Thursday, June 20, 2019


You Catholic faith has a lot to do with what self driving car you buy in the future.

Maybe ten years from now you are happily driving (well, riding) along, drinking you coffee and finishing up some last minute things as your car speedily scoots you along to your destination.  All of a sudden and in a way that could not be predicted, three people tumble into the street in your path: an elderly man, a pregnant woman and a well dressed middle aged guy.  There is nothing that can be done!  The car will have to hit one of these people while you drink your coffee or veer off of a cliff killing you, possibly some woodland creatures and possibly cause some pollution to the environment.

The decision is not made in a vacuum.  A computer does not make this decision.  All of the input comes from human beings and somewhere along the line someone programed a decision as to who will be sacrificed in the computer’s brain.  As it turns out the old man is a great senator, the woman would go on to be a terrible mother causing her child to be a terrorist and the well dressed man was on a job interview, that he didn’t get, and will spend the next 30 years living for free in his mother’s basement playing video games.  Does this matter?

Who gets to decide who gets hit?  Are you still morally culpable in any way?  What if you have to decide, before you buy the car, what moral standards you will use.

You new car comes with your choice of:
Traditional Judeo/Christian ethics
Revised Judeo/Christian ethics for the modern person

Often the Catholic Church is accused of being anti-science (an illusion of which an honest historian will relieve you.)  Often the Church is just saying, “This is new territory and we should think about the moral implications before blindly going forward and ending up someplace we don’t want to be.”  Science, as is its current nature, wants to march on with what it can do (rather than, sometimes, what it should do) and wants to police itself (which we see how well that turned out in the Catholic hierarchy.)  

Go science!  Go faith!  Hand in hand we can do much good together.

Tuesday, June 18, 2019


FINDING TRUTH WHEREVER IT MAY BE FOUND:  "For this blending of men and women, nations and nations, is truly a return to the chaos and unconsciousness that were before the world was made." from G. K. Chesterton's, "What Right with the World"


L.K. sent in THIS article about "The Cardinal Who Loves Chesterton."  Thanks

This was drawn by a talented young person.  I think she did a pretty good job when compared to the original below!

P.V. sent in THIS article about the sexualization of children.

Theology on the Rocks returned and was at the Tangier

 Here are some of the people who make it all happen!  Thank you!
I guess it was announced this morning that we would be returning to the Tangier.  They are working on improving the food.  See below:
 Tickets are on sale now for the Jazz Fest:
Bishop Barron on Jordan Peterson and Sam Harris - about 8 minutes.

Monday, June 17, 2019


This past weekend at the 4:30 Mass the singing was so above average for the congregation that I had to say something at the beginning of the Mass.  I believe I said something along the lines of, "That was awesome!  The best you have ever sounded!"  And indeed it seemed as though more people than usual were participating and in our big, echo-y church it was inspiring.  Even the Our Father was prayed with extra loud gusto.  When that happens I get excited and have more life when I celebrate.  Then that feeds back into the congregation and then back to me and so forth.  It's great.

One of the great things about it is that the congregation is not there to witness but to pray and offer THEIR sacrifices too.  It "shouldn't" matter who the priest is - or how exciting the Mass is - or if one is entertained enough or not - we are their to pray our little hearts out regardless.

One of the drawbacks to the priest no longer facing east in the Mass is that a now people hang a lot more on the personality of the priest for what they "get out of it."  Sometimes people will say something about a priest not being exciting enough etc . . .   But if you want your priest to be excited, what are you giving him to work with?  It is easy to see why sometimes a priest might want to say Mass facing east again.

There is the unchecked yawn where a priest, in the middle of prayer, will look up and be able to count the number of fillings a particular parishioner might have.
Then there is the death stare person.  No matter what you say - you get the death stare.  Fortunately I know a lot of these people and it is just who they are.  It has little to no bearing on whether they are taking it in, mad, finding it hilarious or offensive.
Then there is the person with consumption whose mother never taught him to cover his mouth or to wait.  Can you imagine talking to someone in the grocery store and in the middle of your sentence, looking right at you, he hacks up a fur ball the size of a compact car?  It is a little disconcerting.
Add to that errant phones, screaming children, bathroom runs, latecomers and a host of other things and east starts looking mighty good.

But, in the end, a priest loves all of these people because they are part of his family.  And that is what one does with family and in the best situations the priest is loved back the same way.  I would rather have every one of these people there than not there.  It also helps me to remember that I am not there to pray well when others are praying well but to pray my best regardless - and hope others do the same when I am off my game.

Friday, June 14, 2019


Want to do some Catholic reading for the summer?  Elizabeth’s Lev’s book, “How Catholic Art Saved the Faith; the Triumph of Beauty and Truth in Counter-Reformation Art” may the just the ticket for you.  Do you ever wonder why the Church invests so much of herself in art for the masses (or Masses I suppose.)  This book will give you a clearer insight as well as beautifully enticing you into paintings to understand what they are doing, a skill that will go a long way in helping you understand and judge liturgical art in general.

Best of all, while dealing with topics that many experts like to make as complicated and exclusive as possible, Lev makes accessible and exciting.  She does not give credence to tedious concepts of art or try to dazzle the reader with her great and lofty learning.  Rather, she invites you in to enjoy the wonder and awe of the art which is supposed to be the point of liturgical art to begin with.

She does for art what Dr. Scott Hahn does for theology.

Best of all, the chapters and descriptions, while lush and full, are divided up into short and easy to digest chapters.  Do you only want to read for 5 minutes?  Done!  Want to read for an hour?  Perfect!  Beware though if you have any love of art and faith.  I would think that I only want to read for 5 minutes and then start stealing time from other things in order to read more.

This book is the beginning of a cure for what ails the Church today when it comes to art.  I would make it mandatory reading for anybody responsible for the commissioning of art for a parish.  It gives insight to the artists and patrons who respected what was handed on from the past and what was completely innovative for its day (which now seems so much a part of our standard bag of tools for liturgical art) and inspires us to have that same responsibility and innovation - the mix of order and chaos - that inspired the people of the Counter-Reformation.

Thursday, June 13, 2019


I was unprepared as a newly ordained for the number of people who said, “You know, I should have never been married.  I’m not really cut out for it but it seemed like the thing I was supposed to do.”  When someone says this, we don’t talk about discerning whether God is calling them elsewhere or not, we talk about a spirituality that will help them keep up with their promises and commitments.  The time for discernment (vocational anyway) has passed.  It would never be that God is calling you out of your marriage and family (although there are rare exceptions.)

So it is with heavy heart that I hear about (formerly Father) Jonathon Morris, once famous priest and commentator on FOX news.  I like the guy.  I want to wish him well and heavens know we don’t need unhappy priests in the priesthood.  However, in his interview on FOX he said that God is the one calling him away from his vocation, promises and commitments.  It is with this that I have difficulty.

There are a lot of things that could be going on in his life.  Maybe it is that he became a priest thinking that it really wasn’t for him just like a person might think that maybe he wasn’t really cut out for marriage but wanted to live up to other’s hopes.  And he certainly had some rough things with which to contend in his priesthood and it was probably a good idea to let him go if his heart was set on it (a lot of damage could have occurred otherwise.)  But that this was the best solution I have caution especially in an era when people, in general, are having grave difficulties being committed to a cup of coffee with a friend in a week let alone marriage, holy orders or other of life’s grave commitments.

He has my prayers and I wish him and others in his shoes well, but it is with sadness and I am not on the bandwagon of, “Good for him for following his heart!”  To be clear: there may be things going on in his life to which we are not privy and maybe this is the best move for all involved.  But as an example of of how to handle life’s commitments when they are not as we had hoped (or we are not happy, or we find something better, or our interests have changed, or, or or) this is a solution to be looked upon somberly and with great caution.

Tuesday, June 11, 2019


FINDING TRUTH WHEREVER IT MAY BE FOUND:  "We are to regard the existence as a raid or great adventure, but by what flag it follows and what high town it assaults.  The most dangerous thing in the world is to be alive; one is always in danger of one's life.  But anyone who shrinks from this is a traitor to the great scene and experiment of being."  from G. K. Chesterton's, "What's Right with the World."


Theology on the Rocks HAS A NEW LOCATION!
It was a beautiful sunset a couple of nights ago - the light was phenomenal!  It didn't really catch it on the phone camera though.
 But another evening did catch our bell tower shining like gold!

M. W. sent in THIS article that includes our own Fr. Anthony Simone.

P. V. sent in THIS article about a University who returned a major donation over abortion.

Bishop Barron wrote THIS BOOK about the Church crisis.  I ordered 200 for St. Sebastian. 

E. P. sent in THIS article about a bishop who is taking a strong stand with Catholic politicians.  

E. D. asked that THIS information be shared about the upcoming G. K. Chesterton convention.  (I think I might go!)

Also, HERE is where you can go to print up your own G. K. Chesterton prayer cards in a number of languages.

videohis video is unusual for this blog.  Yes, it is a commercial.  But it features our very own St. Julie Billiart School and its amazing principal Jason Wojnicz.

Sunday, June 9, 2019


 There is tons of Tupperware at the house.  It fills the kitchen, the laundry room and the pantry.  Very kind people drop off food and we clean whatever they give us and store it for them to pick it up.  The problem has become that there is so much, nobody wants to wade through it anymore to find what belongs to them.

Marcy had a great idea.  We should have an ice cream social and invite all of our beloved cooks over to pick up their plates.  So we hauled all of the stuff out of the house - banquet tables full, Marcy got ice cream, and we waited.
 It was true.  Nobody took anything.  So we started reading the names on the stickers on the bottom.
 The problem wasn't that people were not picking up their Tupperware because they were!  The stuff that was left over was from people who were no longer in Akron. 
I feel a yard sale coming on.

Friday, June 7, 2019


As a subcategory, liturgical art serves a very specific purpose: to teach and inspire in the Christian faith.  Therefor it must be clear to the onlooker who has at least a modicum of understanding of the faith.  In addition to being clear, it must use caution when using symbolism when it is not in keeping with the tradition that has been established to help get across meaning.  That does NOT mean that new modes of symbols cannot be employed, but they must be clear.

Using established symbols in a new fashion may be a cause for confusion.  For example, a numbus or halo that is specific for the Godhead placed on another person may confuse the message.  Ot using something whose meaning only makes itself clear when explained by the artist is not doing its job.  For example, there is a window in one church in which a couple is archaically involved in amorous behavior.  If you didn’t know that the a little red circle in the upper corner of the piece was intended by the artist to mean “Don’t” thereby signifying the commandment “Do not covet they neighbor’s wife,” then you it might lead the observer to wonder what exactly is going on here.  Liturgical art is somewhat less free than general categories of art.  BUT this does not mean that it cannot challenge, evolve and be enormously creative and never, ever - unless under dire circumstances, mass produced and bought in a catalogue. (Then why not just tack up the page from the catalogue?)

Liturgical art lifts up, it inspires, it ennobles, it challenges, it should dazzle with beauty and/or stretch the intellect.  Before such a piece, even a non-believer should be able to sit before it, receive a message, and be able to pour out his heart.

Thursday, June 6, 2019


The news has been amazing lately.  There are extreme pro-abortion laws passing in some states.  Government (your) money proposed to teach boys how to be drag queens in libraries which is classified as “art.”  A local government working at closing a Catholic school for hiring teachers and teaching what the Church has always believed and taught.  The Olympics are apparently going to allow transgender (former?) men to compete against women.  And as you well know, it is far crazier than this out there.  Some of the things coming out in the news is the stuff that, when I was a kid, would have been thought ridiculous if used in a work of fiction.

Now, hold on to your hats - I am not entirely sad about this radicalizing of these issues.  In fact, I hope that they continue to get wilder and more extreme.  As it has always been said, “The Devil will out himself.”  In other words, these types of movements are never satisfied with how they impact our culture.  They always stretch to the extreme and logic consequence, which tend to be destructive and deadly.  Eventually (and I believe that I will see it in my lifetime) society, having to cope with and clean up the mess being caused by our world right now will begin a radical (and I hope not too far) swing in the opposite direction.  There is my hope. 

Tuesday, June 4, 2019


FINDING TRUTH WHEREVER IT MAY BE FOUND:  "Bishops should carefully teach this:  that, by means of the histories of the mysteries of our Redemption, portrayed by paintings or other representations, the people is instructed and confirmed in [the habit of] remembering, and continually mediating upon the articles of faith . . . and may be excited to adore and love God . . ."  from the Council of Trent as found in Elizabeth Lev's book, "How the Catholic Art Saved the Faith."


By the way, I highly recommend the above book.  

Here is a catch up on some things sent it:

S. D. sent in THIS article.  If you hadn't heard, a local municipality passed ordinances that would threaten to close a Catholic school that would not adhere to the local government's imposed sexual morality.  Apparently it has finally been resolved.

P. V. sent in THIS article about a young artist who grew up in St. Sebastian parish.

E. P. sent in THIS article about Pope Emeritus Benedict thoughts on not having proper respect for the Eucharist.

The summer seminarian Joe making friends with another resident at St. Sebastian
I just thought this was a cool picture of the rectory at night.
Former resident seminarian now newly ordained Fr. David Stavarz giving blessings after his Mass of Thanksgiving at St. Sebastian this past weekend.
 My class after having our 21st ordination anniversary dinner at St. Sebastian last week:
I ordered a couple of hundred copies of this book for St. Sebastianites.  We hope to have some book studies on this.  It should be arriving in July.  Here is a half hour story about it.

Wednesday, May 22, 2019


Recently at Mass we sang, “Be Not Afraid.”  In these posts readers have picked up on a disdain for songs in which a congregation is asked to take on the role of God speaking to His people, which is something that this song does as exemplified in the first line, “You shall cross the barren desert but you shall not die of thirst” or as in the first line of the refrain, “Be not afraid, I go before you always.”  

So, as I am singing along it occurs to me to change the words.  What if the song were more about my trust in God than playing God speaking to someone else?  The song then goes like this:

I might cross a barren dessert,
but I will not die of thirst.
I will wander far in safety
though I do not know the way.
I shall speak His words in foreign lands
and all will understand.
I shall see the face of God and live.

Be not afraid,
He goes before me always
I’ll follow Him
and He will give me rest.  (Rough attempt)

Instantly it song switches from being advice such as Mom might have given you:
“As Mom said, ‘Strive to do your best and you will go far,’”
to a song about doing my best:
“I will strive to do my best and go far just as Mom said.”
Or better, it is like changing the words to 1 Corinthians from “Love is patient, love is kind.  Love is . . . “ to “I am patient, I am kind . . .” in a homily.  It makes love less about being some mysterious thing “out there” that we hope to catch like a cold and more like something we are to become.

The song becomes so much more empowering strangely enough.  One might think it would be more empowering if one were in the person of God announcing that you are going to give the protection, but stating that you believe that you have God’s protection to march forward makes it immediate - like professing the faith, “I believe in one God, the Father the Almighty!”

If I could (and it were legal), I would change the words to this song in our books.  I would also suggest to hymn writers (I know, you don’t want my advice) to consider this when choosing texts for future ecclesiastical music.  Place people in awe of a great God rather than in His person and inspire us to deeper faith.

Tuesday, May 21, 2019


FINDING TRUTH WHEREVER IT MAY BE FOUND:  "People who read the Atlantic are smarter than the readers of Go Fug Yourself, but sometimes smarter people don't make better decisions; they just come up with better excuses."  from Helen Andrew's article "Shame Storm" in First Things

QUOTE II:  "There is no content to a shame storm.  It is mindless by its very nature.  It is indifferent to truth, even in cases where the truth could possibly be determined.  Therefore, like the Ring, it cannot be used for good."  same source

IN OTHER NEWS:  For his 10th anniversary, Fr. Matthew Pfeiffer's parents had his favorite Caravaggio painting redone by local artist (at St. Francis de Sales) Louise Udovich with some updates:

 Now in the painting is Fr. Pfeiffer as Matthew, his uncle Bob Pfeiffer takes the place of St. Peter, and Fr. Orndorf and I sit beside him.  In place of money is our Back Alley Card game along with a few other cool details.  Wow.
5 minutes

Monday, May 20, 2019


I greatly enjoy writing homilies.  I typically start planning a homily about Tuesday for the following Sunday.  There is a lot of prayer, thinking and reading that goes in to them.  I like to think it makes a difference and maybe (hopefully - at least I pray that) it makes them less painful to listen to, but I was relieved of the delusion a long time ago that the effectiveness of a homily has much to do with me and talent or knowledge.

I have incontrovertible proof that this is the case.  It is because this frequently happens:

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!