Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Peter and Paul

     Today the Church celebrates the Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul, who are the foundational blocks of the mission of the Church.   Both were martyred in Rome sometime during the persecution of Nero, around 64 AD.  Both are instrumental in laying the groundwork for the message of the Gospel: Peter to the House of Israel and Paul as the Apostle to the Gentiles.  Both are remembered and honored at their place of death and burial by two awesome churches.   And it is on this feast that the Church recognizes the primacy of Peter and his successor, the Bishop of Rome.  His symbol are the keys of the Kingdom entrusted to him at the time of his declaration of faith.

     Peter died by crucifixion (at his request, upside down because he was unworthy to die as did Jesus) on Vatican Hill at the circus located there.  He was buried in the adjoining cemetery, and his grave was marked and venerated from the beginning, although in secret.  When Constantine converted and built a church over his grave, the first Saint Peter's came to be.  The present basilica was built over the same spot, with Peter's tomb located in the necropolis below the crypt and under the main altar.

     Paul, a Roman citizen by birth, was brought to Rome to be judged by the emperor.  Found guilty, he was condemned to death as well, but since crucifixion was beneath the dignity of even the worst Roman citizen, he was beheaded just outside the city walls.  This is the sight of the Basilica of Saint Paul Outside the Walls.  His ministry was to preach the Gospel message to the Gentile community, and his symbol is the two edged sword, which Scripture describes as the Word of God.

     The Preface proper to this feast is very beautiful, mentioning that Peter is "foremost in confessing the faith" and established "the early Church from the remnant of Israel".  It says that Paul is the faith's "outstanding preacher ... master and teacher of the Gentiles".

     A number of years ago I had the honor of celebrating Mass in the Clementine Chapel which is at the tomb of Peter and under the high altar.  I also had the opportunity to be a part of the Scavi tour of the underground necropolis that has been excavated since the 1940's, I believe, and leads to the bones attributed to be those of Peter.

     As pastor of the Church of Saint Paul in Greensburg, we were looking for an image of Paul for our letterhead, and I chose Paul holding the sword.  Many wondered at that, until they became aware that this sword represents the Word of God.

     On this Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul, please pray for Peter's successor, Francis, and those who share the ministry of the Apostles, including our own Bishop, Edward and our retired Bishop, Lawrence.  Pray for those who form the rock solid foundation of Faith and who preach unceasingly the Word of God.

Saturday, June 11, 2016

A Shepherd's Heart

     A week ago Friday the Church celebrated the Feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus.  I mentioned at Mass that the Heart of Jesus that gives us the love of God invites us to join with him and become holy, sacred.  And while we call the heart of Jesus a Sacred Heart, it is also the heart of a shepherd, the Good Shepherd ... a loving, caring heart of mercy and compassion.

     The following day, on that Saturday morning of June 4th, Bishop Edward Malesic ordained to the priesthood for the Church and the Diocese Greensburg a young man by the name of Ryan Ravis.  He is a delightful man of faith and love, of enthusiasm and great expectations.  His story has been told in interviews that can be found in our Diocesan Newspaper, The Catholic Accent, and on the Diocesan website.  It is a great story of how God is the one in charge of the direction in our lives, and we are truly blessed that the Lord has led him to ministry in priesthood.  I hope and pray that he has many year - "Multos annos" - and happiness and service with the heart of a shepherd. 

Pictures courtesy of the Diocese of Greensburg facebook site

     There is a hymn that we sing whose first verse goes something like this: "If you love me, feed my lambs.  Be my heart, my hands, my voice.  If you love me feed my sheep.  And for my part, I give you the heart, of a shepherd."  May Ryan continue to love the Lord. May he be the hands and the heart and the voice of Jesus to all he meets.  May he feed the lambs and sheep entrusted to him.  And may he find the gift of the Heart of a Shepherd as promised by the Lord.

Sunday, June 5, 2016

A Tuesday story

     I would like to tell you of a great experience in my life this past Tuesday, but first I want to acknowledge and congratulate a young man, Father Ryan Ravis, who was ordained as a priest for the Diocese of Greensburg yesterday morning (Saturday) by Bishop Ed Malesic.  I wish Ryan many years of happy and fruitful priesthood.  More on his ordination at another time.  Pray for him ... and pray for priestly vocations.

     This past Tuesday afternoon I had the opportunity to host a small luncheon for our parish staff and a group of individuals who have been extremely helpful during my recent illness.  A great part of the group of about twenty-five that gathered for lunch were members of our Christian Mothers, who every other day graciously brought meals to the rectory for my sister and myself.  They were delicious and I suggest helped with the healing process.  We gathered at a local establishment and shared food and fellowship in a relaxed setting.  I am most grateful to all who visited, helped, sent cards and greetings, and prayed for my recovery.

     My sister and the staff at the parish also transformed this gathering of thanks into a birthday celebration for yours truly (the birthday was on Monday, May 30th).  A good time was had by all.

     Tuesday was the feast of the Visitation, when Mary visited her cousin, Elizabeth, who was also with child.  I pointed out, both at Mass and at the luncheon, that this feast is a model of what we can be and need to be for others.  In the little things, like a visit or a prepared meal, we not only do something good and perform a work of mercy, but like Mary, we bring with us the presence of Christ to those whose lives we touch.  And when we, on the receiving end of things, realize the blessing that has come our way, we rejoice and our hearts leap for joy at the presence of our Lord in the life of another.  I experienced that presence and that love, and for that I count my blessings.  That is why this little lunch was so important for me.

     We have a very talented and creative person on staff who is a musician, Diana Mikash.  She composed a little "dittie" that all sang to me to the tune of "Hello Dolly".  I thought that I would share this "Ditties by Di" selection with you.

Hello Lenny
I said hello Lenny, well hello Lenny,
It's so great that we can all be here with you.
You're lookin' swell, Lenny, we can tell, Lenny,
That you've followed doctor's orders
and nurse Jane's, too!
We've missed you so, Lenny.  Don't you know, Lenny
that there's no one who could ever take your place so
Welcome back, Lenny.
Things can now get on track, Lenny.
Everything will be just fine.
You're still young, you're sixty-nine!
Lenny, don't ever go away again1
Hey don't you fret, Lenny.  We can bet, Lenny,
You'll be back to doing things you like to do.
You'll be in church, Lenny, on your perch, Lenny.
and hit all the local eateries that missed you, too!
Just one more year, Lenny, that you're here, Lenny,
and we've got so much to do before you go, now
don't you fear, Lenny,
we'll get you through your final year, Lenny.
So just look at it this way, 70's just one more year away!
May God bless you on this special day!!!