Probably many of you have a sign that you know comes directly from God. Maybe it’s a butterfly that shows a deceased loved one is present. Maybe it’s a deer that reminds you of God’s great care for you.
For me, it’s a heron often seen at Lial Renewal Center in Whitehouse, Ohio. Generally I make my annual week’s retreat there, and I hope to see the heron which for me means that God approves of my direction in life. During some annual retreats I see the heron only once, and that time is usually at the end of the retreat. Its flight says to me, “All is well. Keep flying the same route.”

This summer the heron showed himself on the very first day.  As I walked toward the lake, I mused, “I wonder if I’ll see my her__.” Before I could get the last syllable out, there he was! Some hours later I saw him again, standing quite still, then walking a few steps, standing quietly, then taking a few more steps along the path around the lake that I had intended to make. I waited so as not to disturb, and then another heron joined him. Together they flew off, and I continued my trek where the heron had been.  Within a couple minutes back came the heron, and he flew parallel to me for a few seconds.  Wow! Was that ever a sign from God that this would be a wonderful retreat!

Someone recommended a book to me that she had heard recommended by Oprah Winfrey. The title?  The Sun Does Shine. It’s written by Anthony Ray Hinton, who spent 30 years on death row for a crime he did not commit. Although at first, he was justifiably angry for the blatant racism and his lawyer’s ineptness that convicted him—a conviction no white or wealthy person would have received—he decided that freedom resided in his soul. Hinton traveled the world in his imagination, the only way he could escape his 5-foot by 7-foot cell without windows. He started a book club for the other inmates and in other ways helped those on death row become a community. He kept up his spirit for 30 years until the day he walked out of prison as he said, “The sun does shine.” He received his freedom in 2015 from the Supreme Court of the United States. Since then he has worked to show people that capital punishment and our prison system are not the answer.

Perhaps you and I have had experiences of grave injustice, perhaps we have lost some years during which we could not use our talents, perhaps we have felt betrayed by persons who should have been our friends. Whatever those experiences, if you read Hinton’s book, they will be put into perspective. If you are still angry about those experiences, this book will show you ways to overcome the hurt.

First Mass

On May 27 Father Andrew Wellmann officiated his First Mass after the previous day’s ordination.  I can’t imagine the thoughts that went through his mind as he lifted the paten and chalice for the first time “in persona Christi.”  Were they nervous thoughts like “I hope I do this right”? Were they feelings of awe? Were they humble thoughts of how bread becomes Jesus Christ through the words of consecration? Regardless of thoughts or feelings, the words transformed simple gifts of bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ.  God entrusts Himself to us,  God lets humans hold him—how humble our great God!

The occasion of a First Mass is a celebration of the parish. It’s a parish’s achievement to have a priest from among them, the fruit of their parenting, schooling, befriending, supporting.  And what a celebration it was: flowers in abundance, trumpets and flutes, eight men harmonizing in the choir loft, the newly-ordained priest’s sister as cantor and soloist, the presence of the Knights of Columbus, a sanctuary filled with priests, deacons, and altar servers. May St. John the Evangelist Church in Delphos, Ohio have many more such First Masses.

Ordination Day

The diocese was blessed May 26 by the ordination of three newly-minted priests. The two and one-half hour liturgy was resplendent in its beauty and symbolism. The Rite of Ordination begins with the Director of Diocesan Priestly Vocations attesting to the candidates’ worthiness. Then the candidates promise to fulfill their duties and responsibilities of the priesthood by placing their hands between those of the bishop, promising respect and obedience to him and his successors.  The candidates then prostrate themselves as the assembly sings the Litany of the Saints. The conferring of the sacrament of Holy Orders involves, as in most sacraments, the laying on of hands. The bishop imposed his hands first, then all the other priests. Each candidate was invested with a stole and chasuble. Their hands were anointed with sacred Chrism showing that these priests participate in the High Priesthood of Jesus Christ. (A linen cloth is used to wipe the chrism, and these cloths are presented to the mothers of the priests during the First Mass.) Finally there is the fraternal “Peace be with you” as the bishop and all concelebrating priests give a sign of welcome into the Order of the Priesthood.

Diocesan priests do not live in community the way religious order priests do. In large parishes priests may live together in the rectory, and I’m sure bonds of friendship and camaraderie are often formed. (I hear jokes between the priests at weekend Masses sometimes.) However, even when a priest lives alone, he has the memory of the fraternal “Peace be with you,” the sign of welcome. I imagine that the Twelve Apostles had special bonding.  Peter, James, and John seemed to be selected as special friends of Jesus. Perhaps the four had other excursions besides going up to Tabor.  At the Transfiguration the three apostles felt close to Moses, Elijah, and Jesus.  And did they say to one another, “I love being here with you guys”?

The cover of a spring issue of America stated “Joan of Arc slays Mark Twain.” The writer, Ted Gioia, quoted Twain as saying “Joan of Arc is my very best book.” Many literary critics are baffled by Twain’s admiration for the young woman who commanded military forces at age 17 and whose decisive battles reclaimed French territory when Charles VII’s troops were losing ground to the British. Unlike Twain’s humorous trademark, this novel is an adventure story, in which the author gives Joan, an illiterate woman, the weapons of theology, decorum, and courage to outwit scholars and men.

                When I began my ministry as pastoral associate at St. Joan of Arc Church in Toledo, I came across this novel in the library and couldn’t believe it was written by Mark Twain. I dabbled in it but never got very far.  Having read this article, I intend to find the book again. It will make my summer reading.

Today is the memorial of Saint Joan of Arc, and our church will celebrate with an outdoor Mass in the evening followed by a s’more roast. We have chosen Ephesians 6:10-20 for one of the readings. The segment is titled “The Whole Armor of God” in the NRSV. In this reading we are asked to “put on the whole armor of God,” “fasten the belt of truth around your waist, and put on the breastplate of righteousness.” Then we are to “take the shield of faith…and the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit.” Through the intercession of Saint Joan of Arc, may we be protected with God’s armor to fight against evil and stand firm in our faith. And the s’more roast?  To remind us that Joan was burned at the stake.

Memorial Day weekend marks the start of traditional picnic and vacation time. The ordinary obligations of life recede, but there is never a vacation from our Christian vocation. Here are some ways to include something spiritual or religious in your picnic and travel.

Pack a prayer in your picnic basket.

Ask your pastor to bless your vehicle. When restless kids ask for the umpteenth time “Are we there yet?” go through the alphabet and see how many saints you can think of. Can you get from St. Anthony to St. Zita? Or use words in the Bible.  Acts of the Apostles, Bartholomew, covenant, David, Eucharist, and so on. My family would include stopping at a shrine. Take a detour to see a famous church, outdoor Way of the Cross, or spot known for its miracles. And if your summer is three months of “stay-cation,” add some service, good deeds, and prayer with the extra bits of leisure time family members may have.

Little children repeat and repeat and repeat songs. Why? Because of the experience connected to the song. The song is fun, its words funny, it has actions easy to remember and delightful to do. Adults repeat songs, too. Is there a funeral that doesn’t sing “Amazing Grace” or “How Great Thou Art” or “On Eagle’s Wings”?

Healing and comfort exude from the words and melody. We find community in the singing of such songs.

As summer approaches, church musicians are searching for substitutes so they can get a well-deserved vacation or attend a workshop. But there are few musicians around. What can parishes do about this lack?  Invite youth to jam, offer free music lessons, advertise “Come volunteer, and we will ruin you for life,” have a flash choir that practices and immediately sings the next Mass all within two hours. Select songs that rock their world.

Sometimes Jesus Christ invites us:  “Remain in my love.”  Sometimes he gives a command:  “Love one another as I love you.”  These words are from the Gospel for today’s feast, that of Saint Matthias, Apostle. Fifteen years ago today my father died. Because my father’s middle name was Matthias, the death date is easy for me to remember. My dad was a quiet man; he let my mom do the talking. I didn’t have too many conversations with him until he was in a nursing home. But as I look back to my childhood, Dad’s invitations and commands were the same. Both were gentle, quietly spoken reminders for me to be better. His typical counsel was “Be nice.” I imagine Jesus inviting his disciples on his last days on earth to do what he commands, speaking gently, lovingly, calling them “friends.” Jesus looked at Peter and John and James and the others, the ones he had chosen, and gave them this parting gift:  “Whatever you ask the Father in my name he may give you.” And after this invitation to pray in his name, there’s the command:  “Love one another.” Command from Friend to friends is an invitation to open themselves to joy: 
“I have told you this so that my joy might be in you and your joy might be complete.”

Only 1% of nones attend Mass weekly. 9% attend once a month.  When analyzing this situation, some claim the nones want identity and stability.
Pope Francis’ most recent exhortation Rejoice and Be Glad claims
The Beatitudes give us our identity.
“Blessed are the poor in spirit. . . the peacemakers. . . those who suffer for the sake of righteousness.”
The Beatitudes point us outward toward the Body of Christ, in which each individual is united to the Lord.
If Church leaders and teachers put more attention on social issues like racism, poverty,
and all other forms of injustice,
then perhaps the nones would be drawn within the walls of a church building
where the world is invited to enter with them.
Perhaps the nones would see themselves.

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are they who mourn, for they shall be comforted.

Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.

Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.

Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.

Blessed are the pure of heart, for they shall see God.

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called children of God.

Blessed are they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”

Matthew 5:3-10


Sister Maria Aloysia Wolbring
Foundress of the Sisters of Notre Dame

On May 6, 1889, the foundress of the Sisters of Notre Dame, died of tuberculosis in Cleveland, Ohio. Due to extreme heat, she needed to be buried quickly, thus not allowing more than a few Sisters to be present at her burial in a common plot in St. Joseph Cemetery. Since the time of her death the Sisters have continued the charism which was her gift to the People of God; namely, trust in God’s goodness and provident care. We are blessed to have eight postulants and 20 novices in Bataan, where we have a House of Formation. These sisters are from Vietnam, Korea, Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, and the Philippines. There are also several sisters in initial formation in the Western Hemisphere, especially the United States and Brazil.
Please pray today to Sister Maria Aloysia that more women will answer the call
proclaim God’s goodness and provident care.