Monday, July 30, 2007


You are probably aware of the old fable about the little girl walking in a field on a cold winter day. She came across a snake that was freezing and close to death that begged her to put him inside her cloak that he might warm himself. At first she refused knowing that one does not play lightly with snakes. But the snake begged and promised that because of her great kindness toward him that he would never bite her but would in fact be her friend. The girl relented and put the snake inside her cloak. When he had warmed the girl felt a sharp pain and realized that she had been bitten. As she collapsed from the poison she asked the snake how he could do such a thing to which he replied, “What do you expect? I am a snake. That is what we do.”

This fable points toward something that happened this weekend. A parishioner leaving after mass said rather sarcastically, “Boy, you sure surprised me last week stating that the news media unfairly reported and sensationalized news from Rome.” The popular media reminds us daily that their coverage is fair, accurate, and balanced. I peruse its pages or watch the screen and then when I am bitten a say in utter shock, “How could you say that?” And the answer came to me this past week, “What do you expect. The media is a business. That is what they do.”

I find myself less and less motivated to rail against the news media for being who they are. There are those qualities we wish that they had and those that they actually do have. I keep wanting them to be a plum and all they are is a banana. In the end who is upset? Me. If I could just accept the fact that I am dealing with bananas and not plumbs, life would be a lot better. Yet still I find myself yelling at the paper, “Why don’t you get a real Catholic to explain this to you so that you might tell people what is really being proclaimed by the Catholic Church!”

The last time this happened was at Pope Benedict’s latest clarification concerning the primacy of the Church, which our local paper interpreted as Catholics saying that only Catholics are going to heaven. Their remarks were so far off the mark as to be liable. Then it occurred to me, the news media are like any other business and as such they are not necessarily out to report truth, they are out to sell papers, or garner ratings and to make money. It is not always in their best interest to give a fair, accurate, and balanced story about the Catholic Church. After all, what do we expect? They are a business. That is what they do.

That is not to say that I am excusing it. The reporting in our local paper has caused some ill will. The Saturday Opinion Page carried letters from those in the community who have their liturgical underwear all in a bunch. One was from a pastor of a Lutheran Church who I would have hoped would have read the document before commenting on it but it was apparent that he did not. He was “personally offended at Pope Benedict XVI ‘dissing’’” his ordination into the holy ministry. Another was from an “older Catholic” who takes it upon himself to speak for all of his generation when he says, “We are disappointed with the resuscitation of the Reformation-era teaching . . . The ‘fresh air’ of Vatican II has been a boon to the Catholic Church and all religions. Let us hope that it is here to stay.” Again, what is being spoken is not the result of a well-informed reader speaking to the real issues, but shared ignorance.

Perhaps the best way to look at this is to be happy that they take notice of us at all and then know that the next step is to find out the real story behind the headline.

Sunday, July 29, 2007


FINDING TRUTH WHEREVER IT MAY BE FOUND: “It didn’t seem to have occurred to the well meaning vandals who’d thrown out baby, bath, and bathwater that all ritual is reaching out to the unknowable and can be accomplished only by the non-cognitive: evocation; allusion, metaphor, incantation – the tools of the poet.” From “Father Joe” by Tony Hendea.

QUOTE II: “I think there are two types of people in the world. Those who divide the world into two types of people and those who don’t.” – ibid


At midnight on Tuesday night two new websites are slated to make their debut in the cyber world. The first is a website for priestly vocations in the Diocese of Cleveland at The second site concerns all other priestly and religious vocations in the diocese at Congratulations guys! Looking forward to it!

The FEST is coming up. I'll be there giving tours of the seminary (where the air conditioning is!)

My cousin sent this link in of a Global Incident Map. It is interesting but perhaps more than I want to know. I'm growing so weary of end of the world senarios that I do not even watch the weather report anymore.

Kaz from NY sent this in over the weekend. Thanks!

It seems that due to the hard work of Habemus Papem we are gong to World Youth Day next summer. Hope to see you all there!


Yes. Today I am griping. Deal with it.

A few months ago we experienced the straw that broke the camel’s back. I was sitting in the loft as I am want to do during the other priest’s masses when a cell phone went off (yet again) during the homily. It rang and rang and rang. I finally got up and looked over the rail. People were turning around toward the offender giving sympathetic looks but none-the-less encouraging the person to turn the horrid thing off. The phone was picked up and sat down. It stopped ringing. All is well.

Well, not exactly. It starts ringing again. Repeatedly. I look over the rail again. The offender picked the phone up, it stopped ringing and was set down again. I retake my seat. Then we start hearing, “Hey! Whoooooo! You there? Hey! Helloooooooo!” The phone is picked up and sat back down. Silence.

The phone rings again. (Of course by this time, nobody in the back of the Church has any idea what the homily is about). I don’t even bother to get out of my chair this time until I hear, “I’m in church. (pause) Homily time.” At this point I fly downstairs to have a kindly word on etiquette with the manners-challenged person.

From then on we have made the announcement before each and every mass, “We kindly request that you silence all pagers and cell phones now.” The theaters in Cleveland have started making a similar announcement concerning candy wrappers. “If you think that you might be coughing during the performance, NOW would be a good time to unwrap your candy.” Of course in neither case does it work. This Sunday a phone went off during the early mass, twice at the next mass during offertory and then right after a beautifully sung communion reflection hymn, and once again at the noon mass.
I know, I know, people forget they even have them. It happens to priests too. Once I got to the, “Orate, fratres” and threw out my arms and felt a pressure against my chest. “Sweet mother of pearl,” I though, “I have my cell phone on me! Please, God, don’t let anyone call.” So it is kind of hard to even get mad at anyone though upsetting it remains.

So what is there to do about it? Will we just become use to it like screaming babies? Will phone etiquette catch up to the technology freeing us from just horrible distraction the way we got over answering machines? Will someone invent a cell phone scrambler system inexpensive enough so that Church can afford it? Or is this just one of those annoying things with which we will have to deal like Cheerios being left on the pew?

Or, can I send my attack rabbit on offenders? Grrrrrrrrr.
Sorry, not a very constructive post today but BOY, do I feel better.


This short clip (under two minutes) kind of hit home with me, especially the line, "You can't judge others by their actions and yourself by your intentions." Ouch.


It was interesting to see how much attention the demon bunny of Saint Clare received. Adoro sent along this picture in response. I thought I'd share it with you.

It seems a slow day for my brain so might as well keep with the bunny theme. You may remember BIG BUNNY from Easter. Well, here is episode two.

Here's the link to this week's Catholic Carnival.

The Diocese of Cleveland's E-Newsletter wants you to know that "For your marriage" is a web site hosted by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops that supports couples who are married or thinking about getting married.

Saturday, July 28, 2007


These colors may not be used in liturgy, but they are still very important colors as far as understanding the symbolic language of the Church.

Blue is the color of truth and heaven. This is the color that appears in the sky when the clouds clear away giving us the idea of the unveiling of truth. Christ is often depicted wearing a blue mantle during His teaching ministry. Mary is seen in blue when she holding Jesus or with Him any time before His Passion. It is also a general color of Mary.

Brown symbolizes either spiritual death and derogation or renunciation of worldly wealth. It is also a symbol of humility along with the sparrow whose brown feathers are not as colorful and elaborate as other birds. It is easy to see why this would be the color of the habit of so many Franciscans.

Gray was once a liturgical color used during lent but it is no more. It denotes mourning and humility, death of the body and the immortality of the soul. In art Christ is often depicted wearing this color at the Last Judgment.

Yellow can have two meanings; one positive and the other negative. A golden yellow suggests holiness or even divinity. Part of Saint Joseph’s traditional color scheme is yellow denoting his holiness.

But yellow can also have a sickly quality and can be used to suggest infernal light, derogation, jealousy, treason and deceit. Judas is often depicted wearing this dingy yellow. In the Middle Ages heretics were forced to wear yellow and in periods of plague, yellow crosses marked the contaminated.

As stated before, color symbolism changes within the context they are being used. For example, in the Eastern Catholic Church, many times liturgical colors have to do with brightness rather than specific color (according to the late great Fr. John Keblesh, Byzantine priest). Some of these different schemes will be explored later on also.

Here are the answers to yesterday's quiz:

1. True.
2. False. They are interchangable only for masses of the dead.
3. False. It is also used on Laetare Sunday in Lent.
4. False. The color is amaranth red
5. True.
6. True. (See above.)
7. True. Though I don't recommend the combination for anyone else.
8. False.
9. False. Blue is not a liturgical color.

And as far as I can tell, MJ came the closest to getting all of the answers correct of those brave enough to post your answers! Congratulations.

Thursday, July 26, 2007


I must needs take a pastoral break from blogging today. But here is a short quiz to take. Answers tomorrow. Enjoy.


1. For much of the life of the Church the correct color for bishops was green.
2. The following colors are always interchangeable in the United States: White, Purple, and Black.
3. Rose is worn only once a year, on Gaudete Sunday during Advent.
4. Scarlet is the name of the color that Cardinals wear.
5. Gold and Silver are interchangeable with White for certain celebrations.
6. Gray was once a liturgical color, but no more.
7. Though the pope dresses in white, his shoes are of red Moroccan leather.
8.A red pall may be placed over the coffin of a martyr.
9. In certain instances, blue and purple are interchangeable liturgical colors.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007


I love happy Catholics. They give me so much energy. I enjoy their questions, their excitement, and their wonder. A Catholic who exudes joy does so much good for the sake of the kingdom. You want to rekindle in yourself what they have. It is infectious. It is wonderful.

So why are their so many Catholic complainers? (Here is a self-fulfilling prophecy.) There seems to be little end to otherwise faithful Catholics who can’t stand the pope, who think low of the bishop, who hate the pastor, who are bored with the mass, who barely tolerate the music, who think such and so teaching unfair, who (insert common complaint.)

Gripes can be very legitimate but so many people seem to thrive on them. Let’s face it; it seems much more exciting to talk about what is wrong than what is right. Who called the bishop last time they liked something a priest did?

So to be honest, we are at times not very attractive. Yesterday the question was asked, “Why won’t God save Chicks with amputations who do good works?” The fact is that even if you have the perfect answer to that question and it proves the existence of God and all the tenets of the Catholic Church, if all we do is complain the rest of the time about what it wrong with us, we will not win many hearts. If being right does not lead us into charity, into hope, into accepting that not everything will go my way as the pope tries to lead over one billion people, then being right does not count for much.

I once had a spiritual director who would not allow me to speak ill of my bishop with him. We could debate issues of course, but we practiced obedience. That was far more constructive, far more charitable, more joyful, and quite frankly, a more attractive path to take.

That is not to say that we can never point out a flaw debate a statement, but those too should be done with great respect and honest conversation, not a passing disdain. Many more hearts have been won by having the right answer in combination with great charity than by just being right alone.


At a former assignment there was a Christian denomination in town that totted that they loved Catholics. They loved us so much that they wanted to save us from hell. Apparently the atheist, the other Christian denominations and the Muslims in the same town were either not going to hell or were not loved as much as we were. For unlike their dealings with others, part of their particular act of love for us involved sneaking into the Church and leaving tracts that on the surface looked very Catholic but inside tried to destroy the faith of Catholics along with an invitation to come join a "real" Christian Church.

The reaction of many was to immediately rip up and throw these things away as if they were contaminated with some bacterial agent that would render them stupid. I didn’t. I collected them and used them to teach classes. They are wonderful tools not only for learning more about our faith but how to use that knowledge to engage in apologetics.

If you are confident in your faith do not be afraid of them. In fact, look for them. Engage them. Sit with them. Pray about them. Study them. Know that the issues that they present against Catholicism may not be immediately discernable. The producers have put a lot of time and effort into them. In some cases years. That you cannot see through them after a few minutes with them is nothing to be shocked about, they are designed to offset you. But that they offset you is a good thing. It shows that there is an aspect to your faith that has not yet been fully explored. Explore the issue like a CSI expert. Take apart every facet of the proposal; find the real issues and the facts. Feel free to call in experts. Solve the riddle. It is like a newspaper puzzle but with a purpose and reward.

To get you started here are some hinters. First take a look at the context in which the whole proposal is placed. Here are two examples.

One of my favorite Chick publications is one called “Last Rites”. The first three pages are used to set up a tone for the rest of the booklet. There are two people arguing and in general treating each other poorly. Interestingly enough, they have nothing to do with the rest of the booklet. Their sins are not addressed nor do they play a part in the rest of the story line. They are simply there to set an ominous mood.

Another way mood is used is in a video clip entitled, “Why Won’t God Heal Amputees”. Much of the beginning and peppered throughout are references to the intelligence of the viewer. “You are an intelligent, well educated person”, implying that if you are, you certainly will agree with the narrator as would all intelligent, educated persons. What does this have to do with any of his argument? Nothing, except to hopefully not have the person think any more deeply into the issues presented lest they should disagree with the presenter and thus not be considered intelligent and educated in his eyes.

There are a few more underhanded tactics to look at also. One of the most common is to make a statement that might seem like Church teaching (and is in fact not) and then tear it apart. Further on into “Last Rites,” the main character states, “I spent my whole life doing good works. That alone should have saved me.” This is presented as the teaching the Catholic Church which, of course, it isn’t, which is why it is so easy to then tear the supposed faith apart. But they are not tearing apart Catholic teaching, they are tearing apart something they claim is Church teaching. That would be a kin to saying, “The Catholic Church teaches that WWW is all real”, and then proceed to give proofs that it is not.

Sometimes misleading propositions are proposed. The lead question in “Why Won’t God Heal Amputees” is such a set up. On the surface this might seem quite disturbing. But if you sit with it for a while, maybe do some research into it the question itself becomes questionable. For example, if a person is in need of healing and it is granted, they wouldn’t then need an amputation. But amputation in not even a pathology anyway, it is a cure. We amputate because some other cure has not worked. And besides, healing does not necessarily mean cure. If an amputee is still living and getting on in life, they are healed. Further, a person with an amputation is not less of a person or less loved by God because they are amputees. So the question is misleading. God does heal amputees. Perhaps the real question is, “Why did not God make us like reptilians that regenerate their tails after they have been amputated?” Or an even far better question might be, “Why does God give us the free will to drive drunk and get into accidents in which people lose limbs?” Or, “Why does God allow people to continue unhealthy behaviors that they have been warned may lead to amputation?” Or, “Why in the richest country in the world are we the only industrialized nation that does not provide free health care to those who need it when we clearly could?”

Another tactic is to artificially limit the answers to questions. For example, to the question, “Why is God more concerned about your raise than poor starving innocent children?” The answers are limited to “God must hate them,” or “He wants them to die for some horrible divine reason.” Are those the only possible answers? No. Further, the question is manipulative in and of itself. If the author was really interested in an honest intellectual discussion the question would have been, “Is God more concerned about whether you get a raise or starving children?”

Those are just some examples. So do not be afraid of challenges to the faith. Do not be afraid to strip them of their emotional manipulation. Do not be afraid to strip them of the intellectual manipulation. You do not have to settle for the answers provided. You do not have to stay within unfair intellectual restraints. If you are stumped, there are wonderful resources to help you, go out there and use them! Above all, enjoy the endeavor!

Monday, July 23, 2007


FINDING TRUTH WHEREVER IT MAY BE FOUND: “Now, our society is deranged. (We do not mean to be harsh. We are killing our children; if we are not deranged, we are something much worse.) – Catholic World Report article Nov. 1996

QUOTE II: "Outside a dog, a man’s best friend is a book; inside a dog it’s very dark.” - Groucho Marx


Have you been meaning to start reading Scripture on a more regular basis? Have you been looking for motivation? Here is an opportunity for you. Rob over at Catholic Scripture Study is going to start a four-year study. Here is a description in his own words:

This schedule represents an attempt, not simply to "read the whole Bible", but to always read the whole Bible, in a way that maintains historical continuity as much as possible, demonstrates the development of Divine relations with Man and follows the liturgical calendar of the Roman Catholic Church.

Over the course of four years, the reader will read all the books of the Bible. Each "scriptural year" starts on August 16th with the Assumption-Christmas Schedule, which always begins with the books of Genesis and Exodus. These books are the foundation of every year’s reading. Like these two, some books are found on each year’s list, maintaining the fundamental storyline (and theological growth) of the canon. Other books are encountered on a rotational basis. This is not to say that these books are not "fundamental", but rather issues of time may prevent a person from reading them each year. This schedule is aimed at use by working people, who may only be able to dedicate half an hour each day to strictly spiritual matters.

I pray that this half-hour may, like the mustard seed, grow into a greater commitment to and knowledge of the good news of God.”

Here’s a nice little side benefit. According to the Handbook of Indulgences (1991), “A partial indulgence is granted the Christian faithful who read sacred scripture with the veneration due God’s word as a form of spiritual reading. The indulgence will be plenary one when such reading is done for at least one-half hour.”

“Any of the Christian faithful who, being at least inwardly contrite perform a work carrying with it partial indulgence, receive through the Church the remission of temporal punishment equivalent to what their own act already receives.”

“Beside the exclusion of all attachment to sin, even venial sin, the requirements for gaining a plenary indulgence are the performance of the indulgenced work and fulfillment of three conditions: sacramental confession, Eucharistic communion, and prayer for the pope’s intentions.”

For more information on indulgences look here.


I was contemplating St. Francis when I saw the bunny at his feet. Is just me or does he look menacing? He looks like an attack rabbit. Actually there is a legend that the rabbit used to be the most visious of all rodents. But, as luck would have it, it was the only creature to witness the resurrection. He was so over awed and in shock that he instantly turned white, began to shake, and became the most docile and easily spooked of all rodentdom. Then he went into the colored egg business.

Saturday, July 21, 2007


Why doesn’t Johnny understand what the Eucharist is anymore?” I was going through our parish hymnal under the category, “Communion”. What follows is the first line of each song going page by page.

You satisfy the hungry heart with gift of finest wheat

Let us break bread together on our knees

Come and be filled here at this table

In the breaking of this bread

Behold, behold the Lamb of God (chorus)

Bread for the world:

Seed, scattered and sown, wheat gathered and grown, bread, broken and shared

This body will be given for you.

One bread, one body

I received the living God

To be your bread now, be your wine now, Lord come and change us.

Jesus, the Bread of Life

All you who are thirsty, come the water!

Bread of life, hope for the world

One bread, one body, one Lord of all.

Taste and see, O taste and see the goodness of the Lord.

See this bread: take and eat

When we eat this bread

Shepherd of souls refresh and bless Your chosen pilgrim flock.

If you were not versed in theology and Scripture within the Catholic tradition what might you deduce that the Catholic Church believes about the Eucharist from our own hymnals? Some early Protestant reformers made community music rehearsals mandatory because they knew how important this art form is. We are basically singing our theology, a clever way to remember it. What will we most likely remember from these songs if we are not savvy in Church teaching? That we are eating bread.

In contrast, here is a list of first lines from the eucharistic section of an old Catholic hymnal.

Dear Jesus I have longed for you since I was very small

Dearest Lord, I love Thee

Oh Lamb of God! O sun-white fleece!

God-head here in hiding whom I do adore

Jesus, food of the angels

Jesus, Jesus come to me

Soul of Christ, be my sanctification; Body of Christ, be my salvation

Jesus, my Lord, my God, my all!

Hail, true Body of the Savior

O Saving Victim

Soul of my Savior, sanctify my breast! Body of Christ, be Thou my saving guest!

Down in adoration falling

The contrast is amazing is it not? And that was without getting into the Latin hymns.

Is it wrong to use words such as Bread and Wine when referring to the Body and Blood of Christ? Absolutely not. They are used so in Scripture. Is it wrong to use the words bread and wine exclusively so that people become confused? Absolutely.

If you were giving people directions to your house you would be very exact. “You will want to take the Cleveland Road exit. Not the exit to Cleveland, but the Cleveland Road exit.” We are explicit so that those we love do not become lost.

Today many people are lost about the true meaning of the Eucharist. Perhaps we are in a time when using perfectly good words are not good enough. Now is time to be very explicit in our terminology and in the music we choose to sing when referring to the Blessed Sacrament so that others may find the path to truth.


Here is a two minute video on what it means to be "I AM".

Dan sent a wire gently suggesting that I supply a link to the USCCB. As promised, here it is Danny!

I am sure that there are many sites that I have not made it onto Adam's Ale yet (and I am woefully behind in updating the Blog Squad). But slowly, there is a nice little library being built up ofplaces to visit. Here are two more that you might find helpful or interesting. The first is from Vatican Radio given to me by the pastor and the next is from the Vatican State. Both are pretty cool.

Jay announces that Catholic Carnival 128 is up and running over at Book Reviews and More.

DUBLIN, Ireland - July 19, 2007 - (CNS) - Catholics worldwide will celebrate the feast of St. Patrick two days earlier next year after the Vatican gave permission to move the feast day to avoid a conflict with Holy Week. Bet we would not do this for a Slovenian Saint. Ah well. That's the luck o' the Irish. (N.B. This is not one of my made up official reports.)

Thursday, July 19, 2007


More on the symbolism of the liturgical colors.

Green, the first color mentioned in Scripture, is a sign of spring and vegetation representing our on going working out of our salvation. It is a symbol of life over death. The priest and altar appointments are decked in green during ordinary time, the liturgical season outside of the Lent/Easter, Advent/Christmas seasons. It is superseded by red or white for special feasts.

Purple is a symbol or royalty and power and also of sorrow and penance. It is used in advent (a borrowed term that was once used to describe that period of preparation for the arrival of the emperor) as we await the birth of Christ. It is also used during lent as a penitential symbol as we prepare for the joy of the resurrection of Jesus. In the United States, this color may also be used for funerals though it seems rare enough that it is.

A rose by any other name would still smell of pink. Actually that is incorrect. The color to be worn this day (and every time it comes up there will be hundreds of blog entries debating this) is a light purple, or rose, not pink. It is an optional color to be used only two days out of the entire liturgical year. The first day is Gaudete Sunday otherwise know as the third Sunday of Advent. Gaudete is the first word in the introit for this day, which translates from the Latin as "rejoice". Advent is half over. Christ is drawing nigh!

The second day that it may be used is on Laetare Sunday, which is known as the fourth Sunday in Lent. It too calls us to rejoice as the better part of lent is over and we grow closer to the great celebration of Easter.

Black symbolizes death, the underworld, and darkness. In the Unted States it is an optional color for masses for the dead, which includes All Souls Day. It is important to note that we are not wearing this color to mourn the end of the existence of a person (they are living the next life after all!) For this reason my funeral vestment (unless a person requests that I wear black) is white, to help mark the joy we celebrate for the person who is now living free of the cares of this world. But that vestment also has black banding on it to recognize and pay tribute to the very real fact that we are personally sad to have to be without the physical presence of our brother or sister for a spell.

These colors (along with those mentioned last Symbolic Saturday) are the only liturgical colors approved for use in the Latin Rite. Next Week: Other colors and their symbolic value in art.


(Continued from yesterday. Here are some specific suggestions for people who take up different ministries at mass.)

EMHC, be careful about referring to the sacred species as bread and wine as in, “Am I distributing Bread or Wine today?” You know what you mean and I know what you mean, but unfortunately far too many other people do not. Try to use more specific terms such as Body and Blood.

Also, guard against becoming “used to” your ministry. Remind yourself often of the awesome and sacred task that you are permitted to do. Make that a part of your prayer. The first time I ever distributed the Body of Christ was in the seminary. Every host that I distributed was like giving away a piece of my heart. And the incredible unworthiness I felt giving Him to His priests that were in attendance but not concelebrating was almost overwhelming. Do you remember the first time you distributed? Try to recapture the awe and the reverence you had. The miraculous in the abundance we have access to it as ministers of His Body and Blood can become common to us through familiarity. We have a special duty to fight that mind set.

Lastly, we must fight against falling into a rhythm of distributing Him to people as if laying down playing cards, “Body of Christ Body of Christ Body of Christ . . .” Wait for the “Amen”, which signifies their agreement with your statement. Be deliberate.

Lectors, treat your book with care and reverence. Always handle it with both hands, opening it, closing it, and setting it down as if it were an ancient and valuable manuscript for in many ways it is.

Servers you are one of the very public faces of the parish. You have a particular calling to not only participate inwardly but outwardly by making the responses, singing, and making the appropriate gestures well as one of your many roles is to be an example for the congregation and lead those who may not be familiar. And how solemnly you do your job will go a long way in setting the tone for the entire parish. More than you think! (See yesterday’s post.)

Musicians, speaking to you as a former church musician, I know you put in more work than anyone knows. (Many people assume you show up at the wedding or funeral or Easter mass, play for your hour and go home. What is the big deal? You and I know better.) You start practicing for Christmas when the only other people in the world thinking of Christmas is K-tell, but you don’t actually start singing the music until everyone else stops. And though you are singing Christmas on the weekend, you are already practicing the Easter cycle during the week. You too set the tone (pun intended) for the parish. If you do your job poorly you drive everyone nuts. I once had mass with Pope John Paul in his private chapel. There were about five Polish nuns trying to sing harmony in the back of the chapel. They were horrible. And that is a charitable understatement. There I was in the center of Christendom with the Pope and what do I remember most clearly? Remember, Saint Augustine did not say, “He who sings prays twice”, he said. “He who sing well prays twice.”

At times you will be busy with folders or sheets of music. It happens. Emergencies crop up. (Communion is going long. Offertory is going short. I did not know Father was going to do this today! Quick! Get out . . .) But be vigilant to return to prayer as quickly as possible. Your music must be a reflection of your prayer.

Ushers, I don’t know you, but I know you are cool. You have something short of a secret society. I was never an usher and feel less for it. You are a cross between an airline attendant, Swiss Guard, a Brinks Truck Driver and a bouncer. My God Father and Uncle Leo was an usher. He was 6’5”, big, had a gruff voice, and nobody messed with him. He always seemed to collect more money than anyone no matter what section he was assigned.

Ushers always have the best stories. My current favorite is about a group of ushers who caught a thief at one of our local parishes. Someone came in dressed in a coat and tie, picked up a basket, made a collection and walked out the back door. The ushers caught him though. He came back the next week for a second take.

Ushers, I have three bits of advice for you. First, you are pulled away from mass a lot. Do your best to keep it to a minimum. God and your worship of Him is always the most important thing that you do. Secondly strive more than anyone to be gracious to strangers. You are many times the one person with whom a visitor makes contact. My last parish had 4,500 families. It was hard for people to get to know others or make contact. It was like trying to get to know a city. Conversely, my home parish at its zenith was only 200 families but it was very closed owing to most of the people either being related or Slovenian. You can be the difference between people thinking a parish cold or friendly. Lastly, remember this: Those who most need love are seldom those who deserve it.

No matter what any of us do the Church will survive. As I’ve said before it is not we that will save the Catholic Church, the Catholic Church is there to save us. But we may be the source in which the faith is saved in an individual.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007


During the great snow storms of the mid 1970’s when the rest of the world shut down and people had enough sense to stay indoors, my parents slapped cross country skies on my feet and told me to get up to the church to serve the daily mass. It was just Fr. Ozimek, the octogenarian organist, and me. How the organist made it when young bucks with major utility vehicles couldn’t get down their own driveways is still a mystery.

I learned one of my most important lessons on one of those days. As I walked in to the sacristy Father looked up from his prie dieu where he was praying and said, “You’re on today?” I responded with a, “Yeah, I gotta serve again.” To which he responded, “No, you get to serve again. It is an honor.”

He was right of course and I knew it. I’m sure Fr. Ozimek had no clue as to what impact his comment made on me as I had a studied resistance for showing such things. But I carry that lesson with me to this day as a celebrant. “Priest of God, say this mass as if it were your first mass, your last mass, your only mass.” (I’m sure someone famous said this, but I know not who.) It is not a bad thought for all ministers to bear in mind be they lectors, extraordinary ministers of the Eucharist (who have the second longest title in the Church right after Grand Master, the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulcher of Jerusalem), altar servers, musicians, sacristans, or ushers.

To this end, the most important aspect of all these ministries is that you pray the mass. One is not more involved in the mass or doing something more important when performing one of these ministries. Pope Benedict reminds us that the most important ministry at the mass is praying the mass. As a matter of fact it is a misunderstanding of what we are doing if we artificially multiply ministries in a misguided effort to get people “more involved”.

That being said, it is incumbent for such ministers to pray the mass because rightly or wrongly people mark you for having an additional role to engage in on their behalf. By your prayerful attention you pay honor to the primary duty of the whole Body of Christ to worship God. No matter what your ministry, if anyone sees you, by your prayerful attention they should be drawn back to the action in the sanctuary and be reminded of what they are there to do. Talking, fussing, or even seeming distracted while waiting for "your turn" can have terrible effects.

Once I was directing a seminary choir for a novus ordo Latin mass. We were in the choir loft of one of the most beautiful churches in our diocese. We were in the middle of “Tristes Est Anima Mea” when the jaws of all the guys in the choir dropped. My back was to the sanctuary so I could not see what was happening. At the end of the song I whispered an agitated, “What?!” and one of the guys just pointed. A server had taken a seat in the middle of the sanctuary, threw her arms over the back of the chair, had her alb hiked up, and was kicked her bare, crossed legs. It was just a teensy weensie bit difficult to pay attention to the mass with that show going on.

That was an extreme example, but it easily understandable from this how desperately important it is to make your primary duty prayer, your primary focus the action in the sanctuary, and to draw the least amount of attention to oneself as possible.

In this way you can also be a leaven for bringing reverence back to the mass as well as belief in the Eucharist. You may not be able to transform anyone else directly, by like Fr. Ozimek making that one passing comment that effected me so deeply, your example may inspire others (maybe countless others about whom you will never know) to take the mass and the primary role of praying more seriously.

To be continued.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007


Wow! This was a wake-up call.

Vatican II no longer matters. Well, that is not exactly true. It matters absolutely. But there is a facet to this statement that is also absolutely true.

Consider this: Vatican II was closed in 1965. Those born in that year are approximately 42 years old now. If you were, say, 3 years old when Vatican II started to be implemented, you probably have little to no memory of anything very different from that which is occurring at mass today. So for the most part, for anybody under the age of about 45, Vatican II is not a groundbreaking, earth shattering, world changing event, it is just the way things are. For many in this group it is either remembered vicariously through older persons who are struggling with this incredible development or as an ideological concept which has been named Vatican II the same way some people talk about Trent, not as a direct experience but as a handy frame of reference.

For this under 45 age group, Vatican II is a matter of history. It took place not only before they were born, it took place before there were personal computers and touch-tone phones (let alone mobile phones), before unleaded fuel (and when a gallon of regular gas cost .31), and before color television was common. It would be a number of years before man stepped on the moon and it was five years before the first of the World Trade Towers in New York would be completed and inhabitable. But that it is a topic in “history books” is not necessarily a bad thing, as we will see in a moment.

But first another interesting development with this post-Vatican II generation: They are redefining symbols. Things about the Church that were thrown out because they were seen as old, or in some cases hierarchical (in a bad sense), un-useful, or even oppressive are many times now embraced by younger practicing Catholics much to the rejecter’s chagrin. Those opposed to these "rediscoveries" are ripping out their hair out and exclaiming, “How can you return to that which we freed you?” At the other end are those who are scratching their heads asking, “Why are you getting your liturgical underwear in such a bunch? We like or find these things useful.”

This can happen because the symbols are being redefined. Symbols only have the meaning that we assign to them. There are those who live with the old definitions and those who see them in a different light. An example of this is clerical/religious garb. There are those who have witnessed or can easily see how such clothing can be used as a “religious club of authority” to put lay people in their place. Then there are those typically younger who have grown up without as visible presence of “Church” whether it be a habit or collar who find comfort both in seeing them or in wearing them. It makes the Church present and therefore relevant and allows those who wear them to witness publicly and constantly not only to their faith, but the presence of the Church.

For those post Vatican II persons the questions are no longer about implementing the council’s decrees or breaking from the past. The questions today are either about “What is it that we can we do?” or about what is orthodox. They are about asking what can we use well today to help the Church’s mission. As years pass this reality sinks more deeply into the fabric of the Church. The conversations will change and everyone needs to be aware of this.

That was the wake-up call I had yesterday. We are in the depths of a post-council transition. A lot of hot button topics while still very much alive seem to be less virulent today. A lot of rhetoric seems to be dissipating. A lot of anger and confusion has disappeared. In history class at seminary we were taught that it was not unusual for any council’s decrees to take fifty to one hundred years to be truly implemented. I had always assumed it had to do with communication and now that we have such ready means to communicate it should have taken a much shorter period of time. But it has not. Maybe we need fifty or so years to let passions and emotions lift so that we can look at a council afresh and with joy.


Wow! Thanks for your prayers! I do not think that I am at liberty to reveal what exactly they were for but I was deeply impressed with the outcome and attribute that in part to your prayerful support of the project!


FINDING TRUTH WHEREVER IT MAY BE FOUND – “Either the bread turns to flesh and the wine to blood, or it does not; It cannot be so in Rome but not in Canterbury. Either Christ made Peter and his successors the foundation stone of the faith, (placing upon) them all authority in matters spiritual, or He did not; Our Lord did not tell Peter he would have authority over all the world except those parts of Europe which think differently.” – from Iain Pears, “An Instance of Fingerpost”

QUOTE II – “Is it not strange that sheep guts should hail souls from men’s bodies?” – Shakespeare


Renew your passport and save your pennies (all of them). This Rock Magazine has published what they believe should be the “Ten Catholic Places to See Before You Die.”

1. Salzburg, Austria
2. Chartres Cathedral, France
3. Krakow and Czestochowa, Poland
4. Glastonbury, England
5. St. Delclans Well, Ireland
6. The Pope’s Bavaria
7. Compostela, Spain
8. Lindisfarne, England
9. Assisi, Italy
10.Montserrat, Spain

Apparently I’ve got a lot of traveling to do. Here is a picture from one of the few places (#10) that I’ve been on the list.

Carol sent out a wire letting us know about a real cool site for religious art.

Lesley found a web site of Karen Hall, the writer of “Vows”, the story of a Jesuit priest that will air soon on television. Things continue to look hopeful.

If you have an extra second throw an extra prayer my way. I’ve got a job to do Tuesday that would benefit quite a few people if done well (for the glory of God of course.) Know that readers and contributors are always in my intentions.