Friday, July 30, 2010


The cross was not an instant hit as a Christian symbol. It took Christians time to overcome the “scandal of the Cross.” Further, as you might recall from history, it was not a good thing to too publically declare your faith in Jesus and His Church; it might make you into a happy meal for a hungry lion. Other symbols were thus used. One was the anchor – a symbol of hope.

In a world where persecution of Catholics was common, what would be the hope of believers? That the one condemned to arrest, or torture, or death would remain steadfast in the faith. An anchor keeps a ship steady in the ocean so that it does not drift into rocks or sand bars or becomes lost out at sea. The Christian anchor is a symbol of keeping us rooted in faith despite the storms of life that would place our soul at risk.

One of the legends about how this symbol came about comes from the story of Saint Clement. Emperor Trajan banished this pope who subsequently converted the people in the place to which he was sent. Enraged, the emperor had him tied to an anchor and thrown into the sea. The legend says that the sea receded three miles to reveal Saint Clement being buried by hosts of angels. Whether that last bit be actual or an embellishment that speaks of the life of this first century holy man, one can see how the anchor would symbolize well the hope that those who remain true to Christ and His Church will find reward after suffering in this world.

Later the Cross was more transparently added to the anchor. We thus remain steadfast (fortitude!) in the mystery of His Cross and Resurrection, grow in hope, and await the splendor that awaits loyal sons and daughters of the Father in the lift to come.

Thursday, July 29, 2010


One of the reasons for the reform of the Mass at Vatican II was to get rid of all of the various extra things that crept into the Mass over the centuries. Post Vatican II it seems that we could not wait to plaster a whole bunch of things back in to the Mass – many under the guise of being in the Spirit of Vatican II (an extremely slippery term that nobody can quite define but is used as a catch all for allowing just about anything.)

It may not seem like such a big deal but there are consequences. Extra services and blessings, processions, added songs, extra ministers and ministries in various forms and in differenting amounts are added to the Liturgy. Pope Benedict describes this in his book, “The Spirit of the Liturgy” in this way, “Unfortunately, (active participation) was very quickly misunderstood to mean something external, entailing a need for general activity, as if as many people as possible, as often as possible, should visibly engage in action. . . The almost theatrical entrance of different players into the liturgy, which is so common today, especially during the Preparation of the Gifts, quite simply misses the point.”

And what is the point? All these ministries are quite secondary to the primary action and the more we pull people away to perform secondary actions the less, obviously, are there doing the primary – or at least the less important the primary seems. I wonder if this does not extend from the idea that we come to Mass to watch, to be entertained, as one would do passively say at the theater. But in actuality we are each of us priests, prophets, and kings. The priesthood of the people may be different from the ordained priesthood but is none-the-less and essential ministry to be carried out by each baptized person, the five your old (in their own way) as well as the 95 year old.

Continuing with Pope Benedicts words, “The real Liturgical action, the true liturgical act is the oratio, the great prayer that forms the core of the Eucharistic celebration. . . we must pray for it to become our sacrifice, that we ourselves, as we have said, may be transformed into the Logos, conformed to the Logos, and so be made the true Body of Christ. . .in this prayerful approach to participation, there is no difference between priest and laity. . . Of course, external actions – reading, singing, the bringing up of gifts – can be distributed in a sensible way. By the same token, participation in the Liturgy of the Word (reading, singing) is to be distinguished from the sacramental celebration proper. We should be clearly aware that external actions are quite secondary here.”

So we come to at least some of the consequences of adding things to the Mass. The first would be the fostering of the idea that we come to Mass to witness something and that those who “have something to do” are in some way “participating more or in a more important way than I am.” That is simply false. A second would be that in the removal of innovations that were never called for or were in fact banned by everything except this mysterious “spirit of Vatican II” will appear to those who have bought into this idea as a return to pre-Vatican II era of when in fact, it is a return to Vatican II – and this can be a cause of unnecessary dissention between clergy and lay people.

I fear that if Vatican II were a person instead of council, she would be depressed. Always misunderstood and misquoted, always trying to say who she is and often being ignored. Like a rock star everyone wants to claim to know her without really spending any time with her getting to know her. “If people really knew me,” I imagine her thinking, “would they still like me?” Fortunately she is maturing now and able to assert herself more confidently.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010


Perhaps you hear it all the time: if you want more priests, pray for young men and seminarians. If you want better priests, pray for them in their vocation. I know I always feel gratitude (and a bit of relief) when someone says that they are praying for my vocation. I take that prayer very seriously and know how important it is and from time to time will pray for those who keep my priesthood in their prayers.

That being said I am going to ask you for some prayers for a specific kind of priest – or better yet, a priest with a specific kind of ministry. There are some jobs that are just hard, dirty

jobs. They are none-the-less necessary for the proper running of the Church. They are “darned if you do and darned if you don’t” jobs. Sometimes they are very public. In the paper today it was announced that the Youngstown Diocese (our neighbor) has just named a priest to head the consolidation of parishes. They will close or merge many parish communities the result of which will be 25 less parishes. As in Cleveland, everybody knew something had to be done but no two people agreed on what that something was. The one thing that for sure was that whatever it was done, it was going to make a significant amount of people angry. I do not envy this guy his job.

In every diocese there is a priest who is the go-to guy when something goes wrong. Perhaps a priest is having some kind of difficulty, got caught doing something, is discovered to have fallen into addiction – you name it – and this priest is sent out to try to straighten things out. He is usually not popular with the person he is sent out to see, and while that priest can say what he pleases about the encounter, the one sent out by the diocese is to be mute.

I am thankful for these priests – mostly thankful that they have their jobs and I have mine and may we never switch places – but I do offer you my prayers. It’s a difficult job but someone has to do it. And I am glad it is you. God bless you brothers.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010


FINDING TRUTH WHEREVER IT MAY BE FOUND: “He who baptizes does one of the few things that is everlasting.” Fr. Benedict Groeschel CFR

QUOTE IIThere are three possible responses to God’s call to you; a) Yes. b) No. c) Evasion. And death will remove the third option.” Fr. Gene Fulton


Here's an interesting tidbit from the Dioceses of Cleveland Enewsletter: "The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has issued a set of guidelines for using social media, especially as social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter continue to gain in popularity.
"'Social media are the fastest growing form of communication in the United States, especially among youth and young adults," the guidelines say. "Our church cannot ignore it, but at the same time we must engage social media in a manner that is safe, responsible and civil.'" Read more here.

In the mood to try your Catholic knowledge? Here is a quiz. It is hard! Do well!

This video is 3:11.

Monday, July 26, 2010


As a seminarian there was a priest that I looked up to quite a bit. Once I told him how lucky his parishioners were and how loved he must be. To that he responded, “Here is an important lesson for you. Everyone has their detractors. Jesus had his, I have mine, and you will have yours.” It is true. But then again I suppose it is true for everybody.

There is a person who made known their dislike of my pastorate. No big shocker, nobody gets through life unscathed for good or for bad. But then, celebrating a morning Mass I thought I spied the person – not only in attendance at Mass but who would be in my line for Communion.

This happened to me once before years ago. There was a person with whom I had a falling out. Then the next day she showed up for morning Mass at which I was the celebrant. Let me tell you what an experience that was. It is very hard to celebrate Mass and hold a grudge. The person came up for Communion and we had to interact in the most intimate way two Catholics can; having a short ritual while Christ’s presence was between us Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity. “The Body of Christ.” “Amen.” And then I gave her Jesus. It was very moving and from that day we may not have agreed but we could put our disagreements and our relationship as Christian brother and sister into two different boxes and thus disagreeing did not have to mean that there was hardship between us.

So during this morning Mass I wondered, “Is this a sign that although they disagree with me it will not affect their faith? Will this be as the story that happened so many years ago?" As it turned out the person at Mass the other morning was not who I thought it was but only looked very similar. That does not mean that we can still agree to disagree, but the symbolism of it would have been great. Such is the wisdom of Christ to give us such sacraments.

Friday, July 23, 2010


This cross is a cross bottony and is used primarily in heraldry. “Bottony” means button or blossom. At the end of the four arms of the cross three buttons (or the three blossoms) form a sort of trefoil or three leafed plant (such as the clover) – a common symbolic device of Christianity heavily used in Gothic architecture. Most commonly this symbol represents the Trinity – one shape with three parts. Combined with the cross then we have a small catechism. We have one God (the unity of the entire symbol.) This one God is in three Persons, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit (the trefoil.) The Second Person of the Blessed Trinity, the Son, Jesus, took flesh, came among us, and saved us from our sins by dying on the cross. In my opinion this is the most common understanding of this cross but the buttons may have other meanings also.

Considering that there are four branches of the cross each ending in a trefoil it could also be a symbol of Christ and His apostles since there would be 12 “buttons.” It could also remind us of the three theological virtues of faith, hope, and love.

As stated above this ornamented cross is a heraldic device. You can most commonly see it on the arms of Saint Philip. It is said that he was crucified upside down though his cross is not portrayed this way as it would be for St. Peter. It is also said that he used a cross as weapon with which he drove away the dragon from the Temple of Mars. If the symbol of this cross is so packed with meaning it is no wonder – even if the dragon would simply symbolize the driving out of the belief of false gods for the One, True God.

This cross can also been seen on the coat of arms for the state of Maryland. According to state law, “Section 13-203. Only a gold cross bottony may be used as an ornament on the top of a flagstaff that carries the State flag.” But at least according to one source the cross has less to do with Christian symbolism and more to do with Lord Baltimore’s wife’s family’s coat of arms. Her last name “Croffland” when transliterated into Latin is “Crossland” and so the used a cross on their arms.

Thursday, July 22, 2010


We have a relatively new music ministry in the parish that is made up of mostly high school folk that sing worship and praise music. Before going to Steubenville for a youth conference they gathered on the front steps of the church and ran over their music. (This gave me the idea that we need a summer lawn and picnic concert series here next year.) The music that they do is very contemporary and I quite enjoy it. Thus far they have played during adoration when we have our confirmation meetings and a song or two during Mass a couple of times. One of the songs they like to do is “Big, Big House.” The words say something like, “ It’s a big, big house with lots and lots of rooms . . . it’s my Father’s house.” The Church is like a big, big house with the whole extended family living under one roof. And when you have so many people living under one roof, no matter how big the house is, some of the people under the roof will get on the nerves of other people under the roof. Such is our fallen nature.

Now it would be one thing if some of the people under the roof were doing things that were contrary to house rules. An extreme example would be one of them selling drugs to neighborhood kids. That is completely unacceptable. Something should be done. It is another thing, when, even following house rules, some people are bothered by other people. “George is reading again and I want him to come outside and play with me! Make his stop reading!” Well, George has a right to read and so we let him alone even as it drives someone else nuts. But we are family and so we do the best we can.

It is not much different in the actual life of the Church. It is true that there are things that are clearly off of the Catholic playing field. These can be in our corporate life, such as using beer instead of wine at Mass, or in our private life such as having a harem but wanting to declare yourself a good practicing Catholic. House rules are house rules.

But even when someone is clearly on the Catholic playing field, there can still be controversy. Liberal, at least in my understanding of the word, is a rare beast in the Church and is usually not found where one expects it. My understanding of the word when referring to persons in the Church is one who is open to everything that is valid in the Church. If the Church says, “Yes,” then the liberal says, “Sure. Why not? I will not be more restrictive in than the Church.” But many times those who freely take on the title liberal have a small set of Catholic practices or beliefs that are held onto passionately making them the mirror image of traditionalist that can have a similar small set of beliefs or practices and each turns their nose at the other.

The same thing could be said between countries. Very often those of us in the West can think we have a superior handle on what is right for the Church. If Rome doesn’t tag along we accuse them of lagging, not getting it, or being fuddy duddys. If the Church in Zimbabwe doesn’t agree with us we take our definition of freedom, justice, and modernity and think that of course they should accept what we hold dear because it is right and they should come to accept it even if they are not ready for it. Granted there are some things that are just same the world around. You can’t shoot someone for eating a carrot out of your yard. But sometimes people of different nations and cultures have different ideas of freedom, justice, and modernity and they are on Catholic field. They have different problems and goals to which they need to attend. The big, big, house then seems to get a little smaller as we try to even out the rules for a billion people instead of the few thousand in a parish.
It takes a lot of smiling, a lot of acceptance, a lot of welcoming, a lot of understanding, a lot of self sacrifice, a lot of learning, and a lot prayer and trust in Jesus’ promises and the power of the Holy Spirit for us all to get along and if single households can’t always do it without a lot of clanging into each other, so much more need to work at peaceful coexistence as the universal family of our Father.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010


At death the rule book goes out the window.

The laws that we follows as Catholics are all about helping us lead a holy life – a life in which we have the best opportunity to obtain communion with saints for all eternity. They are there to keep us, to the best of their ability, in the commandments to love God above all and our neighbor as ourselves. They are not necessarily the best articulation of the law in assisting us in dying.

Many laws change when we are dying. Just for example, in case of just such an emergency, even a priest who has been defrocked, denounced, and despised is permitted (indeed constrained!) to carry on the sacraments for someone who is dying. The defrocking was there to help him and others live a better life. Faculties are granted to him in emergencies automatically in order to give the dying person the greatest opportunity available to be reconciled with his heavenly Father and so enter into heaven in the last moments of life.

Recently I was asked as to what a person should do when someone they know is dying. Pray with them. Help them unite their pains to Christ for the benefit of others. Talk with them about death. One of sad things is that this is one of the most important events in the person's life after baptism and nobody wants to talk about it! Of course one should call for the sacraments. If the person is near death request of the priest the apostolic blessing which has an indulgence attached to it. But if a priest is not available, does not know how to give the apostolic blessing, or forgets, there is still an indulgence available which throws out all of the otherwise necessary requirements for an indulgence. Here is how it is described in, “The Handbook of Indulgences Norms and Grants.”

“But if a priest cannot be present, holy mother Church lovingly grants such persons who are rightly disposed a plenary indulgence to be obtained in articulo mortis, at the approach of death, provided they regularly prayed in their lifetime. The use of a crucifix or a cross is recommended in obtaining this plenary indulgence.

“In such a situation the three usual conditions required to gain a plenary indulgence are substituted for by the condition ‘provided they regularly prayed in some way.’

“The Christian faithful can obtain the plenary indulgence mentioned here as death approaches (in articulo mortis) even if they obtained another plenary indulgence the same day.”

Lots of rules being thrown out the window here – but the point of law is to get us to live well while they are well, and to give us the best possible chance to die well – that is – in a state of grace.

Despite all of the rules being thrown out however there are still a couple of things that need to be done. The person needs to have some kind of regular prayer life. And they must also be properly disposed – they must be aware the indulgence – they must want it and be sorry of their sins. Pretty meager necessities if you ask me.

Monday, July 19, 2010


without God. That is, it is a theory that everything has always perpetually gone right by accident. It is a sort of atheistic optimism, based on an everlasting coincidence far more miraculous than a miracle." - G.K. Chesterton

QUOTE IIThe only thing worse than not learning from one’s mistakes is learning the wrong lesson.” from Sharon Kay Penman’s, “Devil’s Brood”


The Diocese of Cleveland Enewsletter asks, "Did you know, the FEST is a free, one-day Catholic family festival? As in previous years, this annual outdoor summer event will be held on the grounds of the Center for Pastoral Leadership, 28700 Euclid Avenue, Wickliffe, Ohio on Sunday, August 8 from noon until 10 p.m. The FEST will feature live music, games, activities, and much more. The day ends with Mass and an awesome fireworks display. More than 30,000 people are expected to attend this year's FEST now celebrating it's tenth anniversary." Read more here.

This was sent in: "I'm Miriam Stefania, web manager of the Communication Department of World Youth Day 2011 Madrid. I'm writing to you as I saw you had the link to the WYD 2008 official website on yours. I would like to kindly ask you to include the link of our website." Here's the link!

CK sent in this video teaser of a production of "The Screwtape Letters." Gosh I would like to see this.

Some Cleveland seminarians were interviewed in hopes of helping other men who are discerning the priesthood. If you would like to see the videos go here. You will need to click twice on the little "action" boards.

Russ sent in a (IMHO) hysterical parody of an already hysterical commercial. The first is the actual commercial, the second is the one Russ sent in. Hope it gives you a laugh today.


For some reason I cannot download pictures today. Sorry for the wordy format.
When I was still in my first assignment the diocese change the posture from kneeling to standing from after the Angus Dei until after everyone has received communion. I was mixed about the idea. On the one hand this gesture was so apart of the New Word experience of celebrating the Mass. The universal law is that people stand. Here in the States we knelt to emphasize the presence of Jesus as the Blessed Sacrament since we are so surrounded by Christians who do not recognize Him in this way. And so with this new posture a part of our unique culture has passed. On the other hand it made celebrating funerals and weddings much, much easier. Having to invite people to kneel again at this part of the Mass where non-Catholics were often in attendance invited some rolling of eyes, snickering, or those who simply refused. Not all, certainly not the majority, but enough to make it painful. And now we are more in line with what you will find in much of Europe.

Anyway, when it came time to implement the posture I asked the people to please try it for three weeks before making judgment on the change. It was, after all, a universal law for which we had permission to do differently in the first place, and it was within our ordinary’s right to ask us, in obedience, (never an easy thing for us Americans) to do.

I must say that the people were absolutely wonderful in giving it a shot for three weeks. Then after that a number of people returned to kneeling. John Paul II spoke on this and said that although standing is preferred, nobody should be denied the right to kneel “even for purely pious reasons.” So if anyone asked me about what posture they should take I would respond that the Universal Church and our bishop has asked us to stand and so I ask you to stand, but if you have a good reason to kneel the pope has extended his permission for you to do so. As a result most people stood and few people knelt. In my book that sounds great.

Not so in other people’s book however. A small but vocal group were angry at those who knelt and came to tell me to enforce the bishop’s call to stand. My response was that I could ask them but in the end it was not my right nor in my power to make them stand. The Church clearly gives them permission to kneel and it is not my role to restrict people further than the Church does.

A philosophy teacher of mine once talked about the need we have as people to worship with like minded people. Not only do we want to believe the same things there is often a tendency to want us all to pray the same way. I find that to be true. And why not? It makes sense and is much more comfortable than having someone next to you doing something different and wondering “what do they think of ME doing something different from them?”

As a new priest there were some types of Masses that I was very nervous about celebrating. The thought of some day celebrating a Charismatic Mass scared the bejeebers (sp?) out of me. Then a very wise priest told me that, “you don’t have to pray like everyone else, you just have to be able to pray with everyone else.” This permission opened a whole new world to me. I could then go to a Charismatic Mass and celebrate and you know what? It was always a wonderful experience with very appreciative people. So I try (with various levels of success) to be open to anything on the Catholic playing field.

Recently I allowed something new at my current parish that is squarely on the Catholic playing field but it is not without its controversy in some circles. I am more assured now than ever that I will never, ever wish to become bishop – never, ever, ever, in saecula saeculorum. If it is this difficult keeping a few thousand people happy in everything, I can’t imagine what it must be like to keep nearly a million people happy, or being pope and trying to lead a billion people is some fashion of unity! But you try to do what you think is right and keeping with the Church and the Gospel and trust God to do the rest and pray that everyone at least gets along on our journey to heaven.

Further apologies to you: I suppose today is not much of a diary day but the rambling thoughts of something on my mind!

Friday, July 16, 2010


A variant on the cross that is seen quite often is the celtic cross. It is a cross with a circle in the middle. It comes to us from Ireland and has always had my curiosity. Why should this cross appear as it does? Well, as it seems to be anyway, there is not an absolute answer to this question. There are a number of legends associated with it. One says that St. Patrick stuck the circle in the middle of the cross in order to put the “sun god” in his place and to show that the true “Son God” was the one that died upon the cross and now lives. Other histories say it was a “moon goddess.”

A Catholic Encyclopedia says that it the circle represents unity and eternity; that Jesus Who died upon the cross is one with the Father and Son, was, is and always will Be. It is also sworn to be the halo of Christ. Other historians think that it came about from the practice of victors carrying a cross with a wreath upon it. Others claim it to be inherited in whole from a pagan religion, baptized, and now is ours in its present form just because.

In any event they have been a part of Christianity at least in Ireland since the early centuries. Use them as you would any cross though people may think you are making a claim to Irish ancestry.

Thursday, July 15, 2010


Sometimes I envy the Evangelical spirit of going out and making converts. They have no compunction about going door to door, heading out on university campuses, or standing out on street corners trumpeting the faith. Catholics tent to be overly polite (do not talk about religion) to the point that we are very poor at spreading the faith at all. But there is a point at which this is not an entirely bad thing.

On “This American Life” in an episode from 2009 entitled “Bait and Switch” the host of the show, an avowed and committed atheist interviewed an Evangelical minister who has a different approach to sharing the Gospel. It was quite interesting.

He spoke about their usual means of trying to bring the Gospel to non-Christians – or at least non-practicing – or perhaps non-Evangelical people. He described such events as advertising a party with music and free drinks (though the drinks were non-alcoholic) and during the event itself the guests would be “ambushed” with a pitch for Jesus. Unfortunately, the minister reported, statistically the results were abysmal. It doesn’t work.

The plan he was putting into place for which he is receiving much criticism within his circles I think is brilliant, should be adapted by Catholics, and is much less painful. He had a couple of suggestions:

1. Go to the mall (or place where many people gather) and just watch people. See what they are doing, how they dress, what is important to them. What are trends, what is the focus of people, what seems to be driving them.
2. Pick people to pray for. You do not have to tell them. There is nothing wrong with it. It won’t hurt them or you. But it might help.
3. Be friendly. Pull people into your circle of friends.

Saint Theresa talks about doing this with a particularly crotchety nun. Though she had difficulties wanting to be around this nun, every day she would bring her her biscuit, cut it up for her, and then Therese would flash her most brilliant smile to the nun which eventually won her over.

The minister says to forget the hard sell in most instances. Just be good to people. If there is to be an opportunity to be afforded by the Holy Spirit for conversion you will have already become a trusted friend that could more readily share the comfort of the faith as opposed to a stranger who ambushes them at a party.

The host of the show said that some of his closest friends were deeply religious and have not swayed them in the least away from his atheism. But the commentator pointed out that if there was ever a point in his life at which he felt it necessary to explore a life of faith, he has ready friends to turn to in order to ask questions.

It seems to me that if someone were to convert, a more permanent conversion would come about because somebody freely chooses to explore the faith, has had good example to watch, and has friends to turn to in their journey.

It may sound easier than going door to door but it is not. It requires us to live our faith authentically – all day – every day.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010


There was a man being interviewed on the radio a couple of weeks ago who was making a comparison between religions. He would state a religion and then make a sweeping comment about that on which the particular faith was focused. “Catholics, of course,” he said, “are focused on sin.”


There are those – even within the Church, that think this true. But they are wrong and the gentleman who stated this, if he was interested in truth, was irresponsible.

I have been critical in the past of those who teach the faith via negative – by attempting to teach the positive by proclaiming the negative. “Don’t do this – don’t do that!” It can appear that we are a Church of “Don’t”s. The reason for this I suppose, is that it is so easy. Instead of doing the hard work of explaining and teaching the good, one simply says along the lines of, “Don’t have sex outside of marriage” and feels they have done their job. But every two year old knows the way around that. First you ask, “Why?” and get angry, then obey in order to get along, and plan to do otherwise when it is in your power to do so.

I will also grant that there are those who find their paths thwarted at every turn. “I want to have sex with someone who has not yet received a divorce.” “No.” “I want to have sex with someone who has not yet received their annulment.” “No.” “I want to have sex with someone that I am going to marry anyway in a few months.” “No.” “I no longer love my spouse and want to have sex with someone else.” “No.”

Okay – to this person the Church can seem as though it is focused on sin and is simply a dispenser of “No”s. On another station however there was the brilliant idea that a host provided for a listener concerned that they say “no” too often to their children and so wished to say “yes” to something they did not favor if only to not sound so negative all of the time. The host of the program said, “It is not you who determines how often you say ‘no,’ it is your children. They keep putting you in situations contrary to the way you wish to raise them and so force you to say, ‘no.’ My recommendation to you,” said the host, “is to keep on saying it.”

If a lifestyle is such that it always runs counter to what Christ want of us – that person will encounter a lot of “no”s and “don’t”s. It is not the Church that is focused on any particular action, it is the person.

What is the focus of the Catholic Church? Right relationship between Father and children; between our Heavenly Father and His sons and daughters. It is about coming together in unity and in holiness. “That they may be one.” It is about becoming all that God made us to be. After all, what is the whole aim of the Mass? To be as closely united to our Father, through Jesus, in the power of the Holy Spirit than we can possibly be while being properly united to each other. “Through Him (Jesus), with Him, in Him, in the UNITY of the Holy Spirit, all glory and honor is Yours Almighty Father for ever and ever.

What is sin? Sin is anything that comes between us and Father, between us and others. It is anything that brings harm into the world physically, mentally, or spiritually. Is the Church focused on sin? No! It is focused on healing, on taking away sin, on guiding you to freedom. “Go! You sins are forgiven!” is a far cry from, “Go, you wretched sinner.”

What is curious is that it is the Protestant Church whose basic tenant is that we are utterly depraved. There is nothing to wipe away our sinfulness. It is rather a sort of fiction of law that gets us into heaven. We are still full of sin but Jesus gets us into heaven anyway by covering over our sins with His holiness. It is the Catholic Church that teaches that you were created to be good and in Jesus you can be wiped clean of sin in Jesus and return to a state of goodness.

We are not focused on sin. We are focused on holiness.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010


FINDING TRUTH WHEREVER IT MAY BE FOUND: “If you’re going the wrong way in the spiritual life; if you are going west and should be going east; stop going west and go east. You may be a long way off but at least you’re going in the right direction.” Fr. Benedict Groeschell CFR

QUOTE II: “If, as Talleyrand said, loyalty is a matter of dates, virtue itself is often a matter of seconds.” from Tobias Wolf’s, “Old School”


I had an error in counting with my Roman numerals last week. Thank you for not raking me over the coals for it!

Laura Berry is starting an new blog that looks interesting called Working Catholics. Go here for a peek.

The Diocese of Cleveland Enewsletter has this link to a diocesan Q & A on the up and coming new missal.

Frank sent this in for all of you dads out there.

Matt sent this in - a site called Pope to You - er - actually "P2Y." *sigh* Thus marks the end of the English language as we currently know it. :)

Monday, July 12, 2010


I think I am becoming my father.

I know it.

My Dad was a miser when it came to electricity. At first I was not allowed a night light when I was a kid because it was deemed a terrible waste. Later we compromised; I could fall asleep with the light on and then he would come in and turn it off.

Not that I blame him. Waste is waste. But as a kid and even as a young adult I thought him a bit overly scrupulous. Mom would out of room for 30 seconds or so, Dad would swoop in and turn off the lights and Mom would come back, arms full of laundry or something and call out, “Who turned off the lights?”

Now I’m that guy.

It happened about 10 seconds after I became a pastor. I can’t stand for lights to be left on around the parish. Before I had other priests living with me I pretty much had the lights out in the rectory in the evening. I memorized the layout of the place in order to navigate it in the dark. Great idea until I got a black dog.

My suite is in the front of the house giving me a view of both the church and the hall. It is not difficult to miss a switch in the church and leave a light on. Getting to sleep late at night – tired – finally being able to enjoy the comfort of bed, I slide under the sheets and turn off my light. It is then that I notice an extra light on in the church. I close my eyes and pretend that I didn’t see it. But my Father’s voice echoes in the back of my mind “Think of the sacrifice someone made to donate to the parish – they did without so that you can leave lights burning all night for no reason!” So I get up, get dressed, walk over to the church and switch off the light.

That is not as bad as getting up in the middle of the night and noticing that someone left the hall lights on. I only meant to up for a second the ease nature, now I’ll be walking a half a city block at 2AM to go turn off lights all the time mumbling a rosary against someone.

And doors! Especially when the air conditioning (which is not all that great to begin with) is on! “What? Were you raised in a barn?” But somehow I believe that if I explain it I am less annoying to others and Dad was to me. “If you leave this door open then the house will not stay cool.” “By leaving all those lights on for no reason we waste a lot of money that would be better spent giving a teacher a bonus!”

It doesn’t work. I am still annoying. I know it – because I annoy myself. I’m the annoying guy. I’m my Dad.

A gentleman pointed something out the other day that made me feel a little better. “Look at this picture a Mass at Saint Sebastian from the 1950s,” he said. “Notice that only the front two lights are on. Monsignor did not believe in turning on more lights for Mass than was absolutely necessary.”

Maybe there is something to be learned here. At the Easter Vigil everyone gets along just fine without any lights whatsoever.

Maybe . . .

Friday, July 9, 2010


One might think that the cross is such a simple thing. It is basically two lines – one longer than the other – one vertical and the other dissecting a bit above center horizontally – a symbol of the device upon which our Savior died. But there is in actuality a dazzling display of different varieties of crosses that come down to us to this day many with an interesting connections and history.

To begin one must make the distinction between a crucifix and a cross. The cross is a representation of the device alone or with the tell tale “INRI” plaque nailed to it signifying that it is indeed the Cross of Jesus. It is the form most commonly used by Protestants but has its fair use in the Catholic Church as well. The Cross is venerated by Catholics on Good Friday. This instrument of torture and death in God’s hands has become the tree of salvation – the very key to heaven! It is also used widely to mark the Christian world as it appears particularly on our churches, schools, and other buildings.

Often distinguishing them from most of the Protestant world however is the Catholic and Orthodox use of the crucifix. The crucifix, of course, has a corpus or body of Christ represented upon it. It is mandated by Church law that a crucifix and not a cross alone should be present and visible near the altar during Mass.

There are suggestions in Protestant circles that this is not good idea the basic gist of their reasoning being that we do not worship a dying Christ but a Resurrected Christ. Well, true enough. So do Catholics. But we also call to mind that the greatest event in all of history is Christ’s suffering and death for us on the Cross. That is what won our Salvation. The Resurrection is the great evidence of that victory but it was His action on the Cross that accomplished it.

Scripture bids us quite emphatically to pick up our cross. What exactly does that mean? How far must I go? Gaze upon Christ on the Cross and that will give you the answer! How much did Christ love you, look upon His suffering and that will tell you. Look not on the shiny gold, clean cross for your inspiration but behold the wounds in His Hands, His Blood upon the Wood; know love and be resolved to love as boldly. Here is the true act of your salvation! Here is what your God is willing to do for you.

What can we do but gaze in awe?

Thursday, July 8, 2010


This is a very touchy subject. Whether you are with the Church, more strict than the Church, or are not inclined to think with the Church, someone will be publically upset with you for your position. BUt even if you think with the mind of the Church there is no general cure all answer because not all persons who are gay are exactly same. That being said if there is any chance of assisting such a person in becoming an active member of the Church the method to be used is pretty much the same one applied to every other son or daughter of the Father: They must first know that you love them and that the Church loves them – and most importantly – that God loves them. That must be the first part of the message – not how sinful such a person is. After all, who wants to belong to an organization - no matter what it is - that first and foremost appears to think that you are a freak or intrinsically evil?

Whenever a discussion is had about homosexuals in the Church the first emphasis seems to be on what is wrong with a homosexual person. The parts of the Catechism that are emphasized (paragraphs 2347-2359) state, “Basing itself on Sacred Scripture, which presents homosexual acts as acts of grave depravity, tradition has always declared that ‘homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered.’ They are contrary to the natural law. They close the sexual act to the gift of life. They do not proceed from a genuine affective and sexual complementarily. Under no circumstances can they be approved.”

This is all true and must be taught of course. But there are two things that are often overlooked. One, it is not the person who is homosexual that the catechism is addressing but behaviors. The second point that is often overlooked is the Church’s compassion for persons who have same sex attractions who none-the-oless desire to be a part of the Church. “The inclination, while objectively disordered, constitutes for most of them a trial. They must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided. These person are called to fulfill God’s will in their lives and, if they are Christians, to unit to the sacrifice of the Lord’s Cross the difficulties they may encounter from their condition.”

“If you say gay people can get to heaven, gay people start coming to Church,” said “Sean” in an interview in the radio. But it’s a hard sell. It is one thing for priests and religious to willing decide to be vowed celibates, it is quite another to have it imposed if you will. It can be a bitter pill to swallow. Therefore great care must be used. And that stick by which we measure must be fairly applied to all. Mary Roberts Rineheart once wrote, “Love that is hopeless, that cannot end in marriage, does one of two things; either it degrades or it exalts. It leaves its mark always, but that mark need not be a stain.” It is a rough statement but applies not just to people who have a same sex attraction – it applies to all relationships – we are to be consistent.

One must have an understanding of what love is. It is not an emotion. True love (as defined by Christ) is radically turning out toward the other for their good – particularly for the good of their soul. That is why we can have commandments to love. (You cannot command emotions.) This puts Mary Rineheart’s comment into perspective and lifts love from acting solely on how to fulfill the feeling of love within myself to exalting the other person even at my own expense with actions of love. It takes heroics to do this. It’s mighty work and takes a lot of support for all of God’s people. We need to be agents of support for all persons who face such trials.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010


Once in a philosophy class we took a field trip to a graveyard. The markers were old – mostly sandstone – and starting to show their age. One of the things to which we paid attention was the dates on the markers. There was a short time period in which a great number of people died. They could be of just about any age from infant through adulthood but far too many for it to be just an unlucky year. Our guide told us of the great flu epidemic that swept the country at the time claiming sometimes entire families in a short period of time.

Now, not everyone who died during those trying days died of the flu. They could have just as easily been run over by a cart and horse. But there was a trend there that easily pointed to something significant happening.

We can surmise similar types of trends with the names of our parishes. They sometimes reflect what was occurring in the life of the Church when a particular church building was consecrated. When devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus was particularly strong there sprung up all kinds of parishes who put themselves into the care of the Sacred Heart. That is not to say a more recent parish may not don that name, but not in the numbers that it once did. Shortly after Mary was recognized as the “Immaculate Conception,” any number of parishes were established with that name. There are a number of both of these names connected with parishes in the Diocese of Cleveland.

There was a spat of time (I think it may be waning but we will see) when parishes were taking on not-quite-so-blatantly-Catholic-sounding names so as to be more accepted in the largely Protestant neighborhoods in which they were establishing. Again, a trend, not a rule.

What might mark our day? Two things, one noticeable, one not so noticeable. The first is the hyphenated name. Two saints who may have little connection together save for the fact that they are both saints will share the marquee for a single parish. This is the result of two parishes coming together. In our own neighborhood we now have “Saint Bernard – Saint Mary.” Although it happened years ago and is not part of the current trend we also have in our neighborhood “Saint Vincent – Saint Mary High School.” The other interesting trend that may be lost to many people a generation or so down the line is the name of the parish and the name of the church having two different names. My home parish is like this. The Slovenian parish of Sacred Heart and the Polish of Saint Mary combined and took on the name of Prince of Peace instead of hyphenating. However they still meet in Sacred Heart Church. Therefore the community has one name and the building has another. Like the dates in the graveyard these names tell a vague story.

What might the future hold? When John Paul II is named a saint (there’s confidence for you) over the decade or two that follows there most likely be a sprinkling of parishes, schools, and other Church institutions that will bear the name. Perhaps too a similar thing will happen when Saint Theresa of Calcutta is thus named. This will probably happen in Florida where they can’t build quickly enough. And then, when people get tired of the heat and the crowded condition of Florida and yearn for the cooler, greener, wetter, wide open (due to their parents all moving south) spaces of the north and the population starts dropping in Florida, they will have to combine parishes and some place, mark my words (but it will be long after I am with the Lord I hope) there will be a parish called “Saint John Paul – Saint Mother Theresa” meeting in a church called Saint Kateri Tekakwitha.