Monday, October 31, 2011

All Hallow's Eve

     Tonight is "Trick or Treat" in our neighborhood, with youngsters of our neighboring families or their grandkids making the rounds.  I live in a nice, quiet area, where "treats" as opposed to "tricks" are the order of business.

     I was watching a program yesterday that tried to make sense of our halloween mania.  It has indeed become big business, with candy and costumes and decorations and parties.  But I enjoy seeing the younsters, and sharing their excitement at the treats that they receive.

     But as we know, this eve of All Hallows, is the eve of our celebration of all the saints and  anticipates our remembrance of the dead on All Souls day.  Both days are important and deserving of our celebration - November 1 & 2 - as is this day of fun called Halloween.


Sunday, October 30, 2011

A day of blessings

     Beginning at three o'clock this afternoon, Sunday, October 30th, a "Mass of Thanksgiving for the Restoration of Blessed Sacrament Cathedral with the Blessing of New Liturgical Appointments on the Occasion of the Celebration of the 60th Anniversary of the Diocese of Greensburg" took place with Bishop Lawrence E. Brandt, JCD, PhD, the fourth bishop of Greensburg as presider and homilist.  Now that's quite a title page for a program.   This celebration, long in the planning, was the culmination of a lengthy process of restoration and repair of our Cathedral parish.  Since his ordination and installation as our bishop in 2004, Bishop Brandt has desired to transform our mother church into what he calls an "architectural monument and impressive community asset". 

     The restoration and development of the present cathedral church is beautiful and top notch.  They say that beauty is in the eye of the beholder ... and I would add that the appreciation of beauty is also in the eye of the beholder.  While there are many beautiful things, I find much to be busy and distracting, and I miss the simple beauty of the cathedral that I knew and loved.  Obviously our personal tastes are different ... and I am not the bishop (thank God).  That said, in this second visit since completion, I was a little more comfortable.  Hopefully I will come to know and love this "new church" as the image of our mother, the Church.  I believe that Bishop Brandt was pleased with his accomplishments in this endeavor.

     Joining us today were our Bishop Emeritus, Bishop Anthony G. Bosco, as well as our neighbors, Archabbot Douglas Nowicki of Saint Vincent Archabbey in Latrobe, Bishop David Zubik of Pittsburgh, Bishop Mark Bartchak of the Altoona-Johnstown Diocese as well as Bishop Joseph Adamec, Bishop Emeritus of AJ, and His Eminence Justin Cardinal Rigali, Archbishop Emeritus of Philadelphia.  The music was beautiful, the liturgy solemn, the blessings of new appointments unending (twelve blessings), and the liturgy long (3 till about 5:45).  But a great day - we had snow yesterday and fog all morning, but sunshine as we began.

     I have include the Remembrance Card picture and wording.  The picture is of the new "cathedra" with Bishop Brandt, one modeled after the chair from the Church of Santa Maria in Cosmedin in Rome where Bishop Brandt celebrated his first Mass as a priest in December of 1969.  It has personal sentimental value to him.

It was a day of blessings.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Their message goes out

     On this feast of the Apostles Simon and Jude, the psalm response, commonly used for the apostles, is from Psalm 19 - "Their message goes out through all the earth."

     In this age of instant news, of inter net access, of constant communication, one would think that the psalm response would be more relevant today that ever before.  And yet, the message that goes out to all the world is all too often NOT the gospel message of Jesus Christ.  In fact, "the" message is often relegated to the insignificant or unimportant.  It is seen as personal piety rather than communal wisdom.  It becomes newsworthy only when seen or heard in the spectacular or scandalous moments of life.

     Yesterday I watched that national news and, although I may have missed it, did not see anything about the gathering in Assisi that I spoke of yesterday.  Leaders of the world religions and people of faith and people of good will gathered in support of truth and peace in the world in a gesture of unity.  They gathered as strangers and sojourners in the cause of peace and found themselves united in a common goal - to witness to their hearts' desire for the larger world.  Not newsworthy, though.

     The house that we live in was built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, held into place by Christ himself.  We form a sacred temple that is the dwelling place of God in the Spirit.  We must be untiring in our efforts to let the word go forth, to letting the message take root, that Jesus Christ is Lord - and only in the Prince of Peace will the reality of peace be found.  That is newsworthy!


     I was just reminded on Facebook by Linda Rohol, the secretary at All Saints in Masontown, that it was 25 years ago today, the Feast of Saint Jude, that I arrived in town to begin a wonderful five year pastorate.  At the time I joked that I was not sure whether the assignment was the "hopeless case" entrusted to Saint Jude ... or me.  I suspect that it was me!  And he came through, with the love and support of those good people in the parish and the town.  I am grateful.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Pilgrims of peace

     Today in the town of Assisi in central Italy, the birthplace of Saints Francis and Clare, a pilgrimage is taking place.  Over 300 representatives of the worlds major religions, as well as some who profess non belief, are gathering to be "Pilgrims of Truth, Pilgrims of Peace" and bear witness to humanity's need for and longing for peace in this world of ours.  Cardinal Peter Turkson of the Vatican, who is coordinating this pilgrimage, said the following: "The threats of peace are many and multi-faceted and peace is not only threatened by one human experience or manifestation - when I'm sick, I'm not at peace, when there's war, I'm not at peace, when I don't see how I can feed my family at the end of the day, I'm not at peace, when I'm going to lose my job tomorrow, I'm also not at peace - so also the ways of dealing with it must be many and multi-faceted ... "

      These representatives - Catholics, Orthodox, Anglicans, Christians, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, Sikhs, Jains, Zoroastrians, Taoists, indigenous peoples and others - led by Pope Benedict XVI, will travel from Rome by train to Assisi to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the first such gathering convened by Pope John Paul II in October of 1986.  This meeting will have these leaders gather in a place of peace, at the tomb of an apostle of peace, to witness to their desire for and to pray in their own ways with a unified sense of purpose, for peace.  It is not just a "day long thing", but there will be a recommitment to praying and working for peace in the world made by representatives of the world's religious traditions in a very public way.

     Please keep this historic gathering, and the cause of world peace, in your prayers and thoughts ... and may we always desire and work for peace at every level of existence.  I believe that EWTN is broadcasting the trip today.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

A good story

     I've mentioned before that I am a bit of a movie buff.  But I've been off my game lately (don't tell the industry, but there hasn't been much out there that I've wanted to see).  However, this past Sunday afternoon I went to see THE WAY by Emilio Esteves and starring his dad, Martin Sheen.  It was a beautiful and moving story of journey and pilgrimage. 

     The story introduces us to a California eye doctor, Tom, who is a Christmas/Easter Catholic and his relationship with his son, who is a searcher - a wanderer.  The doc gets a call that his son, Daniel, was killed in a freak accident in France on a tour through Europe.  He then procedes to retrieve the body.  He discovers that Daniel had embarked upon a journey / pilgrimage on the "camino de Santiago", the ancient pilgrimage route to the shrine of Saint James in Santiago del Compenstella.  This route from France through Spain is 450 miles, and has been travelled for over 1,000 years by pilgrims of all faiths.

      Discovering something about his son that he had not realized - a spiritual side and a quest - he decides to make the journey himself, carrying the cremated remains of Daniel so that Daniel could complete the journey.

     It is the story of rediscovered spiritual direction in a life, the story of encounters and friendships made along the way, the story of self understanding.  The Spanish countryside, the religious sites, the motivations of the "pilgrims", the power of completion are wonderful to behold.  It probably will not be a commercial success, but I found it a good story, well done and inspiring.  I believe that I heard Martin Sheen say that it is in tribute to his grandfather, who made that journey years ago.
For what it is worth, I would offer my recommendation.


      Yesterday I saw "THE THREE MUSKETEERS" in 2-D.  I usually like these swashbucklers, and I love the story of the three musketeers, but this one left me flat.  It was a great setting for the special effects (maybe the 3-D version would have been better), but it did not capture my interest or desire to see it again [and I am a "repeater"].  Again, for what it is worth.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Is it worth the pain?

     How I long for things to be easy, for a change.  Why do things need to be so complicated?  Wouldn't it be great to breeze through life with blessing only?

     As one who struggles with weight and who is decidedly a couch potato, I have often been told that I need to invest in exercise and healthy eating.  But it is difficult.  I've also been reminded time and again that "no pain, no gain".  How true that is.  When I was going through therapy for my new knee, they worked me hard.  Just one more exercise ... another ten reps ... two more leg presses - how I dreaded those words.  But without that pushing, without that struggle, there would be reduced movement and no gain.

     Paul reminds us today in Romans (Romans 8:18 - 25) that the struggle and suffering of the present are nothing compared to the glory that will be revealed in us in Christ Jesus.  There is pain during childbirth, but the end result eases the memory of that pain.  There was great suffering and even death on the cross for Jesus, but the end result was freedom and eternal life for us.  The joy of Easter morning did not diminish the suffering of Good Friday, but it brought it into perspective and gave it redemptive value.

     Looking back, after the fact (or rather looking forward in hope), gives us another perspective on the suffering or pain that we confront.  Our primary example and guide is found in the love of Paul's life - Jesus, the Christ.  May he be the love of our lives.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Being marginalized

     I've been reading much lately regarding the every increasing governmental positions in the U.S. that are attacking our religious liberty as a Church and her members who are citizens of this land.  An editorial recently in the Pittsburgh Catholic reported the establishment of an ad hoc committee of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops to address these issues.  The president of the USCCB, Archbishop Timothy Dolan listed six areas of concern.

     *     There is a Federal law called DOMA - the Defense of Marriage Act - which supports traditional marriage (one woman, one man).  This is the long stated tradition of society and a basic belief of our Church.  Yet under the present administration, the Justice Department has begun filing briefs actively attacking DOMA's constitutionality, claiming that supporters of the law could only have been motivated by prejudice and bias and calling the law bigotry.  Placing the two entities - Church and State - on opposite sides in this issue will result in increasing conflicts on issues and marginalize the moral guidance that the Church offers.  I see another problem in that we, as priests, are ministers of the Church as well as servants of the State in regard to marriage, and I see potential conflict.  I have said this before: we should not be in the marriage business, but should concentrate our efforts at enhancing the Sacrament of Matrimony within the Church community.

     *     In that same light, we have the growing number of States that are redefining marriage by law, with only a very limited and narrow window for religious exemptions.

     *     The Federal Department of Health and Human Services regulations that mandate the coverage of contraception and sterilization in all private health insurance plans, coercing church employers to sponsor and pay for services which they oppose.

     *     HHS requires the Church's Migration and Refugee Services organization, which receives government assistance, to provide the "full range of reproductive services" - meaning abortion and contraception - to trafficking victims and unaccompanied minors.  This places this vital service of the Church into jeopardy.

     *     Catholic Relief Services' concern that the U.S. Agency for International Development, under the State Department, is increasingly requiring condom distribution in HIV prevention programs as well as requiring contraception within international relief and development programs.

     *     And also the recent attacks on the "ministerial exception" doctrine that leaves to the churches the right hire who they want for ministerial work according to their guidelines, not the government's.  The Justice Department has a case before the Supreme Court this term on that issue.

     These restrictive governmental policies must be challenged if the Church is to be able to continue her work and enjoy the religious liberty that is guaranteed in the Constitution.  Some thoughts to reflect on on this Monday.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Aliens - another take

      I grew up as part of a generation that knew about aliens.  There was Roswell and "the X-Factor" and "Mars Attacks" and "ET" and Kecksburg locally.   We were curious and fascinated, but also frightened because aliens were "different" and "didn't belong".  Sometimes they were pictured as cute and adorable like ET, other times they were scary like the creatures in "Independence Day".

     There was another age when the native population became the aliens, even though those making that designation were the foreigners.  In this great land, the vast majority of us came from or were aliens at some point.

     Now those "aliens" are concerned and upset about this new set of "foreigners" who are taking over, these aliens (legal or not) who are different and threaten our "way of life". 

     In Exodus today (Exodus 22:20 - 26) we are given another take on aliens.  The Lord reminds us that we are all aliens, as were the people of Israel in Egypt.  They had been welcomed in Joseph's time, given the very best of land, treated as equals, until they multiplied and grew strong and the native population resented and feared them.  Then the persecution and injustice came.

     The Lord says: "You shall not molest or oppress an alien ... You shall not wrong any widow or orphan.  If ever you wrong them and they cry out to me, I will surely hear their cry.  My wrath will flare up, and I will kill you with the sword."

     We are all children of God.  We belong to the human family, which supersedes nations and borders.  There needs to be order, but there needs first of all to be respect and justice.  We, a nation of immigrants, have an immigration problem.  It needs to be handled by law ... but in fairness, in justice, in respect and with an understanding that we were once there ourselves ... and there, but for the grace of God, we stand again.  This "take" is not necessarily politically correct or socially acceptable but is rooted in the revealed Word of God.  And the reminder that the Lord gives that he hears the cry of the poor and will respond needs to be kept fresh in our hearts and minds.

     A good word to ponder.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

A day of blessings

    This evening at liturgy we recognized the beauty and joy of the sixtieth wedding anniversary of Charles and Joan Yuhas.   Joan is a regular reader of Journey Thoughts and very supportive of this endeavor.   As I mentioned at Mass, Joan is involved in many things in the parish, including being one of our alternate organists.  Her husband is the quiet strength at her side. With their children and grandchildren, they are a wonderful family.

     Following Mass our men's group, a newer organization within the parish, hosted a grilled hot dog cook out.  Gathering in the grassy area in front of the church, they had tables and chairs set up, a grill for the hot dogs, and chips and a drink for anyone that wanted to stop by after Mass.   Fortunately the weather cooperated, and many enjoyed the experience.   The men have hosted coffee and donuts in the same location on two previous occasions on a Sunday morning.  Great job.

     Speaking of the Seton men's group, about seven of them had earlier in the day done some cleaning up of weeds and shrubs along the driveway to our offices.  They worked hard, bonded a little more, and did a great service for the parish.

     A blessing that the Lord so often bestows on us is the gift of good friends and generous people.  I experienced those blessings today.   God is good.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Remembering the past

      On Tuesday of our recent convocation, as I mentioned, we gathered at Saints Simon and Jude Church in Blairsville to celebrate the annual Mass in memory of the deceased bishops and priests who have served the Diocese of Greensburg.  Bishop Brandt led us in prayer at the Eucharist.  With November approaching, pausing to remember and pray is a good thing.

      This past year saw the deaths of three priests who served this diocese since the last convocation: Father Omer Kline, OSB of Saint Vincent Archabbey ... and Fathers Leonard McAlpin who died on May 29th and Henry Murphy (our oldest priest) who died on May 30th.  May they Rest in Peace.

     In the booklet prepared for the convocation this year, they listed ALL of the priests who have died that served in the Diocese of Greensburg since it was formed in March of 1951.  The total is 187 priests in sixty years of our history - from Father Ettore Moscoloni in December of 1951 to Father Harry Murphy on May 30th of this year.  Reading the list brings back memories and acknowledges the service to God's Church that these men gave.  I'm not sure how long each one served as a priest, but imagine the total years of service.  Add to them the many Benedictines and other Religious priests who served this diocese well, and the memories are great and our thanks profound.  May the Lord reward them for their commitment, dedication and service given in love and generosity.

       Some of us were also reflecting upon the many good men who served with us over the years who have left active ministry in priesthood for a variety of reasons.  The talent they represent makes us less.  We pray that they continue to find happiness in their decision and new vocations.

     I could spend hours and hours telling stories.  The memories may not always be good, but they almost always are interesting.  My thanks to these men.


      ANOTHER MILESTONE - My thanks to my readers and viewers of JOURNEY THOUGHTS.  We have now had over 7,000 page views since March when I began.  I am grateful for your interest and faithfulness.
Bless you!

Thursday, October 20, 2011


     As I mentioned in my last post on Monday, the priests of the diocese gathered this week, as they always do in October, for a two day Convocation.  For years we gathered outside of Ligonier at the Antiochian Village Conference Center, but because of a scheduling conflict, we met in Blairsville at Chestnut Ridge Conference Center with a great view of the Fall colors on the mountains of Chestnut Ridge.  We gathered at Noon on Monday until Noon on Wednesday.  The schedule was busy, the food was great, and the experience of "getting away" was refreshing.  In addition to morning and evening prayer, we celebrated Eucharist on Tuesday, the feast of Saint Luke, for the deceased bishops and priests of the Diocese of Greensburg.

     Our theme was the importance of the ongoing formation of our priesthood, addressing the continued challenges and darknesses that touch our lives as well as identifying the graces that sustain us.

     One thing done differently this year was to have three of the men speak to us of their priesthood and seminary formation.  Father Ron Cyktor, ordained eleven years and pastor at Saint Patrick's in Brady's Bend, spoke from his perspective as a young priest and gave us a passionate plea to hold fast to what we have received.  The next day, Father Vince Gigliotti, ordained thirty-six years and pastor at Saint Anne's in Rostraver, shared his story, his struggles, and his commitment.  And on Tuesday afternoon we heard from Father Al Pleban, newly retired after serving as a priest for fifty-five years.  His latest assignment was as pastor of my home parish of Saint Joseph in Uniontown.  Each presentation was well done, and all three were courageous enough to share from their hearts.  The guys were very appreciative.

      For those who kept us in prayer, our deepest thanks.

Monday, October 17, 2011


     I find myself getting a "day behind" in my posts.  Yesterday (Sunday) was a busy day - the two morning Masses with a presentation on each on the Introductory Rites of the Mass in light of the new Roman Missal implementation.

     Following the 11:00 am Mass I welcomed baby Dominic Arthur Fry into the Church through the Waters of Baptism.  It was a great celebration with family and big brother, Nicholas.

     Later in the evening I celebrated the Teen Hope Mass for the Junior and Senior Youth Ministries for our three local parishes - Immaculate Conception, Saint Agnes and Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton.  This Mass is celebrated once a month.  Following Mass I spoke to the Senior Youth Ministry regarding the Sacraments of Initiation specifically, and sacraments generally.  The kids were receptive and attentive.


     Today the priests of our diocese gather for our annual Convocation - from Noon Monday until Noon Wednesday.  We pray together, discuss concerns, look to our well being, and relax a little.  I have chosen NOT to post until I return.  Thanks for understanding ... and please pray for us!

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Celebrating a Jubilee

     Yesterday I had the honor of celebrating Eucharist and preaching at the Golden Jubilee of a very good friend of mine who is a member of the Sisters of Charity of Seton Hill in Greensburg.  Her name is Sister Kathleen McCauley, and her celebration took place at Queen of Peace Chapel at Doran Hall on the grounds of the Seton Hill Sisters.  I was blessed to lead the celebration that she had planned with her Religious family and the McCauley clan.  As she said in her program booklet, "This day is celebrated with love and gratitude to God for the gift of my vocation, and for my parents, family, Community, and friends who have nurtured my call with their faith and love throughout these wonderful 50 years."

     There are seven other Sisters celebrating 50 years in the Community this year - Sisters Mary Elizabeth McCauley, Catherine Meinert, Donna Marie Leiden, Patricia Laffey, Judith Marie McKenna, Mary Jo Mutschler and Bernadette Manning.  Also, two 75th jubilees, three at 70, eight at 65, ten at 60, and one at 25 years.Just imagine the strength and power of Faith and Ministry summed up in those lives!  Awesome.  Our congratulations to them all.

     I spoke of Sister Kathleen's journey beginning when her parents brought her to the waters of baptism - her journey of a lifetime.  But then, at a moment of grace, she chose to enter into a specific pilgrimage that would lead her to a holy place and an encounter with the Divine.  I mentioned the great European Pilgrimage journey to the Shrine of Saint James in Spain, and the "camino de santiago".  As with those making that pilgrimage, so she was clothed with the mantle of the Community and accepted the badge or sign of "humility, simplicity and charity".  Each "mission" was a segment of the journey, rich in challenges and rich in blessings.  Her passport for the trip is marked with experiences and relationships that have been a source of blessing.

     But there is another dimension to the celebration.  She did not just trudge along, but often would allow the Spirit to lift her to heights beyond imagining, letting her soar as the eagles do in majesty and wonder.  Sister Kathleen is a person with that depth and with a keen appreciation of the giftedness of God.  And she shares that readily with those who call her friend.

     There was a hitch, though.  The Mass was set for 2:30 with a dinner to follow at 4:00.  I was getting ready to "leave early" for the "4:00 Mass" at about 2:25 when she called to see how close I was.  Needless to say, we did not begin until 3:10 - but everyone there was most patient and Sister was most forgiving.  I told her that I understand if she is hesitant to invite me for the 75th.

     It was a wonderful day of jubilee.

Friday, October 14, 2011


     My sister is visiting and we went out to eat this evening at a local establishment - an Eat and Park Restaurant.  I saw two people I knew as we entered the crowded restaurant, and when we were seated, we were placed next to very good friends from Greensburg - Mary Ann and Bill Newhouse and their son Sean (who I baptized 13 years ago).  It was a great reunion.  But in the same section were four other couples or families that I knew as well.  I felt popular ... but is was the recognizable factor coming into play.  A good meal, surrounded by good friends, makes for an enjoyable evening.

     This afternoon I met with our 8th graders of Queen of Angels school once again.  We spoke of heroes in our lives, people we admire, examples that inspire.  I mentioned that we, as Catholics, have a whole bunch of spiritual heroes that we call saints.  They come in all shapes and sizes, of all ages and from all generations.  We can look to them, admire them, be inspired by them and seek their help and intercession.  They are our "companions on the journey".  In fact, that is the title of a segment of our bulletin in which I highlight the saints of the week.  People like being reminded of these heroes.  I spoke of one group of these "companions", the North American Martyrs - Isaac Joques, John de Brebeuf and their companions.  Theirs is an interesting an inspiring story of courage in the new world in the mid 1600's.  As always, my session was enjoyable with the young people.

Thursday, October 13, 2011


     I attended the funeral of the brother of a classmate of mine from Pittsburgh.  This morning Camillo Joseph "Cam" Mele was buried from Madonna del Costello Church in Swissvale.  Cam's brother, Father Joe Mele, rectory of Saint Paul Seminary in Pittsburgh and my seminary classmate, was celebrant.  A number of priests as well as Bishop David Zubik and the two auxiliaries of Pittsburgh, Bishops William Winters and William Walterscheid were also present.  My prayers go out to Cam's wife, Sharon, and to his family.

     In his homily, Father Joe spoke of his brother's artistic creativity.  The Mele's were in the florist business, and Cam, who attended the Pittsburgh Art Institute years ago, was a powerful creative force in the business.  Many of our parishioners have their origins in Braddock, and remember the Mele Florist Shops in North Braddock and elsewhere.

    Father Joe gave some powerful thoughts on creativity, and the beauty of sharing in God's creative work.  Whether it is design or color or flower arrangement or painting or writing or sculpture or sharing ideas, to create is to give light, to bring the beauty of God and his creation to the forefront of what we have been given and what we experience.   Our world becomes ordinary and uncertain when we fail to allow ourselves to mount the wings of eagles and soar to unthinkable heights through the use of our creative spirit and our appreciation of the beauty of God's Word and Life. People like Cam, and Father Joe, and so many countless others who broaden our horizons and whet our appetite for beauty light the way for us.  For them we are thankful.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Reliving the past

     This afternoon I attended a regional workshop for priests sponsored by the Diocese on chant in the new liturgy.  I was not looking forward to attending, since I have a hard time staying on tune, and thus do not sing solo very often.  But the time was well spent and enjoyable, and brought back memories of chant practice in my seminary days.  Father Cyprian of Saint Vincent Archabbey led us through the session.

     If you remember the "old days" of the pre-Vatican II liturgy, there was the sung High Mass and the more simple recited Low Mass.  After the Council those distinctions did not come into play, and there was a melding of both forms - a prayed liturgy with various amounts of singing.

     The 3rd edition of the Roman Missal seems to be recommending more sung parts, with chant as an excellent way to accomplish this.  We'll see what happens.  It is easy when you have a voice like Father Cyprian, but if you don't ...  it was a better afternoon than I thought.


     In reading Rocco Palmo's post in Whispers, I had not realized that the 11th of October (today) marks the 49th anniversary of the first session of the Second Vatican Council.  The Council lasted four years, and assembled the bishops of the world to look at the Church.  Councils are few and far between, and this day in 1962 was met with excitement and uncertainty.  The vision of Blessed John XXIII was simple and refreshing.  His words were fatherly and pastoral.  His love was contagious.

     Blessed John Paul II declared him a "blessed" and set today (October 11th) as his remembrance.  Good Pope John, pray for the Church.  And for those who are too young to remember ... he was a good guy who awakened the Church to her role in shaping the future.

Monday, October 10, 2011

"Blowing off" the invite

     I get invitations all the time ... to dinners, baptisms, weddings, anniversaries, special occasions of all kinds.  I always appreciate being included in the event, but I don't always want to attend.  Especially as I get older and have less "get up and go", I tend to value my relaxing time even more, and sometimes decline the invitation.  Hopefully I do that graciously.

     On a rare occasion, though, I sometimes get tied up with something, or am just too tired, or sometimes just "blow it off" and don't show up when I said I would be there.  I usually feel guilty (and rightfully so).

     The last few days have presented us readings and examples of those who have "blown off" the most important invitation - the call to holiness rooted in Jesus Christ.  This morning we were presented as models of wisdom and good sense the queen of the South who sought out Solomon and the people of Nineveh who listened to Jonah.  Unlike those who should have known better and didn't, they responded with enthusiasm.

      Yesterday we met the wedding guests who "blew off" their chance to share in the banquet prepared for them.  Not just ignored the invite, but some even thumbed their nose at it.  They came, we are told, to a bad end, and others were invited to take their place.  Granted, we cannot always do everything that everyone wants of us ... but when the invitation is to the heavenly banquet prepared for us ... what is more important?



     In reading one of my favorite blogs Whispers in the Loggia by Rocco Palmo this morning, I noticed that he has reached another milestone.  He began Whispers in 2004, and has reached page views of 20,073,631.  WOW!  And I thought my 6,674 was impressive.  Congratulations.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Learning the secret

     When Paul wrote to the Philippians, as we heard today, he recounts that his life had had its ups and downs, he had had his good times and bad, it was not always steady going.  Paul was saying that his life, like the opening of "A Tale of Two Cities" - was the best of times and the worst of times.  But Paul tells us that he has learned the secret of balancing his equilibrium - namely, his unity with Christ Jesus.  That oneness allows us to not be overwhelmed by the bad nor be puffed up by the good, but rather to see everything as a gift from God that allows us to give thanks and then to give service.  Who we are and what we have is a gift from a loving God, given to us freely and generously with the invitation to respond in gratitude with a life of service.  The gift makes us, the recipient, a gift to others.  That is the secret ... and it is a good one ... so pass the word.


     On this beautiful, sunny, warm Steeler Sunday, I spent the afternoon with a group of individuals (mostly women) at a "Basket Bingo Event" at the local firehall as a fundraiser for the local Brush Creek Faith In Action organization which has an outreach to our local Seniors in need of assistance.  I've mentioned them before - a worthy group of volunteers.  This Basket Bingo was a major money raiser, and a good time was had be all (even though I won nothing).  I serve on the Board of Brush Creek Faith in Action.


     This marks the 200th post since I began Journey Thoughts last March 11th.  I am humbled by the response and honored to be able to share my journey.  God bless you all.

Friday, October 7, 2011

A Greensburg Anniversary

     Today is the feast of Our Lady of the Rosary, a day set aside to celebrate the winning of a battle.  We do strange things, sometimes.

     Today is also the anniversary of the dedication of the Cathedral Church of the Diocese of Greensburg.  Greensburg was established in March of 1951 - 60 years ago.  The beautiful Most Blessed Sacrament Church in downtown Greensburg was chosen as the Cathedral Church, now known as Blessed Sacrament Cathedral.  This Benedictine run church became our mother church.

     In the early 1970's, our second bishop, William G. Connare, renovated the Cathedral Church to adapt to the liturgical changes of the Second Vatican Council.  The Altar of our Cathedral was brought into our midst, and a great simplicity became the hallmark of the building and of the worship there.  I seem to remember a book on Cathedrals at the time that highlighted our structure and worship space.  This is the Cathedral in which I was ordained and in which I have celebrated these thirty-eight years of priesthood.

     At the end of this month our present bishop, Lawrence Brandt, will celebrate the complete refurbishing of Blessed Sacrament Cathedral.  It has been his dream and goal to create what I call a beautiful European style church.  Infrastructure was strengthened, and the adornment is extensive.  The present beauty is much different from the former beauty.  I must confess that, in matters of taste, I truly miss the "mother" that I knew and loved.

     On this anniversary, I would like to share with you the Preface for the anniversary outside the church that was dedicated, taken from the new Roman Missal.

It is truly right and just, our duty and our salvation,
always and everywhere to give you thanks,
Lord, holy Father, almighty and eternal God.

For in your benevolence you are pleased
to dwell in this house of prayer
in order to perfect us as the temple of the Holy Spirit,
supported by the perpetual help of your grace
and resplendent with the glory of a life acceptable to you.

Year by year you sanctify the Church, the Bride of Christ,
foreshadowed in visible buildings,
so that, rejoicing as the mother of countless children,
she may be given her place in your heavenly glory.

And so, with all the Angels and Saints,
we praise you, as without end we acclaim ...


     On Tuesday of this week I presided over the memorial service for one of our newer parishioners who died at the age of 90.  His name was Dr. Dan Bolef, a retired nuclear physicist, a convert to the Church, an activist and a man of conviction.  Quiet and unassuming, you would never imagine Dan to be the brilliant scientist and academic that he was.  As many said at the service, though, Dan's greatest contribution in life was his activism in areas of justice and peace, and the causes of the underdog.  His wife, Regina, carries on the tradition.  I was honored to lead this tribute to Dan.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Hayride Event

     Sorry that I missed yesterday.  I ran out of time and of ideas.  But today is a different story.

     Tonight I attended an event sponsored by our regional school, Queen of Angels, and hosted by a local dairy farm - Kerbers.  As part of Kerber's October Pumpkin Days, many of our families gather at the fifty year old dairy to play at the Lilliput playground, or new miniature golf, or play tag football, or go on a hayride through the fields of the farm.  In addition, they serve great ice cream, and you got a small pumpkin to take home.  I skipped the hayride, had a pumpkin pie cheesecake milkshake (ummm), and socialized with the kids and their families, and Monsignor Paul Fitzmaurice of Saint Agnes, my ordination mate and neighbor.  Everyone seemed to have a great time.  The weather cooperated with warmth and a beautiful sunset (after many days of rain and cold).  Our kids are friendly and outgoing, and we are very proud of them.

     The Kerber Farm is operated by father and son, Tom Sr. & Jr, and is well known in our area, and has been featured in a local documentary by Rick Sebek entitled "An Ice Cream Story" on PBS.  They are good people, always generous with the school, and we thank them.


     This morning I had the funeral Mass for our parishioner, Ron Auld.  Ron suffered with MS, yet gave great love and shared great faith with his family and friends, as evidenced by those in attendance.  Father Rick Kosisko, our former pastor and a friend of Ron's, joined me and preached.  Ron was also a staunch Notre Dame fan, and somewhere, as we were leaving church, I heard the strains of the Notre Dame Fight Song!  May he rest in peace. 

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Improbable success stories

     There was a guy named Jonah whom God sent to call the great city of Nineveh to repentance.  It was a daunting task, since Nineveh was huge and the people did not know this God who was calling them to repentance.  In fact, Jonah tried to duck out, but the best laid plans were thwarted by God,  but he did his best.  And lo and behold, after only one day the king and the citizens repented in sack cloth and ashes.  No one was more surprises than Jonah ... but, then again, God is unrelenting.

     There was a guy named Francis whose life was laid out for him, yet he was being called to embrace "Lady Poverty".  Remarkable as his transformation was from a inept soldier to a poor troubadour, Francis was in for a bigger challenge.  He heard the Lord speak to him and challenge him to "go and repair my house which, as you see, is falling into ruin."  When God spoke, he was praying in the abandoned church of San Damiano, so he thought that this was the house in ruin.  But the task was to rebuild the whole Church.  He was a kid from the little town of Assisi.  What could he do?

     We know what he did.  This spiritual movement caught fire and renewed the face of the earth.  Francis the obscure became Francis the beloved, not only in Assisi but throughout the world.  That work of renewal continues, since the Church continues at time to cling to ruin.

     On this feast of Saint Francis, I wish you the joyful spirit, the simple trust, the humble service of the one who modeled Christ for us.

     This morning I celebrated around the Table of the Lord; I rejoiced in the life of a parishioner whose credentials were extremely impressive but whose life was lived simply and in the spirit of peace, a man whose interesting life reflected the gospel message - Dan Bolef - in a service of celebration of his life at the time of his death; and this evening at six I will bless pets in the spirit of Francis of Assisi.

     I have included a few pictures of a trip years ago to Assisi.  Except for the hills (especially for one out of shape) it is a beautiful, charming 11/12th century town in the foothills of Central Italy.

     If memory serves me, the first picture is of the Basilica of Saint Francis.  His tomb is in the crypt of this church.  Next is the square in front of the Basilica of Saint Clare, where she is buried.  Thirdly is a view of the Benedictine Church in the lower city.  The "Pizzeria" sign stands opposite what is said to be Francis' home as a boy.  The next is a view of the road into town followed by a view of the architecture of the town.  What a wonderful place!

Monday, October 3, 2011

An important observation

     I was wondering what to blog on today when I came across the blog of Sister Mary Ann Walsh, RSM, the Director of Media Relations of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.  Her post today is entitled: "Death Penalty: Political Sport at its Most Barbarous".  I highly recommend it to you at

     My dad was a policeman for many, many years.  He and I would often get into it regarding the death penalty - we had different approaches.  He would see the desire for the death penalty rather than the possibility of parole.  I would say lock them up and throw away the key (no parole).  We rarely agreed.

     Recently I have been extremely uncomfortable with, as Sister Mary Ann points out, the cheers for the death penalty at a recent presidential debate, the jubilant celebrations at the death (not capture and trial) of, yes, even Bin Laden, and most recently the grave questions regarding the evidence and testimony regarding the man executed in Georgia.  I am not comfortable in rejoicing over putting someone to death.  In this respect life month of October, Sister's reflection is a good one.  Check it out.  You may not agree, but at least think about it.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Guardian Angels

     Even though this is the 27th Sunday in Ordinary Time, on the calendar it is the feast of the Guardian Angels.  In honor of the feast, do you remember?

Angel of God,
my guardian, dear,
to whom God's love
commits me here.
Every this day
be at my side:
to light, to guard,
to rule, to guide.

     The Sisters would be proud.   Thank you, Lord, for these heavenly protectors.


A correction:  in yesterday's post I mentioned the three that I baptized at the 4:00 pm Mass. 
I was woking from memory on the names, and have a correction -
of the twins,
the little boy was CULLEN PALMER McCONNELL,
not Cullen Parker McConnell.
My bad, sorry Cullen.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Nine years to perfection

     What can be accomplished in nine short years that could change the world?  A presidential term?  A sports career?  An academic degree?  Possibly.

     But for Therese Martin, Carmelite Sister Therese of the Child Jesus (or Therese of Lisieux) her nine years lived in the obscurity of a Carmelite Convent from the age of 15 till she died at 24 provided for us an account of her "Little Way".  Her journals, written under obedience, revealed a childlike confidence in the love of God for her.  She learned to take God at his word and let his love for her wash away her sins and imperfections.  She encourages us to do the same.  She was physically weak and some would say psychologically vulnerable, but was a giant in that vulnerability and weakness.  She used her daily opportunities of grace to gently walk her "little way".  This simple nun, who died of tuberculosis in 1897, was declared a Doctor of the Church by the late Blessed Pope John Paul II in 1997, joining Catherine of Sienna and Teresa of Avila as the three female Doctors of the Church.


     That childlike simplicity was brought to mind this afternoon as I shared the gift of Baptism with three babies during the 4:00 pm Mass.  We welcomed twins Ella Lynn and Cullen Parker McConnell and Antonio Vincent (Nino) Pagano into the church, along with their parents, godparents family and friends ... and the parish family.  Pray for them, and all of those who are Children of God.