ... who we are

     All too often we become so complacent with who we are that we forget who we are.  This is especially true of our Catholic Faith.  It becomes so ordinary that we lose sight of how great our Faith is, and how proud we need be of it.  I ran across this web site on a church website that I was viewing, and I was impressed with this evangelization tool.  The videos that they have done are excellent, and I would like to share the text from one of them.  It describes who we are beautifully, and made me proud of my Faith.

Our family is made up of every race.
We are young and old,
rich and poor,
men and women,
sinners and saints.
Our family has spanned the centuries and the globe.
With God's grace we started hospitals to care for the sick.
We established orphanages and helped the poor.
We are the largest charitable organization on the planet,
bringing relief and comfort to those in need.
We educate more children than any scholarly or educational institution.
We developed scientific methods and laws of evidence.
We founded the college system.
We defend all human life and uphold marriage and family.
Cities were named after our revered saints who navigated a sacred path for us.
Guided by the Holy Spirit we compiled the bible.
We are transformed by the sacred scriptures and sacred tradition
which have consistently guided us for 2,000 years.
We are the Catholic Church, with over 1 billion in our family
sharing in the sacraments and the fullness of the Christian Faith.
For centuries we have prayed for you and our world every hour of every day
whenever we celebrate the Mass.
Jesus himself laid the foundation for our faith when he said to Peter. the first pope,
"you are rock, and upon this rock I will build my church."
For over 2,000 years we have had an unbroken line of shepherds
guiding the Catholic Church with love and truth in a continuously hurting world.
In this world filled with hardships and pain it is comforting to know
that some things remain consistent, true and strong - our Catholic Faith -
an eternal love that God has for all creation.

Ours is one family united in Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior.
We are Catholic.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

An unwelcome thought

      I watched the installation Mass of Archbishop Charles J. Chaput, OFM Cap., ninth Archbishop of Philadelphia and thirteenth bishop of the Diocese.  It took place in the Cathedral Basilica of Ss. Peter and Paul in Philly.  The ceremony was beautiful and the Church, as always, celebrates well.  In the beginning, the formal letter of appointment of Pope Benedict XVI was read, then the new Archbishop is led by his predecessor to the cathedra - the chair - which is the symbol of his teaching office.  He receives the acclamation of the people, then greets representatives of the diocese before continuing with the Mass.

     During his homily, Archbishop Chaput described his appointment to be like a marriage, with the bishop called to love his church with all his heart, just as Christ loved her and gave his love for her.  He then reminded everyone that this was an "arranged marriage", with the Holy Father as the matchmaker.  He said that when arranged marriages were common there was an expectation that people would get to know each other and then come to love one another.  He said that "good matchmakers were aware of the family history of each of the spouses and their particular needs.  And the really wise matchmakers could make surprisingly good choices."  Getting to know each other is a great adventure.

     The Church in Philadelphia faces great challenges, many resulting from the abuse crisis.  Healing is needed, and love.  Pray for Philadelphia and pray for their new shepherd.


     The title of this post refers to a meeting I attended late this afternoon with a number of my brother priests and a couple of financial advisers brought in by the diocese to discuss retirement planning.  It was a brief but good meeting, but the thought of giving serious thought to retirement planning, though wise, is nonetheless unwelcome.  It is too hard to believe that "retirement" is not that many years off.


     Following the meeting seven of us went out to a relaxing dinner.  It was enjoyable, with good food and pleasant company.  We went to a great place in Crabtree, PA called Rizzo's - great Italian cooking and outstanding homemade gelato and owned by a good Catholic family.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

A day off

     As I get older, I am less likely to "get away" on my day off (priests do get a day off).  The house that is provided for me is comfortable, and I'm inclined to rest or read or watch TV rather than travel.  But today was an exception.

     After Mass and the Anointing of the Sick this morning I travelled to visit good friends who recently moved because of work.  So I travelled to Ohio, about two and a half hours, in the Cleveland Diocese, to visit and have lunch.  The ride was uneventful, the visit was wonderful - I saw their new home, the area they are living in, and their new parish church and school - and after the return trip this evening, I had a great dinner at one of my local favorites in a town called Wilmerding (George Westinghouse had set up his headquarters there).  Now it is time for the post.  A satisfying day.


     Tomorrow, September 8th, the church celebrates the Birthday of Mary.  I mentioned that Thursday was Mary's birthday to someone on our staff, and they wanted to know who?  It is the birthday of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the "big" M.  It was also my maternal grandfather's birthday - he was born in Poland in 1880 and died in 1963 - he would have been 131.  He died when I was still in high school, and my memories are fading.  It was also the birthday of my Aunt Theresa, his oldest daughter.  So to all celebrating on September 8th ... HAPPY BIRTHDAY!


     Tomorrow is also an important day for the Archdiocese of Philadelphia and for the Dioceses of Pennsylvania.  Philadelphia is the Metropolitan See and its bishop serves as the overseer (bad word) of the other seven Dioceses of the Commonwealth.  Tomorrow afternoon Archbishop Charles Chaput will be installed as the ninth Archbishop of Philadelphia.  Prior to this he was Archbishop of Denver.  He succeeds Justin Cardinal Rigali, who retired having reached the age of retirement.

     Archbishop Chaput is a Capuchin Franciscan who has served as bishop in Denver and Rapid City.  He is 66 years old, has ties with our area, and is of French Canadian and Native American heritage, and is a member of the Prairie Band Potawatomi tribe (only the second Native American bishop ordained in the U.S.). 

     His ties to the area include his entering the Order of Friars Minor Capuchin in Pittsburgh in 1965, having studied at Saint Fidelis College in Herman, PA.  His other tie was that he was ordained a priest in his native Kansas by Bishop Cyril Vogel on August 29, 1970.  Bishop Vogel was Bishop of Salinas, Kansas, but was the first priest of the Diocese of Greensburg to be named a bishop.  I attended his ordination (Consecration in those days) and somewhere have a few black and white pictures.

     If you want to watch the ceremonies, they will be broadcast on EWTN Thursday afternoon from Philly.  We congratulate the Church of Philadelphia and Archbishop Chaput.  Also, if you would like more insight, I'm sure that Rocco Palmo from Whispers in the Loggia will have additional coverage.  Rocco lives and works in Philly.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Walk in him

     Paul's word today at Mass (Col.2:6-15) says it all, and very clearly.

"Brothers and sisters:
     As you received Christ Jesus the Lord, walk in him,
rooted in him and built upon him and established in the faith as you were taught,
abounding in thanksgiving.
See to it that no one captivate you with an empty, seductive philosophy
according to the tradition of men, according to the elemental powers of the world
and not according to Christ.

     For in him dwells the whole fullness of the deity bodily,
and you share in this fullness in him, who is head of every principality and power.
In him you were also circumcised with a circumcision not administered by hand,
by stripping off the carnal body, with the circumcision of Christ.
You were buried with him in baptism,
in which you were also raised with him through faith in the power of God,
who raised him from the dead.
And even when you were dead in transgressions and the uncircumcision of your flesh,
he brought you to life along with him, having forgiven us all our transgressions;
obliterating the bond against us, with its legal claims, which was opposed to us,
he also removed it from our midst, nailing it to the cross;
despoiling the principalities and the powers, he made a public spectacle of them,
leading them away in triumph by it."

     Powerful and clear words.


Today was the first meeting of the local ministrium after the summer break.  This group of Christian pastors meets monthly to share with each other the work that God is doing and to plan for a number of local prayer experiences throughout the year.  I have usually found this interaction a great experience of the work of Christ.  And besides, we meet over lunch ... and how can you go wrong with that.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Labor Day thoughts 2

     To reflect upon work and workers we must cultivate the reality that our oneness with God offers to us - namely dignity.  We speak of the "work of God" in creation.  We celebrate the "work of redemption" accomplished by Jesus in his sacrifice on the cross.  We acknowledge the invitation to "work as his body" to build the Kingdom of God, with a foundation laid here in this world and a fulfillment in heaven.

     When God created, Genesis tells us that he paused and saw that "it was good".  He did his best work in creating humanity, fashioning us in his image and his likeness, entrusting us with his creative power.  The work of redemption involved God taking upon himself our frailty and sinfulness so that he could, through his Son, take it to the cross and put it to rest - giving us new life and an overwhelming hope in a new creation.  Drawn to the cross, and immersed in his love, we are entrusted with the work of transforming the world, not in limited or restrictive ways, but with the powerful, life giving love of the creator himself.  It is a tremendous challenge.

      Reflecting upon "work", we must see it as a gift from God.  Reflecting upon "the worker", we must see ourselves as being chosen by God to use that blessing for the common good.  To reflect upon Labor Day, we must see that work of transformation, and the work that that work entails, possesses the dignity with which it has been entrusted to us.  And we must allow our FAITH and GOOD WORKS to give honor and glory to the God of creation. 
Happy Labor Day!

Sunday, September 4, 2011

My brother's keeper

     The following is a reflection I posted for the Greensburg Diocesan Website for this weekend.

     The scriptures contain the life giving Word of God which challenges us to "turn away from sin" and live.  That word is an affirmation of the blessings that God has placed within us, but it is not all "warm and fuzzy".  That word is truth, and the truth can sometimes be hard to face, for that word calls us to transformation and new life.

     In the letter of Paul to the Romans on this 23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time, we are reminded that we owe love to each other, "for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law", and the law is summed up in the love of God above all things and the love of neighbor as oneself.  When we stray from that commandment, that basic law of love, then we find ourselves lost and unable to focus.  We stumble and are unsure of our footing, yet often too proud to admit the fact.  Have you ever caught the edge of a curb or sidewalk and stumbled a little?  Once you regain your footing, you look around to see if anyone saw.  Then you pretend that it never happened.  Our pride keeps us off balance.

     The scriptures for this Sunday actually warns us to watch out for our brothers and sisters, to offer a steady arm to those who stumble, to point out the right path to those whose vision is clouded, to remind those who are confused that there is a truth that you can share with them that will lead them to eternal life.  We are called to not just be there if they ask for help, but to watch over and guide, to protect and defend, to reprove and to challenge our sisters and brothers, not in a self-righteous way, but in genuine love.  This is our responsibility and our duty.  This is our joy in bringing the message of salvation to all we meet by word and example.  It is a daunting challenge.  If you are like me, you probably would rather wait for someone to approach you before saying or doing something.  To stand up and give witness, to point to the truth, is much more difficult.

     On this Labor Day weekend, the U.S. Bishops issued a statement written by Bishop Stephen Blaire of California.  In the conclusion he states, speaking of work and workers, "We must remember that the heart of everything we do as believers must be love, for it is love which honors the dignity of work as participation in the act of God's creation, and it is love which values the dignity of the worker, not just for the work that he or she does, but above all for the person he or she is.  This call to love is also a work of faith an expression of hope."  We all need reminding of the call to witness to the truth.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

A busy weekend

     Labor Day Weekend is usually seen as the last great summer holiday (although around here, school has already begun).  The first Monday of September has the nation observing Labor Day.  Most people have off, and people enjoy the national holiday.

    For me, this weekend has also meant a pilgrimage and a festival.  The festival is that of All Saints Parish in Masontown, Pennsylvania.  This was one of my assignments as pastor (from 1986 to 1992).  It is a great little town on the Western edge of Fayette County and is rural in setting.  All Saints Parish is a great community of people with strong faith and a welcoming heart.  My five years there were wonderful, and they hold a special place in my heart.  One of the activities that I encountered was the annual festival on the church grounds over this weekend.  Then it was four days - Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday!  I remember cutting it down to three and eliminating Monday.  It was a great event for the town, the last blast before digging into the routine of the school year.  It was one of the major social events of the larger community.

    I try to go back each year for a visit during festival time to see friends, enjoy good food, and relive memories.  Father John Butler serves as pastor now, and if you are adventurous enough to search out Masontown, I know that they would invite you to join them this weekend.

    The other event happening, again in Fayette County, is the 77th annual Pilgrimage to the Shrine and Icon of Our Lady of Perpetual Help at Mount Saint Macrina in Uniontown, the grounds of the Motherhouse of the Sisters of Saint Basil the Great.  The annual pilgrimage brings the faithful from all over the country to this Labor Day Weekend event honoring Mary and celebrating the Ruthenian Byzantine Rite of the Catholic Church, which is so strong in this area.  A prayerful and powerful expression of faith, the annual pilgrimage is something that I remember attending even as a child.  In those days the numbers were always near 100,000 (Bishop Sheen, whose celebrated in both Rites, would come and draw large crowds).  Now the numbers are in the tens of thousands, and still very impressive.  The Ruthenian Rite population of the Metropolitan Archdiocese of Pittsburgh numbers some 60,000 Catholics in 85 parishes in the states of Pennsylvania, Ohio, West Virginia, Texas, Oklahoma, Tennessee and Louisiana.  Their Rite is rich in tradition and spirituality.  The Pilgrimage runs the weekend, usually ending Monday morning with Divine Liturgy.  All are welcome.

    Whatever the weekend holds for you, celebrate safely and well.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Labor priests

     Did you know that this area of southwestern Pennsylvania had a powerful Catholic presence in the labor movement?  In light of the post yesterday, and probably another before Labor Day referring to the U.S. Bishops' Labor Day Statement, I thought I might mention two prominent local figures from the clergy who were leaders in the cause.

     The first was Father James R. Cox, a Catholic priest of the Pittsburgh Diocese who lived from 1886 to 1951.  He was known for his pro-labor activism and was for a brief time a candidate for President of the United States on the Jobless Party docket in 1932, and he organized an unprecedented protest march on Washington.  In January of 1932 he led 25,000 unemployed Pennsylvanians, called "Cox's Army" on a march on Washington.  He hoped that Congress would be stirred to start a public works project and get people back to work.  The march sparked the formation of the Jobless Party, which also supported labor unions.  The Party, and Father Cox's run for President, were short lived, and support was given to the Democratic Party and FDR.  He served on a number of commissions, as was known as Pittsburgh's "Pastor of the Poor".  He died at the age of 65 in 1951.

     The second was mentored by Father Cox, and he was Father (Monsignor) Charles Owen Rice who lived from 1908 to 2005 and served as a priest in Pittsburgh for seventy years.  He began his activism in social causes and the American labor movement during the great depression.  He was involved in strikes, met Dorothy Day of the Catholic Workers Movement and was a friend of the president of the CIO.  He marched with Martin Luther King in 1967, and was a champion of causes like poverty, joblessness, workers rights, the war, civil rights and the women's movement. 

     Both of these men were leaders and champions of causes.  Both were often misunderstood, or feared, or hated, or admired.  Both gave their all in responding to the gospel message and the growing teachings that ushered in the industrial age beginning with Rerum Novarum of Leo XIII.  Should priests or Catholic lay leaders or the Church herself be involved in these social and political issues?  Many would say no ... but the gospel of Christ says yes!   Why?  Because while these issues may involve politics or policies or parties, they first and foremost involve people and ethical stands that cannot be ignored.   They are gospel issues.