Sunday, August 25, 2019

Ask the right question: not how many, but how (Sunday homily)

Perhaps you have noticed that there are times when 
someone asks Jesus a question, 
but his response doesn’t really answer the question!

What Jesus is doing is answering the question 
that should have been asked.

So, today, “Someone asked him, Lord, will only a few be saved?”

But what does Jesus say? 
First, he refers to a narrow gate—so that sounds like “few,” right?

But, later, he refers to people coming from east and west, 
north and south—that sounds like a lot, doesn’t it?

So the question Jesus actually answered was, 
not “how many” are saved; but simply, how to be saved.

So, how are we saved? By striving to enter the “narrow gate.”

In the Gospel of John, 
Jesus says, “I am the gate, 
and whoever enters through Me will be saved.”

Someone might wonder why the gate is “narrow.”
That sounds bad.
But remember why cities, in his time, had gates:
Because they also had walls.
And walls are for safety-to keep out threats.
In our day, those walls and gates are at the border.
In our Lord’s time, they were around cities.

And narrow gates mean you can see clearly who comes and goes.
And that seems perfectly apt for Judgment Day:
No one will slip by into the Kingdom. 
One by one, you and I will meet the gaze of Jesus our King, 
and either he knows us, or not.

A narrow gate doesn’t mean only few enter; 
it means you have to be patient and wait your turn.
It also means that while you might squeeze in,
Nothing you bring along will.

A lot of folks carry a heavy load of unforgiveness and bitter memory.
Did you ever consider that one of the first people 
you meet in heaven might be that person who you say you can’t forgive?

What will you do then?

Notice what our Lord said:
“Many will attempt to enter, but won’t be strong enough.”
In fact, none of us is “strong enough”! No one!

You and I have got to drive out of our minds  
every last trace of the idea that any of us 
gets to heaven because we’re good enough!

No one walks into heaven on her own!
Remember what Jesus said about the lost sheep?
How does it get home? 
The Lord puts it on his shoulders.

Because Jesus is “strong enough”—and he will carry us through!
But he probably will say, 
“I’m not carrying all that other junk. Just you!”
Till now, there’s a word I haven’t uttered: hell.
Is hell real? Jesus thinks so. He talks about it a LOT.

In the Gospel, Jesus says that people will be cast out, 
because he never knew them.
What that means is that there was never a true friendship.
Sure, they ate and drank with him—but they didn’t know Jesus, 
which is to say, they didn’t want to know him, not as he actually is.

We all love it when he says stuff we like;
And we shift around uncomfortably when he says things we don’t:
Whether it’s about money, or sex, or forgiveness, or suffering or ego.

I asked, a moment ago, 
what if you find in heaven a person you can’t forgive?
What are our choices at that point?
Entering heaven means letting go of that.
And if you can’t? What’s left?

The conclusion I reach is this:
No one is “sent to hell” as much as people refuse heaven.
We “refuse” heaven by refusing the graces God gives us.

Many times I’ve had someone come to confession, 
with deep remorse, and very fearful about God’s judgment 
because their sins weigh heavily, and they fail so frequently.

I told them, and I tell you: that no matter what sins you battle,
No matter how many times you fall down, 
If you keep coming to confession, you will go to heaven!

And circling back to the difficulty of forgiving other people:
one way we grow in the power to give forgiveness
is to experience forgiveness the more powerfully.

That is to say:
The deeper the gratitude you and I feel for what we’ve been forgiven,
The easier we will find it go give forgiveness to others.
So again: go to confession.

Jesus was telling that person he met that day,
it’s not about how many are saved, but HOW to be saved.

And he, Jesus, is the “how.”

Thursday, August 22, 2019

Ohio old and sad (Project 88 report)*

Day two for my exploration of Ohio's northeastern corner.

From Geneva-on-the-lake (in Ashtabula County) I headed south. My first stop was going to be Clarence Darrow's Octagon House in Kinsman, and into Trumbull County, by the way. But first I came through Gustavus, home of the "federated" church. That sounded interesting. Here it is:

Apparently, it is a combined United Methodist and United Church of Christ congregation; the website mentions something about a Presbyterian church as well. I'm glad everyone gets along so well in Gustavus! Anyway, here's the town hall:

Here's Clarence Darrow's house:

Just as I arrived, the guy who lives here showed up; "no problem!" came his response to my request for pictures. He explained his landlord was planning to fix it up.

When I was a boy, I wanted to be a lawyer; and Clarence Darrow was the sort of attorney I imagined being.

Next stop? Niles, Ohio, home of the 25th president, the fifth from Ohio, and the third president to be assassinated. Here's his monument:

All around were several other busts; a woman from the library told me they were either cabinet members or advisors. For example, Mark Hanna, who masterminded McKinley's campaign:

And here's the sixth Ohio president -- the only man who served both as president and chief justice:

Several more busts were inside the library -- which turned out merely to be a local public library, across the way was a presidential library, which was closed of course! -- and these were benefactors who helped build this memorial. For example, Andrew Carnegie:

Niles is where McKinley was born and grew up; a few steps down Main Street is the spot, occupied by a replica of that house. 

What became of the original? This kind lady explained it to me:

The original house was divided into two; then each part was moved elsewhere; then when McKinley became famous, someone obtained the two parts and put them back together, locating them somewhere else in town (she told me but I didn't remember that detail); then that person fell on hard times, vagrants took over the house, and it was burnt down. Only a few things in the house actually belonged to the McKinley family.

Here are some views of the house. William was number seven of nine children; with four bedrooms, so the children would have slept three or more to a room:

Here's a view of the kitchen and part of the dining room.

Here's some of McKinley's political memorabilia:

After Niles, I planned a visit to Hiram (in Portage County) -- this was my last chance for anything Garfield, as there was a house there he lived in, probably when he attended college there. But first I passed through Warren, Ohio, which was one of the earliest settled areas of the state. Alas, lots of decay there:

 I snapped this as I drove by. The sign is still there, although nearly overgrown; the cafe, with all it's wonderful coffee, is long gone. Finally, GPS led me to Hiram, home of Hiram College, and to this location:

Presumably, James A. Garfield lived here; but there was no indication that it was open for the public, so strike three on Garfield, and I moved on.

My last stop of the trip was going to be Kent State University, where on May 4, 1970, four students were killed when Ohio National Guard soldiers fired into a large mass of students and others protesting the Vietnam War. Before I got there, I passed through Freedom and Ravenna:

I've passed LOTS of Mail Pouch barns, but this was the first I got a picture of. It looked in good shape!

Like so many college campuses, it wasn't easy finding the right way to get onto Kent State campus, or to find legal parking. Someone from the university waved away my concern about a ticket: they'll just figure you're a parent helping your kid move in.

Here's some information about the events of May 4, which is commemorated on campus with a center providing more information and background. Without going into all of it: it was a difficult time.

 Here's a view of the area where the demonstrations happened. I might add, for clarity, that one of the buildings on campus was burned down and there had been rioting in town. It was tense, not peaceful, as here:

The four students who died were killed in a parking lot, and so it remains today. The places where they were shot are marked off with pillars thusly:

Here are closeups:

The four who died: Jeffrey Glenn Miller; age 20; Allison B. Krause; age 19;  William Knox Schroeder; Sandra Lee Scheuer; age 20. Nine others were wounded.

You may be wondering, why the stones on the pillars? I'm guessing, but this may be reflective of Jewish custom of leaving a stone when visiting a grave, so that the family knows someone visited. Two of the deceased students, according to Wikipedia, were Jewish.

After this, I headed home. I made a small detour through Summit county, before getting back on I-71 and U.S. 30, then home.

Progress to this point? This trip brought me to five new counties, leaving 13 I've only driven through, and 16 I've never visited in any way, for a total of 29 I'm still planning to visit in coming months. If it works out, I'll make another outing this coming weekend, taking me back to the lake, and then down through the center-north part of Ohio; if all goes according to plan, I'll tick off nine more counties, four of which I've never visited at all.

* After some thought, I changed the headline, "new" to "sad," to reflect the content.

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

A visit to Lake Erie (Project 88 report)

Sunday I shot over to the far, northeastern corner of Ohio. I wanted to get off as quickly as I could, so after the final Mass, a quick shower, I was on the road at 12:46 pm. My first stop was going to be the James A. Garfield tomb in Cuyahoga County (where I've been before, but I've never visited the assassinated president's grave); and just as I was setting up my tablet to provide directions, I saw that the Garfield tomb closes at 4 pm on Sundays; oops! I wouldn't make it. So I eliminated that stop; first would be an unusual building in Geauga County.

Meanwhile, I had a long drive across counties I wasn't going to visit this time; I'm saving them for the next outing. But I did get to check off Crawford County as one I've at least driven through. As I passed through Mansfield (Richland County), I noticed signs promoting an event at the Ohio Reformatory -- apparently, this past weekend was an anniversary for the Shawshank Redemption, which was filmed there. I had nine miles before the exit! Do I pull off and check out the activities? I opted not to; it would blow up my plan, and besides, when I came back for a visit later, it'd be quieter and fewer delays. Full steam ahead!

The chirpy voice on my tablet led me unerringly to my first stop:

This is the headquarters of ASM International. According to Wikipedia, this is the world's largest open-air geodesic dome. I was pretty excited when I arrived here, because this is something a little different, and when I called ahead, the person to whom I spoke was unsure if the gates would be open on Sunday afternoon. Indeed they were!

Here's another look from the inside:

The building forms a semi-circle on one side of a lovely garden; all around the perimeter were samples of natural materials which the American Society of Metals was created to promote. The place was deserted when I arrived, but I imagine this might be a pleasant place to work.

When I took this next picture, I saw the sky was threatening, so I decided to head on:

For some reason, my GPS stopped working; but I'd printed out directions, so I simply did things the old fashioned way. My next stop was Lake Erie. Along the way, I got these images:

Chesterland, Geauga County

The Latter Day Saints Temple in Kirtland, Lake County:

Next I drove through Mentor, which I'd forgotten was home for a time for President Garfield. I'd missed out on his tomb, but what about the Garfield National Historic Site? I pulled in...

Closed! Strike two! So I moved on to Fairport. First the lighthouse, and the museum I didn't visit (but it was open!):

Next the beach:

LaSalle was here!

Part of the reason I was rushing is I wanted to get to my next spot for dinner, hoping for a nice sundown, and then to my place for the night. This was a matter of some frustration. When I looked on Expedia (boo, hiss!), $99/night caught my eye. Pretty good for so close to the lake! Only after I booked it (non-refundable) did I discover there was a $75 cleaning charge plus some other fee of $21. Now, it was partly my fault: it wasn't a hotel room, but a condo intended for a group. I went back to the listing I'd looked at, and there, in tiny print, it mentioned additional fees. So I thought, when I talk to the person who checks me in, I'll explain that I'm only one person, staying one night, and not using the kitchen or anything but one bedroom. They'd be foolish to pay for a full cleaning; and if they save some money, maybe kick some back to me? Anyway, I didn't want to arrive too late.

I drove along the Lake Erie Coastal Trail, and passed through Saybrook:

And here's another view of Lake Erie:

I came to Geneva-on-the-lake, where I was aiming to eat at the Crosswinds Grill, which looked promising. From what I could tell online, it looked like the only restaurant right on the lake, so that did it for me. As it turned out, it had both a dining room and an outside patio, which was several steps down the hill; the menu in the restaurant looked great; the patio was simpler. Oh, and they were out of perch (the local favorite)! Still, it was pretty good; especially the view:

After this, I had a short drive to my place for the night. GPS was working again, so I got there with no hitches. I pulled up to a cabin. All dark. Who was going to let me in? I looked again in my email folder; nothing. I called the number, left a message, and waited in my car. A woman called back, saying, didn't you get an email with instructions? No email, I told her. She gave me the code to open the lock box on the door, holding the key. I explained my situation, and made my pitch for rebating at least some of the cleaning fee. She was rather vague; she had no idea how to do that. The house was fine; no wifi access (due to no email, which never came). And when I got back, I tried to give some feedback to Expedia, but no success there. Not sure I'm going to do any more business with them.

That was Sunday; Monday in my next post.

Sunday, August 18, 2019

Jesus in the Eucharist, in the migrant: it's a package deal (Sunday homily)

There were a couple of things in the news recently we can talk about.

First item: a study was conducted recently by Pew Research Center, 
that reached a shocking conclusion about us Catholics 
and the weakness of our faith – specifically, in the Holy Eucharist.

Their study found that most Catholics in this country – almost 70% – 
Are either ignorant of, or actually reject, 
What our Faith has always taught about the Eucharist!
And among those who attend Mass every week?
The figure is 37%: almost four out of ten do not believe!

The second item is the ongoing problems with immigration.
Archbishop Dennis Schnurr sent a letter out, 
which is included in today’s bulletin for you to read. 
He asked me at least to share a portion of that letter with you. 
Here’s an exerpt:

As our country devolves into an increasingly polarized culture,
migrants are God’s gift to remind us that we are one body in Christ….
Our own salvation…is steeped in our hearts’ desires
to unify humanity in God’s love.

And, among other tests in our daily lives,
this is being measured by our willingness to respond
to the extreme needs of those coming to our nation’s doorstep,
like Lazarus crawling to the rich man’s house
and like the Holy Family seeking shelter from Herod’s persecution.

In every migrant seeking freedom from persecution,
can we imagine ourselves in their footsteps?
Can we see in them the face of Christ?
For these reasons, I reaffirm our call to all Catholics
and people of goodwill to take action.

I encourage us again to tell the Administration and Congress
to prioritize the lives and dignities of migrants
and to restore order to our broken immigration system.

Now, to tie this together, let me quote a passage 
from St. Paul’s letter to the Corinthians:

Therefore whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord unworthily
will have to answer for the body and blood of the Lord.
A person should examine himself,
and so eat the bread and drink the cup.
For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body,
eats and drinks judgment on himself.
That is why many among you are ill and infirm,
and a considerable number are dying.

Notice in particular what Paul said: “without discerning the body.”
What does this mean?

For one, it means discerning the true Body and Blood 
of Jesus in the Eucharist.
What that survey found was that people think Holy Communion 
is only a symbol of Jesus.
Just a reminder. Kind of like a photograph of a loved one.

My reaction? I’m shocked – but I am not surprised.
For the last forty years or more, our Catholic Tradition 
has been treated very shabbily by too many bishops and priests. 

You know what I’m talking about: our churches were to be “renovated”;
A better term is “wreckovated”: altars and statues smashed.
Much of this has been slowly repaired, but you can still visit churches 
that look more like a spaceship out of Star Wars than a house of God.
And where’s the tabernacle, where Jesus dwells? Hidden away!

This madness came to our seminary. When I was there, 
someone spent thousands of dollars to build and place a wall, 
a beautiful, carved wooden wall, right in front of the tabernacle.
Of course you ask, why did they do that? 
The folks at the seminary claimed seminarians would be “distracted” 
by the tabernacle; it would confuse them!

Now, good news – that barrier is gone. Sanity has returned,
As it has in many parishes. But the damage was done.

And it wasn’t just damage to churches;
The Mass itself has been treated with such grave disrespect, and frequently still is.

Father Amberger before me sought to restore reverence, 
and I have tried to carry that further. 
So many parishioners appreciate it;
Yet there are those who wonder why the “St. Remy way” 
is notably different from many other places;
and sometimes people will wonder, 
if the things we emphasize here are going too far?

Just so you know: Father Amberger and I haven’t done anything contrary 
to the norms or to our Tradition.
Rather, here’s what he – and I – have been doing.

As much as possible, we are celebrating the Holy Mass 
in continuity with our ancient tradition, rather than reinventing it.
And, that also means not settling for the minimum, week after week.

Here’s what happens in so many places, still.
The parish priest will meet with staff members, maybe some parishioners, 
and they’ll say, Oh, Lent is coming, or it’s Pentecost; 
what can we do to freshen up Sunday Mass – if they even call it “Mass.”
There’s a well known “expert” who calls it, “the Sunday Experience.”

Week in and week out, these good folks aim to reinvent Mass, 
so it’s “relevant” and “meaningful.” 
This week, they’ll have balloons tied to all the pews;
Another week, it will be children standing around the altar.

In one parish, I had a good soul – she truly meant well – 
who suggested we have young people holding up cards 
with the words of the responsorial psalm, 
sort of the way cheerleaders do at a basketball game.

Because this has gone on so long, this is “normal” for lots of people,
And when a priest tries to straighten things out, he faces a buzz-saw.
Then someone will say, what’s the big deal? At least folks are coming?

Well, the big deal is that over time, drip-drip-drip,
we have destroyed the faith of so many Catholics! 
As cited above: most Catholics in this country think Holy Communion 
is only a symbol – not truly and really Jesus’ Body and Blood.

Let me take this moment to say: 
I cannot make anyone receive the Holy Eucharist on your tongue. 
I cannot make you; but I strongly want to encourage you.

People mean well; no one really intends to be irreverent;
But time won’t allow me to describe for you 
how very often I see someone receiving in the hand – 
here at St. Remy – with tremendous casualness, 
as if I were handing you change for a dollar.

Communion on the tongue fosters reverence; 
of course, as St. Paul said, the primary reverence is to examine our conscience,
And only receive the Body and Blood of Jesus
if we are in a state of grace; and that means,
we aren’t conscious of a mortal sin we need to bring to confession.

Now, someone might say all this is over-the-top, 
and what we really need to focus on is justice and compassion 
and how we treat those who have less than us.

And now I’m going to go back to what St. Paul said, 
and what the Archbishop said:
Do we recognize Christ? In the Eucharist? Or in the migrant?

Do you realize what the whole point of Jesus’ 
being truly, really and substantially present in the Eucharist is?
Why this is SO important – in fact, central – to our Faith?

Because it means Jesus is REALLY here; REALLY with us.
Not a symbol. Not a photograph or a memory. HE’S REALLY HERE!
That’s why we genuflect, if we can;
Because our King, our Lord, mighty God, in human flesh,
Comes among us in the Holy Mass, in the Most Holy Eucharist!

Also, the Eucharist is also about what you and I become.
St. Augustine said: “Become what you receive.”
Are you and I going to become bread or wine? Ridiculous!
A “symbol” or reminder of Jesus? NO!

You and I are becoming Jesus – his Body and Blood.

This is the “fire” that Jesus has set that will transform everything.
And the thing is, if we lose this, then don’t think for a moment 
that we’ll still hold on to justice and compassion.
If we lose sight of Jesus in the Eucharist,
I guarantee we’ll lose sight of him everywhere else, too.
It’s all a package deal.

Saturday, August 17, 2019

Next stop on Project 88 tour: northeast Ohio

I was going to take a break this weekend, but the more I thought about it, I realized I didn't really have anything else I wanted to do Sunday and Monday; so it seemed visiting several more counties was a better plan. Watch this space for my upcoming visit to Lake, Geauga, Ashtabula, Trumbull and Portage counties. It's a long drive each way, so it's going to be a bit tight; if time allows, I may add some to the itinerary on the way home.

Friday, August 16, 2019

Shake up at the Archdiocese of Cincinnati

It has been in the news everywhere for a couple of weeks now. Last month a parish priest, Father Geoff Drew, was removed pending an investigation by the Archdiocese into actions in violation of the Archdiocese’s Decree on Child Protection. On Monday, August 5, Archbishop Dennis Schnurr removed Auxiliary Bishop Joseph Binzer from head of the personnel board, because Binzer had received earlier reports of questionable behavior by Father Drew, but failed to convey this information to Schnurr. What information I have is based on a brief statement from the Archbishop himself, and from news items in the Cincinnati Enquirer, WCPO TV in Cincinnati, and Catholic News Agency.

The Enquirer reported that “church officials” received reports regarding Drew in 2013 and 2015. The complaints were referred to Butler County prosecutors, who determined no crime had occurred. The conduct “included hugs, shoulder rubs, patting of knees, comments of a sexual nature and texting.” The Archdiocese is investigating both the allegations against Father Drew and the actions of Bishop Binzer; according to WCPO, this involves an outside firm. The CNA reported that the Archbishop apologized for failures in handling this matter, and said that further changes would be made to prevent something like this from happening again. 

What do I think about this? Several things. First, I am gratified there is far more transparency than in the past. Some will be frustrated that more details aren’t available, but given the rights of various people involved, including the right not to say anything publicly, and the privacy of children, that really can’t be helped. Second, I am stunned by the report that Bishop Binzer would hold back this sort of information. Third, Archbishop Schnurr seems to be moving quickly.

Thursday, August 15, 2019

Mary -- the ark of the new covenant -- is in heaven (Assumption homily)

Today we celebrate the Assumption of Mary; 
the day when, at the end of her life on earth, 
God brought Mary, body and soul, into heaven.

This means that God was not willing to allow her body
to experience the decay we all face when we die. 
It means Mary received early what all of us are promised to have 
In the resurrection at the end of time: 
enjoying God’s presence, not only in our souls, 
but in our bodies, too; in bodies that will never die again.

Some people resist this; they wonder why God would do this for Mary. 
And my answer is that God will not be outdone in generosity.

Remember, what we celebrate above all 
is that Mary was her son’s first and best disciple. 
As Saint Augustine said, Mary conceived Jesus first 
in her heart by faith, and then, in her womb.

What’s more, the honor we give to Mary was foreshadowed. 

In the Old Testament, they had an “ark”—
a gold-covered box that held the stone tablets 
on which God himself wrote the words of the Covenant. 
God’s People were commanded to honor to that ark—
And when people treated that ark with disrespect, 
God is always very unhappy about that.

Well, what about the New Covenant?
The ‘Word’ of the New Covenant isn’t written on stone;
Rather, the Word becomes flesh in Jesus Christ! 
And that Makes Mary the ark of the new covenant.

If God would honor a wood box that held stone tablets, 
How much more the woman who cherished his divine Son,
Not only in her womb for nine months, but in her heart, all her life?

We believe, with St. John Damascene, that it was, in a way, “necessary” 
that Mary, who had given her all to Jesus, should receive this honor.

Two more points:

Whenever Israel went into battle, 
they always took the Ark of the Covenant with them, leading the way. So should we! 
Always be armed with your Rosary, and know how to use it!

Second: the Son of God was not too exalted 
to dwell in the embrace of Mary. 
If it is good enough for Jesus, 
it ought to be good enough for each of us.

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Some thoughts on suicide

Recently a relative of mine died by his own hand. No one saw it coming. Yet he is the second member of his family who did so. We don’t like this subject, and many times we don’t talk about it to protect privacy or children. But some things need to be said. IF EVER you feel deep depression, strange or suicidal thoughts, do not ignore this; seek help! You can call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1 (800) 273-TALK (8255). I am not an expert in these matters, but I will gladly talk to anyone and try to get you to the help you need.

Sometimes people get the idea – especially from entertainment or the Internet – that there’s something romantic or poetic or whatever about suicide. As a priest, I’ve had to deal with this several times in an up-close-and-personal way. There is nothing romantic or “cool” about it. It is horrible, particularly for those who are left behind. Obviously this is a grave sin; yet we don’t know the state of mind of people who take this drastic step, so we can’t know how God judges the matter. People who have survived such attempts say they immediately regretted it, and that repentance can make all the difference because God is always ready to forgive. When we pray for people, our prayers transcend time, so they can help people in the future, in the present, and yes, even in the past.

Originally appeared in Saint Remy Bulletin, August 4, AD 2019.

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Exploring southern Ohio (Project 88 progress report)

Thirteen counties in two days! Here's what happened, and of course, pictures as well.

It all started with a gathering at some friends' house on Sunday afternoon; we were summoned, by our hosts, to talk about the details of a trip we've planned for September. The gathering was to begin at 1, but with my last Mass ending around noon, and some details to wrap up after that, and needing a shower after three straight Masses, and also a hospital visit along the way, I arrived around 2:30 pm. We had burgers and brats and great conversation; I lingered rather longer on their back patio, leaving around 5:30 pm, with a trek to be made down toward Portsmouth, Ohio.

From their home in Liberty Township, just west of I 75 in Butler County, I made my way to my first stop, Martinsville in Clinton County. That took me over toward I 71 and Mason, and it was fun seeing the rides of Kings Island towering over the landscape. I actually got on I 71 "north" for a few miles; but at that point, the direction is more east than north. I passed through Cuba, Ohio, and here comes Martinsville...

I was amused by the plaque over the door: "Mayor's Office and Prison"! AD 1880.

Here's the first of many Methodist churches I saw along the way. The Methodist movement was a huge factor in our country in the 18th and 19th centuries.

After Martinsville, I drove down to Lynchburg, which took me into Highland County. I crossed this covered bridge:

And I passed this delapidated farm building. I saw a LOT of decaying buildings on my trip.

This was Lynchburg, I think:

The plaques above are both for "I.O.O.F" which stands for International Order of Odd Fellows. The group is still around, but a shadow of its former self. It was one of many fraternal orders that played a significant role in American society in the 1800s and into the 1900s. My great-grandfather was an Odd Fellow. What interested me was two buildings, side by side. My guess is they built one building, and it wasn't enough, so they built another next to it.

Next I drove down through Youngsville, in Adams County, on the way to West Union, the county seat. I pulled over when I noticed this full parking lot outside the Pentecostal Holiness Church. The service was scheduled at 6 pm; I drove by around 7:20 pm; no one was leaving.

When I got out of the car to snap the pictures, I noticed a chick wandering around. There were a lot more, but I didn't know if the owner would appreciate me taking pictures of his property.

After this I continued down State Route 247 into West Union. I really think I've been to Adams County before; in my prior post, a commenter suggested driving along the Ohio, which I did some years ago, but I don't recall how far east of Cincinnati I got. Here's what I saw in my brief stop in the county seat. Some log buildings:

And a really old Presbyterian church (but they don't call themselves "first"!):

Here's that plaque up close:

Notice the reference to the Underground Railroad. Remember, the Ohio River is not far away. Also, keep in mind that a lot of sentiment in southern Ohio was sympathetic to the Confederacy, and while folks may not have exactly approved of slavery, they also didn't want trouble.

From there I took State Route 125 -- which I remembered goes through Cincinnati, and becomes Beechmont Road, where our seminary is! -- all the way to Shawnee State Park (which got me to Scioto County), where I'd reserved a room for the night. It was just east of Blue Creek, Ohio. Here's Blue Creek:

After this I came suddenly into forest and it for that reason, it was getting dark fast. I'd intended to get all the way to Portsmouth, but the lodge is only about 7 or 8 miles, and it looked inviting. One thing I was hoping for was a restaurant still open; alas, it closed at 8 pm; I arrived about 8:15 pm! "Is there any food around?" I asked the clerk. She handed me a flyer for Giovannis in Portsmouth. A kind fellow not only brought me a pizza, but even picked up some cold beer at a convenience store along the way! I was going to post this report from the lodge, but the wifi didn't work in the room and no 4G service at all.

Here's the morning view from the back of the lodge, as well as the lobby:

The lodge was nice, but a little frayed around the edges. The clerk said the rooms are slated for renovation. Outside was a plaque dedicated to local boy done good, Vern Riffe, who was speaker of the Ohio House of Representatives for many years; it thanked him for all the tax money he shoveled into his district.

The next morning, I drove the rest of the way to Portsmouth. At one time, all this area was a source of coal and iron, yielding place names like Coalton and Ironton; but most of that is gone. I also noticed, the night before, how the gentle hills of southern Ohio had become much more pronounced. There were fields planted here, but this would not be easy ground to cultivate.

I stopped by two churches. This is Saint Mary's Catholic Church, circa 1870; Mass wasn't till noon, so unfortunately, the door was locked.

And after my kidding of the "first" Presbyterians, I'm pleased to acknowledge a Second Presbyterian Church:

After this I drove upriver (yet south!) to Ironton, in Lawrence County, where I wanted to see the Grand Army of the Republic Memorial Hall (the GAR was another of those fraternal organizations, it perished in 1956) which looked impressive on its Wikipedia Page. Alas, this is what I found:

While I was taking this picture, a fellow came by and we talked a bit. He had an idea for what to do with the building. He suggested turning it into an animal shelter, to deal with all the dogs in the area that bite people. He'd been bitten, he said, and no one would listen to him. I listened awhile and then wished him well.

From there I continued further south to Burlington. I wanted to see a particularly old church, but I didn't find it. I did get this photo, trespassing technically in someone's yard, but it was an empty lot where something was being built, so I doubt anyone would mind. Here's the Ohio, at about the southernmost point in the state:

That's now West Virginia across the way, with the state line only a few miles west of here. It fascinates me to consider that prior to the War of Secession, this would have been Virginia.

From here I headed to Gallipolis, in Gallia County, where I couldn't recall having even passed through; so this would tick off one of the 23 "never been" counties. Driving into Gallipolis, I saw "Mitch's Fruit Stand" and decided to stop. Here's Mitch's place, right on S.R. 7.

Here's his former competition across the street, long driven out of business:

And here's Mitch.

The sign said "sweet corn"; I asked if he had white corn. No, he said, it's all mixed yellow and white; people don't seem to grow white corn anymore. I bought some peaches, and just ate one for lunch. Delicious!

After this I went into town, and came upon a lovely park right by the river. I got some pictures. Here's a veteran's memorial, recently restored:

And here are a bunch of plaques, all near the river, telling some of the story of this place:

I had known that Gallia county was named for the French who settled here, aka, "Gauls"; but not that Welsh had also come here. But I might have connected it, as one of my intended stops was a church in Oak Hill, Jackson County, with a museum about the Welsh settlers. Alas, I didn't make it there (stay tuned).

Now I had some decisions to make. My original plan was to go from here to Bluffington Island in Meigs County, where a Civil War battle took place. But as I looked at my map and considered my intinerary, I doubted there would be time for everything. It was already getting on toward 1 pm, and I had a lot of ground to cover. So I called an audible and decided to aim for the western part of Meigs, and see what I found there, saving time -- I hoped -- for some other interesting sights. So I continued up Route 7 toward Rutland, where I could turn west and meander back home, through several more counties. On the way there, I turned onto Bradbury Road, and came upon Millies; it was lunchtime, so I stopped in:

 The young lady at the counter didn't want me to take her picture; she hadn't put on makeup, she said. But she brought me a nice chicken salad sandwich to take with me. I ate it, with a diet Pepsi, on the way to Rutland. I don't recall why I took the first picture; and sorry about the finger in the second:

Continuing west along S.R. 124 (I might add here that I am gaining an appreciation for all our state highways, and just how many there are.) Here's another Methodist church, in Salem Center, as I was about to pass into Vinton County:

In Vinton County, I stopped in Wilkesville.

I have seen a lot of Family Dollar stores.

There was more to see in Vinton County, but the day was rolling on. There was a refurbished iron furnace nearby (across in Jackson County), plus the aforementioned Welsh museum. Again, I considered the time and the map, and decided I couldn't do it all. Too bad for the Welsh! Instead I made for Minerton, hoping that would be interesting; and the furnace was somewhere near there.

Well, there really wasn't anything in Minerton -- at least, not that I could find. So I got these pictures:

When I pulled over to get this photo of the marshy ground, I saw a bird -- a crane, I think. Can you find the bird?

The furnace was supposed to be nearby, I was actually on Buckeye Furnace Road (it didn't help that there were NO signs; the mail carrier confirmed that I was on the right road). I pulled out my tablet -- with 25% battery strength -- and tried GPS. No signal! So I couldn't find the furnace. So I pressed on.

Here's Berlin Crossroads, where I couldn't get GPS:

So, apologies Jackson and Vinton counties, I didn't see much of you! Maybe another trip.

Three more counties before home. Next was Pike County, just a few miles west on S.R. 32. I pulled off at Glade, where I passed this collection of trailers, arranged curiously:

After this I came into Beaver, and stopped to take this photo of the super market:

 A fellow on the porch behind me saw me taking the picture and asked if the building was going to be torn down. No, I explained, I was just passing through and found it interesting. He told me about the old school down the road, where he'd gone himself as a boy. I asked if I could take his picture. Sure, he said:

And here's his school, now the Beaver Heritage Center, but needing work:

State Route 220 took me into Waverly, the county seat:

Sorry, I managed not to get a photo of the courthouse itself! But I did get these interesting shots:

I walked down the street to check out this old church:

If you look closely, you'll see the church was built in 1852, by a German Evangelical congregation. You can find several such churches -- the signs in German -- around Cincinnati to this day. Now it's the Pike Heritage Foundation Museum.

From here it was a straight shot up U.S. 23 to Chillicothe, the first capital of Ohio, and now the county seat of Ross County. I was wondering if there was an old capital building, but I couldn't find that information online. Alas, my tablet's power was down to about 20%, so I didn't mess around. Here's what I did see there.

This is the house of Mary Worthington Macomb, which dates from 1815. It sits in a not-so-nice section of town.

Some of the history of the area:

A railroad museum, with the Scioto River in the background.

Another memorial to the war dead.

One more county: Fayette. No problem, Washington Court House was just up U.S. 35 and the speed limit was 70! According to Wikipedia, the area was settled by Virginians who fought in the Revolution, hence the name of Washington. I took some pictures around the aforesaid court house:

Then I noticed this statue:

Huh -- no explanation of who it is. Then I looked on the back:

Morris Sharp was an advocate of prohibition (notice the water fountain!) and an otherwise prominent businessman in his time; you can visit his house still.

At this point, I thought, instead of taking the fast route home -- U.S. 35 to I 75 -- why not a little more leisurely route, along S.R. 41? This would take me through western Madison County -- another conquest! So that's what I did.

As I drove through Eber, I noticed a school being torn down, even as a high school football team was practicing. Turns out, the 1962 Miami Trace High School was being torn down.

The next stop was Jeffersonville, where I saw a place called "Don and Marty's":

Next I rolled through South Solon, which seemed a sad place:

After this, I passed into Clark County, and then into Miami County. I decided to stop in Troy for dinner, after an arduous, 13-county tour!

At this point, I've visited 53 counties; I've at least driven through 14 more. That leaves 35 to go.

So what's next? Maybe a trip up to the northeast corner. I have three different itineraries in mind, but one involves a visit to Ohio's best beach (I'm told), in Lake County, so maybe that will be first, while the weather is nice. Suggestions? Let me know!