Thursday, January 30, 2014

Relighting the Lamp

     In our little town of Irwin there was/is a small local theater called The Lamp.  It has been closed now for many, many years and is in bad condition.  There was a move to restore the structure when a nearby fire set those plans on the back burner.  In its day, is was the Saturday evening place to go for an inexpensive movie and great popcorn. The push to restore the theater has taken upon itself new momentum in an effort called "Relight the Lamp".  I may even make a donation toward a new seat.

     Lighting a lamp is a scriptural reference found in today's Gospel that has nothing to do with a movie theater, but everything to do with witnessing to the Gospel of truth and bringing a light into an ever darkening world.  Last Sunday's readings spoke of the light and this Sunday, with the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord (Candlemas Day), we bless candles and process with the light.  Today we are reminded that we have been entrusted with the light of Christ, and that light cannot be placed under a bushel basket or hidden from view, but placed on a lamp stand so that all may see and be drawn to the light.  Do we recognize the gift of Christ that we bear?  Do we share the light of his presence in our actions and through our lives?  Are we a light to others, a light to the nations?  If yes, then shine forth.  If not, or if uncertain as to our effectiveness, then like the people of Irwin, make an effort to "relight the lamp" - only the more important lamp of our faith and love in Jesus Christ.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

A House for the Church

     The ongoing story of David found in the Second Book of Samuel continues today with David, firmly established on his throne and dwelling in a palace, expressing his desire to "build a house" for the Lord - a fitting house of cedar and stone - one that would make God (and everyone else in the Kingdom) truly proud.  The Lord tells Nathan to remind David that he has not needed nor does he now need a "house" in which to reside.  He has walked with his people, he has dwelt in tent under cloth, he has been in their midst and in their hearts.  If there is a house to be built, it will be the Lord doing the building - not in stone and wood and fine workmanship - but by loyally standing by David and his lineage and establishing a house that will be found on the royal throne which will stand firm forever.  He tells David that his son shall build a house for God's name and that the Lord shall be a father to him.  Beautiful words in this story.

     There was a time when it was the hope of a pastor to be placed in a position of building a church.  I came close, once, in Scottdale, but was kept out of the loop.  I lent my touch to a few minor renovations over the years in other places.  But I never established myself as a "church builder", except in the capacity of building upon the community spirit and calling forth the People of God to be Church.  This is all that I wanted, for I am definitely not a brick and mortar builder.  It is the Lord who builds the house.  In fact, the Church directs that the physical building for worship which we call church is the House of God, but not the House for God.  Rather she describes the church building as being "a house for the Church."  Wherever we gather in his Name, we are Church, and the building in which we worship should have dignity and beauty in order to lift our hearts and minds toward the Lord - thus it is important.  But the Lord is not and will not be confined to a place, a building, a monument that may even inspire, but rather is found in the hearts and lives of the people who gather in that sacred space.  That is what we mean by church.  From the simplest table around which we gather for worship to the most magnificent basilica, it is simply a "house for the Church."

Monday, January 27, 2014


    In the midst of this bone chilling weather this winter, I have been reminded of the importance of warmth in our midst.  Just this evening I stepped out for dinner at one of my favorite little restaurants in Irwin, Romano's, and while enjoying the good food I was also enjoying the friendly spirit of the owners (Sharon and Carl) and their staff and a number of the patrons.  I began sharing with a couple at the next table and had a great conversation (she had worked in the local school district and he was a retired pastor of the Church of the Nazarene).  We spoke of many things, including our respective experiences of Church.  She said that she had attended a number of funerals at our parish and was always made to feel welcome and often uplifted.  Toward the end, she asked about non-Catholics receiving Holy Communion.  I explained our understanding and theological position, and I also shared the emotional and pastoral awkwardness that comes from exclusion.  It is one of the crosses of the division within the Church.  We continue to pray that "we may be one".  We have just concluded the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity that has that as its goal.

     Hospitality is also found in the warmth of our love and our faith.  I make it a point to invite those who gather for Mass to greet each other before we begin, for we gather as community, not as isolated individuals.  Most people join in this greeting.  A few do not, for a variety of reasons.

     I was speaking to a good friend this morning, Mike Ripple of Erie, who had a less than warm experience at Mass this weekend.  They attended a neighboring parish in Erie, and chose their seat.  A couple came in and were very "put out" that the Ripples were seated in their seats, even though there was much room around that spot.  Mike and family moved over, but the attitude was obvious to those around them that this couple was not happy.  Needless to say, the warmth of hospitality was chilled in that experience.

     Not everyone is into handshaking and verbal greetings before or during Mass.  I have a couple that sit in the back row and do not share in the greeting, but I know through their looks and expression that they have the spirit of hospitality.  That's okay.  But to be isolated or cold about being with fellow Christians is contrary to the spirit of the Christian experience and the purpose for our communal worship.  It is cold enough outside without bringing that cold into our hearts.  As the scriptures reminded us yesterday, we are people of the light who are called to bring the Light of Christ into our every darkening world.  Light brings warmth.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

David and Goliath

     The reading for today from the lectionary is the story of David and Goliath.  David was the young, non-warrior type, who stepped forward at a particularly challenging moment in the history of God's people and became their champion.  The Philistine army was powerful, and they had a giant of a warrior who made them nearly unbeatable.  No one wanted to or was even willing to challenge this giant called Goliath.  Up steps the young David, and no one thought that he could accomplish the task.  But God was on David's side ... or I should say that David was on God's side.  We know the story - David killed Goliath and God's people were victorious.

     I thought that these readings were very appropriate on this day on which we remember Roe vs Wade, a decision of our Supreme Court that accelerated the undermining of the law of God and our moral foundation.  Forty one years ago today that decision marked a tragic turning point that has resulted in the legal deaths of over 55 million unborn human beings in this nation alone.  Since that time countless people who understand the sanctity of human life have been striving to rectify that decision and change our course.  To most, it appears to be David vs Goliath.  Few place much hope in our success, especially as time has gone on and little has changed for the good.  It appears that we face the law and the lobbies and the changing times with our small sling shot and stones.  They stand powerful and unmoving.  It could cause discouragement.

     And yet, remember that the seemingly impossible happened in the story of David and Goliath.  David prevailed, because he had a purity of heart as well as God on his side.  Simplicity and trust rather than arrogance and might won the day.  On this day, when thousands march in Washington, we have our hope rekindled.  We stand on the firm foundation of the Word and the Law of God.  Our resolve to defend life is reinforced by the strength of God.  Win or lose, we stand in God's embrace as we celebrate life.

     I have not had a chance to see the numbers in DC, but with very adverse weather in that area in frigid temps and snow, I know of at least three people that attend daily Mass here that normally would have gone but did not this year - One could not get off from work, one has growing knee problems and cannot do the walk, and the other, who is a pro-life leader both locally and in the Commonwealth, had her bus company cancel their trip just this morning.  To those in DC or who are praying and supporting the cause, the Lord's blessings be upon you.

     I would like to conclude with the Collect Prayer for the Mass "For Giving Thanks To God For The Gift Of Human Life" from The Roman Missal :

God our Creator,
we give thanks to you,
who alone have the power to impart the breath of life
as you form each of us in our mother's womb;
grant, we pray,
that we, whom you have made stewards of creation,
may remain faithful to this sacred trust
and constant in safeguarding the dignity of every human life.
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.  Amen 

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Choose Life!

      I just watched the Opening Mass for the National Prayer Vigil for Life coming from the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception as broadcast on EWTN.  As always, it was an impressive and inspiring gathering, with Cardinal Sean O'Malley of Boston as the celebrant and homilist.  The basilica which seats at least 5,000 was overflowing, again, as usual.  Cardinal Sean's homily I found to be powerful in its challenge to not only continue to stand up and witness to LIFE but to also bring the mercy of God and the comfort of God's People to those who have been caught up in the terrible experience of an unwanted or unplanned pregnancy or an abortion.  Our mission is to defend life at every moment from conception to natural death, to restore, protect and defend all aspects of existence and law that promote the dignity of human life, and to challenge this secular and self centered society to see and embrace the Gospel values of Jesus.  This March for Life eve falls on the feast of Saint Agnes, a young girl of twelve in the early days of the Church who dedicated her life and her virginity to Christ in a culture that was rooted in the flesh (what I desire is what is right, no matter what), and who, because she would not consent or give in to being married off, was tried and put to death. Her symbol is a young lamb, a reminder of the sacrifice of the spotless victim who was the Lamb of God - Jesus.  Agnes and the Latin word for lamb - agnus - play off of each other.

     It has been at least ten years since I have attended the March for Life on January 22nd.  This is due primarily to personal physical limitation regarding walking and the cold.  But I always found the Opening Mass a truly rejuvenating experience as a priest.  Processing in and out at the end in that jammed Basilica filled with people who sacrificed much to be there and who unreservedly show their love for the priests and bishops and their great love for life, was humbling and overwhelming.  That, even more than the march, was the most important aspect of the trip to DC.  I never made it to the Mass at the Verizon Center for youth, but I understand that the same spirit is found there.

     Pray for those who travel to DC for this witness to the sanctity of human life; pray for their safety, health and warmth in what looks to be another cold and snowy day; and pray for this nation and those who provide leadership, that they may do so with the wisdom and the guidance of the Word of God; and pray for the conservatively estimated 55 million unborn children legally put to death in this great nation since Roe vs Wade on January 22nd in 1973.  The Church in the U.S. calls us to a "Day of prayer for the legal protection of unborn children" and for reparation for those lives lost in this inhuman decision of forty-one years ago.   They are the holy innocents of our day.

Monday, January 20, 2014


     In anticipation of yesterday's readings from Scripture, I wrote a piece for our Diocesan Web Site on those Scriptures readings - I have also fine tuned it a bit after four liturgies (Saturday evening at 4:00, Sunday morning at 8:30 & 11:00, and the regional Mass at Saint Barbara Church at 6:00 pm last evening).

     The operative word was CALL.  We heard of the call of the prophet Isaiah to be the voice of God to his people, and then the Lord expanding that mission so that he would be a light to the nations.  We heard Paul tell his followers in Corinth that he was called to be an Apostle, reminding them that they were called to holiness, and that all of us are called to call upon the Lord for mercy and grace.  John the Baptist and Jesus are presented in the Gospel as being called to bring about the Kingdom of God - John by pointing the way through Jesus and Jesus by being the way.

     An axiom that was given us in theology states that "God calls ... man responds."  It is important for us to continually remind ourselves of our call - to life, to new life through the waters of baptism, into family, both personal, locally and universally as Church, to vocation and to mission in the service of God and neighbor, and to glory as we enter the holiness of God.  Being clear regarding our call, we need to respond with sincerity of heart and total abandon - "Hear I am, Lord.  I come to do your will."


     An interesting note:  In my Diocesan Reflection on the Scriptures, I messed up!   I spoke of the call of Saul to kingly anointing and to be the champion of his people over their enemies.  Looking over my reflection after submitting it, I said to myself - well, it is about "call", but where did I get that reading?  It was not in Isaiah.  The readings last week, though, did speak of Samuel and Saul.  Oh well, we all make mistakes (especially me)!

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

A wise mentor

     In the reading from 1 Samuel today for this Wednesday of the First Week in Ordinary Time we find young Samuel, having come to life through the blessing of God and dedicated by his parents to the service of God in the temple, ministering to the Lord under the priest, Eli.

     Samuel, asleep in the temple near the ark of God, heard his name called three distinct times.  Thinking it was his teacher, Eli, he went to him and found that Eli had not called him.  He was confused, for as the scripture says "At that time Samuel was not familiar with the LORD, because the LORD had not revealed anything to him as yet."  Eli, too, was a bit confused.  But then it dawned upon him that maybe it was the Lord calling, and so he told Samuel to answer the call of his name with the simple but heartfelt words "Speak, for your servant is listening."  It was then that the Lord revealed himself, then that Samuel began an encounter with the Lord that laid out his life as a prophet, then that the Lord allowed him to grow and speak words that would never be without effect.

     I thought of the people in my life who, like Eli, introduced me to the Lord, invited me to respond to the call of the Lord, and were good mentors in my journey.  From Mom and Dad, from faith filled grand parents, from a loving sister and friend, through priests, sisters, parish, friends and a multitude of others over the years I have been encouraged to listen to the Lord, to respond with my own "Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening", and to establish a relationship with the Lord of life that makes me who I am.  We all need good people, great encouragers and wise mentors like Eli in our lives.  If we are so blessed ... then we are blessed.

Monday, January 13, 2014

A different Hilary

     When speaking of Hilary in our world today you would quickly think in the realms of politics and well known people of Hilary Clinton.  But the Church today honors another Hilary, this one not current, not nationally or internationally well known, and not a politician.  The Church's Hilary is a man ... and a Saint of God.  The Church's Hilary lived long ago (in the early to mid 300's) and served as the bishop of Poitiers in France.  He was a defender of the Faith, especially against the heresy of Arianism that was rampant at the time.  He was even known as the "hammer against Arianism" and the "Athanasius of the West" (Athanasius was the great opponent of Arianism in the Eastern Church).

     His journey to prominence was interesting as well.  Born at the beginning of the 4th century in Poitiers, he was well educated, married with a daughter, and of a prominent pagan family.  His study of the classics introduced him to the Scriptures which introduced him to Christ.  He and his family were baptized into the Church and were so impressive in their living of the Faith that when the bishop of Poitiers died, Hilary was elected by the people to serve as their bishop.  It was during that time that he fought against the Arian heresy, which basically declared that Jesus was not divine but was created by the Father and thus not equal to the Father and the Holy Spirit.  That is an entire theology course in itself.  The Collect of today's feast reminds us that Hilary taught with constancy the divinity of Christ and asks the Father that "we may rightly understand and truthfully profess" that divine nature of Christ in our lives.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

The Baptism of the Lord

     It has been a few days since the last post, but believe it or not, not much exciting or of note has happened in my life.  We survived the "polar vortex" and are enjoying slightly warmer but still typically overcast and damp days here in Western PA.  As I have said before, I am not a Winter person, and I truly appreciate my friends on face book who remind me of the number of days remaining until Spring.  We have been fortunate in our neck of the woods, though, compared to many.

     When Jesus came to his cousin John at the River Jordan for John's baptism, it was to a baptism of repentance, an announcement of the imminence of the kingdom and a call to personal conversion and repentance that would prepare the person for the coming Messiah.  It was a spiritual cleansing experienced in the bath of repentance in the waters of the Jordan.  But Jesus was without sin and in no need of repentance, thus John's surprise and reluctance to share this ritual with Jesus.  Jesus' desire, though, was to transform this bath of renewal into a bath of rebirth.  Not only does the baptism offered by Jesus and his Church bring about the forgiveness of sin, it also removes the burden of that original sin of our first parents.  Not only are we called to commit ourselves to prepare for the coming kingdom, but now we are called to embrace that kingdom with love and service in the here and now, in the journey of our lives.  We are now called to be Christ and enter into the divine and not just look for him and continue to trudge along on our own steam.

     This baptism is life giving, Spirit filled and a source of grace.  This baptism opens the door to the other sacraments, to a realization of what it means to belong, to be family, and to the Call to love and service that belongs to the disciples of the Lord.  That is why our baptism is so important, so vital to our spiritual health.

     Jesus began his public ministry upon coming out of the waters of the Jordan.  Our public ministry of witnessing to the Good News of Christ is to be lived at every moment since our baptism.  All for the honor and glory of the Father.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

The passing of a gentle giant - Father Roland J. Faley, T.O.R.

     On Saturday, January 4, 2014 Father Roland Faley, a member of the Province of the Sacred Heart of Jesus of the Third Order Regular Franciscans from Loretto, Pennsylvania, died at his residence in Dubois, Pennsylvania.  He was eighty-three years of age.  Father Roland served the Order and the Church as a noted scripture scholar, professor, author, seminary rector at Saint Francis during my later college days, and in leadership within the Order as Minister General of the worldwide Third Order Regular in Rome  from 1977 - 1983.

     In the title to the post, I describe Father Roland as a gentle giant with gentle as the operative word.  In my experience he was always, as rector and as teacher, a kind and gentle soul who sought to bring out the best in the individual.  I have seen him at a few reunions in the past years, and he had retained those same qualities.  He was a giant, not in the physical sense, but as a noted scripture scholar and author.  Having received degrees from Saint Francis, the Catholic University of America, the Pontifical Biblical Institute and the Angelicum University in Rome, he wrote the section on the Book of Leviticus for the New Jerome Biblical Commentary, a major reference work, as well as numerous books regarding scripture and the Religious Life.  He also served in pastoral work in a number of dioceses and parishes before retiring.   Like Father Demetrius Dumm of the Saint Vincent Monastic Community who died late last year, Father Roland was a gifted man with a love of scripture who served the Church for many faithful years.

     Father Roland will be remembered in a Mass of Christian Burial on Thursday of this week, January 9th, at the Immaculate Conception Chapel on the campus of Saint Francis University in Loretto.  Our thoughts and prayers go out to his brother Friars and to his Provincial, Father Richard Davis, T.O.R.  Please pray for Father Roland.  May his priestly soul rest in peace.  Amen.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Unshakable faith

     Much of the nation is in the grips of a tremendously bitter cold spell, some with snow and ice, others with frigid Arctic cold and wind chill factors well below 0 degrees.  I don't want to speak too soon, but we in our area of South Western Pennsylvania have been spared the worst (so far).  But it is still "cold as hell!"  That is a strange phrase, since hell is often depicted as fire and purification, but actually hell would be also be cold - in the sense of devoid of love and companionship and support and human and divine warmth.  Anyway, so cold that we cancelled our Mass for the morning tomorrow because of wind chill factors predicted at being -20 to - 40 degrees.  We don't cancel often.

     Our weekday Masses in this week between the Feast of the Epiphany and the Baptism of the Lord have their own prayers.  This morning I prayed the wrong Collect Prayer (the one before the Solemnity rather than the one for after the Feast).  I realized the fact too late to change, but in fact I like the prayer before better.

     That prayer asks the Lord to grant his people "unshakable strength in faith" that we may be "freed from present trials and given a place in abiding gladness."  In a world that constantly seeks to belittle or undermine faith in God and the exercise of that faith, we truly need renewed strength and determination to remain on course.  And in a world filled with trials of every magnitude we need freedom and peace, comfort and "abiding gladness".  In that way we may stand as witnesses of Gospel Truth and heralds of moral standards, and may be a beacon of hope to a fallen world.


Prayers requested:

     I have heard of the death of my former Seminary Rector, scripture professor and a priest of the Sacred Heart Province of the Third Order Regular Franciscans in Loretto, Pa - Father Roland Faley, T.O.R.  When I receive his obit, I will share the info.  May he rest in peace.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

A papal trip

     Pope Francis today announced that he plans on making a papal trip to the Holy Land toward the end of May of this year.  There was speculation that such a trip was in the works.  He will be visiting Amman, Jordan, Bethlehem and Jerusalem, and while visiting these holy sites in pilgrimage, he will also seek to strengthen ecumenical ties with the Orthodox and other Christians, show unity with our Jewish and Palestinian sisters and brothers, and draw attention to the plight of Christians in that part of the world.

     The announcement and experience of a papal trip is rather commonplace these days.  John Paul II raised travel to new heights in his long papacy.  But aside from a few short trips in Italy, the first real papal trip was taken by Pope Paul VI fifty years ago yesterday and today when he made a quick, fifty-seven hour trip to the Holy Land visiting Amman, Jordan and Nazareth and the Lake of Tiberias before returning to Jerusalem and Bethlehem.  I remember the powerful pictures in Life Magazine of the Holy Father at the water's edge and the image of Athenagorus, the Patriarch of Constantinople and Pope Paul VI meeting and embracing after centuries of division between the two Churches and a "lifting" of the mutual excommunications that had existed.  This was a monumental moment in the life of the Church, and Pope Francis' visit in May will honor that moment with his own presence in that land called Holy by so many children of Abraham.

     I remember in gratitude the beginning of those papal trips that Pope Paul VI initiated, including visits to the UN in New York and Mass at Yankee Stadium among others.  It brings Peter to the world family, and this is good.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

A significant day

     January 4th marks the date of the death of Mother Elizabeth Ann Seton in 1821 in Emmittsburg, Maryland.  Raised to the altar as a Saint of the Church in 1975, she serves as the patron of our parish family.  We celebrated that recognition at our liturgy this evening at 4:00 pm with our choir joining with our various musicians and a church full of faithful to celebrate another great feast, that of the Epiphany of Our Lord.  Saint Elizabeth Ann Bayley Seton, born in New York in 1774, was an educated woman of prominent family who was many things: wife, mother, widow, educator, convert to Catholicism, foundress of a Religious Congregation of women and the first native born saint from the United States.  We are honored to bear her name as a parish and to have a relationship through three Sisters who live within the parish with the Sisters of Charity of Seton Hill in Greensburg.

     This weekend the Church celebrates the Feast of the Epiphany, the coming of the magi, the wise men, the three kings.  They represent all of those who search for the truth, who look for the meaning of life, whose life is a quest for the divine.  They came from the East and recognized in the helpless child a king for the nations.  They were satisfied in seeing and in believing that a light had dawned.  It was truly an epiphany, a revelation.  But the greatest revelation that this feast represents is our awareness that God's love is inclusive and calls all people to share in the divine life.  The only restrictions and limitations come from us - from our sinfulness and hardness of heart.  On God's part - all are welcome.

     Today also marks the date of my installation as pastor of Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish by Bishop Lawrence Brandt in 2008.  In these five years I have been truly blessed with the shepherding of these good people and the love and concern that they have for me.  The installation took place of the Feast of the Epiphany which fell on the feast of Mother Seton.  A year later on the Epiphany I caught the edge of the step in the sanctuary and took a very public and less than graceful tumble on the way back from the tabernacle.  The next year I lost my balance and fell in the garage between Masses.  Needless to say, I am being extra careful this weekend!

     So this date, its feasts and my history intertwine beautifully into a tapestry of memories.  As always, God is good. 

Friday, January 3, 2014

Holy Name memories

     Today is the feast of the Most Holy Name of Jesus.  It is a celebration of the Name above every other name, the Name shared with us by God, and the realization that there is no other name to be invoked but the Name of the Only-Begotten Son of God.  Some people love to casually "drop names".  We are invited to "not so casually" honor this Name.  In honoring his Name, we rejoice in the knowledge that with his Name written in our hearts, our names are written in heaven.

     A number of the parishes in which I served over the years have had active Holy Name Societies.  These groups trace their modern history to the 1300's and Blessed John of Vercelli.  It is usually a men's organization that meets to support the parish, pledge loyalty to the Church, receive Holy Communion and pledge to honor the Name of Jesus and to live a life of witness.

     In one of those parishes there was a good family man who was a Holy Name member.  Monthly he joined his brothers in attending Mass and reciting the Holy Name Pledge publicly.  He also owned a newspaper stand in town.  Nothing wrong with that, except that, giving in to the wants of his customers and the demands of business, there were magazine's and similar items of a questionable moral character under the counter in his establishment.  Everyone knew this.  I remember a certain "in your face" lady from the parish who confronted this gentleman on a number of occasions about this seeming contradiction - a pledge and witness on Sunday and something very different during the week.  Needless to say she did not make headway with him.  And needless to say he was not a happy camper to be so challenged.

     Without judgement being made, how important is it to meet the real challenge of being a witness?  We witness to Jesus, who bears the Name that saves, and we seek the protection of its power in our lives.

Good and kind friends.

     Yesterday's post about praying for your priests brought a comment (I don't get many of them) from someone with the moniker "tinkerbell" who asked - "Do any of our priests need more than just our prayers?  I always wonder if those without family have been adopted by parishioners, especially during the holidays?"

     I would like to affirm from my experiences that there are many good and generous people out there - parishioners and friends - who do care for their priests in a multitude of way in addition to prayer. 

     First, though, I must tell you of a longtime prayer partner of mine who "adopted" me years ago and prays for me daily and shares her wishes and Christian love through greetings at the holidays.  She is a Carmelite Tertiary (Third Order member) from North Huntingdon who, at the invitation of her group, selected me as her prayer companion.  I will withhold her name (she would be embarrassed to be identified) but not my deep and abiding gratitude for her faithfulness in prayer and her love for priests.

     Secondly I also acknowledge the countless people who are friends and who remember me in their thoughts and prayers.  This is not just a generic thing, but a personal spiritual friendship that sustains my priesthood.

     Third, there are so many kindnesses shown to priests in a variety of concrete ways, from invitations to people's homes to gifts to  picking up the tab for dinner (it happened on New Year's day at Bob Evans by a young man that knew I was a priest).  We are blessed beyond our deserving.

     And fourth, in my experiences, I have often found generous people who are there in my need.  In Belle Vernon there was a family whose home I could stop by without an invitation to visit (and to  get a great lunch as well as a relaxing visit).  There was a family in Scottdale when I was there as an assistant, when things were tough at the rectory, who made me feel at home at almost anytime.  I spent many hours watching TV with them and simply "chilling out".  I think (I hope) most priests can recount similar experiences.  And I have spoken of Dolfi's restaurant in Masontown whose the owner, Greg, and staff took good care of me as we developed great friendships ... many a long hour, much great food, rich conversations and verbal jousting, and awesome memories.

     So to answer "tinkerbell", people do respond to our needs, they care about their priests, because the Church is full of good and kind friends.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Pray for your priests

     As we enter into this new year, a request and a reminder comes from these pages to "pray for priests".  It is a selfish request on my part as the need for prayer continues to make itself known each day, but it is also a needed request for the strength and vitality of the Church.  For while the Church is made up of all of the baptized faithful, the health and vitality of her shepherds is extremely important for the good of all.

     We are blessed with a Holy Father in Pope Francis that is refreshing and inspiring to many as he draws our attention to the poor and lowly who share the journey together with us.  Pray for him and the important work that he does.

     Pray for our local bishop, Lawrence E. Brandt.  Bishop Brandt has been with us for about eight years now, and is approaching his 75th birthday this Spring, which means his letter of retirement will be submitted to Rome.  Pray for our chief shepherd in this local Church, and for the wisdom and guidance of the Holy Spirit in the selection of his successor.

     Pray for priests everywhere, especially your local parish priests, who face challenges that are very different than the ones present when I was ordained forty years ago.


     And pray for the priests who serve in the parishes and ministries of the Diocese of Greensburg.  It is said in some corners that we are an unhappy and despondent group.  I have included the group picture from our recent Convocation in October, and as you can see from the smiles (which we were not forced to show), we are far from unhappy and discontented.  We have our concerns and worries, but the blessings of God abound and the service to the Church is one of those great blessings.  Yet, we are an aging population, and are in need of your prayerful support.

    And thank you for your loyalty to the Family of God and to her shepherds throughout the years.  We pray for you always.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

The Quest

     Since Pope Paul VI designated January 1st as a Day of Prayer for Peace, the Church has been focusing on and praying for peace at the beginning of each new year.  The effort arises from the dark and destructive effects of sin in the human condition that leads to hatred and violence, war and injustice, a lack of respect for human life and most especially a rejection of the Prince of Peace, Jesus Christ.  There has even been harm done in the name of the Prince of Peace.  And on this day when we honor the woman who gave him to us, the woman who has been entrusted to us as our mother, as we honor Mary, we once again accept the quest to seek peace.  We are her children because we are the children of God.  As Matthew reminds us in the Beatitudes, the children of God are known as peacemakers.

     What came to mind today, though, is the story of Don Quixote, the Man of La Mancha, who accepts a noble quest to establish noble qualities in man that were lost.  He sets out on his quest, mocked and ignored, seeking that "impossible dream".  He is willing to "march into hell for a heavenly cause".  There are times when we feel a little like the man of La Mancha in our quest for a change of heart within individuals and societies.  There are times when our efforts and our prayers for peace may seem like an "impossible dream".  But unlike this fictional character, who followed his imagination as he tilted at windmills, we follow a Lord and Savior who IS peace, who BRINGS peace through his sacrifice, and who invites us TO BE peacemakers - not in make-believe or as searchers of the impossible - but as agents of change and a source of transforming strength and power.  We must witness to Christ Jesus ... we must stand for those who are warred upon ... we must protect the innocent.  We must renew our prayers for peace and our efforts to broker peace, for the very future of this world.  And if we suffer or are ridiculed for this, then remember the last words of the song "The Impossible Dream" ---

"And the world will be better for this
that one man, scorned and covered with scars
still strove with his last once of courage
to reach the unreachable star."