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Hi everyone, welcome to this addition to Praying with Priests. I have the absolute privilege of being here with Bishop Anthony Pilla, the Bishop Emeritus of the Diocese of Cleveland. He was my Bishop for most of my life, and I have wonderful memories of Bishop Pilla. I was a little bit disappointed that he retired a little bit before my ordination. I was in the first class that he did not ordain. I have always felt a lot of love from Bishop Pilla, and part of that is that he always asks, “How is your mom? How is your dad?” That has always been an important thing that he asks of me.

Father Michael:

So, it is a real privilege to be here with him as we just talk about prayer. His experience of prayer has been throughout his life, and maybe, he will have some tips and pointers for some of you who are listening as well. Welcome, Bishop Pilla.

Bishop Pilla:

Thank you. Glad to be here.

Father Michael:

I would like to begin with just talking about your earliest memories or experiences that you have had of prayer. When you think of that, what are some of the memories that come to mind?

Bishop Pilla:

I do not think that I could honestly say that I had early notions of prayer. I remember observing my grandmother and my mother, who prayed frequently, and I just did what they did. I did not know what I was doing. I don’t think. But I knew that I should look and that it was not playing time. It was serious stuff. That was my earliest sign of being around people who prayed. The first time I understood what praying is, was probably when I went to elementary school and received my First Communion. That was an awesome moment for me. I knew I was doing something very special, and it had something to do with God, and I knew I had to be certain ways of being respectful. I did, I was,  and I just did it, because I thought that the way you should do it. I always knew that if I didn’t, when I was small, that my grandmother and my mother would let me know that I didn’t do it. I never did it because I was afraid. I did it because I admired them because usually, my earliest experiences were whenever they needed something, or there was something important in the life they needed, you would say a prayer to God. I thought that it was pretty good that you could pray to God when you need something. So, when I needed something, I knew I began to ask God. That was my early life. I was in a religious environment. Religious in a sense that faith meant something. My grandmother never went to school, but she is probably the best theologian I have ever met. Her religious instincts were so terrific, and just being around her taught me a lot about praying and being a Catholic.

Father Michael:

When you joined your mother and your grandmother for prayer, maybe, as you said, you did not even know what was going on.  What were they doing? Where was that?

Bishop Pilla:

Oh, usually with them, it was anywhere. If it happened to be in the kitchen, my grandmother would have an apron with pockets, and usually, there was a rosary in them.  So, no matter where they were, they were ready. Both of them were there, there were two rooms they lived in: kitchen and bedroom. Usually, it would be in the kitchen, and occasionally it would be in the living room but not very often because it wasn’t something extraordinary. They did not have to sit in the living room. It was not something extraordinary. It was just something that they did. It did not make any difference where they were. So, that is what I did. I prayed where I was. I prayed with them.

Father Michael:

What was the affective feeling of that when you prayed with them?

Bishop Pilla:

I think I was just kind of in awe when I was small. It is hard to describe. It was respect for what they were doing, and I wanted to be like them. I didn’t have any idea of the theology of it.

Father Michael:

Tell me a little bit more about your First Communion.

Bishop Pilla:

My First Communion at that time was very important. You had to get a new suit, a white suit. You had to have a special white prayer book and a rosary. In my family that was an important day. That kind of put me in touch with religion in a whole new way. It was not just something nice to do. Suddenly, it became a little more something expected and something I should do because of who God is. I did not understand any of it, but as I look back, that’s how I felt. I thought you had to do this, and you should do this because God’s good to you, and you need God. 

Father Michael:

So, there is a sense of awe that you had—a sense of reverence and respect. Sometimes when people hear reverence or respect, they think obligation or boring.

Bishop Pilla:

No obligation, not when I was that young. I never felt obligated, and they did not make me feel that way. There was never a punishment or anything like that. I can still hear my grandmother and mother talking that it was a privilege we had as Catholics. As Catholics, this is who we are. If you are Catholic, you go to church on Sunday. My father said, “If you do not go to church, you do not eat in this house.” It is something you are supposed to do. They never made me feel like it was a law but an obligation in a unique sense that was not imposed. It was an obligation that was appreciated. They never made me feel I had to do it or I would be punished. It was something I should do because it was the right thing to do.

Father Michael:

Sacramentals are so important to us. Are there any that you hung on to throughout the years?

Bishop Pilla:

Holy water, my grandmother. Until the day she died, I had to fill up the holy water constantly—statues, especially The Madonna. Crucifix, every room had one, and when you prayed, and if you looked at it, it helped. Now people mock that. It was nothing like that. They were not trying to do something. They were not manipulating me with externals. It was not like that at all. They were trying to help me, and they were trying to teach me who the Blessed Mother was. What the crucifix is. That is the way I learned it, and at the same time, I was learning the catechism.

Father Michael:

Yes, we hear the families are the primary church. Teach us all about God.

Bishop Pilla:

No doubt about that. You were talking about obligation my grandmother was very funny. After I became a priest, they had no meat on Friday. They took that away. I went to visit my grandmother, and it was Friday. She said, “I am making fish.” I said, “Grandma, you do not have to do that anymore. You can eat meat on Friday,” She said, “Anthony, you and the Pope do what you want to do; I am going to do what I want to do.” This is something she told me that I never forgot. She said, “I do not do it because I have to do it. I do it because I want to do it.”

Father Michael:

That is wonderful.

Bishop Pilla:

It sounds so simple, but that is good theology. Everything in the human person that has meaning has to be clearly the expression of the conscience of that individual. That is what gives meaning. It is what you really think that gives meaning to what you are doing. If you do not really think it is really important, it is not important. Maybe it should be, but it is not for you.

Father Michael:

Well, they modeled that for you. So, you grew up primarily having petitionary prayer. Go to God whenever you need it or want to ask Him for something or help. Also, with the sacramental aspects of this, even looking at the crucifix in terms of having that sacramental life. So, as you go through grade school any developments in there in terms of your own prayer life?

Bishop Pilla:

Yes, that is where I first began to think about what these things meant. I did them because it was more on the affective side. It made me feel good, and I liked to do it with my mother and my grandmother. I just liked it. When I started going to school, I started learning why I should do it. That made a big difference. Then it changed for a little bit because I got away from just petitionary prayer. I started thinking about Adoration and thinking about not talking too much. I learned that we make a mistake with God like with each other we talk too much. We do not listen to each other. When you are dealing with God, that is a big mistake. People think prayer is saying a lot of words, or reading something beautiful, or something printed. That is not the best form of prayer. The best form of prayer is just with God, and you do not have to say anything. You just have to think about that relationship and how it applies to your life.

Father Michael:

How did you discover Adoration? Can you tell our listeners maybe if they do not know what that is?

Bishop Pilla:

Adoration is you pray to God because He is God and all-knowing, all-powerful, and all good; goodness is there. It is just a sense of total awe of the presence of God that is totally consuming and overwhelming. We can never understand God. I do not want to get too technical, but you cannot know God because in order for you to know anything, you have to comprehend it yourself. You have to make it part of you, in your brain. You cannot do that with God. You are never going to know God totally because then you would be God. That is why Saint Augustine said, “Our heart is longing for you you, and it won’t rest until it rests in you.” As a human being, you are never going to know God. As if it is all over to understand it all. It is always going to be searching. There is always a better day. There is always a better way and more fulfilling way.

When we talk about Adoration, we are talking because God is God. Just thinking about that, we do not understand what that means. He is not just a friend. He is not just a father or mother. He is God. Just thinking about what all that means. Who created the world from nothing? Who has no beginning and no end? Who has total knowledge? Who understands you better than anyone else? I know your mother and father love you, but that does not begin to be like how much God loves you. So, when they die it is a shame, but I think we have to remember that is the best thing that can happen to us. Then we are going to be known for sure, who we are… clearly… by the only one who knows that, and that is God. That is what we are talking about. We are not just asking for something. You are not praising for some specific thing. Just who He is.

Father Michael:

Bishop Pilla seems to be describing contemplative prayer as the mystics would call it. Many of our listeners know that there is vocal prayer, meditative prayer, and contemplative prayer, simply just being with God and resting in His presence. Any other grade school influences? Did you have nuns that taught you?

Bishop Pilla:

Yes. It was, to be honest with you, the next big bump was at Cathedral Latin. In grade school, I did these things more out of respect. I had respect for my teachers, and I did it because they asked me to do it. I am not sure I would have prayed as often had it not been for my teachers, who put me in situations where there was prayer. It was not something I thought of doing by myself too often. I was playing football and doing other things. But at Cathedral Latin, one of the brothers asked me to join a sodality, a devotion to the Blessed Mother.

Father Michael:

What does that word mean, sodality? I have never heard that word.

Bishop Pilla:

It is a prayer group, but it is dedicated to the Blessed Mother. I played football, and he came in after practice. He was kind of the chaplain, Brother Joe Morgan, at Cathedral Latin. He said to me, “I am forming this sodality, and we will focus on religious vocations. I think you ought to come.” I said, “What is a religious vocation?” I did not know what that was. He told me what it was, and I said, “I don’t know, I never thought of that.”  He said, “Ah, well ll think about it.” So I said: “OK.”  So, I did go, and little by little, I began to think seriously about what I was hearing, that maybe God was calling me, but he wanted me to be a brother to teach at Latin, and I had no interest in being a brother teaching at Latin. To his credit, he said, “Did you ever think about being a priest?” I said, “No, I never thought about being a priest.”

Father Michael:

You never thought about it until then?

Bishop Pilla:

Noooo. I never thought about being a priest. He said, “You ought to think about it. Go talk to some priests.” I waited for a little while then I did talk to our parish priest. I started watching priests. I said to myself, “that is not a bad way to live. They are making this a better world for everyone. That’s what I wanna do with my life; maybe that is the way I should do it.” Then I started thinking and talking to God. They told me all about discernment. What a vocation is, and you discern in a prayerful relationship with God. That is when I started understanding that prayer is a little more than just words, and I ended up in the seminary. That is how it was. I went to public school before I went to Latin. (Laughs) It was very interesting. I was the only one in my class in the seminary that did not know how to serve mass because I never served mass. I went to church on Sunday, but I never served mass. So, they had to take me every morning, seniors too, to the back chapel and teach me how to serve. That taught me a lot because I did not know all those things I was doing and saying, but he did tell me what I was doing, what I was saying, and what it meant.  I think that helped me a great deal.

Father Michael:

Did you go to public grade school?

Bishop Pilla:

And junior high.

Father Michael:

Then Cathedral Latin High is the high school, and that was run by who?

Bishop Pilla:

The Marianist, with the same ones that run Saint Joe’s High School on the east side.

Father Michael:

As you were discerning, when did you come to know that – all right, God, this is what you are calling me to?

Bishop Pilla:

I have been asked that before. That took a while. Initially, I felt that this was something I ought to try. I really love my father, and I always remember what he told me before leaving for the seminary. He said, “Anthony, you do what you want to do. I will be honest with you; I want you to be an electrical engineer.” My teachers wanted me to be a doctor. “But you have to do what you want to do,” he said. “I want to say something to you. You want to be a priest. You go to the seminary and try to find out, but do not ever be afraid to come home and tell me that you do not want to be a priest.” He said, “You do what you think God wants you to do. Do not ever be afraid of what I am going to do because you are my son. I love you no matter what you decide to do.” That was such a freeing moment. I did not feel under any pressure at all. That helped me a great deal because I was in a class of guys that did not have that kind of response from their parents, and I felt so bad for them. They did everything out of fear. They had to get A’s. They had to do certain things. They felt that they had to have their hands folded at all times. But that was a gift that they gave to me. I always teased my mother and said, “I am glad Saint Gregory’s is six and a half hours away because I would be coming home a lot more times.” Every month, once a month, I decided to go home because it was not easy. I was in class with kids who had much more education in religion than I did. I learned a lot in that process at the seminary.

Father Michael:

In high school, as you were discerning, what was your prayer life like then. Did you go to the chapel to pray? Did you just pray all the time?

Bishop Pilla:

Before I went to seminary? No, I never went to chapel. I went to chapel at Latin. We had a chapel there, and the brothers got me to go to daily mass. They had mass before class in the morning, so I went early. I had to take the bus to school early so I could go to mass before class. I say this honestly, people who knew me when I was a teenager would be very surprised that I am a priest. I do not think I gave any evidence of a religious vocation, but that is how God works.

Father Michael:

It sounds like discernment was kind of a gradual growing process.

Bishop Pilla:

Very gradual. There are no big moments where there was a finger that said I want you. None of that.! The only time when everything became clear to me of what I was doing, I would say, was probably my second year of theology. All during college, I kind of had one foot in, one foot out. You know you would go home for the summer; I did not say I went to the seminary; I would say I went to Saint Charles college. If you want to do the same thing all the other guys did, you still have all those friends; you do that. My brother pulled me aside one day and said, “Now, I never tell you what to do, but I am going to tell you something now. I have been watching you,” he said, “if you want to be a priest, then live and act like you want to be a priest. If you do not, come home, but do not play one thing in the summer and one thing in the winter. You are who you are.” That is when I began realizing that you do not ever stop being a priest. Just because you take the collar off and put sports clothes on, you are still a priest, and you have to act like a priest and think like a priest. That is when I started thinking and, in that process, I remember asking God to make it very clear to me, as much as it could be, that this is what I should do and show me the way. I also had some spiritual directors who helped me. People always think they talk about God telling them something; I get very nervous when people say they speak to God. I do not know about that. People used to come to me and say, “God told me that I was supposed to do this.” I would say, “Well, that is fine, but when God tells me you are supposed to do it, then we will do it.” (Laughter)

Father Michael:

That is great.

Bishop Pilla:

You have to be careful about that because sometimes you are just talking to yourself, and you are making God say what you want Him to say, and I had to watch that.  The way I came to understand it was, I began to enjoy being who a priest is. It was not doing the things first. The first thing that impressed me is, I am going to say a mass. Administer the sacraments. I am going to have a special part in the life of the church. That is something significant. It was not something about arrogance or pride; it was just awe. That is first. Then, as I began to have tasks, I did them, and I did them well. I thought, well, this is what God wants me to do. He told me to do this, and I do it well. Maybe that is what I am supposed to do. Gradually it became – that is what you are supposed to do. So, the question changes. For all the time before, the question is, “Should I be, or should I not be?” At that moment, it became not so much, “Should I be or not be, it’s if I am, how do I be the best that I can be?” That is when it all came together. At the hard times, I never thought of quitting. Before, yes, I did. I went through… I understand what prejudice is. There was a time when I was growing up; most Catholics were Irish and German in Cleveland. My mother was Italian. I never heard words that people called me in the seminary because if you were to say those words in my neighborhood, you would only say them once. They would break your knees. I had to struggle with that, but God taught me. You got to be bigger than that. That is human beings.

Father Michael:

So, even in the seminary, you experienced prejudice.

Bishop Pilla:

Oh, yes. They used the names; I will not offend you. I never heard Dago or Whop. Those words were never used in my house or in my company. But when I went there, I heard those words, and I had overcome them, but it was good for me because I had to do something positive to overcome that. That is what I am talking about. I remembered what my grandmother did, and I talked to God. I asked God to help me be bigger than that. I want to be a priest if that is what it will take tolerating; that is stupidity. That’s what it is.

Father Michael:

Was this your older brother?

Bishop Pilla:

Yeah, the only brother.

Father Michael:

What an amazing, insightful thing for a brother to say to another brother.

Bishop Pilla:

He was not only insightful, but he is a man to fear. (laughter)  We had a wonderful relationship. When I went to the seminary, he was going to college. He got scholarships for out of state. My mother said, “I cannot lose both my sons. One of you go but not both of you.” He said, “Let Anthony go to the seminary, and I will go to John Carroll.

Father Michael:

That sense of awe that you talked about as a child continues now that you are in the seminary. You are in awe even as you serve the mass.

Bishop Pilla:

That never ends. My most prayerful moment was the first time I held the consecrated host in my hands. I was a deacon, and they asked me to do Benediction. I remember; it just hit me like a ton of bricks. Finally, I have been going to school, but this was THE time. It is not only theoretical anymore. I am doing this. It is my hands. That was a life-changing thing in a lot of ways, and the Eucharist is still those moments for me. I would never persevere without being able to say mass. That was the only time all the problems that I had to deal with were manageable because I always had to remember that I did not save anybody in the Eucharist. God saves them. All I can do is the best that I can do, but do it the way God wants me to do it, because He will save them. I do not know how, but He will. That gave me a lot of strength. I had a job where most of the people thought you did not know what you were doing, and they could do it better than you do. That is what people think. People close to the church and go frequently say, “What does the Bishop know about business?” I hate to tell them, but we are the largest property owner in the state of Ohio. Our gross national income was more than most of the corporations we are dealing with. I know a little bit about it. We are just some idealistic players to most people. Nice guy, but he does not know too much. I would go to meetings, and I could just see them very patronizingly to me, telling me what to I ought to do. You have to learn. One of the things I needed to learn was how I needed to say what I needed to say without being offensive because you cannot snap at people. They’re not doing it out of malice. That is just who they are. All these guys, who brought in businesses, are CEOs. They’re telling people that they are doing it every day. That becomes who they are. When they come to church, they are still a CEO, and they think they are going to run the church the way they run their business. Every once in a while, I would say, “Look, fellas, you keep telling me that we are doing it like this. I am not running a business. If I wanted to run a business, I could have run a business.  I am running a church. I am a pastor. It’s a difference. Your main goal is profit and, productivity, and success.

My main goal is charity. Sometimes the inefficient way is more charitable. I can do many things myself and do it better, but I have to involve as many people as I can because that is how the church should operate. That is not often the most efficient. Democracy is messy and involving people gets messy. Dictatorship is easy, but that is not Christ-like. You learn all that in prayer. At mass, when you say that, you start thinking, all the little gestures start to become so much more meaningful. When I offer the host and offer the wine, it is different than when I was younger. Now I know what that means. It is me, and that’s what the priest is doing. What does it mean for me now? I cannot complain and cry about these things that the Father is asking me to do, and I have to do what Jesus did. He did it. e Even though He knew it was going to be painful because He believed and trusted His Father. That is what I have to do now. I do not have all the answers, but I have the confidence that God does, which gives me a lot of strength because I do not have to do it myself. I just know I’ve got to do what He is asking me to do, and He will take care of the rest. That helped me a lot.

Father Michael:

In high school, you mentioned that you made a shift in questioning from should I be a priest or should I not be a priest to how you could be a good one. Now during that time, as you are, were there any teachers, or spiritual directors, or priests that kind of helped you grow in your prayer life?

Bishop Pilla:

Yes, because they are prayerful men. When you have someone, you admire you tend to imitate. Often, you know what it is like, sometimes you are tired, you go to bed, and you forget to say The Office – The Liturgy of The Hours. The priests I grew up with that was something you did because it is not just your personal private prayer, it is liturgical prayer. It is the prayer of the universal church, and if you do not participate in that, you are harming the spirituality of the universal church. I say it every day.

Father Michael:

As you moved from college to graduate school, any developments there?

Bishop Pilla:

Yeah, I think that is where I took a big turn too. I thank God for the theology programs that I went through because everything became much more meaningful when I knew the theology behind it. I knew why I was doing it, and that was so enriching, so enriching. One of my theology professors once said in a lecture (and I wrote it down), “Do not forget the ultimate end of theology is to help your prayer life to get better.” And I said, “Oh, not just giving the right answers.” He said, “A lot of people know about God, but I do not only want you to learn about God in this class, but I hope eventually you will know God. It is not just about Him.” That told me what prayer is really about. Not just knowing about God but knowing God. Being associated with God. A big difference.

Father Michael:

That is beautiful. So now, you are coming towards the end of seminary and being ready to be ordained a priest. Any final confirmations from God or clarifications? Or was it just yes.

Bishop Pilla:

No, I remember right before I was ordained; the thing that helped me a lot is that I came from a very loving family. I really felt bad. I went to school in Cincinnati, and I could not come home except for summer vacation because it was 6-1/2 hours one way. So, when we had free days like Thanksgiving, I could not come home (sometimes my brother could not drive my parents). I would visit with some of my classmates who lived in the Cincinnati area. Some of them did not; it was not the kind of life that I was used to. When I went home, my mother was there, my father was there, my Godmother was there, my Godfather was there, and my mother’s best friend and husband were there. I had three mothers and three fathers. Not one time during those eleven years, when I went home, that was not the case. I never felt that I was unloved. It was like the king coming home. That helped me understand, and eventually, my brother helped me understand that it was not just me. It was I am a priest, and what it meant to them. That taught me a lot about the gift I was being given. I was just little Anthony. Not anymore. Being a priest meant so much to the people I really cared about. That was really something. When I got ordained, of course, it was like a dream that whole week. Then the big thing is doing it. When you are a deacon, it’s close, but until you are a priest, it is different. You may know how to baptize. You may know how to fill out a form, but the people part of it (until they come to you as a priest) do not know how it really is. Then it’s so different, a whole different ball game, and that was so enriching.  I cannot think of anyway. I don’t know of any other vocation where you have the experience of really helping somebody. You could make money, but really making a difference in somebody’s life. There are not many jobs that can give you that experience. But the priest, every time you deal with somebody and make them go away at peace or feeling better is a big difference. That’s how I really came to that. Yeah, this is what I wanted to be.

Father Michael:

Tell us a little more about the first week of the priesthood.

Bishop Pilla:

(Laughs) I was assigned, first of all, they give you about two weeks, after ordination that I got a letter with a wax seal on the back. Whenever you get a letter from the Chancery that was sealed with a wax seal, that is a letter you have to be careful about. It said, “You will report to Saint Bartholomew’s on such and such a date. So, I reported. It was in Middleburgh Heights. Monsignor Kenneth Saunders was the pastor. He never had an associate. I was the first associate, so he was very happy to have some help. I was all excited about it. (Laughs) He said, “When we are in the rectory, you do not have to dress up. You can just wear a sports shirt if you want, but we should be dressed professionally when we do official things. So, I was in the rectory and had my sports shirt on, and the doorbell rang. In my youthful enthusiasm, I went down to answer. I opened the door, and a guy was standing there, a businessman. He looked at me, “Hey said ‘say sonny’ is there a priest in the house?” That was my introduction.   I ended up seeing him, and I thought, “Oh boy,” but that was so funny. As I think about it and reflect on it then, humility is a good thing to have. You cannot take yourself too seriously. You have to be able to laugh stuff like that off and don’t get mad because that’s life.  That is life.

That second Sunday – Monsignor S. was about 6’3,” and everything in that church was built for a priest who is 6’3”. I am not 6’3”. So, the second Sunday that I was there, the ushers said, “Let us know when you are going out for mass, ‘and I said, yeah, I’ll let you know, but do not come out right away.” I said, “Yeah, I will let you know.” They rang the bell, they used to have a bell and ring it when you leave the sacristy, and these four ushers very ceremoniously carried a wooden platform to the pulpit and put it on the ground. The usher gets up and says, “Bishop Pilla, this is in honor of you because all the people in the parish have heard you, but not all of them have seen you.” (Laughter) At the same time, what balances it off? I love hearing confessions. It is so enriching to free people from guilt and give them some peace, and not make them feel like they’re dirt, to make them feel like they are good people. That is all God wants you to do. The reason He made the sacrament is He knew we were not always going to be able always to do what we were supposed to do. Those are the moments that you treasure—so many beautiful things. One old priest told me, “If you hear confessions from 3 to 5, you stay in the confessional from 3 to 5.” I said, “OK.” One Saturday, I remember, not many people came, I was in there at 3 o’clock, and not many people came. It was getting close to five, and I thought, “I think I am going to go. No use sitting in there.” Then I remembered that priest, and thought that I better sit here. About one minute to five somebody came in. He said, “I am so glad you are still here father. I have been walking back and forth outside deciding whether I should come in or not. Then I finally decided to come in. I am glad you are here.” I was glad that I was there too even though confession was over. I know God runs the business, not you.

Father Michael:

So now, you are a priest. Any significant moments of growth in prayer during priesthood?

Bishop Pilla:

Yeah, every mass is a significant moment. I do not know what I would do without that. I would say Eucharistic moments are the most prayerful moments for me. I think they ought to be for every priest, and I think for every person. That is the most intimate encounter with God. You cannot get any closer than eating. The beautiful thing is when you eat the Eucharist, it is different. You usually eat food, and the food becomes who you are. When we participate in the Eucharist, we become what we eat, and that is how we gradually grow spiritually. You keep trying to be more Christlike the more appropriate to celebrate. There is no end to it, and there is no particular handbook. A lot of it depends on where you are in your life, at what stage. People should never look at anyone else and say, boy, that person is holy. And I don’t do anything like that; maybe he is better than me. Nah, those externals do not pay attention to those externals. You never compare yourself because God judges you, not anybody else. He does not have a playbook; He puts you in to see if you fit. He judges you as long as you are trying; it’s on your merits. You may not look like it just because you have your hands folded or kneeling all the time. That does not mean he is praying more than you. My grandmother prayed more than anybody. She never could kneel, but I knew she was a lot closer to God than I was.

Father Michael:

What would you say to somebody that does not understand the mass or that or does not get anything, as they would say, out of it?

Bishop Pilla:

I would say that theology was a great experience for me because the more I learned about things about God, the more I appreciated God. Same thing with the mass. Most people do not get anything out of mass, because you are not supposed to get anything out of the mass. The mass is time for you to give to God, yourself, and our world, and everything else. They are always looking at the mass for something to happen to them. I think that they have to learn about what the Eucharist is and what the mass is. There is a lot of material now at different levels. People really ought to get some book, maybe ask the priest, and do not try to read it all at once. Just read a small piece every night thinking about it, and then when you are going to mass, think about what you’ve read and try to practice it a little better. So, when you are going to mass, you have to give something. It is an opportunity for you. Christ is there, and if Christ is there, we have it all. You do not have to have drums and trumpets and everything else. That is all good. If it works, but that is not the mass. And you shouldn’t be going there, because you like the music or even, he is a good preacher. It’s a blessing if he is, or it’s a blessing if you have music.  But God is there. That is what you have to focus on, and all this is helping me appreciate God’s presence. If it is just a distraction, you are seeking entertainment you are not worshipping. There is a difference. You are not going to a show when you go to mass. You are going to worship and contact God. Like I was saying, even if you do not say anything, that is fine, if you know what you were doing. If you know what you are doing and what you were witnessing, that would be overwhelming.

Remember that Crucifixion of the Christ “The Passion”? I went to see that movie, and I remember when the movie was over, there was almost silence in the theatre. There was silence. People walked out of there crying. I said that is how our church ought to go every Sunday. The movie made it real for us. You have to remember that that’s what happened, and He did it for you. If He was willing to die for you, why do you need all this music and other stuff? It is good because we should put the best that we can in our environment and make it as welcoming and attractive as possible, but it should never become a substitute for the Eucharist. The big thing that should be stressed is the presence of Christ, not who plays the guitars. I am afraid our people don’t have that. I think a lot of our people – they’re so used to everything is entertainment. We do not even really have news anymore. Even the news is a show. You’re going to be on for the show.  When I was growing up, they did not call a news program a show because it was straight news. Now there is no such thing. Everything has to be entertaining, and if you want to be a success, you have to be a good entertainer. That is not what religion is all about. Being good is not always entertaining. Being a good Catholic is going to cost you something. No free lunch as a Catholic. To be good, you are going to have to make sacrifices. He said, “Take up your cross and follow me” every day. That is not entertainment. That is dedication. Our folks are so used to it that when they go to church, that’s what they expect. Even in schools now, teachers have to be entertainers. A straight lecture and people do not like it. Everything has to be fun, entertaining, different. We have to watch that. It is the advertising world. The advertising world is manipulative, and much of our society is manipulative.

Father Michael:

It is interesting because you have such a sense of awe at the Eucharist, yet that is different from entertainment.

Bishop Pilla:

Different. Entertainment is how you feel. It makes me feel funny and laughing, but religion’s focus is not just on me. It is how good God has been to me. You know how good God is. When you hear an entertainer, you do not think how good the singer is; you just like to listen to the music. When I pray to God, I focus on how good God is. You forget the music, and it changes every year, but God is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow. There is so much in our life that has a short life span, but there is one thing that will be there forever, and that is God. We need that. I think part of our problem today is that people kind of forgot that. They are always looking, and they have the standards of the world,d and the standards of the world are there for such different reasons. Too many people get their notion about religion from the media, from celebrities. I was at a conference once at a table with about five CEOs. There were six of us at the table, and Warren Buffett was the main speaker. He started talking about business, but then he went off on a tangent on religion. I sat there listening, and it didn’t sound right to me. Afterwards, people at the table were talking about it, and one of the guys said, you know:  “He was talking about religion. Why was he talking about religion? What does he know about religion?” One of the other persons said, “What do you mean what does he know about religion? He is a billionaire, isn’t he?” That is what our world thinks. He knows everything because he is a billionaire, but he does not know squat about religion. At least that remark was not very intelligent. That’s our world!

Father Michael:

You were a priest for only a couple of years at the parish, right before you go to the seminary?

Bishop Pilla:

Nine months.

Father Michael:

Was it nine months?

Bishop Pilla:

That was hard. I loved being a parish priest. I did, but I was playing tennis on my day off, and Monsignor Saunders called me. My brother came to get me at the tennis court, and he said, “Monsignor Saunders, he has to you.” So, I called, and he said, “You better-come home because one of those letters is on your desk with the wax seal.” I went home, opened it up, “In two weeks, you will report to Borromeo Seminary to teach.” There were no personnel boards, no consultation because those things did not exist. You will report in two weeks. I was crushed. I loved being a priest at the parish, but you take a vow of obedience. I was at Borromeo about three weeks Bishop John Krol, later Cardinal Krol, he was Auxiliary Bishop, I think, and he said, “Father Pilla, how are you enjoying your assignment here at Borromeo?” I said, “Well, Bishop, to be honest with you, I miss being a parish priest.” He said, “Well, young man, that is the romance of the priesthood. You do what you are told, and you be happy doing it.” That is so much human understanding.

Father Michael:

You were at the seminary for how long?

Bishop Pilla:

Fourteen years.

Father Michael:

Fourteen years and then you become our Bishop?

Bishop Pilla:

No, I was on Bishop James Hickey’s staff, in charge of Personnel. I was in that job for about seven years, and I thought, “That’s enough.” The job was where you had to deal with all the problems to a large extent.

Father Michael:

Any growth in your prayer life during that time?

Bishop Pilla:

Oh yes. That was a blessing for me, and I learned a lot about prayer at that time. I had to do a lot for people with addictions, and I learned you never give up on people who are trying. I remember I sent one priest away to a program for alcoholics, and I looked at his record, and we had sent him to ten other programs in his career, so I was sending him for the eleventh. You are tempted to say, “Well, this is a lost cause,” I said “Nah,” but the eleventh one did it. He finally became sober, stayed sober, had the best year of his priestly life. When I went to prayer, and I used to pray before I sent a priest anywhere, I would ask God to help me to learn, as long as a human being wants to try, do not give up on him. That is God’s business. Like Mother Teresa said, “It is not up to us to be successful.  It is up to us to make an effort to be faithful.” Success and being faithful are up to God. You have to remember that. We always think we are going to do it, but God can do it. You can be there ten different times, but for some reason, God says, “Now is the time.” It worked.

Father Michael:

If you are listening to this now, and you are helping someone or need the help, just know that God is faithful, and He will get you through it, and always try again.

Bishop Pilla:

And never give up. A Catholic should never despair. A Catholic should never give up. A Catholic should always hope because God is God. As long as God is God, there is always a possibility of better. Don’t ever give up. And don’t be too hard on yourself. Sometimes you get too hard on yourself. I feel bad for some of our people these days because being a Catholic is so counterculture. They are under so much pressure socially to live lifestyles that are not consistent with Catholic teaching. There is always that pressure to do things you know you should not be doing. I understand that. Social pressure is terrible. But the people that hang in there do not think it is not worth it. You have to trust God. If God asked you to do it, and you did it for God, then you know that God’s never outdone His generosity. Whatever you do for God, you are going to get back a hundred-fold.

Father Michael:

So, encouraging, Bishop to hear from you about God and even being the Vicar for Clergy that you looked at guys and were willing to give them another shot to help them out.

Bishop Pilla:

That is what God is. That’s what you get in prayer.  God does not give up on anybody. In fact, who did He come to? He went to the prostitutes. He went to the poor people, and He went to the lepers. Anybody else did not want to deal with it; that is who He came to. The world has forgotten in 4000 years about all the great people that were forgiven by God, Jesus Christ.

Father Michael:

So now we move into Bishop. Did you ever think you would be a Bishop?

Bishop Pilla:

Nope. Never wanted to be.

Father Michael:

I am sure you did not have a choice, but did you get asked, “Was there any turning to God, and ask, is this what you want me to do?”

Bishop Pilla:

Yeah, I told you that I was on Bishop Hickey’s staff, and I had been secretary to the clergy for seven years, and I was feeling that I had to get away and do normal things because it was making me someone that I was not too happy with because you are in that stuff all the time. I said, “Maybe it is time for a change. Better for the priest and better for me.” I went in to see Bishop Hickey. Pastor John Wolf at St. Joan of Arc in Chagrin Falls was retiring, and I said, “I think that is a nice place to go to.” So, I went to see the Bishop again, and I said, “I have been doing this for seven and a half years now, and I think a change will be good for me, be good for you, and be good for the church. I understand John Wolf is retiring, and I would like to be considered when you are considering his replacement.” He just looked at me and smiled. I thought, “I am serious; why are you smiling at me?” He said, “OK, I will talk to you again.”  That was it. I went out of the room, and I was not too happy. I thought, “This is serious stuff. Oh, well.” Two days later, I was told, “Bishop Hickey wants to see you. He wants to see you privately.” I went in and said, “Bishop, you wanted to see me?” He said, “Yes, have a seat. You are going to be my next Auxiliary Bishop.” That was as fancy as it gets. (Laughter) I said, “What?” He said, “Yep, that is why I did not respond when you came in and asked because I had the letter already that the Pope (Paul VI) had sent me, but I could not tell you then because it was too early.” That was it. He said, “You have two days to respond to the Apostolic Nuncio, but I hope you say yes.” So, I had to go home and pray.

Father Michael:

So, what did you do? How do you pray?

Bishop Pilla:

Everybody thinks being a Bishop is a big deal in their mind, and in America that, is upward mobility. Upward mobility didn’t make any sense to me.  I knew too much about what being a bishop contained because I worked with it. This is not what most people think it is. I asked Bishop Hickey if I could ask him a question. I said, “Bishop, there are a lot of good priests in this diocese. Why me?” He said, “I consulted the priests. I sent the letter out, and the majority of the priests recommended you.” I remember going home thinking, “It is not so much me saying yes, but how can I say no to God and the majority of the priests?” I love my brother priests. If they want me to do it, can I say, “I do not want to help you? I do not want to do it for you?” I said, “I cannot do that. So, I said yes.” That is the way it was. Then a year and a half later, I was at a meeting in Washington, I got to my hotel room, and the red light was blinking with a message, “Please call this number.” I called the number, and it was the Nuncio’s Office, Cardinal Pio Laghi, at that time. He said, “Are you by yourself?” I said, “Yes, Cardinal, archbishop.” He said, “Sit down. The Pope just informed me that you are the next Bishop of Cleveland.” Again, “You have two days,” and it was the same thing, same reason. I could not think of any reason that was not selfish in my mind. All the reasons I had for saying no were all selfish. I said, “You have to do what you have to do, and I did.” “That was it.”

Father Michael:

So, prayer for you in that instance would be just running through those moments?

Bishop Pilla:

You spend a lot of time; I would go to the chapel and just sit there and not say too much, but have a conversation with The Lord. I would go over all the reasons why I should and all the reasons why I’m reluctant. It became obvious, like I just said, that when I was listing all the things why I should not, it was all, me, me, me. It is going to be hard on me, and that is not what I am all about. It is not all supposed to be all about me. I always kept working at it until I felt at peace. I tell people that too. “Do not make decisions until you are at peace with the answer. Keep struggling with it. Keep working at it until you are at some inner peace.” I got to a point where I was not afraid to do something that I knew went way beyond my ability. Way beyond my pay scale, but I also knew that if God was asking me to do it. God is not going to abandon me. He does not make you a Bishop and then walks away. He is going to be there with all the grace necessary for me to be the good Bishop that I try to be. When you get to that moment, then peace comes. I always think of Pope John XXIII’s words, that famous line in his diary and letters. He says, “Every night before I went to bed, he said, ‘God, I am the Pope. I did the best that I could do. I cannot do it anymore. It is your church, church; I am going to sleep., You take care of it.’” It is simple, and it is funny, but that is the way it was. I did not know it all. I just had to trust. I taught history, and I remember, I think it was Andrew Carnegie, somebody asked him how he was successful in business. He said, “I think I was successful in business because I always hired people who were smarter than me, and then I let them do their job and did not bother them.” I remember that. That probably applies to Bishop, too, times where I don’t know about all of this. There are a lot of priests and a lot of other people that see a lot more things than I do. Bring them around you, listen to them, and let them do their job.

Father Michael:

Yes, and you were well known for that as Bishop. You were Bishop for what years?

Bishop Pilla:

I was Diocesan Bishop for 27, a bishop for 42 years, and a priest for 62.

Father Michael:

It’s your time now, Diocesan Bishop Pilla. You took us through a lot. Everything is going on in the world and the church. A lot of different things. What was your prayer life like then as a Bishop?

Bishop Pilla:

Very intense. I had to do that because I felt so helpless. I had to constantly remind myself that God would show me the way and God would help me. It is not just me. I prayed more. You learn more about prayer in times of suffering than you do in times of success. You understand why Christ had to die on the cross.  He could have done it any way he wanted to, but I know what suffering is, and being willing to do that for people is the best thing to do. There is gut suffering, and that is no good. That is just gut pain that does not do you any good. Do not let anybody tell you to offer it up. It hurts. Christ taught us there’s redemptive suffering. Redemptive suffering is when you suffer for the greater good or for other people. That makes all the difference in the world. I always had to come to prayer to transform the suffering I was going through from gut suffering to redemptive suffering.

Father Michael:

Before we just summarize things, now as a Bishop Emeritus, you are retired. What has your prayer life been like as a retired person?

Bishop Pilla:

Better. Before I had a schedule because if I did not, I would not pray because there was so much to do, and if you don’t set aside the time, the day is gone. Even when you do pray, you are so distracted by everything you have done all day. A lot of stuff keeps coming back. Like you are trying to pray, and all these numbers are in your head. It is tough to clear the mind, clear the shelf. It is very hard, but when you are retired, it took about a year to do that, but now my mind is not that cluttered. It is, but not as bad. When you are retired, and you get older, you think more about yourself and your life. So, that sometimes can preoccupy you. It is not that business stuff, though, and there is no special time. That is why I have these statues around.

Father Michael:

You are surrounded.

Bishop Pilla:

Yes, every time I pass by, I do not care what time it is, you are retired, and I say a prayer. You can tell a prayer anytime you want.

Father Michael:

I want to ask you a few questions. In terms of prayer and terms of the encounter with a personal God that we believe in one God three persons, The Father, The Son, and The Holy Spirit, and a little bit about Mary too. How do you see or perceive The Father, The Son, and The Holy Spirit in terms of your prayer life?

Bishop Pilla:

That’s what I say theology is. First of all, you have to acknowledge that it is a mystery. I do not care how smart you are, or how experienced you are. You are never going to understand the mystery.  How that all can happen that you never get stuck in that. That is why some of these scientists who are atheists, get lost because for them they have to have a reason. If there is no reason, it is nonsense. They can be brilliant physicists, but they do not believe in God. You have to watch that as a priest, and as a Catholic, because our culture makes us comfortable only when we know all the details. Until we know all the details, we kind of hold back a little bit, and we do that with religion. So, I cannot understand it. Therefore it is a fairy tale. You have to be careful about that. That is very important for me. When I think about God, I only have to remind myself that I am never going to understand it completely, and we know even less about God if it were not for Jesus Christ. The whole reason for His coming, the whole reason for the incarnation, Jesus is coming as a man to teach us who God is. I would urge people to read the New Testament with that point in mind. Everything Jesus is saying is to tell us who God is. When He starts talking about the greatest of these is charity, that is a whole message to the world. Jesus is telling us what God is all about. I keep reminding myself that it is a mystery. So, when I talk about Jesus, I do not get lost in who Jesus is in relationship to the Father.

Who is Jesus in relationship to the Holy Spirit? I know theologically what that is, but I cannot comprehend it. I do not get lost, nor is it a distraction, which does not diminish my appreciation of God. It just convinces me that I will never understand God, and I am looking forward to a beatific vision because then I will know much more, I won’t know it totally, but more than I know now, who God is. Jesus taught us there is the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, so I pray to Jesus understanding that He is equal with God, but He was also truly human. It was God showing me how to live a human life. If I want to live the best human life I can, who else to teach me that but God, and God has taught me that by the incarnation. That is what I focus on. Jesus also said that He had to go back because He was going to send the Paraclete, who would tell us all the things that needed to be told. The Holy Spirit is there to enrich our lives and lighten our minds to appreciate who God is, and how we ought to be and to assure us that His grace is there to help us and enlighten us. I do not get lost in how that can happen, because that is beyond me. That is the mystery. The reason why that is there is that is God. I am not. Stop playing God. Just be a good human being. Do not try to be God.

Father Michael:

How about Mary and the saints. Do you have any devotion?

Bishop Pilla:

Ah, yeah, there is nothing like a mother. I just keep going back.  In the human family, who is the heart of the whole operation? God is telling us something. When He wanted to come and be Our Savior and take humanity to do that, He came through a woman, a mother. If God decided to do it that way, He is trying to tell us something about who a mother is and how we can be the best we can be. When I talk with the Blessed Mother, it is different than when talking to someone else, any saint. She is someone very special. I consider her my mother. I speak to her like my mother, and I think she understands me as my mother understands me. Nobody understood me as my mother did. I thank God for the Blessed Mother, and that is the beauty of it. It is the Blessed Mother that keeps the human institution human. She is always there. She is there like a mother is. During the tough days of being a bishop, p and when the newspapers and everybody else were all over me, I would go home on my day off; my mother would be at the top of the stairs waiting for me. She said, “How are you doing?” I said, “Well, I had a rough day.” “Oh yeah, rough day? Forget about it. What do you want to eat?” All that stuff kind of just fell off. What do you want to eat? Brings you back to the essentials. She said, “Do not worry about that stuff. They do not know anything.” That is what a mother does. She could calm me down like nobody else could calm me down, and it makes a world of a difference.

She taught me so much about what love really is all about. My mother lived to 93, and she was 91 when she had some heart issues. I remember that we had to take her into the hospital, and after the doctors examined her, they said, “We really, if we do not do some surgery, it is going to be one of these instances that will take her, but we think we can do some surgery. I think it would be best if it came from the family.” My brother looked at me, and both of us said, “You tell her.” My brother said, “No, you tell her.” I said OK, so I went into the room, and she was in bed. I said, “Mom, the doctors had a meeting with Joe (my brother) and me, and it is serious. You had a heart attack, and they need to do some surgery otherwise, you can have another one, and it would be bad.” She said, “Surgery, I am 91 years old, and it is time for me to go with your father.” I said, “Well, you think about it.” She said, “Anthony, what do you think? Should I have the surgery?” I said, “Well, Ma, to be honest with you, I know you want to die, but I need you. Joe’s got his family. You are my family. When you are gone for me, that is it, and I would like to have you around a little more.” She was quiet for a couple of minutes, and she said, “Well, if you want me to do it, I will do it.” Then she had the surgery. That told me something. She did not do it because she wanted to do it; she did it because I needed it. That is what life is all about, and that is what mothers can teach you. Mothers are doing that all the time. So, that is what I think about Mary. I always think of the Crucifixion with her standing at the foot of the cross, and what that must have been like to see your flesh and blood go through all that and come out of it still holy. Nobody understands you better than your mother, and she has been so important to the church. All the significant times she has intervened in the history of the church. I don’t know how I would have spirituality without a devotion to Mary.

Father Michael:

And she is given to us at the foot of the cross to be our mother.

Bishop Pilla:

Yes. So, there is something there about being a mother. There has got to be something about being a mother that’s special.

Father Michael:

It is very comforting for me even to hear you talk about your mother when you would go home during difficult times, and she was able to set you at ease.

Bishop Pilla:

Yeah, and nobody could do that. I know after a while people knew it too, so after a while, if the editors of the newspaper, who would come to dinner, they knew my mother did not have it on a published it. She would let them have it. Did you write that story about my son? Who loves you that way?

Father Michael:

Last question. What would you encourage someone who wants to grow in their prayer life? What would you encourage them to do, or if they struggle in their prayer life, what would your encouragement be? 

Bishop Pilla:

First of all, most people are struggling. Don’t ever give up because we interpret struggling as wasted time because we are not doing what we would like to do. But again, that is the way we think. Remember, prayer is what God thinks is more important. God knows that it is easy to pray when you are good at it or when it comes very peacefully. It is tough to pray when you struggle, but as far as God is concerned, it may be more sanctifying. The Agony in the Garden was real blood and sweat. That wasn’t wasted. That wasn’t Hollywood. There were no angels singing and choirs. There was gut pain and bruises. So, don’t ever give up, and if you are struggling with prayer, I will urge you to; if you have a spiritual director or even someone close to you that knows you, try to find out why you are struggling. Some people struggle because they are looking for the wrong thing in prayer. Remember, the gospel says, “If we pray, God answers every prayer.” The problem is that we have to understand that He answers every prayer the way He thinks is best for us. That bothers us. We understand that if He is answering our prayer, that means He isn’t going to do what I asked Him to do. They are looking for God doing what they tell Him to do, which is not how the Creator works. You have to listen to see what God wants you to do. Maybe you are asking too much or talking too much, and you are not listening. God is answering your prayers, and you are not hearing Him. Think about that a little bit. Why or maybe that you are sick. A lot of people are sick. When you are sick, it is hard to pray. I remember when I had my heart surgeries, you cannot pray. It is a funny thing. You just cannot concentrate long enough to pray, but that does not mean it was wasted.

There is no such thing as an unheard prayer. There is no such thing as a bad prayer. There is no such thing as a not-good-enough prayer. That is all our talk. That is not how God looks at it. Every prayer is worthwhile. Every prayer God hears, and every prayer, God will bless you for it. The harder it is, in a sense, the better it is. He knows you are not doing it for yourself; you are doing in worship with Him. Make sure you look at prayer the right way and evaluate your prayer according to the right standards. It is not like playing the violin or even seeing if you’re hitting the right notes. You cannot measure it. You just have to be so convinced that God loves me. Do not ever, ever, ever be afraid of God. God loves you, and there is nothing you can do to make Him stop loving you. I do not care what you did. I do not care what you did, God loves you and will forgive you and will help you be better. Do not ever worry about that. So, when you are praying, maybe you do not feel all that perhaps it’s because you have to learn a few more things about prayer, but do not ever think that you are wasting your time.

Father Michael:

That is so profound that often the most powerful prayer is just when we are struggling. So many people will judge their prayer as not being good or not effective because they are distracted.

Bishop Pilla:

Or that they are bad people, and God doesn’t listen. See, you have to be careful about the norms we use. God loves a sinner. He did not come into the world for people who did not need saving; He came into the world for people who did need saving. So, do not think about God the way we think about each other. Don’t treat God the way we treat each other. God is above all that smallness. God does not get even. God doesn’t want to hurt you. God is not going to hold it over your head forever; rub your nose in the dirt. That is not God. God is a loving Father. Jesus taught the Prodigal Son; he ran out to meet his son. That is the way God is. God is love. When does God say that… what else do you need? God loves you. What else do you need? A lot of people in this world have never experienced love. They are the saddest people because they do not have anybody that loves them, and we have God that loves us. What a gift our faith is. I remember when I used to say mass at the prisons. I went to the women’s prison one Christmas, and the warden wanted me to meet with some prisoners and have a little talk. There were about ten women in there, and a couple of them were young. There was a girl in there, I think she was about twenty years old, and she had three or four illegitimate children already, and she was in there for addition. After everybody else left, I stopped to see her, and I said, “You know, you are only twenty years old, and you already have three; I think she had three illegitimate children; why do you do that?” She looked at me and said, “Reverend, when I was young, the first thing I remember my mother saying to me was that she did not love me. She did not want me. She did not love me. I have all those children. Because I need someone to love me, and those babies love me. I need to be loved.” It changed my whole perspective. I would not say what she did was right, but I understood her a lot better. Everybody needs that. Most Catholics do not realize the gift they have. God loves you, and in Baptism, He has forgiven your sins. He gives you the promise of eternal life in the Eucharist. It is there for you whenever you want it. A lot of people would love to have that and do not have that.

Do you remember Dorothy Fuldheim (June 26, 1893 – November 3, 1989)? She was a famous commentator in Cleveland and a powerful woman. Everybody thought she was Jewish. She had a Jewish background, but she was an atheist. She did not believe in God. I used to go to events, and she would be at the events too. Invariably  I went to the event there was a dinner, and who was seated next to me at the dinner table? Dorothy Fuldheim. Sam Miller was a great friend of mine, and they were friends. I would go to Sam’s house, and she would be there, and she would always sit next to me at dinner. Invariably when she sat next to me, we would start talking about religion. She was fascinated with religion. She did not believe. She had a daughter who was a handicapped child, special needs child, and she had that daughter in every school in the country to get the best treatment and care you could get, and that daughter died. She called me up and said, “I have to talk to you.” I went over to see her, and she said, “You know, you know… My daughter died. The only reason I work as hard as I do is to provide for my daughter. I worked hard, and everything I did was to help my daughter. Now my daughter is gone. I’ve got nothing to live for. Everything is at an end for me. I have nothing to live for. You Catholics believe there is an afterlife and that you will be with your loved ones again.” She said, “I do not believe that. I envy you so much. For me, it’s all over. For you, you have a future life. You know how much I would love to believe what you believe?” Was that not nice? Do not make me complain about anything anymore. Here is a brilliant woman highly successful in her profession and is missing something essential is missing. You can have all the money in the world, all the fame in the world, but she did not have God. When she needed a God, she could not contact God because she did not believe. So, we Catholics have to think very carefully. People always think that there is a better way. There is not a better way. What you have is a tremendous gift. Do not lose it. Keep working with it and keep enriching that relationship because it is the best thing in your life.

Father Michael:

Well, Thank you. I would like to summarize what we have covered. It has been a wonderful time with you. One of the words that capture your experience of prayer with God is awe. You had that awe and that wonder from the time you were a child. You were blessed with a mother and a grandmother who invited you into their prayer. You learned as a young child that you could pray petitionarily, and you could go to God for anything. Prayer is just simply being with God. You’ve prayed before the Blessed Sacrament. Enjoy being a priest very much in the parish. Theology is an answer to the why of the questions. The ultimate end of theology, this is beautiful, is to help you grow in prayer. That is, the end of theology to grow in your prayer life. Do not despair, and you learn more from prayer during times of suffering. Jesus in the New Testament is constantly revealing to us who God is. Thank you, Bishop Pilla, so much for your time. It was great to hear your story and be with you to share with our listeners just your insides and glimpses into prayer. One of the stories I always like to talk about you, and I hope I get the words right, is about Frank Sinatra’s “My Way.” I think you said that it is a wonderful song but terrible words. The idea is that hopefully, by the end of our lives, we learn not to do things “My Way” but to do things God’s Way. That is our encouragement. If you are listening during this prayer, that you can hopefully grow in your prayer life.  But grow most importantly, learning to do things God’s Way and not our way.

I would love it if you could give our listeners a blessing?

Bishop Pilla:

Good and gracious God, I ask your blessing for those who listen to this program. In your mercy, give them good health, happiness, and peace. Teach them how to pray, bless their prayer, and console them, and strengthen them through that prayer. May the blessing of Almighty God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit descend upon you all and remain with you forever. Amen.

Father Michael:

Thank you, Bishop Pilla