Sunday, August 22, 2010

The rumor you heard...

That I was seen in a bucket truck (aka a "cherry-picker")...

is true!

Over the past year, Saint Boniface Church has been doing work on the exterior--we repainted the stucco-like "stone facing" and the trim, we refinished the doors and added some other nice touches--then this summer, we put copper on the steeple so it won't have to be repaired again for a very long time.

So, we asked Brian Brothers Painting, who did the exterior work, if they would send over a bucket truck; they were kind enough to do so. After 10:30 am Mass, I took off my chasuble, leaving on my alb and stole, and went outside. While everyone gathered, they rigged me up in a harness (no seat-belt extenders needed), and I climbed into the "bucket"; not easy! Then up we went.

We went up about 60 feet I think, and it didn't bother me; when I said that, Brian of Brian brothers--who was beside me at the tiller--jiggled the control, making the bucket bounce--or so I believe! He didn't exactly deny it later.

Once I got up there, only about half-way to the top actually, but good enough, I made my remarks. Had I a brain, I'd have made my remarks first! Oh well. I explained we wanted to thank Brian Brothers, and Wellman Brothers who did the copper work; then I confessed that there actually wasn't any official blessing for the church exterior (there ought to be! The official Book of Blessings is terrible!), "I just wanted an excuse for going up in a bucket truck!" Then I asked Brian if he'd been an altar boy; he said yes, so I handed him the holy water bucket, and I said a short prayer and sprinkled the tower of the church.

Just that quick, we were back down; with a little more maneuvering, I got out of the bucket (too much pasta carbonara in Rome earlier this summer!), and everyone clapped--out of relief, no doubt; had I gotten queasy, a lot of them were right underneath me!

Once back on terra firma, a fellow from Channel 2 of Dayton pointed a camera at me and asked a few questions; the last one was, "what was the best part?" After a pause, I blurted out, "getting back on the ground!"

I know you want to see photos; several folks snapped pictures, and I'll try to post some later this week. We'll send a photo to the Catholic Telegraph, so the Archbishop knows what I'm up to.

Comments moderated

Sorry folks, but a pest has returned. I asked him to leave. Twice. He won't.

This is one of the weird things about having a blog.

So I'm going to try comment moderation for awhile.

(Update: fyi, that doesn't mean you can't comment; it means there may be a pause before they appear. Folks are pretty much free to say what they like, and have been; this is the first time I've done this, out of necessity.)

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Who can be saved? (Sunday homily)

The big question in the Gospel was,
“can only a few be saved?”

Notice the Lord’s response:
He doesn’t say how many can, or even will be, saved.
Rather, he focuses on how to be saved:
“strive to enter by the narrow gate!”

After all, the Lord describes people
from “east and west.”
Does that sound like “only a few” will be saved?

You see, the Lord’s answer is, however many are saved—
and it may be a huge number—
they will only be saved through “the narrow gate.”

So what is the “narrow gate”?
The narrow gate is Christ himself.

We might wonder, what does this mean
for people who aren’t Catholic, or aren’t Christian?

The answer is,
Jesus Christ acts in the world to save people;
his primary way of acting is through the Catholic Church.
He founded it, he guides it with the Holy Spirit—
which is not easy; yet Christ is the head of his Church.

So, what about other Christians?
Some are closer to the fullness of the Gospel,
some are farther away.
The same for other religions: they have some light,
but not the fullness of what Christ has given.

Now, can we be saved even with a tiny bit of light?
Yes, it’s possible—but it’s not a method I’d recommend.
Personally, I need all the light I can get.

Realize also, just because you have more light,
doesn’t mean you have it any easier.
On the contrary—we’ll have more to answer for.

Some get a morsel—and respond gratefully;
Others get a banquet—and take it for granted.

Jesus Christ is the “narrow” gate.
That means that while he’s wide enough for all to enter—
but to enter, we must give up everything else.

For some, it may be possessions and wealth.
But for others, it may be a way of life;
it can be alcohol or drugs; pleasure or ambition.

For every one of us, there is something we grasp tightly,
that will not pass through the narrow gate.

Notice what those outside say:
“We ate and drank in your company
and you taught in our streets.”
But they did not say that they listened and obeyed.
This warning is aimed at us, his followers.

How many are present when the Lord teaches—
but don’t listen, don’t really change?

How many “eat and drink” the holy Eucharist
without being all that interested in the Lord himself?

Receiving the Eucharist is the moment of approaching,
and entering, the narrow gate!

Imagine the sacred host,
the Body of Christ, is the “gate”: how big is that host?
There is just room enough
for our will to surrender, and pass through.

I know some hear a message like this, and are fearful.
As if Jesus didn’t want to save us!

The answer is not fear, but trust.
The fearful person focuses on oneself: “Can I be saved?”
The trusting person focuses on Christ:
“Lord, you love me, and you will help me change.
I put my trust in you.”

'Consubstantial' in the Creed

This is a post for Sarah, who asked a really good question about what "consubstantial" means in the Creed.

A disclaimer--I'm writing this fast, so please don't mistake this post for a heavily researched or edited article. Such things can be found on the Internet with a few clicks. I would love to write something like that, but time won't allow it. I do feel confident I won't give you anything false or misleading, but it's not necessarily scholarly.

OK--what's up with the term "consubstantial"? Why, in translating the Creed into English, did the translators settle on that word as opposed to any other expression--including what was there before: "one in being"?

The short answer, I think, is that the Creed--because of the sort of document it is--absolutely must be both exact in what it says, and also brief. And, because it is a statement about some very sublime truths about God, that ends up meaning that the Creed is also a very "compact" and thus "dense" theological statement. So, given that, the translators opted for "consubstantial" because they judged no other term would do.

To recall, the phrase we're looking at--in the original Latin--is:

Génitum, non factum, consubstantiálem Patri: Per quem ómnia facta sunt.

In the outgoing English translation, this is rendered:

"Begotten, not made, one in being with the Father: through him all things were made."

And in the new, improved translation:

"Begotten, not made, consubstantial with the Father; through him all things were made.

In other words, that means they found "in one being" wanting. Why wanting? Is it false? No, it's not false. But it isn't very precise. While it can be understood as correctly conveying the right meaning about how the Father and Son are "one"--it can also be understood incorrectly. Remember, the Creed--by its nature--is supposed to be a very precise, very exacting, and very compact, statement of what we believe.

The Creed is more than merely one of our prayers at Mass. Outside the Bible, I would dare to say that it is the single most important statement in the Christian Faith. It is an infallible statement of Faith. I repeat--infallible--as it was the painstaking result of the first Ecumenical Council, and it was very carefully revised, somewhat, at subsequent councils. The less familiar term for the Creed is "Symbol of Faith"--a "symbolon" (in Greek) being a token that was broken in half, given to two people, and then when they met, they put the pieces together and recognized each other by the matching pieces. I.e., for the early Church, the Creed unites us; it is what we believe together.

So, the leadership of the Latin Rite--or "wing"--of the Catholic Church (which includes Greek and other sorts of Catholics) must not--and in a true sense, cannot--tamper or tinker with this statement. While the leadership of the Church can, to some degree at least, revise the prayers of the Mass--this one prayer the leadership of the Church must treat with great respect. (Let us set aside for another day the theological question of whether a pope "can" change the Creed. The important point here is that the pope, and his predecessors, are not going to do any such thing cavalierly.)

So all this is important to explain, or else we might wonder why the translators didn't take a different approach to translating the Creed.

Now, my guess is that a lot of folks, who are puzzled by, or don't like, the choice of "consubstantial," would say, "why can't they translate the Latin word (consubstantialem) into something more familiar?" And the answer, I think, is that they would if they could.

Their choices are:

a) easier terms that are not precise and careful--thus open to erroneous interpretation
b) harder terms that are precise and careful--which the Creed must be.

And they chose "b."

Of course, you might ask, wait--what about "c": easier terms that are still precise and careful--which the Creed must be?

And--if I may speak for the translators--they would answer, there is no option c. That's the point.

Now, folks are saying, "consubstantial is too hard a word." Well, it's not that it's so "hard"--it's unfamiliar. We use other words such as immaterial and consequential without folks saying those are "too hard"--because they are familiar.

The challenge isn't the word--is the reality that the word is attempting to convey. Once again, it's important to know how the Council of Nicea, in AD 325, came to choose consubstantialem for the Latin text of the Creed--to correspond to the Greek term, homoousios. The bishops of the whole Church had gathered, beckoned by the Emperor, to settle a dispute that threatened to shipwreck the Faith: who is Jesus? Is he truly God? Sort-of God? Semi-divine? Merely human?

The answer, of course, is that Jesus is "true God from true God...consubstantial with the Father"--"consubstantial" being chosen, from all alternatives, to express the fullest and most intimate unity with the Father--yet without denying the Three Persons of the Trinity are--in some sense--really distinct. If the point is stressed too much: the reality of the Trinity collapses, and we're saying that "Father, Son and Holy Spirit" are merely different "names" or "masks" of the one Person of God; go the other way, and we are tending toward not one God, but two or three. Tricky, tricky!

(All of this, by the way, arising from what our Lord told us about God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. So the notion that we might have avoided this sort of difficulty is incorrect. Jesus revealed the Trinity; the Church ultimately had to resolve questions arising from what he told us.)

We often say, loosely, that we are "one" with other people; we believe that a couple becomes "one" in marriage. We say that as Christians, we are "one in Christ." These are all true statements. But the sense in which the Father and Son are "one" is unique; this is a key reason why "one in being" is slippery--it just isn't nearly precise enough.

But we say, "one in being"--yes, that's better; but what do we mean by "being"? In terms of the Trinity, we mean that being, or self-existence, which is unique to God alone, and which they possess fully and completely together in the inner life of the Trinity. We mean not a union of two into one, but a oneness that is utterly, absolutely and eternally, and in every other way, one.

So what do you think? Would you prefer that something like the last paragraph--refined by theologians--be inserted into the Creed to translate consubstantialem? Would that be better?

I don't see that as any more helpful--and it may be, that after the theologians worked on my paragraph, it got quite a bit longer. Again, the Creed is meant to be exact--but also brief. It presupposes that it will also be explained and taught, with many more words to draw out its meaning. Look at the Catechism--the section that draws out the meaning of the Creed is pretty long! Who wants to recite all that at Mass?

I said in my other post that using this less familiar word actually does us a service. In the Orthodox Christian liturgy, there are times when the deacon or priest (I believe) will address the people with the words, "Wisdom! Be attentive!" I.e., something special is happening next, don't miss it.

When the Creed uses such compact--and albeit less familiar words--such as "incarnate" or "consubstantial," that has the same effect: we are reminded that something profound is being referred to, not something we might mistakenly think is routine or easy to understand. We never claimed everything in our Faith is "easy to understand." God is way beyond us in his true, inner reality! That's not to say we can understand nothing about him--but that we should not be troubled that some of what we believe about him takes work and leaves us wondering. Rather, we should be troubled if we never found it a hard subject.

Fisking an AP article about the new Mass translation

Here's an AP article about the new and improved translation of the Mass, that appeared today at For my amusement and I hope your edification, I'll offer some interlinear commentary...

New US Catholic missal to debut in November 2011

The Associated Press
Friday, August 20, 2010; 8:46 PM

-- Catholics in the United States will begin using a long-awaited English translation of the Roman Missal on the first Sunday of Advent next year, a leading American cardinal announced Friday.

Setting the missal's debut for Nov. 27, 2011, gives publishers more than 15 months to prepare texts, and allows American dioceses and parishes to educate members in the meantime, said Cardinal Francis George, the archbishop of Chicago and president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.

The new text for the missal, which guides Catholics through the prayers of the Mass (yes, but to be a little clearer, it comprises the prayers of the Mass), was approved by the Vatican in June. In July, additional prayers were approved for certain rites, such as the renewal of baptismal promises on Easter, and celebrations specific to the United States including Thanksgiving, Independence Day and the feast of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton.

Pope John Paul II announced the new missal in 2000 and it was first published in Latin in 2002.

It's the first significant change in the English translation since the Mass was first celebrated in English after Vatican II in the 1960s, said the Rev. Thomas Reese of the Woodstock Theological Center at Georgetown University. (Start keeping mental notes on who is quoted saying what; and ask if this is balanced?)

"It will impact every Catholic in every parish because they will have to learn new responses in place of the ones they have been using since Vatican II," Reese said. "I believe that the new translations are a step backwards (howso?) and confusing to the people in the pews" (note the low opinion Father Reese seems to have of what "the people in the pew" can handle).

Proponents (note no one is named--only critics of the work will be named. Why is that?) of the new missal's translation into English have said its language is more poetic and true to the spirit (yes, but actually true to the text itself! Anyone--even someone who knows little of Latin--can easily see this, simply by laying the outgoing English translation, and the new English translation, beside the normative, Latin text of the Mass. You will see immediately in many places how much of the Latin disappears--nowhere translated! Where did it go? Would anyone accept a "translation" of the Declaration of Independence that dropped out whole phrases as legitimate?) of the original Latin. Critics contend the translation is too literal and includes too many theologically complex terms.

(Once again, notice the low opinion of what the faithful can handle. Aren't these the same folks who have said, over and over, that the hierarchy should "trust" the faithful, in particular because they are so well educated? Why don't these critics trust that the faithful can--and will want to--grapple with these things?

(It is quite true that our Faith uses "theologically complex" terms--because our Faith embraces "theologically complex" realities. The job of making them understandable belongs to teaching and preaching, not in rewriting the prayers themselves.

(Example: there are various editions of the Bible that attempt to do this--greatly expanding on the texts of Scriptures in how they are "translated"--but because of this, they really aren't "translations" at all--they are very free paraphrases, that build into the "text" of the Bible, the interpretations of the editors, as they attempt to explain the Scriptures. Sounds good--except that in doing it this way, every appearance is given that the interpretation they supply--their "spin" if you will--is actually part of the inspired Word of God. Not so! Far better to translate the Word of God "straight"--and then provide the explanations, however copious, separately--that way the reader can easily see: "here's the Sacred Text--hmm, that's challenging...okay, here's the explanation, let me see if that helps..." In the same way, the texts of the prayers should be translated "straight"--and then explained or amplified as needed. While it's true folks don't react well to change, and there are folks who don't want to be "unsettled" or challenged too much; there are many of the faithful who are hungering for solid meat, and welcome a challenge.)

Bishop Donald Trautman of Erie, Pa., who formerly ran the U.S. bishops liturgy committee, criticized the new translation as "slavishly literal" during a lecture last year at The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C.

Those who have reviewed the translation say it requires new responses from church members in about a dozen places in the Mass. Generally, those responses are relatively simple, as when members will respond "And with your spirit" (oh no, so complex and confusing!) after the celebrant says, "The Lord be with you." The current response is, "And also with you."

Currently, priests dismisses the congregation by saying, "The Mass is ended; go in peace." Priests will now have four more specific options, including two suggested by Pope Benedict XVI: "Go and announce the Gospel of the Lord" and "Go in peace, glorifying the Lord by your life."

Prayers offered by the priest will include more complex terms such as "consubstantial," "inviolate," "oblation," "ignominy" and "suffused." (Oh no!)

Critics like Bishop Trautman argue that Jesus Christ taught in the language of the common man (note that: taught. No one is dictating what style of language the celebrant of Mass will use in preaching; or what will be used in other forms of teaching. But the primary purpose of the Mass isn't to teach, but to draw God's people into the heavenly worship. Note that Bishop Trautman did not make any assertions about our Lord worshipping in a "common" language. Wonder why he didn't make that claim?) and, further, that Vatican II reforms that first allowed the Mass to be translated from Latin to the vernacular are being unraveled by the more complicated words used in the new translation. (How do "more complicated words" "unravel" the reforms of Vatican II? Remember that Vatican II gave permission for using the vernacular--but did not intend the Latin itself to disappear. A Mass offered 100% in Latin in no way is contrary to Vatican II--because Vatican II did not mandate the vernacular, but it allowed it. Further, Vatican II set in motion a revision of the Latin texts--and then, following the Council, a revised Mass--in Latin--was issued by Pope Paul VI as, if you will, "the Mass of Vatican II." So...exactly how is it contrary to the Council, to be faithful to the work they produced?)

Those who favor the new version say the original translation to English brought about by Vatican II was rushed and that the new version merely restores some of the richness of the terms used in the original Latin.

The first Sunday of Advent marks the beginning of the liturgical year for Roman Catholic, and is always four Sundays before Christmas.

(FYI, I am obviously imitating the method of Father John Zuhlsdorf in commenting on this article. Biretta tip to him.)

Friday, August 20, 2010

New Mass Texts begin Advent, 2011

I read on Father Zuhlsdorf's enjoyable "What does the prayer really say?" blog that Cardinal George has made it official--the newly translated English texts of the Mass will begin being used with Advent, 2011.

As you may recall, some time back I began preparing a question-and-answer sheet on this subject; but it has been awhile since I posted anything. So, in honor of this good news, I'll post some more of what I worked up.

I'd be especially grateful for comments that help me improve these; and if you have a question you would like to have an answer for, I'll see what I can do.

3. Why did Pope John Paul II think it better to stay closer to the Latin texts?

We might see three values at work: “transparency,” “humility” and “dignity.”

A. Transparency. To translate is to interpret; what we hope for is that the one translating—when s/he chooses words and phrases—won’t overdo it. But this is the key problem; the looser the translation, the more subjective judgment the translator is applying. While you can’t eliminate it entirely, a stricter translation tends to minimize it.

Here’s an example: the newly translated Creed will use “consubstantial” to describe the unique—and hard to express—relationship between the Father and the Son. What we currently say is, “one in being.”

While the ideas seem similar, and “one in being” seems easier, that’s deceptive. This is a very subtle point about who God is, as a Trinity. The very fact that “one in being” uses such common words can “fool” us into misunderstanding the teaching its meant to convey. On the other hand, a less familiar term, consubstantial, by its very nature forces us to stop and ask, what does that mean? It’s unique word used to describe a unique reality. In a sense, you could say it’s better to admit we don’t understand it fully, than it is to think we do, and actually misunderstand.

Here’s part of a Vatican explanation of this: “The Instruction repeats the call of earlier papal documents for an approach to the translation of liturgical texts that sees it not so much a work of creative inventiveness as one of fidelity and exactness…” (Accessed online at:

Another example, again from old and new translations of the Creed:

“We believe in one God…” (how we currently begin the Creed) vs. “I believe in one God…” (what we will be saying in the new translation).

The Latin text is completely clear: it begins “Credo”—which is “I believe.” So why was it ever translated as “we believe”?

Maybe the translators were thinking more of how people are professing these words together—“we”; or they may have looked at the parallel Greek text (also adopted at the Council of Nicea, AD 325), which did say “we.” Whatever their reason, changing “I” to “we” makes a judgment—that “we” is “better”; but in fact, the actual text says “credo”: “I.”

Instead of changing it to something we think is “better,” shouldn’t we take the text as it is, and learn from that? I.e., however many people are saying this Creed, it’s my profession of faith—I have to make it my own: credo.

By translating the text more in line with the original, that keeps the questions or puzzles more “on the surface”—so we can wrestle with them ourselves, rather than their being “solved” for us. That is a more transparent way to do it, allowing the original texts and ideas to “shine through” more.

B. Humility. The full richness and meaning contained in the Mass is not merely its words or ideas; the Mass as a whole is like a work of art; like a painting, or a composition, it forms a unity and we are very careful about picking it apart. In all humility, we truly understand the liturgy less than we realize; that includes priests and bishops, even the pope has said the same.

The Mass isn’t the product of some committee somewhere; it’s ultimately the work of Christ himself, working through his Church; its comes to us as a collective result of thousands of years of use as our highest prayer. So—while it’s not utterly untouchable or unchangeable, the words, “handle with care” apply here!

So when we hear expressions in the Mass—now translated with greater clarity—and we wonder, why did they do that? Before we say, “I don’t like it,” we might want to ponder, why did they say that? How did this become part of the Mass?

Related to this is something many miss—respect for the reforms of Vatican II.

The Latin texts, being translated, while ancient, have already been subject to revision and “updating” by the Second Vatican Council and those individuals Pope Paul VI authorized, just after the Council, to implement the Council’s vision. It was their task to revise the texts and wording of the prayers. The text they produced was translated in 1970, and has now been translated anew.

Now, folks both “left” and “right” have raised concerns about the texts of the Mass that emerged from the Council. Like it or not, the Council chose not to “fix” those “problems” as critics would have wanted them to.

For example: many are troubled that the words for consecrating the wine at Mass will be translated “for many” rather than “for all.” But their issues isn’t with the translation, but with the Latin text that emerged after the Council, approved by Pope Paul VI. The Council could have changed the words, pro multis—“for many” to pro omnes—“for all”—but they did not. They had excellent reason not to—because that reflects what Scripture says. But in any case, that was their job—not the job of a translator. Once again, should our English translation “protect” us from wrestling with the questions raised by this decision? (This will be addressed further, below.)

C. Dignity. Again, here’s what the Vatican said, explaining its approach to translating texts:

The vocabulary chosen for liturgical translation must be at one and the same time easily comprehensible to ordinary people and also expressive of the dignity and oratorical rhythm of the original: a language of praise and worship which fosters reverence and gratitude in the face of God’s glory.

The language of these texts is, therefore, not intended primarily as an expression of the inner dispositions of the faithful but rather of God's revealed word and his continual dialogue with his people in history.

Again, some are saying they like a really plain style of English. Certainly that has value. But stop and consider that we all know times when we use very informal English, and other times we expect to have more formal or stylized language. When we celebrate ritual or special occasions, we tend to expect—and benefit from—more formal gestures and language. It serves to highlight the dignity and specialness of what we are doing.

Blog ways

In a thread below, I'm accused of not being "pastoral" because of some response I gave. Since the one making that complaint didn't specify which of my responses she meant, I will not make any unnecessary assumptions.

Anyway, it occurs to me that things like this happen when folks interact with different expectations but don't realize that they have them, resulting in misunderstandings. So, maybe spelling out some notions of how I approach this blog, and what I think is courteous, regarding comments and discussions on a blog, rather than taking them for granted.

How about this:

1. If you comment, please use some sort of screen name, even if all you do is add, at the end of the post, a pen name.

2. If you ask for an opinion or an explanation, I'll do my best to give it to you. I don't object if you disagree, but that's an invitation for some back-and-forth.

3. I am a Catholic priest. I teach and present Catholic teaching, in its entirety, as best I can. I recognize that some parts of our Catholic Faith are hard to hear or hard to follow. I am genuinely sorry I am not smarter or more creative in being able to make the "hard teachings" not have hard, pointy edges that sometimes hurt. You'll have to take my word for it that if you feel hurt, that was not my aim. While allowing for all my flaws in presentation, nevertheless remember that sometimes the truth does hurt.

4. Everyone is entitled to a favorable presumption, until saying or doing something that calls it into question. I try to do that, and I may well fail and I'm willing to have someone say so. But I appreciate folks treating me that way. Example: I presume people are good and decent and trying seriously to follow Christ, and I expect others to presume the same about me--not lecture or condescend to me about how I ought to be a better Christian.

5. Part of the purpose of comments is discussion; if you post an argument for something, I think reasonable people presume you're fine with that being critiqued and responded to. If you post an argument for something that is at odds with Catholic teaching or practice, or--no offense--gives flawed information about a subject pertaining to the Catholic Faith, or Catholic history, please don't be surprised if I or someone else responds and corrects that. It's not personal. Example: someone posts arguments for ordaining women as priests. Sorry, that's directly contrary to Catholic teaching. I'm not going to let that go unchallenged. Particularly when it's not all that connected to the topic. And if someone claims to offer facts that are not facts at all, brace yourself for that to be pointed out.

6. I don't claim to be an expert on everything involving Catholic history, liturgy or teaching, and I don't claim to have read every document or be able to quote them off the top of my head. I don't have time to track it all down. I'm a parish priest and I post comments on my blog, about my day, or about homilies I've given, etc. I think I'm reasonably knowledgeable on these subjects, and I try to be transparent about what sort of information I'm sharing.

7. Let's not play games. If a poster chooses to be contentious, that is an invitation for a more vigorous response. Please don't then play the, "oh you should be nicer" card. If you don't want the give-and-take of a discussion, don't give and you won't have to take. There are other games: "bait the Catholic/bait the priest," being disingenuous about "questions" that really aren't requests for information but set-ups for a point you want to score, etc. Play it straight, and I'll do my best to respond in kind. Play games and I'll call you on it or just not take you as on the level.

8. This blog isn't the be-all and end-all of my life, and it shouldn't be for anyone else; meaning: don't take it that seriously. When sour folks show up and complain, picking on rather obscure "offenses" (such as complaining about me "telling" him or her what to pray for, when I said please pray for more priests)...without wishing anyone ill, I genuinely think you may do better not to read this blog, or any blog, if it upsets you. Seriously, and in all charity, if someone's feelings are really that tender, online blog discussions are not for you.

9. I do have a hard time digesting the "surprise" and umbrage that sometimes shows up in comments. I used to offer my political views, and these would generate howls of outrage from a few tenacious folks, as if I have no business telling anyone my personal opinions; and you would think I was advocating the death penalty for puppies, as opposed to views that--even if you disagree with them--aren't terribly unconventional. Well, I got tired of that, so pretty much no more political observations on the blog. Not worth my time and energy. Yet it remains very puzzling to me that folks can get so worked up. Speaking more generally, some so-called "outrage" just can't be taken with a straight face.

10. If you accuse me of something--such as attacking people "personally," or saying something it would dumb, or wrong, to say, please don't be surprised if I ask you to back it up.

11. This is my blog. I get to decide when someone is behaving badly or not getting into the spirit of things. My tools are extremely limited: I can respond to a comment, or delete it.

This took me a few minutes to dash off, so no doubt I could write it better with more time. And, yes, I'm giving you the option of offering comments.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Hanging out with seminarians

Sunday we started what will be a new tradition in Piqua: hosting a summer cook-out for seminarians.

It started with a conversation over supper, earlier this year, with a couple other priests and several seminarians; I don't even remember where we were--but the point was made that seminarians don't see a lot of each other over the summer. Then someone else said, what if we had a summer cookout? And somewhere along the line I said, "we could do that in Piqua..." and then I asked the seminarian staying with us in Piqua to spread the word...and then it happened.

We had about 20 guys, most came up from Cincinnati, but a few came from up north. We could easily have more if things work out next year. Afterward, we talked about what we could do to encourage more prospective seminarians to come along.

It was easy: burgers, brats, cole slaw, pop, beer, watermelon, ice cream. A parishioner donated a couple of cheesecakes, so we barely touched the melons and never got to the ice cream. Once most everyone showed up, we went over to church and prayed Vespers, then we came back over to the rectory and had pop, beer, pretzels and then the stuff came off the grill. The whole thing cost about $200, and another priest of the archdiocese chipped in half.

I wish you could have met these guys. Their ages were all over the map, but mostly in their 20s and 30s. The kind of guys I think you'd be happy to have your daughters going out with--if they weren't headed to the seminary. I remember when priests were good to me as a seminarian, and I'm very glad to do the same in turn.

Please keep praying for more priests, and please don't hesitate to give encouragement to any men you meet you think might make a good priest or deacon. Some guys just need someone to tell them, "you could be a good priest!"

Saturday, August 07, 2010

You already know (Sunday homily)

How strong is your faith?
If you were past child-bearing age,
would you believe you could have a child?
And would you—like Sarah—be willing to face the challenge?

I don’t think my faith is that strong. Perhaps you think the same?

We might wonder how we increase our faith.
You do it by accepting the baby, as Sarah did—
and do what a parent does.

Often we fret about whether we can see the journey through—
but that isn’t something we can ever know.
Our task is to take the first step. And the next.

Many ask, “How do I know I’m doing what God wants?
How do I discover his will?”

The answer lies in what the Lord said in the Gospel:
Focus on what you already know,
on the task the Lord has given you to do.
God has already told us plenty about his will for us:
He’s given us the commandments;
We know we have to honor our commitments;
We know plenty that God has revealed to us.

“Be like servants who await their master’s return…
ready to open immediately when he comes and knocks.
Blessed are those servants
whom the master finds vigilant on his arrival.”

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

...a break in the action...

I wanted a mental break so I'm writing a quick post.

What's doing?

> St. Mary Parish is gearing up for a drive in September to raise funds for various "capital" maintenance items--i.e., roof repairs, building repairs, etc. I was just sending some emails around about that to stay in touch with those doing the planning.

> St. Boniface is wrapping up some capital improvements; the scaffolding just came down from the steeple, where we installed copper over some painted wood; the wood needed painting every 15 years or so; the cooper won't need anything but a periodic inspection for many decades to come. It's very possible this will still be serviceable in 100 years. (And the scaffolding being down will relieve a couple getting married this coming Saturday, with yours truly as sacred witness.)

> I'm contacting some St. Boniface parishioners about our plans for the interior of the church; we plan to make some improvements there, and we need a little help to make our goal. I was just making some phone calls.

> Our Piqua parishes support a 24-hour Eucharistic Exposition chapel; while other parishes in the archdiocese have extended exposition--and many have chapels open all night--no other parish in the archdiocese has 24-hour, 7-day-a-week exposition of the Blessed Sacrament.

We've been doing it for almost 20 years; and we are having a celebratory Mass on October 31; and Archbishop Schnurr will grace us with his presence as celebrant. In conjunction with that, we will have a Eucharistic Conference November 4-8, with talks by Rev. Larry Villone of the Missionaries of the Blessed Sacrament on Thursday and Friday, and at all Masses Saturday afternoon and Sunday. (The actual anniversary is Dec. 1, but we celebrate when the Archbishop comes!). So I've been making some phone calls and sending emails about that.

> In September, St. Boniface will take part in a "stewardship of offerings" program sponsored by the Archdiocese. I am very excited about this, because it's something we need and it's great that the Archdiocese is backing it and paying for it. We have a solid company handling it and I am confident it will be well done. So I have some things on my desk about that. Because of St. Mary's capital effort, we will do the offering effort in the fall of 2011.

> In November, both parishes will begin an outreach to all our parishioners: very simply, we will begin contacting every parishioner personally--by phone or at their door--to connect with them, see if they need anything, and make sure they know what's going on in their parish. Our reason for doing this? So many of our needs always seem to come back to the task of re-evangelizing and re-connecting many of our less-connected parishioners. So why not go to them? But we are going to contact everyone, because it is a little dicey putting together a list only of the "inactive."

I haven't done anything on this today, but I was hoping to make a call...we'll see...

> Sunday, I'm hosting a cookout for the seminarians of the archdiocese (if you are reading this and didn't get word, or didn't reply...let me know!). The idea arose because one of the seminarians staying at, and working for, the parishes this summer said the guys don't see much of each other all summer; so I said, what about a cookout? So we expect about 20 of the guys Sunday afternoon. Brats, burgers, pop and beer, that sort of thing. I have to get to the store between now and then to get the supplies.

OK, I should get back to signing checks and making a few more phone calls...