Saturday, June 30, 2012

A word of thanks ...

     One of our priests, Monsignor J. Edward McCullough, pastor of Saint Aloysius parish in Dunbar, will be retiring this summer.  He has been a very generous and kind good friend to me and has served this Diocese as a priest for the last forty-five years.  As with so many of us, he has served in many capacities, presently serving as pastor of Saint Aloysius (he usually says for the past few years, even though it has been twenty-six years) and as Director of the Mission Office of the Diocese.

     Last evening his parish family hosted a wonderful Retirement Dinner to honor him and to celebrate his priesthood.  It was held at a golf course just outside of Uniontown - a beautiful setting and banquet hall.  It was filled with parishioners and friends, and we had a great dinner - by candlelight.  Even though there were candles on the table, it was literally by candlelight.  A number of very severe storms came through our region in the early evening, high winds, lightning, driving rain, etc., with one of those reaching us just as dinner was about to be served.  Of course, the lights went out and the back up generator kicked in, providing dimmed lighting and a great atmosphere.  As the storm continued, even the generator went out, leaving us with candlelight (and the occasional i phone flashlight apps).  Except for the loss of the air conditioning, it was a "romantic" way to celebrate a priest's retirement, and made for a memorable occasion.  Thank God the food was ready to be served ... and thank God that it was so delicious.

     Our congratulations and deep thanks to Father Ed for his service to the people of God.

Fortnight For Freedom - Days 9 & 10

     In our ongoing reflection on Dignitatis Humanae of the Second Vatican Council, the Council Fathers remind us that it is not enough for governments and society at large to not deny or impede religious freedom, but that it is also of the utmost importance that they positively, through just laws, be the guardians of religious freedom, so that no group - religious or secular - within society would seek to undermine the religious freedom of all.   They even go so far as to say that governments should actually "help create conditions favorable to the fostering of religious life", because of the values that people of faith bring to the common forum.  While this thought process and premise of the Council Fathers of nearly fifty years ago is very valid, the reality is that we now live in an extremely secular society that probably would not accept the need of God nor the values that religious faith can bring to the common good.

     As they continue, the Council Fathers speak of the equality of dignity, value and worth found in every individual and religious group, and stresses the need under law to maintain that equality.  We as Catholics in these United States have not always been given an equal shake: we were suspected of foreign alligience (even into the sixty's with John Kennedy), we have been persecuted for our beliefs and our ethnic backgrounds by the Know-Nothings and the Klan, and we have been discriminated against in the past for jobs and opportunities.  It was done over many years and in many lands with a prejudice against those of the Jewish faith, reaching epic proportions at the time of the Holocaust.  The many genocides that have taken place for ethnic, economic, tribal, political reasons are also religious in nature.  But even today there are those that do not subscribe to the thought and teaching of the Council in regard to other religious groups - Muslims to name just one (especially following 9/11 and our lumping all together in the same fearful mold as those terrorists).  We have not listened to the wisdom of the Council and we continue to suffer for that failure.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Fortnight For Freedom - Day 8

     In our continuing reflections upon the freedom of religious belief and practice, I would like to share with you from a Prayer for Government sent in 1791 to all the parishes in his diocese by Archbishop John Carroll, the first bishop in the new United States of America and the bishop of Baltimore.

Prayer for Government

We pray you, O God of might, wisdom and justice,
through whom authority is rightly administered,
laws are enacted, and judgment decreed,
assist with your Holy Spirit of counsel and fortitude
the President of these United States,
that his administration may be conducted in righteousness,
and be eminently useful to your people, over whom he presides,
by encouraging due respect for virtue and religion;
by a faithful execution of the laws in justice and mercy;
and by restraining vice and immorality.
Let the light of your divine wisdom
direct the deliberations of Congress,
and shine forth in all the proceedings and laws
framed for our rule and government,
so that they may tend to the preservation of peace,
the promotion of national happiness,
the increase of industry, sobriety, and useful knowledge;
and may perpetuate to us the blessing of equal liberty.

We recommend likewise, to your unbounded mercy,
all our fellow citizens throughout the United States,
that we may be blessed in the knowledge
and sanctified in the observance of your most holy law;
that we may be preserved in union,
and in the peace which the world cannot give;
and after enjoying the blessings of this life,
be admitted to those which are eternal.

     It is still a good and powerful prayer for our day, although a few of the basic premises upon which it is based may have changed: first that God is God, and there is no higher power ... that our law is based upon the law of God ... that freedom is a God given right and dignity ... and that government serves the good of the whole rather than be self-serving.  But those ideals upon which this prayer flows are in need of revival today.  And so, as Archbishop Carroll did long ago, I offer this prayer for these great United States of America.


     I received an email this afternoon from a classmate and good fried from Altoona, John Prosperi, who always keeps us informed in regard to our seminary alumni.  This was sad news - the death of Father J. Barry Furey of the Diocese of Bridgeport, Connecticut who died of a heart attack yesterday at the beginning of his vacation.  Barry was 67 years old.  He served as pastor of Our Lady of the Assumption parish in Fairfield.  Barry was a gifted musician and a dedicated priest.  While in seminary, he was part of a singing group called the "New Breed Five" - Barry, Bill Moot, Emil Payer, Joe Santisieri and Dave Rubino (if I remember correctly).  He wrote a song that we always sang in our seminary days entitled "Thank You, Lord".

     Please pray for Father Barry and his family and parish family.  May he rest in peace.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Fortnight For Freedom - Day 7

     Continuing our reflection on the Vatican II document Declaration on Religious Freedom, we have the Fathers of the Council in 1965 speaking to the world community regarding religious liberty in the present age as well as into the future, but they preach to themselves, the Church, as they consider the experience of past generations.  They say that just as governments and society in general cannot coerce a faith group to not be loyal to their beliefs, so too the Church, any faith, cannot coerce others into becoming members.  There needs to be a universal freedom to live your faith, to promote your belief for the good of the whole, but to not force others to embrace that belief.  That was not always the case with the Catholic Church, and there are loads of examples of enthusiasm gone wild (the Reformation, the inquisition, colonization of new worlds, persecutions and genocides around the globe).  These may have been done with good intent [ if I believe I possess the truth, and the truth will set you free, then I know best for you as I make you one with me ], but they more often than not subjugated peoples in the name of religion.  The Council Fathers say that religions, including our own, should not force others, physically or psychologically, to convert.  Accepting of religious beliefs must be an act of freedom.  The late Blessed Pope John Paul II in the millenium year and throughout his pontificate often expressed the sorrow of and asked forgiveness for our abusiveness as a Church ... and of Christianity itself, over the centuries.   The right to proclaim one's own faith cannot violate those same right of another.

     The present administration's HHS mandate of January 20th of this year is seen as an attack on the basic right guarenteed to us by law to follow our conscience, regarding health care provisions that we find morally unacceptable.  The question is not that we want to force our beliefs upon the rest of society as some claim that we do.  The question is our being forced to pay for services which our Church and church related institutions and even individual employers find morally objectionable and that are still available elsewhere.  We are not forcing our beliefs upon others, but we embrace the right to follow our conscience.


      I had an interesting experience this morning in the area of witnessing to faith.  I was at the house, the residence for the priest, which in our parish is not on the church campus but in a residential neighborhood.  The doorbell rang (which it rarely does) and there were two ladies who asked if they could speak with me about the role of God in the world in which we live.  I sat with them on a lovely day on the front porch and we discussed faith.  They were visiting the neighborhood with their church community.  We had a great discussion.  I give them credit for not panicking when I told them that I was a Catholic priest.  After a moments hestitation, she went on with her presentation and witnessed to her faith.  I listened and dialogued respectfully.  It brought to mind my Mom's experiences when visited by the Mormons or the Jehovah's Witness or some other outreach group.  She would quickly tell them not to bother, that she was a Catholic and that her son was a priest ... almost daring them to "try to convert" her.  It always brought a smile to my face.  While we may not laways agree with each other, there needs to be a mutual respect found in our interaction.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

God upholds his city forever

     I am growing weary of attacks upon the Church, the "concern" for her welfare that so many from so many different backgrounds and with so many different agendas express, and the dire predictions that we confront daily.  I addressed this somewhat on Sunday as I shared Paul's vision of who we are and where we have come from and what we are to be about which was found in the second reading.  Today we have the assurance given us by God in the scriptures at Mass: from the 2nd Book of Kings we have Isaiah, son of Amos reminding King Hezekiah of the promise of God to not abandon Jerusalem to the threat of annihilation leveled by the King of Assyria upon the people of God.  He says that from Jerusalem "shall come a remnant, and from Mount Zion, survivors."  As the psalm response states: "God upholds his city forever."  And in the Gospel of Matthew we are reminded that it is a narrow gate through which we enter into life and those who find it are few.  Yet there are those who find it, there are those that enter in and rejoice in life with God.  The Church, with all of it's warts and frailties and scandals is that earthen vessel that the Lord has chosen to be that gate, to bear that light, to celebrate eternal life.

     I find myself concerned about the apathy, the dwindling numbers attending mass or seemingly practicing their faith, the willingness of so many to believe whatever comes from the mouths of the nay sayers and critics.  I commented Sunday about Dan Brown's novel, The Divinci Code, a fair read (boring movie), but written and listed as a novel, a work of fiction.  But in his intro, Dan Brown wisely says that what he writes about in his fictional novel is true ... and the gullible ate it up, accepting as "gospel" this work of creative imagination.  That was my big objection at the time to the book.

     Last Wednesday our local newspaper (I won't mention the name and give them the recognition) printed an editorial on the future of the Church that reflected what many of us have come to expect in their biased, unbalanced coverage of things religious.  They spoke of A Church in Crisis and asked "What next for Catholics?"  They listed a number of "scandals" and rumors that have "rocked" the Church, and included comments concerning the Holy Father' age and health and ability to lead that were unfounded and unkind, concluding that if the Church does not get her act together, she may not be sustainable and will surely implode.  Everyone is entitled to their opinion.  The problem is that when people see this as "the truth" they find themselves a little less sure of themselves and of the Church.  When I finished reading the piece, I gave thanks that my blood pressure medication was working as well as it was.

     As we were reminded of today, though, there will always be a remnant, we will survive, God upholds his city forever.  That paper has been around for a little over one hundred years under three incarnations .... we have been around as Church for two thousand years, and as a people of the covenant for thousands more, and we have survived and continue to prosper.  I venture to say that we will be here a lot longer than those who voiced their opinion in the editorial, and we will express our concern for them by keeping them in our prayers.

Fortnight For Freedom - Days 5 & 6

     In our ongoing look at the Vatican II document Declaration on Religious Freedom of December 7, 1965, the Council Fathers say that governments should not only not deny religious freedom but that they should "show it favor". Since religious belief is a good within society and culture, governments should foster and aid the good that it brings to the life of the community.  We are not speaking of fostering one religion over another, which is what the first amendment seeks to prevent, but rather of creating an environment where religious life flourishes and its benefits can contribute to the common good.

     Religious beliefs are communal as well as personal in nature.  Our relationship with God calls us into community.  As long as the just religious and civil rights of others are not transgressed, religious bodies must be free to practice the faith.  They must be free to gather for worship, to be instructed in the faith, to develop institutions that further religious life.  They must not be impeded in selecting their own leaders or in their ability to be loyal to both Church and country, as the Council Fathers state.  Remembering that this Declaration was universal in scope, and that not all areas of the world are blessed with the protection of our Constitution, these are important words.  But we must never take our freedoms and rights for granted.  Religious liberty in the United States is our "first freedom" guaranteed by law, not by the blessing of a governing body or administration.  This freedom must be seen in its broadest and most inclusive context - and not narrowly and exclusively.  Our ministries, our educational and social outreach, our efforts to bring Christ to others, warrant religious freedom protection.



     This past Sunday the parish was belatedly able to express our gratitude to the many workers of our annual Lenten Fish Dinners.  We had over 125 people involved during Lent in all aspects of the dinner project.  We have repeatedly expressed our thanks, but on Sunday afternoon we had a catered dinner that about sixty were able to attend to say thanks in a formal way.  It was a great afternoon of good food, fellowship and relaxation.  I am impressed by the hard work and enthusiasm of these good people, young and old, to this major effort in our parish.  The only truly difficult thing on Sunday was keeping them away from the kitchen ... or serving ... or the clean up crew ... or helping in any way. 

     Many said that the dinner was not necessary, that I am always saying "thank you" to them and to all who minister in so many ways.  But as I pointed out, I'm always open to a good meal and a chance to celebrate.  I find it necessary to express my gratitude to God first and then to those who touch my life, and to express that gratitude with "a grateful heart".

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Fortnight For Freedom - Day 4

     In our continued reflections on the Declaration on Religious Liberty of Vatican II, the Council Fathers stress that truth (with its origins in God) must be "sought after in a manner proper to the dignity of the human person and his social nature."  We must be free to seek the truth.  That search is communal in nature.  Because the search for truth, the finding of truth and the sharing of truth is realized within the framework of community, we must be free to not only seek it, but to communicate it with others and to hold fast to it.  It cannot and must not be inhibited in any way.  See the Reflection for the Fortnight For Freedom on the U.S. Bishops' web site for a more expanded explanation.

     Today is the wonderful feast of the birth of John the Baptist.  Probably because I spent so much of my priesthood in a parish under his protection, he is one of my favorite saints.  He is one of those rare persons that the Church celebrates a feast in honor, not only of their death and entrance into eternal glory, but also of their biological birth.  Jesus, obviously, and Mary and John.  On the sign of the local Lutheran Church was the caption for today:  "John the Baptist - Wild Thing!"

     John was that, wild in his personality, wild in his demeanor, wild in his witness and wild in his purpose in life.  He did very little in half measure.  He was an "in your face" prophet.  He was irritating, and inspiring, and compelling.  Herod was so put off be his message and yet so moved by his words of rebuke that he did not know what to do and regretted doing what he ended up doing.
That was John.  He pointed the way to Christ ... Behold the Lamb of God!  He was a great witness to the formation of conscience and the free expression of truth, a model even for our times.

     I had three friends from the old parish in Scottdale visit and attend the 11 am Mass today.  It was good to see them.  The same parish of Saint John the Baptist today resurrected a one day parish festival which I went to this evening.  Steady attendance through the day and a great evening with more friends made the day successful.  I offered to pay for Father George Saletrik, the pastor's, psych evaluation that he needed in starting up a festival again.  He declined.  All in all, a great day.  By the way, remember ... six months from today is Christmas Eve!

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Fortnight For Freedom - Day 3

     The reflection for this third day of the Fortnight For Freedom continues to be taken from the Vatican II document Dignitatis Humanae (Declaration on Religious Liberty) from 1965.  The Fathers of the Council make a statement that leads to a great disconnect from our society - namely that truth is derived from the divine law - eternal, objective, and universal.  Through that law and the truth it conveys, God orders, directs and governs the entire universe and all of the ways of human community.  We have been made by God to participate in this law and to search after that universal truth.  In our secular society with its unqualified emphasis on "self", on the individual, on our self acknowledged right to govern ourselves, of our ability to be self sufficient, the dependence upon a higher power, upon God and an eternal truth, upon a law of love that is other directed, is incomprehensible and foolish.  The freedom to seek such truth and the freedom to be dependent upon something or someone greater than ourselves is a threat to the prevailing way of life in our nation and in the world community.  It is for the unenlightened, the superstitious, the weak.  The challenges to that freedom, whether subtle or blatant, are very real and are growing.  To pretend that they do not touch our lives is to be blinded to the reality of the times.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Fortnight For Freedom - Day 2

      There are challenges to our freedoms that occur all of the time.  This has been the case throughout the ages.  Today in her calendar the Church recognizes two individuals who confronted a time of testing and a challenge to the basic human freedom of conscience guaranteed by our human dignity as children of God and the law of their land.  They are Bishop John Fisher and Sir Thomas More.  They lived in England at the time of Henry VIII and were men of deep faith and strong conviction.  They were both beheaded in 1535 on the charge of treason toward the king for refusing to sign the Act of Supremacy enacted by Parliament and demanded by the king, declaring a break with the Church of Rome and an acknowledgement of the king as the head of the Church in England.  Both stood their ground while others caved in to the pressures placed upon them.  Both are remembered as men of courage and men of conviction.  I love their stories.

     John Fisher was a scholar, a priest, and for thirty-one years the Bishop of Rochester, England.  He served in many capacities, including probably being a tutor to the future king in his youth.  He was noted for his holiness and simplicity of life.  When confronted with the pressure to agree to seek a decree of divorce for the king from his wife, Catherine, Bishop Fisher would not agree.  When it came time to sign the Act of Supremacy, he again refused.  He was named a Cardinal by the Pope in May of the year he died, but he was in prison and could not accept the Red Hat.

     Thomas More was a family man, married to his first wife, Jane, with whom he had four daughters, and upon her death to his second wife, Alice.  He was deeply religious, well educated, a lawyer and politician, and renowned for his honesty and integrity.  He was a friend and confidant of the king, who named him Chancellor of England and knighted him.  But in the dark days of Henry's rebellion, Sir Thomas was faced with a choice that he did not want to make - God or king - but which he knew he could not escape.  His defense of his conscience was paramount in his life's decision. 

     If you have never seen the play or movie, A Man For All Seasons starring Paul Schoffield, or even if you have, try to find a copy and watch.  It presents the inner and outer struggles that occur when religious freedom is compromised and threatened.

     Both were declared saints of the Church in 1935 and serve as models of strength and courage.  Both are reminders of the importance to be vigilant in the defense of religious freedom.


Another milestone ...
over 17,000 pageviews.
I am humbled by your interest.

Father Gilbert J. Burke, O.S.B.

Benedictine Father Gilbert J. Burke, O.S.B.
March 30, 1935 - June 17, 2012

     I mentioned in my post of June 18th of the passing of Father Gilbert Burke.  His funeral Mass was held this morning at the Archabbey Basilica, attended by many friends and acquaintances, and his brother monks and many diocesan clergy that knew and respected him.

     From the Remembrance of the Dead from Eucharistic Prayer III we read:

"Remember your servant, monk and priest, Gilbert,
whom you have called from this world to yourself.
Grant that he who was united with your Son
in a death like his,
may also be one with him in his Resurrection,
when from the earth he will raise up in the flesh
those who have died,
and transform our lowly body
after the pattern of his own glorious body."


Thursday, June 21, 2012

I was impressed

     Last evening in watching the evening news on CBS I saw a piece done on a group of Women Religious that is participating in something called "Nuns on the Bus".  I was impressed with Sister Simone Campbell who spoke very simply and eloquently about the purpose of this 14 sister bus trip that will visit nine states to protest the cuts to federal programs for the poor.  They have been and continue to be champions of the poor and needy, and they want to use this opportunity to speak out and bear witness.  As Sister Simone pointed out, Women Religious are often at the forefront and on the cutting edge of social issues, as is the Church generally.

     Of course the issue of the Vatican questioning of the involvement of Women Religious in such issues came up in the interview.  I saw no disloyalty in Sister Simone's responses to the questions.  Sometimes I wish that the Church would be blessed with a better PR policy.  I've heard so many people question the investigation of the Sisters.  There are Sisters who are in your face or radical in their approaches, I'm sure.  But  even they, and definitely the vast majority of Sisters, are radically committed to the Church and to living the Gospel message to the fullest.  I/we are proud of their faith, service and commitment.

Fortnight for Freedom - Day 1

     What sets us apart from the rest of creation and makes us different from any other species that exists in our world?  We have always understood that difference as flowing from the fact that we have created "in the image and the likeness of God" ... that we are endowed with reason and free will by our Creator ... that we can think and know and love.  This is where our dignity as human beings lies.  It comes not from ourselves, not from some earthy power, not from the state or the academic or philosophical world, but from a higher power that we recognize as having been revealed as God.  As such, we are commanded by nature itself and bound by moral obligation to seek the truth, especially truth regarding God.  Not only seek the truth, but to embrace and follow the truth.  That truth is an objective truth that transforms us, and not a truth formed by our desires or whims or limitations.

      In Dignitatis Humanae from the Second Vatican Council [December 7, 1965], the Council Fathers state that individuals cannot fulfill our obligations for seeking the truth "unless they enjoy immunity from external coercion as well as psychological freedom."  They say that religious freedom is a right that is rooted in our very nature as human beings, and that no one has the right to impede this freedom as long as "the just requirements of public order are observed."

     Religious Liberty is a guaranteed right given us in the First Amendment of the Bill of Rights.  It says "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof ..."  Thomas Jefferson said that "No provision in our Constitution ought to be dearer to man than that which protects the rights of conscience against the enterprises of the civil authority: (Letter to New London Methodist, 1809).  In a very secular society like ours, religious freedom can easily be lost in the shuffle and relegated to the back burner "for the common good".  We need to be informed, vigilant and resolved in our defense of religious liberty in our nation.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

The practice of religion

     In the Gospel of Matthew this morning, Jesus is laying out some very practical advice to his disciples about what is important in responding to the Good News.  The main point that he is making is that what we do needs to reflect who we are and what we believe.  What we do needs to reflect the heart.  And what we do does not need a PR person to let the world know that this is who I am.  Rather, we simply walk the walk, live the truth, follow the example given.

     But in the giving of the example of how we should live, Jesus also gives us the key elements that go into living a religious life, of being a person of faith.  True religion is marked by prayer, fasting and love or alms giving.  If these three actions are at the center of our character as people of faith, then we are on the right track.  And if we perform them for the sake of the gospel rather than to be seen or noticed, then we find blessing in our lives.

     Good advice.  But remember, this does not mean that the practice of religion is a private, personal matter only.  We are called into community, and community gives witness as well.  It is not either/or but both/and.  Let us be about the good practice of religion.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Fortnight Preparations

     Religious Freedom is spoken of a great deal these days, globally as well as within our nation.  The upcoming Fortnight For Freedom proposed by our bishops that is set to begin this week is a timely reflection upon the issue, which is very real.  But it is not a new issue.  From day one of the Church, faith and politics, freedoms and persecution, rights and coercion have been in conflict.  John the Baptist spoke a word of truth that made him a thorn in the side of the King.  Peter and Paul experienced it in the leadership roles in the early Church.  Those who suffered at the hands of Nero (the First Martyrs of the Church of Rome) were politically expendable for Nero to get what he wanted.  Bishop John Fisher and Sir Thomas More could not compromise their faith with their loyalty to Henry VIII, and lost their heads.  Thomas More said something like: I am the king's loyal subject always, but God's first.

     In 1965 the Fathers of the Second Vatican Council issued a Declaration on Religious Freedom (Dignitatis Humanae) that addressed the issue.  Much of what the U.S. Bishops are reflecting upon is rooted in that teaching document.  Readings from it as well as reflections on it can be found on the web page of the United States Bishops Conference, and are worth the read  [ ].  I will share some thoughts in the days to come.

     The Fathers of the Council declared that every human person has the right to religious freedom.  Its foundation is rooted in the very dignity of the human person since we are created in the image and likeness of God.  Like God we are intelligent beings with a free will.  This is revealed by the Word of God and by reason itself.  The Council Fathers say that this right to religious freedom is to be recognized in the constitutional law whereby society is governed.  Thus it becomes a civil right. 

     We hold that civil right to be guaranteed to us by the law of this land.  And yet, there are moments and movements that seem to undermine those rights and threaten our freedom to be who we are, faithful citizens who can, like Thomas More, say that we are loyal to the state, always, but to God first.  We cannot be subjected to the role of second class citizens who are ignored because of what we believe or to whom our first loyalty is given.

This Thursday evening at 7:30 pm
The Fortnight For Freedom
in the Diocese of Greensburg
will begin with a Holy Hour
at Blessed Sacrament Cathedral.
All are invited to attend.


     We've been hearing this week about a woman named Jezebel from our reading from the First Book of Kings from the Hebrew Scriptures.  She was the wife of Ahab, the King of the northern kingdom of Israel in the 9th century BC.  She was not a saint, not even a nice lady.  In fact, because of her actions, her name became associated with women of shady character, and when you were called a Jezebel (no one does that these days), you were highly insulted.

     The  story in a nutshell is this: Ahab desired a prime piece of property owned by another.  He offered to buy it, the owner rejected the offer, and Ahab was upset.  Jezebel went to work.  She conspired against the landowner, had him put to death, his property seized and turned over to the king, who knew very little about the affair, until God revealed the truth and threatened punishment.  Ahab, we heard today, repented of the evil and injustice that transpired, and God relented from punishing him.  Jezebel, on the other hand, did not.

     A Jezebel is a woman who is seen as an evil person, a schemer, shameless, an immoral person (sexually or in other ways), manipulative, and like the original, encouraging of idolatry (seeking other gods to commit to).  Pray God that you are never called a "Jezebel".  If so, a thorough examination of conscience would be in order, along with a strong movement toward repentance.

    Who says that the bible is boring?  There are lessons to be learned.  A key one involves the mercy that God granted to Ahab upon his expression of sorry and repentance.  As I mentioned this morning, our God is not vengeful, but merciful and forgiving, because our God is a God of love.

Monday, June 18, 2012

The passing of a friend

     Anyone familiar with the Benedictine Community at Saint Vincent will be saddened to hear of the death of Father Gilbert J. Burke, O.S.B.  Father Gilbert, who just celebrated his 50th anniversary of ordination a few weeks ago, died on Sunday, June 17th, after an illness.  He attended Saint Vincent Prep (where I attended), entered the monastic community in 1955 and was ordained in 1962.  Father Gilbert served in so many ministries and roles of service that his obit goes on forever, but suffice it to say that those who knew him, through his diocesan assignments, the monastic community and through the Prep, College and Seminary, have lost a good friend.

     Two paragraphs from his obituary say it all:

"From his first appointment at Saint Vincent in the Office of Public Relations in 1960, Father Gilbert became the 'public face' of Saint Vincent to the local community and beyond.  Over the years, Father Gilbert touched the lives of thousands of people. He baptized more infants, witnessed more weddings, presided over more funerals, heard more confessions, and anointed more sick persons than any other Benedictine in recent years.

"His gentle manner and friendly smile along with a phenomenal memory for names, including middle initials, endeared him to students, alumni, parishioners, and people from every walk of life.  On the occasion of his 50th anniversary of ordination to the Priesthood in June of 2012, over 700 family members and friends gathered in the Saint Vincent Basilica to celebrate his life, his service to the church, and to society.

"On April 29, 2012, Father Gilbert was presented with the Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice Medal, a papal honor, by the Most Rev. Lawrence E. Brandt of the Diocese of Greensburg."

     Father Gilbert's funeral Mass will celebrated at 10:00 am on Friday, June 22 at the Basilica by Archabbot Douglas Nowicki, O.S.B.  May Father Gilbert enjoy his rest and peace.  He was a true gentleman and a really great guy.

A fortnight of prayer?

     I mentioned in my homily for Fathers' Day that honoring our Dad's requires that we appreciate what they have done for us and what they have given to us, and that we, their children, cherish and hold those gifts close to our heart.  It demands an awareness of the blessedness that must be defended and celebrated.  The values and traditions, the faith and sense of family that my Dad and Mom gave to my sister and me is a valuable legacy that we need to protect and defend.

     I also mentioned in that regard that the bishops of the United States have called for a FORTNIGHT FOR FREEDOM to be observed in all dioceses and parishes from June 21st through July 4th.  This two week period should be spent in prayer, study and reflection on the fundamentals of our religious heritage in this great land, and the legacy of freedom provided for us by the founders.  Here is the introduction for The Fortnight For Freedom found on USCCB's web page:

The fourteen days from June 21 - the vigil of the
feasts of St. John Fisher and St. Thomas More -
to July 4, Independence Day, are dedicated to this
"fortnight for freedom" -
a great hymn of prayer for our country.
Our liturgical calendar celebrates a series
of great martyrs who remained faithful
in the face of persecution by political powers -
St. John Fisher and St. Thomas More,
St. John the Baptist,
SS. Peter and Paul,
and the First Martyrs of the Church of Rome.
Culminating on Independence Day,
this special period of prayer, study,
catechises, and public action
will emphasize both our Christian
and American heritage of liberty.
Dioceses and parishes around the country
have scheduled special events
that support a great national campaign
of teaching and witness for religious liberty.

In the Diocese of Greensburg
the Fortnight for Freedom
will begin with a Holy Hour
beginning at 7:30 pm
Blessed Sacrament Cathedral
in Greensburg.
All are welcome!

     Here is a Prayer for the Protection of Religious Freedom given to us by the Bishops' Conference.  A few people at Mass said that it was very powerful.

O God our Creator,
through the power and working of your Holy Spirit,
you call us to live out our faith in the midst of the world,
bringing the light and the saving truth of the Gospel
to every corner of society.
We ask you to bless us
in our vigilance for the gift of religious liberty.
Give us the strength of mind and heart
to readily defend our freedoms when they are threatened;
give us courage in making our voices heard
on behalf of the rights of your Church
and the freedom of conscience of all people of faith.
Grant, we pray, O heavenly Father,
a clear and united voice to all your sons and daughters
gathered in your Church
in this decisive hour in the history of our nation,
so that, with every trial withstood
and every danger overcome -
for the sake of our children, our grandchildren,
and all who come after us -
this great land will always be "one nation,
under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all."
We ask this through Christ our Lord.

Friday, June 15, 2012

The HEART of the matter

     Today the Church celebrates the feast of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus.   Focusing upon his heart and the love and life that it conveys makes it easier to look at our own hearts and contemplate the transformation that needs to take place for us to truly live life fully. 

     Next week our local regional site, the Bishop Bosco Center, will host a gathering of youngsters from the Catholic Heart Work Camp.  They come into an area and work with needy families or organizations for a week at a time, sharing their Catholic Faith and their experiences of charity and outreach in order to bring the love of Christ, the heart of Christ, to others.  More on them next week.  The point is that they witness to Christ and bring His love to others with an emphasis on the spirit of charity and love that flow from his heart.

     With the advances in medicine, the heart can be manipulated (in the best sense of that word), replaced, and we can be kept alive by artificial means.  Last evening I watched the movie Iron Man where the Tony Stark character's heart was replaced with some other power source.  If we are referring only to the pump, the muscle that beats in our chest, then yes, anything is possible.  If we are referring to that which makes us God-like, then it is an entirely different matter, with endless possibilities.

     On this day, as we look at the Sacred Heart of Jesus which was pierced for our offenses, which was broken by our sin, from which blood and water came forth for our cleansing and sanctification, we see the heart as something much more.  It speaks of love, of commitment, of sacrifice.  It speaks of a life lived in love, of a call to service of others, of a covenant relationship with a living God.  It is the source of grace and the giftedness given to us by God. 

     The Entrance Antiphon says:

The designs of his Heart are from age to age,
to rescue their souls from death,
and to keep them alive in famine.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Old Glory

     As Mr. Rogers would have sung: "It's a beautiful day in the neighborhood ..."  At least it was in our neighborhood.  And against beautiful blue sky and along our downtown streets our nation's flag was proudly displayed on this Flag Day.  I went to the doctor's today and he asked me why the flags were out in full force.  I told him - National Flag Day.  Not an official national legal holiday, in many places the tradition of honoring this great symbol of our nation still holds.  Why this date?  On June 14th, 1777, this symbol was adopted as the flag of our new nation.  In 1949 President Harry Truman declared this day a national holiday.  In between, many observances were held for a variety of reasons, with Pennsylvania becoming the first and only State to celebrate Flag Day as a State holiday on this date in 1937.

     The flag is a symbol, a reminder to us of the grand experiment of a democratic republic that was established over two hundred years ago.  Founded upon a Constitution and Bill of Rights and set forth by a Declaration of Independence, this Republic, while not always living up to expectations, has served us well.  It has guaranteed us freedoms and protected our rights.  It has given us a form of government that would be hard to top in the world community.  And the flag is a symbol of that Republic and honoring it is a expression of our pride.

     One of the most cherished memories for me was the presentation of the Flag to Mom and the family at Dad's funeral, the flag that honored my Dad for his service to this nation, that nation and flag that he served in World War II.  That flag is a cherished possession of mine.

     I would like to end this post with the Pledge of Allegiance:

I pledge allegiance
to the Flag
of the United States of America,
and to the Republic
for which it stands,
one nation,
under God,
with liberty and justice
for all.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Saint Anthony - Part II

     The Collect for the feast of Saint Anthony of Padua is as follows:

Almighty every-living God,
who gave Saint Anthony of Padua to your people
as an outstanding preacher
and an intercessor in their need,
grant that, with his assistance,
as we follow the teachings of the Christian life,
we may know your help in every trial.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.

     Tradition tells us that Anthony was such a gifted preacher that as he walked by the river, even the fish came to the surface to listen.  Sounds fishy to me!   Anthony is always depicted carrying the young Christ child.  Whatever the reason for this, it appears to me that in his role of founder of that which is lost, the most important find, the most important relocating and re-establishment is of our relationship to Christ himself.  We often lose our way, stray from the path, miss the boat.  Anthony can help us find that way again.


Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Saint Anthony of Padua

     Tomorrow is the feast of Saint Anthony of Padua, a nice young Franciscan Friar from Lisbon, Portugal who was embraced by his adoptive people in Padua, Italy.   Tomorrow is the feast everywhere but in Jeannette, Pennsylvania at the Church of the Ascension, where we celebrated tonight with the closing of the novena followed by Mass.  Ascension is a parish of Italian ancestry that celebrates this feast with great gusto each year.  Father John Foriska is the administrator/pastor.  His classmate, Father John T. Sweeney was celebrant and I was honored to preach.  There was a nice crowd in the church with about thirty priests also on hand.

     I'd like to share the gist of my homily, but first and most importantly, the menu for the dinner for the priests.  I share this because those who prepared it take great pride in an outstanding dinner, as do those of us who attend really enjoy it.  Dinner began with prayer and welcome, breadsticks, melon with prosciutto (thinly sliced ham), rigatoni with red sauce, and an assortment of cheeses.  Next was a wedge of lettuce with chunky blue cheese and dinner rolls. Then came the main course of either/or or either/and grilled steak, pork chop or sweet sausage served with asparagus spears.  Wine was served with the meal, which was followed by dessert of fresh strawberries with whipped cream, peach or lemon merange pie or homemade ice cream ... along with coffee.  Are we spoiled or what?  This dinner is always one of the highlights of the summer season.  The priests are deeply thankful.  Least you think it was just the priests, after Mass everyone was served ham, chicken, rigatoni, salads, rolls, desserts, etc.  They know how to eat.

     In my reflection I shared that the Holy Father has called a Year of Faith to begin this October 11th, the 50th anniversary of the start of the Second Vatican Council.  This Year of Faith will invite us to reflect upon and stir into freshness that which we believe.  It will begin with the Synod of Bishops which will look at the "new evangelization".  I mentioned that this "new" evangelization is aimed at "re-evanglizing" believers, who have become complacent or who simple know very little of the Faith.  This renewal is necessary today as it is so often in history ... including at the time of Francis of Assisi and his brother Anthony of Padua.  Anthony was learned, a lover of scripture, and a tremendous preacher.  He is known for helping people find that which was lost.  I suggested that he could be a model for this new evangelization and help us find Christ and the true meaning of what it is to be his follower.

Monday, June 11, 2012

You are what you eat.

     Yesterday the Church in the United States celebrated the Feast of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ - Corpus Christi.  Here are a few of the thoughts that I shared at the homily.

     The quote in the title of this post is something we hear at times.  I'm not quite sure what it means, though.  Probably it means that if you eat loads of junk food your health will reflect that, and on the other hand, if you eat nutritiously you will be healthy.  I shared that a pundit suggested that if there is truth to the saying, then you should not eat a lot of nuts!

     But when we look at who we are and what we do in our worship and what we receive at the table and what we become for others, then this saying is indeed true.

     We gather for worship as a Covenant People who have given their assent and affirmation to the law of love and the grace of redemption given to us by Christ through our baptism into his body.  As a Covenant People, one with Christ, we are the Body of Christ.  We gather as the Body of Christ to celebrate in Eucharist the redemptive act that has won for us our freedom - the breaking open of the Word of Truth and the breaking open of his Body as well as the shedding of his Blood, a Blood that seals the Covenant.  It is in that gathering that we call forth the power of God's Spirit to take simple elements of bread and wine and change them into the Body and Blood of Christ in the Eucharist.  That Body and Blood is then given to us as food and drink for our transformation and nourishment so that we can go forth from that place of worship as the Body of Christ to a needy world, bringing Christ to others.  In a real sense, then, we are what we eat.

     Someone after the 11:00 am Mass asked me about the quote from Saint Augustine that I do not recall hearing before that speaks of this same reality.  Augustine said "Behold what you are: become what you receive."  May we rejoice in who we are and strive to continue to be Christ for all people. 

Friday, June 8, 2012

VBS - 2012

     This morning we brought our week long Vacation Bible School for the parishes of Saint Agnes and Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton to a close in a wonderful way.  The program used this year was The Serengeti, focusing upon Africa, lions and giraffes and zebras (the three groups of children), and the Faith that is ours and is shared by so many on that continent.

    The youngsters looked at four plus saints: a mother/son team of Monica (a woman who lived her Faith amid disdain) and her son, Augustine, both from Northern Africa (Augustine was bishop of Hippo and a great champion of the Faith) ... a brave young catechist from Uganda named Charles Lwanga and his companions who were martyred for the Faith in the late 1800's ... and Josephine Bakhita, a slave from the Sudan who became the ward of an Italian diplomat and was brought to Italy, to the Catholic Faith, and who entered Religious life.  She died the year I was born - 1947 - and was canonized in 2000 by Pope John Paul II (I was honored to be present for the canonization).

     The kids enjoyed learning about Faith, about Saints, making crafts, sharing snacks and learning great songs and skits with which they serenaded us this morning in a closing program.  There were about eighty kids up through grade five, with almost an equal number of adults and older kids as helpers.  Their closing program was outstanding, and all involved with the week deserve great credit.


     Here are three examples of the witness to Faith that conveys truth and inspires people from my perspective.

     Yesterday was the Feast of Corpus Christi in most of the world.  I watched the liturgical celebration from Rome of Mass, Eucharistic Procession and Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament led by our Holy Father on EWTN.  The procession from Saint John Lateran where Mass was celebrated to Saint Mary Major where the closing took place, was along a normally very busy street, set aside for this occasion by the Roman authorities, and was particularly beautiful.  To see thousands upon thousands of the faithful lining the streets and in the procession itself with the Blessed Sacrament, in reverent and prayerful attitude, witnessed to the power of faith and the presence of Church in a very large and secular city.  It was moving and edifying.

     Last Saturday I went to see a new movie entitled "For Greater Glory" directed by Dean Wright.  Starring Andy Garcia, Eva Longoria and Peter O'Toole among a large cast, it is an historical drama of dark days in the Mexican Republic in the early 1920, days of persecution for the poor, for farmers and for the Catholic Church in particular.  The denial of basic rights, including freedom of religion, were fought against in often violent ways in an armed conflict known as the Cristeros War and by a group called the Cristeros.  Their rallying cry was "Viva, Christo Rey!" - "Long live, Christ the King".  The story centers on a retired general of little faith who is enlisted to lead the Cristeros and who comes to deep faith and a young boy in his teens who stands up for his faith even under torture and with the threat of death hanging over him, and who eventually is put to death for not denying Christ even to save his own life.  Pope Benedict has declared this young man, Jose, a blessed of the church.  He was played in a remarkable way by Mauricio Kuri.

     The critics panned the movie as being too Catholic in scope, too boring in presentation, too preachy in tone.  Yet I found it at first a little slow moving, but eventually very inspiring.  It was in 10th place at the box office with $1.9 million brought in this week, but it is showing in only 757 theatres.  Of the 354 fan reviews that I saw on Fandango today, 14 said that they'll pass or told us not see it, but the vast majority found it inspiring and definitely worth while.  One shared an observation that I had experienced at the screening on Saturday.  With a sizable crowd present, nearly everyone stayed for all of the credits (and they had not fallen asleep).  The Knights of Columbus is promoting the film since they have a mention in it.  Many of the Cristeros were K of C members.

     This is true witnessing ... not in easy times but in the most challenging of times.  We need the example of such witnessing ... not to violence but to strength and conviction of spirit.  After being tortured, young Jose was brought to his empty grave where his family were standing and told to renounce the Cristeros.  His mother pleaded with him "Just say the words!"  He looked at her with tears in his eyes, told her he loved her, then said "Viva, Christo Rey!"  He was then stabbed, shot in the head, and kicked into his grave.  And this was not just Hollywood ... this actually happened. Talk about witness.

     And yesterday I came across another kind of witness to the grace and mercy of God.  It is a book entitled "A Lost Shepherd" An ex-priest's Journey from Sin to Salvation by Michael Ripple, a friend of mine.  Since I know Mike, I'll let the comments from the cover by Father Larry Richards speak for the book. "Come and walk with a man on his journey from faith, to sin, to redemption.  It is the story of the power of grace and the love of our Father and how he calls each of us home no matter how far we might have strayed.  Read this book and believe in Christ's mercy and redemption and you will be touched!"  The book is published by New Hope Press.

     I give Mike great credit.  I can't imagine writing about my life in such detail.  It takes courage and since God is given the glory and his Mother, Mary, the acknowledgement of guidance, it, too, gives witness to Faith.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Remembering ... with gratitude

     There are times when as we remember something or someone our hearts are filled with gratitude.  Today is one of those days for these reasons.

     Sixty eight years ago today a tremendous military force stormed the beaches of Normandy during a terrible struggle that encompassed the world.  It was known as D-Day, and over 73,000 Americans along with countless other allies fought for a stronghold that would begin the overthrow of evil forces.  My dad was one of those brave young men, many of whom lost their lives that day and many more still carried their wounds with them through life.  For their sacrifice for the cause of freedom and peace, we remember this D-Day anniversary, and are grateful.

     Today is the feast of Saint Norbert, who was a bishop, a scholar, a great preacher and evangelizer.  It brings to my mind another Norbert that I knew - the late Bishop Norbert F. Gaughan of Gary, Indiana.  Before going to Gary, Norbert Gaughan was our Auxiliary Bishop in Greensburg, before that the Vicar General, and in his early priesthood Assistant Pastor at my home parish of Saint Joseph in Uniontown during my early school days.  Norbert was a bright man, a gifted preacher, an opinionated and outspoken man, a man who often ruffled feathers.  Many of our priests have stories that revolve around him.  For many years he would come to a small parish in Export, PA, to celebrate one Mass on a Sunday, have dinner, and then depart.  This parish often had seminarians or transitional deacons assigned there, and Norbert would have them preach at his Mass.  Often there were stories told of how, when the homily was done, he would proceed to tell the people what the deacon meant to or should have said, while the poor guy was still present with the congregation.

     I too was stationed a summer in Export, and I too preached for Norbert.  But I feel very grateful that he never interrupted or explained my homilies to the people.  Not that I was that good.  He had a respect and a regard for me that probably went back to his and my early days at Saint Joe's.  He was a bit of an artist and a photographer, and after my ordination he presented me with a number of photos that he had taken.  On this feast of Saint Norbert, the bishop, I remember with gratitude the bishop Norbert that I knew.

     Today I attended the funeral of a parishioner from Saint John the Baptist in Scottdale that I have known for many years - Thomas Grabiak.  I have been involved with his family over these years, and they had asked me to preach, which I was honored to do.  He and his wife, June, were married for 64 years, and they have five children - a daughter, Kathy and four sons, Barry, Rick, Wayne and Randy.  They are a musical family, with many of them in the church choir.

     I mention this because the boys did a tribute/eulogy for their dad that was very different.  They sang.  Their dad loved to sing the old spirituals, the old religious hymns, and so the four of them joined voices to honor and remember their dad with great gratitude for the love and grace that he and their mom gave to them.  It was beautiful and brought tears to the eyes.  A fitting tribute.  I was honored to be there.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Dedicated Service

     This afternoon the priests from the Diocese of Greensburg and the Benedictine Community of Saint Vincent Archabbey gather at the Bishop Connare Center in Greensburg to celebrate Priests' Jubilee Day.  This annual event recognizes the men who are celebrating significant milestones in their lives.  We will gather for Mass, followed by refreshments and a great dinner.

     This year we recognize eleven priests whose combined years of service total 500 years of priesthood. 

     Topping the list is Father Demetrius Dumm, O.S.B., former rector of the seminary at Saint Vincent and renowned scripture scholar who celebrates sixty-five years of priesthood.  We honor our retired bishop, Bishop Anthony G. Bosco, who celebrates sixty years, and who served as our bishop from 1987 until 2004.  His list of accomplishments is extensive, and he continues to be active.  Next on the list is Father Al Pleban at fifty-five years and who just recently retired from active ministry, having served for sixteen years as pastor of my home parish - a real gentleman and good priest.

     There are three men celebrating fifty years as priests: Father Mike Bucci, retired pastor of Saint Rita in Connellsville, and Fathers Gilbert Burke and Vernon Holtz of Saint Vincent.  Father Gilbert has been involved in parish ministry and alumni activities for many years and Father Vernon has taught and coached soccer at Saint Vincent (Father Vernon taught there when I was in high school).

     At forty years are three diocesan priests: Fathers John Butler, Pat Mandock and Bryan Summers.  John is pastor of one of my former pastorates, All Saints in Masontown ... Pat is a retired military chaplain who served as chaplain from 1977 to the year 2000 ... and Bryan is pastor of Prince of Peace parish in Ford City.  He was incardinated (officially accepted) into the Greensburg Diocese in 2009, having come to us in 2006 from the Congregation of the Oratory of Saint Philip Neri where he served in the Pittsburgh area.  He is a great asset to our diocesan church.

     Celebrating twenty-five years are Father John Moineau, my neighbor at Immaculate Conception in Irwin and Father Dominic Petroy of Saint Vincent where he presently serves in a number of chaplaincy roles.

     And listed among this year's jubilarians is Franciscan Brother Damien Merkley who is from the diocese (Yukon) and who is retired and resides at Saint Antony Friary in Uniontown.  Brother Damien served for thirty plus years in hospital ministry

     The lists of accomplishments, assignments and personal achievements is awesome for these men.  Yet that pales in comparison to the gifts that they have given to God's people.  They would be the first to acknowledge that they are the ones that were gifted by the prayers and support of the people they served.  But they are a gift, and we are grateful for them and their service.  AD MULTOS ANNOS!

Monday, June 4, 2012

150 years

     Yesterday, the Feast of the Holy Trinity, saw a very special celebration in our local community of Irwin, Pennsylvania.  Immaculate Conception parish formally celebrated the one hundred fiftieth anniversary of the first Mass said for the small Catholic community of immigrants back in 1862.  Mass was said from a boxcar at a siding of the railroad tracks, just on the other side of the tracks from the town of Irwin.  This was the common gathering place for a time until a small church could be built on the lower end of town.  The priest would come by train from Greensburg or the Archabbey at Saint Vincent in Latrobe.  The Irish and German Catholic laborers were often considered outsiders and suspect by the largely Protestant community (and thus they built in the lower section of town, near the creek and the railroad tracks, in the section of town that had most of the hotels and bars and entertainment).

     That small original group was established as a parish in its own right a few years later, and went on, through the spiritual leadership of many pastors and countless priests, to being at one time the largest parish in the Diocese of Greensburg.  It still ranks in the top five.  Not only the priests, but the Sisters of Charity of Seton Hill who established a school, and most importantly good, hardworking, committed Catholic people built a vibrant parish community that today is a vital force in the Irwin community.   Father John Moineau serves as pastor, and is deeply loved.  He celebrates his twenty-fifth anniversary of ordination this year.

     Yesterday's celebration was grand.  A Mass was held at 2:00 pm in the Church with Father John as celebrant (the bishop was scheduled, but has had a surgery that prevented him from attending.)  The music was awesome, the priests and Sisters who joined in the celebration, most of whom had served at IC, were made very welcomed, and the reception at a local establishment was well organized, delicious, and a truly family affair.  Over 700 attended the dinner.

     I began my priesthood at Immaculate Conception in June of 1973.  I served there for only two years, but they were very formative and a true blessing.  I have many good memories, as well as a few others, and many good friends that are still around.  In fact, it continues to amaze me that people were so touched by my ministry.  I even received credit from the MC at the dinner, Pat LaValle, for encouraging him to become a lector some 38 or so years ago, which led him to the choir, to cantoring and to a host of other involvements.  I was thinking of all the things that even over these years I fondly remember.  I'll spare you the walk down memory lane, but be assured that my priesthood was built upon a wonderful foundation. 

May the parish community
of Immaculate Conception Parish
continue to be blessed by the Lord
and protected by Mary, our Mother.



     Within the Catholic family, the two Sundays that follow the great Feast of Pentecost celebrate two solemnities of the Lord.  The second of those will be this coming Sunday as we celebrate the Feast of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ, or Corpus Christi.  In many parts of the world this feast is celebrated this Thursday, but in the U.S. it is moved to Sunday.  The other feast was that of the Most Holy Trinity yesterday - celebrating the Oneness of the Godhead as it is expressed in Three Distinct Persons ... Father and Son and Holy Spirit.

     We are a Trinitarian people.  All of our belief in the One God is summed up in that revelation of God to us.  We were baptized in the Name of the Trinity.  We begin and end every prayer with that expression of faith.  Our worship is rooted in that belief, our Faith is expressed in Trinitarian Creeds.  We are children of the heavenly Father, sisters and brothers with the Lord Jesus, and sharers in the life giving Spirit of God.

     Before the Saturday evening Mass, I mentioned to a few people that my homily may be brief.  I said that, in fact, it could be as simple as stating the obvious "In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit."  But I assured them that it probably would be a little longer.  One of the ladies then said that I could add an "Amen" to the end of the sermon, making it that much longer.  However, it was longer than either of those expressions of Trinity.

     The uniqueness of believing in only one God flows from a revelation by a higher power than ourselves, a Supreme Being, revealed to the descendants of Abraham ... first to the Hebrew people, then to the followers of Jesus in the new covenant, and even to the followers of Mohamed.  The manifestation of that one God is seen in the role of life-giver, creator God, Covenant maker, Father ... in the person of Jesus, the Christ (the Anointed One) whom the Father sent to us to be His Word of life, to redeem what was lost by sin, to show us the way to the Father, to help us understand that we can now call God "Abba", Father, daddy, and to restore us through his death and resurrection ... and to be sustained, empowered, strengthened, renewed, sent forth with and in their Spirit, the Paraclete, the Advocate, the Sanctifier.  This is who we are.  This is who God is in relationship to us.  This is our Faith, and we proud to profess it in Christ Jesus, our Lord.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

School's out for summer

     Yesterday we celebrated the last day of school for this school year at Queen of Angels.  Three of the four priests were able to concelebrate the closing Mass, with good messages being shared by the two Father Johns - Fathers John Moineau and John Harrold.  The outgoing second grade were recognized for this very important and outstanding sacramental year, and the outgoing seventh grade was recognized for their leadership and contribution to the school family.  It is great to see the change in the youngsters as they grow and develop even within the course of a school year.

     After the kids were dismissed, the faculty and staff gathered for a luncheon, where I had the opportunity once again of thanking them for their dedicated commitment to Catholic education and to the youngsters at Queen of Angels.  This was, as I mentioned before, the 20th year of our existence as a Regional Catholic School, and while the challenges are always there, the results are as well, and we are proud.

     So, with school out, please be extra careful in your driving as we watch out for the safety of the kids.  Relax and enjoy the summer, which goes by all too quickly.  Summer is a time for recreation, which means "re-creation".  Be re-created, be refreshed and be renewed.


Later that day I went to the movies to see "Snow White and the Huntsman".  It is definitely not the Snow White of children's lore nor that of Disney, but it was entertaining and fairly good, although very dark and adult in nature, with great special effects.  I think the ratings in the paper gave it two and a half stars out of four.  I would agree ... not outstanding but good nonetheless.  What ever happened to the fairy tales of our youth?