Monday, September 29, 2014


    In 2011, in honor of the 60th Anniversary of the establishment of the Diocese of Greensburg, Bishop Lawrence Brandt, our Diocesan Bishop instituted a celebration of recognition on a Diocesan level for two honors - the Conferral of the Bishop's Medal of Honor as well as the Conferral of Diplomas for the Knights and Ladies of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem.  This year's celebration took place within the context of a Prayer Service held on September 21st at Blessed Sacrament Cathedral in Greensburg.  Twenty-eight individuals were honored that day, and three of them were from our parish of Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton in North Huntingdon.  I attended and shared in the joy and blessing of the recipients and their families.

     The Bishop's Medal of Honor recipient from our parish was Mrs. Joan Yuhas.  Joan is a lovely woman, a good wife and mother, a dedicated parishioner and friend.  Joan accompanies our Resurrection Choir on the organ and keyboard and fills in a times for our regular liturgies.  Joan played at Immaculate Conception when I was there over forty years ago.  She also has played at another local church.  She is involved in the parish and actively involved in our Christian Mothers Confraternity in many capacities.  And above all, she was humbled by this recognition and voiced her unworthiness - a good sign of just the opposite.

Picture by ACCENT photographer Mary Seamans
courtesy of the Diocese of Greensburg website
     Invested into the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem from our parish were Mr. and Mrs. Keith and Wendy Staso, as a Knight and Lady of the Order.  They are longtime members of the parish and have been of great service to the Church locally and in so many other ways over the years.  At the ceremony, Keith spoke on behalf of the honorees in thanking Bishop Brandt.

Pictures courtesy of the Greensburg Diocesan website

     It was a lovely day, a wonderful celebration, deserving honors, and as I mentioned to our parish family this Sunday, not just an honor for these 28 recipients, but a blessing for the whole church from whom these people find inspiration.  Congratulations!

The gift of ministries

     A week away was refreshing and needed, but now back to work.

     On this 29th day of September the Church recognizes three outstanding angelic beings - the Archangels Michael, Gabriel and Raphael.  Later this week we celebrate the gift of Guardian Angels as our companions on the journey.  In the Collect Prayer for this feast the Church prays "O God, who dispose in marvelous order ministries both angelic and human, graciously grant that our life on earth may be defended by those who watch over us as they minister perpetually to you in heaven".  In Psalm 103 we read "Bless the Lord, all you his angels, mighty in power, fulfilling his word, and heeding his voice".

     All of us, saints and angels, are created by God to give glory to his Name and to sing his praises.  All of us are entrusted with ministries that seek to make this happen at every moment of every day for all eternity.  Our ministries are varied but serve one purpose.

     Today the Church holds up for us three angels of outstanding reputation with ministries that touch upon the human condition.  In Michael we have the champion of God, the one who stands up to evil and conquers sin and death in that cosmic struggle with Lucifer.  He is the warrior.  He is our defender in battle.  He is our protector and our inspiration.  In Gabriel we have a messenger that brings the glad tidings of God's presence to hearts that are ready and to lives that are open.  Primarily he speaks to Mary a greeting that prompts her YES, and changes the course of history.  In Raphael we encounter God's healing and mercy, bringing about a restoration of fragile human existence that open us to salvation.

     These ministries of warrior, of messenger and of healer, joined with the ministries entrusted to each of us, and enveloped by the ministry of companionship and protection entrusted to our guardians, allows the work of God to flourish and allows us to be ever diligent in proclaiming the glory of God and singing his praises. 

Monday, September 22, 2014

A few days away

It has been a few days and there is much to share, but my sister and I have taken a few days off. I am using my tablet to post,and find it more difficult than the computer,so forgive any mistakes. Rather than anywhere exotic, we visited today with relatives in Meadville, PA, and will be seeing the sights in Erie as well as visiting Jamestown, NY and the lake Chautauqua area. It is just good to be away for a time. Tomorrow more on the happenings of the past weekend.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

The greatest is love.

     The well known passage from Saint Paul's first letter to the Corinthians, Chapter 12:31 - 13:13, is all about love.  Often used at weddings, it's powerful message goes well beyond newlyweds and stands at the heart of the Christian message and the essential component of Christian life.  We heard this passage in the first reading of today.  Paul says that EVERYTHING depends upon love - Christ's love for us ... our love for Christ.  He beautifully describes love as being patient, kind, not jealous, not pompous, not inflated, not rude, not jealous or quick tempered, not brooding or rejoicing over wrongdoing.  Love rejoices in the truth, bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things and never fails.  All gifts of God pale in comparison with love, because God IS love.  He reminds us that the three primary gifts or virtues remain - faith, hope and love.  But he also reminds us that the greatest of these is LOVE.  In a world that embraces the opposite in so many ways, it is good to be reminded of this basic truth of our lives.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

A visible reminder

     The feast of the Exultation of the Holy Cross takes precedence in our celebration this weekend at liturgy.  Celebrated on the 14th of September each year, it allows us to "lift high the cross" in our life of faith as we celebrate the Lordship of Jesus Christ in our lives.  I shared a few of the following thoughts at the Masses this weekend.

     The cross is the strangest symbol and a sign of hope and goodness and love for the world.  It was and is a degrading form of execution in the world.  For the Roman citizen, even notorious criminals and murders condemned to death, crucifixion was beneath their dignity, it was so horrible and degrading.  And yet crucifixion continue to be used to put people to death, with reports recently of ISIS crucifying Christians and others in Iraq.  Not a beautiful symbol for our homes or around our necks.  Could you imagine a picture of a hangman's noose or a chopping block or a lethal injection apparatus hanging in your home or on a chain around your neck?  What makes the cross so different and allows us to exalt in it is the great act of sacrifice and love that took place on the tree of the cross two thousand years ago.  When Jesus embraced the cross out of love for you and me and brought sin and death to that tree, it was forever transformed.  From an object of abjection it became a sign of hope.  From darkness and death it became light and life.  When we gaze upon Christ crucified and are reminded of his sacrifice and death for us embraced in pure love and selflessness, we are reminded of our continued hardness of heart and sinfulness but also of God's mercy and love.

     Just as with Moses and the people of God in our reading from Numbers today, when the serpents entered the camp and brought death with their bites to the hard hearted people who rejected the gifts of God, God instructed Moses to make an image of the serpent - an image that would remind the people of their sin and its results, and to lift that serpent high on a pole.  When those who saw the bronze serpent realized their sin against God and repented, changing their hearts, they would be shown the mercy of God, and live.  Jesus says to Nicodemus that the Son of man must also be lifted up to bring salvation and life.  That Son of man was lifted up on the "tree of the cross".  I mentioned that the symbol for the medical profession, - the snake on a pole - while having meaning in ancient mythology, is a great reminder of the saving power of God in our fragile, self centered lives.

     It is in the holy cross that the love of Christ is revealed.  It is the cross of mercy and mystery.

     We adore you of Christ and we praise you; because by your holy cross you have redeemed the world.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Our Christian Mothers

     A little over a year following the establishment of the new Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton parish in the Diocese of Greensburg in 1978, a group of ladies from the parish along with our founding pastor, Father Mack, established a Confraternity of Christian Mothers that was united with the Archconfraternity based in Pittsburgh.  This past Sunday our Confraternity of Christian Mothers celebrated their thirty-fifth anniversary with a Mass and a dinner.   It was a great celebration of the acomplishments and the vitality of this parish organization that contributes so much to the life of the parish.

     I was honored to celebrated the 11:00 am liturgy that was scheduled to honor and pray for the living and the deceased members of the group.  It was a part of our regular Sunday schedule, with the ladies sitting together as a group and witnessing by their prayerful presence.  We were joined at this Mass by the National Executive Director of the Archconfraternity, Father Angelus Shaughnessy, OFM Cap, who was also our guest at the dinner that followed.  Father Angelus is a noted speaker, spiritual director and spiritual guide to the Christian Mothers and many others and is located in Pittsburgh.

     Under the patronage of Mary, the "Mother of Sorrows", the Christian Mothers are encouraged to joyously undertake the important task of training and helping to make holy their children, both through word and action.  They pray with and for each other and become the mainstay of the spiritual life within their own family, and a fruitful source of blessing to the parish and the community in which they live.

     The movement began in France in 1850 as a way for women and mothers to get together to pray and reflect upon how best to serve the spiritual needs of their children and families.  The Capuchin Franciscans brought along this popular organization to the United States and to the Pittsburgh area and the Confraternity was canonically established on January 16, 1881 in Pittsburgh.  Since then over 2,000 Confraternities have been affiliated with the Pittsburgh Confraternity.

     Our ladies do a great job in countless ways to help their families, their children, our parish family and the children of our parish.  In addition, they are blessed with working and praying together in the spirit of Christ.  I/we congratulate our Confraternity and I thank them for allowing me to be a part of their celebration this past Sunday.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Novena Prayer

     For many, many years our parish family have gathered to pray the Novena and the Litany to the Sacred Heart of Jesus on the First Friday of each month.  We offer this prayerful devotion following the ultimate act of worship, our Eucharistic Liturgy.  A Novena is usually nine days or nine months in duration, although ours is continuous.  A Novena allows those making it to profess their faith in the love of God, to express their trust in his providential care, and to seek his intercession in their lives.  When I first began my priesthood in Irwin we shared in the Miraculous Medal Novena.

     I thought that I might share the Novena Prayer that we prayed this morning, a prayer addressed to Jesus in the love of his most Sacred Heart.

     "Divine Heart of Jesus, to you we have recourse.  In you we find consolation when afflicted, protection when persecuted, strength when overwhelmed with trials and light in doubt and darkness.

     We firmly believe you can bestow on us the graces we implore.  We are most unworthy of your favors, but you are the God of mercies and will not refuse a contrite and humble heart.

     Remembering your words: "Ask and you will receive, seek and you will find, knock and it will be opened to you"; mindful, too that from your Sacred Heart have come words of tenderness and pleading love: "Come to Me, all you that labor and are burdened, and I will refresh you"; we come to you now with childlike confidence to make our pleas in this Novena.  [Pause here to make your petition.]   But, if what we ask is not for the glory of God and the saving of souls, answer our prayer in the way you know best.  Whatever may be your decision with regard to our requests, we will never cease to adore, love and serve you.  Amen.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Joy of the shepherd

     Today the Church honors Pope Saint Gregory the Great in her liturgy.  He lived in the mid to late 500's and did many things to renew the Church, including a renewal of the liturgy and a promotion of "plainsong" or chant in the liturgy (Gregorian Chant).  I was having a "senior moment" this week in that I thought that yesterday was the third of September and so I celebrated Saint Gregory yesterday (it was that Monday holiday thing).

     There was a beautiful thought brought out in the collect prayer for this memorial.  The prayer prays for those whom the Lord has given authority to govern in the Church, and asks for a "spirit of wisdom" that "the flourishing of a holy flock may become the eternal joy of the shepherds."  If there ever was an appropriate and spirit filled definition of the role and purpose of a bishop or pastor, it is found in that phrase - the flourishing of a holy flock may become the eternal joy of the shepherd.  I pray for that for myself, for those called to service in the Church, for Bishop Brandt and Pope Francis.   I also pray that for the one selected to lead the Diocese of Greensburg into the future.

     This brings to the fore something that is on the minds of many in this wonderful small diocese.  In March, our fourth bishop, Lawrence E. Brandt, who has served us for ten years and has reached the retirement age of seventy-five, submitted his letter of resignation to the Holy Father.  The way things work is that he remains as our bishop until a successor is named, at which time his resignation will be accepted.  He will most likely be named administrator of the diocese until the new bishop is ordained or installed.  Bishop Brandt has served us well, but it is time that we begin to pray for the guidance of the Holy Spirit in the selection process, and pray for a bishop that would find joy and delight in the "flourishing of a holy flock" entrusted to him.

     Last week the Holy Father named Bishop Daniel E. Thomas as bishop of Toledo.  He filled a vacancy in Toledo of ten months, the longest vacancy in the U.S.  He looks like a great guy, and would have been welcomed here.  We even got a mention from Rocco in Whispers as Greensburg being a possibility for Bishop Thomas, but our loss is Toledo's gain.  There are three other vacancies and seven other ordinarys who are past the age of seventy-five, Bishop Brandt being one of them.  So we wait in expectant hope and pray for the selection of Pope Francis of a holy pastor for us.