Wednesday, December 31, 2008


A: There is my way of setting them up and the wrong way.

O come on! You know that it's true. Everybody has their opinions on the correct way of setting up the manger scene. There is your way and the wrong way. That’s it. I’ve set up too many manger scenes in too many churches with too many committees to not know that this is true. Fortunately for me the way I do it is really correct.

This occurred to me the other day as I was standing at the entrance of the Church waiting for a person to show up and noticed one of the small manger sets in our lobby. The numerous manger manglings were unbearable. Immediately I, in my secret role as Monsignor Manners, set about rescuing the poor statues from their embarrassing plights. Could you imagine knowing that you are improperly placed and have no way of stirring? The dishonor of it all. St. Francis would be appalled.

The most heinous of all crèche transgressions is the ignoring of the stare. What is there to see here people? Jesus! Yet how many manger scenes have you seen where people have set the figures in places where they look good rather than focusing on the guest of honor? This is a moment of worship, not a barn party. Wrapped in newspaper for 11 months the figures finally escape from their out of season confinement to be set in the manger scene staring at some hay or the foot of some shepherd or something. “Jesus is just three inches over to the left. If only somebody would come by and knock the table a little so that I could see him! That is what I was made to do! Oh the iniquity of it all.”

That goes for the animals too! Yes! The ox and the ass are actually interested in the baby Jesus. If you find that they spoil the scene being too close to Jesus leave them in the box. They will not even know Christmas is come in gone. Their animals they can’t tell time.

The one exception is sheep. Sheep can do whatever you want them to. Some of them are eating anyway. (They will be the ones on the left at the second coming.) I do have a weakness for letting one eat the hay out of Jesus’ crib though. Sheep are known to be stupid so they can get away with it. Camels can also do whatever they want. Let them have fun. They’re the first piece that breaks anyway.

Kings have a certain way of standing. You can’t force them to fit your idea of all facing the same way from the same direction. Don’t blame me, blame the artist. Take the king that is kneeling. You know the one I mean. The one that looks like he is saying,

"If you can grab this gold before I do, you can have it."

He has one way of kneeling. The artist spent some time trying to figure out how to get him to kneel toward the baby Jesus without completely turning his back on everybody. Don’t make the artist sad.

Absolutely forbidden under penalty of reserved sin that can only be forgiven by the pope himself is the placing of the Three Kings across the room and have them slowly move toward the manger on the days between Christmas and Epiphany. I mean, come on. Let us be reasonable. The kneeling king did not crawl to Bethlehem on his knees.

I was once at a parish that had two camels both of which were laying down and did the travel thing. Apparently they CRAWLED all the way from the East. Now those are mighty pious camels.

Also, let him be anathema who puts Saint Nicholas in the manger scene. Even those who live in Akron, from when we get the word AnAkronism may not do this for reasons too numerous to mention.

Lastly – ditch the snow. THERE WAS NO SNOW. Or, if you prefer, knit little hats and gloves for all the figures, especially the shepherd and the guy who holds on to the camel who are near immodestly dressed as it is.

Of course these scrupulously correct directives only pertain to my world. Rules in your state may be different. But just the same I would not advise leaving me alone in a room in your home where there is a manger scene.

Monday, December 29, 2008


FINDING TRUTH WHEREVER IT MAY BE FOUND: "Be always at war with your vices, at peace with your neighbors, and let each new year find you a better man." ~Benjamin Franklin
QUOTE II: "The object of a New Year is not that we should have a new year. It is that we should have a new soul and a new nose; new feet, a new backbone, new ears, and new eyes. Unless a particular man made New Year resolutions, he would make no resolutions. Unless a man starts afresh about things, he will certainly do nothing effective." ~G.K. Chesterton


We are still celebrating Christmas so Jay says it is not too late to read the Christmas Catholic Carnival.
Habemus Papem, from whom we've not heard in a spell, sent this link that has a video interview with the Nashville Dominicans where we have mutual friends. There is also a place to sign up for their on line newsletter if you are so desirous.

Kay sent this video in of a dog having fun in the snow with Harry Connik Jr. singing a Christmas song in the background.

Kay also sent in this Christmas game. Warning: Addiction Level: LOW

The Diocese of Cleveland Enewsletter sends in this link to Bishop Lennon's Christmas message.

I'll give you just one guess as to why today's post is late - again. Today was booked to be a catch up day for everything that was put on the back burner over Christmas and of course very little of it was accomplished. The Internet is down again and we do not know why, but when it is down we cannot even so much as use the copy machine which pushes the bulletin completely off schedule and puts us into panic mode. So once again, no Emails are getting through. Then we had the emergency of a lady in a power scooter stopping by who without a coat and having no idea where she was or where she came from. That resolved itself nicely when one of our ever competent office staff was able to coax the name of her residence out of here - no small distance away. So, now I escape to the coffee house - the only place that I can get work done! So here is a post written yesterday just now being published.

Gather around friends and I shall tell you about my first Christmas at Saint Sebastian – or at least my favorite moment from it. Christmas day was a flury of practices and preparations. The four o’clock Children’s Mass, which everyone kept saying was going to be as out of control as the final 30 seconds of a Super Bowl game, went on smoothly enough. Seven o’clock Mass passed and we waited to begin Midnight Mass (which I might add was at midnight.) I had every intention of taking a nap but I was too keyed up even to be able to sit still for too long.

Finally the Mass came and it went well. It was well attended despite predictions that nobody would show up. In the end we even had more servers than I knew what to do with (the procession was already as long as the aisle of the church.)

So I sat down after Holy Communion and look back at the clock and see that it is going on 1:00AM. “Good,” thought I, “I will get them out of here by five after.” That was before the choir began a spectacular post communion hymn. Then the congregation joined in Silent Night, and finally there was gorgeous solo in German. I loved it. I could have stayed there for another hour listening (after all I only had a few yards to go to my bed.) But now it was about quarter after and I feared that the congregation would want to bolt for the doors at the very first opportunity and I had promised our talented music director that I would stay in the sanctuary for all the verses of Hark Herald the Angel Sings.

Thus did I do and then we started down the aisle to Handle’s Hallelujah Chorus. As we reached the back (front?) of the church our deacon said, “I’ll go purify” which left me and my cousin who is a deacon and who is up to be ordained to the priesthood this year to greet the people as they leave. So we turned and waited for the onslaught. But nobody left. They all stood and turned back toward the choir and listened – an occasional voice singing out the tenor, bass, alto, or soprano line.

It was the oddest thing. This is defiantly not a Catholic practice. Catholics volunteering to stay longer at Mass – especially when it has already gone 80 minutes!? This needed to be investigated. So I walked back into church and indeed nobody stirred. They just stood and stared. It was like being in a Sci Fi movie.

After the Chorus ended the was still no particular “Day After Thanksgiving Walmart Opening” type rush to get out. I suppose people wanted to give Santa a little extra breathing space to get all his packages out of his pack in case they might have walked in on him and spoiled the holiday.
It is wonderful to have anybody at Mass, but it was particularly touching to see so many college/post college age persons there to greet the new born King at the first hour of the very day on which we celebrate His birth. The whole night was so intoxicating that I could not fall asleep again even though I had to be up in a couple of hours for the later-morning Masses.

But I wouldn’t have changed it for the world.

And that is why I love Midnight Mass.

Friday, December 26, 2008


Fr. O was over just before Christmas and he passed along a comment by Fr. Groeschel as to why Catholics do not seem to pray to the Holy Spirit as much as to the other two persons of the Blessed Trinity or the Trinity as a whole. He suggests that the symbolism of the Holy Spirit is a difficult one two grasp. Until you have a relationship with the Holy Spirit praying to a dove or a flame of fire. For early artists the depictions of God the Father posed a similar problem. They were reluctant to paint God the Father. Who could paint the unseen God? Jesus was made flesh and so appear in the world, not so the Father. So exactly what is there to paint?

So many artists chose not to. Instead they painted the hands of God. That seemed an easier concept to capture. Rather than having to create a face for our God from the prayers of faith and Scripture it get the idea of the “hand of God” or “the right hand of God” which of course make the life of inventive artists much easier. So you might see, for example, a hand extending from the heavens which is the creating hand of God the Father. At my first parish there was a depiction of the Garden of Eden and a hand extending from the heavens and pointing toward the egress accompanied by the flaming sword of expulsion as a motivator which of course was the Father kicking His wayward children out of the garden.

Sometimes the hand stands alone usually with three fingers extended and behind it the nimbus or halo reserved for depictions of the Trinity alone (having three red or gold rays of light.) Rarely the hand is seen holding something and I have read reports of but never have seen a picture of the hand holding people to suggest His protection and favor.

Hands express much more than we might at first assume and that is not just for people who talk with their hands a lot. They are used in our liturgies quite extensively and their position and what they touch mean quite a bit. But that will have to wait until next week.

Sunday, December 21, 2008









Please turn of your cell phones.




FINDING TRUTH WHEREVER IT MAY BE FOUND: "What life and death may be to a turkey is not my business; but the soul of Scrooge and the body of Cratchit are my business." Chesterton

QUOTE II – “God became man to turn creatures into sons: not simply to produce better men of the old kind but to produce a new kind of man.” C. S. Lewis

QUOTE III – “There's nothing worth the wear of winning, But laughter and the love of friends.” Hillaire Belloc.


Not wind nor rain nor impending Christmas holiday can keep Jay from announcing another Catholic Carnival.

Ellen from Paraclete Press writes, "In these 7 days before Christmas, our home page features the text of the "O Antiphons" with the singing of the Magnificat (The Song of Mary), as it is traditionally sung at evening prayer or Vespers. These short texts sung before and after the Magnificat recall the prophecies associated with Mary's acceptance of her calling to be the mother of Jesus."

The Diocese of Cleveland Enewsletter reports, "Dignitas Personae, Vatican Instruction on Bioethics, Welcomed for Guidance on issues of Procreation, Medical Research Dignitas Personae (The Dignity of a Person), an Instruction from the Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) on ethical issues arising from biomedical research, provides guidance on how to respect human life and human procreation in our heavily scientific age, said Cardinal Francis George of Chicago, president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops." Read more here.

They also report that, "The following Christmas season television and radio programming information is provided to you by the Department of Communications, Diocese of Cleveland."

My cousin sent this in: "Enjoy watching Lun Lun, Yang Yang, Mei Lan and the newest cub on PandaCam, but unfortunately, this feature will soon come to an end. Due to limited resources, Zoo Atlanta will not be able to offer PandaCam after December 31, 2008. Panda Cam will be available from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday."

This video was sent in by F. S. Only if you need a good laugh:

Adoro sent this interesting mind trick in. Thanks Adoro!

And to sum up - here is an essay on Christmas by Chesterton.


Christmas is coming like a steam locomotive. Or better yet – Christmas is like an overstuffed suitcase being sat upon in a desperate attempt to keep shut until the right time but already the case is groaning, bursting at the seams, pieces of Christmas already flying out through the cracks. So even a rigorist like myself decides to relax a little bit and let it happen. And instead of seeming like a shock it is a more like a nice, relaxing, hot shower.

Well, somewhat. It is still as busy as all get out. I worry about being able to greet the holy day completely – or at least satisfactorily - prepared. So the past few days I set a firm rule for myself: “Self! You have a lot to prepare and nobody is going to cut you slack because you were too busy. So – no more last minute appointments, no problem solving that does not involve Christmas directly, everything will just have to wait the next so many days. The world has turned without you thus far and it will continue to do so. Focus on your mission!”

And then God, who is the Father of irony, gets in the mix. A phone call comes in. A family needs a priest at a local hospital. They are stressed. The family is in from out of state and their Mother is unexpectedly and severely ill and not expected to make it through the holidays. Will you come? A well respected and beloved nurse is in hospice care, not expected to make it through the night. Will you come? A priest’s father has passed away. Can you help them out? A soldier is about to be shipped out and needs to talk to you before he leaves. Can you make the time?

Of course priests and lay people alike do these things. That is what allows us to wear the title Christian. And if privately we grumble beforehand we are exceedingly grateful for the opportunity and for having been able to reach out to others.

These blessings reminded me of the Chesterton quote: “"When we were children we were grateful to those who filled our stockings at Christmas time. Why are we not grateful to God for filling our stockings with legs?" What blessings we have. That we can be stressed about the coming festivities of course means we have festivities to be stressed about. Let us be grateful for the “interruptions” which are not interruptions at all but part of the celebration. Let us be thankful that they allow us to exercise our charity in this season of charity and that they remind us to be thankful for our stockings full of legs that allow us to do them.

Friday, December 19, 2008


Sorry for the lack of post yesterday. ONCE AGAIN it was a problem with the computers – this time it was actually a mechanical problem within the house. (No, not me.) Once the computers were up it was late and I was too involved with the day to post.

Every single solitary year when I was a kid watching the movie “Jason and the Argonauts” on Super Host (an old local movie host on channel 43) we would get to the point where Jason was about to fight the army of skeletons and Mom would walk in and say, “It’s time to go to Mass.” I have never seen that part of the movie.

No bones about it. When a skeleton appears in Christian art it is rarely for happy reasons. As you might suppose most of the time they refer to death and remind us that this world and all that is in it will eventually fail us – including our bodies. There is only One that lasts and that is God and we would be wise to be in God so as to live with Him eternally.

Sometimes a skeleton will remind us that life is short by carrying an hour glass or a scythe. They seem to say, “As I am so you will be and soon enough so take heed.” Sounds a bit like Marley.

Sometimes they are presented as a choice. I once saw a picture of a man in confession and he was deciding whether to confess a serious sin or not. On the one side was his unwillingness to be humble and confess and the skeletons represented the spiritual death of that decision and on the other were the angles ready to welcome him back into the Father’s company through his act of contrition and humility.

So – avoid skeletons - unless it's yours.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008


This morning we start Act II of advent. A play in two acts the second half always begins in the 17th of December. Up and until this point we have been preparing for the coming of Christ at the end of time. Then on the 17th, things change, almost imperceptibly.

This is the day we begin preparing for the immanent coming of Christ at Christmas. We start preparing for the big birthday bash. The preface at the Mass changes, the genealogy of Christ from Matthew is read (unless it occurs on a Sunday,) and those who pray the Liturgy of the Hours start saying the O Antiphons with the Canticle of Mary.

You know the O Antiphons however even if you do not pray the Breviary. The O Antiphons are the Old Testament names for the coming Messiah.

O Sapientia – Wisdom
O Adonai – Lord of Might
O Radix Jesse – Flower of Jesse’s Stem
O Clavis Davidica – Key of David
O Oriens – O Rising Dawn
O Rex Gentium – King of Nations
O Emmanuel – God-with-Us

Hence the song, “O come, O come Emmanuel and ransom captive Israel. Happy part II of Advent!

Monday, December 15, 2008


FINDING TRUTH WHEREVER IT MAY BE FOUND: "Richard Burton became acknowledged as a great Shakespearean actor not by deleting problematic passages but by studying them and interpreting them in such a way that his audiences came to appreciate them for all their meaning and beauty; the responsibility of a priest is not different." Fr. Stravisnskas

QUOTE II - "All translators are betrayers." Italian proverb.


A number of videos ended up in my mail this week. This one is actually an advertisement but it is still funny and sort of pertinent to the season. This actually happened to a good friend of mine. Thanks Kay.

C. D. sent this in: "There is an organization called ENDOW (Educating on the Nature and Dignity of Women) which began a couple years ago in Denver under the direction of Bishop Chaput." It is in the process of (hopefully) being approved for the Diocese of Cleveland. Send up a prayer for the organization. Here is their web site if you want to know more.

C. P. sent this video in. It is the only version of the 12 Day of Christmas that I can handle at the moment.

102 Catholic Carnivals
A message from Kay: "I created a new blog site specifically for those who have died - I pray for these people at Mass (usually I attend daily Mass) as well as during Adoration & daily prayer time."

The Diocese of Cleveland Enewsletter reports, "On August 16, 2006, Joseph H. Smith, former chief finance and legal officer of the Catholic Diocese of Cleveland was indicted by a federal grand jury in connection with an alleged kickback scheme that federal authorities believed netted him nearly $785,000.

The 23 count indictment alleged that Smith conspired to defraud the Cleveland Diocese and falsified tax returns and other documents. Smith was found guilty on six tax-related charges including conspiracy to defraud the Internal Revenue Service on July 3, 2008.Smith was sentenced today, December 11, 2008, to one year and one day in federal prison." Read the Diocesan statement here.

Sunday, December 14, 2008


You may have heard this past week of the passing of Avery Cardinal Dulles of whom it was said, “he was a reader’s writer and the believer’ theologian.” He also had the nick name of Dull, Duller, and Dulles as his speaking tone was soft and very technical. But he was a brilliant man and Catholic to the core.

I once had an occasion to talk with him. He came to Saint Mary Seminary to give a talk and to the seminarians and somehow between his formal talk in the theater of the seminary and the dinner in the refectory I was left alone with him. I have no idea how it happened but it did.

I was enthralled. He was perfectly willing to jabber on with a lowly seminarian on just about any topic I threw at him. As we talked I offered to escort him to the refectory and we walked arm and arm down to where the rest of the crowd was gathering for the dinner honoring our important guest.

We made our way in his brilliant mind caught a thread that he would not let go of. We was saying something very important to me but for the life of me I can’t remember what it was for what happened next.

As we were talking he took to leaning against one of the refectory tables. I remember thinking that this was not wise for the large round tables only had only one central leg holding them up. I do remember thinking, “He shouldn’t be doing that but he’s Avery Dulles, who am I to say anything to him?”

Somebody brought us some coffee and we continued to dialogue, I enthralled and he leaning on a one legged table. He finally leaned back too far and the table tipped propelling forward spilling hot coffee down the front of my shirt and landing him in my arms. I suppressed screams of pain and righted the man who kept talking as if nothing at all had happened. Someone offered me a towel which I refused and kept my focus on him. After all I was thinking, “Oh my gosh, Avery Dulles spilled coffee on me. I will never wash this shirt again.”

God rest you merry Cardinal Dulles!

Friday, December 12, 2008


Momento mori!

Remember man that you must die!

“Alas poor Yorick.”

There’s a cheery thought.

Yet for a Christian steeped in his faith this is not the worst thing that could happen. In fact we contemplate it, prepare for it, and if we gain any amount of spiritual maturity (while maybe still being afraid of the dying process) look forward to it. It is the idea of death that moves us to action. If we would never die, if we had not the idea of the passage of time, we might perpetually put all things off till tomorrow. Death is a motivator. And if it is a motivator in things of this life, it also reminds us to use this life to prepare for that glorious (or horrible) life in the next. It is not a morbid practice to think on death as long as the promise Christ reminds us of its meaning, fills us with hope, and fends off despair.

So if you see a beautiful picture of, say, Saint Jerome in his cave with his penitential rock (Oh! Jerome – if it weren’t for that rock!) and all of his writing utensils, a crucifix, his cardinal, robes, a lion resting at his feet like a pet dog and a skull sitting on his table, the skull should not be shocking or disgusting, it should remind us of the transitory nature of this world and focus us on the life to come. It was this that allowed Jerome to swallow his pride and seek forgiveness for his transactions.

Often saints, particularly monks, will have a skull symbolically placed by them showing their rejection of earthly enticements for the enticements of heaven. Conversely a person who does not pay head to these things but lavishes themselves in the delights of this world might be depicted with all of their “stuff” around them and in a corner or under a table or behind them on a shelf will be a skull giving the viewer the hint that while this may look awfully nice, it will all pass away and if the person has not stored up treasure in heaven they are in for mighty poor after life.

Sometimes too you will see a skull at the base of the crucifix. Remember that the place where Christ was crucified was also called, “The Place of the Skull,” or in other less poetic translations, “Skull Place” which sounds more like the latest dance club. Legend also says that the cross stood on the bones of Adam and that it is through the cross that all men would be redeemed.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

IT'S (not as) GOOD TO BE THE KING (as one might think)

I find it sad as anyone does that we will be closing so many parishes in our diocese. I find it sad, but not entirely unnecessary. With exact parishes and methods I may have other ideas but I am sure glad that I do not have to try out my ideas. Thanks be to God that the bishop is the bishop and not me.

To that end there are those who also have differenting (is that a word?) than the bishop and lob criticism at him. Such is the nature of the position; ever was, ever will be. But there are a few criticisms that are entirely unfair. It is a criticism that covers our own lack of action.

Two of these come to mind. Both were angry jabs heard on a number of occasions recently. One is that the bishop should be doing more to recruit our young men so that we have enough priests and the second is that he should be doing more in our neighborhoods that have become mostly non-Catholic to convert the people there to Catholicism so that the parishes will still be vibrant and not close. In truth these are the mandates of a bishop. In reality it is the job of the people.

One man in an office that covers eight counties can only do so much even with a staff (small) and budget (also small.) Even if he had more power, more staff, more time, and a bigger budget what he would be able to do is only so effective. The number one way that men make their way into the priesthood, the number one way in which people are persuaded to take that step to checking out the Catholic Church is by personal invitation. By far. It is not programs, posters, ad campaigns, diocesan initiatives, clever marketing slogans, or the bishop commanding men to be priests and non-Catholics to convert. It is fathers saying to their sons, “Did you ever think about becoming a priest?” It is people who go to parishes where the parish boundaries have become largely non-Catholic and engaging the neighborhood and then inviting them to be Catholic. It is seeing a young man serve Mass well and going up to him and saying, “I think that you would make a good priest,” or talking to your neighbor or co-worker and inviting them to church. That is how you increase vocations. That is how we convert people to the faith. That is how we save our parishes. That is how we will save them in the future.

Does it sound hard and scary? It is! Think of how much harder and scarier it is to be one man in an office charged with doing this. But sometimes we have to face hard and scary to gain the fruits of our faith.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008


May you not find this post too inane.

When I was in high school and helping to restore a tiny silent movie theater in my home town, it seemed there was something terribly familiar about the thick wool carpeting going down the aisle. This same carpeting had been seen elsewhere but where? Then I remembered, there were still remnants of that carpeting at The West End Theater where I also worked. As time passed I found the same carpeting (strange person to notice such things) in some of the other old time theaters in town. Being single screen behemoths in a multiplex world the managers did much to cut costs. So if the end of the aisle carpeting from the 1950’s was fine, they would only replace the upper half leaving this same “Hollywood” carpeting at the bottom. Someone must have gone through at one time and sold THE carpeting for theaters.

A similar thing happened with slate pavers. Homes and businesses of a certain era had this blue, grey, and red pattern that must some seller must have gone through town selling at some point. As a matter of fact, there was something similar to this pattern at Borromeo Seminary in Cleveland.

So, we have the gorgeous table in the basement of the rectory. Fr. Jackson tells me that it was brought over from the convent when the convent was turned into the preschool. There is a beautiful sideboard, a dozen matching chairs, and one more impressive chair with a high solid back and arms that I gather must have been the superior’s chair. Interesting enough.

The other day I popped over to a neighboring parish for confessions and took a tour of their rectory. Well lo and behold in their dining room was the same table and chairs. Well, almost. It was if they were the same table and design carved by different carpenters. It turns out that the furniture did indeed come from the old convent (now offices.)

Last week I was invited to dinner at my classmate’s parish, we sit down in terribly familiar chairs, and after curiosity kills me I lift the table cloth. Yep – same table only slightly different – came from the old convent (now meeting space).

I wonder how many of these are around and where did they come from? It was not all the same order or the same era. Was there a “nun store” or a company that sold or donated directly to convents? It would be interesting if someone out there knew . . .


Because of the way this post started out, I was thinking of some of the old theater names that used to be around: The West, The Park, The Lake, The Rondo, The Lynn, The Linda, The Civic, The Highland – so much more interesting than “The Route 34 20 screen multiplex.”

Tuesday, December 9, 2008


FINDING TRUTH WHEREVER IT MAY BE FOUND - "Kings steal the glory won by the blood of others!" Euripides as recorded in the book, "The Linguist and the Emperor" by Daniel Mayerson

QUOTE II - "But still there lurks the specter of boredom: for sensation repeated is as stale as yesterday's joke." Daniel Mayerson


T.K. sent this in. Thanks! Awesome.

F.S. sent this wine quiz in.
My sister sent this game in. It is annoying as all get out but I bet you find yourself trying just one more time. WARNING: ADDICTION LEVEL MEDIUM.
My sweet sister redeemed herself by sending in this great video. Take a gander if you need a pick up!

The Diocese of Cleveland Enewsletter reported this: "WASHINGTON-An interactive Web site of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) provides resources for prayer, reflection and action throughout the Advent and Christmas seasons."

Monday, December 8, 2008


Every parish has its nitch. Every parish has a unique personality as any individual human being. I had been away from the Akron area for many years and even when I was here we pretty much stuck to our own parish so I am still discovering new and interesting things this way even though I grew up here.

About a week ago there was a district meeting of priests at Nativity of the Lord Catholic Church in a far corner of Akron. Many priests showed up for some lively debate but the church building itself was even more interesting. Set just off a natural wet land area (giving the pastor a problem with beavers – one problem thankfully I do not have,) this modern church building has some interesting features. There are Stations of the Cross through the wet land area, windows of the church depict scenes from the Nativity of the Lord (no shock), a sixteenth century bell in the bell tower, but the most interesting aspect was in the basement.

A retired priest asked if I could drive him down to Nativity and I was thankful for the companionship especially since our computers were down, I could not get to MapQuest, and had no idea where I was going. “Let’s go down early,” he said, “There is something you should see.” So we headed south long before it was necessary and arrived at the parish early enough to snoop around. My friend went up to the secretary and asked if she could turn some lights on in the basement. “I’ve got a new kid here to show around.” She kindly did so and we headed down into the basement.

The first thing that we came across was a modest reproduction of the Bethlehem Cave. The walls were curved and textured just like the actual cave and the floor plan was the same save for the treacherous steps and slants. There is a reproduction of the star on the ground, the supposed spot where Jesus was born, and in the center of the star is a rock that I believe is from the actual cave. Now, those looking for an exact reproduction will not find it here, but it is close enough to give one the idea or if you have ever visited there you will certainly recognize it.

After passing through the cave you come out on the other side to find hundreds of Nativity sets. A museum of Nativity sets is connected to the cave with sets from all over the world, new and old alike. Apparently there are many more in storage and these are rotated though so that the display changes from time to time. It was a fun thing to find.

Nativity is located at 2425 Myersville Road in Akron. Selg guided tours are possible during office hours and before and after weekend Masses. There is no admission fee but donations are accepted.

Friday, December 5, 2008


Hair can play a great role in denoting the roles of a person in a picture. Carefully quaffed, highly decorated hair may denote a very worldly person while other ways of wearing hair can denote quite the opposite. Loose flowing hair can be a sign of penitence. Call to mind the story in Luke 7 of the repentant woman who washed Christ's feet with her tears and the wiping with her hair. Hair unadorned such as this shows a person who is more focused in things eternal than of temporal things. But that does not mean to let it go wild either. We are told to "wash our faces and comb our hair" so as not to make a show of our fasting. Therefor hair that is wholly disheveled is a sign of great distress.

Hair that is covered can be a sign that one is not available for courtship. In many cultures throughout history married women covered their hair giving the same message to would be suitors that a ring would give. This is one reason for a sister's veil - she is married to God.

A tonsure is a bit of hair cut off from the crown of the head, large or small (I have a natural one) used by clerics and brothers to denote a renunciation of worldly fashion and esteem.

Beards have a long and tangled history. At times for clerics they were expressly forbidden. A cleric was known in parts of the world by his distinct lack of a beard. At one time it was thought that the beard was directly nourished by the "superfluous desires of the stomach" and thus a long beard was a symbol of excessive earthly desires. But being symbolic, symbols change. In some cases now a beard is a direct hint that someone is a brother or cleric.

A beard being a sign of virility (another reason clerics were often directed to shave or have short beards) it was an absolute insult for someone to shave or pluck your beard. The fact that Jesus' beard was plucked was more than just for the pain of it but was a direct insult to who he was as a man. Conversely the plucking of one's own beard then was a sign of deep anguish. Hair today, gone tomorrow.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008


Not all that long ago the family house was sold. Nobody lived there anymore and the large Georgian Revival structure that became a century home this year did not lure any family members into buying and living in it. The house is not the family, selling it cannot take away your memories, but there is still a sense of loss to this day. In fact, I still dream about that house. At one time I toyed with the idea of buying it just to keep it in the family but I am glad I did not. I would have been broke and even more insanely busy than I am. It was the right thing to do to sell it.

My sister and I took a walk past it not too long ago. The front door was damaged, the lawn was not well tended and there was junk in the back yard. We knew we could never go down that street again. It is alright to wish that things were different. And it is Okay to be sad. And it is also good to accept that which is and move on for here was not an injustice, just an unfortunate happenstance.

I cannot imagine that this much different from people who will be experiencing parish closings soon. A lot of people. No, “Church” is not buildings. Closing a church cannot erase your memories. But it will be unsettling to be a stranger in place in which very intimate aspects of your life took place.

My home parish of Sacred Heart, the original building, was sold when I was still very young. It was a small but grand English Gothic structure. I was as comfortable there as I was in my bedroom. It was our building. And it hurt when it closed and we moved to the new structure down the street. I went back to visit it and had to ask strangers permission to look around.

It was only recently, now that day is actually coming and I have spoken with some priests who will have to face the prospect of the parish which they have served is closing that I have taken to heart what it is they must be going through. The parish at which they acted as “father” will be gone. The office in which they counseled will be closed. The home in which they lived will be sold. It is one thing to have a new assignment, it is another to have a new assignment because your previous assignment has been obliterated.

It is absolutely true that we cannot keep so many parishes up and running. We do not have the priests, we do not have the resources, and quite frankly in many cases we do not have the need. (I thank God that I am not the one making these decisions. No matter what is done – or not done – those men trying their hardest to make it go as best as possible will have people very angry with them no matter how honorable their intentions are.) And yes priests should have the apostolic spirit to pick up and move and do whatever kind of service that is expected of them (and they will for they are good men!) but they are also human and I imagine for many this will be very hard.

The diocese is already preparing to help in a special way these men who will have to face these difficult futures, but keep them in your prayers. They will need much spiritual help too. It may be understood intellectually that this was long in coming, but that does not always translate into a won heart. May their hearts be healed.

This was given to me by a parishioner. “Father Bruno’s PRAYER FOR PRIESTS” 1925

O almighty and eternal God, look upon the face of Your Christ, and for love of Him who is the eternal High-priest, have pity on your priests. Remember, O most compassionate God, that they are but weak and frail human beings. Stir up in them the grace of their vocation which in them by the imposition of the Bishop’s hands. Keep them close to You, lest the enemy prevail against them, so that they may never do anything in the slightest degree unworthy of their sublime vocation.

O Jesus, I pray You for Your faithful and fervent priests; for Your unfaithful and tepid priests; for You priests laboring at home or abroad in distant mission fields; for Your tempted priests; for Your lonely and desolate priests; for Your sick priests; for Your aged priests, for Your dying priests; for the souls of Your priests in purgatory.

But above all I commend to You the priests dearest to me: the priest who baptized me; the priest who absolved me from my sins; the priest at whose Masses I assisted and who have me Your Body and Blood in Holy Communion; the priest who taught and instructed me or helped me and encourage me; all the priest to whom I am indebted in any other way, particularly . . . O Jesus, keep them all close to Your heart, and bless them abundantly in time and in eternity. Amen


The first thing that I do in the morning besides say hello to Saint Augustine who pears in my window during the dark winter months is pray the Liturgy of the Hours and review the readings for Mass. From that point a lot of time is spent on other things that at best involve just a seasoning of prayer. It is all quite mundane. There is the making of the bed, toiletries, getting dressed, preparing the house for the staff, bringing in the paper, (maybe – maybe someday feeding the dog) and turning on the computer.

Yesterday I was in my car driving to day school confessions at a neighboring parish and making a mental list of all the things that I had to do. I was in desperate need of stopping at a gas station before I would need to call AAA. That reminded me to turn off the cell phone before it would be forgotten and ring in the middle of a confession. Passing a store reminded me of things that I needed to pick up for the parish. Maybe I could stop on the way back if there were time.

These ruminations were interrupted by the car’s arrival at its destination. Pulling into the parking lot of the next parish over brought thoughts back to advent and the realization on how little time is spent on things that really matter. All the busy stuff mentioned above is necessary to living, but in the grand scheme of things hardly important. We are told to view everything sub specie aeternitatis or from the point of eternity. What is going to last? Not much. We will. God will. Our relationship with Him will. Love will. My car will not. The rectory will not. Even my body will not. Hope will not. Faith will not. Even the Eucharist will not since we will be before the Body of Christ in heaven.

Yet what requires the majority of our day and effort? Those very things that are like summer plants that are now passed and gone. They are like a bubble we try to keep aloft by getting under them and blowing air at them lest they fall into the grass and pop. That’s a lot of effort for something so transitory.

Of course much of this is a necessary evil (and I use the term loosely.) It is not a bad thing to make sure the body is taken care of, that those things entrusted to us are handled with careful stewardship, and that these efforts may take up much of our time. It’s the nature of the beast. The world in all that is in is in a constant state of decay and needs our vigilant efforts to keep it all together and moving. But there must be that break, that one hour out of twenty four, that one day out of seven that we stop and pay attention, plug into, and to remember the proper place of all that is transitory before that which is eternal, good, beautiful, and true lest in the end we be left with nothing for all of our efforts.

That is advent; to point us toward that which is eternal and to remind us to prepare the way for it in our hearts that when all that is left is that which is eternal we may know it and love it and it may know and embrace us.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008


FINDING TRUTH WHEREVER IT MAY BE FOUND: "What defines brotherhood but non-brotherhood?" From Ursula Le Guin's, "The Dispossessed"

QUOTE II - "Being needed is not the same as being accepted." from Daniel Mason's, "The Piano Tuner"


I am very disappointed in you people! YOU WERE SUPPOSED TO TALK SENSE INTO ME ABOUT DOGS! Is there no sanity out there? Gads. I grow so weak . . .

Here's a video for the first week of December.

Jay doubled your fun this week! It's two, two, two treats in one! Catholic Carnival 200 and Catholic Carnival 201.

K.H. sent this great link in! It is an online book of biographies of Cleveland priests from the turn of the century. Thanks K. H.

Ellen sent this in concerning the request for information about the Cleveland Chesterton Society. "Last December, we met up with Matthew Lewis and the nascent Cleveland group for a tour of the Chesterton room/collection at John Carroll's Graselli Library. There seemed to be a small group of Clevelanders there. I can't believe that after Matthew left, there was no one to pick up the ball. According to Matthew, there were 90 people on the Gilbert magazine mailing list, so there are a lot of Chesterton fans there.

The librarian, Chuck Zarobila, at Graselli offered the library for any meetings or events. He said JCU was interested in hosting events, to highlight the Chesterton collection they have there. They have a small conference room and also a larger, open area that would be good lecture venue.

I wanted to let you know that I would be interested in any news you come across. If you want to pass my name or email address along to anyone who wants to talk about/visit/join our group, feel free to do so. Thanks."

Thank you Ellen!

W. T. Sent this game in. Don' t go here unless you have time to waste. WARNING: ADDICTION LEVEL HIGH


This time I can say for sure that it was not AOL’s fault. Our particular server was down for the whole county according to our computer guy. So here is yesterday’s post.

You may remember Ed from the saving of the wayward hummingbird reported here during the summer months. He came to the rescue once again this past week. My sister has been showing great patience in holding on to a piece of furniture for me until such time that I have a place in which to put it. Needless to say that that times has come and so Ed jumped into the truck and helped me haul this Cleveland Reed Organ to Saint Sebastian rectory.

Having a limited amount of music in the rectory to play on the organ this past rainy Sunday night I was of a mind to run over to the choir loft where I had some music suitable for the pump organ. Climbing up the steps to the loft I hear a curious clicking noise. Looking up at the ceiling from where the sound was coming, it was apparent that there was leak in the roof.

Finding the trap door to the roof area I climbed up into the ceiling and walked to where I thought the noise was coming and sure enough there was a steady stream of drips coming in from the roof. So a trip was made back down the ladder, down from the choir loft and to the usher’s room where a waste basket was stolen and lugged back up in the ceiling. A careful walk was made across steel beams and the plastic bucket perched precariously to catch the water.

Coming back down from the heavens I was feeling pretty good about having done at least that much. I knelt at the altar rail and said some prayers when the air circulator stopped. There! In the front of the church was another clicking sound! I was torn between being thankful that I had heard it and ticked that it meant another climb into the ceiling. After a heavy sigh the rubbish can from the sacristy was stolen and the trip back up into the stratosphere was made once again, a trip down the catwalks and then across some more steel beams and another bucket placed to catch the errant water.

Of course we owe our very existence to the fact that it rains. But gosh that fact can also be annoying at times. Sunday the Lord gaveth, and gaveth, and gaveth. Blessed be the name of the Lord.

Just file this under what a priest does with his spare time around the church on Sundays.