Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Family ties

     It is not uncommon for siblings to be involved in the family business.  Two examples are found in today's gospel from Matthew: James and John, the sons of Zebedee and Simon and his brother Andrew.  All were in the fishing business.  Both sets were invited by Jesus to follow him in a new venture, one that would change not what they did, but how they did it.  They would remain fishermen, but now they would be "fishers of men".  They were invited, through their relationship to Jesus, to expand their family into a "band of brothers (and sisters)", to work together to build up the larger family of God.  Today the Church honors Andrew, Simon Peter's brother, a seeker of truth who brought his brother to the Lord.

     Our Holy Father has been setting the stage for a "new evangelization" in the Church and the world.  The need to see the world community in the context of being invited to become the family of God, and extending that invitation, sharing that Good News, is paramount to what we are about in being "fishers of men".  In the 10th Chapter of Romans Paul reminds us that all who call on the name of the Lord will be saved ... but how can they call if they do not believe ... and how can they believe if they have not heard ... and how can they hear unless someone shares the Good News ... and how can they share unless they are sent.  Evangelization involves believing ... hearing ... preaching ... and going forth in the name of the Lord.

     This is OUR family business, and that business binds us together in the work of salvation.  We ARE family, and we are called to let people know that truth.


     Also in Romans today is a beautiful passage that says: "How beautiful are the feet of those who bring the good news!"  It reminded me of an experience in my life some fifteen years ago almost to the day.  I had the privilege of a four month sabbatical program in the Fall of 1996.  I attended the School of Applied Theology (SAT) at the Dominican House in Berkeley, California.  In our closing liturgy in mid December, I had the honor of presenting the Gospel Book to the proclaimer.  The book was decked in festive ribbons and the presentation was accompanied by song.  After presenting the book, I was moved to kneel before the proclaimer and kiss the feet of the person, recalling those words above.  They are indeed "beautiful feet" devoted to the task of proclamation.  It was a moving moment for me, one that I cherish.

     In the last fifteen years much has transpired in terms of health and mobility in my life, and today, even if I could "get down" to kiss their feet, there is now way in God's goodness that I would ever get back on my feet.  Oh, the joys of youth ... and limitations of old age.  But, God continues to be good.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Lord, I am not worthy

     We formerly said: "Lord, I am not worthy to receive you, but only say the word and I shall be healed."  Now we say: " Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof, but only say the word and my soul shall be healed."  The centurion of Capernaum in today's Gospel said: "Lord, I am not worthy to have you enter under my roof; only say the word and my servant will be healed."  However we say it, or whatever the circumstance, our unworthiness before the presence of the Lord of Life is what is at the heart of the matter.  The centurion requested a favor for his servant, but knew the restrictions that time and circumstances placed upon a personal visit, the physical touch of the healer, Jesus.  The healing was more important than the pride that a visit would bring.  Say but the word ...

     We stand unworthy, but we also stand in need of healing.  We need not have Christ enter our lives, yet that is exactly what he desires to do.  We embrace THE WORD in humility and need, and are filled with pure love.  The ability to say those words with deep humility and accept the Lord in awesome love does indeed take great Faith.  May those of us who understand and accept the gift of this banquet table look forward to sharing "at the banquet in the Kingdom of heaven".


     I have been having some leg problems of late: right knee replacement two years ago (doing well), the left knee is in growing need of help, but more recently some vein problems.  I had my right leg vein mapping done this afternoon (the left was two weeks ago).  We'll get things taken care of.

     I have been joking that, with the Doppler testing on my legs for blood clots, I could tell the weather (Doppler), and now with the mapping, I can give you directions anywhere - just like map quest!  Okay, I'll keep my day job and stay away fro comedy central!

Sunday, November 27, 2011

The first step

Well, day one is in the history books.  Last evening and twice this morning we prayed the prayers from the 3rd Edition of the new Roman Missal for the first time.  It went well.  A few minor glitches, but with a strong cantor to lead the people they did well.  The creed went better than I thought it would, even with "consubstantial".  Some of the automatic responses will take some effort, but well done, Elizabeth Ann Seton parish family and guests.  I am impressed at how well the musical settings have caught on.

I stumbled a few times.  Sentence structure is unnatural and confusing.  Certain words are new to the tongue (I don't know the last time that I used "dewfall" or "coheirs" in a sentence).  And I found myself more concerned about correctness than to be focused on praying.  But it will come easier, even with the continued unraveling of the new translation.

God is good, and he is the potter who molds us, the clay, into his image and likeness.  Let us always be pliable in the hands of God.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Alpha and Omega

     In the Book of Revelation we hear Jesus say that He makes all things NEW ... He is the alpha and omega, the beginning and the end.

     This is a day of new beginnings - a new Church year with the First Sunday of Advent ... a new cycle of Sunday readings, and with that for us at Elizabeth Seton, the third and final volume of the Sunday Lectionary (the red book from LTP) ... the new hymnals from Oregon Catholic Press (Breaking Bread) were placed in the pews Friday ... the Advent Wreath with new candles for the season ... new "pew cards" to help with the translation change ... and premiering tonight, the new 3rd edition of the Roman Missal and the use of the long anticipated translations.

     In the midst of all of this "newness", it is important to focus on the source of the change.  When I met with my class from the local Catholic school a while back, they wanted to know how old Pope Benedict was, and if the new guy will change things back?  I know some who question why the Church renews and relives the Church year repetitively over and over again.  Most of us, as we get older, long for the "stability" that keeps us comfortable.

     Jesus says, I make all things new!  Without change we grow stagnant and complacent.  Without change things get boring.  Without change we die.  We are not talking about novelty, but change that leads to growth.  We are talking about death to life, the limited to the eternal, the lost to the redeemed.  On this day of change ... of new words and objects ... of new seasons ... let us focus upon the source of all that is, Jesus the Christ, and the love that he brings us from the Father in the power and grace of the Holy Spirit.  Let us acclaim him as our Lord and Savior, and renew our journey with the confident assurance that we draw ever closer to his New Life.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Saying Good-bye

     We have been close for over thirty-eight years.  Almost every day we have spent time together, important time.  I would make my friend's words my own, and found myself inspired by them.  I have become comfortable enough that I could anticipate what was to be said next.  I have enjoyed the relationship.

     But this morning I said farewell to my old friend.  After spending our morning time of prayer together, I said thanks, on behalf of those gathered and in my own name, and carried my friend to retirement and history.  Of course I am speaking of the Sacramentary used at Mass for the prayers at the Altar.  This was the final Eucharistic Liturgy in our church before the new year begins Saturday evening, and with that First Sunday of Advent we begin using the new 3rd Edition of the Roman Missal.  We will welcome a new friend, and begin the process of getting to know her.

     Transition times are difficult.  All of our preparations have not taken away my apprehension and unease with the new translations, but I'm glad the time has arrived to finally begin the journey.  I will / we will make mistakes, lose our place, or instinctively revert back to the old phraseology, but we will survive (and prosper).  Welcome, friend!


     I was home yesterday at the family place in Uniontown.  My sister Janie cooked a great dinner for the two of us, and even Sammy (the puppy) had a Thanksgiving treat.  We had the usual turkey(although in place of the whole bird, we had a turkey breast), dressing, mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce, corn, salad, gravy, and pumpkin pie for desert (a friend and parishioner made the pie - and we are grateful!).  Janie is not only a great sister, she is also a good friend.  And the work that she put into dinner, after working (retail) until 10pm on Wednesday and going in at Midnight last night for the first of two shifts today, is outstanding.  She has my love and my thanks.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Now Thank we All Our God

     On this Thanksgiving Day, we as a nation and we as the Children of God, pause to give thanks to the Lord.  The prayer of the Church, found in the Preface for Thanksgiving Day in the United States, is as follows.

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,
through Christ our Lord.

You have entrusted to us
the great gift of freedom,
a gift that calls forth
responsibility and commitment
to the truth that all have
a fundamental dignity before you.
In Jesus, through his Death and Resurrection,
we find our ultimate redemption,
freedom from sin,
and every blessing.

And so, with hearts full of love,
we join the angels,
today and every day of our lives,
to sing your glory ...

The Roman Missal, 3rd Edition
Preface for Thanksgiving Day

     Have a wonderful Thanksgiving Day with family and friends ... and do not allow yourself to be caught up in the "black friday" shopping frenzy.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

"The handwriting's on the wall"

     I've heard this expression used at times, usually as a euphemism for impending gloom and disaster that should be clear and obvious.   Sometimes it is expressed "your days are numbered", or "you have been measured and found wanting".  Usually the one who is involved does not see it coming, but has to have someone else point it out to them.

     We heard this in the reading from Daniel today at liturgy.  King Belshazzar had desecrated the sacred vessels taken by his father from the temple in Jerusalem by using them in a drunken feast where they praised the gods of gold and silver and bronze, iron, wood and stone.  At the banquet, fingers wrote these words on the wall - Mene, Mene, Tekel u-Pharsin - which Daniel interpreted as "God has numbered the days of your kingdom and brought it to an end ... you have been weighed on the scales and been found wanting ...your kingdom will be divided".  Needless to say, Belshazzar was not a happy camper, and the messenger became the scapegoat.

     It is interesting that sometimes we can't see the forest for the trees, sometimes that which is before our eyes escapes us, we can't see the "handwriting on the wall".  Even the learned and savvy don't see or comprehend.  It takes an outsider, a prophet to interpret the truth before us.  Yet how often do we look for or welcome the prophet?  How often to we ridicule or demean or persecute the messenger whose message we find irritating?

     In so many ways our world and our society has the handwriting on the wall set before us.  We face challenges that are tremendous, that threaten the very fabric of who we are and what we want to be, yet we ignore the message, we ignore the prophet, we continue to feast our way into oblivion.  It is like wearing blinders.  We have tunnel vision.

     On this eve of Thanksgiving, when our attention should be drawn to that above rather than to ourselves, let us seek answers that will save, and not just satisfy.  Let us look to the prophets among us, and remember not to kill the messenger.  Again, with much to be thankful for, much still needs to be understood and embraced.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

What were you doing?

     There are certain days in each generation when that question has meaning.  In my generation, November 22nd is tied to events in Dallas in 1963 - the day that President John F. Kennedy was assassinated.

     It was a Friday and I was taking a Latin test from Benedictine Father Augustine at Saint Vincent Prep in Latrobe.  I was in my junior year of High School.  I remember some seniors knocking at the door and telling Father Augustine that the President had been shot.  They often joked around, and he didn't believe them.  A little later others came and told him the same thing, and he finally trusted their word.  After we finished the test, we were allowed to leave the classroom.  Most of us gravitated to the Art Department where Father Emeric had a small TV where we watched the news until our bus arrived.

     The short bus ride back to our residence hall (about five miles) was in almost total silence.  We were beginning an in house weekend retreat that night, during which we were allowed to watch the news and history being made.   The mood was somber, and most were devastated.  I remember that evening one of our cooking staff, an Italian Sister of Charity of Ivrea - Sister Johanna - setting the tables with tears streaming down her face.  Even with her newness to this country and her limited knowledge of the English language, she spoke and we understood the language of grief.

     We were young and probably nieve, the president was young and dynamic, hope was blossoming and new things and fresh starts were taking place in society and inside the Church with the Vatican Council.  This was a day, a moment in history, when we were challenged to the core, and the world for many of us changed in a less than welcoming way.

     November 22nd, like December 7th before it or 9/11 after will be remembered for their historic importance, but more so for the impact upon the lives of those who experienced them.  The questions "Where were you?" and "What were you doing?" will always be able to be answered by those who experienced those days.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Cantate Domino

     As I promised last evening, I would like to share a little of the excellent choral concert I attended yesterday at the Church of Saint Paul in Greensburg, Pennsylvania.  A former pastorate of mine from 1992 until 2000, it is a great praish led by Father Tom Federline.  The  concert, whose title is the title of this post, was "A Choral Journey Through the Liturgical Year".  There are about 25 in the choir which was led by Marie Konopka, the Director of Liturgy for the parish.  Mr. Gene Forish accompanied, and they were joined by parishioner Maureen Miller who is a mezzo-soprano.

     I'll list some of the music, which was interspersed with spoken reflections by good friends of mine Bill and Mary Ann Newhouse taken from Oscar Romero, St. Teresa Benedicta (Edith Stein), Thomas Merton, St. Augustine and Pope Benedict XVI.  An organ prelude of "Now Thank We All Our God" by Bach began things and two hymns - "We Are Ready, God, To Sing" by Alan Gaunt & Robert W. Schafer and "Cantate Domino" by Father James Chepponis of Pittsburgh, got things underway.  Advent saw "Allelulia! The Angels Will Sing" by Mengel & a soloby Maureen of "Patiently Have I Waited for the Lord" by Camille Saint-Saens.  For Christmas a "Magnificat" by Wm Crotch and "Silent Night ~ Night of Silence" by Gruber & Kantor.  Ordinary Time saw "Heart of a Shepherd" by Cooney, which was dedicated to Father Tom and which brought a tear to the eye.  Lent saw "Lord Jesus Christ Humbled Himself" by Messaus, with the Triduum presenting Kreutz's "O Lord, We Believe", an outstanding duet by Maureen & Marie of Andrew Lloyd Weber's "Pie Jesu", and "Out of Darkness" by Kendzia. Easter saw "Risen Lord, We Gather Round You" by Stuemple/Moore, with Louis Valenzi's "Spirit of God" for Pentecost.  Finally Ordinary Time saw "Put Peace Into Each Other's Hands" by Fred Kaan, followed by "Rejoice, the Lord is King" arranged by Owens.  I know that is a lot of titles and composers, but I wanted you to see the variety of music sung.  It also is probably meaningless to you, but to have heard the music was to have your hearts lifted to the Lord.

     Rounding off the afternnon was a free will offering for the poor, and a wine and cheese social in the hall.  A truly pleasant way to spend Christ the King Sunday.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Wonderful music

     I will share in more detail tomorrow, but I had a lovely experience this afternoon on this Feast of Christ the King.   I served for eight and a half years as pastor of the Church of Saint Paul in Greensburg - from January of 1992 until 2000.  I made many friends, and it is one of those places that I can call home.

     Today at 3:00 pm the choir gave a concert of sacred music from throughout the Church year - Advent through Christ the King.  Meditations were read and favorite hymns sung, and all done prayerfully and beautifully.  They followed by offering "wine and cheese" in the social hall.  The choir is under the direction of Marie Konopka.  I'll share their program tomorrow, but for now it was a joy to be present with old friends.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

"Viva Cristo Rey!"

     What an appropriate acclamation on this feast of Christ the King.  Viva Cristo Rey! ... Long Live Christ the King!  Those words were spoken by a 36 year old Mexican Jesuit priest on November 23, 1927 as he stood before a firing squad in Mexico.  His name was Jose Ramon Miguel Agustin Pro, and he was declared a Blessed in 1988.  Blessed Pope John Paul II said this about him: "Neither suffering nor serious illness, neither the exhausting ministerial activity, frequently carried out in difficult and dangerous circumstances, could stifle the radiating and contagious joy which he brought to his life for Christ and which nothing could take away."

     Father Pro lived at a time and in a country that was going through upheaval.  Mexico had a revolution and established a new constitution in 1917, one that sought to suppress the Catholic Church: only secular education was permitted, monastic Orders were outlawed, public worship outside of churches was forbidden, religious organizations could not own property, and basic human rights were denied clergy and religious.  Those laws stayed on the books until 1998.

     While not always put into practice, these restrictive articles of the constitution were strenuously enforced in 1926 and added to by a new president who hated the Church.  Father Pro returned home to a Church under siege.  He offered Mass and celebrated the Sacraments "under ground", and became known to the authorities.  He was arrested under trumped up charges, and was order shot to death on November 23rd.  He asked a favor, to kneel and pray for the soldiers, whom he blessed.  Then standing, without blindfold, he stretched out his arms in the form of a cross, declared his innocence, and then shouted "Viva Cristo Rey!"  The bullets did not kill him immediately, and so a soldier went up to his head and finished the job.

     All of this was recorded and photographed for reasons of propaganda, to scare off others, but it did not work.  The pictures became sacred images that inspired others to serve God and not man.

     That, really, is the reason for this great feast of Christ the King, which brings to a close the liturgical year.  It is to declare the Lordship of Jesus Christ in our lives, and to see him as our shepherd, whose sacrifice for us frees us from the shackles and fears that this world can impose.  We have the freedom in this place and at this time to make the same proclamation as Miguel Pro.  Not all do.  "Viva Cristo Rey!"

Friday, November 18, 2011


A great thing is happening in Indianapolis, Indiana at the present moment.  Upwards of 23,000 Catholic young people and those who minister to them are taking part in the National Catholic Youth Conference (NCYC).  Christie Smith, the diocesan director of youth and young adult ministry is leading the group from the Greensburg Diocese, including my neighbors, Monsignor Paul Fitzmaurice and Father Jonathan Wisneski from Saint Agnes.  247 youth and adult pilgrims left by bus for Indianapolis on Thursday.  It is the largest diocesan group from our Region: the states of PA and NJ.  Keep them in your prayers, both for the conference but especially as they return and bring home the message of the theme: "Called To Glory".

Pictures and blogs are being sent home and can be viewed at
Parts of the conference are being streamed live at 
Check it out.  I have never attended a NCYC event, but anytime you get 23,000 exuberant Catholic youth together, it has got to be awesome.  If you check out the pictures, look for the hats.  The abbreviation for Diocese of Greensburg is D.O.G.  Our group's hats are cute little "doggie hats", that they say are very popular for trading among delegates.  It definitely "sets them apart".

     Today the Church celebrates the dedication of two churches that honor the two great foundational Apostles - Peter and Paul.  Those churches built in their honor in Rome are built over the place of their death and burial.  They are Saint Peter Basilica and the Basilica of Saint Paul Outside the Walls.

     The reading today from Maccabees speaks of the rededication of the Temple in Jerusalem after the time of persecution and trial and desecration.  Both the feast and the readings remind us of the gift that God gives us of a place to worship, but more importantly, they remind us that we are the living stones that build up the temple of the Lord - the Church.  We need to dedicate ourselves and consecrate our lives to the glory of God and the strengthening of his people.  That is the Call that we have received in baptism, and the Call that the young people in Indianapolis are responding to today with joyful hearts.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

A friend and a mentor

     In the Spring semester of 1973, as a Deacon, I was assigned as part of the pastoral internship program of our seminary, to the Newman Center (now the Saint Thomas More University Parish) at IUP (Indiana University of Pennsylvania) in Indiana, PA.  The Newman Center serves Catholic students and university affiliated families at IUP.  The pastor that I was assigned to was Father Ray Spatti, and there was also an Assistant Pastor - Father Ernest Kish.

     It was a challenging and yet wonderful experience in those few short months prior to ordination.  I learned much (some of which I retained and put into practice - and some I wish I would have developed more).  Ray was a good priest whose talent lay in organization and programming.  He kept the wide ranging programs and experiences of the Center on track, and the special seasonal or liturgical experiences were often called "Spatti extravaganzas", and they were great.  Ernie was the quiet, prayerful, friendly presence among the students.  He was not an office person, but preferred to be where the students were.  Many spoke of the spiritual effect that he had on their lives.

     I have a memory of my exit interview with my supervisor, Father Spatti, when he asked me the question that should not be asked: "Who did you relate to and learn from most in this experience?"  I told him that I appreciated his skills and his priesthood, but that I related most with Ernie in his quiet, prayerful approach.  He did not like that answer.  Sorry.

      I mention this now because today marks the anniversary of Father Ernest P. Kish's death - November 16, 1975.  Ernie was killed in a car crash that was the other drivers fault.  He had by this time been pastor of Saint Ambrose Church in Avonmore, PA, and was involved in the National Priests Council.  At his funeral, I remember, the little church was jammed to overflowing with parishioners and people whose lives he touched, as well as our priests and priests from many parts of the country that admired Ernie.   Thirty-six years has gone since we lost this good shepherd.  He was for me a friend and mentor, and I remember him with gratitude.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

The importance of example

     The reading from Maccabees today of the scribe Eleazar reminded me of an experience I had years ago at All Saints in Masontown.  Directly across the street from All Saints is a Presbyterian Church of long standing.  One Sunday they were celebrating a major anniversary, and had invited me to come over.  I was not sure that I could with our Mass schedule, but it turned out that I could make an appearance.  The service had already begun, so I quietly entered and stood in the back (like a good Catholic).  David, their young pastor, noticed my presence and whispered it to the head of their Presbytery who was about to speak.  They interrupted the service, welcomed me publicly, invited me to sit in the chancel, and even to say a few words.  Needless to say, the fuss was embarrassing.  As the service continued, they shared holy communion.  As they offered it to me, I politely declined without a fuss, and they were okay with that.  Later they said they understood our discipline, and were impressed with my gentle decline.

     I mention it because I had more of my own people, then and even now as I retell the story, who cannot understand why I did not receive.  After the unusual explanations regarding belief in the Eucharist and its value as a sign of unity, they still cannot believe that I said no to the offer.  "You know the difference", they would say.  Can't you just receive it "as a sign of unity and as a symbol of Christ's presence"?  I tell them - YES ... but NO!  I would know the difference, and I would have no fear of God's wrath, but the example that I would give to someone who saw and did not appreciate my distinctions could be harmful and be misinterpreted.

     Eleazar was in the same boat.  Encouraged to "pretend" to eat the meat of the sacrifice prescribed by the king in contradiction to the Law of God, he would not.  He said that, for the sake of a brief moment of continued life, he would not want to lead astray those who may see and not understand.  He would rather his example be one of faithfulness to the covenant, despite the cost.

    Examples are very important.  Doing the right thing for the right reason is best.  Think about the examples that you give in the small as well as the momentous moments of life, and choose well.


     Within our Catholic tradition, the parents of a priest are held in high esteem.  The faith that they shared and the vocation that they encouraged or allowed to take root is noted.  Some say that the mother of a priest has a special place in heaven.

     I attended the funeral for the mother of one of our priests this morning at Saint Mary Parish in Freeport, Pennsylvania.  Pearl Klinzing is the 98 year old mother of Monsignor Thomas Klinzing, a priest of our diocese serving in the Diocese of Palm Beach, Florida.  Our bishop was at the Bishops' Meeting in Baltimore, but Monsignor Persico spoke on his behalf and that of the diocese and our priests (about fourteen of us were able to be present).  Father Tom and his family spoke of her strong faith and commanding personality, as well as her ability to feed the world.  May God grant her eternal rest at the heavenly banquet and peace and consolation to her family and friends.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Making a difference

     Blandness and commonality are all too evident these days in everything.  Boiling everything down to the least common denominator and making sure no one is offended by who we are and what we say or do is often seen as being in "good taste".  It is true that we should not seek to pick a fight or to purposely be disagreeable, but to deny who we are and water down what we believe leaves us with tasteless and unappetizing truths to share with the world that we live in.

     In today's reading from the Hebrew Scriptures (1 Mc 1:10-15; 41-43; 54-57; 62-63) we hear of a day in Israel when some wanted to "fit in" to the culture of the time, to blend with the customs of the foreign occupiers.  Under the leadership of a "sinful offshoot" of a good king, long held and distinctive customs and religious traditions were ignored, people became assimilated into the new culture, the distinctive mark identifying them to God (their circumcision) was hidden, and the way of living of the Gentiles was adopted.  They abandoned the covenant and sold themselves to wrongdoing, all with the desire to "fit in".  Those who remained true to the covenant suffered greatly, and terrible affliction was upon Israel.

     We see the same thing happening today.  The list could go on and on.  The bishops at their meeting are discussing the challenges to religious liberty that are growing daily.  What we once experienced and which we are guaranteed by law in the U.S. is challenged, sometimes with open hostility but more often by apathy.  Sunday - the Lord's Day - has become anything but ... with sports programs and activities and work continuing as if it were any other day.  Someone the other day was recalling the "Blue Law Days" here in Pennsylvania (stores closed on Sundays).  Time for family ... time for God.  My sister works in retail, and today they were being shown the gift cards the store was getting for the holidays.  There was a "Happy Holidays", a "seasonal snowflake", a "Felice Navidad" in Spanish, even a "Happy Hanukkah", but no "Merry Christmas".  She spoke up and brought it to the attention of management, and hopefully there will be a "Merry Christmas" gift card design included.  They have even moved opening for "Black Friday" (the post Thanksgiving shopping spree) to midnight of Thanksgiving Day (it used to be 4am, I think).  Our gods have changed, our priorities are compromised, our Faith in marginalized, and we are expected to "fit in". 

     But wouldn't it be great to bring a rich flavor to the table of our lives, to stand proud and tall in regard to who we are and what we are about?  I think, with Thanksgiving (to God first), it is time to bring the best to our table and to the hearts of the society in which we live.

Once again I am humbled to have reached
the 8,000th page view of Journey Thoughts.
To those who check in on a regular basis,

Sunday, November 13, 2011

According to each one's ability

     The parable of the talents in today's gospel is a great stewardship lesson.  The servants are entrusted with their master's possessions as he leaves on a journey.  Each is given a portion.  Upon his return, the master settles accounts, praising the faithfulness and resourcefulness of each until he arrives at the one given the least portion.  This one went off and buried his talent in the ground, so that he would be "safe" and able to return "unharmed" what was given him.

    But the master's anger toward this third servant is extreme.  He is angry because he did nothing, he made no effort to improve or use what was given him.  He is thrown out into the darkness.  It almost seems a bit unfair ... after all, the servant was being prudent.  Maybe he did not have the expertise to increase the yield. 

     The problem lies in the fact that the master knew whatever limitations this person had, and he entrusted his possessions "to each according to his ability".  To do nothing was not acceptable to the master, for he expected some return on his trust and investment, and he knew that this servant could deliver.

     We have been gifted by God in so many ways, according to our abilities, and the giftedness was not made so that we could become rich or hoard what we have, but rather so that the gifts may be used for the good of others and the glory of God.  Is God expecting too much from us?  Will we be praised by the Master upon his return, or thrown out into the darkness?  It depends upon us.


     Last evening at Mass I welcomed MICHAEL RYEN YANIGA into the Church through baptism.  He was so attentive to everything that I was saying (it must be the mesmerizing voice) that it appeared that he understood.  It was a great celebration with family and friends and the community.


       Later last evening I attended a fundraising dinner for Saint Anne Home in Greensburg, an entity that provides quality service and ministry to the sick and the elderly.  The Harvest Festival dinner has been an annual event for the past fifteen years, and along with great people, a delicious meal, opportunities to spend money through auctions and raffles and things, it is a wonderful evening.  Of course I did not win anything, except for the enjoyment of the time spent and the support of the cause.  Saint Anne Home was founded by and is supported by the Felician Sisters.  They are good friends.


     And lastly, today on the Church calendar is the feast of Saint Frances Xavier Cabrini (Mother Cabrini) who came to this country from Italy to minister to Italian immigrants.  She did so in New York and Chicago and elsewhere.  She is the first declared a saint from the United States, having become a naturalized American citizen.

     I mention her because the story goes that in her travels through this area, she had spent the night at the Convent of the Sisters of Charity of Seton Hill located at Saint John the Baptist parish in Scottdale.  The Convent has long ago been torn down and the new church built on its place.  Having been pastor there, I would point out the approximate place in the back of the church where a saint had slept.  We in this part of the country have a saying that "Washington (George) slept here" [he traveled extensively in Western PA].  In Scottdale they can also say that "a saint slept here", much more of a rarity than George's claim to fame.

Saturday, November 12, 2011


     I am currently reading David McCullough's new book "The Greater Journey - Americans in Paris".  David McCullough has written many historical works, among them being "John Adams".  This work is about the many American artists, writers and persons of interest who found the Paris of the 1800's to be important to their lives and work.  Whether artist, writer, sculptor, politician, physician or student, the stories of those who found their passion, or who found renewed passion in their work, because of Paris is inspiring.  It almost makes me want to be in Parish with them.

     This past Thursday I celebrated the funeral liturgy for Carolyn "Susie" Balog from our parish.  Her son spoke briefly in the eulogy of his mom being a passionate woman.  Her passions were her family whom she loved with all her heart; higher education, which she stressed for her children, and which she attained in her 40's with an Associates Degree;  her love of creativity which she displayed in her quilting as well as other things.  He kept speaking of his mother's passion.

     We often see great passion exhibited in regard to our sports teams - professional and high school and younger.  We camp out, we tail gate, we brave every weather condition to grouse or cheer on our teams - with passion.  Even when our baseball team does not do well, we are still there and supportive.

     If we can find and sustain "passion" for these and so many other things of importance to us, then ought we not to allow a passion to develop in regard to that which should be most important in our lives - our relationship with Jesus Christ and our life in his Church?  If we could garner half of the enthusiasm and gusto for our life of faith that we put into so much else, just imagine where we might go, to what heights we might sour. What we need is PASSION, and what we need to be is PASSIONATE.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Honoring a veteran

     On this date, November 11th, many people in the world pause and honor those who serve and who have served in the armed services.  We call it Veterans Day and in some parts of the world it is called Remembrance Day.  This day was set aside because it marked the end of hostilities in Europe in the "war to end all wars" - World War I.  At 11am on the 11th day of November (the 11th month) in 1918, a cease fire was called.  In a war that saw nearly 20 million people killed, this was a welcome relief.  After World War II, this day was renamed Veterans Day, to honor all who gave their lives in service of this nation and those who served and continue to serve.  It is a day of remembering, a day of saying thank you, a day of honoring those who nobly served.  My dad was one of those who served in WWII and bore the scars to prove it.  I am proud of him.

    To all of our veterans - THANK YOU and GOD BLESS YOU!

     On this 11th day of November, the Church honors another veteran of military service in another era, a man who is known as Saint Martin of Tours.  He lived in the late 300's and served, like his father, in the Roman army with distinction.  Having encounter Christ and coming to know him well, he found that there was need to leave behind one noble calling and move to another that he felt was more important - the service of God.  Like so many before him, Martin found that championing Christ rather than his civic duty became the only direction in his life.  He suffered ridicule and hostility because of that view, but knew that it was something that he had to do.

     He went off to live a life of solitude and prayer, became known for his holiness, and was selected by the people of Tours in France as their shepherd and bishop.  His place of burial became a site of pilgrimage, and he became the first non-martyr in the Western Church to have an annual celebration of his feast.  He is the patron of France, of wine-makers and of soldiers.  He is also the patron of conscientious oobjectors.

    This is another one of those little ironies of life ... that on this day chosen to honor and remember those who have served the nation, the Church has for centuries honored one who was a veteran and served the nation before choosing to serve God in a very different way.

     I shared some thoughts on Saint Martin of Tours with Charlotte Fiore Gizzi in a special feature in our diocesan newspaper The CATHOLIC ACCENT this week.  It was a pleasure working with Charlotte on the project.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

A living temple

     Today the Church celebrates the Dedication of a building for worship.  It is not just any building, it is the Cathedral church of Rome, the Pope's Cathedral, Saint John Lateran Basilica.  A church was built by Constantine in 324 on the Lateran hill, and the dedication has been celebrated on this date since the twelfth century.

     Do you remember the game Trivial Pursuit?  In the edition that I owned, I found a mistake that is commonly made.  It listed Saint Peters Basilica as the Cathedral of Rome - wrong!  In fact, on a tour years ago, our tour guide, a great and very knowledgeable individual, told our group the same thing.  But the Cathedral, the place of "the chair - the cathedra" is Saint John Lateran.

     We might reflect upon the why of celebrating a building.  The readings today, especially 1 Corinthians, point us to a greater reality - that we are God's building, we are the temple of God, and the Spirit of God dwells in us.  That temple of God, which we are, is holy.

     Ezekiel points out in his vision that as the angel brought him to the entrance of the temple of God, he saw water flowing out from beneath the threshold, flowing from the altar.  That water is life giving and transforming, it makes the salt sea fresh.  Along its banks grow fruit trees of every kind, bearing fresh fruit every month (the first fruit of the month club?) whose fruit serves as food and whose leaves serve as medicine.  The waters of that river gladden the city of God and all who dwell within her.

     Not only are we a temple made up of living stones, we are the dwelling place of the Most High, and the source of blessing through the life giving waters of grace that flow from the altar of God through us into the world.  That is what we need to be rededicated to in our call, and recommitted to in our lives of service.  We are made holy by the indwelling presence of God and thus become a source of blessing for others.  So "Come", as the psalmist says in Psalm 46, "behold the deeds of the Lord, the astonishing things he has wrought on earth."

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Normal ... but sad

The title of this post should be "Better than normal ... but, oh, so sad".

     Today is election day in many places.  I voted this morning after Mass and was number 14 at our voting place.  This November election is in an "off" year (non presidential), but there were local and state candidates up for election.  The Greensburg Tribune Review, the local newspaper, this morning said that because of exceptionally great weather, there was the possibility that turnout could be up to 35 percent of the electorate - 7 percent above the norm.  This could be a good thing.

     But when you stop to think that the greatest exercise of our rights and responsibilities in this great Republic is embraced by only 35 percent of registered voters, you need to ask "What's wrong?"  I am convinced that there is no better form of representative government than ours (even with its flaws and imperfections).  Why then this apathy?

     During the month of October the Catholic Church in the United States does an "October Count".  For years we have been counting those present at Mass every weekend in October, to monitor trends and to determine active participation.  Our attendance at Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton was actually up slightly this year, averaging 909 in attendance each weekend (at a total of three masses).  The norm in most places is attendance being in the 33 to 35 percent range of registered members.  It is a lot less than the "old days" of Catholicism, but better than many other groups.  And we seem to be steady.

     But when you stop to think that the Eucharist is the greatest expression of our lived Faith, that it is the source and summit of parish life, that it is the very source of our spiritual nourishment with the reception of the Body and Blood of Christ, then the question is - "What's wrong?"  I find it fascinating that when you ask those not involved if they want to be removed from the "rolls", they are offended and say of course not.  Yet they do not feel the need nor desire to attend, except in time of crisis or at those special times of the year like Christmas and Easter.   The situation is "oh, so sad".

     We have important work to do.  The Holy Father is challenging us to look at a new evangelization - of getting the word out and getting the people back and stressing the vital importance of stepping up to the plate and being counted.

Monday, November 7, 2011

An almost wonderful day

     Yesterday the weather was sunny and bright, the temperatures were near perfect for this time of year, and all seemed well with the world.  We celebrated the two morning liturgies with great gusto: at the 8:30 we were visited by the local Saint Jude Council of the Knights of Columbus for their annual Memorial Mass honoring their deceased brother knights (four in number this year) [ I take great pride in being a Fourth Degree Knight of Columbus, a tremendously good Catholic Fraternal Men's Organization ] ... and at the 11:00 we were assisted by our Young Voices Choir under the direction of Diana Mikash who are always awesome in the joy and enthusiasm, but yesterday lifted the liturgy to great heights with the music.  We left church singing in our hearts (and sometimes on our lips) the praises of God.

     Yesterday was also one of those special days in the parish where we invite the sick and infirm, the struggling and the aging to come and seek the healing power of God through the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick.  We do this communally every Fall.  Nearly 125 people celebrated the Sacrament of God's love, bringing the sufferings and uncertainties that are a part of life into the embrace of God.  Powerful and very moving.  I was blest to be able to share this gift.

     Following the Anointing of the Sick, we gathered in Mack Hall, our social hall, to honor our senior members of the parish with a buffet dinner.  We had invited those 65 or older (the setting of age limits is an arbitrary thing) and over 90 joined us for a good dinner.  It is the parish's way of saying thanks for all that they have and continue to do for us, and for their continued example.  Everyone seemed to have a great time.

     The "ALMOST" in the title  falls to the last moments' loss of the Pittsburgh Steelers last night.  A win would have made the day truly wonderful.  Recently I was having lunch at a restaurant were a table of five were dining.  They were from out of state, working for some company or project.  The one woman was from Texas, I believe, and I heard her say how nice things are in the Pittsburgh area, with things to do and see.  She said that one of the drawbacks was being in the midst of "Steeler Nation" - you can't do anything without being confronted by Steelermania.  I laughed to myself ... we're not yet at playoff or Superbowl mania.  If she stays in the area, I can't wait to hear what she has to say.

Sunday, November 6, 2011


     Wisdom is described today in the Book of Wisdom from the Hebrew Scriptures, and in the Gospel of Matthew we are encouraged to be wise.  But wisdom is a very difficult gift to embrace.

     It goes without saying that we are to be the best that we can be.  Education is very important: a basic understanding and knowledge of the reality of life and then a deeper, more specific grasp of the avenue of life that we are moving toward or adept in is necessary.  But knowing things does not make us wise.  Possessing numerous degrees does not give us wisdom.

     As people of Faith, we are reminded that true wisdom lies in our knowing the mind and heart of God.  His Spirit is described as Wisdom, and she has built herself a house and hastens to make herself known.  The wise person is the one who understands this reality and embraces the graced relationship that brings to life God's love in our lives and empowers us with the very life breath of God's Spirit.  To know him is to love him, and to love him is to serve him.  Be wise enough to embrace the Wisdom of God and shout for joy.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Something different

     Last evening I did something very out of the ordinary for me ... I attended a gathering at a local winery that featured a local band that I know.  The event was at the Greenhouse Winery in Rillton (near Irwin) and featured (besides the wines) a band called MIXX.  One of the members is Diana Mikash who serves in the music program at Saint Elizabeth Seton as well as Saint Agnes and Queen of Angels School.  It was an enjoyable evening.  Their selection of music is wide ranging, including many "oldies" that I remembered.  They are very good!

     I said that it was "out of the ordinary" because I usually don't go to such events.  I'm more of a quiet guy, plus I don't drink much, plus I'm getting old and find it difficult to converse amid the music and noise.  I saw some friends, met some new people, even bought a bottle of wine and drank some of it, and enjoyed myself.

     Earlier in the day I celebrated morning Mass, led the novena to the Sacred Heart (every First Friday), concelebrated the funeral of the mother of friends, had blood work done, finally had something to eat, was called upon to do a quick reflection for the Diocesan web page on this Sunday's Scriptures to be in before 3pm, added some comments to a piece on Saint Martin of Tours that I am working on with someone from the staff of our diocesan newspaper - The CATHOLIC ACCENT for publication soon, and did some office work.

     I was planning the lab work on Thursday, but with the twelve hour fasting necessary, and with a drop in by blood sugar readings during the night, I had to "break fast" - and not with breakfast.  I find it fascinating that I can go for long periods of time without eating with no problem ... unless I can't eat for some reason like fasting ... then I am famished.  It is the same way with Fridays - I don't crave meat until the meatless Friday fast of Lent.  Then I do.  It is one of the little quirks of life.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

We are the Lord's

     My apologies for not posting the last few days ... they were busy days but more importantly I was under the weather and the creative juices just were not flowing.  And they were important days as well - All Saints Day and All Souls Day.

     Our attendance at the two Masses on All Saints was up somewhat and encouraging.  With work and school and schedules and excuses (valid and feeble) our celebration of Holy Days has gone downhill.  I find that truly sad because the vast majority then miss these great celebrations on the Church's calendar.  But be that as it may, I enjoyed our celebrations on Tuesday.  And last evening, at our special All Souls Mass where we remember those from the parish who have died this past year (twenty from our parish family), we had a moving and hope filled experience of Christian Life in Faith, Hope and Love.  Our choir sang beautifully, the names were chanted in a wonderful setting of prayer, and wooden crosses that had been placed upon the casket at the time of the funeral were presented to the families.  May the souls of all the faithful departed rest in peace.

     In these days of shortening daylight, of cooler weather, of dying trees and flowers, of Autumn waning and Winter approaching, I began reflecting upon the meaning of existence and the gift of life.  Yesterday a body was found in the local community and the death does not seem to be of natural causes.  A young person in the community this week took their life for whatever reason.  I have a good friend who will bury her Mom tomorrow, a Mom who had lived a life of faith and love and service for nearly 100 years.  Why do some live long, happy lives?  Why do some count taking care of themselves as unimportant?  Why do some find pressure so great that they look for a way out? 

     Paul says in Romans this morning that "none of us lives for oneself, and no one dies for oneself."  We live and die for the Lord, for he lived and died for us.  Our unity, our oneness with him is what gives meaning and purpose to life.  It is that which makes life worth living.  In our recognition of the Lordship of Jesus Christ we find redemption and hope, strength and meaning in life.  When we and the societies in which we live come to realize that truth, when we look to Christ rather than ourselves or what others think of us, there will be no taking of life, no abuse of life, no undervaluing of life, no questioning of our worth and beauty.  Then we will LIVE.