Thursday, September 12, 2019

Project 88 update: two more counties

It's been pretty busy lately in the parish, although it's weird -- because it's not for any particular reason. It just seems like I've been getting more calls, and having more meetings and projects. Actually, I do know some of the reasons, but still it all seems to be hitting at once. So this will be a quick update on Project 88, my personal endeavor to visit all 88 counties in my home state of Ohio.

Some of my trips have involved going out on Sunday, staying overnight, and coming back the next day; that enables more. But last Sunday, I was looking forward to staying home, so I planned for a day trip Monday to Fairfield and Pickaway Counties. These are right in the center of Ohio, south and southeast of Columbus, our capital.

Since I was on a tight schedule, I took the Interstate all the way to Columbus, and turned south on U.S. 33 toward my first stop, Lockville, in Fairfield County. There's not much there, other than a park with several locks of the old Ohio and Erie Canal (not to be confused with the Miami and Erie, which passed north from Cincinnati all the way to Lake Erie, passing near where I live now). Here are some shots:

As I walked between these walls, I thought of how each of these stones was cut and shaped; such work!

This bridge was moved here, of course. It can be rented for picnics; there are tables nearby as well.

After this, I decided to investigate a place with a curious name: Lithopolis. On the way I passed some apple trees with their fruit being harvested . . .

. . . and a horse in a pasture. I wanted to get out and visit the horse, but I wondered if the owner would come along, and maybe the horse would object?

Lithopolis did indeed turn out to be interesting.

First, the war memorial, using lots of stone (lithos); the city was clearly a place where stone was quarried, although I didn't go looking for the quarry.

Across the street from the war memorial was this inviting sign; alas, the place was closed!

Then I noticed a store, and I went in to visit and maybe get something to drink. The store had water (75 cents! what a deal!); I asked about Coke Zero. "Oh, we have that, but she (referring to the unseen helper in the back) drinks it! We have Pepsi One." I stuck with water. Here's the friendly clerk:

I asked her about some signs I saw for "Honeyfest." Was it upcoming, or did I miss it? "You missed it, it was last weekend." There were bee keeping demonstrations and so forth! Sounded like fun. She also told me about the Wagnall Memorial which was just down the street, so I went there:

She explained this was in memory of Adam Wagnalls, who was part of the Funk and Wagnalls publishing company, which used to produce encyclopedias and dictionaries, among other books.  The clerk added that the books were printed there in Lithopolis at one time. I wanted to ask about the "mayonnaise jar" from the porch, but I lost my nerve. Anyway, here are two original Norman Rockwell paintings on display at the Wagnalls Memorial, which has a church attached, by the way:

The clerk also steered me toward the mill at Rock Mill, so I headed that way. I passed the Bloom Township offices, here they are:

Feeling a little peckish, I noticed this brewery -- maybe they had lunch? But it was closed:

And here was the mill, in Rock Mill. It is open for weekends for demonstrations, I think; but not open on Monday. I met a nice older couple looking around and we talked a bit.

Here's a view of the Hocking River, which powered the mill. You may not be able to tell from this photo, but it has high rock walls and the river spills down from an even narrower channel on the left.

Now it was time to head toward Pickaway County, which was named for a band of Shawnee Indians who used to live here. I meandered my way toward Marcy (right on the county line), where I found a store and restaurant in business since 1840. Here it is:

I ordered a burger and got a pop. "Do you have Coke Zero?" "Usually, but the truck hasn't arrived today." I settled for a diet Dr Pepper. While I waited, I noticed this display:

I took my lunch with me, planning to visit the working farm in nearby Slate Run Park. It was closed. I ate my lunch at the park, and decided to meander further. I found my way to Saint Paul, which seemed just a few homes grouped around a Lutheran church named . . . St. Paul. Here it is:

From there I wandered over toward a point on the map called "Little Chicago," near Ashville, but that turned out to be a bust. I am skipping over my unfortunate encounter with a tailgater -- nothing bad, actually amusing in a way, but no time. I passed through Commercial Point, where I saw this former IOOF hall -- that's the International Order of Odd Fellows, an esoteric fraternal organization something like the Freemasons. My great-grandfather was an Odd Fellow, and he's buried in their section at Cincinnati's Spring Grove. I have certainly seen many of their halls, some of which I've photographed for this tour. The IOOF still exists, with something like a quarter-million members worldwide.

From Commercial Point, I headed up toward Orient, where there is a massive "correctional institute." Sorry, no pictures -- it's illegal to take photos of Ohio prisons! From there I drove up toward London -- what a nice place, I should go back! -- but I was headed toward I-70 and home. Before I got on the interstate, I passed through Summerford, which was located right on U.S. 40, built on the old National Road. Here's another IOOF hall:

And here's a view of old U.S. 40, which might be built right on the National Road, that was so important in our nation's building:

That will have to do. That makes 71 counties, and if all goes well, I hope to pick up a few next week. Stay tuned!

Sunday, September 08, 2019

The Eucharist is Jesus. We must risk offense and tell people what that means (Sunday homily)

In this Gospel, Jesus is very clear. And shocking.
To be his disciple, his follower, costs absolutely everything.
When he says “renounce” your possessions, 
that doesn’t mean do without them or walk away from them.

Rather, he means to treat what you own, as if you do not own it. 
It’s not your paycheck, from which you give Jesus 5 or 10%;
It is all his money which he entrusts to you to manage.

Most appalling is when he says, “take up your cross.” 
This is not a metaphor.
How do I make you feel the trauma of those words?
Imagine you are African-American, 
and people you know have been lynched, right in your home town; 
and Jesus says, “take up your rope and follow me.”

So: to follow Jesus is not a part-time hobby. 
Christianity isn’t for wimps or wusses.

So in that context, let me go back to my homily a few weeks ago, 
when I talked about the Most Holy Eucharist. 
I was very passionate. I got really excited. 
And I think I caused some discomfort.
For that I am sorry. Not for being passionate, 
but setting the dial at just the right spot 
between “boring” and “bombastic” is harder than you might think.

If you will recall what got me worked up 
was the news that 70% of all Catholics in this country don’t know, 
or don’t believe, the Eucharist IS Jesus. 
Further, some 37% of Catholics at Mass every week – every week! – 
similarly do not believe in the Eucharist, or don’t know.

This is not a minor thing. This is a catastrophe. 
This is an all-hands-on-deck moment.

So what do we do? 

I have seen people come forward for Holy Communion 
who clearly don’t know what is going on – 
which most likely means, they aren’t Catholic.
They take the Host, and they have no clue what to do.
When I see that, I will quietly say, “Are you Catholic?”
Or I will say, “you have to consume that, or give it back, please.”

This is awkward; I don’t want to embarrass people; 
but what else can I do?

Less often does this happen at Sunday Mass. 
More often at a funeral or a wedding. 

So I’ve decided I’m going to start including something in my homily 
on this matter at weddings and funerals. I’ve done this before, 
but from now on, I am going to try to do it every time.
But I know this won’t be enough.
I can give a ten-minute homily and people won’t get the message;
What are the odds a single 30-second announcement will do the trick?

So now I’m going to make an uncomfortable request; I’m sorry.

When your friends or family come with you to Mass, 
you must talk to them. And if you say, this is too much to ask, 
I refer you back to the words of Jesus you just heard!

It is true that some people take offense no matter what.
But Jesus didn’t let that stop him, nor should we.
Be polite; be loving; but be bold and clear – for the sake of Christ!
He comes first, before family, before everything!

That said, it isn’t necessarily true that people will be offended.
I was in South Korea many years ago, and my hosts 
took me to a Buddhist temple.
Most Koreans are Buddhists, although I was with fellow Catholics.

I did what any sensible person would do.
I asked, what is proper for me to do? What shouldn’t I do?
I wanted to show respect. Most people get this! Explain it that way.

Still, there’s a bigger question:
Why do we even care if people take Holy Communion who shouldn’t?
In fact, lots of people, lots of Catholics, really don’t care;
They figure, what’s the big deal?
If people act with innocent intent, is God angry? No.
So again, why not just let it go?

Suppose I invited you over to my house, and you met 20 or 30 people.
Then, after they left, I told you, one of those people 
was the Governor, or, one of those people was a top golfer, 
or one of the greatest professional dancers or musicians in the world.

And then you say to me: why didn’t you tell me? 
There are questions I’d have asked, things I’d have wanted to know?
I wish I had known I was meeting that person!

In the Eucharist, they are meeting the King of Kings!
Shouldn’t they know?
More than that, shouldn’t they be ready? 
Because it’s not just meeting Jesus, 
they are entering into communion with Jesus. 
And, more than that, they are entering into communion – 
into a covenant – with all of us. 
That’s why Catholics don’t receive communion in a Protestant church; 
and why we don’t invite non-Catholics to receive Holy Communion here.
Not because they are unworthy – ALL of us are unworthy! –
But rather, because they aren’t just uniting with Jesus,
But with the whole Catholic Church! 
That’s what “Holy Communion” means.

Shouldn’t our friends and visitors know what it means?
Who they are meeting? 
What a solemn act it is to eat his Flesh and drink his Blood?

Shouldn’t they also know what Jesus asks of them?
When did Jesus ever say, I invite you to have a casual, 
now-and-again relationship with me? He never said that.
Rather, he said: put aside everything and take up your cross!

What service are we doing our friends if we invite them 
to do the exact opposite of what Jesus said his disciples should do?

It is never my intention to give offense in a homily or any other time.
But if I’m not willing to risk offending you, then what does that say?

So I ask you, are you really looking out for your family and friends, 
if you don’t explain to them 
that the Holy Eucharist is not a “what” but a “Who”?
And not just any “who,” but the one who forgives sins 
and grants eternal life? The gate of heaven? Our only hope?

The Eucharist is Jesus; he is our King. Without this, we aren’t Catholic.
Jesus calls each of us to bear witness. 
Let’s take up the Cross together; together with Jesus!

Wednesday, September 04, 2019

Father Fox's Special Salad: what do you think?

So here's a salad I made the other day for dinner:

This is a variation on a salad I make pretty regularly, using either Boston or Red Leaf lettuce (as in this case), tomatoes, avocado, hearts of palm, sometimes bell pepper, sometimes radish, usually bacon (but not in this case -- it would have a definite plus), and my own dressing which I will describe shortly. Since this was dinner, I ran to the store next door and got some chicken breasts, which I poached in Budweiser (because that's what I had handy, I figured it would add more flavor than water). After poaching, I cut up half a breast and seasoned the meat with salt and pepper.

Here's my dressing -- fair warning, the quantities are sketchy and you are warned to figure it out:

- Juice and pulp from half a lemon or a lime (the pulp is just extra, not critical)
- 2-3 tablespoons olive oil
- 1-2 tablespoons red wine vinegar (white vinegar will do in a pinch)
- 2-3 teaspoons of anchovy paste
- 2 teaspoons of garlic paste (the equivalent of fresh garlic is fine, but you may need want a little water or other liquid for the right consistency)
- 2 teaspoons grated parmesan or romano cheese
- generous amount of fresh ground pepper
- a good pinch of Kosher salt
- a few red pepper flakes if you want

All this gets stirred up into a reasonably smooth consistency and makes enough for two salads.

Yes, this is similar to Caesar dressing, but not the same; Caesar includes Dijon mustard and egg yolks, but no vinegar. I simply came up with this as something easy to put together, and which is pretty good even if some of the proportions shift (i.e., more of this, less of that). 

I've made this salad many times, so obviously I like it. Any suggestions? If you try my dressing, let me know what you think.

Sunday, September 01, 2019

Who do you think you are? (Sunday homily)

When we are children, we all have those moments 
when we are trying to get mom or dad’s attention. 
Look, mom! Look! Look! Look!!

Of course, our parents want to look and see what we’re doing;
But they might be driving, or fixing dinner, 
or getting other work done, and they can’t always look. 
They might even get irritated.

But let me tell you something, and this is true no matter how young, 
or how old, you are: 
parents never stop wanting to look at their children. Never.

Last Sunday I had a baptism, and afterward, as I always do, 
I ask to hold the baby, the newly christened saint.

And there’s something that often happens: 
the baby that is peaceful and content 
in her mother or father’s embrace, 
slowly starts getting agitated and cries. 

Then, when I give the baby back, he’s calm again.
Why is that? Because in various ways, 
that infant recognizes her parents, but doesn’t recognize me.

There is a connection, that literally begins with conception, 
and is nourished a thousand ways from that point on; 
and whether we realize it or not, whether we acknowledge it or not, 
that connection with our parents, that love, 
sustains us and gives us peace and confidence. 

It makes us able to be complete people.  
Even decades later, when you and I become full adults, 
and seem to be on our own, that bond remains, and it is powerful.

On the other hand, if all that doesn’t happen in the way I describe: 
if there is some distance or rupture, if there is a wound?
That can be very painful, and it can have affects long after.

Many of us, as adults, have had to find healing for those wounds.

The point I am making is that what happens on this natural plain, 
also happens on the supernatural level.

In the Gospel, Jesus describes a scene: 
people are jostling for the best seats. 
It’s not that they are most comfortable places; 
it’s that they are closest to the host of the party; the big-shot.

Jesus might as easily have been talking about 
someone trying to impress the boss; 
or in school, when certain kids seem to be cool, 
so they’re the ones you want to hang out with.

But if I have a good relationship with my boss, I can relax; 
I don’t have to impress him. 
And the point of the Gospel is, 
if you have a good relationship with Jesus, then what else matters?

Who cares where you sit? How you dress?
So what if you go to your 20 year reunion, and you’ve put on weight, 
Your hair is thinking, and you don’t have an impressive job?

Look at what you and I are doing, right now: we’re at Holy Mass.
We are going to have an audience with the King of Kings, almighty God!
He’s going to be here, right here, in our midst, on this altar!

Nothing else comes even close to that!

I hope you go to our festival, I hope you have a good time – 
and spend a lot of money! – but this, here, is so much more important!
There’s no comparison.

Our relationship with Jesus is our treasure.
If there’s a wound, we can fix it immediately in confession.
How good Jesus is to us! 

If you get crosswise with your boss, or your spouse, 
or your neighbors, that can be hard to put right.
But when we commit mortal sins, what does Jesus do?
Kick us out? Say, “I’m done with you?”
No, he invites us, he prays for us, to seek him out in confession.

It is such a great gift, that sometimes we take it for granted.

Why do we try to impress other people? 
The boss? A girl or a guy we’re interested in? Relatives?
Why do we envy what other people have? Their good looks or talents? 
Their youth? Their opportunities or advantages?
It all boils down to one thing, really: whether you and I are at peace. 
Peace with what we have and who we are.

What you and I have is Jesus. Who we are is his friends.
That can and will be ours forever! What else do we need?

Wednesday, August 28, 2019

Getting railroaded into prison in Ohio (Project 88 report)

This is a busy week, with the Russia State Fair, aka the Russia Homecoming Festival, this weekend. Truth is, I don't have to do so much; but there's a lot of coming and going.

So let me squeeze in a report from my latest jaunt as part of "Project 88," my plan to visit all 88 Ohio counties. This last Sunday and Monday, I ticked off eleven! Here's how it went.

Sunday afternoon, after a couple of baptisms, I headed off for Port Clinton, in Ottawa County. This is Commodore Perry territory; if you take the ferry over to Put-In Bay, you can see the monument commemorating one of the U.S.'s few victories in the War of 1812. I didn't take the ferry, but I did look around Port Clinton. Here's the Veterans Park. It was pretty elaborate, including an eternal flame (picture didn't turn out, sorry).

In case our British friends, or Canada, gets rambunctious, Port Clinton has a tank:

A lighthouse, looking out on Lake Erie:

From here I headed east along State Route 2, then turned south in Loraine County, passing through Brownhelm, where I pulled over to get this pic:

In case it's not clear, this isn't an active gas station. A sign made me think the local preservation society was responsible for this. Anyway, nicer than the decay I've seen so often. Heading down S.R. 58, I saw signs for "New Russia"! Didn't get a picture, however. I was headed to Oberlin, home of Oberlin College and the Gibson family bakery. Don't know the story? You can read it here, but the gist is this: some college kids got arrested for shoplifting at the Gibson bakery in Oberlin -- a town dominated by the college of the same name -- and the "woke" contingent of students went crazy. Some of the administrators appear to have egged the students on, resulting in the Gibson bakery family -- having suffered severe economic damages -- filed a lawsuit. Which they won, to the tune of $44 million, later reduced to $32 million. The whole thing is pretty outrageous, and I'm glad the Gibsons fought back and won. So I made a special trek to the Gibson bakery, here:

Looking around inside, I was impressed by the wine and cheese selection. While the bakery does have baked goods, it more a small grocery, and I was tempted by the cheeses and sweets, I bought a bottle of wine and a water. While checking out, I told the clerk I'd come all the way the across the state, and made a special visit here just to show support (I explained a little about my Project 88, as well). She let me take her picture:

Here are some sights around Oberlin, which despite being infected with far left ideology, is a pretty nice looking town. Here's the oldest church in town, which helped with the Underground Railroad back in the day:

Here's an explanation of the church: it was built for the legendary Presbyterian preacher Charles G. Finney, who was part of the Second Great Awakening (oh how we need a third, or a fourth, if the late Tom Wolfe was right?), and later pastored by a woman preacher.

Here's the Allen Art Gallery. Isn't that lovely?

Then look what the Philistines did! They glommed some ugly building right onto it. So dumb.

And then this, right in the center of town:

You know what was perfect here? The UN flag -- that's the rightward most one. While the U.S., Ohio and Rainbow flags were in great shape, the poor UN banner was completely faded and looked pretty ragged. Unintended irony?

From there I headed west into Huron County, passing through Wakeman. I looked over and saw this and shuddered. That's a church?

But soon I saw this, and calmed down:

Saint Mary Church, Wakeman, Ohio
When I was researching for this trip, I discovered the amazing Thomas Edison was from near here: Milan, Ohio, in Erie County. Even though I've been to Erie, I'd never visited Edison's birthplace. Growing up, Mr. Edison was one of my heroes. So it was worth a short detour, even though the museum was going to be closed. Here are some sights. First, a really cool statue in front of the town hall, which matches one on display in the U.S. Capitol:

In case you can't tell, Edison is holding both the light bulb and the phonograph. Here's where he grew up:

Here is more information about the great Edison:

By now it's past six, and I have a few more stops. Here's the Zion Episcopal Church in Monroeville, done in an unusual style:

The church is no longer in operation; it's just waiting for someone to fix it up, or else to fall down.

Next stop was dinner. I chose the Freight House in Norwalk. It turned out to be an interesting place, all done up in a railroad theme. There was a model train running around the perimeter of the restaurant, overhead; I got a photo, but only later discovered an off-color license plate was in the shot! I enjoyed a nice plate of ribs and some tasty beer. Here's the place:

From there I headed down the road a mile to my hotel. Cheap but not scary, if you know what I mean. Under $40 a night! I'd normally not give that a second look, but it had high reviews. It was run by a nice family with two young children. It was clean and quiet, but the a/c acted strangely during the night. Thankfully it was pretty cool outside. The mother told me I didn't work it right (duh!).

The next morning I was up early, and after hitting the McDonalds for breakfast, I figured out my plan. I realized I had some extra time, so I decided to drive east and take in two counties not on my original plan, Medina and Wayne. I'd still get back to Mansfield, for the main highlight, on schedule. I'd planned for fuller visits here later, but I can still do that; but for now, it was a single stop in each county. My first stop was the Crittenden Farm, which was actually someone's house, and didn't look open for visitors. My phone ate the photo however. This brought me into Ashland County. From there I drove east along U.S. 224, through several nice towns, stopping in Homerville. Not much there, but I did get this picture:

I saw the fellow driving the horse and buggy for awhile, but sometimes the Amish don't like their picture taken, so I figured this was more polite. Then south on 301 to West Salem, taking me into Wayne. This caught my eye. It looked like a church...


Only it wasn't:

By the way: anyone who travels around the country can't help be struck by how frequently you find Masonic temples, either active, or else their old buildings, used for other purposes. There's a story there, but I'm not the one to tell it. Anyway, I've got to keep moving!

From West Salem I hopped on U.S. 42 to take me to Ashland. If I stayed on 42, it would eventually become Reading Road in Cincinnati. For some reason, it fascinates me to drive on a new part of a road I've been on, many, many miles away. In Ashland, I still had some time to kill, before my main appointment of the day, so I found this coffee shop, Downtown Perk. The fellow in the kilt (at the counter) is a bonus.

After this, I headed over to Mansfield, to visit the Ohio State Reformatory, first tour at 11. My best friend Brad will be disappointed; he suggested we go together, but I didn't think it would work with me zigzagging through eleven counties. I'll make it up to him. Anyway, I didn't want to miss the first tour, so I hurried over -- only to be stuck in a line of cars waiting for the gate to open, which it did, right at 11. Of course it's no longer a prison, but whoever runs it offers several tours, one about the movies made there (including Shawshank Redemption and Air Force One); but what intrigued me was the "Inmate tour":

Real-Life behind bars may be difficult to understand unless you have lived it. Such is the case for the tour guide, Michael Humphrey, who spent 14 months here in the late 1960s. Walk through the prison as Michael leads you through a normal day for an inmate and hear stories that stick with Michael all these years later. 

Alas, I found out it's only available on weekends; and the Hollywood tour didn't start till noon. So, I opted for the self-guided.

Here's the outside; you can see people lining up for the later tour:

Here's a fellow answering questions in one of the first rooms you visit; these are the areas that were public in the old days, and they've been fixed up nicely. He was a friendly fellow. In another room, there was equipment used for executions. When I realized that people had actually been executed with the things I was looking at, I decided no pictures, and I moved on. Yes, they most likely deserved it; but we'll be better off if we don't kill people we don't have to.

Here is a room seen in Shawshank:

Here's one of the cell blocks, five levels high. Even with fresh paint, this must have been a terrible place.

One of the cells. It is actually smaller than it looks.

 There weren't a lot of people at the prison with me, and almost all of them were waiting for the Hollywood tour. I had this whole place seemingly to myself. Creepy.

After this, it was time to head west toward Crawford County. My next stop was Galion, where I wanted to see the Big Four Railroad Station -- the same railroad that used to run through Russia (now CSX). Here it is:

It's all fixed up, and tours are offered -- but not today. A lot of Galion looked beat up, but this caught my eye:

From there I turned south toward Mount Gilead, bringing me to Morrow County. Here's the center square. There was a lot of traffic, it wasn't easy getting to this safely, but I did.

Here's a closeup:

Oh, by the way -- back on U.S. 42!

From here I turned east again toward Chesterville. This is one side of downtown; across the street looked a little better:

Continuing along S.R. 95, I passed into Knox County, heading for Mount Vernon. My great-great-great-grandfather, Adam Fox, who served briefly in the Maryland Militia during the Revolution, lived here for a short time, before making his way to Cincinnati and then dying in Indiana. Anyway, here's a monument to those who suppressed the "Great Rebellion":

Nearby are some markers telling a lesser-known story from the War Between the States, of a private citizen who opposed the war, and was arrested for no other reason than that:

Think what you like about Abraham Lincoln, but there are dark sides to his legacy.

This restaurant caught my eye. I resisted temptation to get a malt:

It was after 2, and I had a bit of a drive home, so I opted to only go as far south as Utica, bringing me to Licking County, and then turn west, skipping Fredonia, where I hope they have some commemoration of Groucho Marx. Here's a mural in Utica, telling a story:

Did you realize window glass used to be hand-made? When it was, Utica was king.

And that's the last of my photos! Sorry, it was starting to rain, and I had a 2+ hour drive home. From there I headed down U.S. 62, through Johnstown, the home of the late, great state conservative congressman, John Ashbrook. A little further south I took the Columbus, 270 beltway around to U.S. 33, thence to Bellefontaine and then home.

Next trip? I'm not sure. Maybe back east, to check out the Amish in Holmes County, our national park, Cuyahoga Valley, in Summit, and the NFL Hall of Fame in Stark? Or maybe Hocking Hills in Hocking, and knock out a few down that way? Only 18 to go!