Friday, March 30, 2012

Getting ready

     We stand at the threshold of that week that we call HOLY.  Our Lenten journey is quickly coming to a close, to be followed by the Three Sacred Days and then Easter as a feast and as a season.

     Yesterday I extended the rites of the Church to a friend who was not one of our Catholic family.  Layne Nosich was a good man, generous and trusting, whose wife, Frances, is one of our good and faithful parishioners.  At her request and for her sake, we gathered in Church to bury her husband with prayer and song and trust in the mercy of God.  It was a beautiful celebration of who we are as fellow travellers on the journey.  He had died unexpectedly at home on Sunday while she was at our Christian Mothers' function at the church.  Our hearts go out to the family.

     Last evening we had the first of our four Regional Lenten Penance Services.  It was held in our church and the priests present shared the mercy of God through the Sacrament.  This morning one of those present last evening told me that this was the first communal penance services that they had attended, and this person was impressed at how beautiful it was and how easy it was to "not be in the confessional".  God's mercy and forgiveness can be tremendously life giving.   One of the great things about these Penance Services for the priests is that we usually gather for dinner together at the rectory and enjoy the hospitality of the host pastor.  One of the great problems is that we "eat too much".  My thanks to our cooks for an outstanding job - I will not tempt you with sharing our menu ... just know that I said an extra prayer for them.

     Today is our next to last Lenten Fish Dinner at the parish.  I'm not sure if I told you that I have a very specific role to play at these Friday affairs.  I am the "official" greeter, welcoming the many who grace our efforts.  At least in this role I cause the least disruption, and it gives me a little practice for my future as a "WalMart Greeter".  I enjoy the interaction with the people.

     Following the Fish Dinner we pray the Stations of the Cross publicly for the last time this Lent.  How time has flown.

     Prepare for Palm Sunday and Holy Week through prayer and the opening of your schedules so that you can fully enter into the journey.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Temporarily away

     At Noon today I celebrated the funeral Mass for one of our parishioners and frequent daily Mass goers - Alfred Volovic.  Al was a unique character: strong in Faith, not shy of stating his opinion on matters large and small, an avid bicycle rider until just a few years ago, and extremely ill in his later days.

     I reminded his family that the Scriptures tell us that God has a place prepared for us in heaven.  When it is time, the Lord himself will come and take us home.  This life is transitory, no matter how many or how few the years are that we have here.  When he comes, he will take us to himself, to the place prepared specifically for us.  In fact, he says that we know the way to where he (and we) are going - HE is the way, and the truth and the life.

     Just yesterday we received in the mail Al's packet of Church envelopes returned by the Postal Service.  On the envelopes was a note "Temporarily away" ... and unusual phrasing.  I laughed, because Al has been "temporarily away" from his true home for eighty plus years.  The Postal Service got it right ... but we might add, "Now at home".  Rest in peace, Al.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Lift Jesus higher

     Understandably, since it is the season of Lent, we have heard a number of references in the daily readings to the lifting up of the bronze serpent at the time of Moses and Jesus' reference to that image in regard to himself.  This morning was another of those references in the readings from Numbers and from John.

     I remember as a child hearing the praise song

"Lift Jesus higher,
lift Jesus higher,
lift him up for the world to see.
He said if I be lifted up
from the earth
I will draw all men unto me."

     We used to sing that in our praise time when I was involved in the Charismatic Renewal.  It is a beautiful and simple song that expresses what Jesus says in today's gospel

"When you lift up the Son of Man,
then you will realize that I AM."

     Seeing is believing, they say.  Seeing him lifted up on the Cross, may our Faith be strong in his power and glory as God.  And may we always be one with him in glory.

Monday, March 26, 2012

What we believe

     A Creed gives testimony and voice to what we believe, what we hold sacred.  In the Council of Nicea a creed was put forth that proclaimed what was essential to the Faith of the Church.  We pray that Creed at Sunday Eucharist and at major celebrations of the Church.  Today, the Feast of the Annunciation, was one of those days.

     One aspect of the creed focuses on today's feast - the visit by the angel to the young girl Mary to announce that she was chosen by God to be the mother of Jesus.  Her YES opened the way for the Spirit of God to fill her with divine love and she conceived.  It was at that moment, the moment of the incarnation, that God became man - the two natures joined in a life giving and redeeming moment in history.  Our recent revised translation from the New Roman Missal saw this point made clearer.  In the previous translation it stated that Jesus was born of the Virgin Mary, and became man.  The new translation makes our faith clearer when it says that Jesus "came down from heaven, and by the Holy Spirit was incarnate of the Virgin Mary, and became man."  He became man at the moment he was conceived (not at the moment of his birth).  Jesus was Jesus, the God/man, incarnate in the womb of Mary, at the moment that God's divine love filled Mary and she conceived.  We celebrate Christmas, the day he was born ... but this is "the" important feast, when God became man in the incarnation.

      A growing portion of society scoffs at us because of our primitive beliefs, our scientific naivete, our backwardness.  Abortion is all about the rights of the woman involved.  Nothing else matters.

     The belief that we declare every Sunday states otherwise ... it it also about the unique living person whom God has breathed his life into and given a soul at that moment of conception, however it came about.  That is when the person comes to be ... and is my personhood more important than anothers?  Can I disregard one to satisfy the other?  There is the dilemma!  Reason would suggest that the answer is NO ... Faith would tell us that the answer is NO.  And yet so many enlightened say yes.  How disturbing.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

A borrowed reflection

The following is a reflection I did for this weekend on our Diocesan website:   Enjoy.

     Makeovers are a big thing these days.  Whatever it is that we try to recreate - body, home, garden and so forth, and for whatever reasons - health, needs, wants, beauty, it takes an understanding of where I have come from, of who I am, and of what I need, it requires a commitment.  It also demands an investment of time and energy and a dying to self to allow this "new creation" to burst forth.

     I am using the regular readings from the Scriptures for this Fifth Sunday of Lent, rather than those from Year A of the lectionary set aside for parishes involved in welcoming new members into the Church through the RCIA.  In these readings we have the promise made by the Lord of an "extreme makeover" being offered to us.

     For years I loved watching Ty and his crew on Sunday evenings contemplate the heartfelt needs of a family that had been brought to their attention and then agree to do all within their power to meet those needs and transform the lives of that family.  They would arrive at the front door, call out their name, and explain that their lives would never be the same.  They would find out what most made this family who they are, as well as what the challenge was that faced them.  Then began the next hour of "re-creation".

     In Jeremiah the prophet the Lord stands before the entrance of the House of Israel and the House of Judah.  He announces that they have been selected, because of their need and of their worthiness, to be recipients of a new covenant, a new heart, a new life.   It will be better than anything that they could imagine.  Everything of importance of the past, that which makes then uniquely the children of God would be found there.  But this would be something new.  Their Lord had heard their cry "Create a clean heart in me, O God."

     In the gospel of John today we are reminded of that opportunity for an "extreme home makeover" again.  We are reminded that unless the old be cast off, unless the hardness of the outer shell be destroyed and replaced, unless there is the transplanting of a heart of flesh in place of the heart of stone, nothing will change.  Our "extreme home makeover" is happening, and we are given glimpses of the progress in our lives as we await the full revelation of the finish.  We are reminded by Jesus that "the Father will honor whoever serves me" ... the only condition placed upon accepting the makeover.

     As we enter into this new relationship, where the law of love is placed within us and written on our hearts, may tears of joy and gladness fill our eyes and may gratitude permeate our being.  May the coming Paschal Feast affirm within us the promise of God come to fulfillment in our lives.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Transformed in Christ

      In my homily for this weekend and in a Scripture Reflection on our Diocesan Website which I will post tomorrow, I mention enjoying the makeover shows, especially Ty and crew in "Extreme Home Makeover".  Our scriptures today are about an extreme makeover - a new covenant that will be personal ... a dying to self for a greater good ... creating in us a clean heart so that sinners can return to the Lord.

     In the late 1970's there was a holy man named as archbishop of San Salvador in the nation of El Salvador.  It was a country rocked by class warfare, injustice, persecutions, and all sort of evil.  This archbishop's name was Oscar Romero.  He loved the Lord, and the Scriptures and the Church.  But he was out of touch with his people, at least until he attended the funeral of one of his priests and two others who were gunned down for working for the poor.  While there, his eyes were opened and he saw clearly that the message of the gospel needed to not only be preached but also to be lived.  There was such a makeover in him that he became a thorn in the side of the government and other powers in that nation.  He spoke out regarding injustice, he stood with the poor and marginalized, he witnessed to gospel values, and he became loved and hated, respected and feared.  There is a movie entitled "Romero" starring Raul Julia that details this transformation.  See if you can rent it.

     I mention him today because thirty-two years ago on this date, in 1980, while celebrating Mass, at the end of his homily, he was gunned down and died minutes later.  He gave the ultimate witness, and that was only possible because he welcomed an extreme home makeover in his life of Faith.

     There is a local tie to the event.  Our second bishop, the late Bishop William G. Connare who ordained me, was chosen as part of the U.S. Bishops' delegation to Romero's funeral.  He told of the terror they experienced when even the funeral was marked by gunfire into the crowds, and the bishops scurrying for cover.  It was frightening.  The world in which we live is still frightening, is still caught up in evil and darkness, is still promoting hatred and injustice among peoples.  We need those Gospel values taught, and, even more importantly, lived.

Archbishop Oscar Romero, pray for us!


A great meditation

     Last evening we gathered in Church to once again pray the "Way of the Cross", a tremendous Lenten devotion that walks the way of the passion of Christ through fourteen (fifteen) moments or stations.  Originally made by pilgrims in Jerusalem, this devotion is now found everywhere.  There are many expressions of prayer and reflection found in published versions, but we use a more traditional format.  I must admit being disappointed at the attendance at our parish this year - in talking to my sister Janie yesterday, my home parish had three times as many attending there from a parish one third less in size.  But for those who gathered, it was and always is moving.

     I remember going to Stations as a kid.  Our booklets had pictures of the passion of Christ that were graphic.  It definitely helped me appreciate the sacrifice of Christ.  I remember in high school attending Stations on Friday evenings in the large and reflective basilica at Saint Vincent in Latrobe.

     I have had two great experiences of sharing this devotion with members of other faiths.  While in Masontown, a Lenten Community prayer breakfast that met weekly in Uniontown asked me to give the teaching each week.  I took the Stations, two or so at a time, and gave the reflections.   It was extremely well received.  The other was in Scottdale where the community gathered each Sunday evening during Lent in a different church for a service.  When they came to Saint John the Baptist, I led them in our Stations of the Cross.  Again, they were very well received.

     If you have never done so, expose yourself to this wonderful devotion and enter into that journey to the cross.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Finally back

The last few days have been a bit frustrating. I was without internet connection most of Tuesday, was under the weather on Wednesday, and today it has taken till now to post. I apologize.

Since I last posted on the feast of Saint Joseph, Spring came to this part of the world . . . BUT we have just had a week of great Summer weather, with high's in the 80's and lots of sun. Not being a snow and cold person, I have loved this mild Winter and lack of Spring. I just hope that we are not going to pay for it.

Our staff met this afternoon to plan for the post Easter/Summer months. How time flies. One very interesting thing that took place was the unexpected visit of a friend from a previous parish who asked me to bless his Harley. I did so with great pleasure. His visit got a few of the staff to suggest that we sponsor a "Blessing of the Bikes". We are not aware of any such events close by, except in the town of Murrysville at one of the churches. I gave my okay, and we are looking at the first Sunday in May. It should be fun. It will be interesting to see how many bikers the event will draw.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Great Saint Joseph

     I grew up in a parish under the patronage of Saint Joseph.  I remember a hymn that began "Great Saint Joseph, son of David, foster father of our Lord ...".  Joseph is that quiet, powerful, hardworking and intense man of faith and love that we know so little of and who yet holds such a special place in our lives.  He is the patron of the Church Universal.  He is the model of spouses and of foster parents, the patron of workers and of a happy death.  Someone once asked "Why that title? Patron of a happy death"  The answer seems simple ... we do not know when he died but we can assume that he was surrounded by the woman that he loved and her son, who he loved as his own, Jesus.  What greater happiness.

     One cute story concerns a particular peeve of a Benedictine Sister that I worked with - Sister Anne Lazar.  Sister Anne has a great love and devotion to Saint Joseph.  Even though tradition portrays Joseph as an "old man", Sister Anne always saw him as young and dynamic, and she would let you know how she felt.  There is no info on Joseph's age, but with Mary about 14 when she married, he could have been an "old man" at twenty.  Who knows?

     To all of our Joseph's out there - HAPPY FEAST DAY!

New beginnings

     I apologize for not getting to a second post yesterday as promised.

     Before I begin, I beg the forgiveness and understanding of any liturgical purists out there.  Yesterday, even though it was Lent, I welcomed three little ones into the family of God through the Sacrament of Baptism following our 11:00 am liturgy.   It was a great celebration.

     Our newest members are McKenna Elizabeth Minkel, daughter of Brian & Julia ... Hailey Ann Reyer, daughter of Scott & Kathleen ... and Logan Christopher Sage, son of Chris & Brenda.
We had a wonderful group of family and friends attending the baptisms.

     I told the folks that Logan gets the recognition for being pleasant and attentive throughout the whole ceremony.  McKenna was restless until we poured the water, then she went peacefully to sleep.  And Hailey was sleeping beautifully until we poured water, when she woke and smiled unceasingly.

     I joined Hailey's party, for they were the first to invite, and with whom I happen to have ties from here and my Scottdale days.  I enjoyed swapping old and new stories with her grandpap, Chuck, at table.  It made for a pleasant afternoon.


     This past Saturday was Saint Patrick's Day, as I'm sure everyone knows.  It is that moment when the "wearing of the green" is common to so many of us - Irish ancestry or not.  I have many good friends who are Irish through and through - one of my closest friends is Sister Kathleen McCauley of Seton Hill who I bet was at the parade in Pittsburgh. To all who celebrated ... A BELATED HAPPY SAINT PATRICK'S DAY!

     There was a wonderful Irish family at All Saints in Masontown by the name of Mullooly - Francis and his sisters Martha and Elnora.  Irish to the tee!  Martha is in a home, and Elnora passed last Fall and Francis this Winter.  They made provisions for their memorial Mass to be celebrated this past Saturday at 11 am at All Saints - Saint Patrick's Day.  May they rejoice with Patrick in heaven!

Sunday, March 18, 2012


     We have no one in the RCIA this year, which is unusual.  But it is also refreshing to be able to use the Scriptures for the regular Sunday of Lent.  These came to us from 2nd Chronicles, Ephesians and the Gospel of John.  In Ephesians we are reminded that though we were dead in our transgressions, the grace and mercy that God has for us brought us to life with Christ.  We are told that this restoration to grace from sin is not of our doing, "it is a gift of God"; there can be no boasting because we have done nothing to bring this about, "it is a gift of God".  We are HIS handiwork.

     Chronicles tells us that God's people, princes, priests and people, added infidelity to infidelity, mocking the way of God and profaning the Temple, till there was no remedy, and destruction of the Temple and Jerusalem, captivity for God's people, and abandonment by God for seventy years afflicted the people.  Only after that time did God relent and restore his people and rebuild their Temple through the beneficence of the king of Persia, Cyrus.  Cyrus was the instrument that God used to bring about this restoration.

     And in John, Jesus reminds Nicodemus of another restoration and healing.  This time the need came from a disobedient and complaining people on journey to the promised land.  When God sent serpents to punish his people and many died of their poisoning,  Moses asked God to relent, and God told him to make a bronze serpent, lift it high upon a pole, and show it to the people.  Those who saw were reminded that the serpent was was the reason for their death, and their deaths the result of their complaining against God, and they were moved to repentance.  And with repentance came restoration to life.

     Whenever we look upon the crucified Lord, we are reminded of the cost of our sin - death - which Jesus bore for our sake.  We are called to realize that our sinfulness is an obstacle to an eternal life with Christ.  And, please God, we are prompted to repent ... which leads to restoration.  This is the power of the Lenten season.


     I had a wonderful celebration of welcoming into the family of God earlier today.  I'll share a little on that later today.

Friday, March 16, 2012

An inspiring pilgrimage

Lent is a time for journey and pilgrimage. Friday's during Lent are specific days to make the "via crucis", the way of the cross. A short time ago I was driving through our small borough of Irwin when I saw the youngsters from Queen of Angels Catholic school making their Friday trek from the school to Immaculate Conception Church where they pray the Stations. This is not the first Friday that I observed the kids and their teachers making the journey. The distance is about three quarters of a mile one way, fairly level, nice sidewalks, friendly people, and if the weather is good, a nice excursion. I think that the kids enjoy the outing.

Our kids are great, and they give good witness in their neat uniforms, their exuberance, their smiles, and their Faith. They are an inspiration! And they get so excited when they see me, making me feel great!

Thursday, March 15, 2012

The Ides of March

     It was a busy news day in ancient Rome on this day in the year 44.  Julius Caesar was assassinated by a number of his colleagues and friends that day.  Ever since then, or at least ever since William Shakespeare's play, Julius Caesar, the phrase "Beware the Ides of March" has taken on new meaning for any absolute ruler.  Caesar thought that he could do anything that he wanted, that his power was absolute, that he was the law.  In an extremely sad way he found that this was not the reality.  Even his best friend, Brutus, had a hand in the killing.


     There was a phrase in the Prayer Over the People from the Third Sunday of Lent that keeps popping into my thoughts ever since I read it.  It conveys a truth that is not new or surprising, but which suddenly became clearer and took on new meaning.  The prayer goes like this:

Direct the hearts of your faithful,
and in your kindness grant them grace,
abiding in the love of you and their neighbor,
they may fulfill the whole of your commands.

     It is easy to see that our motivation for doing good, from following him, flows from his tremendous love for us.  Abiding in that love makes all the difference.  But what struck me was the inclusion of not only God's love, but the abiding also in the love of our neighbor.  Somehow, that never seemed of utmost importance to fulfilling the commands of God ... nice and appreciated, but not vital to reaching the goal.  This prayer helped me see that I need to abide in both the divine and the human love offered to me, and that I am the source of that human love when it comes to others.  Remember the command:  Love God totally and completely ... and love your neighbor as yourself - the two great commandments.  Thank God for those brief moments of clarity.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

An update

     On Monday I mentioned attending a charitable event in Greensburg called "The Empty Bowl Event".  I spoke of this last March in a post.  It is a grassroots attempt to raise additional monies for the Westmoreland County Food Bank.  It is a project that many people are involved in locally as well as throughout the County.

     The idea is that throughout the year people make, paint and fire ceramic bowls that would then be purchased at the event each March at Saint Bruno Church Hall in Greensburg.  For $15.00 admission, you select a bowl to take home.  You also get a meager (?) meal of delicious soups and breads donated from local restaurants, you can take chances on auction items and enjoy live entertainment and fellowship.  It is a great time.

     I just received the preliminary report for this year.  This year to date $12,300 was realized, with more continuing to come in.  This is outstanding!  In the four years of this endeavor, Empty Bowl has raised over $55,000 for the Westmoreland County Food Bank.  God's people are generous indeed ... and those who attended last Sunday were blessed - AND well fed.

I remember ...

     In Deuteronomy this morning (Dt. 4:1,5-9) Moses  laid out the statutes and decrees of the Lord before the people, reminding them that these gifts will help them to not only live but to thrive in the land that the Lord was giving them.  He reminds them that in their observance of these statutes they will show their wisdom and intelligence, and be the envy of all other peoples, for the Lord has embraced them with his loving care.  He says
"However, take care and be earnestly on your guard
not to forget the things which your own eyes have seen,
nor let them slip from your memory as long as you live,
but teach them to your children and to your children's children."

     As I heard that this morning my mind was transported back to another time and another moment of nostalgia and remembering.    I have a lot of those moments as I grow older.  It brought to mind an old TV series that I remember as a kid - "I Remember Momma".  The 30 minute live TV program was brought to us weekly by Maxwell House Coffee.  It ran from 1949 through 1957 and by today's standards was primitive ... but as I recall, very wholesome entertainment.  The story involved the reminisces of Katrin Hansen of her family and her growing up.  She always began with the words:

"I remember the big white house on Steiner Street,
my little sister Dagmar, my big brother Nels, and Papa.
But most of all, I remember Momma"

    Then would come some remembrance.  Moses is telling us to always remember the blessings of our lives, to never forget those who have touched our existence, to tell the stories that reveal who we are, and to do so with pride.  But, great as all of the remembering is ... it is vital to remember the one who is at the center of our lives, the lifegiver who is our rock and anchor, the one that shares everything with us in great love.  For Katrin, it was her Momma.  For us, it is our Abba, our heavenly "Daddy", our stronghold, our Lord.  Remembering is a good thing!  It gives evidence that we are wise and truly intelligent.

I remember ...

Monday, March 12, 2012

The ordinary can be extra ordinary

     Have you ever been asked to do something that you thought was beneath your dignity or skills, or something not to your liking?  Were you ever challenged with a challenge that was not very challenging?  Naaman the leper was faced with that situation.  We listen in 2 Kings 5:1-15ab today of this encounter with Elisha the prophet.  At the urging of the young Israelite girl who served as the servant of Naaman's wife, and with the support of his king, and with the love of his family and servants, he set out to find a cure for his leprosy. 

     The prophet of God sends him to bathe seven times in the Jordan river to find wholeness.   But this rankles Naaman who sees it as beneath his dignity and more than his pride can endure.  As he says, he could have bathed at home, where the rivers are purer.  Only when his friends prevail upon him does he go to the Jordan, washes seven times, and is made whole.  An unexpected source of healing from a God unknown to him, in a river whose waters were ordinary, in a silly ritualistic action of bathing seven times ... wrapping him in a love that he had never encountered before and bringing about a healing of body and spirit.

     Today we also were also reminded that it was to the foreigner, the widow of Zarephath that God sent Elijah with food.  God so often does the extraordinary in reaching out to all, and he often does it in the most ordinary of ways.  What we must do it to always be ready for that extraordinary touch of the hand of God in our midst.


     Yesterday was the fourth annual "Empty Bowl Event" held at Saint Bruno's in Greensburg.  I spoke of this fund raiser for the Westmoreland County Food bank last March in this blog.  The event was wonderful with great crowds, delicious soups and breads, entertainment, hard working volunteers and unbeatable enthusiasm.  In the last three years, this event has brought in nearly $21,000 for the food bank.  One of our parishioners originated the idea, and many volunteers from here and throughout the area help make it happen.  Congratulations to Karen  and Tom Piper and their wonderful crew.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

1 year later

     One year ago today, March 11th, 2011, I posted the following as my first post of this blog:


     As Lent begins, so does my entry into the world of blogging.  It has been my desire to share my thoughts through this medium for awhile now.  Finally, on this first Friday of Lent, a good friend and fellow blogger, Michael Ripple, got me set up.  I am grateful.  He and his son Isaac are visiting.

     I hope to share my thoughts on a variety of experiences and issues that touch my life.  I have always referred to our sojourn as a follower of Christ as a journey, truly a journey of a lifetime.  The Good News that speaks of God's blessing is too important to be kept quiet.  I will endeavor to share my blessings with you.  I hope that you find my posts challenging and inspiring.

     That began the journey.  One year later, 333 posts later, 12,790 page views later, I find great blessing in this ministry.  It is not my first endeavor in the field of communication.  I had a small, fifteen minute radio program on WMBS in Uniontown for over ten years, beginning in the late '80's.  It was entitled "That You May Believe" and was initiated by the late Father Andrew Charnoki before I took it on, and is now presented by Father Joseph Sredzinski.  I had a loyal listening audience, and was told by my good friends that I had the face for radio!  I appeared at least once on our retired Bishop Anthony Bosco's TV program which was produced by the Diocese, and even applied for the anchor position of "Real to Reel".  I served on a committee that looked into revamping the Diocesan Web Site, and I am part of a team who share reflections on the Sunday Scriptures on that web site.  But this is my love at this point in my priesthood.

     I deeply thank all who have viewed Journey Thoughts and all who have been supportive.  I will endeavor to fulfill the stated mission of sharing my blessings with you.  My priesthood finds its joy in you and the people that I serve.  It finds its strength in the support of my brother priests and in the Church we serve.  It finds its life and purpose in the Gospel of Jesus Christ.


Saturday, March 10, 2012

An old remembrance

This evening at Mass I told a true story from the sixties that was brought to mind by the gospel. That gospel has Jesus casting out the buyers and sellers and the money changers from the temple. A very dramatic event!

When I was in high school seminary, we were home for some reason. A seminary friend and I attended a First Friday evening Mass at Saint Mary Slovak church in Uniontown. Mass began as usual, except that it was in Slovak. It seems as if the people had asked the pastor to celebrate Mass in Slovak. Once we were through the penetential rite, with practically NO response from the pews, the pastor stopped. He asked if everyone had their Slovak prayer books that had been purchased before hand. When no one had their books with them, he told the server to get the box from the sacristy and bring it to the communion rail. He then proceeded to sell the Slovak prayer books before continuing with Mass.

John and I looked at each other, somewhat shocked and put out, shook our heads, and recalled today's gospel passage. Even though not spoken at that moment, we resolved to avoid the temptation to "buy and sell in the temple".

Friday, March 9, 2012

Back to the future

I read in Whispers in the Loggia this morning, in a mention of the Ad Limina visit of a group of U.S. Bishops, something that actually made me laugh out loud. In the post, which refers you to an an article found on the Catholic News Agency, about the Holy Father's comments to Bishop Samuel Aquila of Fargo, North Dakota. It seems that Bishop Aquila has been working at restoring the proper order of the Sacraments of Initiation in his diocese for the last number of years . . . baptism, confirmation and the eucharist. As found in the RCIA journey, this order celebrates our entrance into the Family of Believers, the moment of strengthening through the Anointing with Chrism in Confirmation, and our continued journey to the Eucharistic Table. There are very few dioceses in the U.S. that have moved in that direction. It requires a distinctive change of mindset. It also requires a change in expectation, realizing that you do not have to know everything about the sacrament before receiving it, that you do not need to pass a test, and that the grace of the sacrament empowers you to continue to grow in the Faith. Our life as a follower of Christ is a JOURNEY OF A LIFETIME, and formation is a neverending responsibility.

Why the title of this post? Under the administration of our present bishop, Bishop Lawrence Brandt, we are in the process of moving in the opposite direction, taking Confirmation back to the seventh/eigth grade level. The reason posited is that everyone else is doing it at a later age, the people want it back to where they are used to having it, and besides, how are we going to keep them in religious ed? For many years we adjusted to this new approach to the proper order and celebrated the new order for many more years. Now we are heading down a more traditional path.

Pope Benedict seemed very interested in Bishop Aquila's direction, and even asked if had spoken to other bishops about it. He spoke of his pleasure in seeing the sacraments restored to their proper order. In understanding the past, he seemed eager to understand this move to the future. Maybe we were on the cutting edge? If that was the case, I give thanks to our retired Bishop Anthony Bosco, who took a great deal of heat.


Thursday, March 8, 2012

An unexpected blessing

Today was a day off. I got to sleep in, watch a bit of TV, go to the doctor, watch the news from Pittsburgh of a shooting at Western Psych and the lockdown of much of the Oakland section of the city. I then got to welcome friends from Erie, who were to be at a swim meet at Pitt, earlier than expected. We are visiting even as I post. They brought with them a friend, whom I now can count in that category. All in all, a nice day.

An unexpected blessing that came with the visit was that my friends brought with them dinner - a delicious homemade lasagna. As one whose cooking skills are minimal, and who eats out more often that he should or wants to, a good, homemade meal, served at home and shared with friends, was a welcome change. It was a true blessing! Sometimes it doesn't take much.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Looking worthy

     The Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick is a wonderful moment of love, care, concern and trust in the healing power of God in our lives.  It is also probably one of the most misunderstood sacraments.  On Monday, for example, I was called to anoint the mother of one of our parishioners who was dying in a local care facility.  When I got there, he mentioned that another priest had visited Mom and gave her the Sacrament of the Sick, but would I give her last rites.  After explaining that it is the same Sacrament, we prayed together before I left.  [By the way, she did die yesterday.  Her name is Anna, please say a prayer for the repose of her soul, and for her family.]

     We at Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton parish celebrate the Sacrament of Anointing of the Sick in a larger communal service each Fall.  We also celebrate the Sacrament following the morning Mass on the first Wednesday of each month (this morning).  As I anointed those who came forward, the ill, the aged, those in need of the Lord's strength, I noticed how many looked and acted healthier than me.  That brought to mind an experience that I heard of during one of the Church's special Jubilee Years.  One of our previous bishops was making the rounds of the deaneries celebrating this Sacrament.  Following one such time of prayer, he questioned the pastor as to why one woman, who obviously looked healthy, came forward for anointing.  He was upset that she abused the Sacrament.  Then the pastor proceeded to inform him that this particular woman was in remission in a terrible struggle with cancer, and he saw a good external moment of her continuing struggle.  She did not look "worthy", but indeed she was!  You can't always judge a book by its cover.

     To those who received the Sacrament here at SEAS this morning, you are always welcome to the loving embrace and the healing power of God, whether you look worthy or not  ... and you are in my prayers.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Laundry day

     As a priest, there are times when we are spoiled.  One example is found in the fact that the parish takes care of having someone clean the rectory and do the laundry.  In fact, today is Debbie's day to do just that for me, and I am truly grateful.  The days of full time housekeepers/cooks is something of the past, though.

     I mention this because in Isaiah the prophet this morning we heard the admonition to wash ourselves clean ... to deal with our mess ... to set things right.  Sunday we heard in the transfiguration account that Jesus' garments became dazzlingly white, whiter than any fuller could bleach them.  Today we are reminded that though our sins be like scarlet, they will become white as snow.   With the understanding that "cleanliness is next to godliness", how is it that our bath  fully cleanses us, that our laundry be pure and white, with no tell tale signs of wear or tear or of dinginess?  The answer is also stated in Isaiah: "Make justice your aim: redress the wronged, hear the orphan's plea, defend the widow."  We need to remind ourselves of this truth for the laundry day of our lives to be effective.

     Obviously I have done laundry before ... I'm not totally helpless.  However, if it were not for Debbie and my sister Janie, my clothes would be a lot more dull and dingy.  They help me look presentable and good.  The Lord, through his Church - through each other - does the same for us.  And Lent is the reminder that now is the time to take care of the laundry.

Monday, March 5, 2012

The people in our lives

Today's reflection touches on a number of individuals who have touched my life and who have had significant moments in their lives these past few days.

I did not find out until late yesterday that a former parishioner and lovely lady was to be buried this morning at the Church of Saint Paul in Greensburg, where I served as pastor from 1992 to 2000. This dear lady's name was Mary Curiale. She and her late husband, Angelo, were the kind of parishioners every pastor finds blessings in . . . kind, generous, involved in everything, supportive, good friends, and genuinely good Catholics. Mary was laid to rest by her pastor, Father Tom Ferderline. She joins Angelo in their eternal reward with my prayers and gratitude.

Yesterday, March 4th, marked the 8th anniversary of the ordination and installation of our bishop, Lawrence Brandt. Bishop Brandt is the fourth diocesan bishop of the Greensburg Diocese. My first meeting with Bishop Brandt took place on the day of the announcement of his appointment. I was serving as a Diocesan Consultor, andhad the honor of being at the Pastoral Center for his arrival. My second meeting was just after his arrival in the diocese. I was having a procedure done at Westmoreland hospital and found that the new bishop elect found his way to pray with me, wish me well, and chat with my sister as I was being prepped. I thank him for his friendship and service.

Yesterday was also the birthday of a Benedictine Sister of Pittsburgh, Sister Anne Lazar, who shared ministry and friendship with me at Saint John the Baptist in Scottdale. Sister Anne is now living at the monastary in the North Hills of Pittsbugh. In order to remain her friend, I will not reveal her age. Happy birthday.

Sunday, March 4, 2012


In these early days of Lent, on this second Sunday, we are given a glimpse, like Peter, James and John, of the glory of God that is found in Jesus. This vision of his hol iness, of his power and majesty, is given to us to remind us that no matter what happens, despite the trials that present themselves, and the appearance of the illusion of evil's power, we have nothing to fear. When we accept the invitation to enter into unity with Christ through baptism, we share in his holiness, his power and glory. Nothing can take that from us as long as we remain true to our YES!

This gift has come our way because of a great and the ultimate sacrifice. God gave his only son as proof of the promise that he has made to us. Jesus died on the Cross, in pure and unqualified love, so that we might live. His willingness to die for us, and the Father's willingness to permit that to happen in order that sin be overcoms, is love. Our willingness to enter into that mystery brings with it tremendous blessing. Whatever sacrifice that it takes on our part pales in comparison with the ultimate sacrifice.

Let your Lenten sacrifices and Lenten journey open the way for blessings in your life.

Friday, March 2, 2012


     I am sure that you have heard of deathbed conversions, the famous stories of notorious sinners who wait till the last moment to confess their evil ways to get into heaven under the wire.  How many such stories there are or how true they are I have no knowledge.  I will say, though, that deathbed conversions are possible, but not very likely.  If you wait to "hedge your bet", knowing that your sinful life apart from God is something that you can get away with as long as you are lucky enough to time confession just right, you have lost your bet.

     God is ready and willing to forgive, to restore to life those who were lost, to bring the promise of baptism to life within the truly repentant individual. But that repentance cannot be delayed or put off to accommodate a lifestyle not in touch with the Lord.  Then you are playing games, a game that is deadly indeed.  As soon as you realize the error of your ways, your heart demands an immediate response.  And when you repent and turn your life around, he offers life over death.

    And the reverse is true as well.  If you live a good life and then decide to "step out on the wild side", resting on the laurels of the built up grace within your life to see you through, you are playing with fire.  A lapse he can deal with ... a planned lapse he will not tolerate.

    Ezekiel today has the people say, "The Lord's way is not fair!" to which the Lord replies "Is it my way that is unfair, or rather, are not your ways unfair?"  God is ready to forgive, to extend mercy, to offer life ... but he will not play our games.  May we CHOOSE LIFE!

Thursday, March 1, 2012


     The descriptive title of this blog is "Reflections of a parish priest".  When a priest is ordained, he kneels before the bishop and the bishop says: "Do you promise me and my successors obedience and respect?"  The answer, of course, is "I do."  With that affirmation comes the reality of placing your life in the hands of the Church, through the ministry of the bishop. 

     Each diocese may be different, but in the Greensburg diocese, if the need arises, there may be transfers made twice a year.  We do not have a term policy, which means that theoretically you could be moved at anytime.  Common practice has a usually longer stay in one place.  Those transfer times are terrible moments within the life of a priest.

     I mention this because in today's edition of our diocesan newspaper, THE CATHOLIC ACCENT, a list of priest transfers and appointments is printed.  It involves 19 diocesan priests: 12 pastor changes, 2 parochial vicars, one special assignment, two retirements, one chaplaincy and one leave of absence.  With a great sigh of relief, my name is not among those listed.  THANK GOD!  These men work hard at ministry to the people of God, and I ask your prayers for them in this time of transition.  I also ask your prayers for the parishioners who also undergo this adjustment in their spiritual journey.  It is never easy.  I ask your prayers for the priest who has been granted a leave of absence.  He is a friend, and has served very well for over thirty years in parishes throughout the diocese.  We, the priests, received the list about a week ago, and the changes are effective on March 8th.

     My reflection on this time of transition is this:  There has to be a better way of making necessary changes.  Having served briefly on the Personnel Board years ago, I know how impossible it is to make the recommendations and meet all the needs.  I also know how unfair it is that there is no consultation - with the priests involved or the parishes involved.  You get a call to come in for an appointment where you are told where you will go.  Usually you have about three weeks to make the move - closing up things, saying good-bye, packing, seeing the new place, moving, settling in.  Difficult at best, traumatic at worst.  Never easy.

     This is my eighth assignment in 39 years, and hopefully my last before retirement [ from this page to God's ears ].  I was never ready for a change, but found each to eventually be a true blessing.  I made the transitions because I had made a promise of obedience to Bishop Connare and his successors on my ordination day.  God has blessed me in the fulfillment of that promise.  May he do so with the priests caught up in our most recent changes.