Thursday, May 31, 2012

A visit to the See City

I'm in downtown Cincinnati at the moment, at the Chancery offices for the Archdiocese. I'm meeting with folks here shortly, but arrived early so I thought I'd check my email, etc.

As you know, I'm going to be working out of the central offices, overseeing "priestly formation"--i.e., both facilitating spiritual opportunities for priests as well as continuing education.

Meanwhile, I will also be at St. Rose part time--so earlier I swung by there to visit with the pastor, Father Barry Windholz, to get the lay of the land there.

In between I took a trip up to Clifton--where I grew up. Got a haircut at the old barber shop ("I don't remember that floor--was that always there?" "No, I put that in 26 years ago!") and of course, paid a pilgrimage to the Skyline. Clifton has changed a lot but some things haven't.

I was introduced to folks--there was a farewell luncheon going on for a Christo Rey student who worked here for several months--and I asked, "where's Father Schnippel?" "Oh, he's on the eighth floor!"

So now I know how it is.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

America’s Bishops call for a ‘Fortnight for Freedom’

(This is the insert for the upcoming parish well as our plan for our parishes in Piqua...)

Religious Freedom is under peril as never in our history

We got a wake-up call to the growing peril to our religious freedom this year: President Obama’s order to compel all Americans, with few exceptions, to include—as part of health care—coverage for contraception, sterilization and abortion-inducing drugs.

This isn’t a matter of “choice.” With this mandate, which is now law and takes effect for most this August—or for those who seek more time, one year later, we lost our choice.

And if we don’t stop it—whether through legislation or by a court decision—we may lose our charities, our universities and our hospitals, because we won’t be able to operate them in a Catholic way. When the government says we can’t run our hospitals and schools according to our Catholic beliefs—they stop being Catholic. That’s what we now face.

It’s not just one issue—and it’s not just a Catholic issue

It’s not just mandated health “services.” It’s also redefining what marriage is… imposing potential criminal penalties when churches provide food or spiritual care to illegal immigrants…silencing military chaplains from teaching the contents of their faith… interfering with the religious rights of other Christians, of Jews or Muslims…and whatever else what may be coming down the pike in the years ahead. (And these threats have been supported by members of both political parties.)

The bishops unite in calling for a ‘Fortnight’ of prayer and sacrifice

All our Catholic bishops are united in asking 70 million U.S. Catholics to unite in prayer, fasting and sacrifice to turn the tide: so that we continue to enjoy all the blessings of liberty—including the blessing of living our faith freely and fully in our beloved country.

The Fortnight for Freedom: June 21 to Independence Day, July 4.

As pastor, I am asking every parishioner, of every age, to do what you can, if possible, every day during the Fortnight. We can all do something:

Ø      Pray the Rosary, or Divine Mercy chaplet, or other prayers.
Ø      Make a holy hour.
Ø      Fast (still having one meal) as we do on Good Friday.
Ø      Make some sacrifice (do without something) as during Lent.
Ø      Attend daily Mass.
Ø      Go to confession.
Ø      Perform works of service or generosity.
Ø      Take time to learn about your Faith—and about these threats.
Ø      Share this information with others.
Ø      Get involved as a citizen.

Look for the ‘Commitment Board’ at church—and make your commitment!

Starting June 2, a ‘Commitment Board’ will be displayed in each church, and in St. Clare Chapel. Commitment slips will be in the pews and in the back of church, so you—as you choose—can commit to whatever prayers, sacrifices or penance you wish. We’ll collect these every week, and your commitments (they can be anonymous) will be posted on the Commitment Boards to encourage us all.

If you have children, help them decide what they can do—and fill out a commitment form for them as well. While it’s not necessary to fill out a Commitment slip, the more we can post on the board, the more encouraged everyone will be. And let’s be honest—making that commitment makes it more likely to happen.

Corpus Christi (June 8-10): let’s proclaim Jesus our King in Piqua!

Every year we have 40 Hours at St. Mary, followed by a procession with our Eucharistic Lord through Piqua to St. Boniface. Let this be our way to pledge allegiance to Jesus our King, and to pray for the good of our city and nation.

Special holy hours at St. Clare, special emphasis at daily Mass, June 21-July 4

For each daily Mass from June 21 to July 4, where possible the Mass prayers will focus on part of our concern. For example, one day we’ll pray for the good of the Church; another, we’ll pray for all who suffer religious persecution worldwide.

If you wish to pray in the chapel with others, please visit the chapel on Mondays at 11 am, or Tuesday at 7 pm. Otherwise make a holy hour at any time you wish.

On Saturday June 23 and Saturday June 30, we’ll add an 8 am Mass at St. Mary, asking the Blessed Mother’s prayers in a special way (however, please understand that if a funeral or any of our priests have a health emergency, we may have to cancel this).

                                                                        Father Martin Fox
P.S. For more information…

Watch the bulletin for updates. Meanwhile, visit these sites for updates:

Archdiocese of Cincinnati:

Sunday, May 27, 2012

More than one Pentecost miracle

Some thoughts while listening to the account of the first Pentecost today...

Did you ever notice this? There are four distinct signs and/or miracles in the outpouring of the Holy Spirit:

1. A "strong driving wind, and it filled the entire house in which they were."

2. " Then there appeared to them tongues as of fire,
which parted and came to rest on each one of them."

3. "And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit
and began to speak in different tongues, as the Spirit enabled them to proclaim."

Then, a different miracle involving language:

4. "Now there were devout Jews from every nation under heaven staying in Jerusalem. At this sound [which sound? Sign #1 or Sign #3?], they gathered in a large crowd, but they were confused because each one heard them speaking in his own language..."

Did you get that? It says they were all different language-speakers. What confused them was they heard their own languages being spoken to them--such that they understood.

Now, a question I will try to look up later: does this mean to suggest that for each of the hearers' individual  languages, there was an apostle or disciple given that language to speak? Or does it mean to suggest that something else is at work--enabling them to hear clearly, even through what would otherwise be, well, babble?

After all, take out the miraculous. If you had 10 people who spoke 10 languages on a stage--and then 10 people in an audience who all spoke the same languages, if all the 10 speakers speak at once, isn't it hard to imagine understanding--because of the din?

So the fourth sign--if you assume the speakers were given power to speak languages corresponding to those of the crowd--was to enable it all to be clear. And the hearers, being sensible people, knew this couldn't be accomplished normally. So they marvel at what they experience.

But the main thing that interested me as I listened this morning was the many different signs all at once. Most of the time we get one and that's impressive enough. But on some occasions in Scripture, there are several combined. Off the top of my head (sorry, it's a day of rest, so I'm not going to look up each Scripture reference) I can think of these:

> Moses and Israel at Mt. Sinai--the mountain was shrouded in fire and smoke, and also there were ear-trembling trumpet blasts.

> The baptism of the Lord: with the sky being torn open, the dove and the Voice.

No doubt there are others you might cite from Scripture.

So what to make of this? What, if anything, does it mean?

One thing I thought of: that God wanted to bold, italicize and underline, as it were, what he was doing--then, for good measure, add exclamation points and color highlighting.

What are your thoughts?

Pentecost Sequence: what did you hear? What do you prefer?

Once a year on this Solemnity, you hear--at the Sunday Mass only--the Sequence for Pentecost. "Veni Sante Spiritus" in Latin; "Come, Holy Spirit, Come" in English.

Did you hear it? Was it sung or recited? English or Latin?

We recited it at 7 and 9, I don't know what the musicians at 10:30 and Noon did.

Regardless of what you heard, I invite you to compare and contrast.

First, here is an English version using the same chant notation as the original Latin:

Then, here is another English version that seems to use the same English text, but to a metric tune:

Finally, here is the Latin chant:

Admittedly, the aesthetic quality of each is not comparable. I did look for the best available English versions, and I also looked for a parish-based Latin version.

Let me know what you prefer, and why.

If you feel strongly, please feel free to express that.

Tongues of Fire in Rome

This is the coolest thing. I imagine this is a hard ticket to get--being inside this church for this. But I would so enjoy being there once for this.

For those of us who haven't been there yet, here you go...

Did I commit a liturgical violation?

After Mass today for Pentecost, I was pretty warm--as I did after 7 am, I removed my chasuble while greeting folks.

Then I had an idea! (Picture a light-bulb turning on over my messy hair...)

"Hey Jesse, come over here...(Jesse is about 5 or 6 years old) want try this on?

Jesse was uncertain--so I called over Nicholas, who is in third grade. He wanted to, so I put my chasuble over his head--of course it was like a tent on him. Then his brother Matthew who is a little taller ("no he's not!" Nicholas protested); then little brother Jacob; then Jesse decided he wanted to after all. They all took a turn trying on my red silk chasuble for a few seconds.

Apparently a lot of folks saw it, not sure if they thought it was a good idea or bad.

What do you think?

I think it's a good idea to invite boys to see themselves possibly as priests. After all, lots of boys dream of being baseball pitchers, firefighters, engineers, actors, etc.--without all becoming those things. But how many become an artist or an athlete without starting by seeing themselves filling that role?

It reminds me of an event with a family in the parish several years ago. A cousin was over, and he was wearing a black shirt--he was, I think 13-14 maybe? I joked about him looking like a priest, and he responded positively--and the idea came to me to hand him the white tab that I wear in my black shirt collar. He tried it on and sure enough, he looked like a  priest! He got a big grin and everyone reacted well. Mom didn't panic and dad didn't poo-poo it. The other boys reacted well.

Now that boy is a young man, and he says no, not likely...but he remembers it!

Saturday, May 26, 2012

We know what to do (Pentecost homily)

I’m sure many of you have had this experience: 
you get a nice gift from someone—you are grateful—
but you scratch your head…you aren’t sure what to do with it.

No doubt you’ve got these things 
in closets and drawers at home! We all do.

The question I’d like to pose is: 
do we treat the gift of the Holy Spirit that way?

In all honesty, I think we do. I include myself in that.

Why do I say that?

On the first Pentecost—counting the apostles, 
the Virgin Mary, Mary Magdalene, 
the other women who helped the Lord, 
and other disciples who probably where there…
the book of Acts says 120 people in total.

One hundred and twenty people. 
If they hadn’t used the Gift of the Holy Spirit, 
the Faith would never have spread. 
It would have died. It all depended on that small group.

This weekend, ten times that number will come to Mass just in Piqua. 
Throughout the Archdiocese, we have over a quarter-million Catholics. 
We have millions in Ohio. We have 60-70 million in our country. 
And that’s just Catholics, 
not counting the many more Christians of other traditions.

So, yes, I think we have reason to wonder whether we—today—
are making full use of the gifts of the Spirit.

Now, let us consider this. 
God put us in this time, and in this place, to use our gifts.

If your boss puts you in a room 
with four walls and a can of paint and a brush—
it’s not that hard to figure out what you are supposed to do.

We know that our culture is turning against the Gospel. 
It’s happening before our very eyes. 
And yet we have, in our hands and in our hearts, 
the gifts of the Holy Spirit—the power of God—
the power to transform the world.

Do you believe the Holy Spirit comes down upon bread and wine, 
and changes them into the true Body and Blood of Jesus Christ? 
I know that you do!

So why do we doubt that if the Priestly People of God—
2 billion through the world—
lift up this world like a communion host…
the Holy Spirit will not come down upon us?

Now, let me apply this more concretely—
and share with you what our bishops are saying 
to us in this time and place.

As you know, not only is our culture turning against the Gospel—
our government is doing so.

Our government is planning to force us 
to promote things contrary to the Catholic Faith, 
through our health care programs. 
If the President’s order regarding contraception is not overturned, 
we will either have to act contrary to our teachings, 
or else defy the law, or else lose our universities, charities, our hospitals 
and maybe even our parish schools.

Now, I know some people are still denying this.

I had someone say to me, he wasn’t concerned about this—
he just wanted to pray for our “good sisters.”

Do you realize the law says everyone must buy health insurance—
and now the law says, your health insurance must include 
contraception, sterilization and drugs that sometimes cause abortions?

While employees of churches will be exempt, 
all the rest of us are still under this order. 
And only some of our religious brothers and sisters 
work for exempt organizations. 
Just like you, many of our religious brothers and sisters 
are required to pay for health insurance that violates their religious vows.

Our bishops, acting together, have asked every Catholic in America 
to pull together as one in prayer and fasting and action.

In about 4 weeks, across the nation, 
we will have a “Fortnight for Freedom”—from June 21 to July 4. 
Next week, in the bulletin, and at Mass, 
we’ll have more information about this.

In just two weeks, we’ll have our annual 
Corpus Christi 40 Hours at St. Mary, 
followed by our procession with the Holy Eucharist 
through the city of Piqua, to St. Boniface. 
There could not be a better time to lift up Jesus 
and say, he is our king.

My question today is simple: 
as the bishops call us to pray, and fast, and sacrifice during this time, 
what will you—what will each one of us—do to take part?

I am asking everyone, 
from our young children to our older folks, to take part. 
We can’t all do the same things, 
but we can all—each of us—do something.

Those first 120 believers, in one room in Jerusalem, 
were of one heart and mind, 
praying for God to send down the Holy Spirit.

Can we—all of here, all of us in Piqua, all of us in America—
put aside any other agendas and issues, and do the same?

Friday, May 25, 2012

My Catholic kid is gay! Now what?

This is a great article. I hope you will read it and and share it.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Piqua Corpus Christi: 40 Hours, Procession & Benediction

The weekend of Friday, June 8 to Sunday, June 10, we will once again have our annual Corpus Christi celebration in Piqua.

As before, we will have a “40 Hours” of Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament at Saint Mary Church, beginning at the conclusion of the 8:45 am Mass Friday morning—June 8.

Exposition will continue, on the altar of Saint Mary, until about 4:45 pm—i.e., until shortly before the evening Mass. It will resume after the Saturday evening Mass, and continue through the night. Again, just before 9 am Mass and just before Noon Mass, we will suspend exposition and resume it at the conclusion of Mass.

Important: we ask all our regularly scheduled adorers who take hours in St. Clare Chapel to transfer their hour to St. Mary during this period. To support this effort, we will not have exposition in the chapel during this time—but the chapel will remain open for any who come to visit.

At the conclusion of the Noon Mass, Sunday, June 10, we will line up in church for a procession with the Holy Eucharist, from Saint Mary Church to Saint Boniface Church.

We will complete our procession at Saint Boniface Church with solemn benediction in the church. At the conclusion of this Benediction, exposition of the Holy Eucharist will resume in St. Clare Chapel as before.

Following Benediction, a Pot Luck carry-in meal will be held in the Caserta Center at St. Boniface.

Transportation will be available for any who need a ride from St. Boniface back to St. Mary.

Please call the parish office (937-773-1327) if you wish to help with preparing food, set-up or clean-up, transportation or in any other way.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

'Fortnight for Freedom'

As you may have read or heard, the bishops in the United States are asking all Catholics--and all of any faith who share our concerns--to give special prayer and effort to defending and restoring our religious freedom.

They are calling this a "Fortnight for Freedom."

Of course, the principal threat is President Obama's mandate that all employers, including all faith- or religious-based institutions, provide contraceptives and drugs that can cause abortions, as part of health care. The "exception" is extremely narrow, and as of this writing, does not clearly exempt our Catholic hospitals, charities and universities, and whether other schools are in the clear is very much in doubt. Employers are clearly not exempt--your consciences don't matter to our government.

While this is a grave and unprecedented threat to religious freedom for our country, it isn't the only one. At least two other threats loom on the horizon:

> In Alabama and in other states, legislation aimed at problems connected with illegal immigration has, in some cases, threatened the freedom of religious organizations to provide charitable and even spiritual care for people who are in this country illegally. While the government has a legitimate authority to regulate immigration, government goes too far when it makes it illegal to provide food, medical care, and the sacraments. Legislation in some places has raised questions in this regard.

> With various forces seeking to redefine marriage to include two people of the same sex, religious organizations are facing exclusion from adoptions, because they will not agree that a "marriage" of two people of the same sex is a family in the usual sense. There is the issue of whether someone will be guilty of illegal discrimination if one refuses to participate in such a marriage. In one case, a wedding photographer was sued for refusing; in another case, a Methodist-owned facility was told it had to rent its premises for a same-sex "marriage." There is opposition in Congress and the White House to clear protections for military chaplains from being forced to witness such "marriages."

No doubt other examples can be cited.

So that our parishes can do our part, today I spent some time trying to flesh out some plans. And while our parish plans may change, I thought it would be helpful, to other folks, including other pastors, to know what I came up with. It follows below.

A shout-out to folks in Piqua: there will be work involved in all this, and I sure could use help. Give the parish offices a call at (937) 773-1327 if you want to be a helper. We'll figure out something for you to do!

While my plans below don't describe what the Archdiocese is doing, I found out today that good things are in the works, and information will be provided in a few days.

Please feel free to share this far and wide. Let's (first) storm Heaven, and then "storm" the halls of government, that our freedom to practice our faith be assured.

Again--with the understanding that this is subject to change, here's what I'm planning:

‘Fortnight for Freedom’ Plan

Dates:               June 21-July 4

National Plans:              For full details, see US Bishops’ site at:

                                    June 21—Mass in Baltimore Basilica, 7 pm.
                                    July 4—Mass in DC Basilica, 12:10 pm, televised on EWTN.
                                    Facebook page:

Archdiocesan Plans:      In the works

Parish Plans:    

1.                  We will begin promoting the “Fortnight for Freedom” beginning Saturday June 2 at all Masses. (See attached announcements.)
2.                  Beginning June 2-3, until July 4, all priests will be asked to look for ways to talk about this in homilies. (See attached information.)
3.                  The Archdiocese is providing prayer cards for religious liberty. These will be distributed in the parishes during June, sometime between June 2 and June 17.
4.                  Beginning June 17, through July 31, at the conclusion of Mass, before the final hymn (if there is one), the priest will lead everyone in the prayer for religious liberty.
5.                  During our Corpus Christi Celebration, June 8-10, we will give special emphasis to praying for our nation.
6.                  All priests are asked, during the weekends of June 16-17, June 23-24, and June 30-July 1, to address the following topics: (1) Present threats to religious freedom—this should include the Catholic teaching that is at stake (i.e., why is this worth fighting over?); (2) The “Fortnight for Freedom” and why we must come together and the opportunities provided; (3) Explaining both the peril and the promise—this is serious, but we have Christ!; and finally, (4) outlining the concrete things we can do, together, to be part of this prayer.
7.                  For each day from June 21 to July 4, the Mass offered for that day will be offered with a special emphasis—i.e., on June 21, the Mass will be “for the Church” and later, we will have a Mass “for persecuted Christians.” Whatever priest has the Mass will use these prayers if at all possible.
8.                  This information will be distributed in the parishes June 16-17, so that all parishioners can attend, or at least pray for the indicated intention that day, even if unable to attend Mass.
9.                  This will include Mass on the two Saturdays, at 8 am; however, if there should be a funeral, or one of the priests has an emergency, these Masses may have to be cancelled.
10.              Every parishioner will be invited to offer prayers, fasting and sacrifices during this period.
11.              Fasting: I ask everyone 18-59 and in good health to pick a day for voluntary fasting.
12.              Sacrifice: I ask that everyone who cannot fast, to choose to give up something as a sacrifice during this period. These commitments are not binding in conscience—meaning, a failure to keep the commitment is not a sin.
13.              A “tote board” will be put up in each parish, and in the chapel, on which people can write their promises of prayers and sacrifices; our goal will be to fill these “tote boards” and then all will see the collective effort we are making.
14.              Holy Hours: I will ask all parishioners who are able to visit church or chapel to make two holy hours, one per week, during this period. Those who cannot visit church or chapel are asked to find an hour, or however much time, at home, to pray. Two times will be published—one during the day, one in the evening—when folks are invited to join together in the chapel.

Monday, May 21, 2012

The Ascension: what do we get? (Sunday homily)

(This is from memory; I had no text or notes.)

Father Tom has made the point that we like it when we come to Mass and get something. 
People like getting palms on Palm Sunday--
so much so that folks who can't make it that Sunday will call later to see if we have any left. 

Ash Wednesday is not a holy day of obligation, yet it's always crowded; 
and part of the reason is that getting ashes is very meaningful. 
Many people who aren't Catholic will still come to get ashes.

If we think about the various feasts we celebrate, what do we get?

On Christmas, we get a baby: God is born a human being--
and we make that real to us with the creche. 
On Easter, Jesus rises from the dead--we get him back as it were. 
Good Friday isn't a happy day, but what we get is our savior dying for us. Very powerful. 
Pentecost: we get the Holy Spirit.

So, in that light, what do we get on Ascension?

Well, here are my thoughts on this:

First, we get to see where we're headed and what we hope for

What if our Lord had chosen not to rise from the dead and come back and show himself to us? 
He might have said, I'm going to die, but don't worry, 
I'll go back to heaven and prepare a place for you. 
And that would have been what we hoped for. 
But instead, he came back from the dead, 
showed his hands and his side, he ate and drank with them, so they knew. 
You will rise again, as well, he said. 
Then he ascended to heaven--and we knew that where he went, we can follow,
if we keep following the Lord.

We know where we're headed. That's the first thing we get.

The second is the Holy Spirit. Yes, I know, we celebrate that next week on Pentecost; 
but it's also part of this feast. Jesus said, unless I go, you can't receive the Holy Spirit.

You may notice a new face on the altar: 
that's Andrew Hess, one of the seminarians who will be with us this summer.
Andrew will be over by the ramp door after Mass, so you can say hello. 
He and I drove down yesterday to the ordination of Father Matt Robben-
-you may recall Matt was here several summers as well. 

While we drove down, we talked about this: 
why did our Lord say we couldn't receive the Holy Spirit unless he left? 
I told Andrew he had to solve this problem; he didn't do it!

It's a difficult question; but let me suggest this. 
While Jesus was here, we of course were focused on him; 
and it was time to move into a new experience of God.

We're recognizing our graduates this morning. 
And I bet you had this experience in school: 
you start the year, studying a subject--say, geography or calculus--
and you groan, oh this is terrible, I'll never get the hang of this! 

Well, by the end of the year, you feel better about it; and that's when they say, 
OK, now we start all over with history or trigonometry! 
Oh no! I'm just getting good at this stuff, I want to stick with this! 
But you can't; you have to move on to something else.

That's what our Lord wanted for the Apostles. 
The Holy Spirit was going to lead them to something very new--
the challenge of sharing the Faith through the world. 

And that's the third thing we "get" from the Ascension: we get our mission.

The Holy Spirit is given to us so that we go in Christ's name to share our Faith. 
Look around: does the world seem a paradise? 
Is there perfect justice and peace? 
Does everyone know the Lord? No! So there's still a lot of work to do. 

We may find that it's hard to be a Christian. That's correct! 

In these strange times...who would have thought 
we would have our government making it so hard for us? 

Recall the warning from the Archbishop of Chicago,
 that if the president's mandate on contraceptives isn't overturned, in 18 months--
18 months from now!--all the Catholic hospitals in Chicago will be gone! 

Yes, these are difficult times in which to be a Christian, whether it's responding to this challenge,
or standing up for what marriage is, or [I cannot recall the other examples I gave here]. 

Aren't you glad you know where you're headed? 

But notice what the Lord said: we would have power to bear witness. 
Yes, we do speak in new languages; the Gospel is proclaimed in every language; 
and if someone invents a new language, we'll learn it and share Christ through that language too. 
Yes, God does heal people--I have anointed people who were supposed to die--and they did not die. The Holy Spirit gives us the power and the courage to carry out this task.

What did our Lord say? 
Everyone who believes and is baptized will be saved; those who do not believe will be lost. 

We have a lot of work to do--let's get going!

Saturday, May 19, 2012

My next parish...

As you already know, the Archbishop named me Director of Priestly Formation, effective July 2. That means I will oversee continuing education and spiritual formation for all the priests of the Archdiocese. What you may not know is that is deemed a part-time job.

On May 10, Bishop Binzer called me--while I was in Florida--to inform me I would also become parochial vicar of Saint Rose Parish in Cincinnati. Saint Rose is a smaller parish, 150 years old this year, located on the Ohio River not far from downtown Cincinnati. Father Barry Windholz is currently pastor of Saint Rose, as well as the Cathedral of Saint Peter in Chains.

While I am sad to leave Saint Mary and Saint Boniface Parishes, I am happy to be assigned to serve the people of Saint Rose, a parish with a reputation of seeking to celebrate the sacred liturgy with reverence and having parishioners active in the practice of our Faith.

I look forward to meeting the people of Saint Rose very soon!

Back home!

I got home yesterday afternoon, but was tired.

Just got back from the ordination of our four new priests for the Archdiocese: pray for Fathers Jon Paul Bevak, Daniel Hunt, Matt Robben and Mark Soellner and give thanks for their priesthood. Pray for more priests!

Thanks for all the prayers for my benefit during my vacation!

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Early Mass...

When I arrived at St. John's parish to stay for several days, I offered the pastor to take a Mass if that would be helpful. He asked me if I would take the early Mass--6:30 am--this morning. Of course I was glad to do it.

Unfortunately for the parochial vicar, I didn't know how to open the church, so he had to get up early to do that for me; additionally, the good vicar had everything set up for me when I arrived around 6:15 am. He also clued me in on a few things particular to the parish: "we sing the Regina Coeli before Mass, and pray the St. Michael prayer at the conclusion. The server was an adult, who was also the extraordinary minister. OK, so off we go.

I wasn't going to give any sort of homily, but I realized that folks were probably confused about whether it was Ascension or not--so I addressed that and gave a brief homily on the Lord's Presence in the Mass, especially in the Eucharist: "this is as good as it gets, until we are with him in Glory; but that is eternity and he still has work for us to do in time."

The server was confused about when to ring the bells at the epiclesis--he explained later the priests here never use anything but the Roman Canon. Impressive! (I had used the second prayer because of the time of the  Mass and my attempt to keep the Mass to a half-hour for the benefit of those on their way to work.)

After Mass, some of the parishioners came to say hello, and invited me for coffee; so we had a nice discussion, which included the reader, who is getting married soon; a gentleman who told a little about his work with the late Chuck Colson; and a retired baker who, with his bride, will soon celebrate 70 years of marriage!

It was a great start on the day. Let's see what comes!

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Sorry, now my vacation gets boring...

I'm visiting in northern Virginia with family and friends; it's always an adventure, especially when there are kids involved, with competing extra-curricular and athletic schedules.

I concelebrated Mass this morning with the highly reputed Father McAfee at St. John's Parish, where the liturgy has been treated with the greatest respect. I met a seminarian and a server who grinned when I called him "Father" (he was 11 years old), and when I complimented him, after Mass, on handling the paten "as well as I think I've seen," he furrowed his brow and said, "well, I hit the ciborium a couple of times with it." I told him no worries about that.

My plan is to be back in Cincinnati for the ordination of our newest four priests: please pray for Deacons Jon Paul Bevak, Daniel Hunt, Matt Robben and Mark Soellner, making their canonical retreat right now in preparation for their big day.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Mass at the Basilica you didn't know about...

The Basilica of Saint Lawrence, that is; and I should say, that I didn't know about. Who knew Asheville boasted a minor basilica? I found myself thinking, did the Commodore--who built the famous Biltmore Mansion in Asheville--have anything to do with it? Then I thought, wait, Vanderbilt had to be Protestant, so why would he want a bunch of Papists around? Something to look into another time.

Anyway, I found the Basilica using my usual method: driving around the general area I recall it being in, from memory of what I saw on the Internet. (Maybe someday I'll get a GPS gizmo, but not today.) It is a curious church, in an oval shape--I can't recall seeing that before. The dome is rather large--perhaps the largest free-standing dome anywhere; read about it here. The artwork is of several types: beautiful stained-glass windows and vigorous statues, and then some curious bas-relief (if that's the term) on either side of the altar: they are made of what I assume was molded tile. I'm curious how they were made. I wasn't as fond of these as of the other artwork; and there were some handsome statues in the various alcoves I'd have liked to have seen more closely, as well as many paintings. The side altars were beautiful as well.

I am grateful to the pastor--and the parochial vicar who actually offered the 9 am Mass--for allowing me to concelebrate.

Now off to Virginia!

A side trip to Kansas...

Last night, I took in another concert, this time with the venerable group Kansas.

This necessitated a drive west from Asheville to the Cherokee Indian Reservation; the concert was at the Harrah's Casino there.

The drive was lovely, although longer than I wanted. There were two possible routes, I unintentionally took the road less traveled by; has it has made all the difference? Time will tell.

When I arrived at the casino, my goal was dinner. For those who have never been in a casino, they are designed such that you must wander amidst the money-taking amusements in order to get anywhere you want to go. That is, after all, their bread-and-butter. So I had to wander a bit just to find a restaurant; I ended up at Paula Deen's. "Has Paula ever been here?" I asked. "She was here about a month ago."

I can't recommend it. I make better fried green tomatoes myself; although the pasta dish was good.

There was still time before the concert, so I wandered the gambling floor. I thought I'd play a little roulette; it's a fool's game (they all are), but it's fun talking to the other folks. But no roulette. I played some video poker, which was terribly boring. I'm very glad this sort of thing bores me.

If you are neither gambling nor drinking, a casino floor is very boring indeed. I might note, in passing, that this casino seems to be one of the last places in the eastern U.S. where you can smoke at will. Everyone seemed to have a cigarette; yet the ventilation system certainly did it's job.

Well, I wandered about a bit, then went to find the concert hall. It looked like it seated about 2,000 folks, and the seats were filling fast. In contrast to the Zac Brown concert, the average age here was certainly a lot higher. I'd guess between 45 and 50. There were a few under-20s, vastly outnumbered by folks in their 50s and 60s. Nice to be the kid again!

No warm-up band; the group hit the stage right on time, 7:30 pm, and started rocking. No chit-chat between songs; one right after another. That's when I remembered a conversation from Thursday with my acquaintance Jeff: he said the concerts at the casino don't last long; the management wants you back gambling.

Sure enough; about 8:45 the band seems to wrap up. I turned to a fellow fossil seated behind me and said, "wait--they aren't finishing are they?" He didn't think so, but they did all leave the stage. As best as we could, we hooted for more, and they came back for two more songs, finishing with "Carry on Wayward Son"--and that really was it. It was 9 on the dot.

So...disappointing. Zac Brown gave us 2-1/2 hours of his own stuff, plus 2 hours more from other bands; for his ticket you got over 4 hours of music. This was exactly 90 minutes.

It was fun all the same and now I can say I saw Kansas in concert. Not all original, I'm pretty sure, but still fun.

It was also fun contrasting the audience last night with Thursday. Thursday's audience was on its feet for almost the entire time. The rather older audience last night would jump up, holler, point...then need a breath and sit down again. And most seemed content to move out of the concert hall at 9 pm.

Well, have to go to Mass; I will report on that when I next get a wifi signal!

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Sleeping with the Mountaineer...

I didn't have much of a drive yesterday from Greenville, S.C. to my next stop, Asheville N.C. After taking my time over breakfast at the Hampton Inn, I wound my way up U.S. 25--the same U.S. 25 that once passed through Piqua, aka the "Dixie Highway." (You can read about it here.) I found my way to a commercial area south of Asheville, where I found: free parking, a bookstore, a movie theater, and several restaurants. What a great way to spend the afternoon!

So I browsed some books; found one I'd like to buy, but it was $35 so I'll order online; I walked around the square--it was one of those "new urban" type developments, very nice and I'm guessing pricey--I saw "The Avengers" (good fun), then had dinner at a restaurant called Travinia, which appears to be a chain.

Not as good as La Piazza in Troy, but pretty good. The server made my martini just right, and the service was quick. The veal chop was very good--and it was "free range," so there. I did have some sort of crab dip beforehand, which was good, but which suffered from a particularly American condition I call "over-the-top-ism." Which is to say, so often good is not good enough. There must be more--always more. You want fries? Seasoned fries? How about loaded fries? Loaded fries, how about topped with gravy? You want a super-combo? How about a blizzard? And so on.

So the dip was--let's see: crab meat, shrimp, artichoke, cheese, and something else. I was thinking, any three of these ingredients would have been fine--this is just overkill. But it was good and I ate it all.

Backing up a bit, earlier in the day, before I headed into the theater, I took some time to use free wi-fi to book a hotel for the next two nights; I didn't like hunting for one the night before.

So I went to and found a cheap place: the Mountaineer Inn: $55 a night. Do you remember the old Roadrunner cartoons, where Wile E. Coyote puts out a bowl of poison, covers it with birdseed and puts a sign, "Free Lunch" on it--and the "free" works? Well, that magic $55 worked on me. I didn't look too closely. I did see it had lots of good reviews.

So now it's about 7:30 pm or so, and I'm finished with dinner and I'm finding my motel. There it is!

I'm sorry my phone doesn't have a camera--but then I'd never figure out how to download the pics anyway. If I could, I'd give you shots of the place, with a giant, painted sign of a Mountaineer, and the front of the building with "Mountaineer Inn" in bright neon--with the "E"s backward. If you remember the old logo for Mountain Dew, you have an idea of what the Mountaineer looks like. They also have a picture of Mammy Yokum (look it up and you'll find a world of fun). The owner is a Greek fellow, who when he found out I am a priest ("what kind?" "Catholic." "OK."), had lots to say about religion, world affairs, particularly the Middle East, and a few other things. If I get a chance, I'll ask him how he ended up here.

The building is designed to look like it was built out of logs--and maybe it was. While obviously old, it is in good shape and the grass closely cut. Then I get to the room...

First check: turn on the air conditioning. I can't find anything like a thermostat. But it's not hot so I open the windows. No screens. The front door also has a door with slots, which I think is meant so I can do what I promptly did: latch the outer door and keep the inner door open.

The room was pretty simple; the TV looked like what we had growing up; although it was color and it was hooked to cable. Remote didn't work. And--to no surprise--no wifi.

But for $55 a night? No problem. Everything was clean. Despite some cheerful neighbors who were celebrating something, I slept like a log, and didn't get out of bed until my neighbors did, around 10 am.

Looking at this place, I'm experiencing Deja Vu. When I was boy, our family would take driving trips, and my mom and dad were expert in finding cheap places, just like this. I have the surest feeling I've actually stayed in this place, maybe 40 years ago, but there's no way to know for sure. Of course, if you've traveled throughout the eastern U.S., you will find places just like this all over.

So what's next? Stay tuned...

Greenville Report, part 2: praying with Father Newman

Part two of my visit to Greenville:  visiting St. Mary Parish--the mother church of upstate South Carolina--to concelebrate with the highly reputed pastor, Father Jay Scott Newman.

Father Newman--like so many--has an interesting story. He was an atheist in college and his conversion began with contemplating beautiful sacred art and architecture. He has been active in promoting the sacred liturgy and his parish is something of a model for what is sometimes called "the reform of the reform"--i.e., a faithful application of Vatican II that is in continuity with the liturgy prior to the Council.

To that end, Mass is offered ad orientem at St. Mary.

So I was looking forward to meeting Father Newman and participating in the Mass at his parish. But: Mass at 7 am! A bit early for a vacation; but I thought, getting up that early--after a late night--"this will be my penance."

Father was genial, Mass began with no fuss; and while a bit uncertain of the best posture for the concelebrant when the priest turns to face the people at certain points, all went well. After Mass, I asked what he thought; his advice was that the concelebrant, rather than turning to face the congregation at those points, might better step back a bit and turn half-way, facing the priest. I agree, that makes more sense.

As Father Newman described in an article here, he omits all introductory and extemporaneous remarks. Father did not introduce me during Mass--and I am totally fine with that! The Mass is about our Lord and the people came to worship him. I stayed after Mass to pray and if anyone wanted, they could say hello; they didn't--they prayed! Good for them! And I'm sure Father will tell them if they ask, who that priest was.

The sanctuary was just as Father Newman recommends--not all "kitsched up" with junk. Oh, and I meant to ask him from which publisher he obtained his altar missal! It was very nicely done.

Father apologized for not being able to ask me to breakfast due to a full day; no problem, I had only called the day before. I did take a quick glance around the grounds: he has a school, so I readily understand how busy he might be. He did tell me he spent seven years in the same role I am about to begin for the Archdiocese--as director of (ongoing) priestly formation--so we compared some notes there.

Thank you, Father Newman, for your leadership in the sacred liturgy!

Friday, May 11, 2012

My Greenville Adventures: rocking with Zac Brown

Last night and this morning I enjoyed a visit to Greenville, S.C.--as far as I can recall, my first.

I drove into Greenville around 5:30 pm, arriving right at the doorstep of the Bi-Lo Center, site of the Zac Brown concert I was going to attend. I wanted to scope the area, both to avoid paying $20 for parking (I found $5 parking pretty quickly), and to locate a convenient hotel and St. Mary Church, where I had planned to meet the pastor for 7 am (!) Mass the next day.

Well, traffic was congested so I didn't go round the block too much; and thus found neither a convenient hotel, nor the church. I opted for parking while it lasted. Then I set off on foot for some congenial place to get a beer and something to eat.

I hap'ed upon the City Tavern, which had a good selection of draft beer (always a good sign) and wasn't overly crowded--even though downtown was. I ordered a beer and some wings and set to it. Meanwhile, I'm watching the time; the concert started at 7 pm and it was a bit after six.

Not too long after that, a fellow sat down next to me and--as some people do, they just start talking to you as if they know you. His wife came in a moment later, and before long, we found out we were all headed to the concert. Noticing me watching the time, he laughed and said, don't worry, Zac won't start playing till nine.


Yep--they'll have two warm-up acts first.

Now I'm thinking about Mass at 7 am: "What time do you think the concert will wrap up?"

Oh, before midnight, he said--the neighbors complain otherwise.

As we talk, he tells me about his business, about how he and his wife rode an airport shuttle up from 45 minutes away--meaning he didn't have to worry about how much he drank tonight!--and we talked about the area.

When he asked what I did, I said, "you'll never guess." (I might add that several of his friends had wandered by and now there was a group of five or six gathered around me.) After a few guesses ("sales?" "Sort of..."), Jeff said, well this isn't fun anymore, you have to tell us. I said, "how about I show you?" His wife Cindy said, "oh, that sounds interesting!" And with that, I pulled out my driver's license--with me pictured in my clerical attire. (At the moment I was wearing the sort of bright-colored, pretend Hawaiian shirt old guys like me buy cheap at Old Navy.) "Oh, you're a priest!" "A Catholic priest?" his friend asked. "Of course," responded Jeff--as if to say, what other kind would he be?" My new friends all seemed to think this was outstanding; Jeff advised me, in a friendly way, that this was all Baptist territory, while Cindy said, "that means you can smoke and drink and gamble, right?" I said, well, I don't smoke--"but you can." I was content to smile genially and drink my beer.

I'd had two beers, and was going to go, but taking heed of Jeff's obvious point about the warm-ups--and enjoying these folks (did I mention they apologized for cussing? Then kept right on...), I ordered one more. About when I finished that, Jeff suggested I stay for one more, but I'd had plenty, and neither wanted  to be sleepy nor have to make a pit-stop during the concert. And being of a "show up on time" sort of mindset, I was bothered by the time and decided I'd walk over to get my seat.

Well I should have listened to them! The place was dead; I arrived (I learned later) after the first warm-up had finished; and not wanting to sit in my seat doing nothing, I wandered around till I heard the next act begin. It was a fellow named Nic(k?) Cowan, who did some pieces fairly well, but nothing memorable nor anything I liked a whole lot. Meanwhile, where I was filled up a bit. I enjoyed watching other folks around me (including glancing periodically at the constant texting of the young lady next to me) but otherwise, a drag. Then that act wrapped up, cleared the stage, and more waiting. Of course, I could have had another beer--the fellow next to me said they cost $9 ("but they are big!"), which is what I'd spent on all the beers I'd had earlier--but I didn't want anything.

Sure enough, it was not till just before nine when folks really started filling the place and the noise level began to swell. A big build up till the curtain dropped and behold! Zac and his band! The crowd erupted; everyone's standing. (Did I mention my feet hurt from walking up and down Cocoa Beach the day before?) So we all stand.

After awhile, I saw my friends show up, but it wasn't easy getting to them, and besides, maybe they were  just being polite to an obvious out-of-towner; and it was dark so I doubt they could see me, even with my bright old-guy shirt. (Aside: I wondered what the age profile of the event would be; I was relieved not to find myself the only old guy amidst a bunch of folks in their 20s. In fact, the ages ranged from fairly young children--not many--to folks in their 60s, some teens, but with most 20s-40s.) Everyone hooted and hollered and in my own squarish way, I did a little of that. The young lady next to me had stopped texting.

A few songs in, I get a tap on my arm--it's one of the guys from the bar! He says, come over and join us! So I climb out of my row and come with him; everyone remembers me and Cindy gives me a hug. This was helpful (being pulled over, not necessarily the hug), because now I got a running commentary on the songs. My new friends, in the meantime, had--to all appearances--done their best to sustain the local beer distributor.

A couple of the guys were sort of circling--each other and other folks--as they drank their beers, gave high-fives and shoulder-bumps to each other and anyone near. Once again, they seemed so happy I was there, and I have to admit, it was a lot of fun. Did I mention my feet hurt? No matter.

Well, if you've been to a concert like this, you will not be surprised to hear there were flashing lights, smoke effects, and at a couple of points the performers were hoisted over our heads by whatever you call the things that do that. There was a sort of runway that extended out from the stage, and the band members would periodically charge down the runway, furiously playing and singing. The violinist and one of the guitarist were especially impressive in that regard. How anyone can play an instrument and sing, let alone do both and jump around like that, utterly amazes me. As my seminary classmates well know, I found it impossible to step off a curb after a Reds game without breaking my foot.

The big finale was "Chicken Fry" which Cindy said was a special song for Jeff and her, and everyone seemed to know the words by heart. Then--sure enough--the show came to an end, about 11:30 pm.

I bade farewell to my new friends and invited them to look me up if they ever made their way to Cincinnati  and as usually happens in a crowd like this, we got separated. I got back to my car, and now began my search for a motel. I'd called a downtown hotel while at the tavern--all booked up. I headed out a few miles to a La Quinta--all booked up; I drove a couple miles more and found a room. I still hadn't found the church, but I had an address, and figured I'd manage the rest. As I got to sleep around 12:30 am, I was tempted to sleep in and call Father later, but--no, I was going to see it through.

Continued in next post...

Wednesday, May 09, 2012

So where will I go Thursday?

...Tune in tomorrow to find out!

Update, Thursday, around 3 pm: I'm getting something to eat near Bowman, South Carolina, headed up I-26...

Tuesday, May 08, 2012

Latest travels...

While I was in Treasure Island, Florida, I had trouble connecting to the Internet. The hotel where I stayed was nice, yet for some reason I didn't sleep well. I woke up pretty wiped out this morning.

Sunday night I  met up with some old friends from my days in D.C. I told my friend I'd leave his name out of this, so let's call him "Yoda"--the all wise one.

The wise one has been giving the best advice on politics, particularly strategy, for the 23 years I've known him. I still seek Yoda's advice in my work with the National Pro Life Alliance.

We talked awhile Sunday night, and got together again Monday night to continue. The main takeaway was encouragement; while he thinks Romney will lose and Obama will be re-elected (and I tend to agree), he also feels confident that the worst is behind us; government will remain divided and so nothing much bad will be enacted; also, nothing much good either.

Politics wasn't the only thing we talked about, but it was most of the conversation! What fun!

Today I drove over to Cape Canaveral to visit the Kennedy Space Center. Awesome! But there's too much to see; apparently I should have seen the Imax and ridden the shuttle simulator, but I didn't get there till around 1 pm, and as mentioned, I am kind of low energy today.

I did enjoy observing all the other folks who were on the tour; a lot of Europeans, judging by the sounds of their languages. I have to say, some Europeans dress very strangely, but I suppose they may say the same about us when we go to their place!

Now I'm chilling in the hotel room before I get some dinner. Tomorrow I'm going to check out the beach (note from yesterday's beach observations: tattoos are not an improvement) and catch a show.

Sunday, May 06, 2012

Where's Father Martin?

I'm on vacation; posting will be whimsical--i.e., if I feel like it and have a connection at the same time.

Friday night I attended the Bishop Fenwick Dinner at our seminary in Cincinnati; I stayed the night, enjoyed visiting with some of the seminarians. I had Mass at 8 am with a deacon and several seminarians assisting me in the beautifully renovated Immaculate Conception Chapel. After breakfast, I hit the road for Tennessee and Georgia.

While driving through Tennessee, I thought, there has to be confessions somewhere along I-75 between 3-5 pm; so I stopped at McDonalds for lunch, looked it up on and sure enough! The web site has a very handy map application that works great for travelers: just  move down the route you plan to go, and churches will show up as little flags with links to more information. I'd like to see that application for other uses, such as concert venues, historical sites, and restaurants. (Yes, I know that Yahoo does this, but I don't think it's sorting is very helpful.)

So at 3 pm I pulled off I-75, in Farragut, Tennessee--south of Knoxville--and wow, what a church! Just completed a few years ago, it is built in a classic basilical style, lots of beautiful artwork. Whoever helped design the stained glass windows--I'm not sure if they were all new, or if some were from an older church--did an outstanding job. Thanks to the presence of a nice line for confessions, I had time to contemplate them. (Hint: this is one of the main reasons for representative art in a church--it's not a frill; it aids people's prayer and faith.)

After receiving the sacrament, I got back on the highway--now clogged due to an accident--and made my way to Atlanta, where I attended a concert. No, not the Eagles concert I hoped for. Either I'd made a mistake on the day, or else the one I was sure was also on Saturday was cancelled. Either way, no Eagles! (Some parishioners got wind of my interest, and that I thought the ticket too pricey, and they gave me money for it on my birthday! So I promise, I'll use that money for concerts while I'm travelling! Thank you so much!)

Instead, I saw a concert with the Atlantic Symphony Orchestra and Spectrum, performing Motown songs. It was great! But I was sitting with a bunch of squares who barely moved a muscle; it wasn't till near the end of the concert that anyone really got juiced up. The two nice ladies to my left must have disliked the music; they didn't return after the intermission.

I left Atlanta about 11 pm, and drove about an hour to get close to Macon, where I planned to take part in Mass this morning.

Today I joined Father Allen McDonald and his parishioners at Saint Joseph's Parish in Macon. What a stunningly beautiful church! Father has worked hard to cultivate a sound ars celebrandi--as described on his blog, Southern Orders, and it shows. He gave a very good homily explaining very plainly the hard truths implicit in the Gospel image of our Lord as the Vine, and our relationship as either living--or dead--branches. He laid it out: when we set aside what the Church teaches, when we fail to observe the Lord's Day in participating at the Mass, we aren't good Catholics, no matter what our own opinion says; it's what Christ says. And he made clear that the ultimate peril is "damnation" (he used the word--twice!). He said that as Catholics, when we share our faith clearly and without hesitation, we help our fellow Catholics revive their faith. What if our statements give offense? They may, he said, but better to give offense than to let someone go to hell. Hoorah!

After many nice conversations after Mass, I stopped at Mickey D's for coffee--too late for breakfast!--and to post this and check some things online.

Next stop? Stay tuned...

Update: stopped for lunch, checking things: Father McDonald blogged about me on his blog, which is now linked on the side. And to all the nice folks in Macon...why do you have a Pio Nono Avenue? That is pretty cool--and pretty unexpected!

Friday, May 04, 2012

What's happening...

I'm doing laundry...about to head over to the school for a bit...a couple of meetings...then I'm packing and heading off on my vacation.

No (new) homilies for the next two weeks; I may re-post some old ones...or else you can do that by browsing through Aprils and Mays of past years in the archive down the right side of the blog.

Where am I headed? That's a state secret! No, I'll let you know along the way; the itinerary is fluid, the way I like it.