Sunday, October 30, 2011

The Season of Giving

I've found many nuggets from my past as I have emptied boxes of papers, books, photographs and memorabilia after my move to New Castle.  I came across this article I wrote, which the Pittsburgh Catholic published on November 28, 1997.  In all humility it still strikes me as a timely reflection, and a challenge to my behavior this Christmas.

For Christmas, Give With No Idea of Repayment

It's not an official liturgical season of the church, but I like to think that the months of November and December are "the season of giving."

The American national celebration of Thanksgiving is as close as we get to a secular holy day.  Just about every commercial venture stops to allow employees to join their families in shared feasting and giving thanks.

Churches and synagogues host cheerful and thankful worshippers that day.  Ecumenical and interfaith prayer services abound.  More than once after Mass on Thanksgiving I've heard people say, "I wish every Sunday could have this same joyful spirit."

Of course, the day after Thanksgiving we are bombarded with advertising.  But buried underneath the commercial avalanche is the Christian season of Advent.

During these days, Christians prepare their hearts to celebrate the gift of our Savior's birth with our own gift-giving.  Stores and malls take this idea of gift-giving to extremes.  They conveniently forget the reason for the season of giving.

The biblical roots are deep.  In the beginning Yahweh gave breath to human beings and brought them into life.  Ancient worshipers responded to God's generosity by giving up the first fruits of field and flock.  The Lord gave the law, the path of righteousness, to the Hebrew people.

When the people strayed, the Lord sent prophets.  Because the Jews were once exiles and enslaved in Egypt, they are constantly exhorted throughout the Scriptures to care for the poor in their midst.

Jesus, the faithful Jew, inherits this spirit of giving.  My concordance records the word "give" 65 times in the Gospels.  Jesus gives healing to the paralyzed, blind, lame, even the dead.

He gives food to the hungry multitudes, instruction to his disciples, correction to Peter when this fisherman tries to rework Jesus' teaching.  Jesus gives forgiveness to the woman caught in adultery and the thief on the cross next to him.

Jesus tells us he will give us a new commandment of love and a Spirit of life-giving power.  He gives us his body and blood.  He gave his life for us so that all might live eternally.  In the only saying of Jesus quoted outside the gospels, St. Paul recalls Jesus' saying, "It is more blessed to give than to receive." (Acts 20:35)

Jesus gave to those who could not repay him.  This is true in all of these examples.  He instructs us to give to those who beg from us, regardless of our judgment of their worthiness. 

He chides us by asking, "If you love those who love you, what reward is there in that?"  All that the Master asks for is a word of praise to God, not himself.

St. Paul once wrote, "What have you that you did not receive?" (1 Cor 4:7)  A moment's reflection tells us that all that we are and have comes from Someone Else.

We would do well to recheck our personal Christmas gift lists in light of the challenge from Christ himself.  Are we giving to those who can't repay the gift?

This is already happening through food drives, Jesse or giving trees, and significant donations to charities in the name of loved ones.  This year, consider giving as much in response to people's needs as to return the love of family and friends.

In the Nativity story, Mary and Joseph, the innkeeper, shepherds and Magi all gave to the Christ Child without expecting any return.  They witness to us the wisdom of Christ our Teacher.  "You received without paying; give without repayment."  (Matt 10:8)

Sermon in a Bottle

31st Sunday in Ordinary Time - A.  "The word of God is now at work in you who believe."

St. Jerome once wrote, "Ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ."  Fifty years ago the Second Vatican Council freed the Catholic Church from its fear that the faithful will misinterpret the bible if they dare to read it.  It called for the riches of Scripture to be opened in the Eucharistic liturgy, through a three-year cycle of readings, and for pastors to encourage young and old to read, study and pray the bible.   The Holy Spirit continues to be at work through the word.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Solidarity Alive

One of those funny-odd churchy words is "solidarity."  Some may remember that this was the name of the labor union in Poland in the 1980s led by Lech Walesa which helped to bring down the Iron Curtain.  The Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church identifies solidarity as one of the four essential principles at the heart of Catholic social thought (along with the dignity of the human person, the common good, and subsidiarity).   In the words of the Compendium, "Solidarity highlights in a particular way the intrinsic social nature of the human person, the equality of all in dignity and rights, and the common path of individuals and peoples towards an ever more committed unity....the bond of interdependence between individuals and peoples."

Defining solidarity in the abstract is one thing, experiencing it is another.  Yet a few weeks ago, at the 46th annual Dinner for the Chimbote Foundation at the Sheraton Station Square Hotel in Pittsburgh I experienced solidarity through place, people, and purpose.

For me Chimbote, Peru, is not some dot on a map, it is a city I have visited, twice.  In 1983 and 1991 I joined the annual diocesan pilgrimage led by Msgr. John Kozar to visit Msgr. Jules Roos and the Maternidad de Maria (maternity hospital) he co-founded.  To my eyes the small frame building on a concrete slab was primitive, with its 30 beds in dormitory style.  Yet it was evident how proud the nurses and other employees were of their hospital.  On my first visit to the maternity ward Msgr. Roos handed me a two-day old little girl, wrapped in swaddling clothes and, he warned with a smile, without a diaper.  The girl's mother asked me in Spanish what was my name.  I answered, "Francisco."  She beamed and told me that she was so happy I came to visit her and her new-born, that she would name her daughter, "Francesca." 

Memories of my second visit include the one-day strike of the bus drivers in town.  They threw large stones onto the major streets of Chimbote, effectively preventing any vehicles (like our bus) to travel.  So one afternoon several of us Pittsburghers walked the mile or so from our hotel to the maternity hospital compound.  When Msgr. Roos found out we "violated" the strike by walking, he yelled at us and told us we were at risk of physical harm from the strikers.  A much more positive note was the celebration later that evening of the 25th anniversary of the maternity hospital.  Then-Bishop Donald Wuerl flew down to lead us in the celebration of Mass and be the host for a festive banquet in the local hotel. 

These memories of visiting Chimbote contribute to my sense of solidarity with the next generation of health care workers now leading the maternity hospital and social works center.

Another tangible expression of solidarity came through people.  At the end of that 1983 pilgrimage, four of us Pittsburgh priests flew from Chimbote to Talara Alta, a tiny village on the Peru-Ecuador border.  In this poor community Father Jack Price was serving as parish priest.  Talara Alta existed in one of the driest desserts on the planet.  Yet because of a severe El Nino weather pattern, it had rained every day from St. Stephen's Day (Dec. 26) right up to our arrival in the first week of June.   Father Price and his parishioners lived without electricity or any capacity for food storage.  Yet when we celebrated the Corpus Christi Mass that Sunday morning, the little second grade children who were making their First Holy Communion were splendid in immaculately clean white dresses and suits. 

At the most recent Chimbote Dinner, Father Price was honored by his sister, Sister Mary Price, S.C., as her family marked the 25th anniversary of his tragic and unexpected death in a flood in O'Hara Township in 1986.  The missionary who had survived a devastating earthquake, and later extreme floods in the dessert, was killed by the raging waters of Little Pine Creek.   Having visited Father Price both in Peru and as pastor of St. Joseph Parish on Dorseyville Road made solidarity easy for me with his ministry and life.

I was also privileged to sit at the table of Henrietta Gardner, one of my parishioners from New Castle.  Henrietta has financially and spiritually supported the Chimbote mission ever since she got to know then-Father Roos when he was a young assistant pastor at St. Joseph the Worker Parish in New Castle.  When he went off to the missions, she began writing him.  On the evening of the dinner she was serenaded by all 700 guests singing "Happy Birthday" for her 90th birthday along with the surprise visit of her six children.

The 700 guests at the Chimbote Dinner were blessed by the visit of Bishop Angel Francisco Simon Piorno of Chimbote.  He thanked all in Pittsburgh for their support of the maternity hospital and the growing efforts of the social works center.   He said that though there are 6,000 miles between the two cities there is a real closeness between them. 

Finally I witnessed solidarity in the shared purpose of the Chimbote Foundation.  Missionaries come in all sizes, ages, and locations.  Some like Msgr. Roos leave their home to minister in a faraway land.  Many, like the generous benefactors of the gala dinner, gift the missions with their money and prayers.  But the purpose is the same:  to carry on the mission of Christ to the needy we meet and know.  That shared purpose builds friendship between distant cities and dioceses, and is evidence of the common bond of faith and love, of friendship and solidarity, within the Body of Christ.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Sermon in a Bottle

30th Sunday in Ordinary Time - A.  "Love your neighbor as yourself."

I love this gospel passage, but I hate preaching it.  How do you top Luke's sermon on it, the parable of the Good Samaritan?  My usual course is to tell stories (which I have stolen from other preachers).  This Sunday my story basket was empty.  So I fell back on repeating the Corporal and Spiritual Works of mercy.  I added one to each:  support institutions of charity and justice to help bodily needs, and listen attentively and fully to respond to the emptiness of another's spirit. 

"The Way"

Where do spam emails come from?  I received one a week ago, and I'm glad I did.  It was an invitation to preview a new movie, "The Way."  I called my movie-loving friend Father Jim Garvey, and we agreed to meet at the theatre on Tuesday.

"The Way" is a small film which sneaks up on you.  No bombs, no car/train/plane chase scenes, no globe-trotting split-screen travel, it is much more like "real life" in the slow quiet little details which reveal much.

Tom Avery is a California eye doctor who gets a phone call on a golf course which changes his life.  His son has died in an accident in the Pyrenees in France.  He goes to claim a body, and to beat himself up for not being more understanding of his only child.  He finds out Daniel had begun walking the Camino de Santiago, the 800 kilometer pilgrimage path to the tomb of St. James the Apostle across northern Spain.  In a life-changing impulse, Tom decides to complete the walk his son never did.

And what a walk!  One of the characters in this film is the beauty of the countryside.  Mountains, fields, hillsides, grottos, villages, woods--God's creation is always there, unmentioned in the film yet moving in its ever-changing vistas.

On pilgrimage in true providential fashion Tom is joined by an unlikely group of companions:  Joost, a fat Dutchman with lots of weed, Sarah, a Canadian who says she's trying to quit smoking, and Jack, an irritating fast-talking Irish travel writer.  With hints of "The Wizard of Oz" and "Odysseus" the film unfolds with touching vignettes of their journey.  Each of the characters changes a little, and change each other.  I have to believe that there is also allusion to the Acts of the Apostles, and the first name of the earliest followers of Jesus the Christ, "the way."  (See Acts 9:2; 18:25; 19:9; 22:4)

To me the film is infused with a Catholic sensibility.  It takes people where they are, imperfect and with mixed motives, and allows the demands and stresses of pilgrimage to open up their awareness of their own humanity.  The way opens themselves to the presence of God. 

Pilgrimage is a common metaphor for life, yet every pilgrimage is different.  It is the gift of director Emilio Estevez (son of leading actor Martin Sheen) that the particularity of this Camino affects the particular characters and reveals them better to themselves.  Every person on a pilgrimage (whether one's life or a real physical journey) makes it alone.  But it is good to have companions on the way.

I doubt that "The Way" will make much money, or spend much time in theatres.  But definitely use On Demand or Netflix to see this touching and spiritual film.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Some Neat Blogs I Like

Writers write, and writers read.  The same is true of bloggers.  I wish I had more time to read other folks’ blogs, whether on the Catholic Church, politics, or football.  One of the neat things about good blogs is that you get information you wouldn’t find yourself, and you learn about the real human being behind the computer.

Here are four blogs I read – well, religiously!  Two for pro football, and two for more honest political discourse.

Peter King is a Sports Illustrated senior writer, and one of the best in the business at going deeper into the world of pro football.  He usually has five or six pages on more than you wanted to know about the NFL on the Monday after every Sunday during the NFL season and post-season, and another few pages during the week.  Somehow he manages to write entertaining and enlightening “thumb-suckers” for SI print as well.  If you like beer and the search for a good cup of coffee, you will love Peter King.  Type, go to “NFL” and find him on the cover. 

I first read Gregg Easterbrook’s quirky political pieces back in the 1980s in the Washington Monthly, a small-circulation magazine founded by curmudgeon Charlie Peters as a “neo-liberal” alternative to the far right and far left (to which I still subscribe).    Author of six books (none of which I have read), he somehow manages to turn out a great blog on pro football called “Tuesday Morning Quarterback.”   For years he blogged on his own.  Two years ago he was swallowed up in the ESPN embrace.  But the buttoned up corporate style of the Sports Empire of Bristol, Connecticut, hasn’t curbed Easterbrook one bit. 

You have to learn the TMQ lingo, however.  He’s renamed most of the NFL teams:  the Blue Man Group (Seattle Seahawks), Jersey/A  (New York Giants), Jersey/B (New York Jets), the Cactus Wrens (Arizona Cardinals), the Flying Elvii (New England Patriots), the Potomac Drainage Basin Indigenous Persons (Washington Redskins), and our beloved Hypocycloids (yes, the Pittsburgh Steelers).  You never know what will come up in his weekly column, whether it be the Sweet Play of the Week or Sour Play of the Week, Cheerleader of the Week (cheesy, I know), the Unified Field Theory of Creep, or The Football Gods Chortled.  And in the midst of very insightful, and cutting, football insight, you’ll also find stories on high-energy particle accelerators, why Fox sci-fi TV show “Terra Nova” is stupid (and it’s not the dumb acting), and exploring if there is a connection between the 20% increase in boys playing high school football, concussions, and the increase of women in colleges.  Find him at , or type “Tuesday Morning Quarterback” into your friendly search engine.

When I was a failure as a baseball player in Little League, I wondered if I could become an umpire.  I felt I could be fair and impartial in the face of conflicting opinions (like my Dad, manager of the Tigers, screaming at the ump for his wrong call).  I still wonder if anyone out there ever tries to “play fair” and “call ‘em as he sees ‘em.”

Two recent blog/columns do just that on our friends in the political world.  The older of the two is PolitiFact, a creation of the St. Petersburg (Florida) Times.  Several writers take yesterday’s statements by current office holders, or those running for high office, grind them through their own fair thought process, and end up judging them on their Truth-O-Meter , whether the statements are True, Mostly True, False, or Pants On Fire.  This original contribution to honest political discourse hasn’t stopped brain-addled candidates and politicians from making some real laughers, but it did win the newspaper a 2009 Pulitzer Prize.   Easy to find and bookmark at .

The Washington Post must have noticed the success of Politifact, and created The Fact Checker.  Veteran political writer Glenn Kessler does the same thing with current statements in the media, and makes his judgment by awarding zero to four Pinocchios.  He can be found at .   If you do nothing else, read his reasoned and sensible explanation of what Social Security is and is not, and why it is definitely not a Ponzi scheme.

Sermon in a Bottle

29th  Sunday in Ordinary Time - A.  "Repay to Caesar what is Caesar's, and to God what is God's."

Jesus is verbally trapped by the Pharisees again, and his brilliant imagination allows him to escape, through one of the most famous riddles in the Bible.  What does it mean?  Caesar's reign is limited, God's creation is unlimited.  Simple, right?  Wrong!  Trying to apply the religion-in-politics matrix in any age is difficult.  The U.S. Catholic bishops help us to apply prudential decisions within the framework of moral principles in their re-issued 2007 excellent document, "Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship."  Read it!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Sermon in a Bottle

28th Sunday in Ordinary Time - A.  "Go out into the main roads and invite to the feast whomever you find."

If there is one consistent theme in Jesus's parables, it's that God's love is expansive beyond the imagination of his contemporaries -- and often beyond ours.  In God's banquet hall there are no "favored few."  God's invitation to rich food and holy friendship extends to the down-and-out folks walking the back streets and alleys we avoid.  The religous leaders Jesus confronts couldn't accept such a vision of God.  Can we?

Monday, October 10, 2011

Citizenship Must Be Faith-Filled

On October 4 the Catholic Bishops of the United States announced that instead of writing a new document to guide the consciences of the faithful, in anticipation of the 2012 presidential election, they reaffirmed their 2007 guide,  Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship.  Every four years, dating back to 1976, the bishops have issued these papers summarizing major social issues facing our nation and culture.  In announcing this decision, Archbishop Timothy Dolan, president of the U.S.C.C.B., stated that nine committee chairmen signed off on this decision.  Printed copies of FCFC 2011 would have an "Introductory Note." 

According to the U.S.C.C.B. press release, the Introductory Note "does not modify or interpret the document itself and emphasizes the importance of religious freedom.  It raises six 'current and fundamental problems, some involving opposition to intrinsic evils and others raising serious moral questions.'  These are:  abortion and threats to the lives and dignity of the vulnerable, sick or unwanted; threats to Catholic ministries, including health care, education and social services, to violate their consciences or stop serving those in need; intensifying efforts to redefine marrige; unemployment, poverty and debt; immigration; and wars, terror and violence, particularly in the Middle East."

The 2007 version of FCFC brought the most visibility, and controversy, to these quadrennial documents.  A few bishops interpreted the words of their own conference to mean that abortion alone should be the defining issue for Catholic citizens and others making choices in the presidential election and other elections.  Several conservative organizations and public Catholics condemned the document.  You would think after this publicity, and the historic nature of the 2008 presidential election, that a large number of pew-sitting-Catholics would have heard about this valuable guide.  But a recent survey by CARA (the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate, a  Georgetown University think tank) found that only 16% of self-identified Catholics had even heard of Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship, 30% were not sure, and a majority 54% never heard of it.  Further questioning in the survey revealed that less than 1% had read the 32-page document in its entirety, only 2% had read the short form.  (These must have been Saint Juan Diego parishioners, because I reprinted the short form in my bulletin that fall.)  Clearly more must be done to bring this teaching of the bishops into the parish churches, pews and household discussions of the faithful.

The controversy over the document four years ago hid the fact that, unlike previous pre-presidential-election guides, which were only U.S.C.C.B. committee approved, the 2007 version was voted on by the entire membership, and overwelmingly, 214-4.  In similar fashion, the 2011 version (same words as 2007, with addition of the short Introductory Note), was issued after being signed off by the president and nine committee chairmen, count 'em, nine (including two wise Pittsburghers).  The bishops, their sees and committee:  Timothy Dolan (New York), president of the bishops's conference; Stephen Blaire (Stockton), Domestic Justice and Human Development; Howard Hubbard (Albany), International Justice and Peace; Donald Wuerl (Washington), Doctrine; Daniel DiNardo (Galveston-Houston), Pro-Life Activities; Thomas Curry (L.A. auxiliary), Catholic Education; Gabino Zavala (L.A. auxiliary), Communications; Kevin Rhoades (Fort Wayne-South Bend), Laity, Marriage, Family Life and Youth; Jaime Soto (Sacramento), Cultural Diversity in the Church; and Jose Gomez (L.A.), Migration.   There are days that getting ten bishops in a room and agreeing on something is the same as getting ten Jesuits in a room, and ending up with 12, or 14, or 21 thoughts.  Blessedly, not on the value of Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship.

I think that the decision to reaffirm FCFC is an excellent idea, and that the bishops are to be commended for it.  At the very least, it allows more and more Catholics, and other Christians and neighbors, to be exposed to a rich and challenging piece of practical, orthodox, time-tested teaching.

To our friends on the right it says, abortion is without a doubt an intrinsic evil and must be opposed at every turn.  But it is not the only issue, in the upcoming election or in our country.  Other very important issues -- war, poverty, protecting the poor and vunerable in continuing economic crisis, upholding marriage, repairing a broken immigration system, supporting religious freedom, among others -- must also be part of the "forming conscience process" for any thoughtful and faithful voter.  To be blunt, the Catholic Church is not the chaplain for the Republican Party.

To our friends on the left it says, abortion is without a doubt an intrinsic evil and must be opposed at every turn.  It also says political decisions are moral decisions.  The Catholic Church has a wealth of wisdom, and the experience of millions of servants in Catholic Healthcare, Catholic Education, Catholic Charities, and Catholic parishes, which must be taken seriously when making decisions for whom to vote.  Politics based only on party affiliation is inadequate and unworthy of practicing Catholics.  To be blunt, the Catholic Church is not the Democratic Party at prayer.

To everyone FCFC says that there is more to political participation in a democracy than voting.  It includes learning the positions of the candidates, testing their autheticity and voting record, discussing issues in public forums, and where appropriate, even contributing time or money to a particular candidate.  Catholic social moral teaching is not optional.  The application of Catholic social moral teaching in the real world of today will be messy, controversial, inadequate--and an imperative for Catholics.   FCFC also says that the Catholic Church, and every one of its 400 active bishops, 26,000 priests, and 30,000+ lay ecclesial ministers cannot tell you whom to vote for.  FCFC says, inform yourself, pray, think, discuss, involve yourself in the political process, vote -- and then repeat for every election, municipal, county, state and national. 

To get a jump on your bishop or pastor, go to the website devoted to .

I know that my parishioners will hear from me about Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship.  I hope that parishioners all over our diocese, and country, do too.  Most of all, I dream about FCFC-wielding Catholics lobbying our clueless politicians about the real and vital issues in our country -- and then motivating them to act to build up the common good and the upholding of all human life.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

"I Love This Church"

Another down side to moving is all those boxes of "stuff" I have carried from rectory to rectory to rectory.  I am all too slowly working my way through boxes and boxes of books, papers, magazines, letters, financial records, prayer cards, liturgy worship aids, Steeler paraphernalia, gifts, paintings, mementos and photographs.  A nice byproduct of this excavation into the detretus of my past is finding things I had forgotten.

Here's an example of what I mean.  This is a prayer attributed to Walter Burghardt, S.J., medieval scholar, long-time editor of Theological Studies, co-founder of the Preaching the Just Word retreats, and author of more than a dozen books of homilies for many occasions.  Father Burghardt died about two years ago at the age of 95.

I Love This Church

In the course of a half century,
I have seen more Christian corruption
than you have read of.

I have tasted it.
I have been reasonable corrupt myself.

And yet, I love this church,
this living, pulsing, sinning people of God
with a crucifying passion.


For all the Christian hate,
I exerience here a community of love.

For all the institutional idiocy,
I find here a tradition of reason.

For all the individual repressions,
I breathe here an air of freedom.

For all the fear of sex,
I discover here the redemption of my body.

In an age so inhuman,
I touch here tears of compassion.

In a world so grim and humorless,
I share here rich joy and earthy laughter.

In the midst of death,
I hear an incomparable stress on life.

For all the apparent absence of God,
I sense here the real presence of Christ.

Walter Burghardt, S.J.

Welcome Mat

I was transferred to these two parishes in New Castle on August 1, 2011. This is the 11th locale for ministry, my 13th actual move, in my 33 years as a priest. (Two times I have switched rectories within an assignment.  Once two parishes merged; once I sold the rectory  in which I was living.)   Moving is no fun; neither is learning a whole new set of names of parishioners and staff.

But I have found that people are welcoming just about everywhere. This has been especially true here in New Castle.  I came days before the four-day Summer Festival of St. Vitus Parish.  Walking the grounds and the school and the booths gave me at least the chance to be seen by a large number of parishioners and neighbors. I can’t say that I remember very many of the names of folks. Only one of me but thousands of them! But people were friendly. 

The same hospitality has been in evidence at the parish where I now reside, St. Vincent de Paul.

A recent example of the friendliness is when I received a very nice invitation a week ago by the faculty of St. Vitus School to dinner, in order to celebrate my 33rd anniversary of priesthood ordination.  We went to a local Italian restaurant (are there any other kind in New Castle?!) and had a great time.

The next day, Friday, September 30, was my actual anniversary.  The students of St. Vitus School gave me "a rosary garden" during their regular weekly Mass.  Each student had said ten Hail Mary's for me.  Students gave me three cute posters which listed the classrooms and names of each student and teacher, all in the form of a flower garden.  After Mass we went outside into the warm fall morning and posed for an all-school picture.  The priest on the left is my associate for both parishes, Father Sean Francis. 

Each day I feel more and more at home here in New Castle.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Pittsburgh Revolution

With the proliferation of video, even on smart cell phones, you’d think that old-fashioned still photography would be dead.  You’d be wrong.

If you want neat views of western Pennsylvania landmarks and people (and a few from across the globe), go to the exhibit of “panoramics” on the website of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.        ( )  Photographer Steve Mellon and others make a 360 degree circle with their cameras of some nifty local scenes.  By using your mouse you can “do a 360,” or zoom in or out, or anything else.  The most recent post is the on-going Civic Arena interior demolition.  But there are any number of others, including the recent 10th anniversary somber ceremonies at the Flight 93 memorial in Shanksville, Steeler training camp, and a wondrous interior view of St. Anthony’s Chapel (with over 5,000 authentic saints’s relics, aka “the bone yard”) in Troy Hill. 

I first noticed this photo technique in the Post-Gazette two years ago with Steve Mellon’s view of Page’s Dairy Mart, at the corner of Carson Street and Becks Run Road, just beyond South Side.  (It’s in the Revolution archives, dated 7/13/2009.)  This outdoor ice cream palace underneath a huge and always-leaking-rain-water train viaduct is only about three miles from where I grew up in Baldwin.  As some of you know, my dad was a Little League baseball manager for North Baldwin for many years.  Page’s would give out a free milkshake to any kid in the North Baldwin league who hit a home run, or got four hits in one game, or who pitched a shutout.  No dummies they.  When any kid got the free milkshake, of course it was Dad or Mom who had to drive him to Page’s—along with three or four of his teammates.  The Dairy Mart made out like bandits.  Since my brothers Fred and Len were demon players, they often got the free milkshake card.  My brothers and I made out like bandits—at the expense of my dad’s wallet!  But even now, 60 years after its founding, it’s still a neat place to go for great ice cream treats.  (Closed November through March.)

Also in the archives, check out Isaly’s in West View, Joe’s Shoe Repair on Fourth Street Downtown, or St. Nicholas Croatian Church, Millvale, or lots of others.  Enjoy new, and old, vistas of Pittsburgh.

Sermon in a Bottle

27th Sunday in Ordinary Time – A.  “The kingdom of God will be taken away from you.”

In the gospels Jesus mostly addresses the crowds or the twelve.  But in Matthew chapter 21 Jesus confronts the elders, chief priests and Pharisees—the religious leaders of his faith.  Through this allegory Jesus expresses his disdain for them and how they have hidden the mercy of God from the people.  In response the leaders plot to arrest the impudent, unlettered teacher from hick Nazareth.  This passage is a challenge to today’s Christian leaders also.  Do they (we) produce wild grapes or rich fruit?