Thursday, April 16, 2015

What's exciting in a small town? Digging a hole...

Across the street from the parish, the village is doing some work on Nine Mile Creek.

The retaining walls are being redone, a concrete basin is being poured, and then a "cap" will be put over it, followed by soil and grass. The mayor, who was watching the guys work when I walked up, explained that the existing wall is deteriorating, and "if it were to fail, we'd lose Main Street and have to shut it all down."

The area where the yellow bulldozer (is that what it's called?) will actually become a small park down the road, after all this is complete.

And -- ha! -- I have a scoop on the Fish Report!





Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Tax Day, Pot Roast Day

Today was tax day for me. I filed my federal and state taxes online, no problems -- although I ended up owing a lot more to Uncle Sugar than I thought. Remember the payroll tax cut that expired in 2013? Well, I forgot; and my tax withholding was based on the prior year's total owed. Hopefully Uncle Sugar doesn't assess a penalty.

My state taxes, as always, were a breeze. By the way, did you know that there's a $50 credit for giving money to a politician? If you have someone you like, give him or her $50, and you get a credit on your taxes. Meaning: the campaign contribution costs you nothing! I think $50 is the max, however.

I also found out that the amount I can contribute to my IRA was higher than I thought. So I have a check on my desk which I'll run over to my friend in Piqua tomorrow.

It also turns out that in Russia, I have to file a tax return. Only that must be done on paper. So I printed off the papers and spent a good hour trying to fill it out correctly. I think I got it right. I owed nothing; I get nothing back. 

After that, I got working on a pot roast I was planning. I found a recipe at Allrecipes.com, with which I've had good luck. Especially helpful are the reviews, where I often see variations that look better than the original.

Anyway, this recipe started with a roast (I can't recall what cut of beef), some flour and pepper (I added garlic powder), and some butter. I was a little short on the butter, so I used the rest of the oil I had.

Here's the roast, after having been dredged in the flour/pepper/garlic mixture, browning in the butter and oil. As a matter of fact, it did smell good!


Meanwhile, I chopped up these vegetables for the pan. I will add some potatoes shortly.


And here's everything crammed into the pan. Over this I poured about 3/4ths cup of dry Vermouth (per the recipe), but omitted the dry onion soup mix and the cream of mushroom soup. Instead, I added some beef broth. Now I'm thinking I might have salted it. What do you think?


Stay tuned, as always, for further developments.

Update, 5:47 pm...

After cutting up some red potatoes, I got the roast from the oven and pulled back the foil. Why, yes, it does smell good! As you can see, it's rather brothy. That's good, I think. Remember the butter and oil I used to brown the meat? I saved that. That, plus this, will make some splendid gravy, don't you think? And since I won't want to explain that later, this is a good time to tell you how I do that...


Gravy is easy. The basics are some flavorful juice from the meat you're cooking, and/or some added broth, plus some fat and some flour. Yes, flour, not corn starch. First you start with the fat, and add a bit of flour, making a roux. The flour won't be lumpy that way. Then you take the broth -- this pan, for example, after the meat and vegetables are removed -- and this should be cooked down a bit, being careful to scrape all the crusty, tasty bits into the broth. If you don't have a lot of liquid, but you do have lots of browning on the pan, You can add some liquid and "wash" that goodness into the liquid. This is called "deglazing," and you can't miss with this. Any liquid will do, but I wouldn't use water unless I had nothing else. Wine works nicely, although you may want to cook it a bit if you don't want to taste the alcohol. The roux -- which can be browned, by the way, but I tend not to do that -- goes in, adding thickness. I happen to like gravy that's not overly thick; mainly because that's how I remember mom doing it.

I was thinking of sauteing some spinach, but I'm not sure now. What do you think?

Oh, and about the salt -- I decided to add some Kosher salt, along with some more pepper and garlic powder. Can't go wrong with that!

Update, 7:18 pm...

OK, it's time to take the roast from the oven. Here it is...


While that rests, I whip up the gravy. Sorry I didn't give you a shot of the crispy bits left over from the browning, but you can see them if you look closely. I had so much broth, I decided not to turn it all into gravy. I can always make more. Here I am stirring it so it's a little bit thick, as I like it.


And here's dinner, with a bit of gravy on it, and some red wine from the next county over. The containers in the picture hold the remaining broth (bottom) and gravy (top). The pan full of meat and veggie goodness is nearby. Now I eat! (Actually, I started before I posted these pictures!)


The Verdict?

Quite good! After all that, it needed a bit more salt and pepper, and more garlic wouldn't have hurt. The carrots, despite cooking for three hours, were perfect. The onion was a little soft, but I don't mind that. I really like onions baked this way. The meat was nearly fork-tender; which means it'll be even better after it sits a bit in the fridge. The potato was good, although the half left on my plate might benefit from a bit more gravy...Which was very good. Even the wine was good, if a bit...thin.

I can't believe this would be the first pot roast I've made, yet I can't remember doing it. This is something I'd definitely make again, and with guests, next time! This wasn't hard, and I didn't need a crock-pot for this, although that would work. Nor did I need to keep a close eye on it, which is good!

Anon comments now enabled

Since almost no one comments, I decided to take a chance on allowing "anonymous" comments.

Here's the deal. If you post anonymously, still please sign some name. It doesn't have to be real; but it's helpful so that I or others can respond to you -- it helps sort out different "anonymouses."

If I start getting spammed with fake comments, I may have to stop this. But let's try.

And please comment when you read my posts, if only to say, "I was here!"

Sunday, April 12, 2015

It's the needy who are generous (Divine Mercy homily)

It was Pope Saint John Paul II who declared this Sunday 
to be “Divine Mercy Sunday.” 

Now, it often happens 
that popes will promote a particular devotion or spirituality. 
And when they do, it’s not a matter of faith or morals, 
so it’s not an exercise of their infallibility. 
No one has to pray the Divine Mercy chaplet.

Still, it’s worth noting how this devotion 
has caught the imagination of so many. 
That suggests that the messages it is based on are genuinely from God. 
It was a Polish nun, Saint Faustina, who, in 1931, 
began receiving visions of Jesus, 
telling her about his eagerness to forgive sins; 
and later, she received messages about 
creating the image that is displayed, 
as well as the Divine Mercy chaplet.

It’s also worth noting that this isn’t a new message. 
In the 1600s, it was the devotion to the Sacred Heart, 
which was spurred by messages 
received by another nun, another mystic, Saint Margaret Mary Aloque. 

By the way, this is a good time to talk about 
why the Church needs religious brothers and sisters. 
We often talk about the priesthood. 
I talk about it because it’s what I live. 
But it’s important to realize how much the Church benefits 
from the various religious communities 
that have sprung up over the millennia. 


Some of our religious societies got started 
because someone saw a need and got to it. 
Saint Vincent de Paul, for example, in helping the poor; 
or Mother Seton, in fostering Catholic schools in this country. 
Some of our religious congregations began around a way of life, 
such as Saint Francis or Saint Clare. 
Some were formed around a devotion to intense prayer, 
such as the Benedictines; 
some were about calling people to conversion, such as the Dominicans.

Faustina joined the Sisters of our Lady of Mercy. 
She was drawn to them 
as a result of prayer before the Blessed Sacrament. 
The Lord spoke to her heart, 
drawing her to a life of intense prayer and intercession for mercy.

Now, I can imagine that when men or women 
consider entering religious life, 
the thought comes to mind: well, what will you be doing with your life? 
Don’t you want to do more than just…pray?

Can’t you just picture people saying such things to Faustina? 
Or how about when Therese, the Little Flower, 
revealed her longing to join the Carmelites? 
Or Mother Theresa, when she entered religious life?

What do you think? Do you think these three women – 
Faustina, the Little Flower, and Mother Theresa – 
have made an impact? 
And there are so many men and women we could add – 
Saint Benedict, Saint Francis, Saint Katherine Drexel, and more – 
who told their families they knew their call 
was to give their hearts totally to Jesus, 
in a life of prayer and caring for others. 
They not only changed the Church; they changed the world!

We all needed Faustina to make herself available to the Lord in prayer; 
not just a few minutes a day, but for hours. This became her life. 
It’s not for everyone; everyone has a role to play, 
and my vocation isn’t necessarily yours. 

But I say it again: we all needed Faustina to answer the call she received. 
And as a result, she became the Apostle of God’s Mercy.

And if you feel a call to the religious life, as with any other vocation: 
you won’t find full happiness doing anything else. 

The thing about the message of Divine Mercy – 
in all the ways God has offered us mercy – 
is that it only makes sense if we have something to be forgiven for. 

If I saw in the paper that Gov. Kasich had granted me a pardon, 
I’d be…concerned! I hadn’t known I needed one! 
But if I did; I’d sure be grateful.

We all need God’s mercy. Not one of us can say, “I have no sin.” 
But being reminded of God’s ready mercy 
may help us face the truth about our sins. 
Many carry a terrible weight of sin – God is eager to lift it.
Yet there are others who have a prior problem:
They don’t think they have all that much to be forgiven of.

That isn’t just other people. Quite a lot of Catholics think that way.
It’s an easy temptation. Oh, I’m sarcastic, occasionally; 
I gossip…a little. I’m a little selfish. But that’s all. 

This will never happen, but what if we had to bring our children, 
or our spouse, a neighbor, or a coworker, to confession with us? 
Do you think they might offer a rebuttal?

So the flip side of Divine Mercy is human honesty: 
I am a sinner, in more ways than I care to admit. 
The more I know myself that way, the more I come to God for mercy.

One of the things many people say they struggle with is forgiving – that is, giving mercy. 

It reminds me of something that is certainly true, and I’ve seen it: 
sometimes the most generous, and giving, people, are poor people. 

I read a story last week about a man who travelled the world, 
relying solely on others to give him food, shelter and transportation. 
He told the story of meeting a homeless man, 
who gave him food and clothing. Another beggar did that. 

That’s how you become someone who freely forgives. 

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Zombie Week

OK, I wasn't a zombie all week. Just the first few days.

I love Holy Week, but I was tired afterward. I am very grateful I didn't get sick. That can happen.

It was nice having bacon several times this week (including this morning), as I gave that up for Lent. Also coffee. That tasted good, too!

Monday I did very little. On Tuesday, I wished I'd planned to rest as well. Maybe next year, I will. All the same, it was a lighter week. I feel no guilt.

And, actually, I did get some things done. I cleared some junk off my desk. I had a nice visit with a reader of this blog; we had a lovely time sampling some wine and enjoying some pasta, all graced with a very enjoyable conversation. Yesterday morning, I took our 2-1/2 seminarians (one has applied, but not yet accepted) out for breakfast. We agreed that as delicious as the Sweet Shop's doughnuts are, we can't really tell the difference between them (although one had white icing). And I contemplated filling out my tax forms.

And I do feel pretty well rested, as the week comes to a close. Life is good!




Burning up the Easter Candle

Courtesy of Jo92
One of my Easter-Octave customs is to burn the Paschal Candle as much as possible. As a result, I had several people remind me the candle was still burning in church. "It's all right; it's supposed to." My reasoning is as follows. The Paschal Candle is mainly used during Easter Season; afterward, it's only lit for baptisms and funerals. Plus, a candle's purpose, it's telos (look it up), is to be burned. Recall the prayer that is sung at the Vigil:

On this, your night of grace, O holy Father, accept this candle, a solemn offering, the work of bees and of your servants' hands, an evening sacrifice of praise, this gift from your most holy Church.

So, notice: the Paschal Candle is a "solemn offering" to the Father, an offering of "praise," a gift from the Church.

Well, shouldn't we actually...offer it? When the year is up, and we replace that candle, shouldn't it be mostly...offered?

The Exsultet also compares the candle to the pillar of fire that led Israel out of slavery. And the prayer goes on to say:

Therefore, O Lord, we pray you that this candle, hallowed to the honor of your name, may persevere undimmed, to overcome the darkness of this night...

May this flame be found still burning by the Morning Star: the one Morning Star who never sets, Christ your Son, who, coming back from death's domain, has shed his peaceful light on humanity, and lives and reigns for ever and ever.

"May (it) persevere undimmed...(and) be found still burning" by Christ.

So I keep it burning, all day, during the Octave. I'm tempted to let it burn all night, but I'd worry about that. After the Octave, I try to light is as much as possible, whether we're having Mass, or I'm hearing confessions, or during exposition.

What do you think?

Sunday, April 05, 2015

'It all comes down to a tomb' (Easter homily)

After all our Lent, with penance and fasting,
after all of Holy Week, after all those readings,
it all comes down to a tomb.

This part of the Church’s year we call the “triduum”—“three days.” 
But it would be more helpful to understand them as three nights.

Thursday evening: the Lord Jesus and his Apostles 
celebrate the last Passover supper before his death; 
but it is also the first of the New Passover, 
which is what we celebrate as Christians – 
every year, every Sunday, and at every daily Mass.

Thursday night he and his friends prayed in the garden; 
Many of us prayed through the night in this church.

Sometime in the night he was betrayed and arrested. 
In the morning he is brought before Pilate. 
He is beaten savagely and then carries the cross to Golgotha.

It was about noon when they nailed him to the cross, 
and it was about three when he died. 
Because there were so many pilgrims in Jerusalem for Passover, 
it’s very likely many celebrated Passover the night before, 
as Jesus and the Apostles did. 
The Gospel of John makes clear that as our Lord was being crucified, 
the chief priests were preparing for their Passover.

When Jesus died on the cross at 3 pm, 
do you know what was happening nearby at the temple? 
The lambs for Passover were being slain. 
That’s when Jesus cried out: “It is finished!”

And so his death came at the time of the evening sacrifice. 
That’s the second evening.

They hurried to take his body from the cross, 
and lay it in the tomb, before night fell. 
Then it was the Sabbath. 
And after the night fell again, on Saturday, 
the Sabbath had ended. The third night.

Sometime in the dark, before dawn, is when Jesus rose from the dead. 
Mary Magdalene and the other women came early in the morning. 
The sense of the Scriptures seems to be 
that they arrived just as darkness was giving way to the morning.

Now, you have to look at all the Gospels 
to get all the details I will share with you. 

After Jesus died, his enemies demanded 
a guard be posted at the tomb, and Pilate granted it. 
When the resurrection happened, the earth shook, 
the stone was rolled aside, and the guards, witnessing this, 
were badly frightened and ran away. 
The chief priests bribed them to say that they had been asleep.

When Peter and John arrived later, 
after hearing the account of the women, 
but not fully believing them. 
When Peter and John entered the tomb, 
they saw only the linen cloth that had covered the Lord’s body. 
Now, this is a very important detail that many people don’t notice. 

If, as the guards claimed, the disciples came and stole the body, 
who would take time to unwrap it? 

Also, remember that when Jesus died, myrrh and aloes 
were used to anoint his body. 
In other words, the burial cloths would have been very stiff.

Do you know what Peter and John saw? 
They saw the burial cloths, still there, in the right position – 
but empty! When Jesus rose from the dead, 
he left them behind, just as they were!

Now, here’s why that detail is important.
If someone made up the story of the resurrection, why include that?
Who would even think of it?

You may wonder how we know these things.
We know them because people saw the empty tomb. 
Many more saw and heard Jesus after he rose from the dead, 
including all the Apostles. 
Thomas, as we know, was absent 
the first time the Lord came to his Apostles, and he was skeptical. 
Jesus came back the next week, and said: touch my hands and my side.

These witnesses began to tell their stories right away. 
They began within a matter of weeks. 
They were arrested, beaten; 
the Apostle James was killed right away, as were others. 
They were so convinced he rose, 
that they were willing to give their lives, 
even die terrible deaths themselves, 
rather than deny what they saw.

If Peter lied, if Paul lied, if the other Apostles lied, why? 
What did they gain?

In the end, it all comes down to a choice: do you believe?

In a few minutes, I’m going to ask ___ here that question. 
He’s been preparing for this night, 
for his baptism and his confirmation and his first holy communion. 
But before you are baptized, ____, I will ask you, in several questions, 
whether you believe this happened – 
do you believe Jesus died and rose, and lives forever?

I know that you do – that’s why you are here.

In the Apostles’ time, it was very dangerous 
to say “yes, I believe in Jesus.” 
In many places in our world, it is just as dangerous. 
In Kenya, terrorists invade a college, and ask people: are you Christian? 
And if they said yes, they killed them. 
In Libya, in Iraq, in Syria, and many other places, 
people are dying just as the Apostles did.

In our country, it is becoming costly to follow Jesus. 
You may be called a bigot; you may have your business taken from you. 
You may lose your job. 

So it’s a very important question, do you believe? 
It’s actually the most important question.

It all comes down to that tomb.

Saturday, April 04, 2015

A variety of things today...

It has been a long week. Holy Week always is, but I don't mind. It's the best time of the year, spiritually, and it is very rewarding for a pastor.

Having a packed church for Holy Thursday and Good Friday helps. Holy cow! Everyone came!

Good Friday was a marathon. Morning prayer, fiddling around the church, communion calls, confessions, stations, confessions, liturgy of Good Friday, more confessions, dinner, more stations. My treat last night? Some grapes.

Today: morning Prayer, confessions, breakfast, work on homily, make a cake, work on homily, cook the brass toppers for candles in the oven (that's how you get the wax off of them), work on homily, confessions, fiddle around in church (if you came by around 4:45 pm, you heard me practicing the Exsultet), make some dinner. Now I'm chilling for a bit. Dinner was a steak I picked up at Buschurs next door, some frozen spinach I sautéed with some garlic, and a glass of red wine. Sorry no pictures, but I was hungry!

Now a little TV till the Big Event.