Thursday, December 3, 2015

Bless-the-Baby-Jesus

blessing baby Jesus figurines after mass yesterday

Dear family and friends,

Yesterday was our Bless-the-Baby-Jesus mass for the preschool. At the end of mass, all the children came up to the front of the Church and got ready to bless their baby Jesus figurines individually. It was then that we heard a CRASH! - one little boy had dropped his porcelain baby Jesus on the floor! He immediately burst into tears and ran to his mom.

book i used for the blessing
The funny thing was that I had just used the prayer of blessing from a children’s book called “Bambinelli Sunday: a Christmas Blessing”, which is all about a little boy who drops his own baby Jesus figurine before he can bring it to Rome to be blessed by the Pope. And even more helpful, some friends of mine had just given me my own baby Jesus figurine, a little wooden one, which I was able to loan to my forlorn little friend. Once he had quieted down, we read him the story and he managed to smile.

my little wooden Baby Jesus
Everything ended well, and who knows, maybe some super glue will make his baby Jesus come to life again!

Tomorrow I head to Rome with 26 pilgrims for our annual Family Pilgrimage. Can’t wait! Some of the highlights will be mass December 6th at the chapel of San Pellegrino in Vaticano, oldest church in Vatican City and the site of my first mass as a priest. I wrote about a powerful experience I had there here: http://www.cblstones.com/2014/12/remembering-year-ago-today.html .
 
after mass with my fellow seminarians in the chapel of San Pellegrino
We will have mass the next day at the tomb of Saint Pope John Paul II. I have always wanted to celebrate mass there, I owe so much to him! Usually you have to reserve his altar months in advance, but I sent an email the other day and they had a slot open exactly when we wanted to come. God is good!

The Jubilee year of Mercy will start December 8th, and we will be there with Pope Francis. It will be the beginning of a whole year where we can celebrate in an extra-special way the mercy of God our Father.

There’s a lot more, you can follow our itinerary here: http://romepilgrimage.weebly.com/

I also wanted to let you know my own needs, in case you feel called to help. Would you be willing to support my ministry? I receive a part-time stipend ($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 Jesus what he would have you do to support my mission as a priest and missionary? You can donate, pray, or even get something – like handkerchiefs – for me off my wishlist!


You can make a donation to my religious community here in Cincinnati via our website http://www.ohiolc.com/support-us.html , or send a check to

LC Pastoral Services
8162 Chestershire Drive
Cincinnati, OH 45241

You and your loved ones will be in my prayers this Advent, and especially as I visit the holy places in Rome and Assisi!

May God bless you abundantly!!!!
Father Kevin


Thursday, November 26, 2015

standing on the shoulders of giants

Dear family and friends,

Yesterday I visited my great Aunt, my grandmother’s sister. My grandmother passed away years ago, and I loved her dearly, so it was quite a treat for me to be able to see her little sister.

For a long time I’ve been wondering where my calling came from. I mean, certainly God can call anyone He wants, whenever He wants. But I believe the great graces God gives us in life come often as a result of the goodness of others, especially our own families. The good in us isn’t due to our good decisions alone, it’s also due to theirs.
 
My sister Monica
I’m a priest, and my sister is a Franciscan Sister. Those are two little miracles right there, so I’d always wondered where they came from. My grandmother’s second cousin, Sister Marguerite Marie, was a cloistered Visitation nun in Annecy, France for over 60 years. I went to visit her once and was amazed by her goodness and grace.

Sister Marguerite Marie
But it was my great Aunt yesterday who filled in one of the great missing links. We were talking about her father, my great grandfather. She told me how he was a medic in the first World War, stationed in France. While on guard duty one night, peering through the fog, he caught sight of a figure moving about. My grandfather shouted “halt!” But the person paid no attention. Now my grandfather was the type who never had the heart to shoot any living thing – that was why he was the medic. So he went closer and realized that the figure in the night was a nun. She was bent over the soldiers’ garbage heap, scooping out the coffee grinds of the day. She was going to reuse them at her convent. It was then that my grandfather realized the sisters were starving.
my great grandfather

Going back to the camp, he filled his arms – he had huge arms – with the extra bread from the soldiers. He brought it to the sister and gave it all to her. From then on, as long as he was stationed there, he would bring the bread and place it behind a statue by the convent. When it came time for his unit to move on, he left a note to tell the sister. The last time he went to leave bread, she had left a rosary as a gift for him.
my great aunt

Later on, when everyone in his unit was getting wounded or worse, they were stationed by Domr√©my, France – Joan of Arc’s hometown. He went to the parish Church one day and prayed to Saint Joan, promising that if he made it back alive, he would name his first daughter after her. That daughter was Joan, my grandmother.

Bernard of Clairvaux said that we are “Standing on the shoulders of giants”. I certainly am: my parents, my grandparents, my great grandparents, Saint Joan, and certainly so many others whose names I’ll only know in heaven. My vocation, my priesthood, is such a gift, but it is not my own.

Makes my heart swell with gratitude. A thanksgiving, not just for the gifts of food and plenty, but even more a gratitude for the gift of those who’ve gone before us, and those who surround us, our families and friends.

Father Kevin


Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Big Mac

Big Mac in his element
Dear Family and Friends,

I never thought something so small could make so many people smile. Let me explain.

My friend raises dogs - long-haired daschunds. I went over to visit her and her family one Sunday afternoon and she showed me a litter of puppies.

Now there were five pups in this litter, 4 girls and one boy. As I stooped down to look at them, all the pups scooted away except one. He let me pick him up and hold him without fussing. “That’s Big Mac” my friend said, “He’s the boy.”
Dognapping!

The funny thing is, “Big Mac” was my nickname back in High School. I was a little bigger than most of the guys, and my last name is McKenzie, so somebody thought that up and it stuck.

Little Big Mac and big Big Mac got along quite well from day one, to say the least.

So it was that a few weeks ago, I “dognapped” Big Mac for a day. I couldn’t help it! He was so adorable! He gave no complaints, just wanted to sit in my lap all the way home.
Big Mac as a little pup


I took him for a walk, but, well, walks aren’t his thing. His short little legs can’t move fast at all and then his walk is more a zig zag than a line, so it was all I could do to avoid stepping on him about every three steps.

Walking back inside, my old backpack called to me from the corner. It was Big Mac-sized. The little daschund let me slip him inside backwards. Just his head stuck out, and the backpack was a perfect fit.

Happy doggy
I slung him on my shoulders and jumped on a bike. He just smiled and stuck his head out, now by my right ear, now by my left.

We went to the park. I go to the park quite often. It’s where I’m writing this story right now. When I go for a jog there, some people say hi as you pass them, some might even wave… but with Big Mac in my backpack, everything changed.

Before I even got there two people struck up conversations with me. At the park, people waved and laughed. Mothers pointed him out to their children, “Look at the doggy!” Everyone smiled. Everyone. Dog owners stopped to chat, as did several others. Some wanted to pet, “that adorable dog” as they called him. Big Mac was a star!

And I was flabbergasted. All Big Mac had done was, well, nothing. He had let me put him in my backpack, and then he just smiled. And he spread so much joy! It was a totally different bike ride, I’ll tell you that much!

Big Mac at Prayer
There is much more to love about Big Mac. I went to the little chapel in our house and knelt down to pray, and in he came and put his little paws up on a kneeler too, like he knew exactly what he was doing! Then I went to celebrate mass, and he sat by my feet the whole time. Praying, I suppose!

Big Mac made friends with everyone. And he really didn’t do much. Reminds me of the kind of person that pleases God most, the childlike. What a lesson such a little dog can teach us! In many ways, we please God more by who we are than by what we accomplish. Instead of the harsh judge who at times we make Him out to be, perhaps we should let Him be the gentle and loving father, “Abba” as Jesus calls Him.

Hoping you are enjoying these last days of fall,

Father Kevin


Sunday, September 6, 2015

cookies and cana

I
the wonder-cookies
Dear family and friends,

I love chocolate chip cookies - could eat them every meal. I love them so much in fact, that recently I learned how to make them from scratch. Now I can have them on demand, whenever I want. And they come out good too - not quite as good as my mom's- but still quite acceptable.

So my heart went out to the family I was visiting. Their mom had just had a big operation and couldn't do any cooking on her own. I had stopped by to visit, and stayed for dinner a friend had brought the meal. But there was no dessert! They were out of cookies! And to make matters worse, they have three high school-aged boys! It was like the wedding at Cana, but this time Mary was saying, "They have no cookies!"

So I swung into high gear. Mom helped me find the chocolate chips. Then there was the flour, eggs, salt, baking soda... vanilla extract... oh yeah, and butter! In no time, the cookies were in the oven and not only all three boys, but even mom was scraping finger-fulls of cookie dough from the mixing bowl.

It sure was hard walking out of that house, leaving behind those chocolate chip cookies.

Back home, ours was a cookie-less household. I resigned myself to the fact, and went to the chapel to pray. On my way, the door bell rang. It was about 9pm. Who could this be?

It turned out that one of our neighbors had thought it would be nice to bring us a plate of - no, I am not making this up - chocolate chip cookies! I thanked her profusely, and headed into the kitchen. Pouring myself a glass of milk, I dug in. She must have added some sort of secret ingredient, for these cookies were a-mazing. Really. They were still warm, had the perfect amount of crispiness, and were light-years ahead of anything I could have ever made.

She didn't know it, but she had been Jesus for me that night. And Jesus had been so good, too good. He had taken my jars of water - my cookies, and transformed them. Transformed them into something ever so much better than wine - chocolate chip cookies!!!!!

Have a cookie and a glass of milk, it will do you good!!!!

God bless,

Father Kevin

Cookies I baked yesterday

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

graves and graces

bike in cemetery just after fixing

Dear Family and Friends,

I was coming back from a long bike ride the other day when my gears got stuck. Jammed. Bad.

It was the hill that did it - the bike path crossed over a little stream then up a hill and across a cemetery. Shifting gears too quickly as I went up the hill, the chain got stuck in between a sprocket and the wheel. I stopped and  leaned over and tried to wrench it free with a stick - but to no avail. Greasy hands are not my favorite, but I had to give it a go. Still, even yanking on the chain with all my might only made it wedge itself in more.

So I flipped the bike over. I was frustrated, very frustrated. I had planned my ride with just enough time to make it home, shower up, and then head over to some friends for lunch. But it didn't look like that was going to happen. This was the worst bicycle problem I'd ever had!

tunnel on the way home
"God, how could you do this to me?!?!" flashed through my head. Of all days, of all places!

It was my own ridiculousness that made me laugh. "God didn't break your bike, you did!" And it was true. I had shifted the gears, I had made the mistake. God had nothing to do with that.

And hey, what's a broken bike?

I looked around me at the graves. 1899, 1903, 1834. "What would they think of this spectacle in their graveyard?" I wondered.

Then I set to work on the bike in earnest. Undoing the bolt on the rear wheel, pieces started falling everywhere onto the grass. The bolt itself saved the day. It doubled as a lever that worked to pry the chain links out, one by one.

After the bike was back together, I surveyed the scene again. Took a picture. Realized the whole thing had taken no more than ten minutes, that I wasn't late, and that I had learned a great lesson in patience and humility.

In the face of eternity, a feisty bike chain isn't really all that important, and definitely not something to get bent out of shape over. I'm sure the souls there in the cemetery - souls full of all kinds of life experience - had a good laugh at me.

Hope you are enjoying these quiet first weeks of August. I am!

God bless you all,
Father Kevin

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

five fish for five priests

my last cast
Dear family and friends,

Not even a bite.

We had been fishing all afternoon - three of us priests - and we had caught nothing. Two other priests had been setting up our cookout, waiting for us to bring in our catch. We were on vacation together at Yellowstone Park, having a wonderful time, but just one little fish would have made it so much more wonderful.
 
sunset over Yellowstone Lake
The weather was gorgeous - sunny skies, perfect temperatures, just enough breeze to keep the bugs away.   The air was sweet with the butterscotch scent of the Ponderosa pines. Huge cumulus clouds blazed picture-perfect purple as the sun set over the lake.

One little fish - that was all I asked of the Lord. I had been thinking of Him and how he helped Peter make his miraculous catch. I didn't need a hundred and fifty-three, just one. And maybe a few more so that all five of us could have something to eat for dinner.
 
full moon over Bridge Bay
It was already 8pm, and the light was fading fast. I gave one last cast, hoping for the best. As I reeled in the last little bit of line and pulled my lure from the lake, I thought to myself, "Well, I'm ok with not catching anything, the beauty here is enough." A group of about eight loons had appeared, leaving large wakes in the water. The moon - full, or almost full - cast an undulating mirror image of itself in the lake. A few sleepy stars had already begun peeking out their heads from the gathering darkness.

So I headed for the picnic table and the other priests. "That's strange," I thought. "Who's that guy wearing a fishing vest?" An old man stood by our picnic table, chatting with one of the priests. As I leaned my rod against a tree, something on the picnic table caught my eye. There were five large trout laid out next to each other!
 
the miraculous trout
This man, Norberto, had seen the priests setting up the fire, and had offered his catch to us. He had no idea we had been fishing for so long without catching anything. "My wife doesn't like fish," was his only explanation.

There were five of us, and he had given us five trout.

Now if I remember correctly, in the miracle of the loaves and fishes, Jesus made five loaves and two fishes feed more than five thousand people. In a sense, He had just worked a greater miracle for us. From no fish, he had given us each one. Five fish. For five priests. From a day of catching nothing.

Once he discovered that we were five priests, Norberto hung around with us through most of our dinner. He had brought a lot of joy into our lives that day by giving us his fish, and perhaps we brightened his day with our conversation.
 
grilling the trout
 
As I savored the last few bites of that delicious, charcoal-grilled trout, I thanked God for once more showing me and my companions how much He loves us. It sure was easy to get down after about the hundredth unsuccessful cast, but God just wanted to show us that He's in charge and He is a better fisherman than we are.

Isn't that the lesson God is often trying to teach us through all our worryings? We are so little and can do so little on our own, but He can do everything. He can - loves to - work through what seem to us to be the most impossible of situations. Through it all, He's patiently waiting for the moment when we will patiently wait on Him, and really trust Him with all our heart.

Just the fact that I can go to Yellowstone and spend time on vacation I consider a tremendous gift from God. For Him to show His love through little miracles like the five miraculous fishes well, it just makes me wonder what gift He has in store tomorrow. He always does.

May God bless you, and I hope you can go on vacation sometime soon!

Father Kevin 

Friday, May 29, 2015

5 reasons I love being a priest - in pictures

Dear Family and Friends,

I sure love being a priest. Here are five reasons why in pictures:

1. Little Prayer Partners - Whenever I'm praying in the chapel and the students come into pray on their own, I get little prayer partners!


2. Altar Servers' Rules - Numbers 10 and 11 are my favorites!


3. Preschoolers - Nothing is quite as much fun as visiting the preschool - here we just compared their plush toy mass kit to the things I use at mass!


4. Catfish! - The other day at a family picnic about 8 little boys and girls helped me land this 3 pound catfish!


5. The Mass - Catching catfish may be plenty fun, but nothing beats getting to celebrate the holy sacrifice of the Mass every day. Nothing.



God bless you all,
Father Kevin

Monday, May 18, 2015

smashing mailboxes

Dear Family and Friends,

If you were to make a list of ways to become friends with people, smashing into their mailbox would probably not be on it.

But that’s exactly what I did the other day, as I was pulling out of the driveway. It was rainy and I had just put a bike rack on the car I use, when from behind I heard a sickening crunch. The bike rack had slammed into one of our neighbors mailboxes, leaving it in pretty bad shape. Gulp!

No one answered when I knocked on the neighbors door, so I left a note. “Yes, a priest has just vandalized our mailbox” – Imagine them trying to figure out that one!

It was only a week later that we were finally able to talk and I could apologize. We struck up a conversation, and it turns out we know all kinds of people in common. The wife had gone to the prom with my dentist back in High School. They are heading to Italy soon, so I was able to give them some advice on how to spend their time. One of the other priests I live with joined in, he told them about his home country of Spain, and we had a grand old time. We ended up chatting for about an hour and a half.

And became friends! And it all started with that horrible, terrible, no-good rotten rainy day when I slammed into their mailbox!

Sometimes it’s hard to understand why God lets bad things happen. It’s because we’re free (He’s not the one who crashed the car into the mailbox, I am) and because He loves to bring good out of what we think can only be bad.

Maybe it’s also part of his sense of humor!

You are in my prayers,

Father Kevin 

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Almost-Miracles

In Adoration during the Boys' Retreat, Red Candle in the Back
Dear Family and Friends,

There’s something about the Eucharist. It’s kind of hard for me to explain what I mean, but here goes.

Perhaps you remember my story about finding a 5-year old fragment of the Eucharist in a service panel underneath the altar at a parish church. I wrote about that here.

That was just the beginning. A few months ago I was visiting a small adoration chapel and was asked to put the Eucharist back in the tabernacle. As I took the host out of the monstrance (a special holder for adoration) I noticed another small fragment sitting inside the monstrance. This was the only time I have ever touched that monstrance. Jesus has a way of being found!

Fast forward a few months. Recently I was celebrating mass in another parish and when I went to put the Eucharist away, I noticed something sitting in the corner of the tabernacle. It was a whole host and another half of a host. I wonder how long they had been there!

Then there was the boys’ weekend ski retreat. We keep the Eucharist in the tabernacle of our small chapel in the countryside during the retreat. During the last mass before we went skiing, I consumed the last host since we wouldn’t be using the chapel for a while. Most chapels have a red candle that is lit to show when the Eucharist is there. When you take the Eucharist away, you blow the candle out. I remember glancing at the candle at the beginning of mass that morning, and sure enough, it was lit. Then as I went to take the Blessed Sacrament out of the tabernacle before communion time, I noticed again that the candle was lit. After giving out communion and consuming the last host, I was about to tell one of the servers to blow out the candle, when I noticed that the candle was not lit. It had burned out by itself just as the last host was consumed.

What moves me to write about these experiences is what happened just the other day. I was on my way to give the Anointing of the Sick to a grandmother after school. I brought one host with me so she could receive communion. As I pulled out of the school I got a green light where usually it was red. Then I got a green left arrow where I always have to wait. Then another green light, then another, then another. Each time I would approach a light, it would be red, but just before I started slowing down, it would turn green. I went through 9 green lights in all. I had traveled that road many a time before, and this had never happened. I almost felt like Batman.

It was as if the lights were turning green out of respect for the Eucharist! And before, it was as if the candle had held out, just as long as it needed to. And finding the fragments of the Eucharist – it was like God put me in the right place at the right time.

In all of this, it seems that God doesn’t go so far as to use miracles to show us His presence, but He does use everything short of miracles to confirm it for us.

Sure, perhaps you could say these things are all coincidences. The Eucharist looks just like a piece of ordinary bread, and tastes and smells like one. Oftentimes it is hard to believe that Jesus really meant what he said when he took bread, and said “this is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me”. To believe that requires a lot of faith! But for me at least, these glimpses over the last few months have helped me see a little bit of what I usually can only believe.

Hope they help you see too!
And hope you had a Happy Easter!

Father Kevin

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Happy Feast of Saint Joseph!

Pope Francis' sleeping Saint Joseph Statue
Dear Family and Friends,

Today is the feast of Saint Joseph, the husband of Mary.

Did you know that Pope Francis has a statue of Saint Joseph on his desk? It’s a pretty unique one too, since it’s Saint Joseph asleep!

Take a look at this video from romereports which shows the statue. Pope Francis explains that when you need to ask saint Joseph for help, you should put a little note under his statue.

Francis has quite a special relationship with Joseph. Referring to him, he says elsewhere, “You know, you have to be patient with these carpenters: they tell you they’ll have a piece of furniture finished in a couple of weeks and it ends up taking a month even. But they get the job done and they do it well! You just need to be patient…” Reminds me of some carpenters I know!

At one point in the video, Pope Francis even speaks a little English! Pretty neat!

May Joseph watch over all of you,

Father Kevin

Friday, March 6, 2015

Sorry Saint Anthony!

Dear Family and Friends,

I lost my wallet a few months ago. It was hard remembering where, but I assumed it was at a park where I was playing disc golf with some of my fellow priests. I waited a week hoping someone would find it and return it, but nothing happened. So I drove an hour to the park, hunted for it, and came back empty handed. Then I called the park service and asked them to keep an eye out for it.

All through this time, I had been setting Saint Anthony on the back burner. Let me explain.

Saint Anthony of Padua was one of the first followers of Saint Francis of Assisi. He was a miracle worker like Saint Francis – for instance, one day he preached to thousands of fish who came up to the surface of the sea together to listen to him when the stubborn citizens of a town wouldn’t.

It’s an old tradition that when you lose something, you should pray to Saint Anthony, because he’ll help you find it. He keeps working miracles – especially the lost-and-found kind. Over the years, he has found many a lost thing for me and others I know. One time he found the wedding ring of my mom’s friend. Another time he found my stolen bike.

But as far as my wallet goes, I had been giving Anthony the cold shoulder. To be honest, I did say a quick prayer to him. But I didn’t plead with him. I searched everywhere. I guess I was trusting in my own strength. I remember mentioning the lost wallet to a friend, who emphatically asked me if I had prayed to Saint Anthony. And for a moment I resolved to do so. I thought, “I should go to my room and pray and Saint Anthony will find it for me.” But I didn’t. I didn’t let Anthony and his amazing honing ability guide me.

Anyway, the other day I finally went to get a new driver’s license. I had given up all hope.

As I walked in the door of our house with my new license that day, I was met by one of the priests I live with. It turns out that he was looking for something in my room, when he found my wallet under a stack of papers. It was in the little shelf on the kneeler – precisely where I would have gone to say my prayer to Saint Anthony!

Sorry Saint Anthony! Sometimes we can be such knuckleheads!

May this special saint intercede for you!
Father Kevin

the frisbee Saint Anthony found!

Turns out we were playing disc golf again the other day and lost a disc in a large field. After ten minutes of searching in vain, I remembered the whole story of the wallet and said a quick prayer to Anthony. Sure enough, moments later I stumbled across the missing disc! I’m sure Anthony was laughing!


Saturday, January 10, 2015

when our children love Jesus more than we do

Dear family and friends,

As a priest you are welcomed into the homes of so many families, and each has incredible stories, the kind that never make it to the nightly news.

One dad told me of how his family had just moved from the city to the country. Instead of small city blocks, there were huge mile by-mile country blocks. Shortly after they had settled in, one of his daughters, a fourteen-year-old, asked her father if she could go for a bike ride “around the block”. He said that after she had been gone 30 minutes he got a bit worried, but figured it was a long distance to travel. After 45 minutes, he was really worried. When she appeared at the end of their gravel drive after over an hour had passed, he was fuming. “Where have you been?” he demanded, ready to explode. “Oh, I saw the eucharistic adoration chapel at the parish, and so I stopped in to spend some time with our Lord,” she replied. The dad told me he felt like a hot air balloon deflating in just seconds. “What could I say?” he told me.

Yes, what could he say? He’s really blessed to have such a wonderful daughter!

Another dad told of coming home one evening from work and finding his favorite painting of Jesus – made by a friend just for him – covered in smudges and smears. He lined his three daughters up, “This painting is mine. Who did this to it?”  he demanded. His youngest daughter took a step backwards and slowly raised her hand. “I did it dad,” she said sheepishly. “Why?” he asked, pleading. “I was just kissing Jesus because I love him.” The dad said he almost melted on the spot. “I realized that my daughter loves Jesus more than I do!”

Wow!

Reminds me of the Gospel of Matthew: “Unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” All of us complicated adults had better start that turning and becoming!

I go on retreat tonight with 25 other priests, and will be praying for you, please say a prayer for all of us!

May God bless you
Father Kevin
   

PS – the rest of the story is: the first daughter now takes bike rides without her father worrying, and the painting was quickly restored by the original artist – to better-than-before condition!