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Archive for May, 2011

As Memorial Day is celebrated and summer approaches, please allow me some random musings:

In the early morning hours, on the busy sidewalk in front of St. Peter Cathedral in downtown Erie, I often observe a woman pushing a shopping cart. She is older, ragged, and clearly bearing the scars of life’s vicissitudes. The cart is filled with plastic shopping bags containing her treasures, maybe all of her treasures. The woman does not smile. Where has she been and where is she going? Is there someone who loves her? And how many more ragged ladies are pushing their hidden treasures before them on sidewalks throughout the world? The Lord was correct, the poor we will always have with us.

Albeit less than I wish, there are a few young men and a few teachers who are regular attendees at the Cathedral Preparatory School Mass that I offer each morning in the school’s third floor chapel. Other Prep students spend the time before first class catching up on homework or talking about the previous night’s game. Some pass by the chapel doors on the way to visit an instructor or friend. A few guys sit sleepy-eyed on the floor in front of their locker or rush down the hall to gather books. But these few who come to Mass set aside those other things to hear God’s word and to receive his Body. They choose well.

To those who suffer with depression or anxiety, and I know your numbers are not insignificant, consider this prayer from the words of Psalm 25:
My eyes are always on the Lord;
for he rescues my feet from the snare.
Turn to me and have mercy
for I am lonely and poor.
Relieve the anguish of my heart
and set me free from my distress.

Someone more knowledgeable about these things than I recently indicated that when a human being passes by, crows will communicate with each other: “Cawww, cawww, cawww!” Great. Life isn’t hard enough as it is, and now I have to worry about the crows making disparaging remarks as I stroll beneath them. Geesh!

Be assured of my prayers,

Fr. Steve

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You may have noticed the well-publicized prediction that the world would end on May 21, 2011 (last Saturday). Hopefully, you also noticed that the world is still here. The prediction, like so many end-times prognostications before, proved false. Don’t be surprised. Our Lord himself said: “But of that day and hour no one knows . . . but the Father alone (Mt 24:36).” Christ will indeed come back, but you and I need not worry about his timing.

Possibly, you found yourself chuckling on May 21st and wondering, “How can people be so foolish and deluded?” The question is a valid one and the mockery elicited by end-of the-world predictions is easy to understand. I freely admit to scoffing and wondering how folks could fall for such delusion. But let’s be a little gentle in our judgments. After all, chances are that at one time or another, we too have strolled the merry path of foolishness.

Maybe the most important question involving those who accepted the May 21 prophecy is this: Will they still have faith in God? Some of these folks emptied bank accounts to purchase billboard space. Some of these folks gave away possessions. Some of these folks, no doubt, burned bridges that will be difficult to repair. But having been fooled – and made the fool – will they now lose what really counts, their faith in God? As the world continues to turn, you and I could offer a prayer for them today.

Be assured of my prayers for you as well,

Fr. Steve

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Get Up

There was a moment in the life of Philip, deacon of the Church, when God called. You can find the story in Acts 8. “Get up,” was God’s command, and Philip obeyed. He ran to the Ethiopian eunuch, witnessed to the resurrection of Christ, and brought that man to the saving waters of Baptism. By Philip’s obedience, a life was transformed; a soul was saved. And yet there is much more to the story. For as St. Irenaeus (A.D. 180) would later report, the eunuch returned to his native land to become Ethiopia’s first Christian missionary. Only God knows how many souls came to know Christ through the eunuch’s witness. But it all began when Philip obeyed God’s call to “get up.”

Is it possible that God is also calling to us: “Get up?” Absolutely. Assuredly. Undoubtedly. Is it possible that God also needs us to give witness to Christ’s resurrection? Bet on it. Could we also be instruments of transformation in the life of an individual or family or nation? Correct.

But it all begins with “getting up.”

So get up from the couch, turn off the TV, and pray. Step away from the video game (even if you’re winning) and know that God is calling you. Drop the bag of chips, pick up your Bible, and begin to read. Forget Facebook for one night and instead head to Eucharistic Adoration. Get off the phone, tell Sweety-petucious that you’ll call tomorrow, and try some spiritual reading. Say no to the party and yes to the retreat. Choose not to go to Molly’s but instead to go to church. Get up, get your God on, and begin to change the world.

Is there any reason why Philip could do this and we cannot? No. It’s the same God calling and the same divine grace moving our hearts to action. The choice is mine and the choice is yours: we can remain frozen in the smallness of our own little world . . . or we can “get up” and tell the world about Jesus.

St. Francis Xavier, the great missionary, once said, “Many, many people hereabouts are not becoming Christians for one reason only: there is nobody to make them Christians.”

Come on, let’s get up!

Be assured of my prayers,

Fr. Steve

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Navy SEALs, arctic crab fisherman, and NFL quarterbacks share a common trait with the young men in our diocese who are considering a call to the priesthood: they have guts. For in a world where God is so often forgotten or blasphemed, young men who choose to follow his call are regularly looked at with suspicion or disdain. Especially in our nation, where opportunities abound, riches are abundant, and individualism is glorified, the concept of laying down one’s life in service to God seems strange and out of focus. Given the recent scandals and the growing tide of secularism, priesthood is not a vocation held in high esteem. Many young men, while discerning God’s call, are asked: Why would you waste your life like that? And yet, they shrug off such rejection, and in abandonment and trust, hand their hearts over to God and his Church. They have guts.

As we prepare to celebrate this Sunday’s World Day of Prayer for Vocations, please keep those young men in mind. Our local church, the Diocese of Erie, currently has 15 seminarians who are discerning the call to priesthood. Others are in the application process for next year’s seminary admittance. They are your sons and grandsons, nephews and cousins, parishioners and friends. Please, pray for them. May God’s will be done in their lives.

But also pray that young women who are called to sisterhood and the consecrated life may respond willingly to God’s voice. My experience tells me that it takes even more guts for a young woman to say yes to God than it does for a young man. A young man’s peers, despite the cultural forces mentioned above, tend to be supportive when he admits interest in the priesthood. But a young woman’s friends tend to think she’s completely lost her mind. No husband, no house in the country, no membership at the club . . . are you nuts? Please pray for them, as well. Those girls are out there and they need your encouragement.

And if you are reading this, aware that God is calling YOU to his side and to his service, do not be afraid. “God’s will does not crush or destroy a person,” Pope Benedict reminds us, “but instead leads to the discovery of the deepest truth about ourselves.” So have the guts to travel that road of discovery. Maybe take the next step in discipleship by signing up for this summer’s Catholic Leadership Institute or TEC Retreat (both applications are found here on The Vine). And above all, pray, pray, pray. God is with you.

Be assured of my prayers,

Fr. Steve

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Easter Season continues. Hopefully, so too does our realization that the Risen Lord is present among us. “Why do you seek the living one among the dead (Lk 24:5)?” asked the angel at Christ’s empty tomb. Why do we? He’s alive! “He has been raised from the dead,” was the message Mary Magdalene relayed to the disciples, “and he is going before you to Galilee; there you will see him (Mk 28:7).” We present day disciples are to receive the same Easter message: Christ is going before us and there we will see him.

Going before us where?

He goes before us to school and to work and to baseball practice. He goes before us to the mall and to the coffee shop and to the doctor’s office. Christ is there in the family room, the dining room, the bedroom. The Lord can be seen at Dairy Queen, Panera and Olive Garden. He is among us at rehearsal, while we study, when we recreate. Christ is at the university dorm and the office break room. The Risen Jesus can be seen in Houtzdale, Hermitage and Harborcreek. He’s no stranger to the hallways of Grove City High School, McDowell High School or Elk County Catholic High School. The Lord is there when we are sick, when we are grieving and when we are celebrating. Christ can be seen at sunrise and at dusk. He goes before us as we make decisions, chart our courses, and discern our vocations. Jesus is no stranger to the hospital, the nursing home or the funeral parlor. He is present in Cook Forest, along the beaches of Lake Erie, and among the coal mines of Clearfield County. In all those places – and many more – we will see him.

Indeed, Christ is going before us, and there we will see him. Jesus is risen; he is risen indeed!

Be assured of my prayers,

Fr. Steve

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