Archive | March, 2015

you had no idea who I was either

30 Mar

This is the announcement that I made at the end of all the Masses at St. Andrew this past weekend. If YouTube ever cooperates with me, I will add at the end of this blog a video clip of the announcement. Until then, read the text and enjoy.

Tony cutcher photo vocation Boom

Fourteen years ago, when I first moved to Milford and into St. Andrew, it never dawned on me how fast the day would come, when I would stand before you to make this announcement.

If we were in the Vatican there would be white smoke coming out of the roof, and someone would step out on the balcony, and shout: “Annuntio vobis gaudium magnum. (I announce to you — A great joy.) Habemus Papam! (We have a Pope!) We would hear his given name  and the name by which he chooses to be called.

We are not in the Vatican. Here’s hoping that there is not smoke of any color coming out of the church roof.

But I announce to you a great joy. We have a Pastor! It is the Reverend Father Anthony Cutcher, who chooses to be called Father Tony.

These are the biographical words that he has given to me to speak to you: “Fr. Tony Cutcher was ordained in 1999 by Archbishop Pilarczyk and has served as Parochial Vicar at St. Peter Parish, Huber Heights; Pastor of Sts. Peter and Paul Parish in Newport, OHIO and most recently as pastor of Holy Rosary Church in Saint Marys, OH. He is currently serving as President of the National Federation of Priests Councils, which is headquartered in Chicago. In his role, he travels extensively to speak with priests and bishops and facilitates better communications among the priests, bishops and councils. He is excited to be returning home and resuming pastoral duties.”

You have no idea who he is, do you? Remember that, fourteen years ago, you had no idea who I was either.

God has been very, very good to us. God will continue to be good to us.

Please pray for Father Tony is his transition – and for me in mine.

I will ask Father Tony to join me in praying for you in yours.

I got the call

24 Mar

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My stomach was messy. By the end of the day there would certainly be the expected and violent reaction of my innards. I’d better stay close to my bathroom.

Yesterday I was waiting for a call from the bishop. 

Fourteen pastors are being appointed to take up new assignments this summer. Since I am retiring at the end of June, one of them is to be assigned here to St. Andrew. Someone else will live in the house that has been mine for fourteen years. Someone else will sit in the presider’s chair at church where I have sat during Mass all these years.

Why was my stomach messing with me? I am not the one being re-assigned. I have chosen to leave.

I was told to be accessible by phone from 12:30 p.m. until 5:30 p.m. The call would come from the bishop sometime within those five hours.

Getting testy and snippy with a couple people in our office, as I do when I am frustrated or when something is in my charge but out of my control, I went to church. Yes, taking my cell phone with me.

My ringtone, named “Bulletin” on my new iPhone, sounded. It was from “Chancery Archdiocese.” I did not have to ask whose voice that was on the other end.

The bishop gave me the name of the priest who will be coming to the parish, asked me not to tell the staff for several days, suggested that I make an announcement at all Masses this Sunday, and requested that I call the priest. Repeat: keep the name to myself for several days, in order to let all the people of the parish hear the message at about the very same time, hence the reason for waiting until Sunday Masses.

I really, really, really want to tell my staff who their new pastor (their new boss) will be. But I will follow the protocol given to me by the bishop.

My leaving is all the more real for me now, knowing the name of the priest who will have his future in Milford and at St. Andrew. Maybe that is why my stomach was messing with me. I am actually leaving. And I do not usually keep things from my staff that are significant to their work and their working relationships in the parish. Maybe that is why my stomach was messing with me.

A week from now this will not feel so big. But for now …

my stomach is messing with me.

retired prayer

23 Mar
 
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Maybe it is as much retry as it is retire.
Important things sometimes get set aside as we attend to urgent things. Some important things get overlooked. Some important things get neglected. Some important (and difficult) things get pushed aside and avoided, and therefore remain unresolved.
People ask me what I am going to do, when I retire from the administrative duties of being a pastor. When I tell them that I am going to do nothing, almost always I am asked, “What do you mean by nothing?”
By nothing I mean read, think, pray, write – that kind of “nothing,” the kind of nothing I did not do often enough when I was doing “something.” For the first three months of my retirement I am going to try to think of myself as being on sabbatical, like having three months of Sundays, ninety Sabbath days in a row.
One of the new things waiting for me in my new retirement place is a book of prayers that is used by the seminarians and priests of the Pontifical North American College in Rome.
FullSizeRender 2The Pontifical North American College is the school of theology to which bishops from throughout the United States send a seminarian or two for the four years of study and formation before being ordained a priest.
No, I did not go to North American College. I wanted to go there; I really, really, really wanted to go there, but I was not sent. Two of my classmates were chosen to go. I stayed home to study theology in Norwood, Ohio. They were brighter than I was, I know, and more well rounded by other skills and interests, but that knowledge did not seem to soften the blow. One of them was a particular friend of mine, and we had talked about how much fun it would be to meet up with another friend of ours who had gone the year before. We had planned to go together, and for the three of us to be together in Rome. But it was not our decision. That decision belonged to our college seminary faculty. Their decision did include him and did not include me.
Yes, I felt passed over. I still hang on to resentment, and every so often it sneaks out. Do you know how that sort of thing works? Neither of my two classmates who went to NAC, as it is referred to by those who went there, which I did not, which I think I may have mentioned – neither of my two classmates who went to the North American College are priests today. One was never ordained; the other was ordained, but left the ministry after about three years. Can you hear the still present bitterness and lingering disappointment in my voice? After all these years, I still can’t seem to let it go.
Maybe some moments in my retired prayer with one of the prayers from this book will help retire some of the negative and toxic debris left behind by holding on to something in life that was not to be. Yes, I know that it probably “was for the best,” and that it probably “was meant to be,” but that did not make it easy or fun. I can still remember standing on the pier in New York city back in August of 1971, waving goodbye to my two classmates, as the ship pulled away, with fog horns blowing and streamers flying, for its weeklong voyage across the Atlantic Ocean, during which they would be studying Italian with their new classmates.
It is now time, and well overdue, for me to wave goodbye to something else.

things I will miss (2 of …)

22 Mar

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When I leave St. Andrew, I will miss the view from the presider’s chair.

As I sit down after praying the opening prayer at Mass, I look across the sanctuary toward the ambo. Lectors, like Ray, bow at the foot of the sanctuary steps toward the table of the Eucharist, and walk toward the table of the Word to proclaim the daily scriptures to us.

Their shirts do not always match the color of the bound lectionary, the book of readings, as they do in the picture above, but they are always standing beside the tabernacle and under the stained glass window of the Immaculate Conception.

Sometimes at the Saturday evening Mass the setting sun shines so brightly through that window that I cannot even see the lector or the lecturn, so blinding is the light coming our way through the “woman clothed with the sun.”

But always I enjoy the colors and the image of Mary with folded arms over her heart, an embrace that held Jesus as a newborn child at the manger and as the crucified savior at the foot of his cross: an embrace of motherhood, faithfulness and devotion.

It is heartening and encouraging to see her embrace of the Word, as we are trying to do the same.

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Yes, Ray, I will miss you, too

under my roof – not worthy

21 Mar

Ludlow Falls in winter

 Lord, I am not worthy

that you should enter under my roof,

but only say the word

and my soul shall be healed.

This is what we say before receiving Holy Communion.

We find these words (sort of) in two of the four Gospels, with a couple details differing.

In Matthew 8:7-8, the centurion comes to Jesus himself, asking for a cure for his servant. When Jesus says, “I will come [to your house] and cure him,” the centurion responds, “Lord, I am not worthy to have you enter under my roof [the roof of my house]; only say the word and my servant will be healed.”

The words in Matthew are closer to what we say at Communion, but the words in Luke are closer to what we mean when we say them.

In Luke 7:5-7, the centurion, being a non-Jew, sends elders of the Jews, maybe thinking that they will have a better chance at getting Jesus’ ear, and asks them to ask Jesus to come [to his house] to cure his servant. The elders tell Jesus that the centurion “deserves to have you do this for him.” But when the centurion hears that Jesus is coming toward him and his house, he realizes that he does not deserve to have Jesus do this for him. He sends his friends, people who know him better, that is, to Jesus to tell him, “Lord, do not trouble yourself, for I am not worthy to have you enter under my roof [the roof of my house]. Therefore, I did not consider myself worthy to come to you; but say the word and let my servant be healed.”

Hmm. I do not deserve to have you do this for me. I do not consider myself worthy to come to you. I am not worthy to have you come to me. But say the word and I will be healed.

Lord, I am not worthy

that you should enter under my roof,

but only say the word

and my soul shall be healed.

I am not worthy to come under “his” roof: I am not worthy to walk into “his house,” to kneel in its pews and or to approach its altar.

I am not worthy to have him come under “my” roof: I am not worthy to have him in my house, where I live.

I am not worthy to receive him under the roof of my mouth in holy communion.

As I pulled into the driveway of my retirement home for the first time, I walked into the doors of my new place with a realization and a prayer: 

Lord, I am not worthy

that you should enter under my roof,

but only say the word

and my soul shall be healed.

may the mercy of God rest me

20 Mar
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As I walked into my retirement residence, once the papers were signed and it was really mine and really real that I would one day be living there, a prayer and a blessing came from somewhere within me: “God, please make this home healthy, happy and holy.”
The very first thing I carried into my new [healthy, happy and holy] home was a book. It  is waiting for my arrival.
My hope is to be able to do a lot of reading and reflecting and praying in my upcoming days of less administration/pastor responsibilities. I will not stop being a priest, maybe even become more of a priest, in the days ahead. Perhaps it will be a time of retrieving something of being a priest that has been set aside or neglected as the years have been spent. That is my hope.
The book that I have carried to my new, future residence is one that Pope Francis has said was very significant book for him. It will be the first book that I will read in my new home, come July 1.
May the mercy of God rest me. Hmmm. As I just typed that, it stopped me. I wondered if it was a mistake. But I leave it. There may be more in those words than I realize.
May my new home be healthy, happy and holy.
May the mercy of God rest me.
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still living and celebrating fortieth

19 Mar

In May each year there is an anniversary dinner that gathers all the priests of the Archdiocese, at which priests of 25, 40 and 50 years are recognized. A booklet is printed with photos, facts and memories of the jubilarians. I was asked to submit a photo and some words of remembering. I am anxious to see if what I sent will be printed or edited. With my thoughts I sent my ordination picture.

oridnation picture

Fifty years ago 54 of us 16 year old kids, most of us studying for the Archdiocese of Cincinnati, entered St. Gregory Seminary High School as juniors. Forty-two of us graduated from the high school in 1967. Of these, six of us were ordained priests in 1975 for Cincinnati. Only Bob Schmitz (currently the pastor of Good Shepherd parish) and I are still living and celebrating our fortieth anniversary of ordination and fiftieth year of entrance into seminary.

Some of the pastors with whom we lived in those first days, the “old” guys, were puzzled that we priests ordained in the 70s insisted on being called by our first names, didn’t wear cassocks and brought with us a different style of vestments for Mass. As much as I called my first pastor by his first name, he always called me “Father,” except for two times in the fourteen months in his house when he called me by my first name, once getting it wrong. Some of us “young” guys were pretty convinced upon ordination that we knew what was best for the Church, and that, as soon as the “old” guys got out of the way, we could make it happen. Some of the “old” guys were wondering what “they” were doing in the seminary to create this new breed of priests, and were miffed over what these new fellows were doing to “our” Church.

Well, forty years later, I am one of the old guys, and see in the young guys a lot of myself.

It is sobering, and calming actually, for me to remember that the Church does not belong to any of us. We are simply the tenant farmers in Christ’s vineyard and stewards of Christ’s harvest, trying our best, each of us, not to get in His way and not to mess up what He is trying to do, admitting that each of us has gotten (and will get) in His way and has messed up (and will mess up) some things. His Church will go on with us, without us, because of us and in spite of us.

Christ gave us the assurance long ago that He would be with His Church always, through 1975 and still in 2015 until the end of time.

Francis gives us the courage and the inspiration now to get out of the sacristy and into the streets, not to be self-referential or narcissistic, but to take on the smell of the sheep, His sheep.

Ad multos annos!

Along with these words and that ordination photo, I sent another photo. This one has less chance of getting printed in the banquet program. It would be more fun, but it is less likely.

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is there anything else that you would like?

18 Mar

It must be something in my voice or on my face. People frequently ask me if I am Irish. I always say that I wish I were.

I am enamored with things Irish, which might explain some of my delight in a group of women Irish singers, Celtic Woman. 

Celtic Woman was formed 10 years ago as a “one time” event. This year they celebrate their 10th anniversary.

The group has evolved over the years. My favorite combination is Alex Sharpe, Chloe Agnew, Lisa Kelly and Lynn Hilary, with fiddler Mairead Nesbitt, as pictured below.

CW favorites 08

My favorite album is “Songs of the Heart,” as pictured above.

This has more than a little to do with the fact that …

(1) I was in Dublin at Powerscourt House and Gardens in 2009 on purpose: to attend the filming of this album, with the pastor of one of the girls,

CW favorites 07

(2) when this combination was on stage, 

CW favorites 06

(3) when red, white and blue fireworks went off during the singing of “O, America,”

CW favorites 04

(4) when I was sitting in the front row,

CW favorites 05

and (5) consequently, appear on the video four times.

Lisa Kelly has been and continues to be my favorite of my favorites  0 Lisa Kelly and Rob Fox closeup 01 a email copy b

One of our parish staff asked me, “What would you like for your retirement?”

I answered, “I’d like to have Lisa Kelly come to sing at my final Mass at St. Andrew.”

He immediately laughed and responded, “Is there ‘anything else’ that you would like?’

 

Laetare learning

17 Mar

gas gauge

The trick is to rejoice over learning something that you think you should have known a long time ago.

Advent and Lent both have a middle Sunday on which the Mass vestments are rose-colored. Each has a “rejoice” Sunday half way through the season. The names of the Sundays are Gaudete and Laetare, I know. But which was which puzzled me every six months. When I mentioned that to a much younger priest friend, he said, “That’s easy. Lent starts with an ‘L’ and so does Laetare.” Forty years a priest and it had never dawned on me that it was that easy.

The trick is to rejoice over learning something that you think you should have known a long time ago.

I was in a rental car. Pulling into a gas station, I grumbled that I did not know what side the gas tank was on. My passenger said, “That’s easy. Look at your dashboard.” As I looked at him and then at the dashboard, “Do you see an icon, a symbol of a gas pump? Is there an arrow by the pump? Which way it is pointing?” When my thumb pointed to the left, he smirked. I had never known that.

Did I rejoice over learning something that I thought I should have known a long time ago? Not really. The first three people I asked, “Do you know how you can tell which side of the car the gas tank is one?” answered, “Yeah, there is a little gas tank on the dashboard by the gas gauge, and there is a little arrow …” I quickly learned something else – that I was not rejoicing over learning what I thought I should have known all along; I was looking to find someone who didn’t know  what I knew.

The trick is to rejoice over learning something that you think you should have known a long time ago.

A man was blind since birth. Wanting to see something that, literally, he had never seen before, he went to Jesus for the grace. Jesus gave him sight. Now seeing, he saw many things that he had never seen before, that he “should” have been able to see a long time ago. No doubt he also learned something about himself that he had never known. And he certainly learned something about Jesus who had been right in front of his eyes all along!

In  this Laetare week, if you ask God for the blessing, you might be given the grace to learn something about yourself or about God that has not dawned on you until this week.

The trick will be to rejoice over learning something that you think you should have known a long time ago.

The key is to rejoice, not to be disappointed in yourself that you never noticed it, not to be embarrassed because you think that you should have seen it or known it a long time ago. The key is to rejoice.

May God give you this Lenten week the grace of a Laetare learning.