Friday, December 23, 2022


      We began our Christmas festive dinner last evening at Neumann House with this prayer.  On this bitter winter day before Christmas, I thought I might share it with you.

    We give you thanks, O Lord, 

for times and seasons 

and now for winter nights 

when stars shine coldly bright, 

and dust is turned to diamonds underfoot.  

For winter days when trees 

are stronger than the icy death 

and hold in blackened limbs 

the promise of the resurrection.  

For opposites be praised: 

for heat and cold, 

for stillness and the snow 

that sculptures every house and tree 

and falls like great absolution 

to heal the wounded earth.  

We give you thanks for Him 

whose birth we celebrate in winter 

so all may know, may wildly know

that love is stronger than the coldest flesh 

and mercy blankets all the land 

more surely than the snow.  

We give you thanks for Him 

who makes more than children joyful 

and does not cheat our laughter in the end.  

Joyous Lord, 

beyond imagining but not beyond desire, 

we give you glory and our son of praise.

[author unknown to me]

Wednesday, December 14, 2022


      I like a good story.  There is a whole generation of young people, and those not so young, who know well the story of a young wizard named Harry Potter and his friends, and their battle against "the dark lord".  Early on in Harry's story, when he was in the care of his aunt and uncle, we hear that they often locked Harry in his room, and before that in the "cupboard under the stairs".  They did so because the feared him, the resented his powers and popularity in the wizarding world and they thought him odd.  People "put down" what they don't understand.  As the story progresses, his aunt and uncle and cousin disappear from the story while Harry becomes the hero and conqueror of the world of darkness.

    I mention this today because Harry's story somewhat images the story of a man named John of the Cross, a Carmelite priest in the later part of the 1500's who sought to reform the Order, bringing it to it's original strict observance.  He was joined by another great saint, Teresa of Avila.  John was physically small of stature, misunderstood, feared by his community.  He was "locked away", imprisoned in his own cell, some accounts having him locked in a cupboard - not seen or heard.

    And yet his life and his writings, including some great spiritual guidance and passionate poetry, have survived and led to the reformed movement he heralded.  He triumphed over darkness and closedmindedness.  His passionate love for the Lord brought him before the Church as a great champion and with a recognition as a Doctor of the Church.  John's message is to embrace the Cross if you really want to know the meaning of life ... if you want to live ... and if you want to love.

     Today is the Memorial of Saint John of the Cross, Priest and Doctor of the Church, mystic and poet, light to the world.  Saint John, may our Faith never be hidden but bear light for all.

Friday, December 9, 2022


      There were two events that I shared in on the Feast of Juan Diego, one of our older newer saints.

    This morning I journeyed to Saints Cyril and Methodius Church in Fairchance, PA, for the funeral Mass for a good priest and friend.  Father Leo Pleban, a retired priest from the Diocese of Youngstown, Ohio, who has spent his retirement years in the Greensburg Diocese, was laid to rest.  The Church we celebrated in this morning was his home parish, along with his older brother, Father Alexander Pleban of our Diocese and their younger brother, John who passed away within the past two years.

    Bishop Larry Kulick of our Diocese presided in the absence of Bishop David Bonner of Youngstown.  Youngstown was represented by a number of their clergy.  There were about twenty-five priests concelebrating and a good number of people present to entrust Father Leo to the Lord.

    May he Rest In Peace!  And may Father Al and his relatives find comfort.  They were very close brothers, in family and in priesthood.

    Then this evening we watched a movie about Our Lady of Guadalupe - really about the life of Juan Diego whom she appeared to long ago in Mexico.  It was good to be inspired.

Wednesday, December 7, 2022

The POWER of the WORD

      Today we honor Saint Ambrose, the bishop of Milan from 374 when elected by popular acclamation and ordained on this date (December 7th) until his death in 397.  In those 23 years he brought life to the Church through his service to the poor, his teaching of the faith and his preaching, for which he was well known.  It is said that a young Augustine, a non-believer who lived a "wild" life, heard Ambrose preach and was touched by the power of the word.  He was attracted to the message of the Gospel and sought out Ambrose who led him to the Church.  Augustine, of course, became the great saint and bishop of Hippo.

     Ambrose in a letter to brother bishops spoke of the grace of their words winning over people to their message.  In the Office of Readings I quote from this letter: "Let your words be rivers, clean and limpid, so that in your exhortations you may charm the ears of your people.  And by the grace of your words win them over to follow your leadership.  Let your sermons be full of understanding.  Solomon says: The weapons of the understanding are the lips of the wise; and in another place he says: Let your lips be bound with wisdom.  That is, let the meaning of your words shine forth, let understanding blaze out.

     Let no word escape your lips in vain or be uttered without depth of meaning."

     Great words for any preacher of the Word of God!  Ambrose put this exhortation into practice, as evidenced by the effectiveness of his preaching.

    Pray for those who are commissioned to preach and teach, that their words be an effective source of inspiration.

Monday, December 5, 2022


     Yesterday, Sunday the 4th of December, Bishop Larry Kulick and the Diocese of Greensburg hosted a traditional Slovak Christmas Eve Dinner as well as a celebration of song and dance provided by "the Pittsburgh Slovakians".  A large crowd attended this annual event which was held at the Christ Our Shepherd Center in Greensburg, our Diocesan facility.  Those of a Slovak background and their guests enjoyed the evening and a great traditional Christmas Eve Dinner.

     Since we live on the same campus we were happy to have had the same delicious Slovak food in our dining room.  We were given baked cod, pierogies, peas, pagach (a food made of mashed potatoes, dough, cheese and onions or cabbage), mushroom soup, bobalki (dough balls with poppyseed), and prunes among other delights.  We enjoyed this special meal.

    There are many traditions surrounding Christmas, most coming from our various national customs and fares.  May you have traditions that you uphold with your families.

Sunday, December 4, 2022


      I shared this reflection on Saturday on my lectio program on WAOB radio.

     On this second Sunday of Advent we meet John, the son of Elizabeth and Zechariah.  We meet him in the third chapter of Matthew's gospel.  John is one of the primary icons of the Advent season - an image of revelation given us by God.

     The very first verse begins: "John the Baptist appeared."

     This is the man who is seen as the last of the prophets of old and the first of the prophetic voices of the new covenant.  The scriptures tell us of John that there is no man born of woman greater than John.

     John appeared crying out in the wilderness ... preaching to the searching souls a message of challenge and of hope.   The challenge is to repent ... the hope is found in trust.  

     Isaiah says of him: "The voice of one crying in the wilderness; prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his path."

    The people who walked in darkness and who understood the promise of a light to guide them waited ... and waited ... and waited.  When they saw this man - who wore a garment of camel's hair and a leather girdle around his waist, who fed on locusts and wild honey ... this "wild man" who spoke God's word with such power and conviction - they were ready, they responded, they came to him at the Jordan river.

     Inspired by his word and made ready by their hunger they came to the waters of repentance, for the chance to move forward with renewed vigor on their spiritual journey.  We must ask ourselves: Are we ready to hear his call to repentance and new life?

Wednesday, November 30, 2022


           Today the Church celebrates the Feast of Andrew, the Apostle.  He is the brother of another Apostle, Peter.  Andrew was born in Bethsaida and was a disciple of John the Baptist, who is featured predominantly in this Advent season.  He became a follower of Jesus when, as we hear in the Gospel of Matthew today, they were called by Jesus to follow him.  They did so without hesitation.  Andrew preached the gospel in many lands and was put to death by crucifixion at Achaia (his cross was placed in the direction of an X.)

     I had the honor of being the celebrant for our early morning Mass at Neumann House, our residence for retired priests.  We take turns as celebrant.  I spoke of the example that Andrew and Peter give us as brothers: in ministry as well as in the familial sense.  The Apostles give us another example in James and John, the sons of Zebedee.  One of our priests at Neumann House joins that group - Father Al Pleban, a retired priest of Greensburg.  He and his brother, Father Leo Pleban, a retired priest of the Youngstown Diocese who lives in Mt. Pleasant, share a priestly brotherhood and a familial brotherhood.  Both are great men and fine priests and good brothers to those of us who share the gift of priesthood.  [Please offer a special prayer for Father Leo who is ailing.]

     I mentioned in my homily a passage from a homily of Saint John Chrysostom on the feast of Andrew from the gospel of John.  The line I mentioned is: "To support one another in the things of the spirit is the true sign of good will between brothers, of loving kinship and sincere affection."

     This applies not only to familial ties of sisters and brothers, not only to the fraternal ties of ministerial priesthood but also to all of us who are brothers and sisters in the name of Christ.  Support one another, with loving kinship and sincere affection in the name of Christ Jesus, our brother.