Archive | December, 2012

You are most welcome

31 Dec

While on pilgrimage in the Holy Land in June 2012 with a group of teachers from various schools in our Archdiocese of Cincinnati we celebrated an outdoor Mass in Cremisan Valley in an olive grove. It was then that we met Deacon Sleiman (Solomon), a student at the Latin Patriarchate Seminary who is serving as deacon at Annunciation Church in Beit Jala.

In his car Deacon Solomon led our bus on its way through the village of Beit Jala, up over the hill and around the winding roads, to the Cremisan Valley. In the open trunk of his car, he brought along an altar table, and inside the car he had everything we needed for Mass. He was the perfect host and gentleman. He is, in the words of one of our pilgrim-teachers, a holy man – and he will be a good and holy priest.

As you see him and hear him in this YouTube video, enjoy his smile and his obvious love for the Church. We can assure  y0u that he means it when he says, “You are most welcome to be here with us in our Annunication Church in Beit Jala.”

Issa, Mary and Joseph in Beit Jala

24 Dec

In accord with a “sleep in heavenly peace” tradition of mine, I fell asleep last night and will fall asleep tonight (Christmas Eve) and tomorrow night (Christmas Day) listening to some of favorite Christmas songs, in the glow of a laser cut photo of “my kids from Beit Jala” on the dresser across the room.

My iPod’s strange bed fellows include Bruce Cockburn, Celtic Woman, Cincinnati Pops, Hayley Westenra, Josh Groban, Kathy Mattea, Roisin Dempsey, Sissel, Tine Thing Helseth, The Roches and Becky Kelley.

Eventually the music stops, but the kids light up my entire night, as they light up my every Christmas, as they have lighted up my whole life. Nine  years ago, Issa, Mary, Ranim, Tamara and Tamer came as 8th graders from Beit Jala (Bethlehem) to visit us here in Milford. They have returned home and have already graduated from college. But they remain forever in my heart, and will always be “my children” to me.

These children, okay, these young adults, still have their homes in “the little town of Bethlehem.”

With the seven hour time difference, and with all of us being Christians, and being at Mass and with family, it is difficult to make connections by phone. But I will try. I might have to leave a message for Mary. I hope to make contact with Joseph, who is Ranim’s father. I must … I have to talk with … or at least a message for … Issa. “Issa” is “Jesus” in Arabic.

How can I let Christmas pass, without being in contact with Issa, Mary and Joseph in Bethlehem?

Santa reads my blog!

21 Dec

Orange Peeler 01

Dear Santa –

You have a lot to do. You are very busy. But you read my blog!

In a previous post – ‘Tis the Season for Big Surprises  – I moaned that I was not able to find the cheap, plastic orange peeler that I knew existed.

Two days later, the orange peeler arrived in the mail from your elf, who simply wrote, “I think this might be what you ‘were’ looking for.” Indeed it was. It works great.

You made a believer out of me. The next time I will send a letter right to you.

Thank you.

Your friend,


Orange Peeler 02


‘Tis the Season for Big Surprises

21 Dec

Right before leaving for a few days away, one of my friends told me that she couldn’t figure out what they (she and her husband) could get me for Christmas. I said, “Nothing. Don’t get me anything. I don’t need anything.” She said, “I knew you’d say that.”

My being away took me up toward Deerfield Village in Michigan and to what I call Arab-Dearborn. There was a huge mall a mile and a half away from the Drury Inn where I was staying. It would be a nice place to walk on a cold day. It might give me an answer to Susan’s question.

The mall was three floors high, with a skywalk that connected to another building of two floors. There had to be an idea in there somewhere.  

photo skywalkIn the main gathering area was a castle

photo castlein honor of you know who.

photo santaWatching all the parents hugging, kissing and primping the children, getting them ready for a photo with Santa, I saw them as an image of God and us, and I wondered what the God-version of “slobber kisses” and “mom spit” might be. I noticed, too, that each mom or granddad protected, pranced about and played with their own offspring as if their child was the only one that existed or mattered in the whole wide world. There seems to be an image of the divine in there, too.

The sound was “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year.” The smell, at first I couldn’t identify it but it seemed to be pumped into the air, was caramel popcorn, I think. The food court had a marquis that boasted of “more than 12 kinds of Mac n’ Cheez!”

photo mac

My favorites of all the stores, the only two that I actually entered, were Brookstone, filled with fun things like a hand-held digital luggage scale and a bunch of other things that I did not need, and Sur la Table, with gadgets of all kinds, but not the cheap, plastic orange peeler that I thought I might find.

The name of one of the stores startled me. How in the world could this name make any sense?

photo real religionA store named “True Religion.”  Really?

This window message made better sense.

photo surprise“Tis the Season for Big Surprises.” Yes, what surprise does God have in store (pun intended) for each of us this season?

Of all the windows, in which were showcased models and mannequins (more or less clothed), this store most caught my attention.

photo destinationThe woman in this poster was the most beautiful.

photo preg closeIn her I saw the face and the form of all the young women in the parish carrying children. I whispered a prayer for all those women who long to arrive at maternity (“destination maternity” was the name of teh staore) but have not yet been so blessed. It was an Advent poster and prayer, of sorts.

After walking the entire mall on two different days, and looking at the windows of all the stores, I came up with an answer to my friend’s question. I didn’t see anything I needed for Christmas.

She knew I’d say that.


click to enlarge, pause to pray (for the 28)

20 Dec

For the people, parishes and pastors of Newtown, Connecticut:

names of dead Newtown prayer scan

Thank you for your presence, Monsignor. Thank you for your presence, God.

15 Dec

abc_monsignor_robert_weiss_thg_121215_wgMonsignor Weiss, the pastor of St. Rose of Lima parish in Newtown, Connecticut, makes me proud and grateful to be a Catholic priest.

ABCNEWS.COM – ABC’s George Stephanopoulos discusses the shock of the school shooting with Monsignor Robert Weiss.

via Parish Priest Robert Weiss Discusses Grief and Stress of Shooting.

My mother wouldn’t have deserved that

14 Dec

Lourdees floodThat terrible feeling I get in my stomach when I see pictures of the grotto of Our Lady at Lourdes under water – it bothers me that I cannot identify it. I cannot pinpoint why it feels so weird and so “not right.”

I’ve asked myself, “When else have I felt this way? What else would ever make me feel this way?” The only thing I can come up with is that I might have had this feeling if I had ever seen my mother’s apartment in the nursing home under water. That was the place where I went to take naps and have simple meals and watch the Reds games and just be with mom. If I had ever seen my mother’s prayer book floating in muddy water, I might have had this feeling. And that floor lamp that was next to her chair, from the top of which she had tied the tiny scissors that she used when she did her embroidery work on the pillow cases, as she sat in the light of that lamp, with the scissors dangling within an easy reach, if I had ever seen just the top of that lamp above water, it would have felt so “not right.” My mother wouldn’t have deserved that. Maybe a lot of other stuff in life would have deserved that, but not my mom’s stuff.

Maybe I’m mad at the water. Water just seems so mean. I know that the river didn’t mean to do what it did to the shrine at Lourdes, but it did.

There are supposed to be people walking through that grotto and leaving their prayers and blessing themselves with water that seeps through the rocks. There are supposed to be pilgrims sitting in rows of benches whispering prayers, fingering rosaries and just feeling safe. There are supposed to be candles burning and candles waiting to be lit. But that water, that river water keeps everyone from getting to the waters of the Lady’s spring. People want to drink and need to bathe. Those flooding waters are just plain mean. And all that mud, it doesn’t belong there. Mary, our Mother, doesn’t deserve this, and neither do the sick who come to her at Lourdes.

I know that the water will go away, and that the mud will be put back in its place, and that the “Ave, Ave, Ave Maria” will be sung as soon as the slop is cleared away. And, yes, we can hear “the Lady” say, “”I do not promise to make you happy in this life, but in the next.”

But there is just something so wrong with a flood at the grotto of Lourdes. And I still cannot name the feeling in my stomach.

Our Every Hope and God’s Every Promise

14 Dec

 advent third Sunday photo

“O God, fulfill his every hope in you, and make good on your every promise to him.”

That is a prayer worthy of praying over someone who is dying or who has just passed. But it is also appropriate as you pray for someone, like your mother, who is having some struggle or challenge. “O God, fulfill her every hope in you, and make good on your every promise to her.”

Hope and promise, promise and hope: that is an Advent prayer, an anytime prayer.

In life itself and in our own lives there are valleys: low points. There are mountains and hills: challenges and struggles. Winding roads and rough paths – we see them in the world; we know them in our lives.

Have you or are you experiencing a valley in life, a low point? Do you have a mountain or a hill, a struggle or a challenge? How about a winding road or a rough path? Name the valley, mountain, hill, winding road or rough path that you see in our world or in your world.

Then hear the prophet John as he quotes the prophet Isaiah: “Every valley shall be filled and every mountain and hill shall be made low. The winding roads shall be made straight, and the rough ways made smooth, and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.”

Your valley shall be filled. Your mountain and hill shall be made low. Your winding roads and rough paths shall be made straight and smooth. You will see salvation by God.

Advent speaks of the great promise in which now we dare to hope.

May God fulfill your every hope in him, and make good on his every promise to you.

a practice that he continues today

13 Dec

Drury Inns and Suites

On their online “Customer Compliments and Complaints” form, I wrote this:  

My stay of three nights earlier this week was fabulous. Nothing could have been better. Staff – front desk, housekeeping, buffet service – were welcoming and accommodating. There was something about the stay that spoke “home” and “family.” I remember thinking to myself, “These people know how to hire good staff.”

Wanting to get away for a couple days before Christmas, I decided to head up toward Deerfield Village and what I call Arab-Dearborn. When wondering about a place to stay, I thought “Drury Inn” because of a previous good experience, and I remembered the proud “family-owned” comment of a staff person in Indianapolis on a previous stay. Sure enough, I found one in Troy.

I just figured out what has drawn me to Drury Inns. Unbeknownst to me, I was being drawn to a business founded on faith. I just read an article on the website of the Catholic News Agency, entitled, “Drury Hotel founder says faith, family shape business decisions.” My reactions was, “That’s it!”

Please give my greeting and my gratitude to Mr. Charles Drury.

Knowing what I know now, I will always look for the nearest Drury Inn when I am on the road, and I will say “Drury Inn” to anyone in earshot who will be travelling.

Oh, by the way, I am a Catholic priest.

Drury Inns and Suites 2

Read this paragraph written about the grounded farmer turned grounded hotel entrepreneur:

“In addition, a strong faith continued to influence the Drurys’ business decisions. Whenever there was a dispute that could not be resolved – sometimes thousands of dollars – they would settle it by offering to give the disputed sum to the Church and allow the other party to take the deduction for it, a practice that he continues today.”

“un-follow” Jesus?

2 Dec

It feels horrible when, with a click, “Following” becomes “Unfollowed.”

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