Priest Builds Ministry One Lego at a Time


Visitors to the Franklin Institute museum in Philadelphia take a look at a Lego rendition of the Vatican's St. Peter's Basilica, crafted by Father Bob Simon, pastor of St. Catherine of Siena Parish in Moscow, Pa. (CNS/Chaz Muth)

… Bob Simon fell in love with two things at the age of 5 — the Catholic Church and building with Lego.

Now, as a 51-year-old priest, Father Simon has discovered a way to merge both of these passions.

The pastor of St. Catherine of Siena Parish in Moscow finds that his Lego-building hobby not only provides him with a diversion from his ministry at a busy parish, but that it enriches his prayer life and offers him a tool for evangelization on a large stage…

… “It’s really interesting how this project has brought so much attention to the church,” he said after his audience moved on to the next exhibit. “It’s kind of serving as an unintended evangelization tool. My love of Lego wasn’t planned for that purpose, but it makes me happy that it gets people excited about the faith.” …

More here.



Frontline Confessions

Get Religion:

Hearing the confessions of soldiers shortly before they go into combat is one of the most important and symbolic duties performed by priests who serve as military chaplains representing Christianity’s ancient churches.

After all, the soldiers are going into harm’s way and there is no way to know if they will return. In a way, the priest knows that he could be hearing the penitent’s  final confession — turning this encounter into a kind of Last Rites for a person who is not sick unto death, but may be moments from death.

This brings me to the first photo — pictured above — in a remarkable online slideshow produced, using photos from a number of different news sources, by the foreign-affairs desk at The Washington Post.

This particular photo is from Getty Images. There is no way for me to know what kind of information was attached to this photo that could have been used by the copy-editor or editors who produced this feature. There is no way to know if the photographer had any way to talk to the specific priest or this penitent to obtain more information about what was happening in this dramatic scene.

As readers can see above, the photo caption reads:

A man kneels before an Orthodox priest in an area separating police and anti-government protesters near Dynamo Stadium on Jan. 25, 2014, in Kiev.

This is, I guess, a literal statement about what the photographer saw.

However, for the hundreds or perhaps even thousands of Ukrainians at the scene, that is not what was taking place.

The priest in this picture has placed his stole over the man’s head and is reading prayers. This is what happens at the end of the rite of confession, which under ideal conditions would take place in a sanctuary with the penitent facing an icon, often the icon known as Christ Pantocrator. The penitent is confessing his or her sins to Christ, with the priest hearing this confession representing the church.

Is there another circumstance in which a priest would place his stole over the head of a kneeling believer and then say prayers? There may be, but not one that I know of as an Eastern Orthodox layman. The same was true for my priest, to whom I took this question over the weekend.

Would it have been more dramatic to say that this believer, in the midst of territory that was turning into a war zone in downtown Kiev, felt the need to say his confession?

I would say so.

Is he confessing his sins because of something he has just done? There is no way to know that.

Is he confessing his sins because he believes he is about to be placed in a situation resembling combat, a setting in which his life will almost certainly be at risk? I would say that this is the safest interpretation of the information contained in this photo…

Read on here.




Overzealous Priest Overturns The Tables Of The Money Changers In Church Gift Shop

Eye of the Tiber:

Louisville, KY––In what the police are calling a “fanatical act committed while in the state of a nervous breakdown,” Associate Pastor of St. Margaret Catholic Church in Louisville, Kentucky, Father Randy Coelho, walked into the parish gift shop and began to overturn registers as well as tables containing rosaries, scapulars, and other religious goods earlier this morning.

The incident occurred shortly after the conclusion of the 7pm Mass, when an “overworked” Coelho appeared to have “snapped” following his first four-Mass day since ordination.

“It was very unusual,” said gift shop owner Rosie Culkin. “He’s usually so calm. But he in came screaming at us saying, ‘Is it not written, my house shall be called a house of prayer? But you have made it into a den of thieves.’ So I tried to calm him down and tell him that this was just the gift shop and that the house of prayer was about twenty-feet thataway. But he kept flipping everything over, which really sucked cause we have inventory to do tonight.”

Culkin went on to say that after also telling [Coelho] that it was not a den of thieves because thieves typically do not come into religious gift shops after Mass ready to purchase religious goods with cash or credit. Coelho told police that he just wanted to make sure they were not selling doves. No charges are expected to be filed.



Pic of the Day: Brave Priest

An Orthodox Priest tries to stop the violence as protests in Kiev, Ukraine, turn deadly.

This is the stuff Priests are made of! Definitely my pic of the day!

NY Daily News:

The priests braved bullets and walked into no-man’s land between pro-European Union integration protesters and President Viktor Yanukovych’s riot police. ‘I’m here to placate the violence,’ an Orthodox priest said.

More photos there.

‘Blessed are the peacemakers…’ (Matt 5:9).



A New Kind of Priest

Writes Fr Bevil Bramwell, OMI:

When the priest is ordained he is told: “imitate what you handle.” The reference, of course, is to Jesus Christ in the Blessed Sacrament. Jesus Christ is THE Priest. Priests simply participate in his priesthood. What would we get if we consider the priesthood starting with Jesus Christ and dropping the cultural baggage?

In a culture obsessed with leisure you will notice that Jesus never took time off to go fishing or meet with the guys over some wine. This was because Jesus is Priest. It was not a job like the men at the Temple had. He simply is priest as the total description of his existence. The ongoing inner sacrifice of the spirit and the external sacrifice of the Mass and of one’s own life happen continually and not on a schedule.

This is the priesthood the way that it shines out of Christ rather than being a job like filling teeth or selling shares. The sacrificial way of life does not shine through a meal of lobster and twenty-year-old brandy. It does shine through being with people and talking about Jesus Christ and sharing a simple meal with them. This is a horse of a different color – an informal life WITH people much like Pope Francis is living.

In a culture that is made up of what can only be called low-information people, the priest today has to be with people almost all of his day helping them to struggle with Catholicism, not so that people get their doctorates but so that they can learn to read their lives through the lens of Christ. Packaged catechetics for one hour a week, which ceases once the individual is confirmed, cannot serve such people.  

Priests will have to passionately want to share Catholicism and not just do sacramental ministry. Training has to change because candidates cannot necessarily do this merely by going to lectures. Seminaries have tried to copy Enlightenment-style universities that are not very effective in what they do anyway. These universities are agnostic and not a good model.

The other side of being in a low-information culture is that people generally are not logical. The Zimmerman trial was a classic illustration – many with definite opinions on the “guilt” of Zimmerman do not know the exculpatory forensic evidence that was presented. The case instead became a vehicle for their prejudices. This is sick in general culture, but imagine what it does when people try to approach being Catholic in the same way.

The Last Supper by Joan de Joanes (c. 1562)


For them Catholicism is some collection of isolated ideas padded out with what they get from the pagan culture. So the priest has got to be able to spend hours with them to show that he is Christ, loves people and can take the abuse that often comes from helping them to think as a Catholic should. This does not come without lots of practice. A seminary does not offer this. It requires total immersion in being Christlike to even begin to see what it feels like and what it means.

Today’s priest has inherited a real problem. He is the heir to over a hundred years of priestly culture that has reified the priesthood, making it like being doctor who leaves work and the rest of the day is “his.” Further, the rest of the day is for “neutral” non-Christian activities. Living, as we do, in a Protestant culture means that clergy will be likely to unconsciously cast their own priesthood in terms of a protestant minister – hired by the community and so concerned not to upset them by teaching anything they won’t already accept.

Some priests do realize that they have to live the life of Christ as closely as possible. I am not speaking about them. The issue comes up when you have one priest who knows this and twenty others who are of the 9-to-5 variety. Where is the chance for collegial growth as priests in Christ?

There’s more. In a unisex culture, the priest is still supposed to be a male leading a parish that is spiritually receptive, that is spiritually feminine. He has to know and live out what true maleness is from Christ, the epitome of being male in this world. Then he can learn from Christ how to lead a Christian community. Of course, this depends on whether we believe in the Incarnation. Was Jesus truly a man? Or do we take the culture with its inevitable cloak of sin and the corresponding distortion of gender as the source of meaning?

Lastly, we live in a distraction-based culture. Every one of us is susceptible to the next shiny thing that comes along – a TV show, a new phone, a movie star’s wardrobe malfunction. You name it. Yet the priest still has to be Christ who is more attractive and more constant than any created thing.

This constancy, which translates into constant Christlike presence, is good for the priest and the people. Constancy in prayer and availability is Christlike. It is a great time to be a priest!



Priest Dies Cleaning Own Gun

Vanguard reports:

The Parish Priest of St. Thomas Moore Catholic Church, Sobe, in Owan West Local Government  Area of Edo State, Rev. Father Peter Ayala, was, Sunday morning, found dead in his apartment, few hours before he was due to conduct the 7a.m mass.

Vanguard gathered that the cleric was said to be cleaning his double-barreled gun inside his apartment within the church premises, when the gun reportedly went off and killed him.

It was gathered that the incident took place in the early hours of Sunday before the Priest dressed up for the mass even as worshippers were said to be gathering for the service.

The incident, it was learnt, threw the church into confusion as mass servers and church elders made frantic efforts to know what went wrong with congregation waiting for the mass to begin but found the priest lying dead in his apartment.

The Elders  were said have later reported the incident to the Bishop of the Auchi Diocese, Dr Gabriel Duniya, who it was gathered conducted a quick investigation with security agents and confirmed that the priest died when the rifle he was cleaning went off.

Meanwhile, Sobe was still in mourning, yesterday, as the worshippers, irrespective of their denominations, on hearing the tragic news gathered near the church premises, discussing the incident in hush tones.

Contacted, the Edo State Police Public Relations, DSP Moses Eguavoen said the incident was unfortunate, adding that the state command was yet to get the full details of what transpired before the Priest’s death.