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15 seconds of focus

6 Oct

Focus 02

When I declined their offer to fly me to Denver for a filming session, they countered with the offer to hire a videographer here in Cincinnati, and to fly Sarah from Denver to Milford to ask me a few questions.

October last I had welcomed Father John Lager to St. Andrew for the weekend. He is the national chaplain of FOCUS – Fellowship of Catholic University Students – which is a national outreach that meets college students where they are and invites them into a growing relationship with Jesus Christ and the Catholic faith.

focus notes

I met Sarah for the first time at the parish church from which I had retired just three months ago. She had flown in the night before and had stayed overnight with a college friend who just had a new baby – a happy dovetailing moment. After a quick hello and how-do-you-do with Sarah, as the camera man set up his equipment, I made some notes for myself:

staff: flexible and efficient

Father John: not money, not self-promoting

takes a Church to be present to college Catholics

focus on Jesus, being catholic

parishioners, children, grandchildren

focus 01

Under the lights, as the camera pointed at me over Sarah’s left shoulder, with a couple reminders – “Look at me, not the camera; keep your hands away from your face and not between you and the camera; repeat my question in your answer” – and after a few stutter starts and clumsy moments, the conversation turned easy.

When Sarah and the videographer were satisfied, he packed up his equipment and handed Sarah a flash drive with everything on it that she needed to fly back feeling accomplished.

Would I recommend to a brother priest/pastor that he welcome a FOCUS priest to preach and speak at all the Masses some weekend? Why wouldn’t they want a visit? It was truly an evangelizing moment and an “en-courage-ing” moment for our parishioners. It definitely was not a fundraising venture and was not an inordinate self-promotion event. It was a positive event for our parishioners, for they heard that, yes, the Catholic Church can and does do something for Catholic students on campus, that is, for their children and grandchildren.

After lunch with Sarah, and sending her off toward the airport for an evening flight back to Denver, I was left with only one question: of all that was recorded, what of me will be included in the final promotional video; what will my fifteen seconds of fame, perhaps better, my “fifteen seconds of FOCUS” look like?

raising the bar

6 Oct


voting Balance BarMy ballot was #208, I think.

Today was the first day to vote in Ohio. Since three months ago my new home is in Miami County. The courthouse in Troy, almost ten minutes away by car, is easily accessible and easier to navigate. After voting I went to the town square, which is actually a circle, where I sat down, and prepared to enjoy my special treat. As you can see from the photo, (1) the flag is at half staff, I presume because of the nation’s mourning over another and latest school shooting, (2) the outside of the rotunda of the courthouse is in the background, (3) I “Ohio” voting, and (4) my favorite of the Balance Bars is the yogurt honey peanut.

Next election my ballot to be #1, I hope.

it was a Saturday

4 Oct

On this day in 2003, October 4, I met Issa, Tamer, Tamara, Ranim and Mary at their Latin Patriarchate School in Beit Jala, West Bank, Palestine. It was a Saturday morning. It was a blessed event for me!Kids and Rob 1a


three Palestinian women named Mary – all in heaven and for the earth

15 May

two MarysSunday, May 17, Pope Francis canonizes four religious sisters.

Two of them are  Palestinians: 

Marie-Alphonsine, founder of Palestine’s first congregation, the Sisters of the  Most Holy Rosary of Jerusalem, and

Mariam of Jesus Crucified Baouardy, the founder of Carmelite Convents in Bethlehem and India.

Speaking of the two Arab Palestinian women, His Beatitude Fouad Twal, Patriarch of the Latin Patriarchate Jerusalem, said, “Now, we have two new saints who represent a model of perfection for Christians, as well as for Muslims and Jews alike. They are both named Mary, and this name is widespread and commonly used among all three  traditions. It is a sign of our modern time which suggests that we can talk about the three religions without any discrimination.”

Mother Mary, Marie-Alphonsine and Mariam of Jesus Crucified, all in heaven, pray for all who live in your native, mother land.

arab women saints three Marys

please, please

14 May

Appearing in the Cincinnati Enquirer, May 14, 2015:

Cincinnati Enquirer May 14, 2015

Appearing in prayer the same morning:

O Lord, I am not worthy – or deserving. Nonetheless, and in spite of my faults and sins, you continue to heap acknowledgment on me. In your graciousness, please, please, continue to acknowledge my desire and efforts, and judged me on these. Please overlook my failures, clean up my mistakes, clear the debris I leave behind me, have mercy on me and grant me salvation, please, please, through Christ. I am sorry and I am grateful. Amen.

he gets it, she gets it; God gets it, we get it

3 Apr

Good Friday wall 01

On Good Friday the wall behind our altar is noticeably blank. Something is missing. If one looks closely, one sees where the crucifix usually is. It is taken down to be carried in procession into church for the Veneration of the Cross during the Liturgy of Lord’s Passion.

Good Friday wall 02

Jesus knows suffering: physical suffering, emotional suffering, and spiritual suffering. He knew the pain of whips, thorns and nails. He knew the pain of betrayal and the pain of being left alone in agony. He knew the pain of feeling abandoned by God. He knows suffering.

When we go to him because we are suffering, physically, emotionally or spiritually, we know that he understands. He gets it!

Here’s how I tried to say that on Good Friday:

During the veneration of the cross our music director played a piece for the first here at St. Andrew, which was the first time ever that the piece was played and sung anywhere. The “Ave Maria – Woman of Sorrow” was written/composed by our Deacon, Timothy S. Schutte, at the death of Pope John Paul II. Good Friday is the one day of the year that the text and music is appropriate; it is meant for Good Friday. The piece joins the Annunciation and the Crucifixion, the conception of Jesus in her womb and the death of Jesus on his cross. As Mary stands at the foot of the cross in her overwhelming grief, she remembers and feels all over again her bewilderment when she was face to face with the angel Gabriel.

Ave Maria Schutte

The refrain is the words of the angel to Mary, “Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with you, and blessed are you” (in Latin). In the grief of Good Friday, Mary speaks, “My Heart pierced through, / my sorrow the sword. / His mission done, / my tears freely flow,” and then the line that connects this moment to her response to the angel, “Look what my ‘yes’ has done.” But then God speaks, “Oh fairest one, / do not despair /  your Son and Mine, Divine Heir / His love poured out, / My face you see,” and ends with a phrase echoing back to Mary her own words, “Look what your ‘yes’ has done.”

Here’s how our choir sang it on Good Friday:

In the Chaplet of Divine Mercy, we pray, “Eternal Father, for the sake of his sorrowful passion, have mercy on us and on the whole world.”

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


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
FullSizeRender 4
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


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.

Immaculate Conception 06

Yes, Ray, I will miss you, too

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