Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Saint José Is In Print!

My New Book!
Dear Friends,
I got a nice surprise in the mail yesterday. It was the catalog from a publishing house called Ignatius Press. In the new book section was a book I wrote, called “Saint José”.
This has been a long time coming! I started writing in 2005, and I was making the very last edits just this Monday. Fourteen years is a lot, but the results are worth it, I think. 
You may have heard of José. He was a fourteen year-old Mexican boy who died rather than deny his faith during the Cristero War in Mexico in 1928.
Hearing his story when I was twelve was powerful inspiration for me to become a priest.  At the time, I was devouring the lives of the saints, especially a series that Ignatius published called the Vision Series. But when I looked for something about José, I found nothing.

Now José is a saint, and now my book is the latest in the Vision Series. God is so good! I hope to write many more! (Right now, I'm working on Saint Kevin of Glendalough)
The Ignatius Press Catalog
The book goes to print today and it is already available for preorder on the Ignatius website here. It will be available April 28th. I think it would be a great confirmation or even first holy communion present. Saint José's story is inspiring for all.
May you have a blessed beginning of Spring!
Father Kevin


Saturday, February 2, 2019

two sorrows turned to joys

John Paul and his new van!!!
Dear family and friends,

This last weekend surprised me. Twice.

As you know, my little brother John Paul suffers from a host of limitations: autism, hydrocephalous, blindness and aphasia, among others. He is confined to a wheelchair or his bed. 

Taking care of John Paul has always been a challenge, but my parents have poured themselves into him, and, instead of not living a day like the doctors had originally told them, John Paul is now 22 years old.

John Paul and Dad with the van - you can see the old van in the background
For the last ten years or so, one of the hardest parts of caring for John Paul was transporting him places. Our old van was too much of a hassle—not to mention danger—to him and us. We could take John Paul ice skating because the rink is a five minute walk from our house. We also could take him on walks through the neighborhood. But for the life of me, I can’t remember the last time we took him anywhere else except for doctor’s appointments, when we absolutely had to.

riding in the new van with John Paul
All this changed last week. My mom and dad started a Gofundme campaign December 8th, and by January 24th they had received donations from all over—enough to purchase a wonderful minivan perfect for transporting John Paul. Our last van had a hydraulic lift, which sounds cool but is actually very complicated. This van simply has a sunken floor and a ramp that you lower down by hand to push him in. It is way easier to use than the lift and it’s very safe.
 
with John Paul in the Temperate House at the Botanical Gardens
While I was at home last weekend, we got to try out the van. And it worked! We took John Paul to the Missouri Botanical Gardens where they have a huge geodesic dome with a rainforest inside—perfect for a little winter pick-me-up. It was so easy getting him in and out of the van. And John Paul had a blast. When we got back home my mom mentioned how different it all had been: with the old van doing what we just did would have completely wiped them out for the rest of the day.
 
Blessing John Paul and his new van
The joy isn’t just in getting the new van. It’s in knowing the love and support of so many family members and friends is behind it. Every time we use it from now on, all of that love and care will travel with us and John Paul. I don’t know how to describe it. It’s kind of like when you have some good news and you want to share it with the whole world, but this is a bit like in reverse. The whole world is sharing in the good news of every time we can take John Paul out for a spin or an adventure. And John Paul is happiest of all, because he sure loves to move. He spent his time in the van rocking and laughing and enjoying himself… and whacking the spare tire next to him—John Paul sure loves to hit stuff!


There was a second little sorrow turned to joy this last weekend when I was at home. I had offered to put a new thermostat in my sisters apartment. I pride myself on being something of an electrician, so a thermostat should have been a piece of cake. But I botched the job, and my sister called hours after I left informing me that her heat wasn’t working at all. So I went back with my dad and—we thought—fixed it. An hour later she called again to tell me that it was only blowing out cold air. So I went back a third time the next day, at which point I finally acknowledged that I was out of my league and that she should probably call the utility company. I was driving back to Cincinnati feeling like an electrical failure when I got a call from my dad. It turns out that when the utility company had come they found several leaks in the gas pipes in her basement. It took them two days to fix the leaks. Gas leaks are bad news. It was only because of my mistakes that the company ever found them. O blessed bungling! 

John Paul with the family
And thinking back to the van, O blessed sorrow! John Paul and his limitations have put us in contact with so many people whom we would otherwise never have known. And not only that, we’ve seen the generosity of so many people whom we don’t know. Some people gave large amounts, others small. My dad commented how he’s sure that some of the donations were like the Widow’s Mite in the Gospel—people taking food out of their own mouths to help get John Paul his van. 

Wow! You wouldn’t think that sorrow can transform into all that: physical limitations into a groundswell of goodness and generosity; a botched fix-it job into averting a possible disaster. 

For all of this, for more, I am grateful. I am grateful that evil does not have the last word, that people are so so good, that God can bring good from any sorrow.

Happy Feast of the Presentation of the Lord! May God bless you, and help you see the sorrows-turned-to-joys in your own life!
Father Kevin

Sunday, January 20, 2019

John Paul is gonna get his van!

John Paul's Gofundme Campaign
Dear family and friends,

I told you about the Gofundme campaign that my parents put together to get a new wheelchair van for my little brother John Paul. They started the campaign on December 8th, the feast of the Immaculate Conception, and it looks like they will be able to purchase the van this Thursday! They need $28,410, and donations are just over $28,000 now. (the Gofundme page shows less, but it’s not counting a donation of $10,000 from the Archdiocese of Saint Louis, as well as a few more donations by check)

they took John Paul for a test drive in the van, and he approved!
I wanted to really thank all of you who have been able to help, and encourage anyone who would still like to make a last-minute donation. (https://www.gofundme.com/wheels-for-john-paul)

the used van my parents would like to get
We had kind of given up taking John Paul anywhere that we couldn’t push him to in his wheelchair, but this van will make transporting him so much easier. John Paul loves moving--I discovered this when I took him ice skating the first time. He loves car rides too, and I can't wait to see him take a ride in his new van.

Thank you once again, and please be assured of my prayers for you!
Father Kevin

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Merry Christmas and a Christmas Mystery for You


Skating on Lake Koshkonong on Christmas Day
Dear Family and Friends,

Merry Christmas! Christmas is such a special feast that it has an "octave"--its celebration is extended for eight days. So in my book, it's still Christmas today!

Junior Priests' Get-Together
I spent the days before Christmas in Northern Indiana at a gathering of "Junior Priests"--priests who have been ordained five years or less. Many of us have known each other since we first joined the seminary, so it's nice to have time to talk, play, and pray, just us.

Christmas Mass with... a lot of priests!!! - photo by Father Brett Taira

Concelebrating Christmas Mass - photo by Father Brett Taira
Now I am in Wisconsin with 120+ other priests for the next week or so. It sure is interesting to have more priests than people for mass!
Our White Wisconsin Christmas
I love white Christmases, and Wisconsin is the right place to be for them--yesterday we woke up to a carpet of snow covering the ground.

Skating on perfect ice on Christmas Day - photo by Deacon Jared Loehr

An even better surprise for me was discovering that the nearby lake was frozen solid and the ice was perfect for skating.

Telling the Story of Theodore and the Christmas Mystery
I wrote a little story about a boy named Theodore, and I thought you might enjoy it. It's called "Theodore and the Christmas Mystery". I recorded it and put it on Youtube. It's about 19 minutes long.

May God bless you, have a blessed Christmas!
Father Kevin
www.cblstones.com 
My Amazon Wishlist is here.
Gofundme for Handicap Van for my little brother John Paul is here.
Gofundme for a car for Father Kevin is here.


Saturday, December 8, 2018

wheels for John Paul

John Paul and me

Dear Friends,

The words in Mass yesterday from Isaiah chapter 29 hit me: 

On that day the deaf shall hear
    the words of a book;
And out of gloom and darkness,
    the eyes of the blind shall see.

Perhaps you know that my little brother John Paul is blind and partially deaf. At one point, I thought he was entirely deaf, until a little adventure we had together that I write about here







I found out from taking him ice skating, something which we still try to do every time I’m home for a visit. He loves it, and I love taking him. 

A while back our family tried to get a better mobility van to carry John Paul around in his wheelchair through a sort of online contest, which we did not win. 

Now, instead of a contest, my mom and dad have put together a Gofundme campaign to help the family get John Paul a new van.

Why do we need a new van? The old one worked when John Paul was younger, but now that he’s almost six feet tall, it’s quite a chore just to get him inside without hitting his head on the car door. It's a 25 year old van with all sorts of issues, and besides that my parents are getting older and they need something that is easier to move him in and out of. 

The Gofundme campaign is live at https://www.gofundme.com/wheels-for-john-paul. I ask you to prayerfully consider supporting this campaign for John Paul, my little brother. And feel free to pass this message on to anyone you think would be interested.

May God bless you, and have a blessed Advent!
Father Kevin

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Mother of the Essential

Mary Statue at the Carmelite Monastery of Valmadonna, Italy
Dear Friends,

Back in 2010, I spent a few days at the Carmelite Monastery of Valmadonna in northern Italy. I still have a prayer card from there with a beautiful prayer to the Blessed Mother that I pray. Here’s a translation in case you would like to pray it too!

O mother of LOVE,
Treasure of CALM and SERENITY,
we love you for the light
From your lowered eyes,
for the peace of your gaze,
for the revealing attitude
of your inner fullness.

You are the VIRGIN of the INVISIBLE and the ESSENTIAL.
We beg you to detach us,
to remove us from everything that is seen
to bring us back and fix us
on the INVISIBLE that your eyes contemplate:
the invisible PRESENCE, 
the invisible LIFE,
the invisible ACTION, 
the invisible LOVE.

In our busy, overworked days,
May YOU keep us in the light of things
which we do not see.

Through the secondary things
That cry out to us and seduce us often,
give us, o MOTHER
an understanding of and a hunger for the ESSENTIAL.


(M.T. DE Lescure)

Original in French here



Saturday, August 4, 2018

Saint Kevin Book Research Trip

The Round Tower of Glendalough with the Glendasan river

Dear Family and Friends,

I think it was when I was pouring over the hand-written fifteenth-century manuscript in the oldest library in Ireland and discovered a tiny drawing of a little monk’s head that I realized I was really having fun.

It was all part of my research trip to Ireland for a book on the life of Saint Kevin. 

Entrance to Saint Kevin's Monastery in Glendalough

I wrote about why I wanted to write the book here. After putting together a gofundme campaign, I told Saint Kevin that if he wanted me to write a book about him then he’d have to come up with the funds! Lo and behold about a week before I was set to leave, exactly enough money came in. Thank you to everyone who contributed! 

Royalmont Academy High School Seniors Hiking Bray Head by the Irish Sea

The first part of my trip was spent with the High School seniors from Royalmont Academy, the school where I am chaplain. We climbed mountains and visited churches, castles, and towns galore. We went to mass with the Irish people. Some of us made it to the top of Croagh Patrick, even though the wind was strong enough to knock you down and it was snowing up top. Others got to ride an Irish Clydesdale. I got to celebrate my first Easter Vigil and Holy Thursday masses as a priest. We visited the cliffs of Moher, Trim Castle, Dublin, Galway, The shrine of Our Lady of Knock, and much much more. They taught me how to play the "family game"—fun!—and also introduced me to a lot of lively new music I had never heard. We had a blessed time together.

with the statue of Saint Kevin in Hollywood

After sending them on their way home at the airport, I set to work on my Saint Kevin research. Kevin is a hard nut to crack because he died in 618 and almost everything we know about him dates to much later. For centuries, there was just an oral tradition about his life. 

My original plan had been to spend my time in Ireland actually writing my book, but it quickly became apparent that research was the name of the game—there is very little out there about Kevin, so I was going to have to dig. I needed to put flesh on the bones of his story.

Marsh's Library in Dublin

My new goal became to visit every single place where Kevin lived and to talk with anyone who knew anything about him. This started at one of my favorite places, Marsh’s Library in Dublin.

the upper lake in Glendalough

Founded in 1701, it is the oldest public library in Ireland. The books are ancient, and they are kept in the same arrangement as in the 1700’s. Back in those days, while you read a book you were locked in a cage. They still have the cages!

Another view of the upper lake

I came for the oldest life of Saint Kevin, contained in a handwritten latin manuscript called the “Codex Kilkenniensis.” It’s over 500 years old. The librarian was kind enough to let me examine and photograph the manuscript for about two hours. No, they didn’t lock me in a cage, though they did have someone watching me the whole time. It was in the pages of the Codex that I found that 500+ year-old illustration of a little monk’s head. 
the round tower in Glendalough

As we speak, I am working on my own translation of the Latin life using the photos I took of the manuscript. It’s quite fun! 

While in Dublin I wanted to visit the place where Kevin allegedly went to school, Kilnamanagh. But when I got there, it was all houses and shopping centers! I was about to give up when I saw a sign for Saint Kevin’s Parish.


The church was quite modern, but the parish staff welcomed me and told me all they could. Turns out the developer who built the houses had knocked down the remains of the monastery and an old castle to make way for the construction. 
Saint Kevin's Holy Well, Kilnamanagh, where Kevin went to school

That was when Enda spoke up. He was the groundskeeper of the parish, and he explained that there was still part of the monastery left. One piece of land flooded so regularly that the developer couldn’t build on it. So he gave it to the parish. It was the place where Saint Kevin’s Holy Well is.


Saint Kevin's other Holy Well near Roundwood

Saint Kevin's other other Holy Well in Hollywood

Enda took me to the well, which sits right smack dab between two houses. It was a little green space in the middle of the neighborhood. Kevin’s holy well sits in the back left corner of the lot. It was the first of three holy wells I found dedicated to Saint Kevin. He's quite popular!

Round Tower in Clondalkin, where Kevin was baptized

That was the start of my location research. Next I visited Clondalkin, where Kevin was allegedly baptized. It’s a bustling suburb of Dublin with an ancient stone round tower sticking up right in the middle of all the hubbub.

Saint Kevin's Chair - Legend has it he threw this hunk of stone from his cave about a thousand feet!

Saint Kevin ran away from school when he was quite young to be a hermit in a place called Hollywood. I went there and visited the cave where he lived and the hunk of stone called Saint Kevin’s chair. 

Saint Kevin's Cave in Hollywood

But Hollywood wasn’t secluded enough, so Saint Kevin traveled to what I believe is the most beautiful place in Ireland, Glendalough. And in Glendalough I spent most of my time.

Saint Kevin's Bed above the upper lake in Glendalough

Closer view of Saint Kevin's Bed
Glendalough—Gleann Dá Loc—means “valley of the two lakes”. Here Saint Kevin found solitude at first in a hollow tree, then in an impossible-to-reach cave (Saint Kevin's Bed) in the middle of a cliff above a lake. Further down the valley Saint Kevin established a monastery that eventually grew to be a center of learning and culture with thousands of inhabitants.

View of the monastery ruins at Glendalough from the mountains
I walked the trails and visited the ruins of the churches and met with the curator of the Visitor’s center there. I also talked with Father Thady Doyle, a priest who is an expert on Saint Kevin and runs a small chapel and bookstore nearby.

Ardstraw bridge - where warring clans would make their peace

One day I took a road trip to Northern Ireland to visit Adrstraw, where Kevin spent some time helping his uncle found a monastery. Another day I hiked the 19 mile Saint Kevin’s Way, an ancient pilgrimage route following Kevin’s first trip from Hollywood to Glendalough. A local dog named Charlie accompanied me about 9 of those miles before I called his owner, who picked him up. Charlie was my guardian angel!
Saint Kevin's Pool along Saint Kevin's Way

Charlie, my Guardian Angel Dog - kept me company while walking Saint Kevin's Way
Saint Kevin's Way
The stories we have of Kevin’s life are great reading. My favorite is how Kevin was praying one Lent with his arms outstretched in the form of a cross. As he prayed, a blackbird landed on his hand, built a nest, and laid its eggs. Kevin held his hand out for days on end until the eggs hatched, the baby birds grew up, and then finally flew away. When asked why he did such a thing, Kevin said that the pain in his hand was nothing compared to the pain that Jesus suffered for us on the cross. Wow!
The birds in Glendalough are quite friendly to this day!

Animals appear in many of the stories of his life, and Saint Kevin is kind of the Francis of Assisi of Ireland. An otter used to bring him a trout from the lake every morning for his breakfast!

Lots of sheep!

Right now, I’m going through my research and especially working on translating Kevin’s life from the Latin. God willing I can put together an engaging book about his life, much like what I did for Saint José. 

Mountain goats

Talking of Saint José, my publisher sent back their most recent corrections, and I’ve been working through them. They catch everything—thankfully—so I’ve been polishing and tweaking all kinds of little details. Hopefully that book will be published this Spring!

Irish Stag
So that’s my update. Again, many many thanks to everyone who helped sponsor my time in Ireland. Before going, I didn’t feel like I had the ingredients for my story, but now I do, thanks to the time I was able to spend there. I don't want to just write a history book, I want to make Kevin's story come alive so that his witness can inspire many. Walking the paths he walked, seeing the sights he saw, the smells he smelled, the sounds he heard, even trying the" Saint Kevin Cheeseburger" at a local pub--I think my research trip was well worth it.

"Saint Kevin's Cheeseburger"- I doubt he ever tried one of these, but I bet he'd approve!

I will try to keep you all informed on how the writing goes!

May you all have a blessed fall!

Father Kevin