Thursday, February 9, 2017

going on the radio


Dear Family and Friends,

Tomorrow (Friday) is the first feast day of Saint José Sánchez del Río, the Mexican boy I wrote my book, “Blessed José”, about.

EWTN radio asked me to go on live tomorrow morning at 6:35am EST to talk about Saint José. Should be fun!

You can listen at: http://www.ewtn.com/radio/

Happy feast of Saint José!
Father Kevin
www.blessedjose.com 



Friday, December 2, 2016

3 Hidden Treasures

My Community - Yours truly, Brother Vinh, Deacon Lucio, Father Louis, Father John, Father Matthew, and Brother Thomas
Dear Family and Friends,

Sometimes the greatest treasures are hidden in plain sight.

Mary's Poinsettia
Take Brother Thomas. A few days ago I had bought a mini poinsettia for the statue of Mary in our chapel. After a few days, it started to wilt. Now I love plants, but they’re often mysterious to me. I water them and they die. I don’t water them and… they die! Then yesterday as I was cooking breakfast out of the corner of my eye I saw brother Thomas carrying the little poinsettia around. He did something by the sink with it, then set it out in the hallway for a little, then a few hours later, there was the poinsettia back by the Blessed Mother, just like new. Now, maybe he made some little side trip to the florist, but I think he actually has some kind of special power over plants. You’d never have thought!


Brother Thomas meets his match
Or Father Louis. We all take turns cooking – and sometimes things turn out better, sometimes worse. I was in a rush the other, so my plan for lunch was to scarf down a sandwich and jump in the car. But as I entered the kitchen, tempting aromas drifted from the pots and pans Father Louis had bubbling on the stovetop. It made me pause. But I still made my sandwich and, after we had prayed, started gulping it down. “Would you like some?” Father Louis asked. He had put together an alfredo shrimp pasta with zucchini and mushrooms and other delicious mystery ingredients inside. I took a little dab on my plate. And then some more. And then some more. Pretty soon I had given up hope of speeding away, and was neck-deep in a plateful of his pasta masterpiece. I canceled my appointment and spent lunch enjoying his good food and the conversation with my brothers.

Father Louis
Or there’s Brother Vinh. I’m running out of hair, but while I still have some, I’m the kind of guy who goes to Great Clips and gets the $10 haircut. Usually I look like a hedgehog for about two weeks afterwards, and then things even out. But Brother Vinh cuts hair. So I asked him the other day to cut mine. He agreed, sat me down, and then went to work. Afterwards I was shocked: gone was the usual itchy-icky-I’d-better-take-a-shower feel! I’m no judge of haircuts, but I got plenty of compliments and definitely skipped the hedgehog stage this time. Brother Vinh’s haircut made me feel good.

Brother Vinh
You see, these men I live with don’t just do work. They pour their hearts into what they do. I’ll never forget the time I asked my mom what her secret was to her always making utterly scrumptious and delicious food. She simply replied: “As I cook, I love everyone who I’m cooking for.” And that’s it! That’s the secret! That’s what makes her food different, as well as Father Louis’, that’s what makes Brother Vinh’s haircuts so different, that’s what makes Brother Thomas caring touch so amazing. Love. I consider myself blessed to have a mother who is so steeped in it, and to have brothers who incarnate it.

Sunday I head to Rome with 13 pilgrims, please send any prayer intentions you may have my way.

Also, as Christmas approaches I wanted to let you know my own needs, in case you feel called to support me. Would you be willing to help my ministry? I receive a part-time salary ($12,000), which pays for a little over half of my yearly expenses. Healthcare, transportation, clothes, food, and other supplies cost me about $22,000 a year. Would you please ask our Lord if he would have you do to support my mission as a priest and missionary?

You can make a tax-deductible donation to my religious community here in Cincinnati via our website http://www.ohiolc.org/donate.html , or send a check to:

LC Pastoral Services
8162 Chestershire Drive
Cincinnati, OH 45241

My Amazon wishlist is here. I can always use Amazon gift cards for books and the like.

I also would like to purchase five bible commentaries for software I use called Verbum. They each cost about $40. You could donate here.

You will be in my prayers this Advent!

God bless you,
Father Kevin

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Padre Pio does it again, and again, and again

Dear family and friends,

So literally minutes after I sent out the last cobblestones about Padre Pio, he did it again.

I was kneeling in our chapel doing night prayers with the other priests. Ever since I wrote a book about a young Mexican Martyr, Blessed José, I’ve had a special devotion to him. When I first started writing the book in 2004, he wasn’t even “Blessed”. Part of my hope in writing his story was to spread word about him and maybe help in the push for him to be canonized – named a “Saint”. But that seemed like such a huge hurdle, that I didn’t really think it would happen.

Fast forward to last January, when Pope Francis suddenly announced that he would canonize Blessed José.

He set the canonization for October 16th.

Guess who really really really wanted to go?

But I’m a religious, took a vow of obedience, so I can’t just up and decide to go to Rome. I had to ask for permission.

With the date getting close, this last week was painful. I hadn’t heard anything either way. I kind of assumed it was a no-go.

So I’m kneeling there, just having written the story of Padre Pio’s getting me to visit San Giovanni Rotondo, just having reread my journal and realizing that he had given me all the graces I asked him for (like letting my little brother talk), and it hit me like a ton of bricks: I had to ask Padre Pio. To get me to Rome.

And so I did. I told him – and even wrote it down – “Padre Pio, if you obtain for me the grace of visiting Rome for Blessed José, I will do my utmost to visit you!”

Bam. As I wrote those words, I knew he had answered my prayer. Have you ever felt that? I did. I just knew it. I wanted to check my email right then and there… but decided to wait till the next day.

Sure enough, after Breakfast when I opened my inbox, the message was sitting there. “APPROVED”. Hurray!!!

So I’m going! God is so good! And Padre Pio is awesome!  (And I’d better make it over to San Giovanni Rotondo while I’m there :) )


Please let me know if there’s anything you’d like me to pray for during my pilgrimage. 

And may God bless you,
Father Kevin 

Friday, September 23, 2016

Padre Pio does it again

Padre Pio taking the place of Simon of Cyrene in the Stations of the Cross in San Giovanni Rotondo
Dear family and friends,

Not again! Why was someone knocking at my door? Another broken light switch, no doubt. I ignored the knocking and continued my studying.

I was nearing the end of my time in Rome. Electrical work always came easy to me, but my talent had become something of a nuisance as more and more of my fellow seminarians asked me to help them with their electrical woes at all hours of the day. I was studying to become a priest, not a handyman.

And I was focused. I had to pass all my theology exams. And, well, only a week before I had taken store of my time in Rome. I remembered with satisfaction my many visits to Assisi, the home of Saint Francis. And Siena, Saint Catherine’s hilltop hometown. Some dear friends and I had visited Loreto, where the Holy Family’s house was. Monte Cassino and Subiaco had been beautiful, truly Benedictine places. And I had visited every single holy place and Church on my list in Rome many, many times.

Only Padre Pio remained. Back when I first joined the seminary I had read a book about this humble, holy, Capuchin priest who bore the wounds of Christ – the stigmata – in his body. And ever since, I had wanted to visit the town where he had spent the last 52 years of his life. It was called San Giovanni Rotondo, and unlike most of the other holy places I had visited, there was no easy way to get there. It lay on the other side of the snow-capped peaks of the high Appenines, four hours by car, if you were lucky enough to have a car. And I wasn’t.

So I pleaded with Padre Pio, “Come on Padre Pio, get me to San Giovanni.”

I had learned that trick from an old Italian friend in Milan. Whenever she walked by the framed picture of Padre Pio in her house, she showed me how she would grab Padre Pio’s beard and give it a playful shake, telling him, “Don’t forget about us, Padre Pio.”

Fast forward exactly a week after I had made my request to Padre Pio. I had ignored the first knock on my door and continued my studies. Then came a second knock. This one was tenacious!

Reluctantly, I pushed my chair away from the desk and made my way across the room. Ever so slowly, I cracked open my door and peered into the hallway.

And what a surprise, it was Father Timothy, my Vice-Rector.

“Brother Kevin, do you know how to drive manual?” he asked.

I shook my head a little, trying to get my head around his question. “Yes, uh, yes I do,” I replied hesitating, still determined to defend my study time, even if it was the second-in-charge priest asking.

“Father Alex and I had planned a trip to San Giovanni Rotondo, you know, the Shrine of Padre Pio, and the rental car we got is a manual, and neither of us can drive it.”

My head was spinning.

“Can you?” he asked, hopefully.

I moved my lips a little, not believing what I was hearing. I had spent the last five years of my life in Rome, and only now, precisely a week after I had asked Padre Pio, I was being invited on a fluke to visit his shrine! And I had told no one of my request!

“Sure, when do you want to leave?” I asked, hardly believing this was really happening.

“Oh, in ten minutes would be nice,” he replied.
hospital founded by Padre Pio

In ten minutes we were pulling out of the driveway, headed for San Giovanni Rotondo. The drive was beautiful – you spend about half your time in tunnels under the Appenines – and the little town itself was definitely a holy place. I always tell people how much I was shocked by the condition of the hospital there. I had been to many hospitals in Italy, and most left much to be desired. But this hospital, founded by Padre Pio himself, was clean and well-run, and truly cutting-edge.
praying in the crypt church

The same little church where Padre Pio heard up to as many as a hundred confessions a day was there. We visited the choir loft where he received his stigmata, and his monastery room to which hundreds of letters would arrive daily. The new Shrine there was a bit skate-parkish, but the crypt where Padre Pio’s body is was a wonderful place to pray.
visiting Padre Pio's tomb

And mine was a prayer of gratitude. I asked Padre Pio’s blessing on my theology studies, and on my future priesthood.

It pays to have friends in heaven!

Happy Feast of Padre Pio,
Father Kevin


PS: Ok, this might sound crazy, but I just looked at my journal for that day. There I listed the requests I had made of Padre Pio. One of them was that my little brother John Paul would be able to talk. He can now.  I hadn’t even made the connection. Wow! Read about my brother talking here.


Saturday, August 13, 2016

a view from the asphalt

Dear Family and Friends,

Last Saturday I officiated at my second wedding, and it was beautiful. Well, except for the fact that the wedding was at 6pm, and the priest showed up at exactly 6pm. And the rest of the story is…

I was trying to make good time as I drove from Chicago to Cinncinati, but an Ordination I attended earlier in the day went a little longer than planned. The GPS said I would arrive at 5:30, not exactly an hour early as I had hoped for, but still respectable.

During my morning prayer time earlier that day I had been reading one of my favorite authors, Ruth Burrows. She was talking about how we need “constant watchfulness for the call of God,” and how “we miss countless opportunities when he is there offering himself because we don’t notice him, we are not really looking for him.”

I was pushing the speed limit – 70mph – the whole way. So was everybody else. It was a beautiful sunny day, and many people were out joyriding in sports cars and motorcycles. Indiana is one of the states where you don’t have to wear a helmet when driving a motorcycle, and there were many helmetless bikers out.

My GPS had said there would be no traffic, so I was surprised when people started hitting their brake lights. Then things grew to a standstill.

As I sat there watching the clock, I was starting to grow impatient. Of all times! Wish I had a helicopter!

Finally traffic started moving slowly. We all inched ahead until some stopped cars came into view.

Then the Red Sea parted.

The car in front of me pulled into the fast lane and there, sitting in the middle of the road with his back to me, was a man.

Now this was I-465, the beltway around Indianapolis, a three lane highway. You don’t sit in the middle of I-465.

I stopped my car and put on my hazard lights.

As a seminarian, one of the things you’d hear about were stories of priests coming across accidents and being able to offer the anointing of the sick or absolution to a dying soul. (one of the most amazing stories is here)

So as a young priest I would often think about the day it might happen to me.

But not today. Not when I was in such a hurry – and for a wedding of all things. You don’t arrive late to weddings when you’re the priest.

I honestly think I might have kept driving if it hadn’t been for my reading that bit about always being ready for the “call of God.”

And so I got out of the car. Several other people had already gotten out out too. The police hadn’t arrived yet. Then I noticed the blood. There was a pool of it behind the man. A woman was kneeling in front of him holding a torn t-shirt against a wound.

I try to wear my clerics as much as possible, and so one of the people who had stopped asked if I was a Catholic priest. “Yes,” I said. “Oh man, good thing. I was going to try to pray with them but you’re way better,” he said.

The woman was in tears, not hysterical but almost. She kept repeating, “You can’t die, I’m so sorry, you can’t die.”

While the man had lost a lot of blood and definitely had some broken bones, he could talk and move a good bit. One of the bystanders had some medical experience and we both told the woman, “He’s going to be ok.”

“Are you sure?” she asked. We reassured her, but she kept crying and kept repeating, “I’m so sorry, I’m so sorry, you can’t die.”

As I knelt there on the pavement, holding both of them by the shoulders, I learned they were Christians, a married couple, and asked them if they would like to pray. “Yes, I really want to pray now,” the woman said. We prayed the Our Father together and I offered a little spontaneous prayer. That seemed to give them both a little more peace.

Soon a police officer arrived and then the paramedics. Before they whisked the man and his wife into the ambulance, I gave them a blessing and reassured them both that they would be ok.

As I headed back to my car, an older man came up to me, obviously wanting to talk.

“Did you see what happened?” he asked.

“No, I didn’t see the accident,” I said.

“They just lost control, right in front of me,” he explained. “I had just come from rehab with my son, who was in a motorcycle accident 13 years ago. He wasn’t supposed to ever walk again, but is doing perfectly fine now. When I pulled onto the highway, there was this couple right in front of me, with no helmets on, and I thought of my son. So I kept my distance and was able to stop when they lost control.”

I was speechless.

“It was a miracle,” he said, “just like my son’s recovery.”

I agree. It was a miracle. And somehow God put me there, in just the right place, to give a little support and encouragement.

And the wedding? They were just happy to have a priest, and everything went beautifully.

In the heat of the moment it’s so hard to hear God’s call and trust that everything will be ok if we follow it.

Thankfully last Saturday, he placed his call smack dab in the middle lane, and all was well!

Praying you are enjoying a blessed summer!
Father Kevin



Monday, July 11, 2016

princesses and thunderstorms

the first altar
Dear Family and Friends,

“Are you sure?” I asked. “It’s raining cats and dogs out there!”

“Father, we have to do this, the girls have been preparing all day for it.”

It was the last day of the Cinderella-themed Girls Summer Camp I was chaplain at last week in Wisconsin.  The weather had been amazing all week long – gentle breezes, light and fluffy clouds, temperatures in the 70’s. But then came the last day. Severe thunderstorms vied with each other for the upper hand. Puddles formed everywhere.

During a break in the rain, the four teams of girls had each set up and decorated an outdoor altar for our evening Eucharistic Procession.

My proposal, as the rain beat against the windows, was to move everything indoors: “We can have a procession around the chapel,” I suggested.

“Don’t worry about the rain, father. Someone will be holding an umbrella over you and Jesus,” answered one of the consecrated women of Regnum Christi, who were running the camp.

And so we headed out into the rain. I carried the monstrance with Jesus inside, a camper held an umbrella over us, and three more campers went in front, two with candles and one with incense. Each of the altars had been moved under some sort of roof, but between each one we had to walk several hundred feet in pouring rain.

“Pouring” is an understatement. It was really “driving” rain. An umbrella can’t stop rain drops that fall sideways. And I was the only one in the group of forty who had an umbrella!

The girls who prepared the first altar had written their own prayers which they said out loud; beautiful, simple prayers. I could feel the smile on Jesus’ face.


After, I gave benediction, tracing the sign of the cross over everyone with the monstrance. 

at the second altar
Then it was out into the rain again. We had to cross two fields and a road. It took a while just to find a place in the road where the puddles were less than ankle deep. Eventually we found one, but not until many feet were soaking wet.


Arriving at the altar, placed under an overhang outside a gym, we again prayed and I gave the benediction. Again the girls read their prayers. 
third altar
Then we headed into the gym for the third altar. At least inside the rain couldn’t touch us, but we still had one more altar outside, and there were those two fields and the road to cross back over again.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        
Was I imagining things, or as we were stepping into the gym, was that a patch of clear sky in the distance?

Everything went smoothly at this third altar, the girls said their prayers, I gave benediction, and out we headed again into the – not rain. The rain had stopped. The grass was still dripping wet, puddles covered the ground, but the rain was gone. As the girl holding the umbrella closed it up, Gospel words came to my mind, “Oh you of little faith!”

processing

The fourth altar was under a gazebo. I set Jesus upon the altar and gave Him thanks for this most recent little miracle of His. Looking at the weather radar afterwards, it was like the storm had divided right above where we were, gone around us, and left us in peace. And it certainly was a peaceful night: the moon was out now and even one bright star glimmered down through the retreating clouds. The girls gathered close around the gazebo, and I could feel their prayerfulness and their gratitude too.


I gave benediction, and then we headed back across the fields. And what was this – the storm was still there in front of us, dark clouds, flashing lightning and all – but now it only formed a beautiful backdrop to our procession. It was like all nature wanted to join us too. And I had wanted to stay inside!
back in the chapel

We returned to our chapel and the girls took turns all night spending time with Jesus in Eucharistic Adoration.

Afterwards, one of the Consecreated Women reminded me of the prayer I had directed at the first altar: “Jesus doesn’t always stop the storm, but He does walk with us through it. And then when we embrace the storm, He clears away the clouds.” 

What made me laugh was the next day walking to breakfast with the girls across those same fields we had crossed the night before. One of the girls – one who isn’t Catholic but had decided to try out the Catholic girls camp – came up to me and asked, “Father, guess how long I spent in adoration last night?” I shrugged my shoulders, expecting her to say, “An hour.”

“Five and a half hours,” she said with a smile.

“How long did you sleep?” I asked, trying not to choke.

“Oh, four hours,” she replied without skipping a beat.

I would have rather she slept a bit more, but she spent that time in adoration of her own free will. I don’t think I’ve ever gone that long, and I’m a priest!!!

This was just one little part of a blessed week, a week in which I was “Blessed among women.”  :) We prayed, sang, did archery, canoed, rode horses, had a talent show, did arts and crafts, and so much more.

“Why do we have this camp?” asked Marial, one of the Consecrated Women, at the closing ceremony. “We have this camp so that at least for one week of the year, Jesus can have a place to come and rest and be at peace.”

I wholeheartedly agree. And I got to come and rest and be at peace all week long with Him!

Wishing you all a restful summer,

Father Kevin

Sunday, May 15, 2016

my brother's blades


Dear Family and Friends,

It took me nineteen years to find someone who loves ice skating more than I do. And of all people, it’s someone who will never wear ice skates.

Let me back up a little.

I’m the third of nine children. Each of us is so different and unique: I couldn’t imagine life with any one missing.

All of us have left home now, except for my littlest brother, John Paul. He probably never will. He can’t walk, he can’t hear very well, he can’t speak like you and I do. He wasn’t ever supposed to live more than a few days. Down syndrome, Autism, Cerebral Palsy, Blindness – these are just some of the conditions he lives with.

I remember asking my mom and dad many times if they thought he even understood anything that we told him. Did it matter if I said goodbye or hello to him? Could he hear at all? Both my mom and dad said they didn’t know, but that they thought we should always speak to him like anyone else, in case he really did understand.

It was ice skating that did the trick.

My mom had often suggested taking little John Paul, in his wheelchair, to the hockey rink.

tired little hockey players: my older brothers Brian on the left, Dan on the right, and yours truly in the middle
I grew up on skates, almost. The Saint Louis Blues practice rink was literally down the street from my house. Then I played pond hockey for five years straight, all winter long, every day the weather permitted. I’m not a grisly, tooth-missing hockey monster, but I love to play hockey and I love to skate.

I was hesitant about taking John Paul. Who could tell if he would like it, or if it would even work at all? Finally on one visit home from my studies in Rome I took my mom up on her suggestion. Again, uncertain if he would even understand, I asked my mom if I should tell John Paul what we were about to do. "Sure you should,” she said.

So I did. “John Paul, I’m taking you ice skating,” I said as we set about lifting him from his bed into his wheelchair.

His brow furrowed. Hmm. I hadn’t seen him react like that before to anything that I’d ever said. It was just the kind of thing I’d do if someone had told me they were going to take me to do something I’d never done before. “Kevin, I’m taking you sky diving”. “You’re what?”

It was simple, I would take him to the rink, put on my skates, and push him around during a public skating session.  My mom had checked with the rink before and they even had a special ramp for me to push him onto the ice with, wheelchair and all.

At 17, John was skinny, but very tall, so it would take herculean efforts to maneuver him into my dad’s old mobility van. Instead I just pushed him in his wheelchair the quarter mile or so from my house to the rink. We got a lot of stares as we crossed a busy five-lane boulevard. And even more stares came as I sat down on the bench and put on my skates, John Paul rocking rhythmically beside me in his chair, like he always does.
 
starting to skate
As soon as I pushed him onto the ice, I could feel his body tense with uncertainty. He had never felt anything like this before.

We started slow. With the brakes on his wheelchair locked, he slid smoothly across the ice.

People gawked at us as we slid past. Little children stared like they were seeing an apparition. One little boy stared so long he forgot where he was going and crashed into one of the side walls, picking himself up quickly.
It was after maybe the second time around that John Paul started laughing, his deep chuckles resounding off the ice and boards. He was loving it.

When we’d go down the straightaways he’d rock quickly, almost as if he was riding a horse and willing it to go faster. Then when we’d hit a turn he’d squeal with delight and clap his hands.



After a few laps, I tried something new. When we’d come to a turn, I’d do a loop de loop. At first the tension returned to John Paul’s body, then he made clear that he really really liked the loop de loops. Every straight away he’d start hollering and building up his excitement until we hit the turn and did one, two, or three loop de loops, and he would squeal with glee. My dad even videotaped us a bit, and you can hear his laughter at the end.
 
hyper speed!
When one of the skating rink attendants had to ask us to slow down, I realized just how much fun I was having as well. As we left the rink and headed for home, sweat dripped from my exhausted body. John Paul still chuckled every so often, the memories of our time on the ice rippling through his body.
 
my dad even pushed John Paul
I’d never connected with him like this before.

Perhaps the proof of the pudding was the next time I came home, a year later or so. I walked in the door and asked John Paul, “John, would you like to go skating?”

He started laughing and squealing, ready to go it seemed. When we were about to lift him from his bed into his wheelchair, I told him what we were about to do, and he said, “K”, which I soon realized was his way of saying, “Ok.”

And I had thought he’d never be able to understand anything I said to him. It took ice skating to bridge that gap between us. My parents now believe he understands most everything we say around him. Every time I go home I try to take him for a spin at the local rink. And he loves it. And I love him.

My little brother loves ice skating just as much as I do, maybe even more!

May God bless you,
Father Kevin

PS: My dad is entered in a contest, just during May, to try to win a new mobility van to transport John Paul in, would you please cast a vote for him? Here’s the link: http://www.mobilityawarenessmonth.com/entrant/bill-mckenzie-st-louis-mo/ If you would like to receive daily email reminders until the end of May, just let me know.