Tuesday, October 22, 2019

Project 88 Complete!

Last week -- October 13-15 -- I visited the final four counties and thus completed my personal project of visiting all 88 counties in Ohio. Here is the report of this last outing.

On Sunday afternoon, I headed off for my tour of Summit, Stark, Columbiana and Carroll Counties. First stop: Summit County, and the Cuyahoga Valley National Park. My original ambition was to ride a scenic railroad that makes trips through the park each weekend; but in October, the late-afternoon trip drops off the schedule; I couldn't get there for the earlier trip.

Along the way, I stopped in Boston Township, where I snapped these pictures:

The plaque above was in front of the building below:

Across the way is the G.A.R. Hall. "G.A.R." stands for the Grand Army of the Republic, which was a pretty prominent organization at one time in American society, but now gone with the wind.

The GAR Hall seems to have found a new life as a concert venue...

Looks nice!

When I got to the park, I looked for the visitor's center. I saw a building labeled "Visitor's Center," but parking was a little distant. I walked over, only to find this sign:

So then I went back to the old center, only to arrive 3 minutes after closing.

I went and got dinner, and then to my hotel, where I found this. What do you make of it?

The next morning I drove around the park. By the way, I only discovered at this point that much of the park is actually in Cuyahoga County, but some in Summit. There are lots of trails for hiking and biking. Since a lot of my tour was by car, not so many pictures. Here are two:

Here's some history of Brandywine Falls, including a village now all but vanished:

After this, I drove down to Akron, the county seat of Summit, coming into town along Riverview/Merriman Road, through a lovely part of town. I passed this building with a for sale sign outside the Temple Israel, which relocated in 2014:

Once downtown, I chanced upon St. Bernard Church. I didn't get a photo of the outside, but it is huge. When I got inside, all I could say was "wow!" Several times.

 The free-standing altar is unfortunate, but perhaps someday it will be removed. The bench on which the priest sits has absurdly been turned to face the people; it ought to face the altar. But overall, I was thrilled that very little damage was done to this church, or else has been undone.

What do you make of this? Was the altar rail always arranged this way?

This window is rather unusual. All the figures have a flame over their heads, which I take to refer to Pentecost. The Lord Jesus is not in the scene, but Mary is. If you count the figures, it adds up, if I recall correctly, to 14, which leads me to think they put Paul in, except he wasn't there. Let me know if you have a theory or more information.

This Baptistry impressed me because of its size, and its seating.

From here I headed down to Canton to visit the Pro Football Hall of Fame. I spent about 2 hours there, but didn't take a huge number of photos. Here are some:

The Hall of Fame is just one part of a large and growing complex. Inside I saw plans for a $1 Billion' worth of construction.

Visiting the hall of fame is rather humbling for Bengals fans, as only only four people associated with the team are there, and only one whose work was primarily with the Bengals: Anthony Munoz of course. There is plenty to see, and its enjoyable and informative, but there is definitely a weird vibe about the place, as the mural above might suggest: it's almost a kind of religious shrine.

After the hall of fame, my goal was to visit the last two counties that day, so I could celebrate my project that evening; the next day I would take in any additional sights as desired on the way home. I dipped down into Carroll County, so I could legitimately count it, but with plans to return to see more the next day. I passed through Minerva, but sorry, no pictures!

I was charmed by this little Methodist church, somewhere between Canton and Robertsville, but I can't read the sign out front. Can you?

This is a post office. Again, I can't make out the sign.

This is a marker near West Point, Ohio, in Columbiana County, where Confederate General John Hunt Morgan's daring raid through Indiana and Ohio came to an end.

The is the Grange building in Robertson, Ohio. Never heard of The Grange? It's a farmers' organization, organized somewhat along the lines of the Freemasons, although I don't know how true that still is. Grange buildings can be found all over the country.

This is St. Agatha Church in West Point.

Eventually, I made my way to the mighty Ohio, which forms not only the southern, but a substantial part of the eastern, border of the state. This is East Liverpool, which -- you will discover, as I did -- has a plethora of historical markers:

Not many yards further up river from this point, the Ohio emerges from Pennsylvania:

One of the many libraries built coast to coast by Andrew Carnegie:

A marker right near the Ohio-Pennsylvania line, indicating where...well, read it for yourself:

After this, I headed to Salem, Ohio, in northwest Columbiana County, for the night. There weren't many options for hotels and restaurants in this county, but Salem seemed to have more options, so I headed there. When I went online, I was intrigued by "The Stables Inn" and headed there. It turned out to be a 1959 hotel that had closed ten years before, which some local investors had reopened and were trying to make go. It certainly has promise. The restaurant was nice, but the ribs I had weren't as good as I hoped. I'd certainly give it another try.

Alas, I got no other pictures in Salem but this house with unusual chimneys. Have you seen anything like this before?

After a enjoyable dinner at "Boneshakers," the restaurant in the hotel, and sleeping late, I got up for a little more visiting in Carroll County, and then the long drive home. My route was along State Route 9, from Salem to Carrollton, the county seat of Carroll County. My first job was to hunt down some breakfast, I think I ended up at McDonalds. Then I needed gasoline, which I got in Carrollton. I looked around the town, but honestly, I was ready to head home. Here's what I saw took pictures of on the way back:

And now, my trek is finished! What project should I tackle next?

Sunday, October 20, 2019

Get to work! (Sunday homily)

When I was a boy, all I wanted to do on Saturday mornings 
was eat big bowls of cereal and watch cartoons. 

My parents had other ideas:
Mowing the lawn, raking leaves, taking out the garbage, 
cleaning my room, helping get the house in order,
or working with my dad in the garden or with his business. 

Whether I liked it or not, I had to do my part in the family.
And our Father in heaven operates according to the same principle.

Everything I have, everything I am, was a gift.
My parents did so much for me! 
I didn’t earn what I received and I can’t pay it back;
And, again, it’s the same in the spiritual life.

None of us deserves God giving us life, 
and giving us salvation in Jesus Christ. 
None of us is worthy of having our Lord come to earth 
and live among us and giving himself for us on the Cross.

And then to have God continue to forgive us, over and over, 
in the sacrament of confession? 
To have the Lord Jesus give us his own flesh and blood, 
his own life, in the Holy Eucharist? 
To receive the help of the Holy Spirit, of the angels and saints, 
throughout our lives, all the way to heaven?
How can any of us dare to think we either deserve this, 
or can ever repay this love?

Even so, it remains that each of us has a job to do.
We’re part of a family. 
It’s only right that we contribute our part.

What is God’s work? It is redemption and conversion of hearts.
You and I are messengers, 
ambassadors for Christ in a world losing its bearings. 
Saint Paul told Timothy to pray and know the Scriptures, 
so that he could better share his faith 
and point people in the right way.

If you agree that God has been good to you, unbelievably good to you,
 maybe one of your chores is to know your Faith better?
So that when topics come up in conversation, 
you can give a helpful answer?

In the first reading, God’s People are in the thick of battle.
Moses is praying, his arms so weary that the priests are holding him up.

Jesus Christ is our Moses, who leads us, and intercedes for us.
Yet he also said: to be my disciple, “take up your cross.”
One of the most important ways you and I share in Christ’s work is with prayer.

When I was in Piqua, I had a priest visit who talked about
the power of spending time adoring the Holy Eucharist. 
And he said something surprising that I never forgot. 

He said: “we really don’t like to pray.” He’s right!
Sure, there are some of us have a gift for praying for hours.
But most of us, if we are honest, it’s a chore.
There’s always something else we’d rather do.
You and I try to pray, and we can’t keep on it – our mind wanders.
Maybe our back hurts or we get impatient.

What really wears us out is that we have to keep asking, asking, asking.
The same sins and habits every time you and I go to confession.
Don’t be surprised, and don’t be discouraged. It IS work!

What is true for our personal prayer, is true above all about Holy Mass, 
which is the supreme prayer of Jesus and of us, as his Church.

Where did people get the idea that Mass is supposed to be convenient, 
catering to our needs, and certainly not demanding too much?

Do you know what the Mass really is?

It is a lot like Moses being up on that mountain, begging God’s help;
and you and I are standing there, holding up his arms.

Because, in fact, it is not Moses, but Jesus: on the Cross, 
pleading for us and for the world, that grace will be poured out on us.
And none of us is a spectator. Jesus asks our help!

Look down on the battlefield, and tell me: how’s it going?
Does it look like our side is winning? 

Then there’s more work to do. For each one of us.

Sunday, October 13, 2019

Which leper are you? (Sunday homily)

Ten lepers were on their way to the Temple. 

The first leper said to the second leper, 
“That Jesus didn’t have much time for us, did he? 
That wasn’t very pastoral!”

“I know,” said the third leper. 
"I wanted to tell him everything he needs to change! 
What about lay involvement?”

The fourth leper said to the fifth leper, 
“Why did she have to bring her kids? 
How was I supposed to talk to Jesus 
with them making all that fuss?” 

The sixth leper said to the seventh leper, 
“I could go back and thank Jesus—
but he knows I’m busy: 
I’m sure Jesus sees the value of sports,
and understands why I need to put my business first.

The seventh leper said to the eighth leper, 
“Look, we’re all OK, but what about that Samaritan! 

Did you see how sloppy his clothes were? 
And what about those tattoos and earrings—
You know he’s one of those types, 
if you know what I mean!”

The eighth leper looked around. 
“It’s not like I’m prejudiced or anything, 
but why don’t they stay with their own kind?

Then the ninth leper spoke up:
“Say . . . where’d that Samaritan go, anyway?”

And one of them, realizing he had been healed, returned,
glorifying God in a loud voice;
and he fell at the feet of Jesus and thanked him.

Ten lepers walked down the street. Which one are you?

Sunday, October 06, 2019

The vision of chastity will have its time (Sunday homily)

In the first reading, we heard the prophet cry out: “Violence! Ruin!”
With Habbakuk, we ask: Why?
Why can we never see the end of terror and conflict?
Why are people so cruel to one another?
“Write down the vision,” the Lord answers:
“The vision still has its time” to be fulfilled: “Wait for it.”

What’s the vision? Well, it’s God’s Vision—
as opposed to the alternative, which might be called,
“Doing it our way, without God.”

Part of that Vision is not only the dignity of human life,
but also that a moral life means choices that involve sacrifice.
We Catholics seem so far out of step with the world
when we insist on protecting the unborn,
and keeping intimate acts between couples open to the gift of life—
meaning no contraception.
This is a hard sell for many, including many Catholics.

But there’s Vision at work here—wait for it…

If we go out at night, and we gaze at the stars,
are we not filled with awe?
Surely God has some design and purpose in it all.
Who can doubt this?
That Divine purpose is not only written in the stars, 
but even moreso in ourselves.

One reason we Catholics cannot agree
with our culture’s values about human intimacy
is because they deny or at least muddle that higher purpose.

We are made in the image and likeness of God:
and when a man and woman come together,
they are never more like God—because in that very moment,
they do what otherwise only God can do: create new life.

The problem with artificial means of family planning
is they redesign God’s design.

God’s design is that a loving act is also a life-creating act.
Natural Family Planning respects this.
But the whole mindset of contraception and related technologies
is that the life-creating part of us as a problem to be overcome,
rather than a blessing to be embraced with reverence.

As a priest, I am entrusted with an awesome power: 
I offer the Holy Mass.
Through this sinner that I am,
Christ makes his saving sacrifice present,
and nourishes us all with his true and real Body and Blood.

That awesome power and gift is not mine to control or redesign.
I don’t even like to speak of it, but:
obviously I could misuse that power and gift.
I have to be under God’s authority in this or I can do a lot of harm.

Well, as human beings, the life-creating part of us
is likewise an awesome power and gift.
And likewise, we aren’t free to do with that gift just as we may please.

This design, as obvious as it is elegant, 
is why marriage is only a man and a woman; 
because only that union is a true “one flesh” union, 
a union that overflows into new life.

And that is why this union belongs in marriage;
When it is broken away from commitment and total self-gift,
It stops being about life, and it becomes about selfishness, 
Which is the total opposite of love.

That’s the Vision that our world ignores.
But, wait for it, it will have its time.
Our world’s values—how are they working out?
Are our families better off?
Are children better off when their parents never marry?
Is society better off?

I mentioned Natural Family Planning.
One of the striking things is that while it demands more sacrifice,
it also seems to strengthen intimacy.
Divorce is far less common for those who practice NFP.

Many couples in our parish embrace this path, and I commend you.
You have no idea how much you encourage me, and others around you.

Meanwhile, we cannot ignore the direction our society has taken.
After all, who is it that must be the prophet today,
calling people back from a path of ruin, to a path of life?

This is Respect Life Sunday; and we must speak up
against the destruction of the unborn
and we must cry out that we embrace both mother and child.
At the same time, our world desperately needs 
the witness of close family life.

So much of the story of poverty and social disorder 
is really the story of chaos that invades and displaces family life.
How do we combat this disorder? I’m not entirely sure, but:
If you belong to a close family, cherish what you have;
And if you know others who don’t have this gift, 
maybe invite them into your family, 
so they can learn and find courage to make a family of their own.

The world’s vision that offered freedom ends up bringing despair.
We are nothing, and the world will better off without us.

God offers us a different Vision:
We are not only his image at our best,
but even when we’re broken and marred:
God so loves us so much that he gave his only Son.
Life is worth living because even at our worst, we are his beloved.

That’s our Vision. Wait for it. It will have its time.