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they dance!

30 Jan

Often I am asked how my friends in Palestine are doing. Answer: They have little reason to dance, but they dance anyway! Seen here is the traditional Palestinian “dabka” dance during a street celebration at Christmas in Beit Jala. Living under military occupation, these Palestinian youth are not responding by throwing stones or doing any other form of violence. They are dancing! Being joyful under struggle and stress is the most powerful form of resistance.

my first-ever

16 Nov

My first-ever football experience at Notre Dame University was on Saturday, November 14, 2015.

Notre Dame’s Josh Adams set the record for longest play from scrimmage in Fighting Irish history with this 98-yard touchdown run in the 2nd quarter of the Irish’s win over Wake Forest.


The Band of the Fighting Irish half time show featured “Let it Go” (Frozen) and “All I Want for Christmas” (Mariah Carey). You will also hear “The Bells of St. Mary” and the “Notre Dame Victory March.”

If I should get to heaven, and if I should meet Blessed Mother Mary, I will not need to confess that I never saw a football game at her university. Now I can relax from that worry, and just hope to get to heaven!

Andrew: Advent Adventure

30 Nov

The First Sunday of Advent is always the Sunday nearest the Feast of St. Andrew, November 30.

Since today is November 30, and since today is a Sunday, this is as close as the First Sunday of Advent every gets to the Feast of St. Andrew.

For Catholics throughout the world today is also the beginning of the Year of Consecrated Life. And for us at St. Andrew it our patronal feast day.

Here is what I said after the Gospel at this morning’s 8 o’clock Mass in Milford:

Here is the text and the music of the song we sang at the end of Mass – and which we will sing on every Sunday during Advent and often during this year of consecrated life:

Andrew Advent Adventure WAKE UP song words

This is the official soundtrack of the song:

You gotta love this smile and that scarf:

Andrew Advent Adventure SCARF

Don’t miss the words of Francis at the bottom of the picture. 

Abouna Sleman in Milford – day 1 – goetta within 24 hours

22 Nov

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It is a pleasure to have Father Solomon in my home for a few days. He is in town for a wedding of his cousin. We get him first.

His arrival at CVG was a half hour early, but we made up for the early arrival by sitting on I-275 for more than that, waiting, me impatiently, he patiently, for “all” of the traffic to exit on the first of the two Milford exits. At the second exit a tractor trailer truck had over turned and the highway was closed.

In the evening we went to the west side to Judy and Bill’s home. There he brought smiles to 20+ faces. Teachers and friends of HOPE gathered for appetizers, drinks and dinner. Judy and I shared a Palestinian Taybeh “White” beer. It was like being back home in Palestine.

After a long, long, long, needed sleep, Abouna awoke. I told him that I had two surprises for him at breakfast. He would not find out what they were until we arrived at our breakfast place. One surprise was that the owner of the restaurant was originally from Abouna’s home town in Jordan. Conversation revealed that the old gentlemen knew Abouna’s grandfather and his father. It is a small world. You should have seen the smiles on the faces of the two of them as they made the connections. The second surprise was ….. drum roll …. goetta! Within 24 hours of his setting foot in America for the first time, he tasted goetta. That will hard to top. He liked it a lot.

What makes him smile in the next photo is not the goetta. He is speaking with his mother back in Jordan.

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things I will miss (1 of …)

28 Aug

Knowing that in ten months I will be leaving my beloved St. Andrew parish, this place and these people, I am more and more noticing things that I will miss. Last night as I was closing the blinds of my bedroom windows, preparing to prepare myself for bed, I looked out my back window. “There is something I will miss.”

I took three photos on my iPad, and deleted two: one with a stray cat roaming into the bottom right corner heading toward a drink of water from the fountain, and one that cut off the top of the statue and the top of the cross on top of the grotto. This one was the best of the three:

Things I Will Miss 01

I tried to enjoy the scene fully, hoping to engrave it in my memory.

Then I prayed a Hail Mary …

… and closed the blinds.

 

they are just children

8 Aug

Gaza omer2

There is a small Catholic community in Gaza. Holy Family Catholic Church has opened its buildings to Gazans seeking refuge and safety. In the church Mother Teresa’s sisters take care of 28 handicapped children and nine elderly women. There are 1,400 people being given shelter in the partially damaged school building. It is the only Catholic Church in Gaza. The priest refuses to leave his people and the people in his care.

Gaza Father jorge Gaza

Resources are scarce. I am going to wire a personal donation to Archbishop Fouad Twal of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem. Archbishop knows Milford and St. Andrew. Back in 2006 he slept in my house and celebrated Mass for our school children, baptizing one of our newborns. I will send my money to him, telling him that I want it to be used for the children of Gaza, and for the school and the parish of Holy Family.

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If you want to add your donation to mine, send a check payable to “St. Andrew Catholic Church,” making a memo on the check and addressing the envelope to “Holy Family / Gaza.” Send your donation to St. Andrew Catholic Church, 552 Main Street, Milford, Ohio 45150. Get it to us by Monday, August 18. On Tuesday morning, August 19, I will wire my donation, along with yours, from the bank that holds the accounts of our parish to the bank in Jerusalem designated by Archbishop Twal. I will email the Archbishop to let him know that help is coming from the parishioners and friends St. Andrew parish.

To give assistance to the innocent and non-combatant people of Gaza can reduce desperation and is good for both Palestinians and Israelis. Please join me in giving some hope by offering some assistance.

See photos of damage done to the convent, the living quarters of the Sisters, in yesterday’s post, “recently renovated.”

recently “renovated”

7 Aug

This is the chapel where the Sisters used to live at Holy Family Catholic Church in Gaza, prior to the warring between Israel and Hamas. The chapel had been recently renovated.Holy Family chapel 01

Here’s the chapel after it was “renovated” during the shelling of Gaza. Notice that the tabernacle was “moved” from its place. 

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The typical room of one of the sisters looked, prior to the warring, like you would expect a sister’s room to look: simple, neat and clean, desk cleared, bed made, statues.Holy Family sisters room 01

Thankfully the sisters had left before the room was shelled. 

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The priest who heads the Chancery, the official administrative office of the Archbishop Twal of the Latin Patriarchate Jerusalem, sent these photos to me to me by email today. I had asked for a couple photos to help me ask my parishioners for money to send to Jerusalem to help the people of Gaza. Father George was kind and quick with his response.

Here at our St. Andrew parish we will continue to pray until peace prevails. May the temporary mutual ceasefire lead to lasting safety and justice, followed by peace for all. May the cautious calm now lead eventually to a final peace – for Israelis and Palestinians, for Christians, Jews and Muslims.

hoping we never have to use it

30 Jul

Yesterday we received something new at the parish which we hope that we will never use.

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Over the years we have had, as every parish has had, funerals for babies, infants, toddlers and young children, not many, thankfully, but more than we would have liked. Each time we bring a small casket to church we have not had a funeral pall that would gracefully cover the casket, once it was sprinkled with baptismal waters. So, we had one made.

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There are buttercups (yellow), bluebells (dark blue), roses (pink), and, get ready, baby’s breath (white), and, here is the hardest, forget-me-nots (blue).

The flowers are bunched like a bouquet a child picked to give to her/his mother, and which the mother grouped together, tying a ribbon around it. The purple ribbon is a “mourning” ribbon.

The butterfly helps parents and mourners to focus on new life, being reminded of the metamorphosis that takes place as the butterfly leaves its caccoon to be free in its beauty and flight.

This pall was almost two years in the making. It is one of kind. There is no other like it.

03 IMG_0426Alice is the love and the skill that gave birth to this work of art. It was designed, she tells us, “by a non-Catholic young lady in Massachusetts.” Alice has made other regular size palls for other priests and other churches in our area, but this is the only one that she has made in this smaller size for children.  It was her goal, hope and dream to be able to finish it for us and for the parents who would need to bury children before her eyes went bad and before her arthritis got worse.

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Now that you have finished this good work that God began in you, Alice, may your eyes and hands continue to serve you as well as you have served others with your eyes and hands.

And may we never have to use this child-size funeral pall.

our holy fifty-nine minutes

27 Jul

holy 59 minutes 01

A holy hour is by tradition an hour of prayer, often in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament placed in the monstrance on the altar.

This evening at St. Andrew there was a holy hour for peace in the Middle East. After the time of prayer, spoken and sung and silent, one attendee teasingly informed the deacon that the prayer was one minute short of the promised hour, so that technically, it was not a holy “hour.”  

But holy it was!holy 59 minutes 03

We sang the chaplet of divine mercy, repeating over and over in a haunting and massaging melody,

“Eternal Father, I offer you the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Your Dearly Beloved Son, Our Lord, Jesus Christ, in atonement for our sins and those of the whole world.”

“For the sake of His sorrowful Passion, have mercy on us and on the whole world.”

“Holy God, Holy Mighty One, Holy Immortal One, have mercy on us and on the whole world.”

holy 59 minutes 02

Then we prayed a “litany of presence.”

Make your presence known, Lord,

to the people of Gaza

to the people of Israel

to the people of the West Bank

to the people of Jordan

make your presence known, Lord,

to President Rivlin of Israel

to Prime Minister Netanyahu of Israel

to President Abbas of Palestine

make your presence known, Lord,

to the people of Syria

to the people of Iraq

to the destructive forces in Syria and Iraq

make your presence known, Lord,

to Pope Francis

to Archbishop Fouad Twal of the Holy Land

to Bishop William Shomali of the Holy Land

to Patriarch Louis Raphael Sako of Iraq

to Father Jorge Hernandez of Gaza

make your presence known, Lord,

to the children in the Middle East who live in fear

to the children who are orphaned

to the children who are wounded

to the children living in refugee camps

make your presence known, Lord,

to all those who are wounded and have died in the conflicts

to all those who mourn for them

to the living and the dead lost in the rubble

make your presence known, Lord,

to the Salesian Sisters and Monks of the Cremisan

to the Salesian school children

to the decision makers of the Cremisan land

make your presence known, Lord,

to those who pray for peace in the Middle East

 make your presence known, Lord.

holy 59 minutes 04

After the prayer a bow appeared in the sky, reminding us of God’s promise to Noah after the flood of destruction never to allow the earth to be destroyed again. God placed a bow in the sky to remind himself. This bow tonight, ever so faint,  helped us to remember, too.

the luckiest man on the face of the earth

4 Jul

Today it is 75 years since New York Yankee Lou Gehrig stood in Yankee Stadium between two games of a doubleheader with the Washington Senators: July 4, 1939.

He was 36 years old and dying. He declared himself the luckiest man on the face of the earth – and he thanked the groundskeepers and the stadium ushers.

It is a declaration of independence of sorts, declaring his independence from much of what his world and our world declares important and upon which they and we can become so dependent for what we call happiness and fulfillment. He was dying, and he declared himself lucky. He declared himself independent of earthly health and earthly long life for his happiness. And in thanking the big shots and big guns of the baseball world, he spoke his gratitude to the little people in the baseball organization: the groundskeepers and the ushers.lougehrig

“Fans, for the past two weeks you have been reading about a bad break I got. Yet today, I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of the earth. I have been to ballparks for seventeen years and I have never received anything but kindness and encouragement from you fans. Look at these grand men. Which of you wouldn’t consider it the highlight of his career just to associate with them for even one day? Sure I’m lucky. Who wouldn’t have considered it an honor to have known Jacob Ruppert? Also, the builder of baseball’s greatest empire, Ed Barrow? To have spent six years with that wonderful little fellow, Miller Huggins? Then to have spent the next nine years with that outstanding leader, that smart student of psychology, the best manager in baseball today, Joe McCarthy? Sure, I’m lucky. When the New York Giants, a team you would give your right arm to beat and vice versa, sends you a gift, that’s something. When everybody down to the groundskeepers and those boys in the white coats remember you with trophies, that’s something. When you have a father and mother who work all their lives so that you can have an education and build your body, it’s a blessing. When you have a wife who has been a tower of strength and shown more courage than you dreamed existed, that’s the finest I know. So I close by saying that I might have been given a bad break, but I’ve got an  awful lot to live for. Thank you.”

Watch major league baseball’s 75th anniversary tribute, with the first baseman from every MLB team speaking the words of the famous speech, including our own Cincinnati Reds first baseman, Joey Vuotto: