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!