Tassel of the Cloak

Death from the Sky

A string of tornadoes ripped through Ohio, New York, and Pennsylvania on May 31, 1985, killing eighty-nine, injuring over one thousand, and causing more than $600 million worth of damage.  "Death from the Sky" read the headline of the Erie Times newspaper the following day. 

Albion in Pennsylvania was particularly devastated by this storm.  An F5 tornado cut a two-block wide path through the town, killing twelve and injuring dozens more.  The local Catholic parish, St. Lawrence, was literally sliced in half.  The pastor, Father Robert Reilly, survived by holding on to a window frame as the rest of the rectory was blown away. 

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Death from the Sky

A string of tornadoes ripped through Ohio, New York, and Pennsylvania on May 31, 1985, killing eighty-nine, injuring over one thousand, and causing more than $600 million worth of damage.  "Death from the Sky" read the headline of the Erie Times newspaper the following day. 

Albion in Pennsylvania was particularly devastated by this storm.  An F5 tornado cut a two-block wide path through the town, killing twelve and injuring dozens more.  The local Catholic parish, St. Lawrence, was literally sliced in half.  The pastor, Father Robert Reilly, survived by holding on to a window frame as the rest of the rectory was blown away. 

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Courage to Walk the Road with God

The Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, The Road, by Cormac McCarthy is a very Lenten book.  In a post-apocalyptic world, a father and son journey through a desolate landscape in which ash inexorably falls, seeking food, shelter, and survival from cannibals.  The world is completely evil and fallen, and yet the love between father and son, and the innate goodness within the boy--the "fire within"--provides hope.

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Prayers and Preachers

To be great preachers—and everyone, not just priests, are called to preach—we must be great prayers.  Only from our prayer life and our intimate communion with God does the conviction to follow the Gospel proceed.  Read how often our Lord "went off to a deserted place to pray."  He feeds the multitude, he delivers his sermons, he amazes the crowds, and still he retreats to his cave to be alone with God the Father.  The more we pray and the more quiet time we spend with God, the more we become like God and the more attractive our words and our witness become to others.  Then we preach effectively and make disciples.

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Lenten Disciplines

Lenten disciplines require mindfulness. We need to attune our brains to work whenever we feel the urge to do a certain thing: drink, check email, bite our nails.  We feel the urge, we are mindful of what sensation that particular habit gives us, we wonder if this sensation is really actually helpful (we realize biting nails does not relieve stress and is painful), and we begin to rewire the neural firing patterns of our brain so we do not fall automatically into that habit.

The same goes for feelings of shame, anxiety or even distractions in our prayer.  If we can be mindful of why are feeling shame, we will begin to see that the shame is not rooted in reality (God is not ashamed of us) and reject that negative way of thinking.

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In Our Suffering We Are Never Alone

There are two portraits fascinating to compare.  The first is Ecce Homo by Philippe de Champaigne.  It is also titled, "Christ Mocked," and, of course, is a depiction of the scene when our Lord is clothed in scarlet and given a reed and crown of thorns by the Roman soldiers.  The second painting is Napoleon at Fontainebleau, 31 March 1814 by Paul Delaroche, depicting the emperor after his first abdication following the surrender of Paris to the Allies.

Both figures appear to be at their low-points.  (Napoleon looks like me after a Bears game.) But there is a profound difference between the two.  Napoleon is alone.  Christ is not. 

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A.R.R.R.

Anyone who has been in a position of authority—parent, manager, pastor—can relate to Saint Peter in this 17th Century painting from the School of Rubens.  The Fisherman, grasping firmly but gently the keys given to him by Christ, looks upward to God.  He is not 'white-knuckling' the keys, nor is he loosely holding them, about to let them slip out of his hands.   They are part of his identity. 

Peter's countenance entails anguish and pain.  But there is also hope and trust in his eyes.  He desires relief; relief not for himself, but for his flock.  He knows this relief will come, even if it is on the other side of eternity.

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New Tabernacle, New Location

A New and Relocated Tabernacle for the Church

Friends,

I would like to propose for the parish obtaining a new tabernacle and relocating it to the center of the church, behind the altar and recessed into the wall.

First, the Catechism of the Catholic Church says, “The tabernacle is to be situated ‘in churches in a most worthy place with the greatest honor.’ The dignity, placing, and security of the Eucharistic tabernacle should foster adoration before the Lord really present in the Blessed Sacrament of the altar” (CCC 1183).  

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Freedom from Confession

Going to confession can be a harsh experience.  It is painful to recall our sinfulness and shortcomings, and even more painful to articulate them aloud.  But we are healed when we do this.  And the alternative—remaining in our sin—is worse.  If we hold onto our sins and are not absolved from them, we will deteriorate.

To what can we compare this reality? Well, I just finished a book on the history of Australia, so how about the 'land down under'? 

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Following Christian Tradition

I am aware the term 'traditionalist' has a bit of a negative connotation, but here is an example of one traditionalist I admire.  In 1943, Archbishop Damaskinos of the Greek Orthodox Church had been hiding Jews in residences around Athens.  The Nazis finally arrested the Christian and put him before a firing squad. 

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The Conversion on the Way to Damascus

The 17th Century painting by Caravaggio, The Conversion on the Way to Damascus, is a brilliant depiction of the monumental moment for Christianity.  Saint Paul lies on his back on the ground, below his horse.  Finely dressed as a soldier, the young man exudes strength and vigor.  His face is calm, his eyes are closed, and his muscular arms are extended heavenward, as if receiving a hug. 

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The Two Popes

I watched the Netflix movie The Two Popes recently and, I must say, I was not impressed.  Aside from it being unhelpful fiction, a profound spiritual lesson was distorted.  Towards the end, Benedict XVI, played by Anthony Hopkins, explains to Archbishop Jorge Bergoglio why he desires to retire.  God has abandoned him.  Benedict feels nothing in prayer.  He asks, he pleads, and "Silence!" is all he receives in return.  This abandonment the pope takes as a sign that God no longer is with him and no longer desires him to lead the Church.  He must resign.

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What Type of Leader Are You?

After I became pastor, I found myself reading biographies.  The stories of the great figures of history gave me just the advice and encouragement I needed.  Biographies on Abraham Lincoln were particularly insightful.  But I also found interesting the stories of LBJ, Napoleon, Douglas MacArthur, Harry Truman, Andrew Jackson, Al Smith, Cardinal Bernardin, George Washington, and Ulysses S. Grant, just to name a few that I have read over the past few years.  I have been given many books on leadership and administration from parishioners, but the best I have received have been these biographies. 

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Jesus Christ As Leader

After I became pastor, I found myself reading biographies.  The stories of the great figures of history gave me just the advice and encouragement I needed.  Biographies on Abraham Lincoln were particularly insightful.  But I also found interesting the stories of LBJ, Napoleon, Douglas MacArthur, Harry Truman, Andrew Jackson, Al Smith, Cardinal Bernardin, George Washington, and Ulysses S. Grant, just to name a few that I have read over the past few years.  I have been given many books on leadership and administration from parishioners, but the best I have received have been these biographies. 

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