Archive | Lent RSS feed for this section

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.

hope gone / unexpected dawn

6 Apr

At our “Community Fare” luncheon today, I will interview in talk show fashion four women who have met and become friends through grief: each has buried her husband.

On this Fifth Sunday of Lent we will use the Raising of Lazarus, with hearty reference to his sisters Martha and Mary, as our conversation prompt. I have prepared eight questions, which I will ask one by one of our panel of believers to help them tell their faith story.

lazarus 1

1. How long have you been without your husband – and – how long was his dying process?

lazarus 2

2. When her brother Lazarus was dying, Martha called for Jesus, and when Lazarus had died, Martha ran to Jesus, all the time knowing that Jesus could change the situation. How did your “running to Jesus” make your situation change?


3. One could guess that, once Lazarus was brought back to this life, Lazarus and his sisters lived life differently after that moment – and that each of them, Lazarus, Martha and Mary, would approach their own death differently. Since your experience of accompanying your husband in his passing, how do you live life differently now and how might you approach your own dying differently when it comes?

lazarus 1

4. Jesus instructed those near Lazarus to untie him and let him go free. How did you untie your husband and let him go free? How has your family and your parish helped to untie you and let you go free?

lazarus 1

5. Lazarus was brought back to this life. Would you want to bring your husband back?

lazarus 1

6. When Lazarus was resuscitated, Martha and Mary were reanimated. What are you doing now, since your husband’s death, that you never did when he was alive or that you would never have thought that you would have done or could have done?


7. In our closing hymn at Mass today, “Jerusalem Our Destiny,” we sang in the fifth verse, “To the tombs I went to mourn the hope I thought was gone / Here among you I awoke to unexpected dawn.” Can you relate to that in any way?


8. Martha put her faith into words. How do you finish the sentence that she began “I have come to believe that …?”

it’s like I’m married to them

23 Mar

The well was the biblical meeting place, where one often met a future spouse. Many a couple still meet at a watering hole, but, of course, where the drink of preference is not water.  A well was the Old Testament version of well 02

Jacob met his wife Rachel when she came to the well at noon. He did not win her immediately. It took some doing.

 Jacob well 01

Jesus sat at Jacob’s well at about noon, when a woman arrived. It is no wonder that the disciples were a bit surprised and stressed to see the two of them together at the well. It is also no wonder that the conversation turned towards marriage. But the conversation is about marriage of a different kind.

Jesus had come through Samaria on purpose and for a purpose: to woo the people of Samaria into a right relationship, to win them over. As we hear the conversation about, “Get your husband … I have no husband … you are correct, you have had five … and the one you are with now is not your husband,” we imagine Jesus fighting  the inclination to end, “not yet!” We know what he has in mind. And we know who she is with right now, who is not her husband, yet: Jesus. 

Rather than thinking of a woman walking down the aisle five times, each time to meet her man in a wedding ceremony, and five times being disappointed, think: marriage between God and his people, Christ wedded to the Church, the community of believers being the Bride of Christ, who is the Spouse of the Church. 

Jesus had come through Samaria to win the Samaritans into a “marriage” that would be life-giving and eternally lasting, not like the five “marriages” that they entered into with the gods and the cultures of the conquering people, which always led to a disappointing life foreign to their Jewish faith. 

Jesus had come to Samaria to win the whole people of Samaria over from their five bad marriages into the one good one – with him! He started with her, and she helped him pull it off. She left the well and went to her home and her town to bring the announcement that there was going to be wedding, not with a dead beat husband, but with the Savior of the world. 


As I went to the well this morning at Mass, it dawned on me that I often speak  to God the same five faults, failings, missteps, habits and sins. I confess the same handful of sins to the priest. It seems like I am married to this handful – these five things – that get me nowhere and keep me from being free and happy.

I must return to the well of Sunday Mass every week to be wooed from my bad five marriages.

Today’s homily is at minute 21:50 of our parish’s “On-Demand Archives” under the titled,Bible

not the coach; the grandson of the coach

21 Mar

Who says that kids are not watching us and mimicking our moves?

Phillip identifies himself by referring to Phil. Looking to his grandfather, he knows who he is and who he is not.

Yesterday St. Joe’s lost to UConn, but the “coaches” are still enjoying their right relationship.

When he was asked who he was, John the Baptist insisted, “I am NOT the Messiah.”

How do you answer in these Lenten days, if you are asked, “Who are you?”

the lights are (finally) out – 6 hours later

19 Mar

the Light is ON for You  02


Father John and I started at 6:50 p.m. because people were already in the church. It was 9:40 p.m. when the last person had left.

That was two priests for ten minutes less than three hours of confessions – that is, twenty minutes less than six hours of confessions – 5 hours and 40 minutes of confessions. That is a lot of God’s mercy assured and realized.

I had not told my parishioners about the usual Lenten penance service on April 8, so one could wonder whether people were thinking that this was it for Lent. But I am suspecting that the parish penance service will be BIGGER than usual, too.

My guess is that the priests of the diocese will give feedback to the bishop that the event was a success and should be a re-do.

My advice to the Bishop will be that we do it again next Lent, adding two hours on a Saturday morning, and two deanery-wide penance services, one led by one of the bishops and the other led by the dean.

Could we possibly have too much of such a good thing?

we will be ready

18 Mar

the Light is ON for you 05Father John and I will be ready to hear their confessions and to assure them of God’s forgiveness.

In every Catholic parish in the Archdiocese of Cincinnati the doors will open and the lights will be “on” for God’s welcome from 7:00 – 9:00 p.m. tonight, Tuesday, March 18, 2014.  

At our beloved St. Andrew we are ready for all who come through our doors during this “The Light is ON for You” event.

We have experimented with our lights, so that attention will be gently directed to the tabernacle, to the altar and to the crucifix, while having enough light in the nave for people to be able to read the “how to go to confession” tri-fold.

There will be greet-ers and pray-ers, that is, a couple parishioners who will quietly and unobtrusively help people know that we are pleased that they have come, and who will then slip out of the way and let God do God’s work.

In addition to our every day and all the time reconciliation chapel, we have set up a confessional in the priest’s sacristy. the Light is ON for you 04

At the priest’s chair all is in place. There is a box of tissues to help wipe away any tears of fear or sorrow or gratitude or overwhelming joy … the Light is ON for you 03

… a variety of acts of contrition …  the Light is ON for you 01 … and the gift of a prayer card that might be given as a penance or might be given just because.

the Light is ON for you 02

All is ready, except me.

It is 5 o’clock. I will eat a quick little supper: some leftover cheese and spinach perogies. Then there will be a 15-minute nap, 10 minutes on the treadmill and a quick shower. That should get me alert and refreshed for two hours of God’s welcome.

happy Guinness day!

17 Mar


The vestments for Mass today will be the required Lenten violet, and my socks will be their usual black in color, but something different is afoot.

on 4 U

15 Mar

the Light is ON for you

On Tuesday, March 18, from 7:00 – 9:00 p.m. every Catholic parish or region in the Archdiocese of Cincinnati will have its doors open for quiet prayer and the opportunity for confession. The LIGHT is ON for YOU.

Get on your mark. Get set. Go!

5 Mar

Ash Wednesday 01

Get on your mark. Get set. Go!

Get on your mark (the ashes and the cross). Get set (your mind and your heart on Lent). Go (with the flow of God’s grace for 40 days).

The ashes are a unspoken and obvious statement about who you are and to whom you belong.

Get on your mark. Get set. Go!

“It is unacceptable. We have obviously failed.”

16 Feb

Carnival 1

Living in the sight and smell of feces and urine, with raw sewage at their feet, limited water, not much electric, no heat or air-conditioning, and not enough food – this is not what the people on the Carnival Triumph cruise ship had signed up for. This was no way to live. They deserved better. It was unacceptable. Yet this is how they spent their Mardi Gras and began their Lent.

In communication with loved ones by cell phones many gave accounts of the good service of the crew. They spoke about how they were making do with what they had (or didn’t have). They lived in hope and trust that their ordeal would eventually be over.

In the port on shore the CEO of the cruise line made no excuses but only apologies, “We pride ourselves on providing our guests with a great experience, and clearly we failed in this particular case.”

As we begin our Lent and ponder how disgusting it must have been to live those days on the ocean liner, we remember that there are people in the world who live that way all the time: the way human beings are not meant to live. There are people who never have utilities and facilities, who are always without water, food and electric, and who are without any hope that their ordeal will come to an end. This is unacceptable. Maybe this event – and this Lent – will make us more grateful, when we flush the toilet,  turn on the lights, open our refrigerator and make our beds. Maybe this event – and this Lent – will find us more inclined to be of good service to those who do not have something that they deserve.

Maybe this event – and this Lent – will cause those of us who stand on the shores of comfort or cruise through life in luxury to catch a glimpse of the suffering of others. Maybe in the next forty days we will be shown some way of working toward fixing things and making things right for someone else.

Carnival 2