Monday, April 30, 2007

Moved in, sort of...

I've been in my new digs since Saturday. Parishioners ask if I'm all moved in; not really.

We're having an open house in a few days, to allow parishioners to see how the priests' house* looks. It's a big change, because before, it was offices on the first floor, and the priests' bedrooms on the second -- a not-good arrangement. Plus, three of the four bedrooms upstairs needed attention; and we created a bedroom on the first floor, for the parochial vicar, so he wouldn't have to climb stairs. That involved building a full bath where a hallway had been.

Well, pretty much all the interior work is finished; a few doors need to be shaved and re-hung, that's about it.

But because we're having that open house, we did not move all my things; because, had we done so, we'd have stacks of boxes around, forcing me either to hide them, or to unpack everything. As it is, I really would like to have my books on the shelves, and my pictures hanging on the walls, and we may get some of that done before the open house--but if not, at least everything looks very presentable.

This location is not actually a lot quieter than the other; the priests' house sits at the corner of two busy streets, and with windows open this time of year, street noises come right inside. But it quiets down earlier than my other location -- there, I lived across the street from a bar, and so things didn't quiet down on that street till after 2 am.

What's nice is that finally -- at least, God willing -- this is a fairly permanent move. When I arrived at St. Boniface almost two years ago, and moved into its priest house, I did not expect to stay. I knew then I'd be taking over St. Mary, probably a year later, and then the question of where I'd live would be settled. (Everything that unfolded was clearly in the offing; it was simply a question of deciding which location would be office, which priests' house, and making that decision with the involvement of the two parishes. So it's almost two years later, and all that is finally coming to fruition.)

So...when I moved here two years ago, I didn't completely unpack, and the house I lived in didn't get a lot of attention. St. Boniface knew it was going to sell that house; and our judgment has been, don't put money into it--the neighborhood makes it dubious we'll recoup that investment.

The other day, I figured it out: during the last 10 years, I've moved an average of once every year:

April 1997: sold my house in Herndon, Virginia, moved to Arlington, Virginia for three months (as I wrapped up my job there, and prepared to enter the seminary).

August 1997: moved to Cincinnati.

Summer, 1998: moved to new rooms in the seminary.

Summer, 1999: moved to Fort Wayne for a summer internship project.

Summer, 1999: moved to Piqua for parish internship.

Summer, 2000: moved to Troy, Ohio, for three months for summer job.

Fall, 2000: moved back to seminary.

June, 2003: moved to first assigment, St. Albert Parish, Kettering, Ohio.

June, 2005: moved to St. Boniface Parish, Piqua, Ohio.

April, 2007: moved to priest house for both parishes, next to St. Mary Church, Piqua, Ohio.

I'm looking forward to not moving for awhile!

* Why don't I use the proper term rectory? I've noticed that many parishioners use the word ambiguously, sometimes meaning, where the priest lives, sometimes meaning, the office. What they really mean is, the house that sits next to the church; and at one parish, that's the office, at the other, the priests' house. So, to avoid confusion, I'm avoiding the word.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Didn't realize I hadn't posted for awhile

Because I've been pretty busy. Lots of projects, main thing is I'm moving -- the house at St. Mary is ready for me to move in, so I've been packing and getting ready. Tomorrow we move.

Oh, and by the way; no homily this weekend; we have a visiting priest preaching on Eucharistic adoration at all Masses.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Sunday: Confirmation Mass with the Archbishop

Sunday was a big-deal day for everyone in our two parishes, to which we've been ramping up for a few weeks.

Archbishop Daniel Pilarczyk came to administer the sacrament of confirmation during the Holy Mass.

It is (and should be) always a big deal with the Archbishop comes to town. Of course, we all want everything to go just right, and so the planning and preparation take a bit of time.

Weeks ago, our coordinator of religious education, our music director, and I, worked out the plan for the liturgy, which was sent to Cincinnati for the archbishop's "MC" (master of ceremonies). Our CRE and several folks in the school had a lot of work to do, setting things up in church on Sunday afternoon, and somewhere along the way they had a practice for the young people to be confirmed.

The CRE also had to line up servers, a total of six; we had a practice for them at 2 pm on Sunday afternoon, and I led that. We drilled them pretty hard, but they did well.

Whenever the archbishop comes to town, the sacramental books are presented to him for inspection. As the Mass was at St. Mary, but the parish offices are now combined at St. Boniface, I had to bring the books over. I brought over both parishes' books, although it's possible I only needed to bring St. Mary's (as he did not visit St. Boniface parish). I relied on the CRE to pick up some pieces of fruit, so that the archbishop and his MC might have something to eat, if they liked.

We had a few miscues, none major; church was full, and everyone seemed happy, the children most of all. The archbishop gave a very good homily contrasting being a child, and being mature, and emphasizing the virtue of gratitude, saying something like, if you are not truly grateful, without anyone making you be grateful, you are still a child, regardless of your chronological age.

After the Mass, there were pictures, then we breezed through the reception, then headed back to the rectory to unvest, after which I took the archbishop, his MC, and the other priests to dinner.

As we walked across the parking lot, one of the boys who served at Mass was standing there, and I said, "you did a good job Nick!" Nick -- who is 10 or 11 -- reached up, patted the archbishop on the arm, and said, "you did a good job, too!" The archbishop seemed to appreciate it.

Well, I was happy with it all, and glad to host our bishop -- but I'm glad that's over. This week, I have to focus on packing, as I am finally fixing to move to the rectory at St. Mary; while I'm looking forward to living there, I dread packing and unpacking. Next up, in two weeks? First Communions.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Many new links...

Check them out at right...
You Are Incredibly Logical

Move over Spock - you're the new master of logic
You think rationally, clearly, and quickly.
A seasoned problem solver, your mind is like a computer!

(It did take me awhile to take the test, however...)

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Title this homily! (Sunday homily)*

What was described in the psalm:
"I will praise you, Lord, for you have rescued me,"
is what happens in the Gospel, for Peter.
The Lord restores him and returns Peter to being a fisher of men.
That's what we see him doing in the first reading.

We see Peter and the Apostles dragged before the Sanhedrin.
Notice exactly what they demanded of the Apostles:
Not that they stop believing in Jesus; but merely, "Keep quiet about that!"

That is most often what is demanded from us.

There are many times our culture and society make the same demands of us.

You and I should expect this—this is more or less the normal state of affairs
for a faithful follower of Jesus Christ.

So…if we don’t we find ourselves being told
to "hush up" about Jesus, why might wonder, why not?

This applies as well to how we, as Catholics,
hear what the Church teaches us.

We all know there are teachings and practices
of the Church that not all Catholics understand, or agree with, or follow.
I don’t have to give you the list.

So, there are times we Catholics we want the pope,
or bishops, or our pastor, to hush up! on some subjects.

Again, that is pretty much how it’s always been.
Think about it: if you and I belonged to a Church
in which nothing it taught, or asked of us, was hard…
Wouldn’t that make you think it was too easy?

As your pastor, I know not everything I say or do wins total support.
Some of that is my own fault; I don’t always explain everything as well as I might;
sometimes I say the wrong things; and my flaws and weaknesses are very clear—
you see them better than I do.

Sometimes, folks want to know why a decision "had to be" a certain way;
but, of course,
not all decisions work that way.

A lot of times it’s a judgment call, and it’s a question of vision and direction.

For example, how we celebrate the Mass.

Some folks want to pick the music; some are very specific
in demanding how long Mass will be;
still others insist I add things and make it longer!

Would you believe I even have folks who complain I sing too much!
I think that’s funny, but I mean no offense if you don’t.

I’ve heard from a few who are unhappy we’ve used some Latin prayers.
That doesn’t surprise me; nor was I surprised many like it.
And that most of you didn’t get too excited either way—that, too, didn’t surprise me.

I know my judgment isn’t perfect, But I don’t make these decisions
to curry favor with anyone;
I am trying to be faithful.

On the question of Latin prayers…
Many are surprised that this is precisely what the Second Vatican Council said to do.
It is what Pope Paul VI said to do; it is what our current holy father has said.

Now, I was going to share some quotes with you, from the Council, and from Pope Paul VI,
who issued the revised form of the Mass, and from our current pope…

But it would take 10 to 15 minutes to review all that, and that is too much time.
So—here’s what I did.

I’ve made some photo copies. Anybody who wants to know more, ask me afterward,
nd I’m happy to give you a copy. **

If you wonder, why didn’t this come up 20 or 30 years ago,
I’d say, because back then the Church
was wrestling with other things.

If you’re wondering why doing what the Council called for should take so long—
my answer is, it always does!
It takes a while to digest, and get it right.

So I have to tell you, if you think the process of "implementing Vatican II" is all past,
that’s not the case.
It’s very much a current project, and will be, for years to come.
Realizing that will help make sense of the changes we’ve experienced, and those still ahead.

Now, I don’t mean any big, dramatic changes, just an ongoing process of "getting it right."
So part of that is including some Latin, as the Council said to do.

As I said, I’m not surprised at various reactions, And I realize this is an adjustment.

There have been some over-reactions.
One person was verbally abusive; another gave me an ultimatum: Do it my way, or else—
0ne person said, "is it important what Vatican II said?"

Some folks have been a bit over-dramatic; some are feeding the rumor mill,
such as telling you,
I’ve got a secret plan to have all the Masses, all in Latin!
That’s pretty funny. It’s also not true. Instead, I'm planning it to be Aramaic! (Just kidding!)

So let’s set all that aside, and ask, what’s the big picture here?

In the second reading, John the Apostle is in heaven, and he says,
"I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea,
everything in the universe, cry out" in worship to God, and to the Lamb.

When we enter into the Mass, that’s what we’re taking part in!
It’s not our own, private version of the prayer;
it’s the timeless, universal prayer of the Church.

So it should be both contemporary, rooted in the present-day,
and universal, ancient, and timeless.

How we celebrate the Mass is subject, not to my wishes, or yours,
but what the Church calls for.
I must be obedient to the guidance of the Church,
and sometimes that isn’t what folks want.

Also, getting it right is pretty important.

And, we should not be surprised when our worship, in the Mass,
has elements that are ancient, timeless—
and dare I say? Mysterious.

John the Apostle was lifted up into the worship of heaven.
I am pretty sure he was overwhelmed by that.
And the same should happen to us.

I simply can't think of a title for this homily -- so feel free to suggest one in the comments!

** I will try to post that in the next day or two... Update: the handout is reproduced immediately below this post.

My handout at Mass, mentioned in homily above

(This is my handout mentioned above, except I added a couple of notes I'll include the next time I use this. I might have also cited Pope John Paul from Redemptionis Sacramentum, but I wanted this to be on a single sheet of paper...)

Latin and Chant at Mass: What Vatican II said:

From the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, Sacrosanctum Concilium, promulgated by Pope Paul VI, December 4, 1963:

36. 1. Particular law remaining in force, the use of the Latin language is to be preserved in the Latin rites.(1)

2. But since the use of the mother tongue, whether in the Mass, the administration of the sacraments, or other parts of the liturgy, frequently may(2) be of great advantage to the people, the limits of its employment may be extended. This will apply in the first place to the readings and directives, and to some of the prayers and chants, according to the regulations on this matter to be laid down separately in subsequent chapters. (3)

3. These norms being observed, it is for the competent territorial ecclesiastical authority mentioned in Art. 22, 2, to decide whether, and to what extent, the vernacular language is to be used; their decrees are to be approved, that is, confirmed, by the Apostolic See. And, whenever it seems to be called for, this authority is to consult with bishops of neighboring regions which have the same language. (4)

54. In Masses which are celebrated with the people, a suitable place may be allotted to their mother tongue. This is to apply in the first place to the readings and "the common prayer," but also, as local conditions may warrant, to those parts which pertain to the people, according to the norm laid down in Art. 36 of this Constitution.

Nevertheless steps should be taken (5) so that the faithful may also (6) be able to say or to sing together in Latin those parts of the Ordinary of the Mass which pertain to them. (7)

116. The Church acknowledges Gregorian chant (8) as specially suited to the Roman liturgy: therefore, other things being equal, it should be given pride of place in liturgical services.

But other kinds of sacred music, especially polyphony, are by no means excluded from liturgical celebrations, so long as they accord with the spirit of the liturgical action, as laid down in Art. 30. (9)

What Pope Paul VI said in Jubilate Deo, a booklet of chant issued by the Sacred Congregation for Divine Worship, April 14, 1974: (10)

This minimum repertoire (11) of Gregorian chant has been prepared with that purpose in mind: to make it easier for Christians to achieve unity and spiritual harmony with their brothers and with the living traditions of the past.

Hence it is that those who are trying to improve the quality of congregational singing (12) cannot refuse to Gregorian chant the place which is due to it….

In presenting the Holy Father's gift to you, may I at the same time remind you of the desire which he has often expressed that the Conciliar constitution on the liturgy (13) be increasingly better implemented. Would you therefore…decide on the best ways of teaching the faithful the Latin chants of "Jubilate Deo" and of having them sing them…

What Pope Benedict said, in Sacramentum Caritatis, March 13, 2007:

42. In the ars celebrandi, (14) liturgical song has a pre-eminent place. Saint Augustine rightly says in a famous sermon that "the new man sings a new song. Singing is an expression of joy and, if we consider the matter, an expression of love." The People of God assembled for the liturgy sings the praises of God. In the course of her two-thousand-year history, the Church has created, and still creates, music and songs which represent a rich patrimony of faith and love. This heritage must not be lost. (15) Certainly as far as the liturgy is concerned, we cannot say that one song is as good as another. Generic improvisation or the introduction of musical genres which fail to respect the meaning of the liturgy should be avoided. As an element of the liturgy, song should be well integrated into the overall celebration. Consequently everything – texts, music, execution – ought to correspond to the meaning of the mystery being celebrated, the structure of the rite and the liturgical seasons. Finally, while respecting various styles and different and highly praiseworthy traditions, I desire, in accordance with the request advanced by the Synod Fathers, that Gregorian chant be suitably esteemed and employed as the chant proper to the Roman liturgy. (16)

62. ….Speaking more generally, I ask that future priests, from their time in the seminary, receive the preparation needed to understand and to celebrate Mass in Latin, and also to use Latin texts and execute Gregorian chant; nor should we forget that the faithful can be taught to recite the more common prayers in Latin, and also to sing parts of the liturgy to Gregorian chant. (17)


1 "The Latin Rite" means the Roman Catholic Church, i.e., not the Greek, Lebanese, or other branches.
2 Emphasis added, and so throughout.
3 Note it never mandates that the vernacular must be used, but rather that it may be used.
4 This language does not envision a complete elimination of Latin usage at Mass.
5 Who should take these steps? Clearly bishops, and those who act for them, pastors. What steps? Not specified, but some steps are envisioned.
6 The faithful also—i.e., not just priests, not just choirs.
7 "Parts of the Ordinary" refers to prayers said every week.
8 Gregorian chant, by definition, is in Latin.
9 This makes clear the music needn’t be all Gregorian chant, only that it have "pride of place."
10 Although what follows was issued by the Congregation, it clearly represents the pope’s own desires.
11 Note the wording: the pope intends a "minimum" understanding and usage of Latin, Gregorian chant.
12 Note: this is for congregations, not just the priest, or for choirs.
13 I.e., this is linked to what Vatican II said about Gregorian chant, and tells us the pope’s understanding of its meaning.
14 I.e., the art of celebrating the liturgy.
15 Note how this echoes what Pope Paul VI said in Jubilate Deo, quoted above.
16 The pope is referring to the Synod of bishops, held October, 2005; his request to use Gregorian chant reflects their recommendation as well.
17 The first part of this paragraph (not quoted) refers primarily to international celebrations of the Mass, at which the pope requests and encourages the use of Latin; this part goes further, and speaks to more ordinary settings. I.e., the use of Latin and chant are not only for international gatherings, but as Paul VI made clear, parish settings.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Our remarkable pope(s)

I neglected to wish our holy father a happy birthday on Monday; but I am pretty sure he wasn't bothered by my neglect. (It is true someone in Rome occasionally reads my blog; I had assumed it was my brother priests from this diocese, but then again...?!?)

And I am really sorry I didn't remember to offer Mass in thanksgiving for his election, on Thursday; I would have, except I had Mass at a nursing home, so I didn't consult the Ordo, where I usually see such reminders.

Anyway, I write this post as a consequence of reading this article by George Weigel, to which The Catholic Report led me.

Weigel made a point that was striking to me: Pope Benedict "has established himself as a master teacher for the world...." What is striking is that anyone, especially Weigel, would offer such an emphasis in the wake of John Paul the Great, as he (and many of us) call Benedict's predecessor. My point is, weren't we just calling JPII the great teacher, the great theologian? And didn't everyone say, of Benedict, "how can he follow that?"

Thus, we have an astonishing thing: the bookish, shy, quiet, Benedict--who supposedly could never measure up to his predecessor in stature or appeal--is outdrawing the media-star in attendance at general audiences! Did any of Benedict's staunchest fans, before his election, predict any such outcome?

It brings to mind a point I've made many times: we have been blessed in our recent popes.

I know many who would be critical of Pope Paul VI, and though I don't fault my betters too easily, I do scratch my head at some of his judgments--but his bright, shining moment was clearly Humanae Vitae, whose prophetic qualities emerge line by line, writ large upon the events of our time.

Many are critical of Blessed John XXIII, but his legacy stands or falls with the Second Vatican Council; my basic disposition is to be confident in the hand of Providence, which we can't see because we're silly little mortals; and that leads to me to expect that, in time to come, the fruit of that Council will ripen and nourish many.

Of Pius XII, I will say this: it is becoming clearer to many that this was a great, noble and heroic man, hated by the people you most want to be hated by: the Nazis and then the Soviets and Communists -- and it was the latter who authored the smear that is now falling apart. His predecessor, Pius XI, was very much in sync with Pius XII's antagonism to the Nazis and athiest communists; Benedict XV is not a star, but he was a wise voice for peace in the idiotic First World War; yet another prophet those smart people, unfettered by dark, irrational religion, ignored to their terrible cost.

Before them? Pope St. Pius X, who played a decisive role in many matters, in several ways anticipating the liturgical renewal of our times, advanced in turn by Pus XII, and which I suspect will only really come to fruit several decades from now. Before him, Leo XIII, who midwifed the Church's Social Teaching. Before him, Pius IX, the scourge of liberalism--and you can mock him all you like--but here again is a man who may show himself more prophetic--and decisive--in decades to come, if he hasn't already. It's far too late to claim liberalism and its child, modernism, were happy, sunny, innocent movements that the old meanies in Rome slapped down and scapegoated.

And then we come back to John Paul the Great, and Benedict the Surprising.

Many like to say the Church lacks credibility, and they cite "bad popes."

I'd say, that's a very poor argument to make nowadays.

The run of popes for the last 150 years (no offense to those prior, but I don't know much of them) is either a remarkable stretch of way-above-average performance--or if it isn't that much off the norm, then perhaps the "bad popes" refrain is vastly overplayed. (Consider: it got its legs in a huge way in the mass-printed polemics of the Reformation...but that's another story...)

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Partial-Birth Abortion Ban: Very Modest Decision

It was a pleasant (but not so surprising) surprise to read this afternoon that the Supreme Court upheld the federal ban on partial-birth abortions. Not so surprising, because it was time for Justice Kennedy to burnish his credentials as a "conservative," so he swung that way. Even so, he is thoroughly unreliable for prolifers.

As I read the news reports, the decision was extremely narrow--it didn't definitively uphold the law; it only said it couldn't find a basis to overturn it "on its face." It left open the possibility of still striking it down, as applied; although what some are saying is that it may be rather hard to do that, in practice.

The rhetoric of the pro-abortion lobby, and the four justices who take the absolutist pro-abortion position, notwithstanding, it very much remains to be seen what this means to Roe v. Wade and related jurisprudence. The good news is, the state of abortion law hasn't gotten worse, and it has gotten marginally better. But I remind you: Justice Anthony Kennedy is entirely unreliable. So don't think about this logically or in terms of legal reasoning, as if the reasoning in this case somehow makes something else more likely.

It is also far too early to say this means Justice Alito and Chief Justice Roberts are the stalwarts they have been promised to be. By definition, an abortion decision that gains Kennedy's vote is the weakest, least impactful decision possible; all we know is that Roberts and Alito agreed. They may be great guys, but we still don't know that--and the great hope was that they'd help overturn Roe; and this tells us almost nothing in that regard.

It is essential that prolifers keep their eyes on the true goal, which is overturning Roe,, legislatively or judicially, and opposing all abortion. The Partial-Birth Abortion Ban, which I supported, was and is an extremely modest law that was worth pursuing, but it will prevent extremely few abortions. It must not be understood as a great accomplishment, but rather as a tiny step in a long journey.

We won a battle, a very modest battle; it's not V-J Day.

Monday, April 16, 2007

What do you say? God have mercy on the victims, on the killer, on us all.


Just completed my taxes: federal, state, school tax, city tax. Refunds for school and state taxes don't cover the bill due to Pharaoh.

You may not realize your priest has to pay taxes on the house the parish gives him to live in. That counts as income, along with all meals provided.

The federal forms are pretty straightforward, although not so* the worksheets for Schedule D (that's what you get to fill out if you have investments or mutual funds, and you get a form detailing things like "capital gains," "modified capital gains," and something called "unrecovered section 1250 distributions" or something like that).

Worksheets had fun things like:

Write amount from Line 44 here:

Add amount from Line 23, Schedule D, here:

Subtract amount from Line 23, Schedule D, here:

Is this amount same as the beginning amount? Start over...

You think I'm kidding--not much...

The City of Piqua forms are the worst. Get this: last year, I got my form back, because I made a mistake. Okay--so I got a refund. Great, huh? But the refund was reduced by the amount of the penalty . . . I read the letter three times--couldn't figure out what the penalty was for, and why I paid a penalty when I overpaid my taxes . . .

So this year, I just put a lot of squiggles everywhere, and I'll wait until they tell me my taxes--the $25 penalty counts as a tax-preparation fee.

The state of Ohio's tax forms were, in contrast, fairly simple and clear. In fact, the state enables you to file online, and it's very user-friendly. No surprise, I guess, that the state is really, really good at soaking us with taxes, since we can't get industry to move here.

Total time? Three and a half hours. Not too shabby.

* I can't stand to leave my bad grammar uncorrected--corrected 7:30, 4/17

New Color for Easter Season white; the gold was for the Octave.

Yes, it's kind of a bluish white, that looks better to me than a white-white.

I did try going back to the tannish color I had, before I started playing with the colors like a kid with a 64-count box of crayons, and I didn't like it. I kind of liked the green I had during our last bit of Ordinary Time, so I guess I'll go back to that after Easter Season.

Why I am writing this? My alternative is doing my taxes...

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Divine Mercy Sunday

What did you do in your parish?

We had the image of Divine Mercy displayed at each parish, still decorated for Easter. At those Masses when I was able to use incense, I incensed the image, after the cross.

Still being Easter Sunday, as it were, we had a sprinkling rite, and we used the Easter Sequence.

Homily is below.

After the noon Mass, I had a baptism -- a Polish family, which seemed fitting; In included Faustina and Casimir in the litany, but as I said to the family, "I'd like to include John Paul, but not yet."

We had exposition and the Divine Mercy devotion planned for 3 pm. We don't make a big deal of it here; a nearby parish has a big celebration, with priests hearing confessions and I don't know what all -- so we advertise that in the bulletin, and what we did was low-key.

We started with exposition, some silent prayer, and a reading and brief homily, as called for for exposition of the Blessed Sacrament. Then we prayed the chaplet, after that I gave Benediction, and then after returning our Lord to the tabernacle, I blessed the image of Divine Mercy. Somewhere I read that was part of the devotion, but I can't recall where. We had about 50 folks come out. Oh, and yes, I did chant the prayer. (I did better than last night, when for some reason I couldn't chant the Mass dismissal properly. I tried twice, botched it both times, and apologized and recited, "The Mass is ended, go in peace, alleluia, alleluia.")

How'd it go where you are?

(Oh, and I forgot to mention, we had a holy card for the devotion available in the pews.)

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Divine Mercy Sunday homily

Today’s Gospel gives us an image of the Lord
making his Apostles—and thus, his Church—
the agent of his forgiveness of sins.

So, we heard him say to them,
"Receive the Holy Spirit.
Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them,
and whose sins you retain are retained."

This, of course, is what happens
in the Sacrament of Confession;
so I want to talk a bit about this sacrament.
Especially on Divine Mercy Sunday,
because this is the Sacrament of his Mercy.

Suppose I said I had a pill that, if you took it every day,
it would give you a luxurious head of hair?

In addition, what if I told you it had no side effects?
And, if you asked, what does it cost? I said, it’s free!
Have all you want!

I bet a lot of you would want that pill!
If not that pill, how about a pill that makes you slender?
Or one that takes away wrinkles,
or keeps you from forgetting people’s names?

We know people want these sorts of pills,
because TV has lots of ads for them!
Now—suppose I told you I had a pill
that would make you as pure as the Virgin Mary?
It would make you a saint? Take all your sins away?

Well, I’d be lying if I said I had such a pill—
but I do have the Sacrament of Reconciliation!

When I do baptisms,
I like to point out that it makes us a saint!
That’s why we sing the Litany of the Saints,
because in baptism, we join their number.
The challenge, of course, is staying a saint—
and that’s where confession is so helpful.

No side effects; no charge!
You can take it as often as you like!

Now, I know many wonder what the priest thinks
when you come to confession.

Well, I’ll tell you!

I think, "Wow! God is at work in this person’s life;
and nothing is a greater privilege
than to be a witness to that.
I am encouraged by your faith.
And when God sends someone to confess my own sins—
to me—nothing is more humbling than that.

The question that always come up is,
"How often do I have to go?"
And there’s no simple answer to that.

The "bare minimum" is once a year,
if you’re aware of any mortal sins.
But a far better to approach the matter is not,
"what’s the minimum," but—"what helps?"

The Church really encourages going "frequently,"
which keeps us on track.

A good rule of thumb would be monthly;
but that’s up to you.

The thing is, I’ve never known any
who were sorry they came to confession—
but I have known those who didn’t come for a long time,
and wished they had come sooner.

A short word about how to make a confession.
Make the sign of the cross,
say how long it’s been,
and tell your sins honestly, completely, but to-the-point.

Being vague or general in the sacrament of confession
makes no more sense than, when you see the doctor,
and she asks, what’s wrong, you say,
"oh, I just don’t feel well!"
For the doctor to help, you have to be specific:
"It hurts here, and here, and here";
"How many times can’t you sleep?" "Three times a week."

Now, we might simply wonder,
why confess our sins to another human being.

This is where we look at what we saw in the first reading.
Why is that people came to Peter—
even if only to have his shadow touch them?

They knew how human, how flawed he was—
better than we do!
What drew them was realizing
the power of Christ was acting in him.

And that’s what we see in the Sacrament of Penance,
and all the sacraments;
and it’s also what they’re for—it’s what they do, in us.

Today, we celebrate Divine Mercy.

His Mercy is what the Apostles were sent—
and given the power—to share with the world.
And it’s what you and I continue to do.

Just as the they saw Christ powerful in Peter,
so people will see him in us, too!

It may seem hard to believe,
but we really can do it—
we really can show the world the power of Christ—
when they see it at work in us.

When they see his power in us;
when we are instruments of his Mercy in the world…
When people see Christ in us,
they will be drawn to say, as Thomas did:
"My Lord and my God!"

Metamorphosis is complete

Some years ago, I realized something that can be rather shocking: I was gradually turning into my father. (When did you have that realization? Were you shocked?) Don't get me wrong--my father, who has gone to his reward, is a fine man, someone I'm proud to be associated with. But one grows up aiming to be ones own man. Further, in my own case -- and this is true for many of us -- I remember so many odd habits and foibles of my father that we all kidded him about; so the shock came when, one after another, these were habits I discovered in myself!

It hit me when I caught myself slapping my hands together and rubbing them, just as dad always did; then the way I cleared my throat; then how I used dusty old words like "trousers." I was well along in the transformation when I discovered that I was sneezing loudly, in almost the same fashion that always exasperated my late mother.

But there was one step I was sure I'd never take. Until this morning. I reheated day-old coffee in the microwave. (My excuse is I ran out of coffee.)

Actually, I'm probably kidding myself--my dad lived to 97; I'm 45. I've got a lot of ground to cover.

I only hope I can acquire all his virtues so completely.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Fry Him

Who's smiling now?

In North Carolina today, the state Attorney General has done about as much as he could to vindicate the three Duke Lacrosse players falsely accused of rape, declaring them innocent, discrediting the accuser's highly contradictory testimony, pointing out the glaring lack of DNA evidence and corroboration, and taking Durham Prosecutor Mike Nifong (shown above) -- the author of this travesty -- out to the woodshed as a "rogue prosecutor." Nifong, unsurprisingly, wasn't available for comment.

Nifong's troubles are just beginning. He faces disbarment, civil suits and -- justly -- disgrace.

The families he assaulted, legally, and whose savings were drained by legal fees, are contemplating legal action against him -- and the city, county and state, who empowered him to act. That is just. The power of the almighty State is terrifying. Such abuse of power demands severe sanction.

Monday, April 09, 2007

Does anyone care?

This will likely be the only thing I say on this subject...

Does anyone in this whole Anna Nicole fiasco actually care about that poor woman? Everyone seems eager to pick her bones.

And--has anyone else noticed how Fox News is showing the influence of its owner, Rupert Murdoch? I.e., didn't he make his bones publishing trash-filled tabloids?

Did you know?

General Lee surrendered his forces today.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Don't ask...

anything of Father...

We had double the hours of confessions last week, including Wednesday evening, morning and evening of Good Friday, and even on Holy Saturday.

We had five Masses this weekend, on top of the liturgies for Holy Thursday and Good Friday...

So--Father's tired! (And that's true everywhere!

The same is true of all our active volunteers in our parishes--somebody had to decorate church for Holy Thursday, then strip it, then re-decorate it for the Vigil! The office staff had to get the bulletin ready early, and do extra work for the holy days...The choir and music directors all ran themselves ragged...servers wore themselves out...

Everybody is tired...

So you rest, and let them rest, too.

The Lord is risen! (He is risen indeed!)

Why should anyone believe you? (Easter homily)

If you witnessed a man die…

A man who changed your life;
an extraordinary man,
something much more than a man—
how can it be possible?
The Son of God!

You saw that man die—you witnessed it;
and then, you saw him come back from the dead—
I don’t mean 20 minutes later,
after the paramedics show up;
On the third day—after he had been in the tomb—
you saw him come back from the dead.

If you saw that, what would be different?

Peter and others saw that.

If you wonder how convinced Peter was,
Recall, he died rather than deny what he witnessed.
Oh, we know Peter
denied the Lord before the crucifixion;
But after seeing the empty tomb;
after seeing the risen Lord with his own eyes?
Peter died on his own cross, rather than deny Jesus!

And he was far from the only one.

Our faith is founded on certain facts:
Jesus lived, Jesus taught, Jesus changed lives;
Jesus was arrested,
Jesus was crucified under Pontius Pilate,
he suffered, died and was buried.

And he rose from the dead!

To be a Christian is to profess:
these are facts—they happened.
If we don’t believe they happened, we are not Christian;
and if they, indeed, did not happen?
Then our faith is foolish.

How do we know these are facts?
Because there were witnesses—
and they preserved their testimony.
That is what the New Testament is.

The Gospels were written
only shortly after these events.

The writings of the New Testament
were most likely complete by AD 100.
What wasn’t contributed by the Apostles themselves,
was completed by those who, like Luke and Mark,
were in their company.

As you know, there are those
who cannot stand these facts,
and the Faith that rests on them.

So, every few years, someone comes along,
saying he can disprove the whole thing.

Somebody finds a box of bones and says, "It’s Jesus!"
Never mind the world’s archeologists are embarrassed,
and the TV channel pulled the show!

The better question is why?
Why must people discredit the apostles’ testimony?

The answer is, the Cross stands over the world,
as a rebuke—and a judgment.

But what truly gives the Cross power is that he rose!
Lots of innocent people get murdered—
what convicts the world
is that God-became-man was murdered!

Jesus came back from the dead and ignited the Church.
The Church has been his presence in the world ever since.

Beginning with the Apostles,
the Church has been lifting up Christ, saying,
"Your Lord calls you to new life—will you accept?
He will forgive your sins—will you accept?"
Many fall to their knees in adoration.

But there are many who cannot tolerate it.
The Cross says God cares very much about us;
but many prefer a God who minds his own business.

To say, "Repent, and believe in the Gospel,"
is to say, we can be more than we are;
we don’t have to live like this—
and that is offensive to those who say,
we’re no more than animals, ruled by our baser natures,
and that’s all we’ll ever be.

The Cross says to the world, you need Him!

So we face opposition. So it has always been.
That forces us to consider: do we really believe?

You and I believe this Gospel
because of those who were witnesses;
they died rather than deny what they saw.

And that depth of conviction—
Peter, James, John, and the rest—
is what convinced the next generation,
and the next, and the next…down to the present.

Why do you believe it?
More importantly, why should anyone believe you?

Just home from the Vigil...

...And I need to unwind a bit before going to bed.

It was a loolapalooza! The wind made it hard to keep the candles lit outside, but once inside, we got everyone's candle lit. The servers did a great job, from beginning to end, although I realize they had to be tired. Because of the few times I've been part of this Mass, let alone been the celebrant, I can't remember everything, such as--does the celebrant incense the altar at the beginning? Seems not, since the candle is the focus; anyway, I didn't. If I may say so, I think that was my best job singing the Exsultet, at least it felt best. I should stick to that, rather than Frank Sinatra songs!

We did seven of the nine readings; that's an increase from before, and my plan is next year, we'll do all nine.

We started at 9 pm, so it was properly dark; unfortunately, when Easter falls 2 weeks later, it will likely be 9:15 or so.

Everything went well, except I always get lost at sea with the baptisms and confirmations, especially the latter, as I don't normally do confirmations. I did a lot of running around the sanctuary, which isn't ideal, but there it is.

We had a good crowd, almost 300, which is pretty good hereabouts for the Vigil.

The choir worked hard, and everyone sang well throughout.

I sang the Roman Canon, and remembered to include the special inserts, which I forgot for Holy Thursday!

At the end, we had a blessing of some baskets for the newly baptized and received into the Church, and then some jelly beans which I was told I was expected to pass out to the young 'uns, so I did as I was told.

It was 2-1/2 hours, but people lingered awhile afterward...

Oh, and lots of candles, I tried to have lots of incense, and the other two priests were with me, and we were all resplendent in gold chasubles. Lots of flowers everywhere, I tried my best to douse everyone with holy water, and I put a lot of chrism on the newly confirmed!

After the Mass at St. Mary, I went over to St. Boniface, where we have a perpetual adoration chapel. I took a "luna"--that is, the glass container--with a host consecrated at the Vigil -- over to the chapel, to place in the monstrance; once I did that, we resumed exposition of the Blessed Sacrament in the chapel, and the Sacrament returned to the tabernacle in the church upstairs. At the first Mass tomorrow, the retired priest will bless Easter water, and we'll have holy water in the fonts again after the Triduum.

Now I'm sitting here, having some cheese and salami, and drinking a beer I only buy for special occasions, Liberty Ale, which is very tasty and refreshing.

No more fasting! Christ our passover lamb has been slain for us--therefore, let us keep the feast!

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Lift His Light, till all the world knows (Vigil homily)

Recall the first reading—how it began:

"In the beginning,
when God created the heavens and the earth,
the earth was a formless wasteland,
and darkness covered the abyss,
while a mighty wind swept over the waters."

What is this Mighty Wind? Let’s wait and see…

One the sixth day, God crowned his creation when he said,
"Let us make man in our image, after our likeness…
male and female he created them.

"Evening came, and morning followed"—remember?
And then, on the seventh day, God rested.
Did you notice, it does not say the seventh day ended?!

When did the seventh day end?
Let’s wait and see!

Next, we meet God’s People at the Red Sea—
Moses has led them out of slavery in Egypt.
And here come the war-chariots of Egypt:
Pharaoh wants his slaves back!
Have you noticed that everything that enslaves us
works just the same way?

A fiery pillar of cloud stood in the gap between them;
God’s People were saved, through the water;
while that which held them in bondage, was destroyed!

What does this mean? Wait and see . . .

Isaiah invites: eat rich fare, receive life!

The Prophet Baruch promises "treasures of Wisdom"—
Ezekiel foresees a new heart and a new spirit.

The Wind that passed over the waters?
Ezekiel says it will fill us!

We had a lot of questions left unanswered;
Listen as St. Paul answers them.

What is that sea, we pass through safely,
yet destroys Pharaoh and his armies?

It is baptism, which destroys all that oppresses us.
Through baptism we depart one way of life,
and enter another. We are born again!

Who is our Moses, to lead us safely through?
Jesus Christ!

There are many Pharaohs that seek to enslave us.
His chariots will come charging down upon us—
but Jesus Christ stands between us and oppression.
Pain and death will come—but they will not conquer us!
When we pass through the waters with Christ,
we leave them all behind!

I pointed out, a moment ago, that the seventh day,
the day of God’s rest, didn’t have an ending.
The seventh day continued, age after age.
Until the day God decided to create anew!

When God came into the world,
when he became part of our world—one of us,
a new creation had begun.

When he came to the moment of crisis,
the night before he died, he wrestled with the decision;
and just as he said, once before,
"Let us make man in our image and likeness," now he said,
"let us remake man"—in the likeness of Jesus Christ.

God became man, so that men might become God!
Tonight marks the end of the seventh day,
and the beginning of the eighth—the new creation!
Tonight is when Christ, having gone down into death,
returned, safely, having conquered death and hell!
Tonight is when Christ, our God, our husband,
came back from the dead, to claim his Church, his Bride!

Remember the treasuries of Wisdom
the prophet spoke of?
That is the Holy Spirit, poured into our lives,
in baptism and confirmation;
softening our hearts of stone to be like his Sacred Heart!

The Exodus describes a people,
delivered by the Lord yet continuing on a journey.
We are part of that people.
We have not yet reached the Promised Land;
but Jesus is our Joshua, who has been there,
and has come back from the dead to tell us:
It is a good land, and he will lead us there!

We still face a journey through the wilderness.
Only one Light can be trusted—Jesus Christ!

Tonight, nine pilgrims desire to join our company.
Four to be baptized, they and the rest to be confirmed,
and to taste the Bread of Heaven, the Blood outpoured.

They have been drawn to the Light that we lift up.
We welcome them, as we continue our journey,
lifting up Christ, till all the world knows.

Friday, April 06, 2007

Triduum thus far...

Yesterday was a pretty hectic day; in the morning, I got St. Boniface Church ready for the Mass, in the evening, then I worked on my homily, then I ran over to St. Mary to check on things there, for the dinner party for area priests. Then I ran to the hospital to bring holy communion there, then to the store to pick up some pop and cups and olives. Then back to St. Mary to get things ready there. The priests started arriving around 2:30, we had None (mid-afternoon prayer) at 3 pm, then had drinks and snacks before the dinner.

Thanks to the donor of the lamb butter mold; it turned out well, except poor lambie's face fell off!

Someone asked for the menu: Fruit salad, Lyonnaise potatoes (at least, I think that's what they were; they were tasty, at any rate), broccoli omelet, sauteed mushrooms (the latter two contributed by our retired priest, who is an excellent cook), roast leg of lamb (with the bone removed; we had three of them, so some poor lamb somewhere is having to push himself along on a cart, with one good leg), baked ham, mint jelly, rolls with butter, choice of wine--Merlot or Chardonnay, ice cream with choice of raspberry or chocolate sauce, coffee.

After the dinner, I headed over to St. Boniface for some final prep. The servers all arrived, some of whom weren't able to be at the practice, so a very quick run-through. We ended up with nine servers, which was great; six carried torches, with four of them lined up facing the altar during the Eucharistic Prayer.

I missed several cues! I forgot (I hang my head in shame) to incense the altar and cross at the beginning of Mass! Then, during the Eucharistic Prayer, I forgot to use the special insert for Holy Thursday, which was one of the reasons I chose the Roman canon!

When I began Mass, I realized I'd forgotten my mic; no problem, I usually go without, but I've been trying to use it more, since I really have to throw my voice otherwise. As I sang the sign of the cross, my voice croaked, and I thought, oops! I'm not going to make it through this Mass! So I sent one of the servers for my mic.

Overall, I thought it was a beautiful Mass, and we had at least 300 people present. After reposing our Lord in the chapel, I came back to help some parishioners wrap up the stripping of the church for Good Friday.

I don't mind telling you, I was stiff this morning when I got up. We had Office of Readings and Morning Prayer at 9 am; a handful showed up. This was the first time we did that. After that, I heard some confessions, and the vicar came over and relieved me. Back to St. Boniface to open up the doors, pick up my homily text and a few other things, then back to St. Mary for the Stations of the Cross. I decided to carry the cross myself, and that server held the book for me.

Then I had Sister drive me back to St. Boniface, to bring the Blessed Sacrament consecrated the night before, back with me. After the liturgy of the Passion at St. Mary, we did the same in reverse, for tonight's liturgy at St. Boniface.

After the Liturgy of the Passion at St. Mary -- which went rather well, I think -- we prayed the Divine Mercy Chaplet to begin the novena. I took a little break, had a bowl of cereal, and then over to St. Boniface to hear more confessions, then helped set things up for the retired priest who is celebrating the liturgy as I write this. Before going home, I stopped by the KofC's fish fry for dinner.

One of my brother priests, at a nearby parish, made the point to me the other day, that what really strengthens priests is the faith of the people. That was on my mind as I sat at the chair, behind the altar, watching so many people come forward to venerate the cross, held so reverently by the two servers. The servers always impress me, because these liturgies are really hard, especially last night and tomorrow.

Tomorrow morning, after prayers with the Elect and those entering full communion, we will do a rehearsal for the sponsors. Both churches will be decorated--fortunately, I don't have to worry too much about that! But there are always particular details. The Great Vigil is a 9 pm.

A lot of crucifixions (Good Friday homily)

What we’ve heard bids us contemplate—
if we can bear it—a horror.

But the atrocity of what was done to Jesus
Is no match for the atrocity of what has happened,
and continues to happen, to humanity—
The cankerous deformity of sin.

In the great film, “On the Waterfront,”
Karl Malden plays a priest—
His character was based on a real priest,
Father John Corridan—
And he preaches a pretty amazing sermon:

“Some people think the Crucifixion
only took place on Calvary.
They better wise up.

“Takin’ Joey Doyle’s life to stop him from testifying
is a crucifixion.
And dropping a sling on Kayo Dugan
because he was ready to spill his guts tomorrow—
that’s a crucifixion.

“And every time the mob puts the crusher
on a good man—
tries to stop him from doing his duty as a citizen—
it’s a crucifixion.

“And anybody who sits around and lets it happen—
keeps silent about something he knows has happened—
shares the guilt of it just as much as the Roman soldier
who pierced the flesh of Our Lord
to see if He was dead…

“Every morning when the hiring boss blows his whistle,
Jesus stands alongside you in the shape-up.
He sees why some of you get picked
and some of you get passed over.

“He sees the family men worrying about getting the rent
and getting food in the house for the wife and the kids.

“Christ is always with you—Christ is in the shape up.
He’s in the hatch. He’s in the union hall.
He’s kneeling right here beside Dugan.
And He’s saying with all of you,
if you do it to the least of mine, you do it to me!”

We could say the same
about what happened two years ago
to Terry Schiavo in Florida.
And is continuing to happen to folks like her.

That woman was not “allowed to die”—
She was murdered:
She was denied food and water through a feeding tube,
They wouldn’t even put ice chips in her mouth.
And that’s a crucifixion.
So many forgotten people.

In our cities: children, street people, ex-cons, addicts;
People in Haiti, Sudan, China and North Korea:
Starved; oppressed, murdered.

Or, to find forgotten people,
We need go no further than the nearest nursing home.

A lot of crucifixions.

What happened on that cross is pretty bad; but it’s over.

But all these other crucifixions are still happening.

What are we going to do?
I don’t know.

But let us resolve that we will not do nothing.
That we will not look away.

That we will not lose heart because of the darkness
And because we feel so alone against a system,
Against the powerful, against a raging mob.

If nothing else, we can stay at the side of Christ
as he suffers in all the crucifixions
that still happen in our world.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

This is the Night (Homily for Holy Thursday)

This week, the Jewish People celebrate Passover.

When they gather for the Passover meal,
it is traditional for the youngest son to ask,
“Why is this night different from all other nights?”

The first reading describes that night, long ago.
Celebrated in Egypt, that place of slavery,
on the night before they were delivered by the Lord God.

They took a lamb without blemish.
It was “slaughtered during the evening twilight.”
They applied some of its blood to the doorposts and lintel.

The blood marked the homes
of those who trusted in YHWH.
And the Lord God promised:
“Seeing the blood, I will pass over you;
thus, when I strike the land of Egypt,
no destructive blow will come upon you.”

Tonight begins our Passover.
Why is this night unlike all other nights?
This is the night when Jesus—YHWH, our Deliverer—
gathered his Apostles, to celebrate the Passover.

Over the years, when God’s People marked the Passover,
they did it as a family; but it was often the case
that more than one family would gather to share the Passover.
That, too, is something we are doing tonight—
this is the first time St. Mary and St. Boniface Parishes
will gather together for this Holy Thursday Mass.

We are two parish families, yet one Family of God.
You’ll see, when the gifts are brought to the altar,
The oils that the Archbishop blessed, in Cincinnati,
on Tuesday, will also come forward—
and we will place the oils for St. Mary, here,
under the Blessed Mother;
We will place the oils for St. Boniface,
In front of the relic of St. Boniface, here by St. Joseph.
Two parishes—but one Family of God.

The event we recall tonight,
we often call “the Last Supper”—
But it really is the first—and the one and only.

On this night, Jesus, our Lord God,
revealed to his Apostles the New Passover.

Our Passover begins tonight,
but it won’t be complete tonight.
It continues over “Three Nights”—the SacredTriduum:
this night, the “evening twilight” tomorrow
when the Lamb was slain, and Saturday night,
which is really the beginning of Easter Sunday.

Three things are special about this night.
First, we have the washing of feet.
Everyone remembers this about Holy Thursday!
You see it done in different ways in different places.
But the Missal is very specific
in requiring it to be done this way.
And I want to explain why.

On that night, our Lord created his new priesthood,
in his Apostles.

Jesus is the one, true Priest.
He sanctifies his people through the one Sacrifice,
first on the Cross, and then perpetually, through the Mass.

This is the night when He gave a share
of his eternal priesthood to his Apostles.
Within only a few years, they called other men
to share that ministry.
That is when we began to have
deacons, priests and bishops—
the familiar ordained ministries we recognize.

This is the night when that began.
And that is key to the meaning of the washing of the feet.

He did this to show his Apostles how to be his priests.
It is a lesson we priests never get enough of!

There’s a second thing we do tonight.
We celebrate the Sacrifice of the Mass.
But we do that every day, every Sunday.
Yes—but this is the night when it began.
So, we do it with great solemnity.

As I told you; it was not “the Last Supper,”
But the First Supper—the first of many.

This night, throughout the world,
this Mass is celebrated everywhere.

Many celebrate it in full freedom,
and in beautiful churches, as we do here;
But many do so amidst violence—we think of Iraq;
Many do so in secret and in peril, as in Saudi Arabia;
And many do it in poverty—we think of so many places.
Many places, times, and people—but truly One.
Indeed, we are all one with that First Supper.

Christ who presided at that table then, presides here—
he is truly as present now as then!

Notice this cross here?
Our Lord is dressed like a priest.
It represents the mystical reality
of the Cross and the Mass—which are one!—
where he is both priest and the Lamb that is offered.

The Sacrifice begun at that First Supper,
was accomplished on that First Good Friday.
In one way, it was certainly complete:
Our Lord said, on the Cross, “It is finished!”

Yet, in another sense, it is not complete:
year upon year, our High Priest continues to plead
for each of his brothers and sisters.

The Blood poured out at Calvary
continues to be applied as our protection and deliverance.

This Eucharist, this Sacrifice will only be truly complete
when, at the time of his choosing, Christ returns at last,
and gathers all his Elect, living and dead,
into the Kingdom: a new heavens and a new earth!

Only then will the Priest say, “The Mass is ended!”
But for now, our Mass does not end.

So, the third, special feature of this night
is that tonight, we don’t end Mass in the usual way.
There is no end; I won’t say, “the Mass is ended”;
tomorrow’s liturgy for Good Friday
is a continuation of this night’s liturgy;
the Good Friday liturgy doesn’t end, either—
it continues with the Mass on the Vigil.

So, instead, after we all receive his Body and Blood,
we go in procession, accompanying the Lord to the chapel.

After you receive holy communion,
there are tables on either side, where you can get candles,
which we’ll carry in the procession.
Go ahead and light it as you pick it up,
Because it won’t be long after that
we’ll go in procession around to St. Clare Chapel.
And, I would ask that the ushers,
or whoever is close to the doors,
to open the center doors for the procession,
and then close the outer doors afterward.

We will go as the Apostles went to Gethsemane.
They didn’t know what was happening;
they waited in fear and doubt.

But we know!
We pray with the Lord, this night, with no fear or doubt.
We know what he did that Friday.
We feel the sorrow of the what our sins cost the Lord;
but we wait in hope, knowing what he did!
So, I invite you to join the procession from here,
around on Miami, to the chapel.
Of course, we won’t all fit in the chapel at once,
but as always, the chapel will remain open all night.

Why is this night different from all other nights?
This is the Night when our Redemption began.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

A Crazy 'Spy Wednesday'

Today has been a crazy day in Piqua.

The main event was four--count 'em, four funerals!

Three were funeral Masses; one was a simple burial at the cemetery. Thank God for our retired priest, who took two of the Masses, and the vicar for handling the burial. I had the evening funeral, with the burial tomorrow.

In addition to this, I was supposed to write at least one homily today; Wednesday mornings, I set time aside for that. As it was, I got either a phone call or a visit, at home, about every half hour. Too many things on my mind to focus on the homily, so...we'll see.

This afternoon, I handled a variety of little projects, running back and forth between the parishes. Had a few things to do, in view of tomorrow, before the funeral Mass this evening.

Funeral Mass went well, but after that, we still had to transfer the Blessed Sacrament to the chapel; so a small party of parishioners stayed, and joined me in a low-key procession. The rubrics say nothing about any ritual for this, but...what am I supposed to do, stop people from joining me? So I used the humeral veil, and had two servers carry candles. Then I ran around the church and gathered up the remaining candlesticks, which will be cleaned up tomorrow morning, for tomorrow evening.

I'd have been happy to come home at that point, but I needed to stop in on the Knights of Columbus, so visited with them briefly. They and the Knights of St. John will be participating in Mass tomorrow night; in addition, they always organize adorers for the night watch, so I wanted to thank them for that.

Heard at the grocery store...

The other day, I was getting a prescription filled; so while waiting, I picked up several other items, one of which was a 12-pack of beer.

As I picked up the prescription, another customer said to me, "Oh, you Catholics and your beer!"

I smiled and said, "Oh, this? I don't expect to drink more than half of it before I get home."

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Theology of the Body

Here's a nice summary:

1) The Theology of the Body is a rearticulation of the Christian Gospel rooted in terms of human sexuality, who we are as men and who we are as women.

2) In Genesis, we read that men and women are made in the image and likeness of God. Sounds nice, but who is God?

3) God is a communion of Love. God the Father pours himself out in love to God the Son, and God the Son receives that love and gives a total gift of Himself back to the Father in return by dying on the cross. And the love between them is so tangible that it becomes a third person, the Holy Spirit.

4) In the same way, in the sexual act a man pours himself out in love for a woman. The woman receives this love and gives a total gift of herself back to the man. And the love between them is so tangible that nine months later, you have to give it a name - it becomes a third person!

5) Therefore, the sexual act is meant to be nothing less than the number one sign and symbol that God has written into our very nature as men and women to be an image - a symbol - an icon - of who He is in His inner self - a communion of Love. That’s why Catholics save sex for marriage - because it is so good and so holy and so sacred. We say “no” to sex before marriage so we can say “yes” to sex in a much deeper way - in a way that most perfectly images the God himself.

There are some refinements needed here: the Holy Spirit is not a "child" of the Father and Son--point four would better begin, "in an analogous way..." But it does clarify the matter well.

From Intentional Disciples, via Amy Welborn's Open Book.

'Behind the scenes' at the parish in holy week...

I don't know what other parish priests have to do, although I can imagine; but here are some projects I'm working on this week...

* Preparing for prayer on Holy Thursday morning.

One of my bright ideas was to have Office of Readings and Morning Prayer (Matins and Lauds) for Holy Thursday morning. Trouble is, there isn't anything handy to copy and distribute. We have books with morning prayer in them, but not Matins; so I was busy preparing that today. Other problem is that the texts aren't easy to find online, but I found everything. Unfortunately, it will be mostly recited; I was going to have someone lead it, but we have three funerals this week, all on Wednesday! (Can't have funerals after Wednesday.) So the cantor who was going to lead Thursday prayers is doing a funeral Wednesday evening, at 7 pm.

* Cleaning out the containers that hold the sacred oils.

Tonight, in Cincinnati, the Archbishop will bless the new oil, and consecrate the chrism, for the coming year. Tomorrow, the vicar will go get the fresh oils from the dean. So we have to clean out the containers, and burn the old oil. (I confess I kept back a bit of the anointing oil, and the chrism, just in case!) One of our dear Sisters of Charity volunteered to burn the oil for me; so I was cleaning up some of the containers this afternoon.

* Cleaning up the candle "followers."

These are the brass thingees that cap the candles used at Mass. They get all cruddy over time, so I generally clean them up right before Christmas and Easter. How to do it? I put them on cookie sheets and put them in the oven at a low temperature; the wax melts pretty quickly, and then they wipe clean pretty well. Parish office smells funny from the wax.

I'll do most of them tomorrow, taking care of the rest on Thursday, after the various funerals, and before the Mass of the Lord's Supper.

* Shopping.

I have a dinner with area priests on Holy Thursday; I have to pick up some Bourbon and some beer and a few other items.

* Help bury the dead.

Our retired priest has two funerals tomorrow; I am taking care of prayers tonight. Thankfully, both vigils are at the same funeral home, an hour apart. (Update at 7:12 pm: And, oh, I forgot to mention I have a funeral tomorrow as well--that makes a total of three. The latter will be in the evening, with the burial on Thursday morning.)

* Try to conduct other parish business.

I still had to finalize the bulletins, meet with staff (including a meeting at 9 tonight, with the music director; he's busier than I am); thankfully, not so many phone calls.

Monday, April 02, 2007

'Be Kind to your Priest and Church musician' Week (this week and next)

If there's some special project you really think your pastor, or your parish music director, needs to get on board with, this week and next might not be the time to bring it to them. This is the very busiest week for them, and next week is when they recuperate.

I confess some of the busy-ness is self-imposed, but there is a good reason: if you are committed to the celebration of the Church's liturgy, then of all times actually to celebrate it, this is that week! So, while minimalism is always an option (and there is a constituency for it!), many of us find that idea rather soul-deadening.

So, we have the solemn liturgies of Palm Sunday, Holy Thursday, Good Friday, the Vigil, and Easter Sunday. In addition are the needed rehearsals, for choirs and cantors who are volunteers and have family and work concerns. In addition, I want to lead some of the Liturgy of the Hours on Thursday, Friday and Saturday; my music director wants to provide some music for some of that, but I keep telling him he doesn't have to (he has a lot already).

In addition, I have scheduled extra time for confessions this week, as an experiment: will they come? I'll let you know.

If all that weren't enough, we've had three deaths in the two parishes, so two funerals are scheduled for Wednesday, and I'm waiting to hear from the funeral home what the third family wants. My only option is to have a Wednesday evening funeral, with burial on Thursday; otherwise, the funeral has to wait until Easter Monday.

Don't feel so sorry for me; I have two other priests who help. Our music director is really in a bind this week.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

A solemn Palm Sunday

Here's how Palm Sunday went here in Piqua--at least, at the Masses I offered.

The Missal has three options for how one begins Palm Sunday: at the principal Mass of the parish, a procession; where a procession is not possible, the "solemn" entrance, which is very similar to the procession, except everything happens inside church; and the "simple" entrance, which is theoretically to be used at all other Masses that don't use the procession...except that the solemn entrance can be repeated...Confused? So was I, but I think I figured it out.

Anyway, we had a procession at each parish this morning. I led it at 9 am, and Father Caserta, our retired priest, led it at St. Boniface. At the vigil Mass at St. Boniface last night, I did the "solemn" entrance--i.e., no procession, not even inside church (although we could have done that), but the palms were blessed, and the Gospel account of our Lord's entrance into Jerusalem was proclaimed, from the back of the church. Before that--and before the procession--the proper entrance antiphon, in English, was sung. Of course, I had incense both last night, and at the 9 am Mass with the procession, this morning.

The processional crosses at each parish were adorned with palms, which I read somewhere is proper; the crucifix displayed in the sanctuary of St. Boniface also had a red cloth draped around the body of the Lord -- not covering it, but adorning it. I read that in the Ordo, which is the little booklet that priests keep in the sacristy, that ostensibly digests various rubrics and customs for the priest and sacristan. It is usually reliable, but as someone rightly pointed out here once before, it isn't itself an official source, but conveys info from official sources. I thought the processional cross at St. Boniface looked especially good, not only with palm branches, but also a red ribbon.

I am blessed to have a really fine, all silk red vestment, in the traditional style with the "y" cross on the front and back, made of yellow-gold banding. It's lined, so it's rather heavy, but at least it hangs properly, and it's warm for those winter-time martyrs!

For the Passion, we did it this way (at both parishes): it was read in parts, I read the parts of our Lord, and the people took one of the parts. I am not sure we're supposed to do that, based on a 1988 letter on the celebration of Lent, Holy Week and Easter. What gives me a little pause is that Monsignor Peter Eliot, who is pretty conservative and strict about rubrics, in his Ceremonies of the Roman Rite, recommends it for Masses using the "simple" entrance (more about that in a moment). Anyway, I figured I can't fix everything that needs fixing all at once, so if that needs fixing, we'll get to it. For all I know, there may be a lot of the faithful who would prefer listening.

The Gospel Books we use at both parishes actually have the text set up for reading in parts, so I decided it would look a lot better if the priest proclaimed the Gospel from the Evangelarium, rather than from a pamphlet! So that's what I did on Saturday evening. I will explain, here, that at St. Boniface, we don't have missallettes--at least, not more than a handful--so for Palm Sunday and Good Friday, we have booklets one of my predecessors prepared. We have three sets, so we're covered for each year on Palm Sunday.

But what I didn't know, until we began proclaiming the Passion last night, was that the text of the booklets does not match that of the Gospel Book! Most likely, my predecessor used a previous edition of the lectionary; but it was a bit awkward. At St. Mary, no problem, as they do use missallettes. There, because I was proclaiming the Gospel from the chair, I had no place to set the Gospel book. No problem: I had a server hold it; and as we had four servers, they took turns. That may sound hard, but I have them rest the top of the book under their chins, and it's not all that taxing (that's how I learned it in the seminary). As I say, it was a lot classier way to do it than to have me fiddling with a cheap missallete!

At the 7 am Mass, we used the "simple" entrance. I've never used that before, so I'm not sure I did it correctly. You see, when one uses the other forms, the penitential rite is omitted; but in the "simple" entrance, there is no blessing of palms (they were blessed the night before anyway), and no first Gospel. And it said, "begin in the usual way." So that's exactly what I did, including a penitential rite and kyrie. Anyone have anything to offer on that subject?

At the 9 am Mass, with the procession, I also used the option of wearing a red cope, which I borrowed from St. Boniface. After all, other than that procession, and Stations on Good Friday, when else is a parish priest likely to wear a red cope? (Yes, I know, for vespers and lauds, but these are seldom celebrated solemnly in a parish. Someday, I hope!) For those who wonder how that works, what you do is wear the stole, under the cope, and have the chasuble waiting at the celebrant's chair. Then, upon arriving in the sanctuary, the priest takes off the cope, and puts on the chasuble. At least, that's what I did. And I did it after incensing the altar and crucifix. No, I didn't have the server hold the edge of my cope, that would have been nice, but the poor kids had enough work to do (and they did well, they seemed to enjoy it).

I did have a moment of panic as I tried to find the clasp on the cope, and couldn't see it! By the way, to priest-readers and others knowledgeable about this--I did this vesting with my back to the people, as they sang "All Glory, Laud and Honor," because that seemed right. Comment on that?

I used the Roman Canon (EP I) for all Masses; I realize it's longer, but it only adds a couple of minutes in and of itself, and anyway, Palm Sunday is supposed to take longer! My homily, as you can see, was short; I could have been shorter, but--readers, please say if you agree--I figure, after all that standing, the faithful would like to sit down for a few minutes anyway.

Now, for the Eucharistic Prayer, I was going to chant part of it, but I had the wrong missal last night (you see, the missal isn't set up very helpfully in this regard--you have to flip the pages around to use the chant for EP I, and I think that's disruptive to the prayer; so I have one I marked up myself), and there were a number of babies crying at 9 am Mass, that I decided not to, even though chanting does not add any time, people think it does, so I thought it would be a negative.

We ended Mass with no hymn; so that meant, practically, a short exit, out to the sacristy.

As it was, the 9 am Mass, with its procession, ended at 10:15, without any rushing (and, I might add, two dismissals! One for the children's liturgy of the word, and then for the elect and candidates for full communion).

For those interested in the music, click on our music director's blog, listed at your right in the links column, labeled "Piqua Catholic Community Choir" or something like that. The choir was very good at 9 am, making me look forward to the rest of the week.