Thursday, March 21, 2019


Last night was the diocesan wide Night of Confessions.  For three hours Fr. Anthony, Fr. Miller and I manned the confessionals at St. Sebastian and heard pretty steady confessions all night.  Fr. Pfeiffer joined us for dinner after and we talked about what a wonderful experience it was for us.

But more importantly it was the satisfying experience of those who went to confession.  The absolute relief many people expressed when they finished was an honor to witness.  I made the comment that I wonder why more people don’t take advantage of this.

Well, maybe I don’t wonder that much.  First, there is the courage it takes to make a good confession.  No matter much relief there may be after, you still have to have the courage to go in the first place.  One of my relatives just had knee surgery.  Now she is SO glad that she had it done.  Life is so much easier (and pain free.)  But still, before hand she had to work up the gumption to go into the hospital and have the surgery done in the first place.

Then there are all of the typical arguments that people have:  Why should I tell my sins to another human being?  Why do I need a priest to absolve me?  I can just tell my sins to God . . . and there are all kinds of responses to this but here is one very human reason why should do this:

It works.  Jung who was developing his psychological treatments in Vienna found that most of his patients were Protestants and Jews despite the fact that most of the population was Catholic.  This led him to speculate that the Sacrament of Reconciliation makes psychiatry much less necessary.  The sacramental practice already largely handled (and had for 2,000 years) what psychiatry was developed to do.  No wonder Jesus gave it to us.  It is good for us.

Not that we do it in order to feel good.  But it is a nice side benefit.  So why don’t more people do it?  Why don’t they exercise and diet more?  Why not read better books?  Why not expose themselves to well produced art?  Why not fix up their houses?  We know we would be so much happier in life.

Why not?

Tuesday, March 19, 2019


FINDING TRUTH WHEREVER IT MAY BE FOUND:  "Everyone has a story, and the cowards never tell the truth."  from John Grisham's, "The Reckoning"


M. S. sent THIS in.  I guess I'm the jerk 😀.  Thank you science.
St. Sebastian Parish Mission begins THIS SUNDAY at 7PM.  Fr. Phillip Scott will be presenting on the healing of the family.  You are invited.

I just thought this was cool:
 I thought this only happened to other people:
 This made me laugh:

E. P. sent in THIS article entitled, "Governor Cuomo's Bridge"

Hope this 7 minutes helps:

Monday, March 18, 2019


A decade ago, when Fr. Pfeiffer was a newly minted priest and assigned to St. Sebastian, he and two other of his young whelp priest friends were gamboling down Mull Avenue in West Akron and they invited me along.  It was a beautiful spring day and as we walked along the iconic brick road and saw the towering oaks coming to full leaf, the birds and squirrels fussing about and children riding their bikes, feeling a bit blissful I said, "I wonder when was the last time Mull Avenue saw four young priests walking down its sidewalks."  To which the young master Fr. Pfeiffer cleverly retorted . . . 
But time was on my side.  All I had to do is sit and wait.  My vengeance would come.  I mean - come on - I was BARELY into my 40s.  Well, now ten LONG years have passed and it is my joy to welcome Fr. Pfeiffer into his 40s.
Happy birthday old boy.

Friday, March 15, 2019


Part III

Art is not (or shouldn’t be) an inert object that sits passively in a room.  Useful objects have artistic elements to them that make them an object at which it is more pleasant to look upon, but a “piece of art” is something that has a message.  Art is an interpretation of reality.  It is describing to the viewer what what the artist sees about reality that is true, good and/or beautiful.  

This weekend we will have the reading of the Transfiguration.  This is when Jesus goes to the top of the mountain and is transfigured before His disciples into dazzling white garments, Moses and Elijah.  In the West we tend to view this from the perspective that Jesus changed, revealing His true nature to His disciples.  The Eastern Catholic Church (thanks D.S.) looks to the change in the disciples - that their vision of Jesus changed to see Him as He truly was.   Which is more true?  Are they equally true?  It is difficult to say.  Here are the same facts, the same incidents, but two very different ways of interpreting exactly what happened.  How might the artistic interpretation differ?  What if you didn't believe in Jesus?  What if you didn't believe in God?  What if you believed this story was part of a dominating hierarchy to keep people in line?  What if you saw yourself as Jesus?  

Some see Christopher Columbus as a great and brave man, others see him as a horrible monster.  Some see life as a great and lovely adventure, others see it as meaningless, brutish, and short.    Sometimes it helps if, when looking at a modern piece of art that initially does nothing for you, to ask, “Is this a new take - a different vision - a unique vision - a fun insight into the workings of a world vision that I don’t particularly share?”  

Not everything that is true, good and beautiful is obvious at first.  (Remember your first taste of wine?  Yuck!)  And maybe you wont ever come to like a particular school (there are whole schools without which I think the world would not suffer) but you can have a moment to understand what world view is being portrayed.  

Now, you may still walk away from the piece thinking, “what a waste of the $25 admission fee” and largely think that the price tag on the “art” as a fraud on those with too much money to spend and too little common sense to go along with it, but you will come away with a greater knowledge of how at least part of your culture if viewing reality.  If you never come to like it or at least appreciate it, decide if it is because it is poorly executed or if, in your estimation, it appears to be utterly false.

Next week - we will start looking at ideas of what is beautiful and what may be just pretty or interesting.  

Tuesday, March 12, 2019


FINDING TRUTH WHEREVER IT MAY BE FOUND:  "And what about chastity?  It's a basic truth of Christian discipleship.  And it does not mean, "Sorry, no sex for you."  Rather, God asks us to live our sexuality virtuously according to our calling."  from Archbishop Chaput's, "Strangers in a Strange Land."

QUOTE II:  "Choices don't stay buried."  same source


G. P. sent in THIS great article, "Do Catholics Care about Art?"  

E. P. sent in THIS article, "Rhode Island Catholic Mom Fights Abortion with Powerful Campaign."

P. V. sent in THIS article "5 Kids Who Think They Are Transgender."

Our very own Marty Miller will be speaking at the next Theology on Tap Akron!  PLEASE NOTE THE CHANGE OF LOCATION!
You are invited to this concert coming up at St. Sebastian:
I am very excited about this new stone sign next the main entrance at the Julie Billiart School:
St. Sebastian Parish Mission is coming up on Sunday, March 24th through the 27th at 7PM with Fr. Philip Scott.  His ministry is the HEALING OF THE FAMILY.  YOU are invited!
Fr. Philip's website can be found HERE.

Here is an example of his speaking:

Sunday, March 10, 2019


One of the things that I am doing for Lent this year is a practice of every day giving something away and/or throwing something away.  We've been off to a great start!
It is not always easy.  It can be a challenge.
The sad thing is that this is the third year in a row that I have been doing this particular penitential act and I cannot fathom why there is STILL SO MUCH STUFF THAT I CAN GIVE AWAY.

Friday, March 8, 2019


So your friend and you are standing before someone’s work and one of you think it a masterpiece and the other wouldn’t insult his trash by disposing of it in the same place.  Is the problem with the piece itself or with the viewer?

Well, possibly both.  It’s not that simple.  How can two people see the same piece with the same lighting at the same time of day and having the comparable eyesight be so divergent?  Is it purely subjective? 

The liking or not liking of a piece of art is the flowering of a plant with very deep roots.  A certain amount of it can be subjective (well, I simply do NOT like the color orange my dear) but it is not purely subjective.  And this series is not so much focusing on liking a particular piece of art as much as it is looking at styles or schools of art.

Let us say the you see a piece of art to which you have a strong affinity.  A large part of it is based upon you world view.  Is there such a thing as absolute truth?  Is there such a thing as The Good and Beauty?  Is there a God?  Does life have meaning or is it absurd?  Does beauty reside in a thing or only in your perception of that thing?  

“In shaping a masterpiece, the artist not only summons his work into being, but also . . . reveals his own personality by means of it.”  So says St. John Paul II.  So of course, something of the artist’s belief is going to be incorporated into whatever it is he creates.  You can see this in children’s drawings.  Give a kid a bunch of paper and box of 64 crayons and tell him to draw his house and family and in pretty quick order you will know if the child has a positive or negative outlook on life.  Now imagine a talented artists painting from a particular world view.  It will reveal itself.

So here is our step one: Not liking a piece may not mean that you have failed the “taste” test, it may mean that you are working through a different world view, one that does not hold up as a value that which are seeing.  This is the first thing to at least consider and develop your thoughts on so when someone attempts to put your in your place for not having the education or training to fully appreciate a piece, you will have something to say other than, “I don’t like it” because, frankly, who cares?  

Thursday, March 7, 2019


There is not a lot of accountability in lent.  If you did not fast yesterday, chances are there was nobody around who had power to discipline you.  If you ate meat there wouldn't be a cut in your pay. If you are not giving up something for Lent (of doing something extra) you won't get a ticket.  If you are not diving into prayer and almsgiving, you won't receive a warning notice from the city.  Lent is entirely voluntary and you will get out of it exactly as much as you put in to it.

How awesome it is that we are encouraged in our self disciplines rather than under the watchful eye of a Big Brother.  It means that whatever we undertake, it is not a matter of outside forces guiding our actions from which we look forward to escaping the moment the pressure is released.  It is, rather, something that comes from within, forming habits and character, not just compliance.

May your Lenten practices steep you in Truth, bathe you in Goodness and set you aglow in Beauty for the rest of you life.

Tuesday, March 5, 2019


FINDING TRUTH WHEREVER IT MAY BE FOUND:  "The profound boredom which worldly persons experience and drag with themselves to every part of the world is a sign that their heart was made for a good infinitely higher than anything they are seeking."  from Fr. Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange's, "Knowing the Love of God."

QUOTE II:  "If you are a person here who has had an abortion, I encourage you to seek healing because abortion is not normal.  Taking the life of an innocent human being that is you own flesh and blood and your own DNA is not normal."  see video below.


Young adults - HERE is the website for the ITE PROJECT and their upcoming goings on.

E.F. sent in THIS article about how during World War II triptychs were commissioned for the Army, Navy and Air Force.

Theology on the Rocks is on hiatus for two months; this month because we are encouraging people to attend the Parish Mission at St. Sebastian and Easter the following month.

This may be difficult to hear - 10 minutes.

Monday, March 4, 2019


In the seminary we had some instructions on the special rules of being a Catholic gentleman as a priest - that is, things that pertain to us that tend to not be as relevant to the general Catholic gentleman.  One of the things we were taught is that priests should not smell.  That is, not just that a priest should bathe regularly but that he should not wear cologne or use products that produce an aura of scent around him.  A priest should smell neutral.  But we are constantly in situations that make this difficult - small rooms (especially confessionals) lots of heavy clothing, poor diets . . . It works against this principle.

A priest friend of mine tells the story of his Mom and Dad's first date and how it was almost a disaster.  His Dad, a young man at the time, was picking up his wife on their first date.  He pulled up, escorted her to the car, opened the door, and then as he was walking around the car to get into his side, he thought it a good time to pass gas.  Unfortunately he was wearing a big, long coat and it trapped everything inside until he sat in the car and his attempted sneak gas leak became apparent.

That happened to me in the confessional the other day.  Thinking I would take care of things before I went in, I was foiled when my cassock betrayed me by holding on to it like a giant balloon, the concealed silent release escaping though button holes etc, only after I sat down to hear confessions.
Two days ago, one of the dogs named after a famous English Catholic writer of the last century had an accident on the floor.  It was discovered when I stepped on it.  I cleaned it up, washed my shoe, and headed over to confessions.  I was both annoyed and confused when, after a few minutes, I still smelled the dog.
Between people coming in and out of the confessional I would search - Did I get it on my hands?  No.  My pant leg?  No.  After about three confessions I found the source.  I had stepped on the mess with my other shoe and it was all hidden up there behind the heal.  We were packed with confessions so what are you going to do?  Have everybody wait while I go change shoes?

Then there was the day - not too long ago - is this happening because I am over 50? - that confessions were slow.  It was almost the end of the hour and I hadn't had anybody in for 10 minutes.  I had been holding things back knowing the effect - but there were no footsteps, I hadn't heard the church doors open, no noises in church.  So I relaxed knowing that I would be leaving the box anyway in about 30 seconds . . . and just as I pressed by hands against the arms of the chairs to launch myself out of there . . . the door opens.  "Bless me father for . . . ewww."

Saturday, March 2, 2019


If you find yourself in a museum looking at a piece of art and wondering who in the Good Lord’s Name decided that something that appears as though a 5 year old could have produced should be worth 5 million dollars and be hung in a museum and guarded by alarms and armed docents, this might help you.  A couple of nights ago someone was telling me that they were in a modern museum of art (where, by the way, she was the only person viewing a particular show) and walked through quickly describing it as looking as though it were just a string of yard sales.  The guard was surprised that she walked through so quickly stating that, “People spend hours looking at his installation,” and then insinuated that it was too bad her education and taste were so poor.

So why is it that two people could look at a piece of art and one be willing to sacrifice a years salary to own a piece and another would throw it away thinking it was trash?  Know this: it has more to do with than art education or good or bad taste.  It runs more deeply than that.  If you and a friend stand before a piece labeled art and one of you reacts in awe and the other guffaws at the piece of tripe, the underlying issues may be much deeper than questions of taste or aesthetics.  

Over the next couple of weeks, Friday Potpourri will be exploring one possible theory of art and why what some people see as a joke, others see as high culture.  You probably wont agree with everything, but at least it will help you understand why this great divide (or divides) and how you fit into it.

Thursday, February 28, 2019


Don’t take everything that you read at face value even if it appears in the newspaper and is authored by someone who we are told, “is a professor of history emeritus at Northwestern University” and “is the author of ‘Why I Am a Catholic.”  Intelligence, wisdom and understanding are all separate gifts and simply because someone has a “high education” does not mean that they have a grasp on all three of these gifts or that all of their arguments are altruistic.

Such is the case with the editorial in Monday’s Beacon Journal by Garry Wills.  Even if someone might agree with his conclusion, his path to it was a strained one at best.  There are so many problems with this article that one post would not be enough to point them all out.  At least for today two will be pointed out.

The first is an unneeded exaggeration to help make his point.  It is dishonest.  Remember when God said to Adam, “From that tree you shall not eat; for from the moment you eat from it, you are surely doomed to die.”  Gen 2:17.  Later, when speaking with Satan, Eve reports, “it is only about the fruit of the tree in the middle of the garden that God said, ‘you shall not eat it or even touch it, lest you die!’"  This is an exaggeration of what God said and makes God appear less reasonable and maybe even a little vengeful.  So when Mr. Wills says that the Church says, “You can be gay so long as you don’t do anything about it,” one must ask the question if this is really what the Church (and as Catholics we would ask is that really what Christ) says?  What it does say is that one may not have a sexual relationship with someone who is not your opposite gender spouse.  Is there far more compassion and room for living in that than the rather sterile and cold, “you can’t do anything about it”?  If a person really believes in the truth of their argument, then they should not need to rely on exaggeration or slights in order to make it.  It should stand on its own.  This is the first sign that Mr. Wills is not exactly confident of his theological position.

The second big area of difficulty is his understanding and use of natural law (which he labels as a “quaint theory.”)  Again, if you need to make light of something in order to make your point, you’ve already begun to weaken your position.  

But here is where I am stuck.  I am not sure if Mr. Wills understands Natural Law so poorly that if he had a similar application in a term paper he might flunk the course, or if he understands it so brilliantly that he is attempting to misapply it so ingeniously in order to lead people astray.  He makes the misleading statement that, “the first biological use of an activity is the only permissible use of that activity.”  (Again, see the Eve problem above.)  This would mean then, that a married couple is not permitted to enjoy sexual relations, that they must only engage in it for procreative purposes.  This is “absurd” he says.  As proof, he says that if we truly follow Natural Law then eating should only be for fuel and we would no longer be able to eat wedding cake or drink champagne.  I would agree with him if this actually had anything to do with Natural Law or actual Church teaching.  Yet he uses this example to say, in essence, if you see that as absurd, then one could logically see the ban on sexual relations outside of traditional marriage as absurd.  But here, once again, he hurts his case.

A married couple can enjoy sex.  There is a broad spectrum of activities in which they may engage.  They may, so to speak, eat cake and drink champagne.  What they may not do is eat things that are not good for them.  We are not permitted by Natural Law to eat road tar for the same reason a person should not put sugar in the gas tank of their car.  Neither should a person eat far more than they need for sustenance (that is called gluttony.)  Except in cases of emergency, we should not try ingesting food through orifices that are not designed for the intake of nutrition.  This is Natural Law, not the banning of champagne toasts.  

Mr. Wills did have some good points not the least of which is the unhealthy keeping of secrets that should not be kept.  But his arguments are so poorly concocted as to do more harm to his point than good - at least for those who are will not to just accept whatever it is that they are reading but to think well for themselves.

Tuesday, February 26, 2019


FINDING TRUTH WHEREVER IT MAY BE FOUND: "[T]he new media instruct he public on how to think and what they need.  Some of this subtle tutoring can be funny, especially in advertising.  It led Neil Postman to see American television commercials as a form of, 'religious parables, organized around a coherent theology.  Like all religious parables [television commercials] put forward a concept of sin, intimations of the way to redemption, and a vision of heaven.  They also suggest what are the roots of evil, and what are the obligations of the holy.'"  from Archbishop Chaput's, "Render unto Caesar"


Deacon Stavarz sent in THIS article, "A Letter to an Aspiring Priest."  Thanks.

8 and a half minutes with Denzel Washington:

Sunday, February 24, 2019


There is a protocol in the Church that serves to make the process of doing things in the best possible way without hurting feelings.  Say, for example, that somebody is going to be moved.  There is a lot of discussion that takes place first with all the various people involved.  Each of these persons are told to keep matters under their hat until it is officially announced.  This way nobody sits on the outside looking in saying, "Why didn't anybody ask ME about this" when, in fact, perhaps they just didn't get to it yet. Or if the process falls through, there is no embarrassment in changing course.  It may seem silly but in the long run, the "hush rule" serves us well.

THAT BEING SAID - Do you have any idea how difficult it is to know something and not be able to talk about it???  So you find ways to satisfy that itch as well as being loyal to something the bishop has asked you to do.  You officially have a discussion about nothing.

Years ago, my classmate and I were out to dinner with some friends and we both noticed that the others was studiously not talking about certain topics.  Spidey senses went up and he asked:
Of course this is all well and good unless you really DON'T know what is going on.  That makes the conversation more difficult.

Tuesday, February 12, 2019


FINDING TRUTH WHEREVER IT MAY BE FOUND:  "It is quaint that people talk of separating dogma from education.  Dogma is actually the only thing that cannot be separated from education.  It is education.  A teacher who is not dogmatic is simply a teacher who is not teaching."  from G. K. Chesterton's, "The Problem with the World."

QUOTE II:  "It is. of course, part of that modern morbidity that insists on treating the State (which is the home of man) as a sort of desperate expedient in time of panic.  This terrified opportunism is also the original on the Socialist and other schemes."  same source


Now that I have time to think I realized I COMPLETELY MISSED
Thank you for sticking around.  Special shout out to those in the top 3 places after the good ole' U.S., Russia, France and Germany.  And coming in at 10th is the Netherlands which means more than it once did since I took the DNA test and found out that I am supposedly 17% from this area.  (Who was traveling in Slovenia and decided to stay for a while on my Father's side????)  If you are reading this I am sending out a prayer to you.  God bless!

Just before leaving on vacation I was walking the dogs in Schneider Park and saw the bell tower lit up like a golden beacon for West Akron.  Glad I had my phone on me to share it with you.

Great video.  8 minutes: