Friday, May 17, 2019


Can you believe that put that monstrosity in you parish church and called it art???

(This happens often enough that I bet most people could think that this statement refers to their situation.)  

So there is art, and then there is a subcategory of art known as liturgical art.  Liturgical art is used largely during the liturgy or in church buildings (or as part of church buildings) whose purpose is to lead the viewer more deeply into the truths and mysteries of the faith.  It is the reason churches are called catechisms in stone.  It is why the church, particularly during the counter reformation invested so heavily in the arts.  There are some things that are so much easier to see and be moved by (Beauty) than it is to be taught by dissertations (Truth).

There are some pieces of art that, while they may be worthy of a museum, are not worthy of our worship spaces - and now that I think about it, there is A LOT that is not worthy of either.

Pieces of “art” that are not clear or beautiful are not (IMHO) pieces of liturgical art.  Pieces that need way too much explanation, that attempts to “mean” way too many things to way too many people, that express the artist’s angst more than a theological truth, that are not beautiful or moving, or just leave the typical viewer scratching their collective heads and wondering “what the get out?” is not liturgical art.

A statue of the Virgin Mary that turns so many people off that brides bring their own statues to their wedding is not liturgical art.  A statue of the Holy Spirit that is so far out there that nobody would even know that it had anything to do with spirituality many times even after learning the title is not liturgical art.  A wishy-washy or incredibly bland portrayal of Christ on His Cross that is so nondescript (presumably so that viewer could imagine anything that he wants - making him the artist perhaps, not the creator of the art piece) is not liturgical art.

I have encountered all of these.  Some of them are still worthy as a piece of art perhaps, but not for Church.  Part of the very purpose of the art is to strike someone so deeply that they want to spend time with it - hopefully at first glance - to be drawn in - to be made curious - to be moved to think about spiritual truths and not immediately about how much they dislike it.  Some well meaning artist may say, “But I am expanding their ideas of art!” may be doing a good job in that respect, but they are not doing a good job at liturgical art.  They run the risk of pushing away souls rather than attracting them.

Thursday, May 16, 2019


I . . . 

Uhm . . . 

How do I say this?

I agree with the article that I was in the Akron Beacon Journal this past week - but I don’t think I agree with it for the reason that the person putting it forth would want.  But I think I am happy.  In a pollyanna way perhaps.

Alyssa Milano, protesting the more restrictive abortion laws (or, in my way of seeing things, the more life protecting laws) asked women across the nation to stop having sex as long as this trend toward life continues.


Yes.  More power to you.

I think Lysistrata would be proud.  In the Greek comedy, Lysistrata got all the women together to withhold favors from their husbands until they gave in to their demands.  In the current case, it is asked that casual sex that could result in a child being conceived be refused unless a child is actually wanted and hopefully between two committed adults.  (Hello definition of chastity.)  I am flabbergasted.  Though she sees it as a punishment and incentive (particularly to men) to make abortions more greatly available, it is a salvo for the dignity and power of sex, the respect women should have for themselves, the responsibility men should have for families and the life and dignity that should be afforded to every human person.  (I fail to see how this punishes pro-life women who, quite frankly, are already trying to live this way as a virtue.)

In Humane Vitae, Pope Paul VI said that he feared that if contraception (and let’s be honest, abortions are in high use where contraception has failed) were of common use, casual sex would greatly increase, women would be used as objects, and men would abandon their responsibilities.  What better way to correct that than to say, “I will not abuse my body, my dignity or risk conceiving an innocent life into being unless I am darn ready and want to do so.” 

So . . . and I never thought I would say this:  GO ALYSSA & LYSISTRATA!  YOU ROCK! 

Tuesday, May 14, 2019


FINDING TRUTH WHEREVER IT MAY BE FOUND:  "People use drugs, legal and illegal, because their lives are intolerably painful or dull.  They hate their work and find no rest in their leisure.  They ar estranged from their families and their neighbors.  It should tell us something that in healthy societies drug use is celebrative, convivial and occasional, whereas among us it is lonely, shameful, and addictive.  We need drugs, apparently, because we have lost each other."  Wendell Berry in Sun Magazine


There is an excellent article HERE entitled, "'The Numbers' Don't Look So Good - What Should the Church Do?"

Ordination is THIS SATURDAY at 10AM at the Cathedral of St. John on the corner of East 9th and Superior in downtown Cleveland and YOU are invited.

This coming Monday:
 The last Theology on Tap Akron!

 M. S. is updating this picture because we can't fit any more priests on it:
Great Pro-Life speaker:  1 hour fifteen minutes:

Monday, May 13, 2019


We have a really nice Paschal Candle stand.  It was designed specifically for our parish by the architect who designed all of our buildings going back to 1928.  It was created to go with the "new church" whose cornerstone was laid in 1958.  It still looks pretty good except that for the last 10 years (the entire time that I have been here) its shine has been dull (due to time) and there has been a crook in the stem making it look like this from the side: 
It's all Leaning Tower of Pisa-ish so one had to be careful how the base was placed in the sanctuary so that it leaned backwards and nobody could tell that it was at a slant.

Then this year for our 90th anniversary we had it fixed!  It was buffed up and was all shiny and new looking and a machinist fixed the bend so that it stood straight and tall.  And then this happened:
For ten years, nobody so much as bumped the candle stand.  Then, right after Easter, in an accident that could happen to anybody (don't worry, I still love you - I'm just having fun) it was dropped and the holder part broke in two.

This is tricky because the rubrics call for an Easter candle a lot.  We needed it for baptisms that day and so Cathy S. stood in as a candle stand for a whole baptism:
BUT!  Thank goodness - the repair was easily made and we had our candle back until after the 10:00AM Mass this past Sunday:
FOR TEN YEARS that stand stood there and nobody so much as breathed on it wrong.  We get it fixed up and it already has been broken twice within one Easter season.  

BUT THIS IS NOT UNUSUAL:  The paten on my chalice looks like an old 33 and third that his been sitting in a car in the hot sun for several days.  "Don't leave your records in the sun, son.  They'll warp and they won't be good to anyone" - so goes the song.  For years servers carried them without incident and when I had it replated they started dropping it as though it were a live fish coated in oil on steroids.

Maybe God doesn't like shiny, flawless things.  It DOES make sense.  He does love US after all.  Right?

Just the same, we will give it one more try:

Friday, May 10, 2019


According to Wikipedia anyway, the Skytree Tower in Tokyo is the tallest tower in the world.  But is it a work of art?  

We can ask the question as to whether it is attractive.  Is it noble?  Is it innovative?  Is it noteworthy?  Is it worth visiting?  It it awe inspiriring?  Is it an achievement of human innovation?  Does it ennoble the human person?  One might be tempted to answer yes to all of these questions and still there could ensue a lengthy debate as to whether it is a piece of art.

On the other hand, talk about Notre Dame Cathedral in France and no serious person would carry on a debate about whether it is also a piece of art or not.  Not even those who put a worn shoe under glass and declare it art would give us any serious push back.

The definition of the word “art” as grown so wide that almost any object on earth could be categorized under its label.  When it can mean just about anything, then it runs the risk of not meaning anything, a danger for so many of our once cherished words.  I think this is why so many of us “unwashed masses” become disappointed at “art” showings.  There is a nagging suspicion not that we are simply having our palettes stretched, but that we are being hoodwinked.  “Wait a minute,” the thought might come, “how can you glue two Rubrics Cubes to a mannequins foot, call it ART and charge me $25 to get in to see it?”

Once again, I have no problem with the pretty, the interesting, the innovative, the excellent achievement, the thought provoking being put on display and charging people to see it.  But we return to the question, “But is it art?”

Who gets to decide?  Well, you do.  Someone got to decide that an unmade bed is art, you get to decide that, “No, while it might be well done and interesting, it is not art.”  And do not worry that someone with a PhD who tells you that you are simply ignorant and do not understand, thank him or her for their time in enlightening you and move on.

What I caution is to have some open mind about stretching your personal taste in art.  Because I don’t like something (or experts like or do not like something) only time will make reveal its relevance to humanity.  Experts have been wildly wrong as have the unwashed masses (of which I am one.)  After fads have faded, after peer pressure has dissipated, after political correctness has turned a new corner, after the glare has worn off and we can see an object for what it is, then we will know if it is art.

And as for art needing to beautiful . . . there will be those (there are those) who vehemently disagree with me.  That’s Okay.  I think they are wrong.  That is not to say that some things are not worthy under a different category, it is simply that it is not art.  Beauty and art should be almost interchangeable (but not quite - there are differences - but that’s another post.)  If, for the average person, there is way too much explanation that needs to take place, then it is not beauty, it is a statement - and usually about the artist more than anything else.  (There is a danger here too in that it can be such a new way of seeing the world that we simply don’t “see” it yet - but then again - we return to time.)  Skill, detail, care, influence, meaning, attractiveness - all these things are not enough.  If the object is also not beautiful, then, as worthy or useful as it might be, it is not art.

Thursday, May 9, 2019


A couple of weeks ago I made mention that Catholic clergy and institutions have a right, under certain conditions, to have a coat of arms.  St. Sebastian parish has a coat of arms that was designed almost at the founding of the parish.  Most priests haven't bothered with (or maybe know about) a clergy coat of arms, but I thought they were fascinating since I was a little kid and of course I had mine designed.  Why not?

So someone asked me to explain mine so here we go:

In the upper right and lower left hand quadrants are blue fields with squiggly white lines.  These are taken directly from the coat of arms of our major seminary, which most people call St. Mary Seminary but whose full title is St. Mary, Our Lady of the Lake Seminary.  The lake in question is Lake Erie.  So, at least in part, this is an homage to my seminary.  But my family has a lot of ties to bodies of water: all of my grandparents came over "on the boat," my Dad served on a destroyer escort in World War II, we grew up in Barberton who has Lake Ann as its defining feature, and we just also enjoyed lots of time on the water as a family.

In the upper lefthand corner is a fleur-de-li which is an artistic representation of a lily, most commonly associated with the Blessed Virgin Mary who I ask to guide me.  It is also associated with Joan of Arc on whose feast day I was ordained.  The three stars in the upper left hand corner were a suggested addition by Fr. Micheal B. Smith and come from the Slovenian flag, the country from which all my grandparents come.

The lower right is an eagle most associated with St. John the Evangelist.  This is a copy of a medley that was placed around my neck when I was born, the only difference being that the original had a banner on it that said, "St. John."  St. John is also the patron of the Diocese of Cleveland.

The hat is a galero, a traditional hat worn by clergy (though rarely seen nowadays on anybody's head.)  Clergy may not have helmets or other things so he gets this hat in black and with only two tassels.  (Of course, as a clergyman changes rank, the hat color changes and the number of tassels increase.)

Tuesday, May 7, 2019


FINDING TRUTH WHEREVER IT MAY BE FOUND:  "Like much else, killing was something one could get used to."  from Christopher R. Browning's, "Ordinary Men"

QUOTE II:  "As if everybody did not know that while saints can afford to be dirty, seducers have to be clean.  As if everyone did not know that the harlot must be clean, because it usher business to captivate, while the good wife may be dirty, because it is her business to clean."  from G. K. Chesterton's, "What's Wrong with the World"


E. P. sent in THIS article about "No Fear Religion."

This Friday at 7:30PM the Akron Symphony Chorus will be performing Faure's Requiem at St. Sebastian parish.  Tickets are $20 available at the door.  For more information go HERE.  Here they are practicing on Monday night:
 Theology on Tap Akron! this Wednesday night!
 Theology on the Rocks starts up again this month!
Jordon Peterson's comments on "The Reason Modern People Can't See God Is Because They Don't Look Low Enough."  7 minutes.  

Friday, May 3, 2019


So the beautiful is not just matter of taste but a transcendental.  There are things that are fascinating, innovative, novel and maybe even pretty and which draws one in.  But does that make it beautiful?  

Beauty is more than personal taste.  Beauty is beauty by its nature.  It is Truth and the Good made visible.  Thomas Aquinas adds these characteristics: integrity, due proportion and claritas.  It is something that draws one in.  It is also admirable: when one stands before that which is beautiful it is more than being attracted, it is being awed and enveloped, it is being inspired deeper into truth and goodness.

A few decades ago a Supreme Court Justice (Potter Stewart) in rendering a decision on hard core pornography side stepped defining it, a thing which he found very difficult to do, by saying, “I know it when I see it.”  But is it entirely subjective?  No, there are elements that must be present.  Is it entirely objective?  No, there are things that seem to have all of the right elements but just, somehow, fail.  Can someone be coached into seeing the beauty of something that at first did not strike them as beautiful?  Well, yes.  It may be called developing good taste.  Can one be fooled?  Oh, definitely.  Can something be beautiful without me seeing the beauty in it?  Yes.  Etc.

Like the building up of a good culture, could it be that beauty needs the collective experience of “the many” and time to be declared truly so?  (This helps rid us of the bias against, "I don't like the color blue," or "Anything to do with this politically correct topic/style is tops with me.)  Are critics and experts just pretty good predictors who have a step up on weathermen but who, similarly, are at times spectacularly wrong?  Could a ten million dollar “work of art” today be thrown in the ash heap of the future along with the thought, “What were they thinking?”  I think so.  

Beware of the prophet that declares something beautiful too out of the norm and pressures you to follow suit (but be open to skeptically considering) and don’t be too quick to jump on board declaring something long thought to be beautiful to be destroyed because what might only be fashion has influenced us too much.  Beauty doesn’t get to be beauty simply because someone says so.  But a lot of human beings over a long period of times certainly have a defining voice.
All of which makes judging art more difficult (but not completely impossible either.)  So the next question is, “Are art and beauty permanently joined at the hip?  Does a work need to be beautiful in order to be art?”

Thursday, May 2, 2019


About ten years ago the Diocese of Cleveland changed from permanent pastorates to term limits.  I was on the committee to assist the then bishop in deciding.  I was less than enthused with the prospect.  As with most new new things (please, can we never have yet another new miracle method for teaching in schools that will be all the rage for three years and then never be heard from again) it sounded like a cure that would solve all of our problems.  The caution that I had at the time was that we were simply exchanging one set of advantages/difficulties for another set of challenges/difficulties and were we sure that we wanted this exchange.

Apparently we did.

The argument for pastor term limits are quite good.  If there is a problem priest, there is a date at which canonically he may be removed.  (Despite what many people think, the bishop does not have the power, except in limited circumstances, simply to move a pastor at will.)  It also provides a chance for a priest who thinks that it is time to move to have a convenient way and date to do so.  So there is a lot more flexibility and ability to change things up.  It gives a bishop a lot more power to help a parish that is failing under a particular priest and in some ways it gives the people more power.  If they don’t like the guy that is their pastor, when the time comes for the priest to renew his pastorate, it is the opportunity for the bishop to say, “Maybe not.  Your people are revolting.”

So why would there have been permanent pastorates in the first place?  (Chesterton warned against tearing down a fence unless you first know why it was there.)  The argument for permanent pastorates is quite good.  In an article in a recent First Things, the author listed some of the advantages to permanent pastorates.  The first is a certain amount of protection from punitive acts of a bishop.  It brings more power locally for a priest (and congregation) to say, “We will not do that here.”  (With term limits, there may be some fear that soon you will be moved to a difficult assignment for sparing with the bishop.)  There is more of a chance to develop long term relationships instead of the “father” of the parish changing every six years (making it a bit scary for staffs also.)  

A lot depends on the people involved.  Will a term limit cause a man not to do some difficult work such a replacing an expensive roof or firing a popular figure who is working against the goals of the parish?  Will he tempted to say, “Let the next guy handle it.”  Or would permanent pastorates cause another man to say, “Nobody can touch me, I’ll spend my days watching T. V.?”  

Is more episcopal oversight better than greater subsidiarity?  It is difficult to say.  A lot depends.  If you have a crummy pastor you are probably glad for term limits, if you have a crummy bishop, you probably wish for permanent pastorates.  

We seem to have stuck a balance in the Diocese of Cleveland (and a lot depends on the solicitude of the bishop who is sitting in the cathedra.)  We have six year term limits that are indefinitely renewable in theory.  So a problem pastor or a pastor who thinks he has run his course can be moved or move on.  Or, in theory, he could stay there for years if good still seems to be happening.

Which is best?  The answer is bears, beets, Battlestar Galactica. 

Tuesday, April 30, 2019


FINDING TRUTH WHEREVER IT MAY BE FOUND:  "Marriage, again like life in the Church, is in many ways, 'a long walk of mercy.'"  from Archbishop Chaput's, "Strangers in a Strange Land"


Here are the painting being switched out between Lent and Easter.
 It's a long process.
 What it looks like at night,
 On the left below is the artist, Eric Armusik and on the left is the model he used for Jesus.
Joan Crookston took this picture (and many others) on Good Friday.  Thank you for sharing.  You are a good photographer!

E. P. sent in THIS article.  What would you do in a similar situation?

C. C. sent in THIS link to a 3d laser scan of the Upper Room.

For those who may be concerned that Notre Dame cannot be restored, take a look at this video sent in by P. V.

One more video:  A parishioner wrote and performed this about Flight 93 and it seems relevant more  than ever with all of the stuff going in the world right now.

Sunday, April 28, 2019


Those are not squiggly lines that you are looking at.  That is what the Missal looks like to me when the server first brings the book over and it's not a good day and I realize that I have forgotten to wear my glasses.  Again.

Sometimes it goes like this to borrow a scene from one of my favorite comedies:

Things is - I don't need them most of the time.  A LOT of the time I don't need them to read.  So I forget.  And then WHAM!  It's Mass time and I realize that I can't see.  What are you going to do at that point?  Excuse yourself from the altar and go to the rectory and hope you can find them where you left them last?

So I ask the sacristans and servers, "If you see me without my glasses PLEASE remind me that I need them."  They don't.

It's the same with my collar (misspelled below but I didn't want to draw the frame again.)  I'll go to Mass thinking I'm all dressed up and later, looking at myself in the mirror, I will realize that I've been going around all day without my little white tongue depressor in.
I can't blame people for not saying anything I guess.  Everybody has their jobs for which they must be diligent without having to worry if their priest can see and doesn't look funny.  I should probably make a list.
From the time I was a little kid, my Dad aways said that I would need someone to mind me throughout life.  He said I live too much in my head.

Friday, April 19, 2019


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.



Thursday, April 18, 2019


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


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


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.