Thursday, February 26, 2009


Libby wrote in to ask, "I was just wondering if you could answer a question of mine regarding symbols. After discussing what ancient people believed about astronomy's relation to astrology/necromancy in one of my literature classes, my teacher brought up the interesting fact that a particular cathedral in France (I can't remember its name right now, but it is one of the famous ones) has the symbols of the zodiac above a doorway and in a stained glass window. We were unable to find any explanation as to why they were placed in a cathedral like that. I was just wondering if you knew why or knew of any places we could look for the answer.”

Thanks for the question! Here in the Diocese of Cleveland we are awaiting to hear the results of our Vibrant Parish Life initiative which will determine which church buildings remain in use and which ones will close or consolidate. Everybody has their hopes that a particular building will remain for one reason or another. I do too. For artistic and symbolic worth (I know, I know, hardly a reason to keep a building going. But still . . .) one of my favorite parishes in the diocese is Saint James in Lakewood. (So many of my favorite buildings are slated for possible closure. I need a billionaire friend to keep them open as museums for me and future architects etc . . .) In the apes of this building are all the symbols of the zodiac. There are all kinds of rumors in certain circles as to what the meaning of these symbols might be. (Ah! Maybe that will be another series!) Pictures in the semi dome are all the major stars of the night sky connected by lines that make up the symbols of the zodiac.

For starters lets be clear. This has nothing to do with astrology. The Church has long condemned astrology and for very good reasons which are beyond the purview of this article. They represent two very important concepts for us. Firstly they represent the cosmos which our God created. “King of the Universe!” we call Him. It also represents time/seasons as each symbol corresponds to a month. Our great God also created time. You might recall the great Catholic hymn sung in advent, “Creator Alme Siderum” or “Creator of the Stars of Night.” (If you need a more specific and credited source see, Sings and Symbols in Christian Art" by George Ferguson.)There is nothing mysterious being represented here. You may refer to this site which will explain that while astrology itself was set aside, it did provide us with wonderful images that we have baptized. Consider the alternative which would be an apes with a snow flake, a candy heart, a kite, rain, flowers, etc. You’ve got to admit the symbols of the zodiac are much more impressive. Especially of you are 12 years old.


There is an old saying, which I will rephrase aware that they are young readers under the age of 50, that states, “You don’t relieve yourself in your own well.” I would imagine that there are few people who are willing to dispute this. I would take it a step further. I would argue that it should also be a truism that one should not allow others to relieve themselves in your well either for the exact same reason.

This deep and aquatic reference is only tenable if everybody agrees that we are using the same well. It does not make any difference of you are only using “your side” of the well. Once your relief hits the watery reserve hidden beneath our feet, your relief becomes my anxiety. You may claim your right to use your side of the well as you see fit (it is, after all, on your side of the property line) but it effects me as it will you even though you prefer to deny that has any real and lasting impact on either of us.

Such is the trouble with the assertion of a recent Letter to the Editor in the Akron Beacon Journal. To quote the author asserts, “I am so sick and tired of hearing these people who don’t have a life of trying to tell women what they should or shouldn’t do concerning an abortion. This is a personal decision and is nobody’s business.”

This is a phrase often thrown out as a truism that is expected to be taken as obvious as the ones mentioned above. But I would caution the person on the other end of the argument from letting it pass. Here is truism that is not really all that clear. Is it true that this effects the woman and nobody else? Is it true that her decision to abort really has no effect on my side of the well? Can she keep her relief on her side of the water?

I think it would be much easier to prove that the decision to abort has a poisonous effect on society as a whole as a person’s personal decision to smoke has an effect on others in the room. It may not be as easy to quantify but it is still there.

I do wish the contraceptives and abortion worked for the betterment of society. I do! It would make my life a whole lot easier. I could say that, well, true the Church teaches this way but you know, it works, it does not effect me or society as a whole, and so knock your socks off. But I can’t. Hidden away behind all of the hype are the statistical conveniently ignored or maliciously obfuscated.

So how does that effect society as a whole? Look at our art, our movies, televisions, computers, billboards. See what is taught and reinforced in our schools. Aid from governments being held hostage to their direct intervention in family life. More and more woman treated as objects to be used and then set aside. Far from curing the problem of single parent households or youth parenting we have an explosion of it. This effects every fiber of our society. We are not islands. Our actions are not as private as we would like to believe. Just because the well is unseen or you wish not to believe it does not mean that what you pour into it is not having negative consequences for the people around you. It merely means you no longer have to deal with it. We all will have to. And not in the most pleasant of ways.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009


So Father B and I were traveling about and needed to take a room somewhere in Pennsylvania. I went to work out in the hotel exercise room and when I returned B was watching a televangelist. I think a lot of these people preaching for such a long period of time week after week. It must be difficult. But five minutes into it we found ourselves saying, “Please say something of substance – please say something of substance.” It was like a long drawn out joke in which a person gives too many details before the punch line. Perhaps an hour sermon (for some – others are really quite good) say as much of substance as priests (are supposed to) do in an eight minute homily.

This particular man (and I would like to emphasize that I am talking about one preacher who was unassociated with a denomination) was going through great lengths to tell people that God wants them to be successful, rich, and happy. His prayer was that this is exactly where his congregation would find itself so that others would look at them and now that God is blessing them because of their wealth and happiness show that they must have truth.

Apparently the crucifixion was lost on him.

He is far from alone in the idea that if we are good enough, if we pray enough, if we are well practicing Christians then God will give us the high life. I would want to believe this! If I were a bit more naive and thought this message possible, I would gobble it up. Why not? What would I have to lose? Why not go with the guy who promises wealth and happiness from God?

Because it is a false promise.

There are not many non-Catholic Christians out there they see the merit in redemptive suffering. It is precisely when we suffer and remain true to God that we are refined like silver in the furnace, becoming more pure, more holy, even closer to God. Love of another human being is exactly the same. A couple that never has difficulties never truly grows in love for neither must sacrifice for the other. It is exactly when sacrifice is necessary, practiced and given freely that love, which is at first tried, becomes a deeper, more mature love.

Why do we purposefully practice acts of denial, charity, and penance in this season? Exactly to train ourselves to love and focus on God. This helps us prepare for those times when trial will hit us involuntarily. This will enable to trust God to see us through difficult times – to love Him just the same and not blame Him for our woes. It is redemptive because love will be tested and found then stronger than ever.

If you need proof, contemplate His Son’s Cross, or Job, or the Virgin Mary, or the violent life and death of those closest to Jesus such as the apostles, of Saint Paul, of the Martyrs, of the missionaries, of those who stand alone in their faith, of those persecuted for believing in Him – there is a reason they are now called saints – it was not because God made them wealthy and happy in an earthly sense – but wealthy in love and full of joy even when there were tears and trials.


FINDING TRUTH WHEREVER IT MAY BE FOUND – “Shouting at an insane world is not nearly as effective as laughing at it.” Ann Colwell

QUOTE II – “Rain falls on everyone; Lighting strikes some.” from Mary Doria Russell’s, “Children of God.”


Don't forget - tomorrow is Ash Wednesday!

The Diocese of Cleveland Enewsletter reports, "With tough economic conditions impacting families, The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) "For Your Marriage" web site offers ten suggestions for romantic, low-cost dates. From planning an indoor "picnic" to "midnight bowling," the ideas can inspire couples to be creative date planners." See more here.

They also have a link for the diocesan financial report and report to the community.

You can celebrate Carnival with Catholic Carnival 212!

This is interesting - I came across this accidently and have absolutely no idea what it is attached to - but there are a few "Catholic Cartoons" at this site.

Think I never posted this:

Monday, February 23, 2009


I am willing to admit that I do not do everything that people think a priest should do. In fact, I’m willing to admit that almost no priest does every worthwhile ministry or activity that a priest “should do.” I suppose parents feel the same way when they look at the lists that experts have assembled pointing out everything that they should do so that their children don’t turn out to be deranged.

Fortunately there are some priorities that are set in stone: the Mass schedule, the liturgical calendar, the sacraments, but after that it is pretty much up to the individual priest what he is going to do with the remainder of his time from the list of things that others have called gravely important.

Perhaps one of the most neglected on many priests lists is ecumenism. This is understandable as every waking moment and of one’s day could be filled with taking care of one’s own community if you were so disposed. That does not make ecumenism unimportant, just difficult to get to.

That being said I am glad that I have been able to be in touch with some of the local religious leaders in this community though admittedly through their efforts, not so much mine. Many came to welcome me when I arrived which I found touching. One of them, a woman minister in full clerics, came from the local church that many consider the center of the AA movement stopped by to offer me advice on everything from where I might get my brakes worked on to who has the best pizza.

Recently I was able to go out to lunch with rabbi from Beth El which is located right off our property. Very kindly he called and offered to show me their space and take me out to lunch and I accepted. He greeted me at the door and with great pride showed me their buildings and worship space. Most interesting was their banquet facilities. They keep kosher there and so not only was their one kitchen that was larger than our well proportioned kitchen but a second equally as large one next to it that allowed them to keep separate foods that should not come in contact.

Then we got down to talking nitty gritty about the challenges we each face and it reminded me of a National Geographic special we watched as a family when I was small. They were filming the goings on of a family that lived in a jungle in thatched buildings on poles who spoke and odd language and dressed in clothes with which I was not familiar. The announcer said, “We will now listen into a typical evening with this family and translate for you the heretofore unknown mysteries of this people.” Then the speaking of the people in their house was heard with translations in orange letters appearing at the bottom of the screen. The first line was the most important. “Stop picking on your sister and come over right now and eat your dinner.”

I was highly disappointed. Some mystery. But it was not far from what happened between me and the rabbi. How do you keep the faith exciting for the youth? How do you help those who want to get married understand the importance and blessings of chastity? How do you help those hurt by practices of the faith? How do you let people know that God loves them so that they believe this truth? How do scrape enough money together to pay for the boiler? It was like an old Star Trek episode where there is a parallel universe where everything is the same only not at all.

That is the kind of relationship that can develop between people of different faiths when they are comfortable enough in their own faith not feel threatened. I think it is people of weak faith that must take all points to argument and war. Perhaps it is a grace that even our buildings sit peacefully side by side: a symbol of what can be achieved between people who love God and are confident in His love for them.

Friday, February 20, 2009


Someone wrote in recently (I lost the actual wire) that asked what the difference was between men and women being priests. You might find this an odd topic for Symbolic Friday but in actuality it is not. Part of the reason we have, in the Catholic Church, an all make priesthood is precisely because of the symbolic value. Now, this is not the complete reason why there is an all male priesthood (and I stress again the teaching is, in actuality, much larger) but this is an aspect of it.

We start from an understanding of the inner life of the Trinity. From the beginning God the Father gazes upon the His Son and gives all of Himself to the Son Who in turn receives this self gift of the Father and returns it the Father. The love between these two Persons of the Blessed Trinity is so strong and so palpable that it becomes a Third Person; the Holy Spirit.

We come as close as possible to living the inner life of the Trinity here on earth in the marriage covenant. This is stamped into the very creation of our bodies. The husband pledges his life and love to his wife. He does this also physically in that he gives of himself to her in the marriage bed. The wife receives this, mingles this giving with her own gift and returns it to her husband. The love between them is to be so strong and so palpable that with blessing of God, it is to be fruitful and becomes a third person; a child born into the world, a symbol of their love, the one flesh made up equally of both of them.

The number one symbol of Jesus’ care for His Church is that of bridegroom and bride. Jesus is the bridegroom and the Church is the bride. This relationship of love is to bear fruit (80, 90, and 100 fold) by the spread and growth of the kingdom. We hold that the priest, when performing the sacraments, is standing in persona Christi or in the person of Christ. It is not the priest who performs the sacrament, it is ultimately our One True Priest; Jesus Christ. To best symbolize this (keeping in mind this in only one part of larger teaching) a male person best symbolizes Christ. It has nothing to do with talent or ability or holiness but with symbolism. It is not exactly so much about Jesus' gender but what that gender symbolizes in the greater teaching. This does not make "maleness" better or worse, just this part of the equation.

Now, some people will bring up a couple of valid point to consider. The first might be that there are many other aspects to the human person that are ignored in favor of this one aspect. For example, Jesus was not European, was probably not as tall, or blue eyed, or any of the other attributes of which a person may take inventory. But we are not looking for a copy of Christ nor what would be considered incidental attributes but closer to that which is essential to the person. That I am bald or have a full head of hair is incidental to who I am as a man, but that I am male is much more essential to my being. Will we have hair in heaven when we are reunited with our glorified bodies? Who knows? But will there be gender in heaven? Though some would argue it there is much agreement that somehow this will play a factor.

Another point of consideration is that is it not our teaching that on some level we are all to be symbols of Christ in the world? Yes, that is also true. But that is considered in a much different fashion. The symbolic values change in this case. We are symbolizing a different aspect of “being Christ for others.”

This is a very simple answer to a very complicated question but I hope it invites you to explore it more deeply.

Thursday, February 19, 2009


So we are about to crash head first into lent but there are still a few days to plan what you are going to practice to enable you to grow spiritually during this season. We are called to prayer, fasting, and abstinence during these 40 days and many people will challenge themselves in these areas through a pledge to God most likely in giving up something or doing something extra. Some will fast from television reruns or pizza or going to the track. Others will pledge to do something like treat their family better, get their homework done without being told, or finally sign up for the Peace Corps. About three days into this there will be the inevitable questions on every Catholic blog and of the priest in each parish after Mass as to whether we can break our vows on Sunday or some solemnity. There will be all kinds of opinions and Mr. Akins will unbury his excellent post concerning the more technical aspects of the question.

IMHO – it all comes down to this: What was your vow? Was it “I will not torment by baby brother,” or was it, “I promise not to torment my baby brother except on Sunday?”


Every year there is a group that likes to get together and do something creative with the Stations of Cross. Usually it takes the shape of “Living Stations” or some such thing. Now, know here and now that I am not opposed to such things and from time to time actually enjoy them. Prayer is prayer and all prayer is good. It is just interesting to note however that the indulgence, which is attached to the Stations, may only be obtained if a person participating actually symbolically makes the journey with Jesus by going from station to station. Further, the indulgence is not attached to the wonderful pictures that grace our church walls but to the fourteen wooden crosses by which a picture may be hung.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009


It was a Chestertonian night. Last night was the closing of Forty Hours down in Uniontown at which I preached and after we enjoyed a truly delicious meal from the hand of our host, and then a priest friend and I retired to the coziness of Saint Sebastian rectory, had refreshments, a fire in the fireplace as well as at the tip of our noses, and discussed the wonders of the Mass into the late hours.

Fr. “O” (who was trying on that moniker and decided that it did not work) made the argument that the “Ite missa est”, aka the dismissal or, “Go, the Mass is ended” is the most important part of the Mass. I begged to differ (greatly) and accused him of speaking in hyperbole, but like a Saint Sebastian Terrier he held his patch of earth. While still maintaining that he was, perhaps, overshooting his mark (like the cow that jumped over the moon) to make his point, his ideas were still worthy.

There was a tendency, one of which I do not approve, that at the end of Mass, when the priest said, “The Mass is ended, go in peace,” the youth shouted back, “The Mass never ends!” Well, fine. It’s bad enough when priests start jockeying words around at the Liturgy but it is becoming a practice that everyone seems to enjoying the liberty – or rather – license of taking. Coming up to Communion are all kinds of answers to the declaration, “The Body of Christ.” “Yes.” “I believe.” “My Lord and my God.” “Thank you.” Even, occasionally, usually around December 25th and once in the spring, “Sure.” Sure these are all interpretation of “Amen,” but Amen means so much more than any one of these (there you’re right Fr. O) and just saying Amen does cause the priest to have to stop and interpret your answer.

“The Body of Christ.”


“I suppose that means you hold to the ancient teachings of the Church that this is the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and that you are agreeing to treat the Host as such when I hand Him to you. Or is it just that you have never been to Communion in a Catholic Church before or you have never been catechized or you are an artist which makes you dangerous and expensive as Father K was fond of saying?”

But I digress.

The Mass is not something that a Catholic does on Sunday. It is merely (HA! “merely”) the source and summit of a life lived. What was celebrated around altar is not to be left there but rather taken out into the street. Bits of the Mass should be scattered everywhere like streamers after the home team wins the homecoming game. The Mass should be strewn in our trees, tossed about our houses and workplaces like confetti. Everything we touch not only leave fingerprints and a DNA samples but traces of the Eucharist. The world should change because you went to Mass. It should be closer to Jesus. It should in some way have received some healing. Our work does not end at the dismissal but that is where it begins! And then, when we have made a thorough mess and spread the Word and Mission of Jesus around our cities and towns like good graffiti artists, we are to gather it all up again and bring it back to its source as an offering to God Who will only in turn feed us, bless us, and sent out again.

That’s what it is to celebrate and be part the Body of Christ.

Let the Church say, “Amen!”

Monday, February 16, 2009


FINDING TRUTH WHEREVER IT MAY BE FOUND - "We are sacrificing what is natural and eternal to what is morbid and temporary. If our social conditions curtail manhood and womanhood, we must alter the social conditions. We must not go quietly in a corner making men unmanly and women unwomanly, that they may fit into their fifthly and slavish civilization." Chesterton, Daily News, 4 September 1909

QUOTE II - "'Duh,' I say, the word 'duh' being one of the three innovations of the last half century that are really worth something, the other two being e-mail and all-day breakfast fast-food restaurants. I don't go to fast-food restaurants, but I like knowing that, if I did, I could get a fried-egg sandwich in the middle of the afternoon." Linda McCullough Moore in Final Dispositions.


Jolly good news here. Jay passes along the superb news that Catholic Carnival 211 is up.

My evil sister passed along this game. It is a quiz to tell you how old your brain is. Mine is 55. Which I suppose I could take to mean that I am wise beyond my years but I doubt it. Of course music was playing and I didn't quite really get the rules and, and, and. Oh shucks. Here are the rules:
1. Touch 'start'
2. Wait for the " 3, 2, 1" countdown.
3. Quickly memorize the number's positions on the screen. This may take some practice to get used to the process.
4. After the screen changes, the circles will appear without the numbers, click the circles from the smallest number to the biggest number.
5. At the end of game, the game will tell you the age of your brain.

Adoro sent this priest blog. It seems pretty interesting especially if you are considering a priestly vocation.

For those of you who did not catch it - Bishop Lennon was hospitalized this past week. It did not sound too serious and no further news has reached me yet.

Kay sent in this new Catholic blogger you might want to give a try.

Speaking of Kay or as some of you know her Lillian Marie, she came by to visit last night to inform me that she has one month until she enters the convent! (Kay is on the left.) The Trinitarians will soon have a new postulant! Woohoo! Congratulations! Please keep Kay in your prayers.
Nothing religious about this but still interesting. Frank sent this in. It is a picture of the inauguration. Notice that you can go to the group way in the back and focus clearly in on them. Makes you wonder what people can see you doing when you are not aware. There was once a picture like this taken for the Akron Beacon Journal when I was in the orchestra playing for graduation at the University of Akron. Like the Seinfeld episode it looks like I was picking my nose which I was not. But forever people will think it so.


I was very low on gas – the gas gage kept beeping at me – but there did not seem time to get gas until it was absolutely necessary. It was either stop and get gas or hook the car up to the dog and hope he could pull it (which I have little doubt that he could.) So I pull into a gas station nearby here that I had yet to patronize and got out of my car to fill up the tank. Then I hit a block. I had my credit card in hand and I just looked stupidly at the machine not being able to figure out how to insert my card. I looked up and down and around and could not find the slot. “Perhaps,” thought I, “that this is one of those older stations. They have not yet installed the credit card slip. One of those incredibly annoying places where you have to go in to the station and prepay some mysterious amount that is always results in too much or too little gas.”

Then from behind me I heard, “May I help you?” It was exactly then that I saw the sign: “Full Service Station.” And it was! Not just my pump but the whole station! Embarrassed and amazed I got back into my car and said, “Full’er up” while the attendant pumped the gas and washed – yes – washed my windows. I have not come across this in at LEAST fifteen years. I’d almost forgotten how to do it.

I was recounting this story to someone and adding some stories of how it used to be. I still have a set of Apollo glasses and some B.C. bowls from when gas stations used to hand out prizes for filling up at their stations as when banks used to pass out toasters. A not SO young a person was looking at me with a quizzical face and saying, “Really?” It struck me then that they had never experienced this. Ever. That was my first inkling that I was older than I thought.

Even recently when filling out those horrid questionnaires by filling in little circles with a – No, No, No! – on the COMPUTER and you have to click on the age category in which you fall, my first impulse is always to go for the later 20s. Then I laugh (painfully) and try to remember how old I legally am.

Not too long ago a couple came in to get married and I remember thinking how sweet that this older couple is getting married. As part of the prep I had to ask them how old they were. Yes, they were younger than me – just like my doctors, pilots, and the soon to be new professors at the seminary.
Further proof that the world is shifting for me is that I get this video.

Last night there was a “battle of the bands” here at Saint Sebastian. The youth group hosted it in order to raise money for a local hunger center. I will admit the music was a tad beyond me and I wonder if this is the way clergy have always felt as they stood in their gyms listening to high school students singing their rendition of the latest Beatles hit, or some Do-wop tune, or Lindy Hop or Mozart for that matter. One of the bands played 99 red balloons. Cindy Carter and I used to listen to that song all the time when we were in high school. She introduced me to it and we would listen to it when we worked in guidance counselor’s office together. I mentioned that to a student and they said, “Yeah, they do that real old stuff sometimes.”

Ah, well, such is life. And actually I rather like it. I would not want to be a kid again, but I loved the first pass through it. The 20s were fabulous. I really enjoyed my 30’s, and thus far the 40’s are actually shaping up quite marvelously. Every age has a blessing it seems and the trick is to find and enjoy it while appreciate it for what it is as we process to the Kingdom of Heaven. Not such a bad place to end up.

Friday, February 13, 2009


With current awareness of certain male problems coming to the fore it seems to cause people to substitute the word prostate for prostrate about 50% of the time as in, “during the Litany of the Saints the priest candidates will lie prostate.” Exactly how that would be done I care not to imagine.

Prostration is a rare bird in the Church but still used. Primarily it is used at the beginning of services on Good Friday and as mentioned above during the ordination rite. Some religious orders still use this posture during the taking on of vows. The candidate would lie down before the sanctuary and a funeral pall would be laid over him showing his death to his former life and the taking on of a new way of living.

Prostration (the laying down completely on the floor, face down) is a sign of ultimate gesture of abandonment of self, submissiveness, and of complete worship. The double genuflection mentioned in an earlier post is actually a form of prostration. It is a kin to the nod of the head being a bow.

Thursday, February 12, 2009


Today’s post is prompted by a series of questions that have been popping up as of late so here is some information you might want to be able to share with other people. It concerns who may be married in a Catholic Church.

Obviously, two Catholics may be married in a Catholic Church.

A priest’s marriage license reads (at least in the Great State of Ohio) that he may conduct marriages according to the laws of the Roman Catholic Church (which I wonder if that would legally preclude same sex marriage services since it is ecclesially against the law.) That being said, neither legally nor ecclesially may he perform a marriage between two non-Catholics.

A Catholic may marry a non-Catholic in a Catholic ceremony. The non-Catholic party does not have to become Catholic. The Catholic party will have to say that the reason they want a Catholic wedding is that they intend on living the Catholic life and that they will do “what is in their power” to bring their kids up Catholic.

A Catholic may marry a non-Catholic in a non-Catholic ceremony AS LONG AS THEY HAVE RECEIVED A DISPENSATION FROM THE CHURCH. In this way, the marriage will be recognized in the Catholic Church. If this is not done it causes ALL KINDS of problems down the line. Just make sure you get it early. You will not be able to be a Godparent, or confirmation sponsor, or receive any sacraments until your marriage is recognized in the Church.

It does not matter what kind of previous marriages there were before, ANY PARTY THAT WAS PREVIOUSLY MARRIED TO ANOTHER PERSON IN ANY FASHION MUST OBTAIN AN ANNULMENT (or present a death certificate if that is the case.) Yes, this includes a Catholic whose marriage was not recognized in the Church, or a non-Catholic who was married to a non-Catholic in any kind of ceremony, or even a marriage that only lasted an incredibly short while and was annulled by the state.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009


I find it rather humorous that the Cleveland firefighter’s band is receiving the same criticism as the Catholic Church in the brouhaha over their disciplining of their drum major who broke the rules of the band during the inaugural parade in Washington D.C. (If you didn’t catch the story, here it is.) It seems a silly thing to get ones shorts in a bunch over (and many people have) but I am going to weigh in just the same. No, I do not feel particularly sorry for the man who later quit in a huff. Nobody forces anyone to be a drum major. And if you decide that you want to be the drum major for a particular band, you follow their rules. If you do not want to live by those rules, then maybe you are not really called to be a drum major – at least for this band. (He had the right to break the rules and hte had the right to discipline.) People who do not get this have no idea what it is to be in a military band.

That being said, nobody forces the priest to be celibate. The Church is not cruel in forcing its priests not to marry. Rather, if a man believes in the Catholic Church and if he feels that the celibate lifestyle would be the best way by which he might cultivate his soul toward God and help others do the same, then it asks him to consider the priesthood. Nobody forces anyone to be a celibate priest. And if you decide that you want to be a priest for this Church, you follow the rules. If you do not want to live by those rules, then maybe you are not really called to be a priest – at least of this Church (Eastern and converted priests aside.)

The point is that there is not a right (by anyone) to be a priest or a drum major no matter how deeply you feel called to it or how many protesters you can drum up (pun intended) to back you. It is a calling by the Church (in the case of priests) or by the band. Is marriage bad? No. It can and has and does work alongside priestly ministry. Is winking and waving at the president bad? No. Millions of people do it every day and we get by. Both rules could be changed. But for now they are not and until they are we agree to live by it or find another way to express that which we feel called to do.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009


FINDING TRUTH WHEREVER IT MAY BE FOUND: "We see as a distinguishing mark of Christians the fact that they have a future: It is not that they know the details of what awaits them, but they know in general terms that their life will not end in emptiness. Only when the future is certain as a positive reality does it become possible to live in the present as well." Pope Benedict Spe Salvi

QUOTE II: "They believe that all the evil results of human crime are the results of the system that has called it crime. They do not believe that the crime creates the punishment. They believe that the punishment has created the crime." G.K. Chesterton, "The Man Who Was Thursday"


This is from Fr. F: "I wanted to bring your attention to an article published on US CATHOLIC's website this week on NFP. I give the editors credit for running such a well-written article on NFP, but you will see by the way they formulated the survey questions following the article that the editors seems to be looking for certain answers that make NFP seem antiquated and out-of-touch. I thought that you might want to alert your readers to this piece and encourage them to respond to the survey. Such action might open the eyes of the editors at US CATHOLIC, as well as their paper-edition readers." Thanks for the heads up Fr. F! Here is the article. Have at it readers!

Hey! It's almost 50 degrees outside! A perfect day for a winter Catholic Carnival!

READERS! Your assistance is requested! A reader wants to know where one might find a good place to go for women's retreats. What is desired is something solidly orthodox with no dancing, reiki, or mazes. A place in northeast Ohio would be grand but if you know of something elsewhere please leave a comment. Thanks.
Thank you for not correcting my mistakes with Roman numerals. How embarrasing.

The Diocese of Cleveland Enewsletter reports, "The Secret Life of Bees, The Visitor and Wall-E stand among 2008 movies on the top ten list of the Office for Film and Broadcasting (OFB) of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB)." Read more here.

You might be aware of Christian Bale's tirade against the director of photography in his latest movie. I find this so incredibly sad. When did we lose the ability to do this well? His curse laden diatribe is a disgrace to the English Language. You would think that an actor who must love words so well would at least make his abuse of another human being without abusing the language by which he makes his living. Absolutely disgraceful.

This is the proper way to degrade someone by a couple of our best crafters of the English language and it is said without having to use the same four letter words over and over again.

Courtesy of Chesterton, "You great fat, blasted, blear-eyed, blundering, thundering, brainless, God-forsaken, dodderng damned fool! . . . You great, silly, pink faced, tow-headed turnip!"

Courtesy of Shakespeare, ". . .that trunk of humours, that bolting-hutch of beastliness, that swollen parcel of dropsies, that huge bombard of sack, that stuffed cloak-bag of guts, that roasted Manningtree ox with the pudding in his belly . . ."

So that you, dear reader, may never be caught in the embarrassing situation in which Mr. Bale found himself, here is a link to the Shakespeare insult generator. Use it in good health and help save the English language from having to use the same three words over and over again.

Monday, February 9, 2009


As of today there have been 105,896 visits and 164,100 page views and 677 posts for these two years. I hope you have enjoyed reading. God bless you and keep spreading the faith!


About ten years ago I was invited with another priest friend to a rather swank reception. Someone had the horrendous idea to have assigned seating (something that should only be done by the most seasoned of professionals) and so we were two priests separated from people we knew and loved and forced to sit with three couples who were the best of friends but, for whatever reason, had not seen each other since high school. They had a lot of catching up to do. A lot. A whole lot. Before the cake was cut we knew how dilated each woman was with her first child and how to control your husband after he has just tarred the driveway.

Glancing over at my comrade in arms he gave that ever so slight crinkling of the eyebrows that signaled, “Help!” and so I glanced at my watch and exclaimed, “Oh my! Look at the time! We’ve got to get back to the parish!” I wonder if they even noticed if we were gone.

I met three leaders of congregations this week. Two were married and one was a visiting priest. Now that I sit back and reflect on the conversations I laugh at how different each one was. One was non-Christian and we talked much about his family and how the particular congregations that he has served effected his family. (That was interesting in and of itself. I often think of the effect of a minister’s family on a parish, not the other way around. Guess there can be lots O’ stress.) The second was a non-Catholic clergyman and our conversation came much closer to that which I would have with fellow celibate priests but still much of the conversation was about family issues and how it effects ministry.

Then I met an out of town priest. Our conversation was typical of that which I have when meeting another priest. I suppose it would be equivalent to normal conversations of, “What do you do for a living.” It was more along the lines of, “So what is your ministry? How did you end up there? What is your vacation story?” And then from there it went on to topics that I am sure would be as fascinating to the three couples mentioned above as theirs was to us.

There is no value judgment here, just something interesting enough to mention. However it may give insight as to the reason that sometimes priests want to relax with other priests. It is not that they (necessarily) are cliquish or secretive; it is simply that there are things that only another priest would be interested in or that it would be appropriate to talk about. This is especially true in these days when more and more rectories are lucky to have one priest let alone three or four. Priestly community is important as fellowship is for any given group of people. It is not absolutely necessary but it does make life a lot easier. That is not to say that a priest does not cherish being with other people and talking about what is important to them. It is, simply, from time to time, a treat that is becoming more and more rare (until there is this great influx of seminarians that I am predicting will come soon and after ordination take care of me in my old age.)

Friday, February 6, 2009


I, for one, though I loved the architecture of the old movie houses, am very glad they build theaters with the seating going up steps now. This saves the practicing Catholic the incredible embarrassment of walking down the theater aisle and genuflecting to the screen before entering a row of seats. (I just realized I’ve never heard of anyone accidently bowing to the screen for whatever that is worth.)

The genuflection is an ancient tradition in the Church. According to the Catholic Encyclopedia it goes back to the time of John Cassian. In the early years of the Church there were not pews or chairs (with kneelers in them) and the people would genuflect at the consecration. Later this was elongated into the kneeling position that we have today.

Genuflecting, or the momentary lowering of one’s right knee to the ground, has many meanings from veneration, to penitence, supplication, honor, reverence, submission, and love (think of a man kneeling and proposing.) There are three times that a genuflection is called for. That would be during the two times the sacred species are elevated at the consecration and whenever passing before the presence of the Blessed Sacrament whether exposed or in the tabernacle. (One need not genuflect every time if vacuuming the sanctuary carpeting or some such thing however. Not that there should be carpeting in a sanctuary. But that’s just my opinion, not Church law.)

The double genuflection is no longer called though you are free to do it if you wish. I do on Tuesdays during exposition. The reason for this, as I understand it, is because a double genuflection is not required of the priest during the Mass so in order to be consistent it is not required of anyone outside the Mass. To do so is a private devotion.

Thursday, February 5, 2009


You might remember a post a little way back talking about how in cities certain people are gatekeepers. In a city where you are not inclined to stop just anyone and talk to them there are recognizable people that for certain reasons you would approach. Some of these are police officers, transit authorities, and gas station attendants though the last is becoming less popular as we automate stations and place bullet proof screens between us and the attendant should actually need to talk to them. Then there are, of course, priests and religious who where identifiable garb. They can be safe harbors for those in distress and need someone to talk to. This is why one rather well known Catholic thinker to commented that for those who are supposed to, “. . . it is unfair that they do not wear the collar.”

Another gatekeeper is a dog. (Like police or priests you have to be disposed to liking them first of course.) But it is amazing to see how hard people work to be liked by a dog. Even dogs that like to roll around in stuff like this:

Every trick in the book is used to win the beast over and make them his best friend. There are bribes such as treats (which he has had enough of for the next three months) and affection, baby talk, toys, promises of walks, and every other means of persuasion that you could imagine to win his undying admiration.
This made me think how little I sometimes try to win over someone who does not like me, does not mind me, or who annoys me. Why would I not work so hard with a person as I would with a dog? Of course, sometimes dogs seem more reasonable. A couple of tasty treats and all of a sudden they think you are the best thing since – well – an automated snack dispensing machine. It may take years of prayer and practice to win over an enemy – if ever. But perhaps God provided us with dogs in order to give us practice and patience to work on humans.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009


Having a strong belief in God and being a good person does not mean everything is going to be Okay. At least in this life. Sometimes it is very not Okay. Very bad (or at least very annoying) things happen to very good people. It is not a sign of being abandoned by God nor is it a signal for us to abandon God. No matter how rough life might get, it’s better to get through it with God than without Him.

But whatever life may throw at you, no matter how incapacitated you are, how late you are, how disconnected you are there is always some way to please God. Even in our pain and anger there is some way to please God. There is always hope. There is always healing of some type. There is always the possibility salvation “where every tear will be wiped away. On that day we shall see You, our God, as You are. We shall become like You, and praise you forever in heaven.”

Hence even for those facing execution there us a way to please God and there is hope. We can please God by not becoming what we hate and praying for our persecutors. And we know that there is nothing that they can do to destroy us. Earthly death will simply hasten our immortality.

So even when things are not Okay and our hearts are weary, we can still have the flame of joy deep in our hearts and live on knowing that despite the fact that everything is not Okay, yes, they will be. Forever.