Thursday, July 10, 2008


Wednesday past I had an open house at the rectory. In order to this I wanted my office to be cleared of the clutter which I had bestowed upon it in my hasty move. Becoming annoyed with my meager progress I decided to just start at one end of the room and start with whatever was there and work my way across attending to whatever was next in the path.

One of the first objects of attack was a drawer in an end table. It was full of discarded items: candle stubs, old decks of cards, light bulbs, and the like. But at the very bottom there was a little Brown book with the intriguing title, “RULES”. I picked it up and found that it was the seminarian’s rulebook of Saint Mary Seminary, Cleveland, Ohio. But here is what really blew me away. The book was inscribed by “Joseph Ozimek, 1942.”

Now, Fr. Ozimek was my pastor for most of my early life and was an ardent supporter of my in my seminary days. Even when diabetes took his legs he said, “If I have to crawl to your ordination I will be there!” He was at least in spirit.

I took my confirmation name in large part due to him and he was instrumental in my deciding to become a priest. As far as I can tell he had no connection with Saint Sebastian so why his book would be here is a mystery – and a happy sign.

The book itself is interesting. It was a much different seminary from the days when I attended there. Here are some of the RULES:

12. PROMPTNESS: The activities of the seminary are regulated by a series of bells. The ringing of the bells is a call to obedience. Slow compliance is grudging service to God; prompt and eager responsiveness is a good-will offering to God.

14. SACRED THINGS: The words of Sacred Scripture must not be used lightly or jocosely (that is a great word) in common conversation. And the same is true of names of God and the saints. When the names of Jesus and Mary are used, they should be reverenced by bowing the head.

22. MUTUAL RELATIONS: “But before all things,” says St. Peter, “have a constant mutual charity amongst yourselves” (1 Pet. iv, 8). Students will seek to preserve “the unity of the spirit in the bond of peace” (Eph. iv, 3). There will be no particular friendships and no private aversions. In occupations, games, walks or in any recreations they will exclude none of their fellows from their company, and groups will not clique together.

23. CONVERSATION: It is evident the Seminarians must adhere to the rules of good manners in their conversation. They will not use slang, loose grammar or vulgar expressions. Abusive language and, still more, indecent language, is contrary both good manners and morals. When jokes cause pain, they are no longer jokes, and the pleasantry becomes a persecution. This applies to the calling of nicknames, too; and it is a rare soubriquet (another great word) that will not make the subject of it resentful.

31. CHASTITY: There is not much to be laid down in the rules concerning chastity. The only observance of it is perfect observance. It is the Seminarian’s duty to imitate in spotlessness of soul and body the purity of the angels.

33. NEATNESS: Neatness is good both as example to others and as an aid to one’s own comfort and health. The students should keep their clothes tidy and clean, rents should be repaired and spits should be removed at once. They must not, of course, become fastidious. Plainness and neatness are the qualities to be sought in all such things.

34. ASSOCIATIONS: There is t be no unnecessary talking with the janitor or porter or other servants. Seminarians must not go into the porter’s room. Nothing but the most urgent reasons can excuse talking with the Sisters who have charge of the domestic affairs of the house or with the women who are hired to help them.

35. ENTERING ROOMS: No student may enter another’s room without permission. This rule is peremptory and offenses will be severely punished.

There are some more that are interesting but this getting long already. I finish up next Wednesday.


Anonymous said...

Wow. They couldn't talk to the Sisters? Or the "servants"? Amazing!

This is actually a really timely post, due to a book I just started reading...will send you an email on this.

Anonymous said...

The book was there - the Holy Spirit!! You know me and my beiief in the Holy Spirit!! Have to share this post with B. These kids think they have it so hard!!


Anonymous said...

I've learned in my many years of working that the servants are the ones you NEED to know and get along with! In fact, my maternal grandmother was a family maid before she was married and was a cleaning lady (Carol Burnette comes to mind) after my grandfather could no longer work.

I guess I just don't understand the reasoning behind not conversing with the help or Sisters. (do they have something against Sisters?????) I'm glad this is no longer in the rule books - I'd have to take issue with the Sister-part. *grin*

Fr. V said...


LOL! You are so right! Now they teach that the first person you should greet, know their names, and treat well, are the people who do exactly what these rules advise against. They are the backbone of the parish!

Anonymous said...

btw - emailed you a new logo for your blog.

Anonymous said...

I can't imagine not talking to the "help". Then again...I'm the "help"! LOL!

I have to wonder...with those kinds of rules, what happened when priests got into the real world and had to fraternize with the people who kept things running?

Anonymous said...

Maybe they weren't supposed to talk to the sisters because they didn't want any of them to become Sister Mary Girlfriend?

(Hope I'm not taking a serious matter too jocosely.)

One of the nuns at my high school chatted with the only male teacher in the school every morning for hours. I can't believe they thought people wouldn't talk.

Odysseus said...

-The only observance of it is perfect observance.)-

My favorite line in the book.

Oh, and folks, if you don't get why they shouldn't talk to the help, you're not thinking hard enough. The temptations for celibate, impoverished men are many, and there are countless stories of priests having "problems" with "the help". This is (or was) a good rule.

Anonymous said...

Actually some of these rules are important...especially for avoiding scandal or the appearance of scandal. Funny, a good many of these rules are very similar to what is expected of an Army officer.

Gee, maybe if those rules about fraternization had stayed in force or paid more close attention too, we wouldn't have had some of the scandals and troubles that we ended up with in the Church!

Anonymous said...

Father, it sounds like you and I have the same method of cleaning/tidying--pick a spot and follow the path!

What a blessed find from your dear pastor, and a wonderful "sign"! :D

The book is very fascinating. Definitely from a stricter time, but I don't find any of the rules to be too unreasonable. I'm guessing that seminarians at that time were rather younger than those of today; they might have required a greater degree of strictness.

God be with you.

Anonymous said...

I have to say, the rule book left there by Fr. Ozimek reminds me of a chapter in Pierced by a Sword - when the Priest lost the Miraculous Medal and it was found years later by a troubled teen. (not that you are that troubled teen!)

God just seems to have a way of putting things in place so you find them when you need a 'boost'.
A 'Christ-Incident'.