Friday, January 30, 2009


When you are defying a person, one thing you might do is stand up as straight as possible and do your best to look down at the person. When paying respect or honoring, you stand erect as slouching shows some contempt or disregard. Standing erect means I am listening and ready to act as you wish. When giving deference we bow. The bow by an actor during the applause at the end of the play means, “Oh, no! Really, Thank YOU. You are too, too kind.” Curtseys and bows are still done in rare and incidents thought it equally rarely fails to charm. It is a physical gesture that shows how honored you are by the person’s presence before you. I think I am glad it is a rare thing. Unlike the word “love” it will not lose its meaning by over and frivolous use.

Catholics are called to bow to such honored personages and theological wonders, some by decree and some by tradition. A simple bow (in which the head is slightly inclined) is called particularly during formal liturgies whenever the Trinity is named, the name of Jesus is said, the Blessed Virgin, or the saint of the day. A bow is also our custom when approaching the Blessed Sacrament when receiving Him in communion, though some prefer the more profound bow. A profound bow (from the waist) is also called for during the Creed at the lines, “By the power of the Holy Spirit He was born of the Virgin Mary and became man.” This is such an awesome concept, one that should never cease to amaze us, and so we mark it by this solemn gesture. When the Creed is sung and on some certain occasions such as Christmas, the bow is replaced by a genuflection.

When there is no Blessed Sacrament in a church, or when the tabernacle just happens to be empty for some reason, instead of genuflecting before entering your pew, one should make a profound bow to the altar which is then the primary symbol of Christ in the church.

By custom rather than by regulation is the bowing of one’s head whenever a Catholic Church is passed. Within the doors of that honored edifice is the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Our Lord Jesus Christ. It is not only a sign of respect for Him it helps remind us of His presence there.

(Hi Pat. I talked to Frank today. Have a great one.)

Wednesday, January 28, 2009


God works in mysterious way. This summer found me alone at the Stratford Shakespeare Festival. A friend was suppose to accompany me but that week he was assigned to a new parish and it seemed rather cheeky to walk in and say, “Hi” to everyone followed by, “I’m leaving on vacation tomorrow.” Though it was nice to be alone for a change around the last day I was talking to God and saying that it would be swell to have someone to have dinner with one night but Oh well. As it turned out I received a parking ticket that day (I forgot to put a quarter in the meter – so it cost me $8) which meant that I was walking down the street to go to the courthouse when I would not normally do so. Sitting out at a sidewalk cafĂ© was man in his clerics drinking a cup of coffee. It turns out he was from England and he had locked himself out of the rectory at which he was staying and so he decided to wait until the resident priest was going to return. He would not have been sitting out having coffee nor wearing his clerics otherwise. I gave him a greeting and as it turns out he too was traveling solo and wanted to go that evening to the very play for which I had an extra ticket owing to my friend not being there. Guardian angels must have been working overtime on that one.

After the show he invited me to dinner as a gesture of thanks. The food came rather quickly which prompted me to comment to the waiter, “Wow, that was quick.” He responded, “We don’t want to waste your time.”

Father Paul burst out laughing. “You Americans! You would never hear something like that in England. It is expected that meals are to be enjoyed at one’s leisure,” or something along those lines. This led to a discussion of other things that are different between our two countries. Perhaps the one I found most interesting was the way vocation promotion was handled in each of our dioceses. Fr. Paul was the director of vocations for his diocese. He was commenting on the clip from the Diocese of New York entitled, “Fishers of Men.” You can see it below if you’ve not seen it before.

It seems that they were rather undone about. “It seemed to us to somewhat incongruous with our notion of priesthood.” We Americans are attracted to the idea of the hero priest, willing to risk all to bring the sacraments to whomever may need them. The scene in the movie of the man racing to the scene of an accident to anoint the injured man simply does not speak to them. Of course my question was what then does speak to them. Their idea of priesthood, if I read him correctly, is a bit more genteel, more focus on presence and ministering to people quietly and intimately. Our two priesthoods together would make an interesting version of the “Odd Couple.”

Be that as it may he reports that their seminary is fairly healthy with seminarians. I am happy to report the same here in Cleveland. Maybe America just needs Fr. John Wayne.

“May Almighty God bless you pilgrim.”

It is a big Church.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009


We have been studiously trying to be EC (ecclesially correct) when printing the name of our – er – parish. Instead of “Saint Sebastian Church” we have been using the more eccesially correct “Saint Sebastian Parish” or “Parish of Saint Sebastian.” This is because there is the “Christian Church” and there is the “Roman Catholic Church”, the Eastern Churches, and the local Churches or dioceses, but an individual parish is not a Church in and of itself. It is a Church under a bishop.

Now, being a good priest I usually smile and nod at such things and implement them with the thought that, well, there must be some good reason though it escapes me how this might keep someone in purgatory very long.

Then today, well, actually yesterday I was driving through a local University Campus. At one edge of the campus is a large (locally) well known Catholic church and at the other a very large and popular Protestant mega church. Sitting at a red light in front of the large building it struck me that here is a Church. This Church consists of this particular building and another campus some distance away. So in essence, if we are inclined to compare, this is Rome for them.

Now, I am willing to admit that for most other things I would praise this kind of enterprise. I don’t know what makes me sadder: that I can eat and shop in the exact same establishments in any city in the western world or that people do it. If I travel I want to experience being away and that means local foods and experiences. But I can go just about anywhere and eat at a McDonalds, shop at a Gap, and stay at a Quality Inn and know already what the interior is going to look like and that there will be a small pool and work out room. There’s adventure for you.

I don’t feel that way about faith, truth, and traffic laws. If I made a turn on red in Alabama I want to be able to do the same thing Idaho. And if truth is that the bread and wine become the Body and Blood in Ontario, it should be the same thing in Michigan.

So I started thinking about the college students who attended this Church and wondered what they did when they went home. Did they research to find another Church that teaches the same truth? Settle for one that was close? Figure a Church is a Church? Settle for less than?

What kind of questions does this bring up about Christ's promise about the Church and how his Holy Spirit would guide and keep it from error. There are many Churches out there teaching opposite things. They may not care but I feel for them. The research they must do to find truth among all the Churches, the decisions they must make, the searches they must endure when they move or when their particular Church changes its teaching!

Then the light turned green and I proceeded eventually passing the Catholic Church allowing me to be thankful that I have found and believe in the Bark of Peter, the Rock, the Church founded by Christ to stand firm for all ages, for all people, everywhere, and that if I go to Mass at a parish in Timbuktu or Harare it is the Mass, it is the Mass, it is the Mass. Something I do not like with hamburgers, but am exceedingly thankful for with the Bread of Life.

Monday, January 26, 2009


FINDING TRUTH WHEREVER IT MAY BE FOUND: "Think before you pray. Habits without faith can become lifeless, outward practices that a person fulfills only to get on with the rest of life. . . . Even before an opening invocation asking God's help, I find it helpful to pause and recall whom I am speaking with. . . .[then] I am more able to pray and not just say words." Fr. Bob Franco h/t to Pat.

QUOTE NUMBER II: "Unfortunately, we too often have difficulty in loving our enemies because we are afraid they might repent." L. Gregory Jones


MARK YOUR CALENDARS! On Sunday March 15th a play about Hillaire Belloc will be coming to Zwisler Hall here at Saint Sebastian at 1:00. Please come if you are available! It should prove quite an afternoon. More information to follow.

I think this is phenomenal! The Vatican has launched its own Youtube channel! Way to go big guy!

Timothy sent this in. It asks the question, "Was the Star of Bethlehem a real astronomical event? A myth created by the early church? Explore the history and science for yourself..." You will also have to decide for yourself the scientific value of the site but it is fun.


Kay sent this in: "I received this email from Sr. Marie Paule from the Trinitarian Order in Bristol, PA. This Tuesday, January 27th, is a Barnes & Noble Book Fair for St. Anne's School, where some of the Sisters teach. If you need any books or just want to browse, when you buy a book from Barnes & Noble, even buying on-line, some of the proceeds will go to the school. Just present this number when buying your books: 469965 Every penny helps - so even if you need a new bookmark or a small booklet - present the number and help the Trinitarians. Thanks!!"

The Diocese of Cleveland Enewsletter reports, "VATICAN CITY, 21 JAN 2009 (VIS) - Made public yesterday afternoon was a telegram from Benedict XVI to Barack Obama, congratulating him on his inauguration as forty-fourth president of the United States of America." Read more here.

Let the heavens rejoice. It's time for Catholic Carnival 108! Thank you Jay for keeping this up!

Fr. F. sent this in for laughs: "Here is a complaint letter written by a passenger on a Virgin Airlines flight that literally had me laughing non-stop at my desk while reading it. I wish I would have written it. Those of you who like writing letters will find this especially good. Enjoy."

Sunday, January 25, 2009


Sunday morning at Mass somebody handed me a program from The Cleveland Orchestra saying that they had gone to Severence the night before and thought the program stunning. As it turned out, because of a friend from my last assignment who is a singer with the Cleveland Orchestra Chorus I had tickets to the rehearsal the Wednesday before. They have the briefest of programs for the rehearsals however and so it was nice to have the true program with some further insights into the music.

One of the pieces was the, “Glagolitic Mass” (Slavic Mass) by Leos Janacek. According to the program notes, “Glagolitic is the flowery alphabet invented by two 9th-century missionaries, Saints Cyril and Methodius, who set out to evangelize the Slavs. The Cyrillic alphabet later replaced Glagolitic. (Despite its name, the Cyrillic alphabet was the invention of one of Cyril’s followers.) Thus, the title Glagolitic Mass refers not to a language but to the earliest alphabet designed to transcribe Old Church Slavanic.” So, for example, the Lamb of God or Agnus Dei is rendered Agnece Bozij in the language that for a time in the East played a parallel role that Latin did in the West.

The rehearsals are quite a different thing to attend than a regular concert. To begin it is open seating so if you are late you could end up sitting in a seat that quite frankly is probably the best seat I could afford at a regular concert that I had to pay for and thus not great. The orchestra and choir are shorn of their tuxes and black dresses and perform in jeans and sweaters mostly. (It was fun picking out who looked like our idea of an off duty musician and who out of context like a character that walked into the wrong set of a movie shoot.) There is no clapping. But the best part by far is that you get to hear Franz Welser-Most’s notes to the orchestra after they finish a piece. Sometimes in going back over a piece he would interrupt the music and say something along the lines of, “It’s about the color!” which of course meant little to me and my sister who was able to join me, but made a wonderful difference when the piece was then repeated showing why they are professional musicians and I listen at free rehearsals.

The most interesting part was when they were fine tuning the Agnus Dei. “You must know the theology of what we are singing,” he charged, “You know this because we have done this before. Know it and sing it with expresivo or it means nothing!” This is part of the radiance of this musical ensemble’s performances.

There is another well known classical music organization that does some wonderful things. They perform every piece that they do with technical brilliance. But there seems to be a disconnect between the meaning of the texts and the hearts of the performers. This past year I purchased a CD of their performance of Handle’s Messiah. One night in advent I put it on as I ate dinner thinking it would be nice to listen to. Half way through my meal I through my fork down, stood up, pointed my finger (I can be a little dramatic – that happens when you live alone) and yelled at the infernal machine pumping out the music, “You might as well be singing about the Staypuffed Marshmallow Man’s mortal combat challenge with Frosty the Snowman!” It was like a beautiful Zombie, wonderful to behold but lacking a soul. So I switched to, “A Cool Jazz Christmas,” for at least they believed in what they were singing which always helps the digestion.

But Most’s comments have stuck with me. How true the statement is that we must know the theology of what we are saying and to proclaim it with meaning or else we are missing out on so much. We can be speaking such gorgeous words but with little soul. But when we unite both, how truly beautiful and powerful they become.

Friday, January 23, 2009


Gads KAT – What a question. People have been killed for taking a position on this topic. *sigh* Really. Between you and Rob . . .

If you missed the question by KAT she asked about the symbolism of the chapel veil and peppered the question with the tag, “in or out?” Who could imagine that a little piece of material on top of one’s head could cause so much controversy? Believe me however, it does. Since it is a topic for symbolism however, I will try to answer just the same.

What is really at the heart of the matter here is not a chapel veil but a head covering. This is based on 1 Corinthians 11:3-10,16. Here is a link to the passage with notes from the USCCB. A chapel veil was used when one was not using another type of covering such as a hat. Basically it represented a hierarchical status in symbolic form. It was in use in the church for almost 2,000 years before completely (almost) fading away in our own day.

So that is the symbolic meaning. Don’t shoot or praise the messenger. Dems de facts as I sees ‘em.

So it this a symbolic fashion do or don’t? Consider the current liturgical law in the United States about how one may receive Communion. It is (almost) entirely up to the communicant if they wish to receive Communion on the tongue or in the hand (unless you are at a papal Mass where he now will only distribute on the tongue.) Save for some specific circumstances it is canonically and liturgically improper for a priest or any other minister to dictate in what way a person may receive Communion. So I can honestly say that as long as a person receives reverently and properly I haven’t the slightest right to care which way they receive. They are clearly on the Catholic playing field, and perfectly able to make a mature decision in the matter.

Head coverings (Jimmy Akins has a good articles on it. Here is one. I find the comments section particularly thought provoking.) are absolutely NOT required by Canon Law. They are not recommended by the Church in any official way that I am able to determine. Like the “orans position” mentioned last week, they are also not forbidden. So I would assume that if you wanted to be an orans-position, chapel veil wearing Catholic, you have the right to be.

AT THE HEART OF THE PROBLEM is a strong dual symbolic interpretation system running in the Church at the moment. There are those who have a symbolic interpretation of the veil that is very negative, causing the symbolic value of the veil to actually run counter to Christ’s message. Everyone needs to be sensitive to this. Then there is the group among whom are those who have not had prior experience of such items and who have reinterpreted the symbolic meaning and value of them and see them as a boon to their spiritual journey.

So who should have the right to say which way we should go especially considering that Rome does not seem to care too terribly much one way or the other? Should it simply be left to the individual adult Catholic to make a choice on something that is on the Catholic playing field? Well, Kat, you asked for my opinion and here it is: Whatever your inclinations are you must first sit down and determine what this means to you symbolically and if it is truly helpful to your spiritual journey and the journey of those around you. Secondly, no matter what your decision you have to make sense in your heart of this Scripture passage. There are different ways of interpreting this. Our only non-option is simply to ignore it. Next, you must know and understand that not everyone is going to agree with you so decide that you are going to enact your decision with dignity, modesty, joy and charity. Be set on not judging another person by what they choose to do since we should neither be holier than Mother Church nor less holy. And since this is not a matter of prescribed Catholic practice, faith, or morals, be supportive of each other’s point of view. And bear in mind you can always change your mind.

Does that sound fair?

Thursday, January 22, 2009


Today, on the anniversary of Woe vs Wade we are reminded to pray and make an act of penance for crimes against basic human dignity, especially the killing of our citizens in the womb.


I always have and always will contend that the Catholic Church is never behind the times. She just is SO cutting edge and ahead of the curve and thusly out of people’s perception of modernity that she just SEEMS, from time to time, to be behind. Case in point, I would like to introduce you to the SAINT GEORGE (Foreman) ECCLESIAL GRILL. It was dug up from a church attic. Produced by the Andres Messmer Company of Cincinnati, Ohio (patent pending 1918) this handy little device produced the hosts for Mass. That was when it was very necessary to have Communion patens since the hosts were much more crumbly. Today’s mechanically produced hosts do not seem to create crumbs at all except for those of the most minute variety. The metal surfaces that you see here heat up, you pour on the “host batter” (which I suppose to be a simple wheat and water mixture), close the top, wait a few moments, open it up and, “Walla!”, you are ready for Mass. (Please let cool before consecrating.)

I saw a parish that had one that was similar to a “hobo pie” maker sitting next the fire place in the rectory. The host mixture was poured onto the form, the top closed over, and then it was thrust into the fire with long handles. (It must have taken forever to get the hang of that – AND they did not have Pam back then!)

Despite how modern we may feel as a society, it would not be for a number of decades before somebody would invent something similar for home making sandwiches and small steaks. And of course as we tend to secularize everything, the dropped the “Saint” from the name and it is now simply known as the George Foreman Grill losing all context from its religious roots.

Too bad.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009


Thanks to CK for guest blogging today!

There are a lot of things I learned about my faith from peeking in scary old books that belonged to my uncle who was a priest (he passed away when I was little). One of the most valuable things I read was that our feelings are not necessarily true reflections of our souls. I’m pretty sure most people don’t believe that.

Doesn’t seem when you’re depressed that somehow you’ve incurred the wrath of God? Or that when you’re confused that God has abandoned you, just as you “know” you deserve? Haven’t you ever felt downright gleeful doing something you know is wrong? Or looked back on a time in your life that makes you cringe, but at the time your conscience was comfortably napping?

Isn’t amazing how quickly we can rationalize the evil we want to do? That somehow our situation is special? “The love I feel for this man/woman is more real than anything I have ever felt – so what if they’re married.”

“Follow your heart” is the new modern mantra. And human beings will blithely ignore facts when feelings are stronger than their reasoning.

I recently read an old pamphlet written by Margaret Sanger, the foundress of Planned Parenthood, and was surprised to find her words pulling at my heartstrings as she sympathized with the trials in women’s lives. How many women have let their feelings drive them to cheerfully support the Culture of Death? Or to ignore the obvious fact that that ultrasound is indeed of a baby?

I once read of an apparition that gained a popular following and that inspired many conversions…until the visionary declared himself pope! Some of his followers recoiled in horror, but some couldn’t pull themselves away. They had an ‘experience’ there. It ‘felt’ so real! In one swoop the devil chopped off an arm of the Church.

Feelings aren’t bad in and of themselves. God gives them all the time, and sometimes we really can’t help them. But feelings need to take a back seat to truth, reality, or just ordinary prudence.

I think we all hear God speak in that still, small voice at times, or have things happen that we feel isn’t coincidence. We ask, “Was that a message from heaven?” Frankly, that question doesn’t matter to me. I ask, “Am I thinking with the mind of the Church?” or “Is what I want to do a good thing?” “Is it in keeping with the Ten Commandments?” Humility and obedience need to guide us. If we let intensity of experience be the judge, then we have set up a false god in our hearts.

Sometimes I find I have shove feelings aside and make myself a little emotionally “stupid” or my fears will prevent me from doing anything daring. I imagine if any priest could truly grasp what it was he was doing at the consecration of the Mass, he’d be paralyzed.

Negative feelings aren’t always bad – they drive people to confessionals all the time. But our feelings don’t always speak the truth. Mother Teresa spent 45 years feeling rejected by God even though she was clearly a saint. Courage, patience, and surrender are things we may possess without “feeling” them. And even if we do ache for certain spiritual gifts, we may be expecting now what might take a lifetime to achieve. Even after all these years I still get cranky when it’s time to fast or say the rosary. These contrary feelings enhance rather than detract from the value of our efforts, but they make us “feel” like virtue is hopeless for us.

We have to trust God and His Church even when holiness feels dry or mundane. But having said all this, it’s nice to know that sometimes intense feelings are right on the mark - like the relief of a good confession or the sweetness of communion well received. Or the feeling I have rambled on long enough. Have a good one guys.

Monday, January 19, 2009


FINDING TRUTH WHEREVER IT MAY BE FOUND: "Any person seeking consolation wants not a priest who has super strength, all the answers and solutions and possesses all qualities, but a priest who listenes . . . And who can listen? Someone who has knowns and loved with weaknesses and woundedness . . . someone who allows himself to be poor and who in the face of weakness hasinfinite confidence in the source of strength and healing, namely Christ . . . These are they who truly listen, who truly intercede . . . These are the wounded healers of the Church." Avery Cardinal Dulles.

QUOTE II: ". . . I think that to turn the Catholic religion into something dull is practically unforgivable." William Oddie in Gilbert Magazine


HAPPY FEAST OF SAINT SEBASTIAN! I found this picture in a book from the late 1800's in the rectory:

This is a picture of the Basilica of Saint Sebastian purchased by Fr. K and which hangs in the rectory. Look closely at the reflection and you'll see me taking the picture. If you are interested here is what the basilica looks like today. Not much different!

Fr. D. sent this in for those who may be struggling with porn. He writes, "I read a couple of eye-opening articles recently about the staggering numbers of people whose lives are being ruined by porn . . . One of the articles I read directed me to a website that I had never heard of before: It's a site designed to help folks who are struggling with addictions, and even reaches out to those in the adult film industry and works to bring them healing and conversion. It's one of the best resources I've come across on this issue, and I am passing it on to you because all of you are in a position where you might be able to help some folks by directing them to this site. Those of you who write pastors columns or edit bulletins might think of sharing this site with parishioners. Those of you who work with young people can use this site in catechesis and conversations. It also may be very useful to confessors and counselors. I know this won't solve the problem, but it is good to know that there's some help out there for our people who might need it." Thanks for sending that in.

Here is a second site that also might help.

O by gum by golly, it's time for Catholic Carnival 206 and Catholic Carnival 207!

The Diocese of Cleveland Enewsletter writes, "Urgent: Post Card Campaign To Oppose The Freedom of Choice Act!Heightened attention is aroused by President-elect Barack Obama's reported statement that he would look forward to signing the Freedom of Choice Act (FOCA), which is currently in Congress awaiting passage. Read the complete "Legislative Hot Line - January 7, 2009">. Those in the Diocese of Cleveland can look here to see who to write to parish by parish.

Here's a Catholic spin on the inauguration:

Sunday, January 18, 2009


Welcome back reader!

Ah . . . retreat was great. This particular retreat is for priests only given by Fr. Benedict Groeschel at Trinity Retreat in New York. A typical day includes about four conferences, Liturgy of the Hours, Mass, Holy Hour, and a fellowship hour.

Of course there was the afternoon break which afforded time for a long walk. Fr. B and I usually headed out toward the business district where Saint Augustine Parish is located. There we would go in to talk things over with Jesus for a little spell and light a candle. I love this little ritual/devotion and feel sorry for Catholics where lighting candles is not an option for those who get some spiritual benefit from it. I was disappointed however to see that they had replaced some of the candle racks with light bulb racks. If you put in a quarter, complicated circuitry would switch on a small light bulb disguised as a candle for some unspecified amount of time. (There is something terribly tidy and practical about this so I passed these by and went to the dirty and high maintenance candles by the sanctuary.)

Apropos of nothing, on one of the walks I took this picture. Just thought it was neat and so share it with you.

Anyway, one of my goals on this retreat was to concentrate on how God is changing my ministry now that I have been named an administrator. One evening after dinner Fr. Groeschel made himself available for private conferences and confession. During my time with him I asked him for any advice he might have for a new administrator.

He admitted that he has never been a pastor. “What a beautiful word: Pastor.” (This was not the time to interupted and clarify that I am an administrator.) Pastor is a beautiful word. Ultimately it is a relationship: a specific relationship. It is a relationship with a very particular group of people known as a parish, it a relationship with a bishop whose representative you are, there is a unique relationship with the greater Church and people in general. He called it being a gatekeeper. The example was given that in New York people do not stop someone on the street and ask them anything, but there are certain gatekeepers which you can with some amount of comfort. Priests and religious who wear identifiable garb are examples of these. Given a random group of people on a busy street corner priests and religious, for a great number of people, are the “go to” people with whom a stranger can feel comfortable. At least I’ve found that true in my life. And finally there is the special relationship that you have with Christ in whom you act as Persona Christi.

All this being said, C. K. asked me just before I left on retreat to post all the reasons to became a priest. There are so many answers one can give from the sublime, to the practical, to the silly. But on this retreat I think I narrowed it down to only one: Is this the life to which you are called? Is God calling you into this particular relationship with Him and His people?

I have shared with you before the sadness of the stories I have heard over the years. Men especially who said they should have never married and how they wish they would have taken their call to the priesthood more seriously. (The converse is also true.) I cringe when I hear of a parent who tries discourage their son or daughter from the priestly or religious life. What if that is what they are called to? Despite the intention a parent might have to save their child from something that they do not value, they may be setting them up for a life of discontent. And a vocational discontentment effects not only the person, but all those who surround the person: those nearest and dearest.

So, the best reason to become a priest? Because you are called to it. I know I would not change it for the world. I wonder if I have grown to love it so or if my disposition and joy are geared toward it. That is hard to tell. But forced to start all over again, I have no doubt but that I would make the same decision if the Church would have me again, for anything else would always be second choice for me.

Saturday, January 10, 2009


Just in time for the worst winter storm of the season I am leaving on retreat so there will not be any posts this week. Thank you for stopping by though! Please come back next week. In the mean time here are some pictures I took on Saturday:
This is the view out my window. Can't wait to drive though this!

This is a giant snow donut on top of a large cup of coffee (a trash can.) I can dream can't I?

Mary tries the latest Parish fashion: Tall hats and white, fluffy wraps.

Friday, January 9, 2009


So Rob asked about the orans position at prayer which I thought would be a quick and relatively uncomplicated thing to report on this week, but such is not the case. It has been a minor matter of controversy in our diocese as of late as it at least appeared to a great number of us (this was later refuted by the person who it appeared was promoting it) that the laity was expected to assume this position while saying the Our Father at the Mass (which we will visit again in a moment.) At least it broke us from the habit of holding hands which was a controversy in and of itself among those who hated it, those who simply found it ritually improper, and those who thought that it was the gesture that would save the Church.

The orans position is an ancient posture of prayer. One stands with arms outstretched and having the palms of one’s hands facing toward the heavens. It is found in Exodus (17;11,12) as well as other places in Scripture. It is also found in art in the catacombs as a position of prayer. One’s body is open to God, offering one’s self as Christ did on the Cross, giving God glory and praise. But the depiction is not necessarily that of person buried there evidenced from the figure adopting this position sometimes being a female though the person buried is male. It is a symbol of the soul of the person praying for us in heaven. The Catholic Encyclopedia sites as “one of the most convincing proofs that the Orans was regarded as a symbol of the soul is an ancient lead medal in the Vatican Museum showing the martyr, St. Lawrence, under torture, while his soul, in the form of a female Orans, is just leaving the body.”

Liturgically it is the role of the priest when he is praying to God on behalf of the gathered Body of Christ. For example at the Collect when, after invoking the people to call to mind that which they want remembered at the Mass by saying, “Let us pray,” he then “collects” the prayers into one by stretching out his hands to God and offering all of the gathered prayers to the Father. Seen in this light we can understand how the gesture has become the gesture of the celebrant. It is interesting to note that the symbolic meaning of the position is such that the deacon may not assume this position during the Mass.

THAT BEING SAID, the gesture has become popularized in recent ages largely through the charismatic movement. As we have seen it is a legitimate position for private prayer. But does it fit at the liturgy? It is a more controversial and complicated symbolic question than one might think. Colin Donivan, STL puts it this way:

“The intention for lay people using the Orans position at this time is, I suppose, that we pray Our Father, and the unity of people and priest together is expressed by this common gesture of prayer. Although this gesture is not called for in the rubrics, it does at least seem, on the surface, to not be in conflict with the sacramental sign system at the point when we pray Our Father. I say on the surface, however, since while lay people are doing this the deacon, whose postures are governed by the rubrics, may not do it. So, we have the awkward disunity created by the priest making an appropriate liturgical gesture in accordance with the rubrics, the deacon not making the same gesture in accordance with the rubrics, some laity making the same gesture as the priest not in accordance with the rubrics, and other laity not making the gesture (for various reasons, including knowing it is not part of their liturgical role). In the end, the desire of the Church for liturgical unity is defeated.”

Oh, leave it to Rob to come with such a question . . .

Thursday, January 8, 2009


I used to work backstage in theater quite a bit before entering the seminary. Every once in a while someone would want to come backstage to meet one of the actors with whom they fell in love during the course of the evening. They would come to the door with bright eyes, shallow breathing, and deep passion. There were many occasions that I would try to dissuade them from seeking the idol of their dreams. “Go home with fantasy of the person you fell in love with,” I might say. Ah, but passion is often times not to be reasoned with and it takes no hints. So, giving in to the pressure of ardent begging their dream was fetched for them.

Quite often the person so fetched and the character portrayed on the stage were quite different people. One might be serious, strong, and brave on stage and the flighty, loud, and free from normal constraints of behavior off. So there was the inevitable crest falling of the face and the brave effort to still smile and have some spirit of flattery for the actor a that moment ago they were willing to stake the rest of the life in marriage with but now just wish to go home.

Though they had spent two hours with the person, they met a fantasy. They may know what the person who played the role looked like but they did not know the person. They did not love a person, they loved an illusion.

That is part of the problem – sin of you will – of pornography. It is not that too much of the person is exposed to you it is that that not enough of the person is. Here we find the difference between love (Scriptural love) and lust. Love seeks to give and lust seeks to take. In porn, an image of a person is taken completely apart from the soul and mind of the person, manipulated, and used to for our own personal means having nothing to do with what might be good for the other person.

“But they volunteer for it!” it might be said, “and get a paycheck! Where’s the harm?” The harm is wide reaching. Just because somebody chooses to degrade themselves does not make it alright for a Christian to participate in the degradation. (Because somebody wants to kill themselves or have an abortion or otherwise degrade themselves does not make Christian support of it Okay.) Next is our training of ourselves that there are certain persons, times, and places in which I might treat another human being without all of the dignity God wishes them to have. (A person who is nice to you but not nice to the waiter is not a nice person.) And lastly, even viewing “free porn” shows the producers of such soul rot that there is a market for such things and keeps the production in high gear and available to our children, the next generation of users.

“So, if you do not like it, turn it off.” It would be a swell thing if everyone could here confessions for a year. The seemingly easy mandate, “So turn it off,” would be exposed for the clap trap that it is. There is no freedom in porn – not for the producers, not for the “actors”, and definitely not for the viewers who wish terribly to be away from it forever.

The call is to love real people, appreciate real people, and extend dignity to all persons regardless of their desire to be respected, loved, and treated with dignity.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009


There are two major mistakes that people make when they fighting personal vices especially in matters of chastity. They are to be avoided at all costs for any number of reasons the most important of them being that they do not work and that they can be at least mildly heretical.

The first extreme involves the idea that, “I’m going to get all cleaned up and then I will come back to God and ask for forgiveness,” or even if one is inclined already to confession they have in their mind, “I am going to beat this FOR God.” Christopher West refers to this as “White Knuckling It.” “If I try really, really hard I will beat sin on my own!” If this were even possible we would not have needed a Savior. We are in a relationship with God a kin to a marriage. We would not say to our spouse, “I’m going to work on our relationship and then I will return to you and we will live happily ever after.” No, you work on your relationship together each aiding the other in his need.

In a like manner God does not expect, desire, or even consider that we could become saints on our own. He desires all of us, warts, bald spots, and all, not just the pretty parts. He loves us for better or for worse, good times and bad, sickness and health. We should not even try to hide or protect or deny Him access to any part of us – particularly those parts that need His healing!

The other extreme are those who cry out to God to simply take some disordered desire away from them. On the surface this seems like a reasonable enough request. “I want God want, Who I want to love above all else, to take away from me this possibility to love something else more than Him.” Yet if all of our inordinate desires were simply whisked away from us, if we had no choice but to love God, we ironically would not really love Him at all. In order to love one must have free will. If one has free will one must be able to not-love for it is only to the degree that one can not-love that one can love.

So the second step to healing (the first was to realize that healing needed to take place) is to find the right path. The right path is neither “white knuckling it” nor having our problem annihilated. The Christian’s path lies directly between these two and involves recognizing and engaging our true relationship with our God. We, the Church, are the bride and Christ is the Bridegroom and we tackle the difficulties in our relationship together. Before, during, and after every temptation to stray from our Divine Spouse we implore His assistance. He wants to help us and waits for our invitation. We need not be mavericks nor puppets on a string, but partners on our path to holiness and salvation. As Julian of Norwich explains to us that when we entrust God with our whole selves in this way, God, Who is all powerful, then can use that which is damaged in us to bring us more closely to Himself by having the very thing that is designed to pull us further away from Him actually catapult us more deeply into His heart. Such is the power and wonder of God and the frustration of the Devil!

Jumping on the right path may not get you home overnight, but at least now you will be on the right path and the possibility of getting home is greater than it was before.

Monday, January 5, 2009


FINDING TRUTH WHEREVER IT MAY BE FOUND: “Tolerance: To respect truth wherever it may be found.” from Blessed Columba Marmon’s “Christ, the Ideal of the Priest”

QUOTE II: “One commentator at the time claimed modern architecture had caused more damage to London than the Luftwaffe.” from Moyra Doorly’s, “No Place for God.”


O rapture! O bliss! It is time for Catholic Carnival 205!

M. J. Sent in this great game. "See if you can solve sixty-two brainteasing word games! It's in multiple choice format, so click as soon as you know the answer to keep your time down. If you're fast enough, you might even make it into the Hall of Fame." WARNING: Addiction level LOW. But make sure you have a little time.

The Diocese of Cleveland Enewsletter asks, "Did you know the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, located in Washington D.C., is the largest Roman Catholic church in the United States and North America, and is one of the ten largest churches in the world?" You can visit the website here.

It was a dark and foggy night two nights ago. An interesting time for taking pictures around the parish.

It is with embarrassment that this is being announced after such a long time but back in early December Heather from The Practicing Catholic was so kind as to honor me with the Catholic Scribbler Award. Thank you so very much! The rules for the award are at the bottom of this post.
Here are the blogs that I would like to award this too:

Of course, we must start with Adoro over at Adoro Te Devote. Honest, Funny, and always very Catholic and a strong supporter of priests and those who need prayer. Blessings to you!

Next up is a fellow priest and all around swell person, Fr. Schnippel at Called by Name. Being a vocations director is no easy job and I have a lot of respect for anyone who does it. But on top of that he keeps up a blog to encourage all of us but especially those considering a vocation. Keep it up!

Uncle Jim at A Second Chance is one of the reasons Adam's Ale is still here. He is also a great support especially when this blog was getting off of the ground. If it were not for him, Adam's Ale would probably be off the wires. A great man of faith and family.

Servant and Steward is written by Fr. Zehnle who is frank, learned, and never fails to be interesting. But most importantly he has fun being Catholic. Woohoo.

I wish there were more spaces but there is only one and so Vincenzo over at Sancte Pater is given it. I just like this guy. He has a great sense of humor and is a bit of an artist with the computer. I wish I could do some of the things that he does. Thank you for blogging!

And here are the Rules of the Award:

Each Superior Scribbler must in turn pass The Award on to 5 most-deserving Bloggy Friends.
Each Superior Scribbler must link to the author & the name of the blog from whom he/she has received The Award.
Each Superior Scribbler must display The Award on his/her blog, and link to this post, which explains The Award.
Each Blogger who wins The Superior Scribbler Award must visit
this post and add his/her name to the Mr. Linky List (scroll down). That way, we’ll be able to keep up-to-date on everyone who receives This Prestigious Honor!
Each Superior Scribbler must post these rules on his/her blog.