Thursday, December 25, 2014

Merry Christmas!

Dear Family and Friends,

As a little boy, one of my favorite moments of the year was getting up early on Christmas morning, trying to get mom and dad out of bed so we could open presents.

As a priest, one of my favorite moments of the year is getting up early on Christmas morning, not to try to get mom and dad up, nor to open presents, but to celebrate one of the three masses of Christmas, the “Mass at Dawn”. I got up early this morning and went by myself to the chapel. It was a candlelight service until the rising sun lit the little altar with its glow. There weren’t any presents wrapped with bows, but there was one present, the present, baby Jesus himself coming down to earth in my hands. Just Him and me – life doesn’t get any better than that!

The Mass at Dawn is also known as the Mass of the shepherds since the Gospel you read is the story of the shepherds from Luke 2. I’ll leave you with a little Christmas present - a poem I wrote about one of the shepherds:

The Shepherd's Christmas

I cursed that eve the night watch fell to me,
For cold it was and dark the fields around.
On such a night fell wolves were bound to be,
And so I watched, until I heard the sound

Of harps and flutes and myriad voices telling
A tale that rocked me to my very bone.
A King was born, a story plainly spelling
That life was new, that we do not watch alone.

So to the cave I brought myself and flock,
And blessed those simple walls of barren rock,
And kissed his tiny, holy baby feet,
And he blessed me, and then he went to sleep.

I prayed for all of you during mass this morning, have a Blessed Christmas!

Father Kevin

Monday, December 15, 2014

remembering a year ago today

the Chapel of San Pellegrino in Vaticano
Dear Family and Friends,

I can’t help but remember a year ago today – my first mass at the chapel of San Pellegrino in the Vatican.

And remember what lead up to it, starting a year before  – on December 14th, 2012.  I had been searching for a long time for the right place to do my first mass. At the same time, I had been doubting, for several reasons, whether I would even make it to ordination. That morning I was taking care of the family of one of my friends, Father Michael Moriarty, and had left them in a nice Roman cafe and was heading to my university to attend some Theology classes. I like to do an hour of silent meditation every morning, but hadn’t had a chance yet.

Walking down Via del Pellegrino through the Vatican, an open door caught my eye. I had walked down the same street countless times in my four years in Rome, but had never noticed the small medieval chapel nestled between larger Roman Palazzos. Peeking inside, there was no one in sight. I don’t know what moved me, but I made my decision, “Forget class. I’m going to do my prayer here.” I knelt down toward the front of the chapel. Multi-colored light streamed into the small space from large stained glass windows.

And there, in the chapel of San Pellegrino, I received a tremendous grace, a light – I don’t know what to call it – but I knew then and there that yes, I would be ordained a priest, and that I would celebrate my first mass in that very chapel. It was a certainty that I couldn’t doubt, somehow. I was confirmed in my path unlike ever before. Light, strength, grace… they all came flooding in. As I left the chapel at the end of my prayer, I realized that it was exactly a year to the day before my ordination as a priest.

Fast forward six months to June 2013. Now ordained a deacon, I was about to leave Rome after five unforgettable years in the Eternal City. Last item on my to-do list? Reserve the Chapel of San Pellegrino for my first mass, of course. I headed over early one morning, and sure enough, the door was open. I stepped inside and was greeted by the sight of scaffolding and the sound of heavy machinery. Apparently, the chapel was under renovation. And try as I might, I couldn’t find out who was in charge of the chapel or when the renovation would be finished. So I wrote down a telephone number and headed off to my new assignment in Cincinnati.

Two months before ordination, I tried the number, but got no answer. Several times I called, and always, no one answered. People asked me more and more, “where will your first mass be?” “The Chapel of San Pellegrino, I think,” would be my reply, and the “I think” got stronger and stronger as time went on.

“The renovation can’t last 6 months” I told myself. But when I arrived to Rome and headed over to the chapel, I was greeted yet again by the same old noise and the scaffolding. This time I was able to talk to the foreman. His news was disheartening: he had no idea when the renovation would be finished. It seemed like my first mass would not, could not be at San Pellegrino.

my mom and dad waiting for mass in the same pew I prayed in
Still, I wasn’t about to give up. I asked and asked and asked around the Vatican until I got the name and number of the priest in charge of the chapel. Two nights before I was to go on my pre-ordination 8-day silent retreat, I managed to get through to him. He turned out to be the head of the Vatican Publishing House, Don Sergio. I explained my situation to him and my desire to celebrate my first mass at his chapel. I remember his words “Well, the chapel is still under renovation… but let me check my calendar… Yes, I have to celebrate Vespers in the chapel on Monday the 16th, so the renovations will have to be finished by Saturday the 14th. You’ll be the first one to celebrate mass in the newly renovated chapel of San Pellegrino.”

celebrating mass for the first time with Father Gregory, an old friend, making sure I didn't mess up too bad
Wow. God sure had come through. December 15th, 2013 dawned and I found myself celebrating my first mass in the Chapel of San Pellegrino surrounded by family and friends. The little chapel resonated with the sound of the organ and the voices of all. It was Gaudete Sunday, one of the only two days of the year when the priest can wear rose-colored vestments. I had worried beforehand that I wouldn’t have the right color, or that there wouldn’t be anyone to play the organ, or that there wouldn’t be anyone to be altar server…. All of those things were taken care of without my doing anything. I had wanted a chapel with kneelers and heating - a rare find in Rome, and San Pellegrino had both. Two of my sisters sang a beautiful song at the offertory. My mom did the first reading. Everything turned out far better than I could ever have arranged it.
after mass with my family

with my brother Legionary priests and seminarians

with my Italian friends
Last Friday, I was walking by the chapel again for the first time since my mass there. The door was closed this time, so I took a closer look at the painting on the front of the chapel. (See picture) It’s of San Pellegrino (“Saint Pilgrim”), bishop and martyr, to whom the chapel is dedicated. Below him stands an angel holding a scroll. It reads, “Nulla mihi patria nisi Christus Nec Nomen Alind Quam Christianus” “I have no fatherland but Christ, nor name except Christian” I had never seen that before. But it could be the motto of us all, all of us pilgrims who walk the face of this earth knowing that it is not our true home. We keep our eyes set on heaven, our true homeland, and on our Lord Jesus, who will welcome us there. He gives us glimpses of what heaven will be like so that we don’t lose heart when nothing seems to be going right.
close up of the painting on the outside of the chapel

I glimpsed heaven that day of my prayer, and that day of my first mass. And I can’t help but offer to God a prayer of gratitude as I think back on those blessed moments.

May He be with you and bless you,
Father Kevin

Friday, December 12, 2014

the class of '99

The Class of '99 - Fathers Peter Mullan, Jason Huynh, Frederick Keiser, Michael Mitchell, Yours truly, and Mark Thelen at the ordination of Father Michael
Dear Family and Friends,

I am in Rome and loving it. Today we had mass with Pope Francis, my first time as a priest. It was beautiful.

I’m here for a very special ceremony tomorrow – the ordination of 35 new priests. Many of them are old friends, so it is good to be here.

One of them has been with me since 1998. Right now he is Deacon Peter Mullan. After the Ordination Mass tomorrow morning, he will be Father Peter, the last of the six members of my graduating class in 1999 from Immaculate Conception Apostolic School in Center Harbor New Hampshire to become a priest.

The six of us have been through a lot together, and even though we live in four different countries now we try to keep in touch. Father Michael Mitchell, from Pennsylvania, was ordained in 2011 and is now directing regularly humanitarian relief missions to Haiti. Father Jason Huynh and Father Mark Thelen were ordained in 2012. Father Jason helps in a minor seminary, Sacred Heart Apostolic School in Rolling Prairie, Indiana. Father Mark is doing youth ministry in Barcelona, Spain, much of it apparently on the Camino of Santiago! Father Frederick Keiser and I were ordained last year in 2013. Father Frederick does youth work in Chile, as I do in Ohio.

Father Peter is in Mexico where he too helps in youth ministry.

It’s such a gift to see your old friends take the final steps! I love being a priest, and it is such a wonderful gift to be one. Sunday is my one year anniversary, hurray!!!

Please say a prayer for all of the guys who will be ordained tomorrow, especially so they can get a good sleep before the big day tomorrow!

God bless you,

Father Kevin

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

swapping hats with the Pope!

swapping hats with the pope - I'm on the far right
Dear Family and Friends,

I swapped hats with the pope today! Yes! Browsing through some liturgical goods stores here in Rome yesterday, I found one that sold white zucchetos - papal hats.

I got one and brought it to the Wednesday audience today, held it out to the pope as he exited, and lo and behold he stopped his car, told the guard to get my hat, took his hat off, and put on the one I had brought. It was only for a moment, then he put his own back on and gave mine back to the guard to give to me. Wow! I'm telling you, he is one extremely kind man!

Tomorrow we’re off to visit Assisi, I will pray for you all at the tomb of Saint Francis. What with swapping hats with the Pope and all, I’d say we’ve been quite blessed this pilgrimage!

May God bless you,
Father Kevin

PS: The Pope's talk today was all about the recent Synod on the Family and what actually happened. To make a long story short, the Pope said it was a moment for bishops from all over the world to freely voice their opinions about Church teaching on marriage and the family. And he stated emphatically that "no intervention challenged the fundamental truths of the Sacrament of Marriage: indissolubility, unity, fidelity, and openness to life."

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

first mass to now

my community of priests in Cincinnati - Father John, Father Matthew, yours truly, Father Daniel, and Father James
Dear Family and Friends,

There’s an old piece of advice given to priests: “Celebrate this mass as if it were your first mass, as if it were your last mass, as if it were your only mass.”

Thinking back to my first mass almost a year ago, I can say I certainly was filled with fervor. But it sure took a lot of faith - faith to believe that the host actually became Jesus in my hands.

Let me explain.

Before - when the priest was up there on the altar and I was in the pews – it had been easy to believe.

But you’re the one celebrating mass, you know that you’re just little old you, and that the day before you couldn’t have done the least bit of what you’re doing today. You think, “Wow Lord, you can even use someone like me to work a miracle this big?”

That’s the funny thing. I had thought it would be the opposite. I had imagined I’d have lots of fervor and faith at my first mass, and then from there on out it would be a battle to keep from getting distracted and falling into routine.

Certainly, even in these first months I’ve found it’s easy to become distracted or lose fervor – just the same as before when I was in the pews and not at the altar. But all in all, my awe and love for the mass has just grown. It’s like I discover something new every day. It could be the beautiful wording of the preface of martyrs, or the prayer the priest quietly prays before communion, or when it finally dawns on you that countless angels and saints are present at each mass, even when you’re alone. It could be grasping what saying “this is my body” really means, or just realizing how tremendously good God is to have left us himself in the Eucharist.

What a gift to have been a priest these 11 months! Originally I only asked God for one day as a priest, enough to celebrate one mass. So every day after that has just been a bonus.

Yes, we priests do need to celebrate every mass as if it were our first, as if it were our last, as if it were our only mass. And if God gives us the grace to say another, what a gift!

May He bless you, and have a Happy Thanksgiving!
Father Kevin

PS- I’ll be heading to Rome in early December on pilgrimage. We’ll be there for my one year anniversary as a priest. If you have any intentions you’d like me to pray for while I’m there, send them my way!

Thursday, October 30, 2014

fly fishing

Dear family and friends,

There always was something magical about watching my brother Dan when he'd go fly fishing. But I never had a chance to learn, until this past summer, when providence plopped me at the northwestern tip of Yellowstone National Park.

But the outfitters charged $450 for a lesson! We didn’t have that type of money. There was Wal-Mart though. And YouTube.

$15 bought a rod, $10 a reel, $13 the line, $7 some flies, and $15 waders. $60 -  not bad, all in all.
Starting in the morning, it took about two hours to get the line and knots and fly assembled correctly, then three more hours of watching videos and practicing casting. By 3pm or so I figured I would give it a go in the real world.

Two priest friends dropped me off on the Gallatin River.

The first thing I caught was myself. Snagged the hook in my shirt. My dad used to joke about the “pre-tangled” rod he once bought. But fly fishing seemed like the kind of fishing where you had “self-tangling” line!

Taught by YouTube, I didn’t know if my casting was correct or not. But that didn’t matter. The ice-cold water rushed about my legs. (and through the holes in my waders.) Giant mountain peaks reared their green-mantled heads on either side of the twisting river valley. The setting sun glinted golden on the flowing water. Along the banks and in the water beneath my feet glistened polished rocks of every color of the rainbow. Tall grasses swayed and rustled in the fields on either side. The wind blew – at times serenely and at times in gusts – down the valley. “Heavenly” is the only word I can find to describe fly fishing there, whether I was doing things right or not.

I caught nothing. One fly disappeared in the stream, so I tied another to my line. Its little hook caught on my shirt and in my waders time after time.

Along came the priests who had dropped me off. “Would you want to try another part of the river,” they asked. I was having plenty of fun where I was, but thought there could be no harm in trying somewhere else. So we jumped in the car again, headed south, and this time they dropped me at Specimen Creek, a little brook that spilled into the Gallatin river. The creek was hard-going. Trees hung over both banks. At one point, my line got snagged 15-feet up a tree hanging over the creek. I had to climb the tree, jump out onto the limb, and pull it down with my body weight until the precious fly was safely dislodged.

As I stepped into the river again at the end of the creek, there were five minutes left until our rendezvous time. I pulled out my camera. “If I’m not going to catch anything, at least I want proof that I did go fly fishing,” I said to myself.

And so the camera started rolling. I put on a show, casting my very best, trying to set the fly ever-so-gently on the water in imitation of a real bug.

Then I saw a small silver thing jumping in the water. It was a fish. In disbelief, I realized that it was attached to my line! I reeled the little thing in as fast as I could. It wriggled and jumped and tried with all its might to escape. And escape it almost did, jumping from my hands several times.

But at last I got a hold of it. The little 8-inch rainbow trout eyed me with suspicion. I eyed him with exultation. My fishing trip had not been a complete failure!

Figuring that he had the greater part of his life ahead of him, I let my little friend go in the river, and headed happily back to the road.

The next day I went fly fishing in the same river, to the north. Sure enough, on one of my last casts another little silver thing started jumping out of the water. It was another rainbow trout, this time a 10-incher, just big enough for lunch. Never before has fish tasted so good. Tender, juicy, sweet, fall-off-the-bone goodness – he was all that and more.

God sure was loving me, inexperienced fly fisherman that I am. Only he could have made rainbow trout, and that jaw-dropping beauty, and the tremendous joy that filled my heart.

May He bless you,

Father Kevin

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

looking beyond the dreadlocks

the Cross of Saint Francis
Dear Family and Friends,

It was Divine Mercy Sunday. I had just finished hearing confessions at a parish about an hour from home. The gas gauge in my car read “E” – the red side of “E”.

So I pulled up at the first gas station I saw and reached for my wallet. But it wasn’t there! I had left it at home.

Luckily for me, there was quite a collection of change in the cup holder in the car. I counted it out – two dollars and eighteen cents in assorted pennies, nickels, quarters and dimes. Probably not enough to get home, but it might get me close, and then I could call for help. As I walked to the register, change in hand, there were all sorts of people about filling up their cars, but I noticed one man with fluffy dreadlocks in particular. “Wow,” I thought inside.

Feeling embarrassed about all the coins, I asked the lady at the register if she didn’t mind taking it all. She said she’d make do. Then, as I poured the coins into her little dish, I heard a voice over my shoulder. “Need some gas money?”

I turned, and gave a double take. It was the man with the fluffy dreadlocks. I hesitated and gave a whispered “Yes.” Immediately he took some money from his hand – enough to get me home – and placed it in my hand.

At this the cashier cheered up, as you can imagine I did. “Thank you,” I said. The man just nodded and smiled.

As soon as I got back to the car and started pumping the gas, I started searching for something to give him in gratitude. All I could find was a picture of the cross of Saint Francis blessed by Pope Francis. (Which I guess isn’t that bad a gift!) I brought it over to the man and he accepted it graciously, but humbly.

And I was left with two lessons. First, what a beautiful image of how kind and selfless and caring Our good Lord is and how he watches out for us! Second, it was a concrete lesson of how silly it is to judge by appearances. The man with the fluffy dreadlocks was the last one I thought would have helped me – he  was the kind of person I would have stayed away from. But the Lord “sees the heart”. Unlike us.

Well now I know. The heart is what matters. And this man had a heart of gold.

May God bless him, and God bless you!
Father Kevin

Sunday, September 21, 2014

moments that make me smile

adoration with the first graders
Dear Family and Friends,

Last Friday the preschool students came to mass with all the other students at school. No one gave any warning, but I tried to make things as simple and short as respectfully possible.

It turns out that one little boy was quite anxious to go after about 5 minutes. “When will it be over?” he asked his teacher. “There’s just four more songs,” she replied. After each song he’d ask how many more were left. When he was down to one song, we had just finished with communion, and there’s usually a moment of silence. I like to sit down and close my eyes and pray a little. Apparently, upon seeing me do this, the little boy threw his hands up in the air. “Now he’s taking a nap!” he cried in dismay.

Another day, I was praying in the chapel at school while we had a special time of adoration of Jesus in the blessed sacrament. Each class took their turn in the chapel. The first graders, all 20 of them, marched right up close to the altar. Their teacher had them kneel on the step. Then they prayed two decades of the rosary. First she asked them what they wanted to pray for. Each one got to lead a Hail Mary. Then she told them to find a quiet place in the chapel to pray on their own.

I had my eyes closed again, but soon there were noises all about. It turns out a bunch of the first graders wanted to pray with me! Someone even got a picture.

So as a priest, you get both worlds. Sometimes you’re the hero, and sometimes you’re the… uh… guy who takes a nap! Either way it's a joy, and I still love being a priest!

May God bless you,
Father Kevin 

Sunday, August 17, 2014

providence and pizza

praying the rosary in the Grotto at Notre Dame hours before the deep dish pizza experience
Dear Family and Friends,

“Hey, your car’s on fire!” shouted the man from the car beside me. It was mid-July and I was driving through downtown Chicago with a van full of boys headed for summer camp. And it did look like my car was on fire – smoke was pouring out of the engine.

So I searched around at the next stoplight, hoping to find a place to pull over. It was about dinnertime, and there in front of us it was: Giordano’s Pizza – Chicago Deep Dish. “Boys, I guess we’d better stop for dinner and let the car cool down.”

Boys being boys, all I heard from the back of the van were mock groans and complaints. “Gosh father, that’s just too bad,” one said, smiling.

It wasn’t bad for them, but as we sat at our table and I saw the bill starting to add up, it definitely looked bad for me. The deep dish pizza was excellent though, and well worth our half hour wait. Shortly after we had sat down, a man arrived by himself and sat at the table next to us. We were chitter chattering so much that I barely noticed him.

Our waiter was really interested in the priest at his table, so the questions were endless: “How long have you been a priest? Where are you pastor? What do you do? How long did it take you to become a priest? White Sox or Cubs fan?” – the whole nine yards.

By the time we finished our pizza, the man next to us had left and I was trying to calculate the bill in my head. I had declined the dessert menu in hopes of keeping it manageable.

That was when our waiter reappeared. “Oh, uh, you’re good to go. The man who sat next to you paid your bill and left me a nice tip, so you’re all set. Have a great day, Father!”

You should have seen the look on the boys’ faces. And mine too probably. I had been so worried. About the bill, and about the car. And out of the blue this kind stranger had taken care of worry #1. And when we got out to our car, we discovered the smoke was only coming from a finicky parking brake. Worry #2 taken care of.

Visiting the Basilica of the Sacred Heart at Notre Dame earlier the same day
So often our worries consume us. We live with them tearing our insides apart. But worries are often just a large portion of pride dragging us down. We want things to work the way we want. And no other. I want my car to work, now. I want to eat deep dish pizza, and it better not cost much. J

The next time a worry comes your way, see it as an opportunity to trust, to abandon a little bit of your dominion over your life to God’s hands. I’m the first one who will admit that’s not easy, but you’d be surprised how well God figures things out, and how unfounded our worries often are.

May God bless you!

Father Kevin

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

heading to Rome this December

Dear Family and Friends,

This December I’ll be hosting a Father & Son pilgrimage to Rome (with a day trip to Assisi). We will see Pope Francis, visit all the most important holy places, and attend the ordination of 30 Legionary priests, many of whom are old friends of mine. If you or anyone you know is interested, here are some details, and you can see the flyer for more:

Dates: December 6-15, 2014
Price: $1775 All-inclusive (airfare, meals, lodging, transportation, entrance fees)
Highlights: Attend 3 events with Pope Francis, Visit Vatican City, Saint Peter’s Basilica, Sistine Chapel, Ancient Rome, Day trip to Assisi, Ordination of 30 Legionary Priests, The Catacombs
Contact: Cory Cusmano: 513-509-4339
Deadlines: $100 due by September 1, $1000 due by October 1, Full payment due November 15

We will be staying at my old seminary and traveling around mainly by foot. On the cobblestones! Can’t wait to be back in Rome.

Hope you are enjoying these last few weeks of summer, God bless you,

Father Kevin

Saturday, July 19, 2014

a bigger family

soccer game in our backyard when it all hit me
Dear Family and Friends,

The other day I was playing soccer in our backyard with a group of boys. We were having a send-off party for a good friend, Father Timothy Walsh, who is heading on to a new assignment. I worked closely with him over the last year, and he has been a godsend of a mentor in more ways than one for this baby priest.

There were over a hundred people there in our backyard – quite the crowd!

Moments earlier, I had pulled out the soccer ball, and little by little it drew the boys in like a magnet. Before long we must have had a 10 on 10 game. Lots of fun, needless to say. After tiring myself out, I had taken the place of the goalie, and was watching the game. The boys ranged from 3-year-olds all the way through a few high school freshmen. Most of the little ones hadn’t really passed the “mob-ball” stage yet. They spent the game stealing the ball from their teammates and trying desperately to score. It was a lot of fun watching them, really.

Earlier that day, I had been thinking about one of the hard parts of being a priest. You take a vow of celibacy, and so you don’t get married. No wife. No kids. It was something I had to think long and hard about before I took that vow. Because, personally, I’d love to be married. I’d love to have a family. I know it wouldn’t be all fun and games – one sitting in the confessional makes that clear very quickly – but I do know that it would be very fulfilling, that it would fill a hole in my heart.

But I took the vow. And I became a priest. And I didn’t do that out of masochism, or a spirit of penance, or hoping that the rules would change. I did it because I believe God called me to be a priest. I did it because I believe that there is more to fatherhood than physical fatherhood alone. But there’s always been plenty of mystery to all this.

As I stood there in the goal, watching the boys play, God gave me a little more clarity. Simply put, I realized that these were my children. My family. My spiritual family. My spiritual children. And these were only a part. There are more than just the hundred that were there. Many of them go to the school where I’m chaplain and they call me father. Others I meet in my travels. Others I serve on retreats and summer camps.

If I were to have my own family - a physical one – I’d have as many children as God would give us (I always wanted to have lots!). Nine, maybe, like my mom and dad had, if I was lucky, But not a hundred! And the kids I was playing soccer with are wonderful kids, from wonderful, faith-filled families. I would do my best at parenting, but I doubt if any of my kids would turn out as good as these.

Get it? If I were physical father to some, then I couldn’t be spiritual father to all. After taking a vow of celibacy, God has given me more children, and better children, than I could ever have otherwise. It seems so contradictory, and you certainly don’t see it that way when you’re contemplating never walking down the aisle with Miss Right at your side.

Sure, my desire was, and is, to be married. But there is a greater reality. That hole in my heart is still there, but, to my surprise, there is One who fills it in a marvelous way.

It all doesn’t make sense at first glance, or even at the ten-thousandth glance… but for God it makes sense. And sooner or later, often little by little, God lets us see things His way. He gives us glimmers and moments of clarity that help us keep going.

Please pray for all priests, that we may be faithful to our vows, and that we make seek our wholeness from the only One who can truly give it – God Himself. His is the everlasting Romance.

May He bless you and your families,
Father Kevin

Wednesday, July 16, 2014


Entrance to the Carmelite monastery of Piacenza, Italy. The plaque reads: "God gives His whole self to those who leave everything out of love for Him"
Dear Family and Friends,

A few years back I was traveling around northern Italy with another seminarian and we stopped to visit the Carmelite nuns in the town of Piacenza. They have a rather small and simple convent in the farmland outside town. At the time, Pope Benedict was in Brazil, taking part in World Youth Day.

Twelve or thirteen of the sisters welcomed us and we exchanged stories. I told the sisters about life in the seminary, studies, living in Rome near the Pope, and our recent vacation time. Then Mother Superior spoke about how the sisters had gone on “vacation”.

These were cloistered sisters – the ones who never leave the convent – so I raised my eyes at that. She went on to explain. That afternoon, all of the sisters had gotten together in the courtyard of the convent. One of them, an artist, had drawn a huge picture of Pope Benedict in his airplane. Then they all sat in chairs and pretended to fly with him to Brazil for World Youth Day. They sang songs and a few of the sisters pretended they were stewardesses. They also prayed the rosary with the pope en route. During their explanation, the sisters were laughing and giggling as if they had just gotten back from Disneyland.

At this point, both of us seminarians had our mouths hanging open. The sisters were so joy-filled and happy as they explained the whole thing to us. And their “vacation” must have lasted no more than an hour. Wow!

We listened, breathlessly, as another sister chimed in: “Oh yes, and we had a special surprise. The family of one of the sisters gave us all ice cream!”

I was speechless. To be honest, only a little while back I had been complaining about how I didn’t like the place where my seminary went on vacation. Hearing the sisters talk about theirs with such simple delight sure nipped that in the bud!

It was a tremendous testimony to how simple things can bring such tremendous joy. I’d be willing to bet that the sisters' afternoon “vacation” was a hundred times more enjoyable than the vacations many people have at five-star resorts.

As you start or finish your vacation this summer – or even just wish you had one! – take a moment to thank God for the simple things, the simple joys he gives you. Life is full of them. Be content with them. Joy is something you can’t buy. You find it in places that aren’t advertised on travel websites.

Today is the feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel. Mary is the perfect example of someone who had nothing, but really had everything –“My soul magnifies the Lord, my spirit rejoices in God my savior”.

May she watch over you all this summer,
Father Kevin LC

PS I just finished helping out at my third summer camp. Here’s a video I made for the last one: . They were lots of fun, but I am still pretty tired. Thanks be to God, we had no broken bones and no lost children. Now it’s on to preparing for the new school year!

Sunday, June 22, 2014


the cathedral of Orvieto

Dear Family and Friends,

Today is the feast of Corpus Christi, the body and blood of Christ. Reminds me of the time…

the miraculous corporal of Orvieto
It was Corpus Christi in 2010. I was in Orvieto, a small hilltop town in the Umbria region of Italy. Orvieto is famous for its white wine and more famous for a relic of a Eucharistic miracle. During the middle ages a priest doubted the presence of Jesus in the Eucharist as he was celebrating mass, and the host started to bleed. The blood fell onto a large white cloth, called a “corporal”. This cloth is venerated in Orvieto, and the townspeople actually built a whole Cathedral to hold it. Every year on the feast of Corpus Christi, there is a really special mass, and then there’s a several-mile-long procession around the town with the miraculous piece of cloth.
processing through the streets of Orvieto
I went with a bunch of my seminarian friends for the mass and procession. The mass itself was about two hours long, plus we waited in the Church for about an hour afterwards as the procession formed. So when we finally started walking, we were really tired, to say the least.

procession begins with citizens in medieval garb
And it was a typical Italian day: hot and sunny. At first everything went fine. We were in the back of the procession just in front of the miraculous cloth, which was carried by four big strong guys in a huge gold holder. But after a mile or so of trudging along cobblestone streets, the heat and the sun started to get to me. I was thirsty and tired, and getting burnt. The beautiful procession was turning – at least for me – into an inferno.
with some friends after the procession

And then it happened. It was only a moment, but what a glimpse of paradise I had! It was on one of the back streets of the town, just by a cliff. The brown stone houses had blended together in my mind into one drab row of baking rock. When all of a sudden I felt a cool breeze blowing on my left cheek. It was so refreshing. I turned and caught a view of heaven. I was looking into a small Church. Candles lit the walls, and candles in the shape of a huge heart were spread across the floor. Up by the altar were arrayed row upon row of sisters – poor clare sisters I think– the kind who stay cloistered all the time and only come out for the Corpus Christi procession. They were singing some angelic hymn, and the whole Church was resonating like some gigantic speaker with their beautiful song. Strewn around them and across the floor and around the heart shaped candles were rose petals – thousands of them.

It was but a moment, but one beautiful, glorious moment. And then it was gone. We kept walking, the drab brown stone reappeared, the heat and the sun beat down upon us again, and the procession continued.

And I had seen what heaven must be like.

This earth is a valley of tears. Blood, sweat, mud, muck, sorrow, and tears. Yes, there are beautiful moments, but nothing compares to what will come hereafter. So often we live for what we find here below – money, possessions, pleasure, power, honor, glory… and those things never fill us up. They leave us empty.

We were made for heaven. And anything short of heaven will not fill us. We will never find true happiness here below. Our life here, and all the tough moments it is made of, only makes sense as a preparation for heaven. Heaven, which isn’t some sort of dry, dull, endless sitting around. No! Heaven is life like it should be, life with no end, romance with no limits, beauty with no boundaries. Fullness. Completeness. True happiness and peace. I had a little taste of it there in Orvieto, and I'd be willing to bet many of you have had similar experiences.

It's been six months now – half a year! – that I've been a priest, and one of the most wonderful parts is being able to be so close to the Eucharist. Being a priest doesn’t make you any holier than anyone else nor does it make it easier for you to get to heaven. But so often you are closer to the One who is in heaven, who will bring us there, the One who is truly present in the bread and wine. What a gift!

You will all be in my prayers today,
Father Kevin

Friday, June 13, 2014

Thank you God!

Dear Family and Friends,
It’s 10:30pm and I’m about to hit the hay. Just thinking back over today, I get this feeling that my life is enchanted or something…
before the swamp run
Maybe it was running across the soccer field for the umpteenth time, sun shining, wind blowing. Maybe it was leading a group of 20 summer camp boys on our annual “Swamp Run”, a half mile race through mud and muck and swampgrass. Maybe it was sliding down the gigantic slip ‘n slide afterwards and watching the boys enjoy themselves.

giant slip 'n slide
Maybe it was accompanying one of the boys, who has cerebral palsy, as he discovered the bad guys’ ammunition dump(complete with sleeping soldiers!) during a scavenger hunt. Maybe it was helping defuse a (make believe) hostage situation during that same hunt. Maybe it was celebrating mass together this morning with five of my brother priests in honor of a special day in the life of my religious congregation. Maybe it was telling the boys a nighttime story about one of my favorite heroes, Blessed José, as they drifted off to sleep. Maybe it was just watching the wonder of boys as they spent hours shooting each other with dollar-store water guns.

mass this morning
I'm more tired than I thought humanly possible. I've got more bruises on my body than I can count. But I’ve got a lot to be thankful for. It’s not the life of your average priest, I suppose, but sometimes, I wonder if I’ll wake up and realize it’s all been a dream. But it’s not. Thank you God!
after the swamp run

May he bless you!
Father Kevin

Sunday, May 25, 2014

pope francis speaks to the parish priests of Rome

Back in March Pope Francis spoke to the parish priests of Rome about mercy and what it means to be a shepherd of souls. I've been wanting to do a simultaneous translation, here it is. I think it's a must-watch for any priest!

Friday, May 16, 2014

a humbling line of work

Dear Family and Friends,

Being a priest you receive so many gifts – spiritual ones.
the chapel at school
I spend a lot of time in the chapel at school. The other day I was there praying when one of the teachers brought the preschool children in. They made their way up to the front where she pointed out the tabernacle. “Jesus is in there,” she told them.

“Is that really Jesus?” one of the children piped up. The teacher nodded. “Is he gonna come out?” asked another.
children praying at school
Simple questions. But profound. Aren’t those the questions and the desires of every heart? I feel blessed to witness them!

Then there’s confession. For all my life I knelt on one side of the screen. Now I continue to go myself, but I spend a lot of time on the other side.

When I was the one naming my sins and asking forgiveness, I always assumed the priest was thinking to himself, “What a wretch!” Now that I’m hearing confessions, I’m always thinking to myself, “Wow, what humility!”

What humility – that someone would reveal their failings to a mere man, trusting that through him God will grant His forgiveness. What humility – that a person will kneel and place themselves and all their weakness in God’s hands, by means of a weak instrument.

Being witness to the faith of children and the humility of souls are some of the things I’m thankful for as a priest.

God bless you!
Father Kevin 

Saturday, April 26, 2014

losing my voice

Giving Eucharistic Benediction on Easter Sunday
Dear Family and Friends,

I lost my voice while hearing confessions on Good Friday. I can’t sing, I can speak, I can kind of croak.

Playing soccer the other day, I couldn’t shout to ask for a pass. Celebrating mass with other priests on Easter, I couldn’t speak in more than a whisper. At lunch and dinner, I couldn’t make any witty comments. That’s tough!

But amazingly enough, this has been a huge eye-opener for me. I never realized how much I like to speak, and how often my comments are unnecessary! The soccer game was fine without my shouts and jokes. The mass was just as valid in a whisper as with a full voice. Lunch and dinner went fine (if not better!) without my witty comments!

We love to use our tongues, we feel at a loss without them. But we need to ask ourselves, above all, if we’re using our tongues to the glory of God. And many times, silence is so much better than speaking!

Happy Easter!

Father Kevin 

Sunday, April 6, 2014

first mass at home

during the homily
Dear Family and Friends,

Last Sunday I had the gift of celebrating mass at my home parish of Saint Mary Magdalen in Brentwood, Missouri. Father Jack Siefert and the whole parish gave me and my family a huge welcome.
concelebrating with my old classmate Father John O'brien
After mass the parish offered a reception and luncheon. I was able to meet many old friends, including Father John O’Brien. He is one of four of us from my 5th grade class at Gateway Academy in 1992-93 who followed religious vocations. We are three priests and one consecrated woman. We owe a lot to our teacher, Miss Hurley.
with mom before mass

After so many years of preparation – and lots of counting on the prayers of those in the parish – it was so amazing to come home again, this time as a priest. Words can’t describe it! I think I now know a little of what inspired Mary to sing the Magnificat, her song of thanksgiving. God is soooo good!
with some of my family members
Here are a few pictures. May God bless you!
Father Kevin
I spent many hours as a boy trying to understand all the intricacies of this painting group
PS Next Saturday, the 12th, I will be at Queen of Apostles Family Center near Indianapolis, Indiana with many friends for a special mass at 2:15pm. Beforehand we are planning to help at a local Charity, the Midwest Food Bank. If anyone would like to join us, just let me know!

mom and dad bringing up the gifts
PPS My first mass was Gaudete Sunday, one of the only two times in the year when the priest gets to wear rose-colored vestments. Providence would have it that my first mass at home was Laetare Sunday – the only other day you wear rose vestments. Pink was never my favorite color, I’ll tell you that much. God sure has a sense of humor!

Friday, March 14, 2014

one year with our shepherd

Dear Family and Friends,

It’s been one year since that rainy March day when Pope Francis was elected. What a wonderful gift he has been and is to all of us! I try to listen to and read his preaching, and he is inspiring. Perhaps even more inspiring is the example of his life – seeing him in action as shepherd.

Pope Francis sent out one tweet yesterday: “Please pray for me”. Let’s offer up our prayers once again for him, that he’ll continue guiding us like Jesus would!

God bless you,
Father Kevin

PS: Today is the 3-month anniversary of my ordination. They’ve been three wonderful months, that’s for sure! All 31 of us new priests have been in contact throughout the day.

PPS: For my post about the day Francis became Pope, see here

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Pope Francis up close

Dear Family and Friends,

Below is a message recorded on an IPhone by Pope Francis for a meeting of Christians. It's an up close view of our Holy Father, and he even speaks some English at the beginning! I love his vision of Christians coming together.

May God bless you,
Father Kevin

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

the disaster of the papers

site of the disaster of the papers
Dear Family and Friends,

Friday was a hard day at school. One of the most beloved teachers was diagnosed with cancer a few months back, and Friday morning the principal explained to the kids how “we’re not sure if she’ll get better.” Everyone was sad, distraught, confused, worried, fearful… you name it.

I had to celebrate and preach at the all-school mass in the afternoon – but about what? How could I help these kids who were suffering so much trying to understand why God would allow their beloved teacher to suffer?

Thankfully the Gospel of the day was about taking up your cross, so I prepared a homily all about that. I thought it was good. 45 minutes before mass, I went to the front row of the chapel to fine tune my homily. As I sat there reflecting, some commotion outside caught my eye through the window. Papers were blowing all across the sidewalk in front of the school.

It was a blustery day beyond compare, so no wonder the papers were blowing all over the place.

For a moment I hesitated between the two possibilities: “go and help”, or “stay and polish my homily.” “Go and help” won, though another “gosh, I never get time to polish my homilies” passed through my head as I walked out the door of the chapel.

I was hoping it would be just a few papers, but as I stepped from the doorway my hopes of a quick cleanup were shattered. Hundreds – yes – hundreds of papers were strewn across the grass, the parking lot, and the playground. Two students had been carrying a recycling bin full of papers between builidings when a gale-force wind had hit them.

I started grabbing the little white squares left and right. The students couldn’t help because they had their hands full just holding onto the papers left in the bin. The only other help was one of the school moms who had seen the disaster happen and had come to help.

But as both of us rounded the corner of the building, a sorry spectacle spread before our eyes. Papers of all sorts had blown to the farthest reaches of the school property. Many up to 500 feet away, some pinned against fences, others caught in pools of water or mud left over from the melting snow. “I’m going to be here all afternoon,” I thought, spirits sinking.

And then it happened. One of the side doors of the school opened and out poured a slew of second-graders. They looked so happy and energetic, at first I thought they were coming out to recess.

But no. In a flash, all of them, boys and girls, slow and fast, had spread to the farthest corners of the school grounds, grabbing the lost papers.

After that, things were a cinch. What would have taken me two hours to do took two minutes. The second graders had saved the day! Though a bit cold and wet and muddy, they had performed a powerful act of charity.

As I sat back down in the chapel to work on the homily, a thought slowly grew in my mind. “God just gave me a much better homily than the one I had prepared.”
I gave in. My homily would be the story of the second-graders and the runaway papers. What better way to explain suffering!!!

The poor students who had the papers ripped away from them by the wind, what could they see? Only a big disaster. So too are we most often. We can only see our suffering. It’s hard for us to understand how God can have a plan in all of this, why God permits the suffering.

For the second-graders, the disaster of the wind-swept papers was a welcome 10-minute break from a day of class, and a wonderful opportunity to exercise charity. Really! Those kids were braving mud and puddles and soggy grass, and – what’s more – the possibility of getting in trouble later for their clothes being dirty. As I poked my head into their classroom afterwards to thank them, I found them feverishly trying to clean the muck off, but I also found them with huge smiles on their faces.

God has a plan, and when we’re the ones suffering, we can’t see the fullness of His plan. All we can do is trust that He, in His goodness, on His time, will make things work out for the best.

No disaster of the papers, no chance for the second-graders to shine.

I know I don’t understand why God lets our beloved teacher suffer, but God does. And we have to trust Him. Trust that just around the corner of the building lies the fullness of His plans. And His plans are always better than ours.

May God bless you,
Father Kevin