Thursday, December 18, 2014


Though dubious, when NPR reported that Pope Francis had said that dogs will go to heaven and thinking of my dog Sebastian, I texted Fr. Pfeiffer who has always maintained that dogs do not have immortal souls that, “HA!  IN YOUR FACE!  POPE SAYS DOGS GO TO HEAVEN!” though inside I was wondering, “How on earth can he say that?”


Well, as it turned out he said nothing of the kind.  There was a retraction in the New York Times the next day.  The “alleged” quote is now being attributed to Pope Paul VI who apparently said it to a young boy who he found crying in St. Peter Square.  “Paradise is open to all God’s creatures,” is the supposed quote though there is no hard and fast proof of it.  And, as one Catholic reporter for CNN wrote, “It’s called being pastoral.”  He was not trying to teach a crying boy doctrine but was trying to comfort him.  And this comment could be taken well within Catholic doctrine anyhoo . . . Scripture says there will be a new creation at the end times and what exactly that means we don’t know.

It’s like this:  When someone is very sad about the death of their pet and they ask me if they are going to see the animal in heaven I say (and this is where Fr. Pfeiffer and I butt heads) God guarantees you absolute happiness in heaven and IF you your absolute happiness depends on your pet being there, he will be there.”  Now that “IF” is a mighty powerful word and gets me out of a lot of theological trouble.  “I guarantee to make you pope IF another arm suddenly grows out of the top of my head at 2 o’clock today.”
ALL THIS GOES TO SAY don’t believe everything you read about the pope or the Church in popular media.  Don’t fly off the handle or start complaining to everyone in ear shot about the latest stupid thing someone in the Church did especially since the chances are it is exaggerated, mis-focused, or, as in this case, not true.  (Remember a couple of Easters ago they found the coffin of Jesus?)  This is just the latest in a long string of false or misleading reports AND IT IS GOING TO GET WORSE AS WE GET CLOSER TO THE POPE’S VISIT AND AS WE GET CLOSER TO THE 5OOTH ANNIVERSARY OF PROTESTANTISM IN 1017.  I beg you to exercise great prudence, patience, and fact checking when you hear something that sounds plausible, but just a bit off.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014


A text appeared on my phone earlier this week stating that The Most Reverend A. Edward Pevec, DD, PhD, Auxiliary Bishop Emeritus of Cleveland had passed away.  You may read more about his official time as a bishop as well as all of the funeral arrangements HERE. 


Bishop Pevec was of Slovenian descent as was I.  When I was in the seminary I used to sneak into the chapel late at night and play Slovenian hymns on the organ.  On a number of occasions I would be leaving and find that the bishop had been sitting there listening.  He would have tears in his eyes and he would shake my hand and say, “Thank you John.”  I have rarely, in my life,  ever gone by the name John but I didn’t mind him calling me that.

When I was named pastor of St. Sebastian, our ordinary was unable to have the installation ceremony due to his heavy schedule.  The Installation Mass is ceremonial and unnecessary, but then again so is a birthday cake and presents.  But such is life.
As I was leaving his office I was handed the list of auxiliary bishops of the diocese with their phone numbers.  “I heard that the bishop was going to be unable to install you as pastor so I took the liberty of putting these names together for you,” the person said.  At the top of list was Bishop Pevec.  So I called, somewhat embarrassed, “Hi, This is John.  Could you come and install me as pastor?”  It sounded pretty pathetic like “Would you throw me a birthday party?”  Anyway he jumped right on it.  “Of course I will.  When do you want it?”  He sounded rather enthused about though his schedule was probably packed too but he put me greatly at ease.
We had settled on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception which thrilled me.  It was a great crowd, which meant that more people than usual showed up on a holy day of obligation!  It was a wonderful night thanks to his generous spirit.

Rest in peace bishop.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014


FINDING TRUTH WHEREVER IT MAY BE FOUND:  "I guess it's inevitable; everyone's embarrased by their parents: your parents are hippies, you become a banker and vice versa."  from Michael Gruber's, "The Return"
QUOTE II:  "It seems awefully stupid to be afraid of death . . ."  same source

Fr. Damian wrote to his fellow priests. "I am sure that none of you listen to Taylor Swift, but I promise you that at least 85% of your teens and pre-teens do, and that they know her music well. Her new record sold 1.278 million copies in the first week. With that in mind, I reviewed her new record. You may want to share it with your youth minister of your middle school teachers."   HERE is the  link.

Adam sent in a link about an Our Lady of Guadalupe procession.  Video and article are HERE.

Christine sent this in:  "I’ve been meaning to send you this for a while. Sorry we’re already almost halfway through, but I thought you would enjoy this series of online advent calendar “windows.” If you go to, you can subscribe to her advent calendar and receive each day a cultural tidbit about advent. The previous articles are listed at the bottom of each post."  Videos included.


Thursday, December 11, 2014


It amazes me when people are SURE FIRE about something about which they have no real means to know if it is true or not.  It amazes me even more when somebody points out to ME that I am adamant about something about which I have no real means to know if it is true or not.  We act on our prejudices and assumptions often unawares.
For example, a Grand Jury decided recently in a controversial police shooting that the officer was acting correctly.  A huge swath of people including much of my news sources have jumped on the band wagon condemning the police officer, police departments, and the justice system none of whom were there, attended the trial, or knew the people involved.  So sure, where there is smoke there is fire, but how can they be so sure in direct condemnation?

Today people have absolute ideas about the pope, what he said, what he meant, what he did, what his intentions are, and these are largely gleaned from blurbs from newspaper articles that are more interested in stirring up brouhaha than giving a fair, balanced, and full reports.  It doesn’t help the matter that our diocesan newspaper does little to counterman this.


Recently, Catholics in Akron were given two deeper glimpses into what is going on with our pope.  The first was Fr. Haydu, International Director of the Friends of the Vatican Museums, who said the reason many practicing Catholics are bristling at some of the things that come from the lips of our pontiff (assuming that it is being reported correctly) are missing out on the idea that they are not his audience.  We are the 99 sheep that he is allowing priests, bishops, and cardinals to tend and he is going after the 1 lost sheep.  That is his target audience.  And we can be like the prodigal son’s brother upset with the dad not giving him the fatted calf. 
The second opportunity was Mr. John Allen, senior correspondent to the Vatican for CNN.  He cautioned us about the media’s focus on a rift between the pope and the American bishops.  This will be exaggerated as we prepare to greet him in Philadelphia next year.  While there are certainly some bishops that do not agree with Pope Francis, there have been contingencies of bishops that did not like Benedict or John Paul II or any pope in history.  Today it is being highlighted and being made to seem larger or more important than it is.
Another caution he offered was buying into the “Benedict bad, Francis good” mentality.  Many of the things Pope Francis is (rightly) getting great credit for was also done by Benedict (though nobody knows of it) or are initiatives begun by Benedict and being implemented by Francis.
These are just two examples (and not very flushed out owing to the limited space of a post in this blog) but they point to something about which we need to remember: Don’t believe everything you hear.  Just because it is in writing does not mean that it is true.  If something sounds overly controversial to you, we have means to look into it more deeply.  John Allen’s articles are always considered excellently done.  You may find it HERE.  Or you may check out the Vatican websites themselves as well as other reputable Catholic sites.


We can be much more in the know.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014


People bring me bulletins from other parishes.  I enjoy looking at what other places do for their publications.  One of the first things at which I look is their reporting of their collection.  Last week a bulletin was brought to me from St. John the Baptist Church in North Burlington, VT.  Apparently it is a very quaint and small parish.  The collection reported in the issue I received was $4,000.  I would have a heart attack and immediately try to sell off property if we only had a collection of that amount.  About 8 years ago it was estimated that this parish costs about $8,000 a day to keep rolling.  That $4,000 collection would have gotten us a little past lunch on Monday.
We are very fortunate to have a pre-school through 8th grade parish school.  I am VERY glad for it.  But let me be clear: MOST Catholic parish elementary schools lose money.  Our school loses quite a bit of money.  These loses are made up from the collection basket and parishes do it willingly because we believe in Catholic education.  The Diocese of Cleveland sets soft guidelines that the parish subsidy of the school should not exceed 20% of the Sunday collection and many cross that line.  (We are under.)


Most families understand this.  But there are always a few (EVERY pastor talks about this) who volunteer no time, do not come to Mass at the parish, nor give anything extra but justify it by saying, “I give TONS of money to the parish through my tuition.”  The simple fact is that for most Catholic elementary schools, your tuition does not cover what it is costing the parish to educate your child.  The thousands you may be paying is a partial payment to the parish in what the actual costs are.  In many cases we are asking the least amount we can and still be able to keep the doors open.
Then there is the interesting situation in which persons send their child to one school but attend Mass at another parish.  It is a great thing that they are attending Mass, but they miss sight of the idea that it is the parish community of their child’s school that is helping pay to educate their child.  At least occasionally they should go to Mass and pray with the community that cares about their child so much that they are willing to donate extra funds toward his education. 
It is a great topic for pastors.  Nobody has the silver bullet to solve it.  How do you get people to Mass (which is the reason we have a school), how do you get people involved?  Unfortunately the ones who really listen are the ones who already pay their bills, give to the parish, volunteer, and worship with the community.  Especially in a struggling parish, if everyone did their part, tuition for everyone would stay lower.  That is the theory.


What would you do?

Tuesday, December 9, 2014


FINDING TRUTH WHEREVER IT MAY BE FOUND:  "A young man may keep himself from vice by continually thinking of disease.  He may also keep himself from it by continually thinking about the Virgin Mary.  There may be a question about which method may be more reasonable, or even about which is the more efficient.  But surely there can be no question about which is the most wholesome."  from G. K. Chesterton's, ""Heretics"
QUOTE II:  "Nobody has any business to use the word 'progress' unless he has a definite creed and a cast iron code of morals.  Nobody can be progressive without being doctrinal . . . For progress by its very name indicates a direction; and the moment we are in the least doubtful about the direction, we become, in the same degree, doubtful about the progress."  same source
Today and next Tuesday mark the last two organ recitals at St. Sebastian for the Advent season.  The noon hour of adoration is accompanied by a local organist.  This Sunday at 3:30 is our annual Advent Lessons and Carols.  Also this Sunday St. Sebastian, St. Vincent, and St. Bernard will have the confessionals open and manned from 6:30 to 8:30PM!  Get in while you can!
A couple of people sent THIS in:  Pope wishes to de-stygmafy autism. 
This three minute video I found while looking something up on the St. Bernard website:

Sunday, December 7, 2014


Being advent it is confession season again.  Lot's O' school confessions, long lines at regular confession times, and extra confessions such as this coming Sunday when St. Sebastian, St. Vincent and St. Bernard will have a night of confessions at each of our places from 6:30 to 8:30.
That also means listening to the Act of Contrition a lot . . .
It is more difficult than you might imagine helping someone "finish" any particular Act of Contrition.  It depends how old they are, where they went to school, and what was in fashion at the time.  If they employ "Thee"s or "You"s is only a minor consideration.  Sadly, the grand, awe inspired, pleasings sounding "O" seems to be passing away.  When someone is stuck, it was easy to say, "O" and they would run on with, "my God I am heartily sorry . . ."  Oh "O", I am afraid that you have gone out of fashion.  But I shall keep you in my trunk of "old fashioned" things (such as vinyl records) until such day we discover we have no idea how we lived without you.
Trying to figure out from where some of these Acts of Contrition are coming, I (actually) looked on Wickipedia to find out.  (Not a place I would normally go for such things.)  But lo!  There they were!  They were titled:
"Popular American English Version"
"Popular Catholic American English Version"
"Another Popular American English Version"
"Popular Canadian English Version" (Which seems to be the one making the rounds now.)
"Modern Version Taught in Religious Education"
Most of them are SO close.  And often people mix them up anyway half way between the one they learned in grade school and what they are currently teaching their children.  So when they get stuck in the middle and say, "Ugh!  What's the next line Father?" I don't know.  The chart below shows why.  It is all the possible directions it might go.
Sometimes I try.  Sometimes I say, "You know, you can make it up."  Sometimes I say, "Just repeat after me."  But here is a sure winner from the Rites book:

Friday, December 5, 2014


Chapter 2 of Lumen Fidei
Christianity is the opiate of the masses!” or so said Karl Marx and it is absolutely true if faith is not wedded to truth.  If faith is not wedded to truth than it is no better than a sit com on TV that allows us to forget our worries and be happy for a little spell. 
But true faith is all about truth.  Today’s Catholic cannot lose sight of this.  On the one hand there are those who only believe in things that can be measured, viewed, and reproduced.  At the other end of the spectrum are those who only hold to what is true for the individual (it’s true for me even if it isn’t true for you.)  But there is a deeper understanding of truth that lies in humanity’s memory.  It grounds faith and far from being a hard dictator, is something that brings us freedom when properly understood.
If we do not think of freedom as something that we possess, then we can engage others in faith.  Truth is rather something that possess us and therefore we can walk with others who have are on a sincere search for truth and faith.  It is this truth and faith for which all sincere seekers are looking.

Thursday, December 4, 2014


In the “revolution” for sexual freedom, Chesterton suggests we ask the question, from what we are seeking freedom.  To that we might add, “And is what we are doing actually bringing us into greater freedom?”


A sure sign that a community is breaking down is that it relies more heavily on its officials to keep the peace rather than the community making sure that nothing nefarious is going on.  I could not get in trouble as a kid much as I may have wanted to.  Our neighborhood was so tightly knit that if I dropped a penny on the way home my parents would have received three phone calls that “little Johnny was throwing money all over town.”  This is one of the reasons I became a priest.  Why bother being bad?  I couldn’t get away with it anyway.

That neighborhood has changed dramatically.  Today if you would call many of the parents on the street and tell them that their kid was spray painting graffiti on someone’s house you would first be met with refusal (not my kid) and then anger, “How dare you!  What did you do to cause my child to have to spray paint Mrs. McDonald’s house?”  A that point the police move in, not because the community is stronger and so can bring them in, but because it is beginning to fail; it must bring them in.  It is weak.
In our new sexual freedom, we have seen, from professional sports, to college campuses, high schools, celebrities, politicians, and now even Joe and Mary down the street, not the community holding up standards and keeping individuals responsible, but more and more bringing in the state to make people responsible for their actions.  This is not a sign that we have more freedom, more respect for each other, or that we are more empowered, or that women are better respected, or that we have less to hide, or even that we are, as a whole, happier, but that we are less empowered and so must rely on the big stick.
Granted, there have always been persons who were not able to be kept in check by the community.  That is why there are police forces and soldiers.  When society is healthy, these services are there to protect our freedoms, not enforce them. 

Wednesday, December 3, 2014


One of the goals of faith is to live in freedom.  Freedom is a prerequisite for joy.  The freer you are, the greater capacity for joy that you have.  It is why Christ wants you to live in freedom.  It is why the Church is such a promoter of freedom.  But it is a freedom properly understood.
Freedom for our nation comes much closer to the notion of license; I am free to do whatever I want.  But license to do whatever one wills often leads to a lessening of freedom, not a greater expression of it.
Let us take just one example:  Anger.  There is righteous anger about which Scripture says, “If you are angry, let it be without sin.”  Then there is destructive anger.  How many times I have been taught by well meaning people to let all my anger out.  What they don’t mean is deal with anger, what they mean is to scream into a pillow or punch the couch.  This is not letting your anger out, it is practicing it. 


Remember when you mother used to say, “Don’t do that (use that word, make that face,) because one day it will come out when you don’t want it to.”  Mom was spot on and she didn’t have to go to seminary to learn that.  Practice your anger enough, and it will come out at the wrong time.  But also your anger then has control over you.  People, things, and situations also have control over you.  Long after the guy cut you off and has completely forgotten that you even exist, he still had control over you if you are steaming and mad and looking for vengeance.  He is enjoying the latte that he has just picked up out of his cup holder and you can’t think straight, are plotting revenge, and planning to kick the dog when you got home.
That is not freedom.
WARNING HERE:  This does not mean one does not deal with angry feelings.  You can’t just push them down.  But there are alternatives to letting your anger take over.
What if every time someone cut you off on the road you said a Hail Mary for them instead of doing finger exercises?  What if encountering a rude person at the mall drove you to a prayer for them instead of a curse?  What if being on hold gave you the opportunity to say a rosary instead of playing projectiles with desk implements?  What if nobody could control you again?  What if you went wild?  What if you were happy?

Tuesday, December 2, 2014


FINDING TRUTH WHEREVER IT MAY BE FOUND:  "We will not be defined by a trophy he often said, but it was easy to say that you would not be defined by something you didn't have."  from Michael Koryta's, "The Prophet"
QUOTE II:  "He saw the falsehood of that almost universal notion of today, the notion that rites and forms are something artificial, additional, and corrupt.  Ritual is really much older than thought; it is much simpler and much wilder than thought.  A feeling touching the nature of things does not only make men feel that there are certain proper things to say; it makes them feel that there are certain proper things to do.  The more agreeable of these consists of dancing, building temples, and shouting very loud; the less agreeable, of wearing green carnations and burning other philosophers alive."
You should go on a little get away for advent and Mary wants to help make that happen.  HERE is an interactive 3D experience of the temple.  If you take the self tour, she sent THIS floor plan to help you navigate around.  She also sent THIS picture of model to give you an idea of what it might have looked like.  Thanks.
She also sent this in:  Dear Fr. V., I thought AA readers may be interested in knowing that the Vatican Museums 3-D film will be in North Canton at Tinseltown next week on Wednesday, December 10, at 7:00 p.m. There will be only one screening of this special event.  For more details and more locations go HERE.
This a 5 and a half minute video on the spirituality of Advent:

Tuesday, November 25, 2014


FINDING TRUTH WHEREVER IF MAY BE FOUND:  ". . . no quality was so annoying in someone else as the very one you didn't like in yourself."  from Michael Koryta's, "The Prophet"

QUOTE II:  (Concerning football)  "We're concerned with the weight of responsibility.  We're concerned with the idea that your individual mistake, your poor decision or poor effort, impacts many more people than yourself.  We understand that this is a game of little consequence.  We also understand that the lessons of the game are not empty."  same source

From the Diocese of Cleveland Enewsletter:  The Most Reverend Timothy Broglio, archbishop of the military (and Cleveland native) will be celebrating a Mass this coming Sunday at our cathedral of St. John for peace and you are invited.  More information HERE.
Fr. Damian has another great article for you to read HERE.  He tells us how to get more out of Thanksgiving.
Joe sent this in.  HA!
One of Fr. Leonard's favorite videos.  He's been singing this around the rectory for two weeks.  (2 min.)

Monday, November 24, 2014


This past weekend St. Sebastian had a visiting priest, Fr. Mark Haydu LC, who is the International Director of the Patrons of the Arts of the Vatican Museums at the Vatican.  (He is also an Akron boy who done good.)  He just came out with a new book, Reflections on Vatican Art: Angels, and came to St. Sebastian as part of a book tour.  He also celebrated 9:00AM Mass, which I concelebrated with him. 
I like to think that I am open to how other priests celebrate Mass when they come here.  "Just do what you do and we'll try to adjust" is something I say a lot but I am dubious as to how much I actually mean it.
Here is a prime example:  We are almost at the end of Mass.  Everybody is seated and we await Father to pray the collect after communion.  Some priests jump right into it.  I like to wait a little to give people time to pray and am always happy when other priests do the same.

So when we doubled the time that I like to sit quietly I started getting nervous.

Then full pastor mode kicks in and I start thinking logistics of people sticking around to meet Father and the cars coming in for the next Mass . . .
So much for being open and flexible.  Anyhoo . . . at the end of the homily he talked about being in Rome.  "What's going on in Rome with the Pope?" he reported people constantly asking him.  He told us that, unlike our previous two pontiffs, the primary audience for the pope is not the people sitting in the pews, but those who SHOULD be in the pews but are not.  The pope is not speaking to us.
He likened it to the story of the prodigal son.  The Father lavishes attention on the son who was off doing whatever it was he was doing and tried to make him feel comfortable, loved, and secure being home again.  MEANWHILE the son that was home, comfortable, and secure is grousing, "HEY!  HELLO!  Remember ME, the SON that is RIGHT HERE and WANTS YOUR CONTINUED ATTENTION?  What about ME!  I, after all, DESERVE IT much more than this son of YOURS who was off gallivanting around."
"Essentially," said Fr. Haydu, "we are that faithful son who is upset that our father is paying too much attention to the wayward son and we are feeling ouchy."
I am willing to buy that.  It makes sense.  But . . . hey . . .

Friday, November 21, 2014


On a retreat once a man was speaking about swimming in a pool with his very young son.  The son stood at the edge of the pool where the water would be over his head as it came up to chest level of his father who stood in the pool.  The man coaxed his son to jump in.  “Don’t worry.  I will catch you.”  It took quite a bit of encouragement because the boy’s fear needed to be overcome by his faith, trust, and hope in his father.  Finally he takes the risk and jumps in.  His father does catch him and after the initial shot of fear, he laughed, held securely and safely in his father’s arms.


In large part, this is what this whole next chapter is about in Pope Francis’ “Lumen Fidei.”  If you remember, last week we diagnosed a problem: our society needs the light of faith once again.  In this section the pope is reminding us through evidence of past events why our Father is one in whom to place our trust and our hope.  Remember Abraham and how God guided and cared for the people of Israel through all the ages.  The coming of Jesus shows proof of God’s love for us when Jesus even dies for our sake.  To see His mangled body might cause one to lose one’s faith, “How could God let this happen?”  But it is in precisely that He was willing to submit to the cruelty of man in order to give to men the means of salvation that we have our faith strengthened.  But it is in His resurrection that we understand that this is a reliable love.

But it is not enough simply to be saved by His great action.  It is also about relationship.  If good business is about location, location, location, salvation is about relationship, relationship, relationship.  We are called to be in relationship with God and only in this way do we gain from Him a way of seeing the world, understanding it, and living in it.  Through this we are transformed.
This faith is necessarily lived out in the Church, in the faith community.  It is never “God and me.”  It is the Church and God.  Faith, since it saves all, is not a private matter but one to be lived within the Body of Christ and the Church is the Body of Christ.
Francis wrote much more and much more beautifully in this chapter, but this gives you a taste.  We have only to look to see that God has always been with us and guided us.  Today, we take the jump of faith into the pool of Christ’s body which is expressed in this world by the Church.