Friday, April 19, 2019

SO THAT YOU CAN FOCUS ON PRAYER

As you get ready to go to church today, what might have been going on there already to make ready for your day of prayer?  

Pianos and organs being tuned.
Server practice taking place.
Priests, deacons and MCs going over the ceremony.
Flowers being delivered, unpacked and stored.
Sacristans setting the altar and preparing everything that will be needed.

Cleaning crews making sure everything looks good.
The lady that comes in to “straiten the missalettes.”
Musicians setting up and getting ready.
Sound checks.
Ushers preparing materials, receiving instructions and getting ready to greet you.

Homlies being touched up.
People stopping by just to pray.

This and more!  Say a prayer for all of the people who tried to make you prayer this Triduum something that you could attend and focus on prayer instead of everything that needed to be done.

THANK YOU TEAM!


GOD BLESS!

Thursday, April 18, 2019

WE RISE AGAIN FROM ASHES

It is Holy Week and I had planned on not posting anymore until after Easter but wanted to share this with you.  P.V. (thank you) sent in this short, 3 minute video of hope in the ashes of Notre Dame.

God bless.


Tuesday, April 16, 2019

WHY YOU ARE SAD THAT NOTRE DAME BURNED

As Notre Dame burned I found it increasingly difficult to focus on my work.  Every fifteen minutes or so I would do a search on my computer to see if there was any good (or at least less bad) news.  Someone gave me a brass model of the cathedral about a year or two ago and I went upstairs and brought it down to my desk to contemplate as the day progressed.

Why is it so significant that this structure caught on fire?  Why did it attract the attention of much of the world?  It is for reasons much deeper than many people think.  It is more than just a tourist attraction going down, it is more than something old that was in danger of disappearing, it is more than another significant part of another skyline possibly being erased.  

Already more than 650,000 dollars have been raised to rebuild.  Non-Catholics shed tears and offer support.  Why should a Catholic Church so many miles away and which so many people who watched on-line moment by moment be so dear to the hearts of so many who have never seen it in person and maybe do not even belong to the Church?

It is because this 850+ year old church is more than just another shelter.  It is more than art.  It is more than history.  It is an icon (not an idol) of Western Culture.  When our culture is radicalized and reaches its zenith, it produces Notre Dame, not “Real Housewives of Madison County.”  The former an example of us at our best, the ladder is of us on a decline.  Notre Dame is what happens when God is at the center of our culture, when we value the human person, when true beauty is held in esteem, when be believe in something bigger than ourselves, when we focus on our responsibilities to each other and not just grabbing at our rights, when art is about inspiring the human person and not a mastabatory exercise in self expression.  It is about when individuals sacrifice on behalf of all (into the future) and all sacrifice on behalf of the individual person.  Even when we forget these things (and we have been doing that a lot lately) this great dame stood as a constant reminder that, when we were ready to come to our senses, we could achieve this again.

Generally people think of St. Sebastian as a large and bright church.  Today as I celebrated Mass with the children for Tuesday of Holy Week, it felt small.  If St. Sebastian burned to the ground today, there would not be a world wide call to rebuild her.  Presidents and Kings would not offer their condolences and support.  CNN would not have a moment by moment analysis of the local tragedy.  But it would still be a significant event.

It may be very minor in the scheme of things, but this parish does play a role in the building up of Western Culture.  Original artwork, beautiful grounds, great music reside within her and constant reflection on Scripture and the great ideas that have formed all of Western Culture echo in her walls.  With great effort she brings significant life to her boundaries and does what she can to educate, inspire and influence people to what is Good, True and Beautiful in our Western, Christian culture.  Places like Notre Dame inspire her to her best.


What did we lose in Notre Dame?  We lost a three dimensional blueprint of our best selves.  We are in danger of losing another reminder of who we can be.  I fear we were in danger of losing the ideas of God upon which our culture is based, ideas already much in need of shoring up not unlike the remain walls of this cathedral.  Part of us burned with her.

Monday, April 15, 2019

MONDAY DIARY: ALMOST EXCRUCIATINGLY TRUE STORIES: DRAMA FOR A DRAMATIC SEASON


This past Sunday our choir and Holy Trinity Lutheran combined to have a Lenten Concert at St. Sebastian, "The Seven Last Words of Christ" by Theodore Bubois.  I don't have a recording of our concert but go HERE to hear an excerpt while you read the rest of this.  Go ahead and do that.  I will wait.  It is the perfect background to help you understand what happened.

Welcome back.  So things were off to a rough start Sunday.  I KNEW from the very start that something special was going to happen that day because the Devil and his minions tried to sabotage  it all day long.

It started with Mass that morning.  The boilers were working overtime on a hot day.  So I sent a text to our maintenance guy:
It was horribly hot - all the worse for wearing searing layers of vestments.  There were several comments in the sacristy about it feeling like "that time of life."  

Unfortunately it is not as easy as just turning down a thermostat.  (Darn that!)  But our guy came in and shut down the boilers (AND THEN IT SNOWED TODAY!) and we opened up the doors and tried to cool the building down.

As we got closer to concert time and Fr. Simone and I were in the kitchen, our phones started shouting warnings at us: 
"I'm going out there and see what's going on!" I told Father.  If there was a tornado coming I was going to give it a piece of my mind!

The rain was coming down like Niagra Falls during the wet season.  Thunder cracked in the distance and dark, menacing clouds ominously rolled in.  I went in to the church to warn those setting up for the concert and they told me to mind my own business.  Nothing was stopping this concert.

Well, finally the concert got going.  All the singer and musicians were charging into the operatic depths of Christ's Passion in this piece like soldiers going to war.  It was exquisite!  Then a very kind person sidled up to me and said, "Father there is a leak in the roof!"

"ARG!  I should have know that the attack was not over!  I waited for a break in the program and did my best to sneak out a la Karen Spangler.  I needed to get to the other side of the church but I didn't want to disturb the concert so that meant going outside in my suit.  It was raging angrily outside but I venture out!
On the other side of the church I was able to access a hidden closet inside of which there is a rung ladder that rises through the building through a narrow vent.  The music was swelling as I ascended the dark passage to the storm raging above!

Throwing open the hatch I found the world in chaos!  The rain was so thick it almost felt like being under water. 
Peeking about I could see that a drain was plugged and the water levels were rising on the roof like the first hour of the Noah's Great Flood.  I ventured out, a black figure against the stained glass.  Lighting flashed!  Thunder roared!  Rain lashed out in anger!  I grabbed a handful of leaves clogging the drain and threw them against the anger of the elements while from inside the building the 70 singers charged, "He of death is guilty!  He of death is guilty!  Guilt be on us and our children!!!"
And with a mighty sucking noise, the drain began to greedily drink up the water averting sure and certain mayhem.

It was all rather Alfred Hitchcockian.  I made my way back, dripping and having soggy shoes.  I waited in the lobby making puddles until there was another break in the music and then stole to a seat to listen the rest of this awesome concert.  To quote one of my favorite comedic movies Soap Dish, "Finally! REAL DRAMA!"
All's well that end well.



Friday, April 12, 2019

FRIDAY POTPOURRI: BUT IS IT ART: RULES OF THE GAME

So far the subject of what is Beauty and the question of whether beauty is necessary for something to be called art has been avoided.  What we have done is clarified that some people have a broader interpretation of art than others.  Some will include almost anything and the other extreme (where I find myself) would say that, while not denying that many things may still be of great interest, the actual category of “art” is comparatively small.  The matter of beauty being in an object compared to how a person receives beauty has been explored.  Differenting world views have been acknowledged.  Great talent vs great art was bandied about.  These distinctions can help a person see why one person is enamored with a piece of art while another thinks he is an unsophisticated idiot with more money than brains.  Is one wrong and one right?  Well, that depends.  What are the rules for engagement?

If you are going to judge Icons, for example, and someone paints one with Western sensibilities and ideas of beauty, will you let it into the competition or by the rules of the contest, is it clearly not a true icon?  It depends.  It can beautiful in itself.  It can be perceived by some as beautiful.  But is it beautiful as an icon?  Is it a failed icon?  Is it a failed Western painting?  How much is in the receiver and how much is in the object?  Am I too narrow minded or too broadminded?  Maybe it is art but just the wrong kind of art - or maybe it just isn't really that good in the first place and we are waisting our time debating it.

So what is beauty?  I have a lot riding on this question in my priesthood.  As a priest I am afforded, under certain restrictions, to have a non-hereditary coat of arms so OF COURSE I had mine made up.  (I mean, who wouldn’t?  Really?)  - actually, plenty of people - but I think it’s cool so there’s that - ANYWAY, my motto is “Tandum Pulchritudine Salvabit Nos” which means roughly, “Ultimately Beauty Will Save Us.”  This formulation of this idea I received from the late, great Fr. Benedict Groeschel while on retreat with him at the Trinity Retreat House.  There is more to beauty than feelings or ideas of balance in that these things are not what make something beautiful but are characteristics of that which is beautiful.


Okay - as we get the heart of the matter - do you notice I am getting wordier?  It is like walking a path in the woods at night.  You know the path and feel when you are on it and when you are off of it but instead of just pointing at the trail and saying, “There!” you must describe how to tell when you are on the trail and when you are not.  So . . . as I have been long promising, next week we will look more closely at beauty (not necessarily if it is connected art yet.)

Thursday, April 11, 2019

DON'T STOP NOW!

I like to use sugar cubes in my coffee.  It helps me regulate how much sugar I am dumping into my mug.  I used to love about 6 of them per steaming cup of Joe.  Over the years, with the help of Lent, I have been able to wean myself off of so much sugar that I do not even enjoy the sickening sweet way I once loved so much.  This Lent I am down to one cube (except on Sunday when I have two.)  

In very short order, Lent will be over.  There are some choices to be made.  It does mean that I could up my sugar intake again - OR - it could mean that I keep up the health strides that I have made and keep it low and contemplate maybe dropping sugar all together next year.

If your Lenten practices were successful in making you a better version of yourself - more spiritual, healthier, kinder, more charitable - don’t chuck it on Easter - or at least keep some aspect of it going.  Hopefully your practice assisted you in becoming someone a person for whom you have more respect, someone who exercised more discipline, stepped up to some responsibility, made more of a positive impact on the world.  Why stop - or at least, why stop all together?  


It is like exercise.  NOBODY (and by nobody I guess I mean me) likes it in the doing of it.  But boy, are you glad later that you did.  Celebrate Easter and the Resurrection of Christ by keeping the gains you made over the past (almost) 40 days.  What better way to mark our salvation and keep the hope of becoming saints alive?

Tuesday, April 9, 2019

TUESDAY QUOTE OF THE WEEK CDLXIII

FINDING TRUTH WHEREVER IT MAY BE FOUND:  "And the pattern of heresy is always the same - discomfort with the mystery, discomfort with the paradox, wanting to solve it one way or the other."  from Fr. Paul Scalia's, "That Nothing May Be Lost"

IN OTHER NEWS:

Theology on Tap Akron! tomorrow night!  Please double check the location (always.)

 The 8th Annual Race Around the Park & Family Fun Run is coming up April 27th.  Register HERE.
They say that the plaza will de finished TODAY and that they will take down the cones and caution tape TOMORROW!  WOOHOO!  I was becoming so accustomed to seeing the cones and tape that it almost seems like we are taking down party decorations.

Got a new phone yesterday and went for a walk with the dogs - saw the church and wanted to try out the camera just as CHESTER yanked on the leash and I dropped my NEW phone on the VERY FIRST DAY!  But I got a great picture and the phone was just fine.
Unplanned movie trailer:

Friday, April 5, 2019

FRIDAY POTPOURRI: BUT IS IT ART?: WHAT IS BEAUTY?

Today we enter into more murky waters.  It seems as though that which is beautiful should be easily defined, but it is not.  Last week was given the argument that it is beyond mere attractiveness or that which is pretty.  It is also beyond that which simply stirs the senses and has some connection to Truth.

Now, part of understanding what is beautiful is in the receiver.  How has the receiver been trained?  Is the receiver situated in the 1970s and is caught up in the fashions of his day?  A painting of Jesus with a Farah Faucet haircut may have wowed the viewer in an era of bellbottom jeans, but 50 years later a viewer might be inclined to think, like a person who looks at their high school picture, “Oh my!  How stuck in the 70s!  That looks terrible!”  So clearly part of what we accept as beautiful is culturally influenced.

Side note:  Keep in mind that this article is restricted to art and man’s creation, not God’s creation.  For example, a person is always beautiful because they reflect Christ Who is Truth, an interesting thought as our culture thinks this less and less and human life is thought less beautiful and valuable.

Then there is the education of the viewer.  Like fine wine, a person’s first taste of it may sicken them.  But as they grow older and their tastes develop, they may become an accomplished sommelier.  Likewise, there were some impressionistic paintings at the museum that I did not care for at all.  My cousin taught me how to see them and I gained an appreciation for them to the point of having purchased a couple of such paintings for myself.  So clearly, that which is able to be seen as beautiful is at least partly within the receiver.  (There are definite limits to this.)

Then there is beauty present in the object itself.  It is not entirely subjective.  There was a print of a painting in my confessional of the Blessed Virgin Mary painted by the grandmother of a couple I married.  It brought comfort to a lot of people.  One night, a number of years ago, a couple of teenage boys caused some mischief in the church, one of the things being to mar the picture with two long swipes of some kind of blade.  They didn’t rip the canvas but made a couple of permanent creases down Mary’s face.  It did have an effect on the print.  A person (within my school of art appreciation) would say that the beautiful was marred now (and if it were insured for lots of money, I would expect a payment!  No one would be able to convince me (with rare exception), “Hey!  They just added to the artistic heritage of the print!”  Some of the beautify that it represented has been taken away.

Granted, someone will argue that, once the story of the marring was explained, it may become of great interest to others.  But this would make it interesting.  It would become a commentary.  It might even become attractive.  But it did not make it more artistic.  (The artistry might be in the description!)  

Very few people have seen the painting that will be presented to the parish at Easter to help celebrate our 90th anniversary.  The few that have, upon walking into the room, invariably jump back for a moment and involuntarily utter a cry a kin to "Oh my!" or "Wow!"  Does that make it art?  We will continue to explore but here we are so far:  If a thing is beautiful, part of its beauty lies within itself.  Part of the perception of beauty of an object lies within the viewer.  

Thursday, April 4, 2019

MOMENTO MORI

Looking for one more thing to do for Lent that is a one shot deal and doesn’t involve giving up your favorite edibles?  This was suggested on one of the podcasts to which I listen and the more I think about it, the better I like it.  I think I will give it a shot.

Here it is:  Write your obituary.  Wait!  Hold on.  It’s not as morbid as it sounds.  Keep reading.  So, this is the summation of what you hope people will think of you.  What do you hope people will take away from your life?  It is very clarifying because you only get about two paragraphs with very little explanation.

When a family comes in to talk about the funeral of a loved one, more often than is comfortable the only things that they come up with is “she liked to gamble,” or “he loved the Indians.”  Impressions of passions rise to the fore.  It is such a blessing when the family can come in and have something to say about faith or the care that their loved one had for family or the community or something they did that made the world a better place.


So what do you hope your obit says about you?  After you have written it, then contemplate what are you doing, what are you emphasizing in your life in order to earn this obituary - would somebody else write this about you?

Tuesday, April 2, 2019

TUESDAY QUOTE OF THE WEEK CDLXII

FINDING TRUTH WHEREVER IT CAN BE FOUND:  "Martin Luther King Jr.'s 'I Have a Dream' speech is famous because it put forward an inspiring, positive vision that carried within it a critique of the current moment.  Imagine how history would have turned out had King given an 'I have a Nightmare' speech."  from Micheal Schellenberger and Ted Nordhaus', "The Death of Enviromentalism"

IN OTHER NEWS:

Three articles sent in from P.V.:

HERE is an article about elderly women using canes to defend an attacker of their priest.

HERE is an article on why churches need to be beautiful.

HERE is an article about the movie UNPLANNED.

Below are the stones being flung into the new plaza area preparing the area for the pouring of cement.
 Here come the cement trucks!
 She is going to look pretty soon!
Look who's coming to town TOMORROW!  For more on Eric Armusik go HERE for check out his Facebook Page
P.O. sent in THIS video but you must go to the site to see it.  This one's for you men.

Friday, March 29, 2019

FRIDAY POTPOURRI: BUT IS IT ART?: OR IS IT PRETTY ATTRACTIVE?

Living at a parish once, I would often run into visitors who would come in and say, “This is a beautiful building!”  The first thought that would pop into my mind was, “Really?”  It was not what I would consider a beautiful building but would thank the person and try to find out why they were drawn to it.

Like the word “love,” the word “beautiful” is also over used.  It seems to have become a synonym for others words such as “pretty” or “attractive.”  Something can be attractive without being beautiful  (I realize that this is being said without beautiful yet being defined.)  I think many people found the building mentioned above attractive but were moved to say beautiful.  The building was spacious, comforting, clean, functional, colorful and comfortable.  In this way it was also very attractive - it drew your attention.  Even after a lot of time had been spent in the building, one could still feel very much “at home” in the building.  But, I would argue, the building itself was not beautiful.  It did not continue to inspire a person to observe it and where it was attempting to lead you.  It did not, of itself, inspire a person to go out and see beauty in the world or to create something beautiful from its inspiration.  In fact, it somewhat fell into the background.  It was an attractive and functional building, it was not a work of art.  Nobody would ever take a bus trip there to see the building.  Ever.

“Pretty” works much the same way.  The pretty object too is pleasing to (many/most) human beings, but something about it falls short of beautiful.  The colors may be pleasing to the eye, it may bring a smile to your face, it may be clever, pull at the heartstrings but seldom (if ever) has any deep meaning.  A typical little girl’s bedroom might be pretty.  A painting that matches the couch might be pretty.  A Christmas tree might be pretty, but is it necessarily beautiful or art?  

Not that there is necessarily anything wrong with attractiveness or prettiness.  In the right context they are exactly what we need.  At other times they are distasteful.  When a person wants that which is beautiful, to be confronted with the merely attractive or pretty (or interesting) is mightily disappointing.  That is the inner urge in you to say (and you are polite enough not to blurt it out) “I could have done that!”  This is confronting the lack of inspiration, the lack of being drawn in, the lack of being transformed, the lack of being moved to create beauty in the world for having been exposed to the beautiful.


Of course, this assumes art and beauty are connected which, you may have well guessed, I do, though I have not really defined much yet except via the negative.  I also know my former art teachers are turning in their symbolic graves but there you go.

Thursday, March 28, 2019

YOU ALWAYS SAY MORE THAN YOU INTEND TO REVEAL

There is a saying that goes, “Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to open your mouth and remove all doubt.”  When a person is not careful about their speech they can end up revealing much more than they intend.  It is part of the “why” behind the Gospel injunction to always be truthful and speak that which is Good, True and Beautiful.

Take today’s Gospel for example.  Jesus drives out a mute demon and his detractors say, “It is by the prince of demons that he drives out demons.”  In their carelessness in denouncing Jesus, they inadvertently bring Him some credence.  Notice that they didn’t say, “Nothing happened.”  Clearly something happened and they needed a way to discount it and so ascribed the miraculous thing they witnessed as being evil.

So first they inadvertently give great testimony to something that they themselves witnessed.  Then they reveal something about themselves in turn.  Jesus explains the weak logic of their argument and then says, “Those who are not with me are against me.”  Who is He?  God.  If one are not with God, with whom else can one be?  There is a lot of things being revealed here though an attempted deception.

Something similar happened in the local newspaper recently.  In a letter to the editor this week entitled, “Stop the Hatred,” the author rallied against what she saw as growing division in the United States.  She wrote, “If you are an anti-Semite, racist or whatever else, bigotry is an equal opportunity killer.”  What is interesting here is that she takes a group of people (who by and large are clearly in the wrong from a Christian point of view) and separates them from the rest of the “good people” (My words, not hers) and then sort of sets up this “we good people” pointing that the “bad people” and berating them.  “What these bigots don’t realize . . .”  (To whom is she speaking?  People who who are not bigots?  Wouldn’t they already know this?)  While I agree with her premise that if we allow hatred of any group, we may, one day, find ourselves on the wrong end of the stick, her method for getting there is not to engage those whom she may desire to convert to a more loving stance, but to put them in a group and denounce them and inadvertently becomes, at least somewhat, what she hates.

In another interesting article in the Beacon Journal this past Saturday entitled, “Planned Parenthood funding cut.”  The subtitle was, “Federal Appeals Court upholds laws ending flow of state dollars to abortion providers.”  The title and much of the writing is an enormous reversal of language normally used in the public media.  There was no mention of “abortion foes” (as opposed “Pro-Life Advocates” that those who promote life would prefer to be called) or the masking of abortion by the writer as “women’s health care” and in describing an abortion procedure the baby is referred to as a fetus not a mass of cells.   


Is this, too, starting to reveal a change in popular culture?  Only time will tell.  It was only one article.  But it was published and makes one wonder what truths it may be revealing.

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

TUESDAY QUOTE OF THE WEEK CDLXI

FINDING TRUTH WHEREVER IT MAY BE FOUND:  "Saint Augustine, who knew a thing or two about delay, warns us, 'God has promised forgiveness to your repentance, but He has not promised tomorrow to your procrastination.'"  from Rev. Paul Scalia's book, "That Nothing May Be Lost."

IN OTHER NEWS:

G. P sent in THIS article on Art for World in Need of Truth.

E. P. sent in THIS article on the defunding of Planned Parenthood.

Well . . . I think they are working on the plaza.  Things have been kinda still for a couple of days.
But this made up for it  - as seen in Schneider Park walking the dogs before morning Mass.
Jordan Peterson on the Problem with Atheism - 6 mins: