Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

I'm trying to beat last years costume of Elvis and the Hound Dog.



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Monday, October 29, 2012

Video of Hurricane Sandy - Lake Erie Monday Evening



Video above and slideshow below.  Fr. Martello and I took a drive up to the Lake and stopped by Saint Anthony's in Lorain to view some of God's power in Nature.


Prayer for Hurricane Sandy. God of the Universe, at the dawn of creation, your Spirit breathed on the waters, making them the wellspring of all holiness. You created the oceans and rivers, and all that dwell within them, and at your word the wind and the waves were born. The seasons follow your plan, and the tides rise and fall on your command. In both calm and storm, you are with us. On the Sea of Galilee, even when the disciples began to fear, Jesus showed that he was Lord over the waters by rebuking the storms, so that all would know that even the wind and the waves obey him. Creator God, we ask you to calm the wind and the waves of the approaching hurricane, and spare those in its path from harm. Help those who are in its way to reach safety. Open our hearts in generosity to all who need help in the coming days. In all things and in all times, help us to remember that even when life seems dark and stormy, you are in the boat with us, guiding us to safety. Amen. (James Martin)



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In 1981, a United States Senate judiciary subcommittee received the following testimony from a collection of medical experts (Subcommittee on Separation of Powers to Senate Judiciary Committee S-158, Report, 97th Congress, 1st Session, 1981): "It is incorrect to say that biological data cannot be decisive...It is scientifically correct to say that an individual human life begins at conception." Professor Micheline Matthews-Roth Harvard University Medical School "I have learned from my earliest medical education that human life begins at the time of conception." Dr. Alfred M. Bongioanni Professor of Pediatrics and Obstetrics, University of Pennsylvania "After fertilization has taken place a new human being has come into being. [It] is no longer a matter of taste or opinion...it is plain experimental evidence. Each individual has a very neat beginning, at conception." Dr. Jerome LeJeune Professor of Genetics, University of Descartes "By all the criteria of modern molecular biology, life is present from the moment of conception." Professor Hymie Gordon Mayo Clinic "The beginning of a single human life is from a biological point of view a simple and straightforward matter – the beginning is conception." Dr. Watson A. Bowes University of Colorado Medical School The official Senate report reached this conclusion: Physicians, biologists, and other scientists agree that conception marks the beginning of the life of a human being - a being that is alive and is a member of the human species. There is overwhelming agreement on this point in countless medical, biological, and scientific writings.11 The American Medical Association (AMA) declared as far back as 1857 (referenced in the Roe. vs. Wade opinion) that "the independent and actual existence of the child before birth, as a living being” is a matter of objective science. They deplored the “popular ignorance...that the foetus is not alive till after the period of quickening.” Why have all the teaching texts and so many medical experts come to this same conclusion? Because there are simple ways to measure whether something is alive and whether something is human. If Faye Wattleton is correct and everyone already knows that abortion kills a human being, they have come to that knowledge in spite of the information circulated by Planned Parenthood and the rest of the abortion-rights community. The abortion section of the Planned Parenthood website explains abortion this way: "Abortion is a safe and legal way for women to end pregnancy."12 How's that for thorough? Maybe they just assume that the method for ending the pregnancy is so obvious (killing the human being living in the womb) that it hardly bears mentioning. More likely, Planned Parenthood is simply accommodating the general ignorance which believes abortion to be the mere removal of potential human life, rather than the actual killing of existing human life. Biologically speaking, every abortion at every point in the pregnancy ends the life of a genetically-distinct human being.



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Sunday, October 28, 2012



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Emma's pumpkin wi the help of her uncle Mike!



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Homily: What makes for a Holy Priest.



With Seminarian Max Cole at St. Joseph.  Max spoke at all of our masses this weekend and helped me with the Baptism of "Michael".  Max will hopefully be ordained in May of 2014.  Please pray for all of our Seminarians.  


This Sunday is Priesthood Sunday.  St. Paul’s letter to the Galatians gives us the three elements of what it takes to be a high priest.  

Every priest is:
1) Taken from among men and made their representative before God.  
2) Able to deal patiently with the ignorant and erring because he himself is beset by weakness
3) No one takes this honor upon himself but only when called by God.  

It is these three qualities that make up what a good and holy priest should be.  Since we are celebrating the year of faith and called to look once more on the Documents of Vatican II, I will reflect on both the Scripture for today as well as the Tradition of the Church which has been most recently taught in John Paul II’s Pastores Dabo Vobis (“I Will Give You Shepherds: On the Formation of Priests in the Circumstances of the Present Day - Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation March 25, 1992) PDV

Every high priest is taken from among men
and made their representative before God,
to offer gifts and sacrifices for sins.

The priest first and foremost shares in the humanity of those he serves.  Human formation, is the basis of all priestly formation.  (PDV)  In the seminary men are formed as priests first to be good, holy, healthy men.  You may notice that I try to do this as well, take care of myself physically by exercising, emotionally through good friends and priestly support, I spend my days off with priest friends, Sundays I try to be with my family.  I try to keep current with the latest movies, books, music, I play guitar, piano, violin and am learning the ukulele, you’ll notice I’m on Facebook and I try to share some of the human side of just enjoying life.  Some may think I play too much, but I am an overachiever, and do have a love and passion for life.  All of this is important for the formation of a good and holy priest.  

Pastores Dabo Vobis the importance of the humanity of the priest:  “Through his daily contact with people, his sharing in their daily lives, the priest needs to develop and sharpen his human sensitivity so as to understand more clearly their needs, respond to their demands, perceive their unvoiced questions, and share the hopes and expectations, the joys and burdens which are part of life:  thus he will be able to meet and enter into dialogue with all people.  In particular, through coming to know and share, through making his own, the human experience of suffering in its many different manifestations, from poverty to illness, from rejection to ignorance, loneliness, and material or moral poverty, the priest can cultivate his own humanity and make it all the more genuine and clearly apparent by his increasingly ardent love for his fellow man.”

What this means is that the priest is supposed to be above all, a man who is relatable.  There should be a human quality to the priest, though set-apart, at the same time is approachable, warm, friendly, and inviting.  I think the greatest compliment we can receive as priests is when someone says “Father, I feel like I can really talk to you.”  Hopefully you have this sense that you can go to your priest and share anything with them.  


Pastores Dabo Vobis reveals that: “The priest, who is called to be a “living image” of Jesus Christ, Head and Shepherd of the Church, should seek to reflect in himself, as far as possible, the human perfection which shines forth in the Incarnate Son of God and which is reflected with particular liveliness in his attitudes towards others as we see narrated in the Gospels.  The ministry of the priest is, certainly, to proclaim the Word, to celebrate the Sacraments, to guide the Christian community in charity “in the name and in the person of Christ”, but all this he does dealing always and only with individual human beings: “Every high priest chosen from among men is appointed to act on behalf of men in relation to God” (Heb 5:1).  So we see that human formation of the priest its special importance when related to the receivers of the mission: in order that his ministry may be humanely as credible and acceptable as possible, it is important that the priest should mould his human personality in such a way that it becomes a bridge and not an obstacle for others in their meeting with Jesus Christ the Redeemer of Man.  It is necessary that, following the example of Jesus who “knew what was in man”  (Jn 2:25, cf. 8:3-11), the priest should be able to know the depths of the human heart, to perceive difficulties and problems, to make meeting and dialogue easy, to create trust and cooperation, to express serene and objective judgements.  Future priests therefore should cultivate a series of human qualities... these qualities are needed for them to be balanced people, strong and free, capable of bearing the weight of pastoral responsibilities.”

These human qualities should help people experience God in the very humanness of the priest.  Because priests are human and sanctified there is a great mystery of grace and nature at work.  The priest, though ordained, consecrated and set apart, is still at the same time “beset by weakness.”   

He is able to deal patiently with the ignorant and erring,
for he himself is beset by weakness
and so, for this reason, must make sin offerings for himself
as well as for the people.

The priest is compassionate and sympathetic to those he serves because he himself struggles with weakness and also relies on the sacraments.  

Sometimes priests joke that they don’t have to go to confession, we simply find a mirror and absolve ourselves!  This, of course, is not true, as priests we still struggle with sin and with the grace of the Holy Spirit are “working out our redemption.”  

The priests that make the best confessors are those that actually go to confession themselves.  We know what it is like to take our sin to another priest, make ourselves vulnerable, and experience the forgiveness which only God can give in the Sacrament. I love nothing more to be able to do this for others!  

Pastores Dabo Vobis explains that: “The priest is, therefore, a man of charity, and is called to educate others according to Christ’s example and the new commandment of brotherly love (cf. Jn 15:12).  But this demands that he himself allow himself to be constantly trained by the Spirit in the charity of Christ.  In this sense preparation for the priesthood must necessarily involve a proper training in charity and particularly in the preferential love for the “poor” in whom our faith discovers Jesus (cf. Mt 25:40), and a merciful love for sinners.”  

It is because we have discovered through the Sacrament of Confession and Eucharist that we ourselves are loved sinners, that we can be that much more compassionate to each and every person who has their own struggles with sin.  

As priests we’ve had a unique opportunity of formation, spiritual direction, retreats, and opportunities for meditation, healing, and encounters with the Lord.  And on top of all that we are given the very special Sacramental Grace of Holy Orders.  

Again, in Pastores Dabo Vobis: “Before being sent out to preach and to heal, they are called “to be with him” (Mk 3:14) The sacrament of Holy Orders confers upon the priest sacramental grace which gives him a share not only in Jesus’ saving “power” and “ministry” but also in his pastoral ‘love”.  at the same time it ensures that the priest can count on all the actual graces he needs, whenever they are necessary and useful for the worthy and perfect exercise of the ministry he has received...
The people of God should be able to say about the priest, who has increasingly matured in human sensitivity, something similar to what we read about Jesus in the Letter to the Hebrews: “For we have not a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sinning” (Heb 4:15)


No one takes this honor upon himself
but only when called by God,

The third quality of the high priest is that priests are ultimately called by God.  This call is spoken softly in the depths of the heart but is also heard in the voice of the community of believers.  

Pastores Dabo Vobis explains: “It cannot be forced in the slightest by any human ambition, and it cannot be replaced by any human decision. Vocation is a gift of God's grace and never a human right, such that "one can never consider priestly life as a simply human affair, nor the mission of the minister as a simply personal project."(101) Every claim or presumption on the part of those called is thus radically excluded (cf Heb 5 4ff ). Their entire heart and spirit should be filled with an amazed and deeply felt gratitude. an unshakable trust and hope, because those who have been called know that they are rooted not in their own strength but in the unconditional faithfulness of God who calls.”

This call is mystery and that is why it truly needs to be discerned with and among the faithful, including the parish priest, seminary fraternity and ultimately the Bishop.  

Gaudium et Spes, a document from Vatican II, explains:  “Certainly a vocation is a fathomless mystery involving the relationship established by God with human beings in their absolute uniqueness, a mystery perceived and heard as a call which awaits a response in the depths of one’s conscience, which is “Man’s most secret core, and his sanctuary.  There he is alone with God whose voice echoes in his depths.” (Gaudium et Spes 16).  

When does God call?  Well we hear in Sacred Scripture “
Amen, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children,* you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.” (John 18:3)

The Documents of Vatican II echo: “As long experience shows, a priestly vocation tends to show itself in the preadolescent years or in the earliest years of youth. Even in people who decide to enter the seminary later on it is not infrequent to find that God's call had been perceived much earlier. The Church's history gives constant witness of calls which the Lord directs to people of tender age. St. Thomas, for example, explains Jesus' special love for St. John the Apostle "because of his tender age" and draws the following conclusion: "This explains that God loves in a special way those who give themselves to his service from their earliest youth." (In Iohannem Evangelistam Expositio, c. 21, lect. V, 2).

Sometimes parents will encourage their children to put it off saying to their sons: “Go to college first, work, try and be successful and if that doesn’t work, then you can go to the seminary!”  Seriously I’ve heard it said many times.  If God is calling your child.  There is no better place to discern than the seminary and no better time than when they are young.  

More from Pastoral Dabo Vobis: “The Church looks after these seeds of vocations sown in the hearts of children, by means of the institution of Minor Seminaries, providing a careful though preliminary discernment and accompaniment.  In a number of parts of the world, these Seminaries continue to carry out a valuable educational work, the aim of which is to protect and develop the seeds of priestly vocation, so that the students may more easily recognize it and be in a better position to respond to it.  

The students “under the fatherly supervision of the superior's, the parents too playing their appropriate part, should lead lives suited to the age, mentality and development of young people.  their way of life should be fully in keeping with the standards of sound psychology and should include suitable experience of the ordinary affairs of daily life and contact with their own families.”  (Decree on Priestly Formation Optatam Totius, 3).

“The call to the priesthood depends on his saving presence:  not only the call, but also the accompanying so that the person called can recognize the Lord’s grace and respond to it freely and lovingly.  

Because there is a freedom there is a possibility for someone to say no to the call.  I know of young men right now who should be in the seminary discerning, but they are saying no, maybe later, or let me try something else first.  In the six years that I spent in the seminary I can tell you a number of guys came and went, but I do not know of one young man that regrets the time that he spent there.  Of all the guys I keep in touch with, they reflect on the seminary as being such a wonderful time in their life, a time of growing in faith, prayer, and experience of service.  They don’t regret giving God that time of their lives for discernment.  I can tell you however, that just being five years a priest I have met dozens of men who have told me, too late in life... “Father, I should have been a priest.”  There are men that always felt the call but never answered.  I’m even talking about men that are married, have children and grandchildren, worked successful careers and lived full lives.  But they never resolved that call.  I can think of nothing more sad than a calling from God that goes unanswered or unexplored.  

We should all be aware of our specific responsibility in fostering the call to the priesthood.  This fostering happens in two primary ways: The Family, and The Parish Community.

“Let us mention first of all the family:  Christian parents, as also brothers and sisters and other members of the family, should never seek to all back the future priest within the narrow confines of a too human (if not worldly) logic, no matter how supported by sincere affection that logic may be (cf. Mk 3:20-21, 31-35)

“Closely linked with this is the Parish Community.  Both it and the family are connected in education in the faith... Above all, inasmuch as it is the most immediate local expression of the mystery of the Church, the parish offers an original and especially valuable contribution to the formation of a future priest.  The parish community should continue to feel that young man on his way to the priesthood is a living part of itself; it should accompany him with its prayer, give him a cordial welcome during holiday periods, respect and encourage him to form himself in his identity as a priest, and offer him suitable opportunities and strong encouragement to try out his vocation for the priestly mission.”  

So here is an important challenge.  Take a moment right now and ask the Holy Spirit to give you insight and reveal to you whom God may be calling to the priesthood.  Pray for that young man.  
And then be the voice of the Church.  Ask them if they have ever thought about being a priest, write them a letter and tell them what you see so special in them, or send me their name and contact information and I will gladly give them a call.  There’s nothing as sad as an unanswered call and there is nothing more joyful than discovering God’s call!  

This priesthood Sunday, you could actually be the one to invite and nurture a vocation to this gift and mystery of the priesthood.  



With Adam Zajac, from St. Barnabas, Diaconate Ordination.  Adam will hopefully be ordained a priest this May! 

Dear Friends, I'm leaving for the Holy Land tomorrow. If you would like me to pray for you please post your prayer here and I will place it in the wailing wall (If you want me to actually print it out on paper please do this by 10am Monday morning) Otherwise I will make it my intention. My prayers are with all of you!



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Saturday, October 27, 2012



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Friday, October 26, 2012

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Prayer of St. Teresa of Avila for New Media

Christ Has No Body
Christ has no body but yours,
No hands, no feet on earth but yours,
Yours are the eyes with which he looks
Compassion on this world,
Yours are the feet with which he walks to do good,
Yours are the hands, with which he blesses all the world.
Yours are the hands, yours are the feet,
Yours are the eyes, you are his body.
Christ has no body now but yours,
No hands, no feet on earth but yours,
Yours are the eyes with which he looks
compassion on this world.
Christ has no body now on earth but yours.

-- St. Teresa of Avila (1515–1582)

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Now this is a beach day! Thank you God for such a beautiful day off!



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Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Medal



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Uncle frank and aunt noise



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Uncle frank



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Service: God's Glory Shines Through



In the Seminary I was blessed to get to know some great priests.  One of them really gave me a heart for the poor.  He was the priest that first took me to Africa and has inspired my continued service to the poor around the world especially through Catholic Relief Services.  Fr. Don Dunson was the moral theology teacher and he was also in charge of some of the service work at the seminary.  For many years he faithfully went to the West Side Catholic Center every Wednesday morning to serve the poor, the homeless and the unemployed.  He recently shared with me two of his most memorable stories.  

Once when he was there early on, he was working at the side door, which is where you “drop off” donations.  He described how he was standing there with two tall dark, African American men, and they were looking out at the snow.  It was a beautiful scene, as he describes, the snow was falling and covering the dirty streets, rusted out cars, and boarded houses.  He turned to the black men and very candidly said:  “Everything looks better in white doesn’t it?”  The men looked at him and said:  “Father, not everything looks better in white!”  

Fr. Don is such an innocent man that he doesn’t see the color of people... he really treats people the same the rich and the poor alike, American or African, student or priest.  I know this because my first year in the seminary I got to watch Fr. Don in action.  As I mentioned I was blessed not only to go with him to Africa, but was blessed to serve with him every wednesday during my first year of seminary.  I have to say that this was a very hard thing for me at first.  I don’t know if you’ve ever been to the West Side Catholic Center or to a place that serves the homeless, but you really never know what you are going to get.  

I grew up in the suburb of Parma and barely ever went “Downtown” growing up.  And here we were going into the City and would be serving strangers that I had never met.  I learned that first year that these were not strangers, they were friends that I hadn’t met yet, they were really my brothers and sisters as Fr. Don would refer to them.  I learned this by watching Fr. Dunson.  I watched how naturally and easily he just served them.  And he was himself... he would laugh with them, he would comfort them, he would hug them, he would listen to them, sometimes he would even stop serving them and just eat with them.  

The second story he tells is what he describes as the best compliment he ever received.  There was a man at the Center who was homeless, he was mentally disabled, and very honest and forthright.  Now, understand that when Fr. Dunson went to serve, he often did so without wearing his clerics.  He didn’t do this because he was ashamed of the priesthood, just the opposite, he loves being a priest.  He went in plain clothes so as not to put on a show.  He didn’t go for the glory of “look I’m a priest and I’m going to serve you so everybody can see...”  He did it in a very hidden way, only the staff that had been there really knew who he was.  Fr. Don said that he received his best compliment ever from this mentally disabled man... he said to Father... “Hey man, I know you are not a priest, but I have got to tell you something, you sure act like a priest.”  He said, “That’s the best compliment I’ve ever received.”

You see he didn’t have to be seen by what he wore, it was who he was, the glory of his priesthood shined through.  I think the same is with us: it’s not about being seen, it’s not about being glorified, it’s not about what we wear or what our title is, it’s not about being in the spotlight or coming off looking holy, it’s about stepping down.  When we do step down and humble ourselves and genuinely serve, the glory shines through.  


In today’s gospel James and John seek the glory without the service:  

James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came to Jesus and said to him,
"Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you."
He replied, "What do you wish me to do for you?"
They answered him, "Grant that in your glory
we may sit one at your right and the other at your left."


They were seeking glory.  They wanted to sit at the most important seats and be associated with his glory.  But Jesus came to reveal something different to us.  He came to reveal that truly Glory shines through genuine service.  

Jesus summoned them and said to them,
"You know that those who are recognized as rulers over the Gentiles
lord it over them,
and their great ones make their authority over them felt.
But it shall not be so among you.
Rather, whoever wishes to be great among you will be your servant;
whoever wishes to be first among you will be the slave of all.
For the Son of Man did not come to be served
but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many."


God came into our world not to be served, but to serve.  Imagine that, Jesus who was the glory of God came not in full regalia, but as one of us, an almost hidden God whose glory shines through.  

We are all called to be priestly people, but like Fr. Don, we don’t need to do it for the glory, we don’t need to do it to be seen, we simply need to be ourselves and serve one another.  If we do so humbly and authentically, the glory will shine through.  


This model of Jesus raises very important questions for us:  “What’s your approach to sevice?”  “How do you find yourself when you are in a role of service?”  “Do you find yourself serving others or expecting yourself expecting to be served?”  

Have you been blessed by someone who has modeled service in your life?  Have you ever had an experience of service where God’s glory shone through you?  What’s your approach to service?  

Where are you most called to serve?  At home?  At Work?  At School?  In the City?  In Africa?  In El Salvador?  Have you ever had this experience of serving the homeless, the poor, the needy?  

How do you respond when your service to others goes unrecognized?  Have you ever wanted to be noticed or praised for what you do?  How do you treat the people that you are called to serve?  

Could people say the same thing about you:  “I know you’re not a priest, but you sure act like one.”?  If you’ve never had the opportunity to do this we have great opportunities for service right here in cleveland and if you are outside of this diocese go to your diocesan web page and I’m sure you can find many organizations.  
Every parish has it’s own St. Vincent de Paul  (Vincentions or some other name).  Maybe God is calling you to serve the poor right in your own neighborhood.  

Right here in Cleveland we have the
West Side Catholic Center, a program called Labre, We have the St. Joseph Homeless Shelter here in lorain, and our diocese has the largest Catholic Charities in the entire country.  Right here in Cleveland we do more social outreach than anywhere in the entire world!  

Maybe, God is calling you to even go farther!  Have you ever throught about going on a mission trip?  Many parishes offer them.  Our Diocese is also blessed to have the Cleveland Latin America Mission Team that serves in El Salvador.  St. Joseph in Amherst is planning on their first mission trip in March.  There’s also an amazing program called Labre, which three of our schools now participate in (St. Ignatius, Walsh, and John Carroll) After you touch the wounds of those in the city tonight, there’s no looking back. Cleveland will never look the same again.” – James Skerl ’74, theology teacher and co-founder of the Labre Ministry.”

You may feel uncomfortable at first, you may not feel very graceful, but if you are truly yourself and place yourself with the poor, simply serving, the glory will shine through.  

I so admired that this priest humbled himself and served.  He did this every week faithfully.  And what I found most wonderful about him is that the priesthood shined through.  The same is true for all of us.  By genuinely serving, without expecting any recognition, God’s glory will shine through.  

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Mindfulness...

(This homily was given at the Diocesan Priest Convocation last week, obviously it was written for priests, but if you knew Fr. Tifft or would like to be less judgmental and more accepting you may learn from him as well).



Only, we were to be mindful of the poor,
which is the very thing I was eager to do.

Last evening we began by hearing about some of the legends in our Church.  Well, I can think of no man that taught me about the historic Characters of our diocese better than Fr. Tom Tifft.  

He had this ability to have you belly laughing over the personality trait of some historical figure, cringing at some scandal that they caused, and at the same time admiring what was redemptive about their character.  Of course he would often end an outrageous story by saying “if it isn’t true it should be.”  

When describing Bill Jurgens, which was the book that was placed with him in his casket, he said “Jurgens was always going on a diet.  he gave the kitchen his diet plan, the tray would come up, he would eat it, and then he would eat the regular meal.”  He was fiercely competitive of other historians of the diocese saying once of Callahan’s book that it wasn’t “worth the paper it was written on.”  He left us a great legacy in the History of the Diocese Volume I.  

Fr. Tifft taught us of the Great Amadeus Rappe who was a magnificent missionary... He was invited by Percell to come to Ohio, only he was disappointed because he thought he was coming to America to minister to  the Native Americans.  He was a builder, above all, and put our diocese on very solid institutional basis.  When he resigns there are 117 priests (from 21), 160 churches (from 43) and 100,000 Catholics from about 10,000.  however, many found him to be authoritative, vindictive, and even abusive to his priests... Tifft said the only rights they really could count on were the five bales of hay a month for their hoarse and the right to Christian Burial!  In the end Jurgens would describe Rappe as a saint, done in by the Irish priests.  E.M. O’Callahan would say “Rappe is a tyrant may he rot in hell!”  On his deathbed Rappe would say “I have prayed for my friends, I have prayed for my enemies may God Bless them all.”  

Bishop Gilmore, who was a parish priest, begins serving at a number of parishes and becomes the spokesman for catholic schools.  He produces a bible history and a series of readers and has a national reputation as a great preacher.  When he was installed as a bishop he professed that he was “doubtful about his ability but forced by a sense of duty to accept it with much fear and trembling.” Tifft then quipped “this is standard language, all bishops say this.”  Tifft described Gilmoure as having a fiery temperement.  Tom would imitate him explaining that he loved a good fight. “I came from fighting stock... I was always a fighter.”  At times Gilmore could be blunt, direct, and had a great deal fo confidence in his own ability.  He was not a lightweight.  Once, he suspended one of his priests who was abusing his parishioners from the pulpit.  Apparently this preaching method was very strong at the time, you know it was the:  “tell them  about the sin and then accuse them of it.”  (Tifft then quoted Jack Carlin, who denies it and blames it on Joe Labak, saying “You got to give people hell once a month or they won't feel good about themselves.)  There was a great deal of resentment from the priests, one described him saying “Bishop Gilmore is a plague to be endured.”  He forbade priestly fraternities, he would probably roll over in his grave if he saw us all gathered here at Sawmill Creek, and expected his priests to be the fiercely independent loner that he was.  As I was going through my notes I saw a star that said “Tifft’s favorite letter”.  One of the priests,  Francis Goetz, was a hypochondriac and felt duty bound in conscience to write to Gilmore every time he had a headache, or flu, or anything.  Once he had fallen off his horse, felt stiff, and was convinced he was suffering from the initial stages of paralysis!  Gilmore was not a patient man, but surprisingly patient with Goetz, until he finally gets a letter from Goetz that says “I think I’m dying.”  Gilmore replies: “My two years of sickness taught me a good deal not found in books... when the time comes strike or brush aside... your statement that you are going to die this year is of this kind.  Then my friend for heaven sake die!  Die and be done with it!”  In the end, Tifft found that he was sensitive to his priests and loved the line that Gilmore once said: “You see what a strange thing religion is and what very strange characters are in the sanctuary at times, yet the good redeems the bad and the work goes on.”  

Fr. Tifft, over his lifetime had filled his mind with all of these stories and had this very real sense of the good side by side with the bad, he accepted all of these characters as a church of Saints and Sinners.  He also realized that each of us is a mixture of virtue and vice.  He had a line that he would often say at lunch after a funny story about some legendary priest or bishop... “Michael, the characters aren’t all dead... take a look around the room!”  

Fr. Tifft had this amazing ability to be totally accepting and present to you.  After he died I realized the question I would miss the most from him was “Michael, how are you doing?”  Because he actually wanted to know about you... he was mindful... he knew my family members by name, my nieces, he asked about my guitar lessons, how things were in the parish... he found out what you were interested in and became genuinely interested himself.  Part of it I imagine, was that he was always looking for another story to tell, he was filling his mind with history in the making.  

I can’t say I’ve ever heard of anyone that disliked him, even guys that have been asked to leave the seminary by him still greatly esteem and appreciate him... at the same time, I can’t think of anyone whom he ever despised... he seemed to accept people as they are, laugh a little and say with no blame or judgement: “Well, that’s so and so...”  I noticed that priests that struggled would often come to him for direction.  It was easy to share your difficulties with him because he was so accepting.  

I realized over the years that he made everyone feel this acceptance.  The way he knew the “Deep Wood” Staff at the seminary is a great example.  He would talk to these guys as if they had no disability... for Kenny it was all about baseball, Deepwood Dave would talk about country music, Big Tom... well just how big he really was!  He knew not only about them, but he knew and accepted them with all of their weakness and disability.  There was always a sense of acceptance... he could have you laughing one moment at your weakness and the next moment affirming your goodness.  

What was the quality about him that allowed him to take and receive the good and bad of everyone?  I can’t help but think of him as I hear the first reading...

After 14 years away Paul returns to Jerusalem with Barnabas and Titus, and he reflects on that moment when Peter saw his giftedness and commissioned him to go out and preach the Gospel...and Paul shares what was stressed:
Only, we were to be mindful of the poor,
which is the very thing I was eager to do.

I think that quality that allowed him to be so accepting and genuinely concerned was “mindfulness.”  

Paul was eager to be mindful of the poor... and I think Tom Tifft had this quality as well.  So, what does it mean to be mindful?  

The Dictionar describes it as: Bearing in mind, aware, inclined to be aware,
<mindful of the needs of others>

I would sense mindfulness literally means:  “to fill your mind with” the person in front of you.  

I had lunch with Dr. Trew and his wife a few weeks after the funeral and we reminisced about this quality.  At the end of the conversation Andrew said to me:  “and now it’s time for you to do that for others.”   Really, could I emulate this quality of mindfulness?  

Could this really be something that I could do like he did?  I suppose like anything virtuous, it can be practiced.  

What if during these days of convocation we shared that same “eager mindfulness?”  What if we genuinely asked each other “Father, how are you doing?”   

We all know what it’s like to have someone talking to you that’s really not interested or maybe even looks past you to see if there’s someone else to talk to.  I can’t imagine any of us like that feeling.  On the other hand we all know what it is like to be with someone who is generally interested in you, eagerly mindful of you.  

We can do this right now, but first our minds must be emptied.  We do so in the Eucharistic Prayer “Deliver us Lord, we pray from all evil, graciously grant peace in our days... that we may be always free from sin and safe from all distress.”   So we’ve got God’s permission.  Place all of your concerns, preoccupations, anxieties on the altar and for the next few days, let God take care of it.  Then with our minds at peace we can genuinely fill our minds, be mindful of each other.   


The great Michael B. Smith once said to me on my first year live in:  The most important thing you can do as a priest is “Be interesting.”  Well Michael B. you have that nailed!  But I think even more than that the most important thing we can do is “Be interested! ... Be mindful!”  Eagerly filling our minds with the priest in front of us, sitting at table next to us, walking down the hall... Be eagerly mindful, find something out about them, it doesn’t even have to be significant, just something to fill your mind with, to give them a place in your mind and a moment of genuine presence.  Take an interest in them and fill your mind with what makes their character.  

So let us be mindful of each other, and realize as Tom Tifft would say, The characters aren’t all dead, take a look around because theres plenty right here in this room.