Thursday, December 31, 2009


When I was ordained my cousin handed me a cook book in wrapping paper and said, “You are now becoming a public figure. The only place people will not have a say in what you do is in the WC and the kitchen. Learn how to cook.”

She was not entirely correct. There is always someone around giving input in kitchen affairs.

But in general she was a prophetess. Not the least of which is in the manner of dress. Priests can be just as caddy as anybody else especially when it comes to liturgical dress and I am just as guilty as anyone. “Are you going to wear THAT for the celebration of the Holy Mass?” I might say to someone about to go out into the sanctuary donned in what I would determine to be emasculating at best and slightly heretical at worse. (N.B. There is a bit of hyperbole here.)

The sword cuts both ways. A visiting priest began saying something about my choice of wearing a cincture – a lecture I have been given way too many times and I am afraid I might have been a little snarky in my cutting off of any further utterances on the matter. (I do defend myself in that if someone had something new and intelligent to say on the matter I might entertain the conversation if my pride radar were down and God gave me some extra grace.)

But how a priest is dressed is not limited to other priests. The way a cleric clothes his body is open to considerable debate. I have been witness to priests being asked to dress in a more obviously clerical manner and have been invited out on a number of occasions and told to “be more comfortable” and not wear anything black. By “be more comfortable” I assume they mean for themselves as I am perfectly comfortable dressed in clerics. As long as I don’t look down I don’t even know the difference.
When I was a kid I remember someone writing to Ann Landers asking her how to gently tell a priest that the way he was dressing at the golf course was embarrassing. Used to only wearing black (how wrong can you go with that?) priests were showing up at the golf course dressed in horridly clashing plaids.

Now this attention to dress might be a cause of consternation for some priestly types. Indeed I have heard some declare, “How dare h/s tell ME how do dress! I don’t give h/h fashion notes!” But I offer a point to ponder. Take the clerical fashion police with a kind heart. It is great that such a person has such a great interest in you and more importantly in the priesthood.

It would be a far worse thing if others didn’t care what we wore at all!

Wednesday, December 30, 2009


New Year's Day is a Holy Day of obligation.

Mary, Mother of God

Masses at St. Sebastian are: 6PM (vigil) 9AM & 7PM

Tell your friends!

Check your local listings for a Mass near you!


The sacrament of confession is far from dead and its salvation oddly enough is high tech. No, you cannot Email your confession to your local parish and receive absolution by a return receipt. It is because our computers allow so many to sin “secretly” and in such ways that Christians are embarrassed to talk about it or seek help. So for the average Christian who has a conscience for such things but who is none-the-less addicted there is little help outside of prayer. At least for the Catholic, there is the sacrament of confession that is anonymous, the content of which can never be repeated, and help can be sought. And there is more! The following was put together by Bishop Robert Flynn:

A PRAYER IN A TIME OF TEMPTATION ~ Based on Hebrews 4:14-16
Lord Jesus Christ, our great High Priest, you were tempted in every way we are and yet never sinned. Take me to the throne of Your grace to receive mercy, favor and help. Make me aware of Your presence. Strengthen me in my weakness.
Lead me through the temptations of this life to the love you share with the Father and Holy Spirit, one God for ever and ever. Amen.

Loving God and Father, source of all good and knowledge, we praise you for your loving kindness shown to us through your Son Jesus Christ who became flesh and dwelt among us and through your Holy Spirit poured forth into our hearts. Grant that this new computer may be used in service to you and all truth. May it be an instrument that serves to lift up and not to tear down. May pornography, hatred or any other such evil never appear on this screen. May I and all who use this computer do so with purity of heart and free from all evil. May my work on this computer serve to glorify your name and build up your kingdom. Lead us through this life to share in the perfect love and joy you share with Jesus Christ your Son our Lord and the Holy Spirit, one God for ever and ever. Amen.

ANIMA CHRISTI (Soul of Christ)
Soul of Christ, sanctify me.
Body of Christ, save me.
Blood of Christ, inebriate me.
Water flowing from the side of Christ, wash me.
Passion of Christ, strengthen me.
O Good Jesus hear me, in your wounds hide me
and never permit me to be separated from you.
From the evil enemy, defend me
In the hour of my death call me, and grant me to come to you
that with your saints I may praise you for ever and ever. Amen.

Remember O Most Gracious Virgin Mary,
That never was it known that anyone who fled to thy protection,
implored thy help or sought thy intercession was left unaided.
Inspired by this confidence I fly unto thee O Virgin of virgins, my mother.
To thee I come; before thee I stand, sinful and sorrowful.
O Mother of the Word Incarnate, despise not my petitions
But in thy mercy hear and answer me. Amen.

Joseph, chaste and just …
Joseph, prudent and brave …
Joseph, obedient and loyal …
Terror of evil spirits …
Protector of the Church, … Pray for us!
Almighty God, in your infinite wisdom and love
you chose Joseph to be the husband of Mary, the mother of Your Son.
As we enjoy his protection on earth, may we have the help of his prayers in heaven.
We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.

St. Michael the Archangel , defend us in battle. Be our defense against the wickedness and snares of the devil. May God rebuke him we humbly pray, and do thou O Prince of the heavenly hosts, by divine power thrust into hell Satan and all the other evil spirits that prowl about the world seeking the ruin of souls. Amen.

Angel of God, my guardian dear; to whom God’s love commends me here: Ever this day be at my side, to light and guard, to rule and guide. Amen


On-Line Resources is Steve Wood’s catholic website of St. Joseph Covenant keepers. is a Catholic site that includes information, prayers, witness talks and many other helpful resources. is a similar Christian site with many resources. is the site for the National Coalition for the Protection of Children and Families. In addition to fighting pornography this organization does much to promote decency and family life. is sponsored by L.I.F.E. Ministries (Living in Freedom Everyday). is a Christian based ministry addressing a number of addictions. Its resources are available in several languages. is a resource for women whose husbands have problems with pornography. The information here would also be helpful for a husband whose wife is struggling with pornography. not only has resources about pornography but includes information about fighting indecency. is the web site for Sexaholics Anonymous. It shares information and Twelve Step Spirituality for those struggling with sexual addiction. is a site for internet safety and education. provides a description and customer rating of different internet filters. It is a good single source to learn about many different products. is not a filter but an accountability service. Users will designate two other individuals who will periodically receive reports of all the sites the user has visited. This can work well in conjunction with a filter. is a prayer resource sponsored by the Archdiocese of St. Louis. You may type in a request and eight communities of cloistered nuns will pray for your intentions.

Support and Counseling Services

The National Coalition has a toll-free service line at 1-800-583-2964. It is a resource both for those who struggle with pornography as well as for pastors and counselors. Phones are answered Monday through Friday from 9:00 A.M. to 5:00 P.M. Eastern Standard Time.


The Truth and meaning of Human Sexuality. Pontifical Council for the Family, 1995.
Married Love and the Gift of Life. Pro-Life Secretariat , United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, Nov. 14, 2006 .

Many of the above listed web sites will list books that can be helpful. One short but helpful booklet is Breaking Free: 12 Steps to Sexual Purity for Men. It is by Stephen Wood and published by Family Life Center Publications.

For other reading material regarding a Catholic understanding of human sexuality see Love and Responsibility by Karol Wojtyla and Theology of the Body by Pope John Paul II. The former is a more philosophical work while the latter is much more theological. Some popular secondary sources for these are: Theology of the Body for Beginners and Theology of the Body Explained both by Christopher West and Men and Women are From Eden by Mary Healy.

In 2002 the Pontifical Council for Social Communications issued two documents entitled “The Church and Internet” and “Ethics in Internet.” In 1989 the same council issued a document entitled, “Pornography and Violence in the Communications Media: A Pastoral Response.” These documents may be accessed at

In 1998 the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops issued a document entitled, “Renewing the Mind of the Media” and in 2000 another document entitled, “Your Family and Cyberspace.” Copies may be ordered by calling 1-800-235-8722.

Thanks to Fr. Martin Conner L.C. for sending in this information and to Bishop Robert Finn for pulling this information together.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009


FINDING TRUTH WHEREVER IT MAY BE FOUND: “. . . Without denying the importance of these hot-button issues, their centrality in day-to-day Catholic life is often exaggerated. In truth, a good deal of the most creative energy in the Church comes from individuals and groups least invested in internal debates, whether one would conventionally describe these circles as liberal, conservative, or somewhere in between. To take just one example, the Community of Sant’Egidio has to rank among today’s most effective actors in the Catholic stage through its promotion of ecumenical and interreligious dialogue, conflict resolution, poverty relief, and opposition to the death penalty. The community takes no position, however, on matters such as gay marriage or clerical celibacy.” from John Allen’s book, “The Future Church”

QUOTE II: “We make our friends; we make our enemies; but God makes our next door neighbor.” G. K. Chesterton


I hadn’t the slightest idea! Did you know there is talk about a movement for the canonization of our friend Gilbert!? And the Beacon Journal reported today that nothing good came from 2009! HA!

Adoro is getting a new dog! I told her she needs to have a caption contest for this picture!
If you want to listen to some good music Russell sent this video in. We sang it when I was in the seminary. What a great memory.

The Diocese of Cleveland Enewsletter sends this link to our bishop's Christmas message.

Neven sent this Email: "I am happy to share that I am now a Postulant of the Basilian Salvatorian Order, of the Catholic Byzantine Rite - located in Methuen, Massachusetts (as of October 3rd of this year.) Praise God!" Anyway, apparently he also a musician and invites you to listen to snippets of his work here.

Would you like to see the Church of the Holy Sepulcher but do not have the funds at the moment to pop over and see it? Jim sends in this site where you can take 360 degree views of it. It's kind of fun. Give it a shot.

Russell also sent in this one and a half minute video of pure sugar entitled Ukulele Boy.

I don't really understand Wiis not having any experience with one though it seems everyone else in the known universe has. Apparently you can make up avatars. M. W. sent this one that his kids did known as Fr. V. ROFL. I love it - er - I love Jesus - I really like it.

Monday, December 28, 2009


This second Christmas at Saint Sebastian was quite a treat. After a year and half the parish and I seem to be getting used to each other. It also helped having a parochial vicar to help carry the load. It is one thing to have a priest come in to take a Mass, it is quite another to have one help you with all of the preparations too! So ready were we that I had time to do things that usually get thrown off the list for want of time – even to shining my shoes.

The confessions the night before went about an hour longer than we had anticipated. Even with three priests it took us that long to provide the sacrament for everybody. Christmas Eve started with morning Mass – one of the few in the area. Fr. Pfeiffer was the celebrant but I was up and wired already and so I concelebrated. There was a surprising turn out for this too.

The rest of the day was spent preparing the church, having rehearsals, and making last minute tweaks on homilies. By three o’clock there was already a respectable crowd for the 4 o’clock Mass. Behind the scenes we began preparing for the Mass: organizing ministers, getting all of the vessels and books ready, making sure seating was provided in the sanctuary, coordinating vestments, setting out the homily, making last minute notes to servers, finally saying a prayer and heading to the back of the church for the procession. At that point it is just time to trust that everyone has their roles down and everything will be taken care of since you have little control over anything at that point anyway.

At the back of the church the procession is organized and incense is placed in the thurible and blessed. The deacon with an atomic wristwatch signals the organist that it is exactly and precisely 4:00! The announcement of the opening hymn is made and we process down the aisle.

This will happen two more times that night alone. There is a short break after this Mass and the whole process starts over again. After that Mass there is time to eat dinner, take a break, and try to relax. But soon enough it is time to rouse oneself up again for the midnight hour quickly approaches. Midnight Mass is the crowning jewel of our Christmas celebrations of which Cecil B. DeMill would have been proud.

When it is all done and the lingerers left and the church was darkened we wandered through the church by the light of the Christmas trees locking doors and putting hymnals and kneelers in their upright and locked position. Back in the rectory we try to relax and recount the pageantry and praise of the day. Then it was time to go to bed. The rest of the morning Masses were starting in a few hours.

Friday, December 25, 2009



Here is the Christmas Eve Children's homily:

Twas the vigil for Christmas and all through the rectory
The priest types were stirring, Frs. Valencheck, Pfeiffer, and Swirski
The altar was set – candles lit with care
In hopes the Babe Jesus soon would be there.

The children all gathered way up in the loft
Silent Night they sang so sweetly and soft
Mrs. Frey at the organ; the deacon was dressed
A server rang the bell to start 4 o’clock Mass.

When through the stained glass there came such a light
I ran outside to see what lit up the night
Out to Mull Avenue I ran at a dash
And a saw a great star twinkle and flash

The star on the breast of the new-fallen snow
Gave luster of mid-day to objects below
Then what to my wondering eyes should appear
But shepherds and angles with news of good cheer

There was a new Babe who left all so awed
I knew in a moment twas the Son of God
Angles announced each one who came
They sang and they trumpeted and called each one by name.

Hail Mary! Oh Joseph! Come sages with boxes!
Here’s shepherds with sheepses and asses and oxes!
From the height of the sky they announced God’s birth,
“To God be all glory – to men peace on earth!”

It was hard to believe as hard as I’d try
The shepherds on the lawn – the star in the sky
It was right out those doors – I know it is true
The manger is out there on Mull Avenue

The camels will help us and give us some proof
In the snow are their pawings of each giant hoof.
The kings coming forward dressed in crowns and fur
Left presents of frankincense, bright gold, and myrrh.

The Baby was wrapped from head to foot
In the swaddling clothes in which He was put
There were no toys no crib for His head
But a feed stall in which ox and asses are fed

Yet how joyous it was and how so merry
No one was nervous, confused, or wary
The history of Man was changing now
As before the New Born we did bow.

He moved not an inch nor word from Him broke
But filled our hearts with wonder and hope
We knew this child was destined to be
The Messiah who came to set all men free.

The most important thing to remember and I’ll say it in prose
About this Jesus Who from David’s line arose

Is to remember that this day is not about anything
But about a person
Jesus – our Savoir – Who was born this day.
And from all that He has done for us
He wants only one thing from you –
And that is that you develop a friendship with Him.
And there is only one way to do that
Prayer – Every day. All the time.
And to come to the sacraments.
That is the best present you can give Jesus Who gives you so much.

Well . . .

Then the Church bells rang it was time to start Mass
The manger’s still out there – the vision will last
And the message He gave ‘neath that star so bright:
“A Blessed Christmas to all on this Holy Night.”

Here are couple more vidoes recently sent in:
This one is from Tim: (If not for the performers would there have been anyone there?)

And one more from P.

Thursday, December 24, 2009



I’ll never understand those types of people who want supernatural signs from God. I’m with the Blessed Mother on this one: if you see and angel, the proper reaction is fear! What could a supernatural experience from God mean except that He’s got important work for you to do and it’s going to cost you.

Grace can’t be bought, but it appears that it still needs to be paid for. When you look at the lives of St. Bernadette, St. Pio, St. Faustina, or the children of Fatima you see how much their special graces cost them. Every one of them knew poverty, abuse, rejection, illness, and darkness of soul. And that is in addition to the prayer, penance, and work that they voluntarily took on.

Everyone has those long stretches of suffering in life: a family member is sick or self-destructive, we are spiritually desolate, we are rejected by our peers, a big sin won’t stop tempting us, or we are physically or mentally ill. It is only when I have emerged from the end of such tunnels that I realized how much grace was bought with these sufferings.

In hindsight I can see the precious fruits of such pain. Rejection gives us humility to use our gifts to console others who suffer rather than to puff up our own egos. Our traumas toughen our spiritual muscles to help lift the heavy crosses of others that would make the less initiated turn away in fear. When we experience pain or ignorance firsthand, God tattoos His lessons on our hearts in a way that no amount of study could teach us. God has personally taught me spiritual empathy, the meaning of sin, and the power of the rosary, but only at the end of many years of pulling my hair out and crying, “Why me?!”

I remember someone speculating that the reason Jesus emitted a groan when He healed someone was because he was engaging in some redemptive suffering right on the spot. If someone comes to me with a terrible problem and I do what I can to comfort the person, I am shocked at the number of times that the person says, “Wow, I feel so much better!”, but I end up depressed for a couple days. It’s like that grace is being paid for.
I always try to remember that God is not a divine vending machine. If I have an intention, I try to remember that I have to put my heart into that request. I have to invest the prayer and sacrifice, or even have to bear whatever involuntary sufferings he has in store for me. My personally experience has always been that God surpasses all expectations in generosity.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009


Here is a Christmas present suggestion.

You will not to whom you give it.

The person you give it to will not know that they are getting it.

But you and they will benefit from it.

The first is to determine who will receive you gift. Who do you wish to have in your life? A spiritual director? A new friend? A girl or boy friend? Start praying for them especially if you do not know who the person may be as of yet.

Pray to God that such a person might come into your life and then offer a prayer for that person. Maybe even pray that you will readily recognize this person when he or she appears.

That way when you meet and a relationship starts you can say, “I’ve been praying for you for a long time already.”

Tuesday, December 22, 2009


FINDING TRUTH WHEREVER IT MAY FOUND: "The more we are proud that the Bethlehem story is plain enough to be understood by the shepherds, and almost by the sheep, the more do we let ourselves go, in dark and gorgeous imaginative frescoes or pageants about the mystery and majesty of the Three Magian Kings." G. k. Chesterton

QUOTE II: “Can a mortal ask questions which God finds unanswerable? Quite easily, I should think. All nonsense questions are unanswerable." C. S. Lewis


Patrick Bline of the Emmaus Round Table who is giving an advent mission at St. Sebastian on the Theology of the Body (the last one is tonight at 7PM) suggested this video for your viewing pleasure. (It cannot be embedded so here is the URL.) 3 minutes.

This one was sent in by Jen.

Here is one from Kay.

The Diocese of Cleveland Enewsletter reports, "VATICAN (Zenit) - The Vatican Web page has made it possible this Christmas to send Benedict XVI a personalized Christmas card through e-mail or the social networking site Facebook."

There are still a couple of days to check out the O Antiphons. Fr. B. provided this video. Thanks Fr. B.

Monday, December 21, 2009


One if by land! Two if by sea!

Christmas is coming! Christmas is coming!

But we have no fear here at St. Sebastian. No sir! We designed our Christmas preparations with one full day to use as catch up in case of emergencies. And good thing too because by last Saturday we were sufficiently behind schedule to warrant wishing there was an extra day in the week. And we had it and her name was Saturday. Oh, beautiful Saturday, your arms promised comfort and your ruby lips whispered poems of quiet, lazy hours of writing bulleting articles, homilies, and other Christmas activities that require the cleverness of baking pies – time and space to do as you need.

Oh, but Saturday, you were a fickled mistress. Unfaithful were you to your promises. For during the Mass of your early hours the electricity went out. It was only for a moment. An instant really. Thanks to the hawks that have kept the critter population down to only the most intelligent of the tiny beasts, the others who used to regularly crawl into the transformers and turning themselves into an instant cooked dinner long ago serving as hawk food, save one. There was a tiny, solitary bird that slipped through your radar and cooked his own goose.

One comes to realize how truly fragile our way of life is when experiencing just one instant without the life line of electricity. The heat went out and part of the boiler system fried. The internet went down meaning that not only could we not go on line, we could not use the copiers, work on the bulletin, or send messages to each other. Then the alarms! Oh! The alarms! In every building! No sooner was the code punched in than because the system was damaged they would go off again and the company would call again and say, “Do we need to send someone over there?”

Who could think with alarms going off? Pillows were placed over the screaming, angry sirens with boards holding them in place in an effort to teach it only to speak with inside voices.

Oh Saturday, you filled your life with other men than me! How could you be so cruel? Boiler repair men, the computer repair man, the electricians, the alarm company. How they gathered at your skirts and danced with you all day long while I played host to your infidelities.

Today at Mass I see remembrances of you as we count the light bulbs blown out by your great burst of energy. Good bye Saturday for ever. No one could say your were not exciting. But you need to go. If you don’t, I will regret it. Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but soon, and for the rest of my life.

We will always have Paris.

Friday, December 18, 2009


If I had to take a guess at what three architectural features cause the most consternation among practicing Catholics, number one would be the placement of the tabernacle, just about everything concerning the altar of sacrifice (size, construction, orientation, material, placement), and lastly would be the altar rail.

Altar rails still exist in many church buildings as remnants from pre-Vatican II architecture as they were desirable as part of the celebration of the Mass. Also called a Communion rail, communicants would kneel at the rail in order to receive Holy Communion.

Another purpose was to separate the sanctuary from the nave of the church. There is something sacred and special about the sanctuary area and so it was demarcated so that only activities directly related to worship would take place there. It is something like the rail found in a courtroom. The area that has a particular focus of activity is set aside and in effect guarded as a way of reminding us of the sacred mysteries that take place there.

The altar rail is no longer called for but Vatican II never called for the removal of the altar rail either and later the Vatican restated that there is no automatic need to have it removed especially when it is of artistic or architectural value except when it was necessary for the expansion of the sanctuary area.

Today in pre-Vatican II buildings you will find parishes that have retained it, have remnants of it, and those who have removed it all together. Occasionally you may find modern church buildings that give a nod in remembering communion rails by using pieces that might look like parts of an altar rail but serve merely as markers of where Communion stations are.

There are basically two distinct views of altar rails. One is that it serves as an unnecessary barrier between what happens at the altar and what those gathered are doing in the pew. Many see it as an obstacle to full participation in the Mass and as giving far too distinct a symbol of the priest’s role as opposed to a non-cleric’s role.

For others it has the exact opposite meaning. The distinction in areas helps draw one’s attention to the sacred action happening beyond it. It draws them to the sanctuary physically providing them a place to be closer to and kneel before the Blessed Sacrament. The symbolic value of coming forward in the Communion line to receive Jesus is enhanced by the two words that architecturally meet – the straight and earthly lines of the nave and the often circular and heavenly lines of the sanctuary.

Thursday, December 17, 2009


Here is the good thing about the secularization of Christmas: It has provided an outstanding opportunity to grow in the faith. There is almost always a secular bent or at least a non-Christian strain somewhere in the world where Christianity is striving to take hold and thus a certain amount of risk in proclaiming one’s faith or having the faith influence society. But for those who are serious Christian Catholics this simply provides the chance to practice the faith more fundamentally. “Blessed are you . . .” and all that.

Despite what we might say the secularization of Christmas in the United States is not an insidious underground movement. It is quite out in the open and any attempt at changing Christmas or minimizing it (thus far) has been pretty much throwing up new (and often tacky) wallpaper on old established walls. Despite what you are trying to cover up there is little doubt in anybody’s mind that the old wall is just under the paper.

Consider even the name – which makes it amazing that non-Catholic’s would even use it. Christmas! It comes to us from the term “Christ’s Mass Day.” Christ. Mass. What more could we want in a title? Therefore conversation about faith can come up with little consternation. We need not apologize for bringing Christ up at CHRISTmas, in our cards, in our greetings, in our decorations, etc. . . He is the bulldozer in the basement. What an opportunity!

So here is the opportunity to grow in the faith during this season. The first and by far the most important is to personally prepare and celebrate it in such a way that is in keeping with your Christian dignity. If the meaning of Christ’s Mass Day is lost on us it is nobody’s fault but our own.

Getting out and about is difficult during this season because everybody is out and about. Be the one that is kind a driver, be the one that extra nice to the cashier, be the one that retains a smile (it will make you feel better.)

Don’t yell at the store clerk who wishes you a “Season’s Greetings.” They may not like it any better than you (or they may be Jewish, etc . . .) They are paid to say it. Their livelihood may depend upon it. Instead send a kind note to the store manager. Anger has never won anybody over to Christianity. What wins people over is, “I want to be like that.”

A friend of mine became a Unitarian Universalist minister. I was never sure whether I should offer him a Merry Christmas or not. So I asked him. He said, “I consider it as it is intended that you wish me the best of what you are celebrating and I will do likewise.” That seemed fair. (Of course he doesn’t worship the devil or anything so it works out.) So when wished a Season’s Greetings or a Happy Holidays, simply smile and say, “And a Merry Christmas to you.” If they are a gracious person they will accept it.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009


I have a friend (we’ve grown a lot since this took place) that used to think that it was hysterical to send his priest buddy suggestive material. It was never pornographic per se but it was highly suggestive. One day I had to say to him, “You know, I am trying to live a chaste life and you sending me these Emails is like sending pictures of bottles of alcohol to someone who is trying to stay away from drinking inappropriately.” It stopped from that day forward.

It is one thing not to trowel for porn or suggestive material on your computer. It is another for it to arrive from friends. It is not uncommon today for pictures to be shot from phone to phone. “Hey! Did you see this one?” No brown paper wrapping, no locked doors – but complete openness and acceptance of the practice.

Men: there is only one way that it will stop. It will not run its course and disappear. It will stop when you stop it. It takes courage (and who would have thought that there would be the day that NOT wanting porn would take courage?) There need not be any big production or announcement. Simply kindly ask that these types of messages no longer be sent to you. Others will eventually get the point.

Depending on your situation you may have a certain amount of grief dumped on you. But remember this, “Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven,” and give thanks that you were found worthy every time it happens.

Who does it hurt? Even if it is free and even if it is a picture shot voluntarily it still creates a market hungry for new models. It eats them up and spits them out creating an absurdly high suicide rate among porn stars. The money that is produced by porn is not used to support you schools or beautify your city. The men that watch it are not training themselves to look on women as human persons deserving dignity and respect. It steals lives for those who become wickedly addicted and not only their lives but away from their wives and children (or future wives and children – more poisoness than second hand smoke and far more insidious.)

And today it is becoming just as much a habit among women.

But it does not need to be so with you – from you – or around you.

Take courage.

Monday, December 14, 2009


FINDING TRUTH WHEREVER IT MAY BE FOUND: “What you loved well you grow to resemble.” from Richard Power’s, “The Echo Maker”

QUOTE II: “Progress would at last render every place terminally familiar.” same source.


The Diocese of Cleveland Enewsletter reports: "WASHINGTON - 'The Senate vote to table the Nelson-Hatch-Casey amendment is a grave mistake and a serious blow to genuine health care reform," said Cardinal Francis George, President of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. "The Senate is ignoring the promise made by President Obama and the will of the American people in failing to incorporate longstanding prohibitions on federal funding for abortion and plans that include abortion.'" For more please read here.

From the same source: "Did you know, Catholic Greetings is a welcoming place to send free e-mail Catholic greeting cards? Catholic Greetings is a ministry of St. Anthony Messenger Press." Find out more here.

Martin sent this in: "John Paul the Great Catholic University is pleased to announce its first graduating class this December! JP Catholic is the newest Catholic University in Southern California, and the first authentically Catholic school to focus entirely on the intersection of entrepreneurship and new media." Read more here.

Fr. Mike Gurnick our diocesan vocation director has asked me to share with you our vocations websites. So here they are: For the priesthood and for all vocations.

So while we are on the topic:


So last Tuesday the parish of Saint Sebastian celebrated the installation of their 5th pastor in the 81 year history of the parish. Bear in mind that I had been at St. Sebastian for a year and a half already and so I thought it would be somewhat unseemly to make too big a brouhaha about it. Celebrate we would but it would be a simple celebration. In fact I confided to Bishop Pevec who was kind enough to make the time to come out to be the celebrant that it seemed a bit like living with a woman for a couple of years and then having a big wedding complete with white dress and tuxes. He asked me to keep this comment to myself and leaned over to Fr. Pfeiffer and suggested that he try to keep me from saying anything stupid.

The odd part was that I had never been to an installation Mass before and did not know what to expect. All the places I have been the pastor had been there forever. This was my first installation Mass.

There was of course a dinner before hand with the bishop and some priests who made the effort to be there. I was not expecting any priests to be able to make since it was the time of vigil Masses of the Holy Day so I did not make it a point to make a fuss over guys coming but they did none-the-less. Classmates, one of our pastors emeritus, and my cousin who is a priest were able to join the clergy of St. Sebastian for a celebratory meal prepared in concert with our own cook and a friend who is a cook of a neighboring parish.

When we went over the Church there was a sparse but loyal gathering of parishioners. I was happy with the turn out. It was, after all, an early Mass, it was Monday, and a Holy Day of Obligation – what could we really expect? But by the time we started down the aisle the church was packed. All of the scouts were there in their uniforms, the Knights of Columbus in all of their glory, our fabulous choir, family, friends, and the great people of Saint Sebastian. As it turned out the celebration was quite grand all the more touching because it was not expected.

Of course the day was primarily in honor of Mary the Immaculate Conception who under this title is patroness of the United States. How fitting for this next stage in the history of this great parish. Monsignor Zwisler, the founding pastor of the parish, had a great devotion to Mary the traces of which can be seen in the architecture of the building. Much of the interior is blue, the color most associated with Mary. The grand windows in the clerestory represent the Litany of Loreto. The angels over the door form the letter “M” with their wings in honor of her. And so we begin this six hear term on her day and asking for her prayers as we go about the duties of being a Christian community.

It is wonderful to be part of a parish that is so supportive of its clergy. I know how truly lucky I am to be here.

Thursday, December 10, 2009


Those of you whose church buildings predate Vatican II and further where there has not been too much reconstruction in the sanctuary area will notice where the old high altar is/was there are three steps leading up to it (usually.) Though not strictly necessary it was a useful symbolically in the celebration of the Mass. This can be seen at St. Sebastian where the altar of repose is.

A few years ago when we began to talk about symbolism we noted that that which is most important is traditionally placed center, high, and large. Hence the big brouhaha when many parishes moved their tabernacles to the side, low, and hidden if not out of the sanctuary area altogether. So of course there was a natural resistance among many Catholics to this symbolic move. What was attempted to be said and what symbolically appeared to be said were often two different things.

What these three steps, called a predella, did was to raise the altar to the central focal point of the church. It helped represent (according to early Church Fathers) the mediating powers between heaven and earth. We marked how structural aspects of a church that were straight lined represented things of the earth and how circular lines represented things of heaven and how these were held in tension over the altar. The altar was then covered with a baldachino or tester, and lastly, at the center of all this where the most fantastic miracle takes place the altar is held aloft by these three steps; three always a symbolically significant number.

During a Solemn High Mass the Eucharist would of course be on the altar, on the top step the celebrating priest, on the next step down the deacon, and on the third step the second deacon. It was a grand whoosh of focus to that center of the universe that is Jesus Christ and through Him and in the power of the Holy Spirit to God our Father.

Much of this symbolism has been greatly simplified. At times it has been simplified too much where lines between sanctuary and floor have been erased as well as the difference between altar and table in an effort, I suppose, to make God more accessible – but more often than not some semblance of demarcation have been retained though strictly speaking it would not be wrong to reestablish some of the symbolic tools of the past in a time when the understanding of the Mass and what (or rather Who!) the Eucharist is has been lost.


In this world nothing seems to make something more beautiful than death. We are motivated to move forward because we are running out of time. If we lived forever on earth would we be in such a big hurry to remodel the bathroom? “We are going to be here for centuries, let’s wait till the next millennium. Please pass the cheesepuffs and the remote.”

It also motivates us to appreciate things. Spring flowers are such an appreciated show because in a couple of weeks they will be gone for another year. So we go for a walk, stop, look, and mark them as special since their beauty is so fleeting.

Food is like that too – or rather was until we discovered ways to have fresh fruits and vegetables year round. How much more luscious was that apple or that tomato when it was only able to be eaten fresh and raw in its season. Now we take for granted that we can have such food stuffs year round.

Youth grab the day with gusto and bleed every moment from a free summer day because to them the day is short and will soon die and it will be time to go to bed. The older one gets the more beautiful life looks because we realize not how short the day is, but how short life is.

Stop today and appreciate something that whizzes past your radar screen because whatever it is just always seems to be there and there will always be time to appreciate it. As we have discovered in our diocese, parishes may not be forever. Our homes, humble as they may be, provide shelter and has housed so many of our life’s events. The person who provides a service for you everyday like the postman could be thanked in a special way. A prayer of appreciation could be offered for your car that started today and every day of the last few years even in cold winter days like today.

The people that you live with everyday and are so easily assumed that they should know that you love them need to be reminded now and then as well as we needing to remember that we love them. There’s the dog that hasn’t been played with in a while, the person that may have not been called during this busy time, the grand oak in the yard, or the piece of art that was purchased that has not been contemplated for a spell.

These are all gifts and there are many more of them waiting to be reopened in this advent season once again.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009


In grade school (public) I remember being taught that the world would soon be overpopulated and that the one hope we had for food enough to feed all of us was farming in the sea. A horrible prospect for me since I do not like anything that comes out of the water. Even the cow has fallen into the water before it is eaten it is preferred that we get another cow for fear that it might taste or smell like fish.

On You Tube you can find any number of dire predictions about world over population. Here is an example of one:

Though this may be the popular view of the world it is not the world as seen by the Vatican. In his talk at the First Friday Club in Akron, John Allen, CNN Senior Vatican Analyst, reports how the world population is seen by Pope Benedict.

We are a population in decline. The world now has about 7.6 billion people in it. By mid century we will peak at 9 billion people and then it will fall. This is not theory, it is a deadlock mathematical certainty.

There is not one European country that is reproducing itself. Not one. By the end of the century Europe will lose about one third of its population and event that will reduce Europe’s population percentage wise to an extent worse than the Black Plague. As European countries have far more strict immigration laws than the United States, this number will not be made up through immigration.

Much the same could be said of North America though it will be a slower decline. But even so, our fastest growing demographic is not Hispanics or any other nationality that might be on your radar screen, but the 65+ group. The northern hemisphere will get older and smaller while the southern will stay young.

What does this mean for the future of the Church? It means less and less that the United States will have any great influence on the movement of the Church of which we make up about 6% currently. It means that the far more conservative south will start having a much greater say in the direction of Church affairs. It means that the healthy parish of the future will not be a parish full of 14 year olds but 65+ year olds who will become the new 40. (Nice to know.)

The following comment is not from Mr. Allen but from my own deduction: But within our shrinking demographic who will remain a growing percentage of Catholics? Those who believe in larger families, those who do not abort, those who do not abuse contraception, those who uphold the sanctity of marriage. An interesting outcome no?
This is all not to say that there are not problems that need attention in our world as far as how we treat the environment or how we share resources. This is presented as how this phenomena will effect the future of the Church,.

You can listen to John Allen’s talk and all First Friday presentations here.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009


FINDING TRUTH WHEREVER IT MAY BE FOUND: “Truth by its nature is intolerant. It is charitable, merciful, pastoral, and we must be willing to die for it.” Patrick Bline with a head nod to G. K. Chesterton.

QUOTE II: “Sometimes it’s easier to be a lemming than a leader.” from Scott Hahn’s “A Father Who Keeps His Promises”


The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops want to assist you in keeping Christ in Christmas. They have a website with prayers and activities for you and your family for advent and Christmas here.

DON'T FORGET TODAY IS THE FEAST OF THE IMMACULATE CONCEPTION - A HOLY DAY OF OBLIGATION! What a joy that we as a nation and as Catholics come together on this day to pray for our nation through Mary under the title of the Immaculate Conception. There is one Mass left at St. Sebastian Parish today at 7PM. The Cross Roads initiative provides this post on a homily by St. Anselm on the importance of this day.

Here's a little game to play. If you think about it for a moment you will be able to figure out how it's done. Thanks for sending it in Jim.

The Diocese of Cleveland Enewsletter reports, "The Missale Romanum (the Roman Missal), the ritual text for the celebration of the Mass, was first promulgated by Pope Paul VI in 1970 as the definitive text of the reformed liturgy of the Second Vatican Council. A second edition followed in 1975." They provide this link to page three of the diocesan memorandum for further information.

From AA's correspondent in Rome we receive news of this new site which was launched on December 1st. Fr. O reports, "This is a new online magazine that offers articles from Jesuits who are committed to orthodox teaching. There are two guys from the Biblicum on their editorial board (John Gavin and Jim Swetnam), and I can attest that they are priests of the highest caliber. Both of them teach Biblical Greek there (Swetnam is retired). Gavin is also well versed in Patristics, and Swetnam has spent much of his life studying Priesthood in the Letter to the Hebrews. They asked if we could get the word out to any "orthodox bloggers" that we knew." So here it is! Enjoy!

The music director at the seminary once told the story of a host of a dinner at which the former director of the Cleveland Orchestra, Christofh Von Dohnanyi, was invited. The host happened to mention that his lovely wife was taking up the accordion to which Mr. Dohnanyi replied, "Why?" To answer that question this video is presented courtesy of Fr. O.

W. sent a note about a post on "What Does This Prayer Really Say" concerning how to save a Catholic School. Thanks!

Monday, December 7, 2009


Let this story act as a lesson for you. Forewarned is forearmed.

This has been a busy week of interesting things. But there is one thing that sticks out. A friend of mine feeling poorly that he cannot come to my installation tonight stopped by on the weekend to help with projects around the parish. He is my Christmas Councilor. If you are heavily involved with your parish you know that Christmas begins in September. Masses are planned, the choir is already practicing its music, people want to know about decorations so the appropriate items might be ordered, so forth and so on.

Of course stores are already well into preparing for the holy day (or the season greeting day) and although they do not go all out in earnest until after Thanksgiving they have already had all the signs of the impending spending spree decorating their buildings and advertisements.

Through all of this the church scrupulously avoids any sign of celebrating Christmas. Why? Because it is not Christmas! It’s advent. Christmas begins on December 25th, not ends! Yet on December 27th (giving a day for people to make returns or buy a present they forgot) the store decorations are down and the music is changed and St. Valentine’s Day decorations are put out.

Now so your parish, not so! For we are finally singing “Joy to the World” and “Hark Harold the Angel Sings” and will continue to do so for the next few weeks. Our homilies will be Christmasy in nature. So between the secular world and the ecclesial world Christmas can be stretched out for MONTHS. This is why some people such as myself think that we should skip Christmas every other year.

Fortunately I have a Christmas councilor who talks me through it, making sure that I build the proper cheer of the season and carefully observe all of the Christmas brouhaha for which I am truly grateful. So this past weekend we he stopped by we went to the tree farm to get a Christmas tree for the rectory. We are not putting it up yet – it’s just here getting ready to go.

Mom always said that a tree needs to sit in the garage for a week before it is brought into the house. She never said why – just that. The why I learned this past weekend. When the man picked up the tree a mouse ran out of it. When he went to chop of the bottom for us, another mouse ran out of it. So I told him to shake it well which he did – and guess what. 3’s company.

Back at the rectory we opened the tailgate and found we had a new resident here at the parish. It’s so hard living so far away from your brothers and sisters. I hope he decided to head home for the holidays and by that I do not mean back in the tree.

Subsequently I am following my mother’s advice and the tree shall sit out for a week before we bring it in after which it will have to pass the Three Priests Vigorously Shaking It test in order to come inside. I’m sure there is a cute story about the mouse that got to spend Christmas in the rectory brewing here – but I prefer to keep that in the realm of fiction.

Friday, December 4, 2009


Today’s architecture piece de jure is the Baldacchino (pronounced Bald – as in what I am – ah – keenoe). The most famous of these is the one in Saint Peter Basilica in Rome designed by Bernini. It is a canopy held up by four pillars intended to be a covering over the altar of sacrifice in order to give it honor and to draw one’s attention to it. Once in common use in the Church (though not universally) the baldacchino has since fallen on hard times. If you are from an older parish and it has not been ripped out entirely it usually sits behind the current altar hopefully finding some use as a canopy of honor over the tabernacle.

Throughout history objects and person of distinction have been marked by such canopies usually made of cloth and poles. The Church eventually adopted this practice to show honor to persons, oft times over the pulpit, over the tabernacle and altar of sacrifice, or over the seat of a bishop for example.

The trend in the Church (because of fewer priests) seems to be toward making mega-parishes that seat a thousand plus. There is also the trend with mixed results over fanned seating or even circular seating. A little three by six altar could get loss in this large space where there is competition for focus. We may be poised to bring back the service of the baldacchino once again.

Here is an excellent article on the baldacchino.

Along the same lines is a tester. It is a flat canopy over an altar and sometimes over a pulpit where it can also serve as a sounding board to help push sound out. It can be part of the ceiling (as it is at Saint Sebastian) or suspended by chains or jutting out of the back wall. It serves much the same purpose as the baldacchino and since it does not require the blocked view that a pillar might cause it may be even more suited for modern church buildings.

Here is another great glossary on church architecture.