Saturday, March 31, 2012

'We did this' (Palm Sunday homily)

Holy Week isn’t about someone else; it’s about us.

We don’t do all this to remember what someone else did.
It’s about what we would have done if we’d been there.

It’s about what WE DO to him by our daily choices.

Not them; not you. Me.

I don’t recall
when I first started thinking of it that way.

I was going to say,
“when I first understood that”—
but that moment hasn’t happened yet.
I’m a long way from really understanding.

That’s why we do this every single year.

If you’ve come this far in Lent,
It maybe you feel you missed the boat.
You can still make Holy Week your Lent.

If you wish you’d gone to confession—
it’s not too late.
We’ll have confessions Wednesday evening
at St. Boniface Church
from 5:00 to 6:45 pm, before Mass.

We’ll have confessions on Good Friday at both churches:
At St. Mary Church from about 10 to Noon;
And at St. Boniface from 5 to about 6:30 pm.

Saturday, we’ll have confessions at the usual times.

The Lord walked his week to the Cross and the grave
and we can walk with him.

Come to Saint Mary, Thursday evening;
pray with him that night before his agony.

Come Friday to pray at the Cross at either church.

Come to the Vigil Saturday night
when the Light of Christ conquered the darkness.

This is his week; it’s our week. This is about us.

Principal sought for Piqua Catholic School

For the 2012 – 2013 school year. We are a Catholic K-8 elementary school at two campuses ½ mile apart at two parishes with one pastor. We are in partnership with Lehman Catholic High School in Sidney, and several Catholic schools in the area. The principal should expect to lead our school in proclaiming boldly our Catholic identity and in seeking academic excellence.

Our enrollment is projected for 190-200 for the coming year. We have full-day kindergarten, departmental junior high with Algebra in 8th grade for H.S. credit, computer and science labs, math and reading enrichment, and special needs support, as well as enhanced curriculum and activities, sports programs, and an extended day program.

Applicants must be a Catholic in good standing, possessing a Principal’s Certification/License for the State of Ohio, and Catechetical Certification is necessary. Please send cover letter and resume with references (including from your pastor) by April 20, 2012 to: Fr. Martin Fox, 503 West North Street, Piqua, Ohio 45356.

Monday, March 26, 2012

A Lovely Lady Day

It has been a lovely Solemnity of Annunciation. Begun well; ended well.

I had brunch this morning with a parish family, who has been so gracious toward me over the years. They have six boys, who are a joy: we had just a lovely breakfast: muffins, fruit salad, coffee (of course) and biscuits with gravy. And the boys of course wanted to show Father their video games and so forth, so that was great too.

As it happens, the same family was very involved in the Mass this evening. The four oldest boys were all planning to serve Mass, including the youngest of the four, who had never served Mass before. But he is a gamer, and was not intimidated by the fact that tonight, we were also going to have Mass ad orientem! What a guy!

So the boys all showed up very promptly around 6:15 or so; dad and mom were there to lead the music. I can't say enough good about these boys and their parents. Lots of energy so you can imagine it takes a little to manage things, but--thanks be to God, I'm not unequal to the task!

I had some cassocks in the closet--but alas, only one surplice!--so the second oldest, who also was elected thurifer--ended up in cassock and surplice. Then, of course, I'm showing them what's different when they assist Mass offered ad orientem--and, truth to tell, I'm a little uncertain myself, as I don't do this often enough to have everything down pat. Meanwhile, I'm thinking about the fact that I'm going to attempt to chant the Roman Canon--with the new notation in the new Missal!--and I'm trying to keep my cool all the while.

Well, I recruited an agreeable parishioner to be the reader, and the boys are all juiced to offer Mass, and we assemble and begin. The schola was splendid--they chanted the propers throughout, it was awesome. The servers did so well, and I managed not to mangle the chants too badly. I am not sure what I said in my homily; I tried to talk about the times, the Lord, the Faith, and our Lady. I fear I didn't say enough good about the Mother of God--but as it happens, once I get going about our Lady, I just go on and on. But I tried to say some things about the hope we have as a result of Mary and her "yes" to the Incarnation.

Well, the big moment came--to chant the Roman Canon. I was sweating bullets; however, I was facing the Lord, so that made it easier. The choir director said I did reasonably well, so Deo gratias! It was a wonderful Mass, and the 30-40 folks who took part all seemed very happy.

Then, after all was finished, a group of us retired to the Italian restaurant in town for pizza and wine. What fun! We had such a nice conversation. I was so happy to talk to the boys who served Mass--their mother and father were so proud!--and it was all such a nice evening. I guess the theme of the evening was: that the joy of Christ coming into the world supercedes all.

Well, I'm home just now and reflecting on what a nice day it was. Deo gratias! Felix festa!

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Welcome our new pastor

His Excellency Bishop Joseph Binzer informed me on Friday morning that the Archbishop had appointed the Rev. Thomas Bolte as the new pastor for Saint Mary and Saint Boniface Parishes.

Father Bolte currently serves as pastor of Saint Theresa of Avila Parish in Cincinnati.

I spoke with Father Bolte on Friday and I will be in touch with him in the coming week, to prepare for his arrival and to help him in any way I can.

He expects to begin his term as pastor July 1, meaning he will move in sometime in the days or weeks prior.

Please pray for Father Bolte and for God to assist him in every way!

The New Covenant (5th Sunday of Lent)

Through Jeremiah, God promised
“a new covenant” with his People.

In the Old Testament,
God showed himself to humanity.
But that wasn’t enough.
God’s People needed God’s total commitment,
So they could be totally converted.

In the new covenant God doesn’t just come near—
He becomes man!
God, pouring his life into us:
Total commitment, total change.

This is what it means to be a Christian;
to become a “little Christ”:
Someone in whom God has come to dwell!

This is why we genuflect when we enter church:
because God has come to dwell here:
in the Eucharist—in the tabernacle.

Total commitment; total change.

Now, some misunderstand this.
Because the Eucharist is still food,
They will say, the Eucharist is only a symbol.

No…the Eucharist truly is Jesus. No hedging.
But, yes, he is also Food.
And the reason is what we’re talking about:
total commitment.

Every other food, when we receive it,
is transformed into us.

The Eucharist is the only Food that, in receiving,
transforms us into Itself!

That’s what communion means!
Comm-union: “union with.”

So let’s talk about something delicate:
We Catholics do something
a lot of folks don’t understand:
we’re strict about who receives communion.

Folks who aren’t Catholic
should not come to Catholic communion.
Likewise, Catholics are not to receive communion
in non-Catholic churches.

The only exception has to do with Eastern Orthodox Christians;
but generally, this is the case.

Now, the only way to sort this out
is to realize that Catholics, Orthodox, and Protestant
all come at this subject from different angles.

We don’t start with the same assumptions,
so we end up with different answers.

Many of our Protestant brothers and sisters
will emphasize a personal relationship with Jesus.
And for them, receiving communion
is more on a “Jesus and me” level.

So they’ll come to Mass, and say,
“I believe in Jesus so why can’t I receive communion?”
Or they will just go ahead
and come to communion without realizing they should not.

Here’s why not:
As Catholics, we believe that our relationship with Jesus
is also a relationship with his Church.
Jesus has a Head and Body, the Church.

To be united with the Eucharist
is union with the whole Christ—
which includes his Church;
and it includes all that the Church teaches and believes,
it includes the Catholic way of living—our moral beliefs.

So if your friends ask,
“why can’t I receive communion at a Catholic Mass?",
maybe respond this way:
“When you receive communion at Mass,
it means you ARE Catholic;
you ARE a member of the Catholic Church,
you live the moral life of a Catholic,
and you believe everything Catholics believe.
Is that actually true?”

And, honestly, they have to say, “no.”

Of course, they might say,
“but what if I want to become Catholic?”
Then the answer is, “Great! I’ll help you!”

We have folks who are preparing
to do just that, at Easter;
and that will be when they make their first communion.

So, also, that is why
we as Catholics don’t receive communion
in another church: it would be a false act of faith.

We agree with our fellow Christians on a lot of things,
but we don’t share all the same beliefs—
it’s sad, but we don’t have the unity
that Christ wishes us to have.
So we don’t enter into a ritual that says we do.

Respecting the beliefs of our fellow Christians
doesn’t mean we pretend there aren’t real differences.

Our friends the German Baptists—
we see them bring their produce to town—
They have a distinctive way of living,
and they pay a price to live their Faith, their way…
I’m not going to say
what’s different between them and us isn’t important.
It’s obviously important to them.

So what do we do about the divisions among Christians?
In the Gospel, the Lord talked about
his being lifted up to draw all to him.

Christians being divided doesn’t help.
Christians who give a bad witness—
priests who give a bad witness—don’t help.

It comes back to where we started:
The new covenant—the conversion Christ calls us to.

He said when a grain of wheat dies,
it produces much fruit.
He was talking about himself: his death;
but he’s also talking about us.
Catholic and Protestant and Orthodox can’t get along:
the grain of wheat needs to die.
Two parishes in Piqua can’t always get along:
The grain of wheat needs to die.

In the Gospel, some outsiders
came to the Apostles and said,
“We want to see Jesus.”

You know what?
If we do our job—
they’ll come and ask us that question.
Wouldn’t that be awesome?

Friday, March 23, 2012

Solemn Mass, ordinary orientem

At the request of several parishioners, when I offer Mass this Monday, for the Solemnity of the Annunciation, I will exercise the option available in the Missal--which Pope Benedict himself does on occasion--and offer Mass "ad orientem."

I might remind you that this Mass will likewise feature our schola, with lots of beautiful music, incense and chant.

But back to "ad orientem." What does that mean?

It means, literally, "toward the East"--meaning not so much geographical east, but what the East symbolizes for us as Christians: the rising of the sun/the rising of the Son. The East has always been a potent symbol for Christians, drawing on what it meant for our spiritual cousins, the Jewish people. Thus, for most of Christian history, the orientation of Catholic worship has been "ad orientem"--toward the East. Even if it wasn't necessary to be oriented toward geographical east, nevertheless it often was.

So how does this affect Mass?

Very simply, it means the priest and the people will, at various points, face the same way. It expresses the idea that we are all turning toward the Lord at those moments.

So for part of the Mass, the priest faces the people because he's addressing them: in the prayers at the beginning of Mass, in the readings and the homily, when he asks the people to offer a prayer or a response, or when--toward the end of Mass, he shows them the Lord, and then brings the Lord to them in holy communion. These are all times when the priest naturally faces the people.

However, there are times when the priest's actions are directed toward the Lord; and while the Church has, in recent decades, grown used to the priest facing the people at these moments, the reality is, the priest is not addressing them, but addressing the Lord.

So celebrating Mass "ad orientem" simply means the physical posture of the priest expresses that at those moments.

Of course, I know not everyone likes Mass offered this way; but some do, and many have never experienced it, so they can't really say whether they like it or not.

I'm choosing to do this, on Monday evening, for these reasons:

1. Folks have asked for it and it's a legitimate option, so why refuse?
2. I see value in it myself, both for me and for others participating in Mass--so why not explore it and experience it?
3. How can anyone even try it, if no opportunity is offered? This is a chance to give it a try.
4. Many think that "ad orientem" is only associated with the older form of Mass. But this is not correct. The current, ordinary form of the Mass can be offered "ad orientem." I, personally, think this gives a "best of both worlds" experience.
5. The Mass on Monday evening is not a regularly scheduled Mass--so no one can reasonably claim to be inconvenienced. Those who don't care for it, need not come.
6. The Holy Father has urged the Faithful to explore this part of our tradition, because he believes there is something powerful in experiencing the liturgy this way. Even if I didn't share that view (which I do), would not his request deserve some consideration? Really, shouldn't we be willing to "set out into the deep"?

I'm letting you know both for the benefit of those who don't prefer this, but also for the benefit of those who would like to experience it.

Mass for the Solemnity of the Annunciation, in beautiful Saint Boniface Church, 310 South Downing Street, Piqua, Ohio...7 pm.

Come and see!

My next assignment is... be the Director of Priestly Formation for the Archdiocese of Cincinnati.

My responsibilities will be to organize a host of programs and activities aimed at the ongoing spiritual and intellectual formation of our priests: retreats, days of recollection, continuing education, and the meetings the Archbishop calls with his priests each year, and every five years.

Priests are expected to make a retreat every year, and to take several days of continuing education each year as well. I will be responsible for assisting priests in doing so, providing opportunities and--to the extent I can--give encouragement to take advantage of these opportunities.

Every ten years, priests are welcome to take a sabbatical--which is meant to be a time of additional learning, as well as spiritual recharging. Again, promoting and providing for sabbaticals will be my responsibility.

This position also assists in organizing training and continuing education programs for parish administrators and lay employees; and because so many of these activities overlap with many disciplines, the Director of Priestly Formation collaborates with the Worship Office, the office for youth, the school offices, the business offices--in other words, all the offices of the Archdiocese. After all, these are all areas where ongoing formation is helpful and valuable.

It's appropriate to say that this is a position for which I did apply. But before I applied, and before I told anyone I was considering it, I did have several priests contact me to ask if I would consider it. I'm honored by that--but even more grateful to see that as a confirmation that it will be a role where I can do good for my fellow priests, and thereby for the Archdiocese.

I will be reporting directly to Bishop Joseph Binzer.

This is not considered a full time position, so there will be other duties, likely in a parish setting, but that has not been assigned yet. But it is likely to be Cincinnati, so that I can commute to the Archdiocesan offices without too much difficulty.

The new pastor for Saint Mary and Saint Boniface parishes has been named, and will be announced at the 4 pm Mass on Saturday, so watch this space for that information. The reason it's not announced sooner is a courtesy to him and his parish so that he can give that information to them first.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

What's an indulgence?

We have lots of ways, as Catholics, to obtain indulgences. For example, a plenary indulgence is available every time we make the stations of the cross, or adore the Cross on Good Friday (I'll include some more below.)

So what is an indulgence?

An indulgence is the "remission"--the eradication, wiping away--of temporal punishment due to sin. What is "temporal punishment due to sin"?

Well, the Church distinguishes between "eternal" and "temporal" punishment due to sin. The eternal punishment due to sin is damnation. We deal with that through turning back to God; and while God can forgive anyone, and we believe he does forgive all who genuinely turn to him, the normal way we seek that forgiveness is to confess our sins sacramentally. (What about people who don't believe in this sacrament? I ask, do they believe in God and in confessing sin? Then God works with them where they are.) Of course, there's always the extreme option of making a perfect act of contrition, but really, if you have access to a priest, why play that game? Go to confession and have no fear!

So what is temporal punishment? That is the punishment that precedes eternity--embraces both the lived consequences of sin, as well as the purification that our souls may require upon departing this life into eternity. "Punishment" is used here in a broad sense. It doesn't necessarily mean some penalty God decrees; it can simply mean the consequences of sin.

So, for example, we're not saying that every time we sin, there's a verdict handed down, in which we earn some penalty; it doesn't mean, as so many think, that God sends us trouble in this life.

Punishment in this sense can simply mean that our sins have consequences, and even if we are forgiven of an eternal punishment, we still have to deal with those consequences.

So, for example: your sister may forgive you for stealing her book and ruining it. But that doesn't change the fact that justice calls for you to make some reparation: go buy her a new book, or make it up in some other way.

Another example: a person who tends to lie--a lot--can be forgiven of the eternal punishment; yet the effect of a habit of sin remains; and so that person must work to change his or her habits and appetites.

This can happen in this life, or in the life to come: in other words, our experience in purgatory.

When we receive an indulgence, it can be "partial" or "plenary"--the latter meaning, full or complete.

And when we obtain such any indulgence, we can keep it for ourselves, or else offer it to God on behalf of souls now in purgatory.

Now, some people find this distasteful or else misunderstand it.

An indulgence is not the "forgiveness of sins": that is obtained through confession of sin in the sacrament of reconciliation. For an indulgence to be plenary there has to be sacramental confession of sins.

So an indulgence is not a "get out of jail free" card; it goes to those who have already "gotten out of jail" the usual way.

So what is an indulgence?

Think of it this way: it is a fruit of God's mercy, it is a concrete way God gives to us, and applies to our concrete lives, that mercy which poured out into the world at the Cross--and continues to be available freely to all who need it.

Of course, someone will latch onto the fact that we perform a work: so the complaint is, we're being saved by works. But again, an indulgence is not "salvation." To put it another way, those who aren't saved--or in the process of being saved--cannot benefit from them!

Someone who is not in a state of grace cannot benefit from an indulgence! Only someone already on the path of salvation--someone who is "saved" (or being saved, since we believe that is not complete until we finish our lives cooperating with grace)--can benefit from an indulgence.

So the work of an indulgence is not to "gain" salvation, but to respond to it. We do these works of charity or prayer or devotion in response to God's salvation--not to obtain it.

The point of indulgences is to make concrete the path of conversion, and to move us along to greater conversion. So they only "work" to the extent we actually, well, "convert."

Hence an indulgence only is "plenary" when we go to confession, go to communion--meaning we're united with the Son of God sacramentally--we pray for the pope's intentions--meaning we're united with the Lord's Church on earth--and we have no attachment to venial sin.

And if we don't meet all the conditions? Then the indulgence is "partial." Meaning: we gain a partial lessening of the need for purification.

Think about it: what is it, exactly, that we're dealing with? We're dealing with the effects of sin on our lives. The man who is a glutton needs not only to confess that sin--and be forgiven eternally--but also to change his life so he is temperate in his appetites. If I--er, that man--enters eternity with gluttonous appetites, that disordered state must be fixed or else I--um, I mean that other guy--cannot be perfectly happy in heaven.

So this business of correcting or purifying us of all the consequences and effects of sin is an additional gift of God!

How would you like to spend eternity with a nagging source of unhappiness? An itch you cannot scratch? A thirst you cannot quench? Does that sound like heaven? Might sound more like hell.

God does not want anyone to spend eternity with such unhappiness, but some have made their choice (the fallen angels for certain, and anyone else who may be in hell as I write). So for those whose choice is made, it is, sadly, too late. But for all others, God seeks a multitude of ways to win us to heaven.

And for those who are moving toward heaven--in the imperfect, bumptious way most of us tend to make that pilgrimage--God provides endless ways of getting ready for heaven. After all, he could simply give us no preparation at all, until we arrive at the gates--and then we get ushered into the "fixing" room called purgatory. And then, we might--as we undergo whatever it takes to make us completely ready for heaven--complain, "God, why didn't you give me ways to deal with this along the journey?"

Well, that's just what God has done. Every day we can be working on our conversion. What did St. Peter say in Scripture? "Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling"--yet it remains true what St. Paul said: "you are saved by grace." It is God's grace that animates and guides the entire enterprise, including whatever degree of good motives and desire for conversion we ourselves experience.

To obtain the indulgence, we not only do the action described, but we also go to confession, receive holy communion, pray any prayer for the pope’s intention, reject all attachment to sin.

So an indulgence--to the extent it "works"--only works because we're cooperating with God's grace. It is not mechanical or magical. God is not mocked! Do you suppose God does not see? If we "go through the motions," yet do not seek sincerely to be changed people, how can we imagine an indulgence will work for us?

But we can be a little more positive about it. If we go to the stations of the cross, or we pray the Rosary, or we adore the Cross on Good Friday, or do any number of other things that have indulgences attached to them--how can we completely shield ourselves from at least some good effect? If you dive into a pool, you will get wet; why, even if you sit near a pool, you will have a hard time avoiding getting some water on you. And if you spend time in prayer and works of charity, it's hard to imagine how anyone could avoid being at least somewhat changed.

Hence the logic of a "partial" indulgence: it will help you at least partially!

Now, what other questions remain?

Does it bother us that indulgences attach to specific works or prayers?

Think of it this way. Suppose God said, "I have good news! You can, by works and acts of charity and prayer, be changed so that all need for purgatory is behind you!"

And we say, "Wonderful! What are these works and acts of charity?"

And God said, "I'm not going to tell you!"

Not so nice, eh?

Instead, God gives his Church "the power of the keys" (See Matthew 16): and thus the Church specifies these works and prayers. Mighty helpful, is it not, to have concrete and specific steps to take for your own spiritual well being?

Does it bother us, or require explanation, that we "apply" a plenary indulgence to the souls in purgatory? Does it not make perfect sense? What we need is conversion--and what is a more powerful way to experience change than to expand our hearts through charity? To know what a plenary indulgence is--and then to give it away--what is more charitable? More Christlike? "He who knew no sin, became sin for us."

Our goal ought to be to breathe our last and find that we bypass purgatory because we don't need it. We've received our purification and making-ready in this life. Upon arriving at that moment, who would pause to say, "hrm, I seem to recall giving away all my plenary indulgences, so how did this happen?" We will be too busy plunging into the bliss the Blessed Trinity.

From the Handbook of Indulgences, a partial list of plenary indulgences (please don't expect I will have all the answers about these):

> Visit the four Patriarchal Basilicae in Rome.
> Receive the papal blessing, either from the pope himself, in Rome, or via radio or TV, or from a bishop when he is able to do so.
> Visit a cemetery and pray for the dead between November 1-8.
> Adore the Cross in the solemn liturgy on Good Friday.
> Pray a specific prayer before the crucifix on Fridays during Lent.
> Participate in solemn eucharistic rite that concludes a Eucharistic Congress.
> Spend at least 3 days of spiritual exercises on retreat.
> Act of Reparation to the Sacred Heart on the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart.
> Act of dedication to Christ the King on that feast.
> At the moment of death, by praying--simply praying! (See Handbook, n. 28)
> Participating in a mission and being present for its solemn conclusion.
> First communion, receiving or assisting.
> Priest's first Mass with a congregation, for the priest and those who take part.
> Rosary recited in church, oratory, in family, a religious community or "pious association." Five decades, without interruption, suffice.
> Jubilee celebration of a priest's 25th, 50th and 60th anniversary of ordination, for the priest and faithful.
> Visiting a church where a Diocesan Synod is held.
> Praying a particular prayer on Holy Thursday or Corpus Christi. (Seems to be "Tantum Ergo" but the translation doesn't match.)
> Te Deum on January 31.
> Veni Creator Spiritus on January 1 and Pentecost.
> Stations of the Cross.
> Visit a church on its titular feast day, or on August 2.
> Visit a church or oratory on All Souls Day--this is only for the souls in purgatory.
> Divine Mercy devotion--I cannot recall the details.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Busy Sunday, not over yet...

Yesterday's easy day is being paid back today.

This weekend I preached at all six Masses, as well as offering three of them. Despite the notion some have that offering Mass, and preaching at Mass, is no trick, in fact it is tiring.

Moreover, I was very keyed up last night when I preached first at the 4 pm Mass, then left to offer the 5 pm Mass at the other parish. I was so keyed up, I was practically stumbling over my words. I'm not sure why I was feeling that way--but it may be an expression of how intensely I feel about the message I prepared for the weekend. As I ad-libbed in my homily this weekend: in seven years as a priest, I don't recall feeling as strongly about a message I delivered, as I did this message.

Of course I cannot know that my thesis--that current events reveal the Hand of God--I just feel it so strongly. I was told my homily at 5 pm Mass came across as "fire and brimstone"--which wasn't really my purpose.

After Mass, the retired priest had a baptism; after his baptism, we went to the local Mexican restaurant for dinner. We wanted to go wherever we thought the fewest St. Patrick's day revelers would be congregating--because then we'd face a huge crowd.

For some reason I couldn't get to sleep; so I was up till about 2 am; then up at 6:30 am to preach at 7 am...offer 9 am Mass...preach at 10:30 am Mass, and then offer Noon Mass. After that Mass, I got to make a Christian (baptism), which I love to do!

Well, I'm beat. I'm watching dreams die (March Madness), and in about 2 hours, the retired priests and I will go to a party in West Milton, put on by the retired priests who live there. They do it every year on Laetare Sunday.

Oh, and yes, I wore Rose vestments.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

'No remedy'? No--God's Hand! (Sunday homily)

The Archbishop asked me
to preach the homily at all Masses this weekend,
because this is the weekend when each of us is asked
to make a commitment to the annual Catholic Ministry Appeal.

I was going to work my way up to this subject,
because right now many of you are still settling in, and tuning in.
But I’m jumping into it for a very simple reason.
This ministry appeal is important—
yet I have something else important to say.

In a sense, I have two homilies to give but I can only give one.

So first the Catholic Ministry Appeal.
It’s simple: we have six causes that no one really can dispute.
This provides for retired priests—
including Father Ang and Father Tom.
This provides for seminarians,
and that means more priests—and we need them.

This fund helps St. Rita School for the Deaf.
It helps Catholic Social Services.
I get calls all the time and I refer people to Catholic Social Services—
for counseling, for troubled families, for many other helps.
And then this fund goes for college campus ministry,
and ministry in hospitals and prisons.

There are times we may question this or that project where our money goes—
but can anyone really question the value of any of these?

So I’m asking your commitment;
today is the day to put your commitment card in the collection,
if you brought it; if you didn’t,
you can bring it another Sunday or mail it in.
If you want or need materials, they are in the back of church.

Now, I could stop there and you’d be happy with a shorter sermon.
But we’re in God’s Presence, we heard his Word just now,
And the first reading contains some of the saddest words
anywhere in Sacred Scripture;
in fact, they could be the saddest words we might ever hear:

“Until there was no remedy.”

Last Thursday at Mass, the reading was from the Prophet Jeremiah,
And the gist of that reading was God saying to Jeremiah:
“Go tell them—but it won’t work; they won’t listen!”

Same idea: “no remedy.”

And as I listened to that reading Thursday morning, I thought,
“They”? How easy to say it was someone else,
back then, who was stiff-necked.

What if it’s us?

We live in strange times with so many assaults on our Faith.
If there were but one, we could handle it better.
Our entertainment and media culture sells lies, especially to our young.
So many businesses seem to have no conscience;
So many questionable decisions: jobs go overseas
where workers are little better than slaves.

And our own government is moving deliberately
to mow down conscience, to reshape it according to its own vision.

How tempting it might be to go limp, stop fighting—it’s too much!

Consider this.

God is in control of these events.
In his providence, He is allowing his Church to undergo a trial.
If the President’s health-care mandate isn’t overturned,
in the next 12-18 months,
we are facing the shocking prospect
that we’ll either have to knuckle under to the government,
or else we’ll lose our schools, our hospitals and charities.

Notice what it’s all about; it’s about religious freedom, yes;
But its also about part of our Catholic Faith:
Our belief that the gift of married love
must always remain open to God giving the gift of life.

We have to decide: is this our Faith or not?
Is this something worth taking a stand—a costly stand—over?

If they said, “you can’t have a fish fry”—
we’d be mad about it, but we wouldn’t close our school over it.

This fight could easily have been over abortion;
or so-called same-sex marriage.
Then, we’d be defending a position
shared by many other religious groups—
and by people with no religion.

Instead God has allowed this confrontation to be over a doctrine
that is uniquely associated with the Catholic Church.

The spotlight is shining—for all the world to see—
not only on his Catholic Church,
but on a teaching that to so many, even many Catholics, seems foolish.
But remember what St. Paul said:
the foolishness of God is wiser than the wisdom of men!

So if you’ve ever wanted a sign to confirm
that this teaching on contraception is what God thinks?
God seems to think this is worth us fighting for.

In that light, then, this is a moment of conversion:
for us as Catholics, and for our culture.
No, the President and his allies didn’t seek that.

We didn’t either.
Truth to tell, for decades, bishops and priests
and many of the faithful have just avoided this whole subject.
It’s probably true that a large number of Catholics
don’t follow this teaching.
It’s demanding and a lot of folks don’t see a justification.
That status-quo could have gone on.

But notice: God has allowed things to develop
that we can’t kick the can down the road any longer!
This is the Hand of Almighty God!

So what do we do?

Week in and week out, we must bear witness to our Faith.

We have written Congress
and that will probably happen again down the road.
The Archbishop asked us to pray and fast for conversion, so let’s keep at that.
The bishops are under intense pressure to back down.

Pray for them; tell Archbishop Schnurr you support him.

But at the center is a listening heart.
Maybe the question shouldn’t be, what do we need to do,
But rather, what are you and I prepared to do?

As Lent leads us to Good Friday,
and as these troubled times lead us to our own Good Fridays,
we are likely to feel as the Apostles did: fear and defeat.

That’s not what happened on Good Friday.
That’s not what will happen to us.

The real Saint Patrick

Sadly, today--Saint Patrick's day--has become more about leprechauns and green beer than about the Saint. Saint Patrick, I hasten to inform you, was not a jolly elf dressed in green. He was a remarkable man who made his mark on history. If you want a sense of the man, take a look at the prayer associated with him:

The Breastplate of Saint Patrick

I arise today through a mighty strength, the invocation of the Trinity,
through belief in the Threeness,
through confession of the Oneness of the Creator of creation.

I arise today through the strength of Christ with His Baptism,
through the strength of His Crucifixion with His Burial,
through the strength of His Resurrection with His Ascension,
through the strength of His descent for the Judgment of Doom.

I arise today through the strength of the love of Cherubim
in obedience of Angels, in the service of the Archangels,
in hope of resurrection to meet with reward,
in prayers of Patriarchs, in predictions of Prophets,
in preachings of Apostles, in faiths of Confessors,
in innocence of Holy Virgins, in deeds of righteous men.

I arise today, through the strength of Heaven:
light of Sun, brilliance of Moon, splendour of Fire,
speed of Lightning, swiftness of Wind, depth of Sea,
stability of Earth, firmness of Rock.

I arise today, through God's strength to pilot me:
God's might to uphold me, God's wisdom to guide me,
God's eye to look before me, God's ear to hear me,
God's word to speak for me, God's hand to guard me,
God's way to lie before me, God's shield to protect me,
God's host to secure me:
against snares of devils, against temptations of vices,
against inclinations of nature, against everyone who
shall wish me ill, afar and anear, alone and in a crowd.

I summon today all these powers between me (and these evils):
against every cruel and merciless power that may oppose my body and my soul,
against incantations of false prophets,
against black laws of heathenry,
against false laws of heretics, against craft of idolatry,
against spells of witches and smiths and wizards,
against every knowledge that endangers man's body and soul.
Christ to protect me today
against poison, against burning,
against drowning, against wounding,
so that there may come abundance of reward.

Christ with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me, Christ in me,
Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ on my right, Christ on my left,
Christ in breadth, Christ in length, Christ in height,
Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of every man who speaks of me,
Christ in every eye that sees me,
Christ in every ear that hears me.

I arise today through a mighty strength, the invocation of the Trinity,
through belief in the Threeness,
through confession of the Oneness of the Creator of creation.
Salvation is of the Lord.
Salvation is of the Lord. Salvation is of Christ.
May Thy Salvation, O Lord, be ever with us.

Life is good...

I got to sleep late today, and I have no appointments, and it's a beautiful day; I'm sitting on my front porch--too early for bugs, just little seedy stuff falling from the trees--drinking coffee and watching the world go by!

Life is good! Thank you Lord.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Sunday homilies

Sorry I didn't post my homilies (I had two) for the weekend; but I never actually wrote them. Some weeks, I am floundering around all week for what I think I should say, and come Saturday, I have perhaps a couple of ideas developed, and that is sometimes what I go with. Such was the case this past weekend.

I had two homilies because in Lent, we have rituals at certain Masses related to those who will enter the Church at Easter; and these occasion different readings. For the third, fourth and fifth Sundays of Lent, these are called the "scrutinies." So this affected the 10:30 am Mass.

My principal homily for the weekend began with the first reading and the context--Moses leading God's people out of Egypt to Mount Sinai where God gave his commandments. I pointed out that when Moses confronted Pharaoh, he consistently said something like, "Let my people go that they may worship me."

I pointed out that the first reading spends a lot of time developing the first several commandments--having to do with worshiping God; and then the remaining commandments are ticked off succinctly; as if to say that if we get worship right, the rest fits and works better. For some reason, however, I neglected to make this point at 7 and 9 am Masses.

To make the point further, I suggested folks look up the passage where--upon arriving at Mount Sinai, God invited Moses and the people to come up the mountain, "so that you can tell me how you wish to worship." After a pause, I said--I'm kidding; that never happened. Instead, God spent 40 days showing Moses how his people were to worship. Similarly, when our Lord gathered his Apostles, he showed them again: "do this in memory of me." And with some changes, we still are.

Also, along the way, I said that we often have discussions about Mass, about various aspects of Mass--music, the new translation, Latin-English, etc.--and it's usually in terms of, "I like/I don't like." But that misses the point. It isn't really about what we like or don't like. If we come to Mass with a checklist of the things that have to be just right--we are bound for disappointment. My homily may or may not be good; the music may or may not sit well with folks. Something will go wrong.

But when we see Mass for what it is: Mount Sinai happens here; Calvary happens here; God acts here; that will always happen. I think I ended by saying, "we're at Mount Sinai now: let's see what God will do."

In my 10:30 am homily, I talked about the ritual of the "scrutiny": it isn't so much the Church "scrutinizing" the Elect--those chosen for baptism at Easter--but the catechumens scrutinizing themselves and their choice for Christ. I honestly don't recall all I said, but I developed that point, explained the ritual, emphasized to the rest of the assembly what it means that these folks want what we have, talked about sharing our faith, etc. I also invited everyone to the Easter Vigil, so they could continue the Elects' journey to baptism. Keying off the first reading--in which Moses strikes the rock to provide God's people with water--I pointed out our baptismal font. Notice it's made out of stone, that's not an accident; that's the Rock from which the water of life will be drawn! I won't strike it--it's an antique!--but that's where the Elect will be led!

If anyone heard either homily, please add comments, especially if it was something you liked, didn't like or didn't understand or agree with.

Wednesday, March 07, 2012

Mass for Annunciation in Piqua

For those who are interested--and I know you're out there!--you are invited to participate in the Holy Mass on the Solemnity of the Annunciation, at the beautiful, newly renovated St. Boniface Parish Church, Monday, March 26, 7 pm.

We will have a Missa altissima cum omnes nidores et camparae (I'll let you google that and let me know what you come up with!), with the schola providing some beautiful music--although the prayers of the Mass will be principally in English, but there will be some in Latin.

I like to let people know about these things, both for those who like it, and for those who don't! Something for everyone, as Zero Mostel so memorably sang!

There might even be a special surprise, but you'll have to watch this space to find out what it might be!

Monday, March 05, 2012

This Astonishing Moment

Blessed Jose Sanchez del Rio, 14 year old 20th century martyr of Mexico

I've been thinking about how remarkable this moment is for the Catholic Faith; there are so many things bound up in the seemingly sudden assault on religious freedom and on the Catholic Church in particular, and what follows will certainly not do justice to it.

But there is something profound at work. If this plays out as it seems it will--events can easily intervene to short-circuit the trajectory I describe below--then we are talking about an epochal event in the life of the Church. This is no mere blip. This is huge.

Here's what I see, presented inartfully, because if I wait until I can really polish this, I may not post it for awhile, or ever...

> We have a mounting confrontation between the government--and a very significant share of the culture--of the world's pre-eminent nation, and the Catholic Church. Moreover, the Church in the U.S., while not the largest national body of Catholics, nor the most energetic or enthusiastic, is, nonetheless, one of the healthier portions of the Church worldwide. It is certainly the richest and and plays a huge role in the life of the Church.

> This is a confrontation that goes to the heart of the Faith. Because it is national, there is little or no way for the Church to evade it, to seek a work-around, as she might if it were a state battle only (as has happened many times on this very issue of contraception and abortion). The bishops have rightly sensed they must take a stand. They have, thus far, made it hard for themselves to back down.

> Here is something I find very remarkable and providential: it involves at least two parts of our Faith that have either been under serious attack, or have been neglected. It involves our Church's teaching on human sexuality, particularly contraception, and it involves the fundamental constitution of the Church as built upon, and led by, the bishops.

Let me dwell on this.

For how many years have we experienced, in the precincts of our Church, a silence, punctuated infrequently by embarrassed, half-hearted perfunctory statements, on the subject of contraception and deliberate refusal of God's gift of fertility? We clerics have said just enough to refute, technically, the charge that we are silent or do not accept Church teaching; yet the subject has been widely neglected.

For myself, I do talk about it; if you search this blog, you'll find a number of homilies. I know many other priests have done the same. Yet we have not raised this subject nearly as forcefully as we have assaults on the unborn. And very candidly, it is far, far easier to deliver a strong homily on the Real Presence or on the imminence of divine judgment than it is on contraception. Even those of us who are willing to address the subject do so aware of the eggshells we're walking on.

This moment--these events--viewed from a supernatural perspective seem to mean only one thing: God has spoken and acted. He has allowed things to transpire such that we pretty much have to do so. Sooner or later, as this plays out, it will become necessary to explain why we Catholics are making such an issue about this. We clerics are duty-bound to do so; yet meanwhile, more and more of the laity are doing so.

> At this moment, we have the advantage, such as we've never had before, of means for the laity to fill the gaps created by clerical inaction.

I am praying--and I beg you to pray--that all our bishops and priests provide exactly the sort of teaching needed. But in the meantime, the laity are well able to act without us.

Consider that we have--whether from Vatican II or prior teaching--a strong notion that the laity must be engaged and speak out. And, at the same time, cable and satellite TV and the Internet and twitter all create a climate in which that is easier to do than ever in human history.

> This is not only about contraception; it's not only about religious freedom; it's also about the constitution of the Church.

Another doctrine under assault--from within as well as without--is the governance of the Church and the teaching authority.

One can visit the National (so-called) Catholic Reporter almost daily and see yet another installment of that wretched outfit's campaign to destroy the governance of the Church which our Savior himself instituted. It is the dream of the NcR and many others to overthrow the authority of the bishops to teach and govern. The running commentary from the NcR's own readers--who have been fed these lies for so long--tells the story, unfiltered by the euphemisms and doubletalk of the NcR's editors and polished contributors: they despise the bishops and utterly reject the doctrine of the Church about her teaching office. Namely, that the bishops, together with the pope, guide the authority of the Church as a whole to teach in the Name of Christ. The NcR and others long to seize the ring of power, to appoint themselves, or some Rousseau-ian "general will" as the true teaching authority; or they claim, falsely that this has already happened, either by action of the Second Vatican Council, or by some other sort of revolution.

Make no mistake, this is a big part of what's going on, and President Obama and his allies are only too happy to join in, for their own interests.

You have folks like Sister Keehan of the Catholic Health Association who has twice ridden to the rescue of Obama, in opposition to the teaching authority of the bishops. First when the bishops were withholding support from Obama's health care bill, until sufficiently pro-life protections were included. And again, when the bishops were united against Obama's contraception mandate.

Sister Keehan is only one of many players, within the Church, who either want to overthrow the teaching office of the bishops, or else are willing, for whatever reason, to cooperate with those efforts. Please understand--I have no idea whether all these folks realize what they are doing. I cannot read hearts so I will--until I have concrete reasons to do otherwise--assume they do not realize the harm they are doing. In the case of NcR, I cannot defend them--they knowingly and explicitly advocate the downfall of the bishops' teaching authority. And when they protest against my accusation, I will point out their own, regular readers certainly see it clearly enough. The NcR has very effectively "catechized" them in this view. Read your own readers' comments, NcR editors.

So here again, note how God has superintended this battle on this very ground.

This battle forces us to grapple with the question: who exercises the teaching office? Who speaks for Christ?

> This is also a time of purification and renewal.

In all of this, much will be demanded of all of us. I don't say that as though I am there yet. I am no paragon of virtue or self-denial. But it seems clear to me that as this unfolds--again, assuming the crisis is not averted, as it may be (see below)--that all of us who must defend the Church's teaching will be called to profound conversion.

Brace yourselves. It will get bad, often in unexpected ways.

Prepare to see people you trust and count on, fail--just as the Twelve saw Judas betray the Lord and Peter deny him.

Prepare to see the enemy and his cohorts find a weakness and exploit it. Dirty laundry will be aired. Any weapon to hand. Some of us clerics who speak out will be embarrassed by the fact that we are not perfect.

Prepare for temptations to remain silent, to remain passive, to trim and to get bogged down. The enemy will seek to sow confusion among our ranks. Our leaders are not perfect and they will make mistakes in judgment and execution. If we want to find fault, we will succeed. Our leaders almost certainly will not do everything right, so it will be very easy, from the ranks, to resent they didn't do it our way.

> All that said, do not despair or be discouraged. Recall the many times our Lord--presaged by many passages from the Old Testament--warned us of such times, of being overwhelmed by fear of the situation, of family and friends turning against each other, of very dark times.

These may or may not be such times--how can I know? But there is nothing that can happen that we have not been prepared for. Remember that.

> This is a remarkable ecumenical moment. It may bear fruit such as we cannot imagine. Please pray for that!

Consider who is lining up together:

The Catholic Church
The Orthodox Churches
Many Jews
Many Muslims
Many others of various faiths, or none.

These are mighty forces who have centuries, if not millenia, of distrust and hurt to overcome. But it is so often true that, if you want to bring squabbling folks together, present them with a common enemy. The enemy has just done that.

One possible fruit of this moment could be healing of divisions within Christendom. I am not so smart nor courageous enough to predict more than that. All I can say is, you can see the forces lining up the same as I can. Make your own predictions.

> I truly believe the Obama Administration has made a fundamental mistake. The President has chosen a course that, if it plays out, will awaken and unite the Catholic Church and many other allies as a powerful force. It may be that he will realize this and find an escape route--and it may be he can still quiet down the forces he has awakened. It may not. I just don't know.

I wonder if the President doesn't cynically count on the courts to save his bacon. It may be he expects that even before the election. Then he gets the benefit of this--his allies are charged up and turn out--while his opponents relax once the danger seems to recede.

Alternately, he may have bargained for that after the election.

Or, he may even plan to give a gracious concession on religious liberty after the election, when he doesn't care so much about the outrage of his allies.

Consider this: the mandate, even with some, superficial, modifications, goes into effect. The courts (improbably but not impossibly), uphold it. Our bishops choose varying paths, but let us hopefully suppose they mostly choose either to close or sell off institutions, or else defiance (I call this more hopeful, only in contrast to the option of capitulation). Then comes the confrontation: when the fines are levied but not paid; and the Obama Administration must take enforcement action.

And here I raise a question--not being familiar with the legal issues involved--might not the Administration simply choose to refrain from enforcement? Tolerate the disobedience, and by doing so, discredit the bishops who predicted a terrible outcome? Could he not allow that to go on for some time, until our side is lulled back to sleep?

> In all this, the hand of God seems undeniable.

If you do not believe in God, or you wonder if he is largely absent from human affairs; if you wonder if the Catholic Church's claims really hold water, consider these events.

Why should this battle even be happening?

Why on this ground--over claims the Catholic Church almost alone makes?

Had this been a battle over abortion or same-sex marriage, then it would not involve claims that are uniquely those of the Catholic Church.

I predict there will be many folks who will, in these events, realize God is validating the Catholic Church--with all her blemishes and wounds--as the visible Body of Christ on earth.

Fellow Catholics, if you have ever wondered about, or doubted, the claims of our Church--if you have wondered about the teaching on contraception, if God really cared about it--then consider this moment. Why would God put his Church on trial over this issue--if it did not matter to him?

Consider what I just wrote. God is choosing to allow his Church to enter into a terrible trial...over contraception. Do you think it possible that this matters quite a lot to God?

Something momentous is at work. We may be frightened, and perhaps we should be; yet isn't there something exciting and hopeful about this as well?

Let our hearts and voices resound with the thrilling last words of the martyrs of Mexico and Spain: Viva Christo Rey!

Update 1: Welcome New Advent readers! And thanks for the Advent-alanche! Feel free to look around...)

Update 2: welcome readers from The and Over the Rhine and Into the Tiber!

Saturday, March 03, 2012

Walking by faith in a gathering storm (Sunday homily)

The first reading is strange—and easily misunderstood.
But let’s be clear about one thing:
God did not want Abraham to slay his son Isaac.

So why did this happen?

It helps to recall the rest of Abraham’s story.
Remember, Abraham and Sarah couldn’t have children—
yet God promised they would have descendants
as numerous as the stars in the sky.

Along the way to answering God’s call,
Abraham took several wrong turns.
This reading represents the climax
of Abraham’s arc of faith—
after failing so many times,
this is when Abraham passes the test.

If we ever feel we’re being tested,
remember it isn’t for some need of God
that we’re tested.

After all, when we take a test in school,
it isn’t really for the teacher.
We’re the ones who need to know our arithmetic—
we’re the ones who need to know we passed.

And while God knew what was in Abraham’s heart,
it was Abraham who did not know
he would pass—until he did.

What Abraham wanted to give,
but found so hard to give—
what you and I find so hard to give—
is total commitment.

Offering his only son back to God—
that is how he finally did it.

Let’s make this personal.
What in your life is most valuable? Most treasured?
Who, or what, would you hold tight against yourself
until your last breath died away?

Now: can you imagine bringing that to God?
As precious as my spouse, my children,
my career, my dreams are—I offer them back to you!

It’s not that God wants to take them away.
The point is, can we dare to say to God:
I am willing to give you
that which means everything to me?

That’s what it means to walk by faith.
That’s what Abraham finally discovered—
and if we could hear him speak to us, he would say,
“that’s what I want you to discover.”

Lent can be a powerful way we share our faith.

To the extent that we Catholics take Lent seriously:
making real sacrifices, and really turning from sin,
and really giving of ourselves to others,
how powerful a witness to Christ that would be!

We’ve talked about the changing social climate.
Very suddenly, as Catholics we are facing growing hostility,
from our government in particular.

This week the Senate refused to overturn the order
that will force us, as Catholics,
either to violate our consciences,
or else to shut down our schools, our universities,
our hospitals and our charities.

The Archbishop of Chicago has announced
that if the President’s mandate is not overturned,
Catholic hospitals in his diocese will cease to exist.

Powerful forces are gearing up against us.
The head of the National Organization of Women—
along with the former speaker of the House*
are saying that we Catholics want to kill women.

No—let’s get the facts right.
All we are asking is to be able
to operate our Catholic institutions,
and for us as individuals,
to live according to our Catholic beliefs.

And right now, the message is
that we won’t be allowed to do that anymore.

So let’s put it plainly. In the next few years,
if things don’t change,
it’s going to be a lot harder to be a Catholic.

Brace yourself. Worse is coming.

When our Lord took James, Peter and John
up the mountain and he showed them his glory,
he was preparing them for the storm.

Even after, Peter still lost his nerve;
James ran away; only John stood firm.

There’s no soft answer and there’s no short-cut.
We’re going to have to dig the foundations very deep—
or we’ll be swept away in the gathering storm.

But if these realities are shocking,
do not let them overcome you.

Remember, the Lord told us ahead of time
this would happen.
And he gave us very straightforward instructions
about how to live our lives until he comes again.

And it goes right back to the example of Abraham:
everything we treasure, we give to God.

He will usually give them back to us to safeguard,
but we always remember:
God, this is your family; this is your job;
this is your business. It’s all yours.

In a few days, you will get a letter
from Archbishop Schnurr
about the Catholic Ministry Appeal.

One of the things we keep doing—
till the Lord comes—is caring for one another.

This appeal funds campus ministries.
Our college students are whipped by strong forces:
they need Christ on campus!

This fund pays the pension of our retired priests.
It pays for Catholic Social Services
to help the neediest members of the community.

It helps our seminary—
and in recent years, we are seeing our numbers increase.
Good news! But costs are up too.

It also helps St. Rita’s School for the Deaf
and ministry to prisons and hospitals.

I give to the Catholic Ministry Appeal
and I hope you will join me in doing so as well.

When Abraham gave his only son back to God,
God told him his countless descendants
would triumph over their enemies.

We are those countless stars that Abraham hoped for.
And we will see the Lord win the battle for us.
What did we hear St. Paul say:
If God is for us, who can be against us?

Amen? Amen.

* After the 4 pm Mass, I omitted reference to ex-Speaker Pelosi. I double-checked the story I'd seen, and found that while she did, indeed, refer to killing women, she merely made that accusation against Republicans, not specifically against Catholics.

What does a pastor do? Some of everything!

Well, it's been crazy, and it will get crazier.

The last two weeks, I've been working on a lot of things (beyond the usual):

> Helping put together a retreat for our students preparing for confirmation.

We have a vacancy in our religious education/youth ministry program, so that makes me the DRE. Anything involving kids means lots of record-keeping, making sure every permission slip is turned in, and then there are checks from families, and volunteers and chaperones to line up.

We have a group of four seminarians leading the retreat, but a mother kindly reminded me that some of the 8th grade girls might, if they have any problems, prefer to talk to a mother, not a seminarian. Point taken! So I made sure we have a mother and female teacher there overnight.

Also, I went out to get the snacks the kids and leaders will consume. I have no idea how much to buy, but I didn't want to run out. It doesn't help to have 50 grumpy 8th graders. I was also advised to avoid anything with red dye in it and peanuts. Good advice!

So what did I get?

In addition to hotdogs and buns and ingredients for 'smores--for the campfire--I purchased:

- Oreos and Nilla wafers (generic where possible; except generic Oreos had peanuts so no-go)
- Pretzels and cheese crackers
- Lemonade--no red dye!--to make up in 5-gallon coolers. No pop!
- No candy or chocolate; I thought it would be unfair for those who may have given them up for Lent and, after all, it is Lent!

I warned them I'd get pickled herring and Limberger cheese, but I relented.

> I have a penance service to organize for my two parishes, plus a neighboring parish that joins in. I have six of the eight priests needed. More calls to make.

> I just made a call to one of the families, whose son won't make the retreat because he's ill.

> I have a dinner I organize for priests for Holy Thursday--just got the invitations out and I have some other work to do for that.

> There is a stack of things on my desk, and several emails, that need attention. I've been apologizing to folks this week for being late in returning calls and not giving their items the attention they deserve. Next week, God willing.

> I'm a member of Kiwanis and they had their annual pancake breakfast today. I was there two hours, then I had to hit Wal Mart for the snacks and then here to write my homily. Just finished it before writing this post.

> The 8th graders will be checking in at 3 pm today before Mass, then heading up for the retreat. I'll be heading up there around 7:30, to lead exposition and to hear confessions, along with another priest.

I have that unsettling feeling I'm forgetting something. Pray for me!