Thursday, September 30, 2010


If you want to be able to lift heavy objects the wrong way to prepare for it is to wait until you know that you will need the muscle (such as helping a pal move) and then, a day in advance, start working out hard in order to have the muscle to lift couches and refrigerators – silly – right?

I used to play the trumpet for the University of Akron. I haven’t picked up my trumpet in any serious way since the seminary where we had a brass quartet. The alumni game is coming up and I was toying with the idea of joining a few parishioners and marching. If I were at all serious about this I would have picked up the trumpet about three months ago to build up my lips. But I didn’t – and it would be ridiculous to think that I could play for longer than a few measures and certainly below D before my lips said, “Well, that was enough for the next 20 years.”

Faith is not much different. Faith is not a thing, it is a relationship. It is a relationship like any relationship save this one is with a Divine Person. So we work on faith – on that relationship - when we don’t necessarily need it so that when we do need it – it is there.

Today we will have a funeral service for an infant here at Saint Sebastian. It is a day for faith. It will be difficult, of course, for everyone. But, for those with strong faith, that sadness is tempered by hope and an understanding that while we do not necessarily understand, God can take even the most stupid and seemingly pointless things that happen in this life and fill them with meaning and light. We may not see it now – or ever in this life. But having faith – if you have this relationship – you have come to trust the Father you have come to know, to trust, to love, and Whose love has enveloped you.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010


I will have the honor to perform (what is for me) an unusual funeral service today for someone with whom I was close. The person being buried is Catholic but has long since stopped practicing other than for funerals, weddings, and the odd ordination. Her family’s belief does not necessarily extend to an afterlife. So, in large part it guts most of what I usually have to say at moments like this and it makes me contemplate what we have. Some of the problems are tricky and challenging. How do I end a prayer? I can’t say through Christ our Lord – or make the Sign of the Cross. Though they understand that I am a committed Catholic Christian and these things will just have to be a part of it, it will not make a sense to make too much of it since it more likely will turn the family off than anything else. Other things are more challenging. For the Christian, in our sadness we have hope. Even if tears should stream down our faces there is always a little flicker of joy that the dates that will appear below the name of the person on their grave marker will not simply mark a birth and death year, but two birth years; one into this world, one into the next. When we look at a graveyard we not only see those to whom we had to say goodbye, but we also call to mind that they are waiting to greet us again when we come to join them. And not in just some anonymous way – we don’t become part of some great energy or recyclable life system with no memory, but in a real and personable way. If we are so graced to enter into the kingdom of Heaven, I shall see those I love again for that is way Christ is in heaven and He is the foretaste and promise of what shall happen to us.

But what if you don’t have this hope? What does one do with death? We comfort each other, we remember, and we try to take what we appreciate in the life of the person and carry it on and hope that their memory lives on as long as their grave stone lasts. But like a torn down mansion – the person is simply gone. Look at this gravestone. This person did a lot – accomplished a lot. I know it because this person had it printed out on his gravestone. Is that the extent of our lives? What is left behind is a memorial in bronze we hope someone keeps the weeds from overtaking? This stone utterly depresses me.

The odd part to me is that it takes just as much faith to believe that there is not a God as it does to believe that there is one. I for one am glad I have God. Even if it turns out that I am wrong (and I do not believe so) I will have lived life in more hope and joy beleiving those I loved did not cease to exists at the end of the dash and date and that we are still united in Christ and we shall enjoy each other’s company again.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010


FINDING TRUTH WHEREVER IT MAY BE FOUND: “It should not be surprising that a man who cannot, or does not, usually report a fire or an aeroplane crash or a public meeting without getting the principle names wrong, is expected to report correctly a new theory of the nature of matter or the nature of man.” G. K. Chesterton from “Saner Science”

QUOTE II:It may be that the squeaky wheel gets the grease, but the wheel that needs constant greasing is eventual thrown out and replaced.” Anon.


The Ruth Institute is a project of the National Organization for Marriage. In an Email they sent out a wonderful suggestion of a book available through Pauline Books. There is an excellent section in it about " Women, Sex and the Church: A Case for Catholic Teaching."

Fr. Damian writes, "One of my favorite priests is coming to "regular" television in October, at least for those who get WGN on their basic cable package; WGN is a local Chicago station. Your blogs readers might be interested." Thanks D! Here the link.

This little tidbit in the Diocese of Cleveland Enewsletter might be interesting to Saint Sebastianites since our new Sacred Heart Statue came from St. Procops. "It was just a little more than a year ago that St. Procop's parish on Cleveland's near West-side was closed as part of the Diocesan Reconfiguration plan. Media attention focused on the fact that St. Procop's would no longer be offering local residents a hot meal program." Read more here. We will be blessing our new shrine this Sunday after the 11:00 Mass.
This is a great video - except for some very unfortunate profanity. That it is here tells you that there is substance - but if you are easily offended do not - Do Not - DO NOT even watch it. I don't want to hear about it. Thanks to Mike for sending it in. Go teachers!

Monday, September 27, 2010


Last week was our Annual Eucharistic Devotions sometimes known as 40 hours though ours was somewhere in the 50 hour range. It was a great turn out – better than I expected. There were a good number of people spending time before the Blessed Sacrament at all hours of the day and night over the course of three days.

Since people were going to be in the Church at night the alarm system was of course turned off. Or so we thought. The alarm company assured us that it was and so it was the first night. Not so the second, not so! In the middle of the night Sebastian started baking like crazy – always a sign that I should get out of bed and attend to whatever it is he is barking about. He has never led me astray. But this night I was zonked and told myself that it was probably just the parochial vicar wandering over to the church to see that everything was fine and perhaps making a holy hour.

It turns out that the silent alarms had gone off and there was a security guard pounding on our door. Later we would find out that there was some sort of mix up with codes coming from the security company. From what I hear the security guard was going to close down the event – push everyone out and secure the building. I guess I am happy about that in one way but for Eucharistic Devotions it would have been a disaster. Fortunately there was a staff member there making a couple of holy hours. He took the guard aside and showed him the bulletin that explained what was going on and that the church would be unlocked and so he relented – unhappily.

So this was in the back of my mind when I went out to breakfast with a priest friend of mine on Wednesday (my day away.) A gentleman approached and said with a note of concern that he had come to the church that morning to make a holy hour at 3AM (God bless him!) but had found the church locked. I felt horrible. For someone to make that kind of effort to get out of bed at such an hour (the way I didn’t the night before when Sebastian was barking) only to find the doors locked was disappointing to both of us.

Odd though that no one else said anything about it. “Did you see the signs that directed people to the one door that was unlocked? “ We had locked most of the doors for security reasons. “Yes I did,” he said, “and I felt terrible that the Eucharist would be unattended at that hour.” So did I.

Then I realized it was Wednesday and that Eucharistic Devotions were over on Tuesday night! We had a good laugh – I assured him that the effort was surly noted by God – and he picked up breakfast!

God is good.

Someone asked what is the difference between the Eucharistic Adoration we have on every Tuesday and the that of 40 Hours of Devotion. In actuality there is not a lot of difference. The 40 hours represent the time Jesus spent in the tomb and the community comes together to dedicate a collective forty hours with Christ to praise, adoration, and thanksgiving. There is a kind of special “push” to get more people involved than would normally attend. We dedicate this amount of time when Christ was abandoned and left alone in the tomb. Special prayers and other celebrations are often had to focus the parish on making Christ the source and summit of the parish.

Friday, September 24, 2010


I remember once watching the “X Files” (yes I watched that show almost religiously hoping against all hope that it was actually leading somewhere) when Mulder and Dana came across a building covered in crosses that were all upside down. They assumed, wrongly they would soon discover, that the place had been inhabited by Satanists. Not a poor assumption since this cross is sometimes known as Satan’s cross. Though it is occasionally used by Satanists to mock Christian belief owing to it pointing downward to hell it is, as the website seiyaku put it, a bit of a misnomer since “’Hell is not is not physically ‘down’ any more than heaven is ‘up.’ And secondly, Satan was not crucified. That would be crucifiction.” (I thought that was clever.)

What Mulder and Dana actually encountered was a Christian cult dedicated to Saint Peter. As you may recall, Saint Peter, though condemned to be crucified, considered himself unworthy to die in the same fashion as Our Savior. So by his request he was crucified upside down, his arms stretch out near the ground and his feet fastened to the cross above. This cross then symbolizes to us the martyrdom of St. Peter and his “incredible display of humility.”

Thursday, September 23, 2010


Have you ever wondered what people thought about momentous events in history through which they lived? I venture to say most people – if they were even aware of them – marked them with a kind of half interested indifference. When the Declaration of Independence was signed do you think that a scullery maid making portage on that particular day in England was aware that anything was going on or thought no more of it than, “well, aint that interesting?” and then turned back to mixing her pot.

Even when Jesus was crucified – the way we tell the story it seems as though the whole world knew what was going on and felt strongly one way or the other. In fact that there were any number of people who saw the commotion thought, “There those people go again,” or sitting out in a field with their sheep were completely unaware.

This year alone there are some momentous events that will be in history books, talked about, and analyzed for years to come and we could easily miss their importance. The Queen of England’s invitation and the pope’s going is an astonishing event. I wonder how many people realize how grand this gesture was? It is a titanic shift in relations between powerful figures and nations of peoples that historically is unprecedented. And it is happening at time when the Anglican world is in crisis – another even that will be the subject of talk and debate for years and years to come.

In Cleveland the shift of population, changing demographics, the fact of fewer priests available, and the closing of Churches will be part of the Diocesan history classes forever. Nothing this noteworthy has happened in a long time if ever. I can see the future professor turning a page in his notes and saying, “Now we come to a particularly dark and difficult chapter in the life of the diocese . . .”

The break off of Historic St. Peter’s will be mentioned although the event is not as unique in this or any diocese as one might think. However the splash this one made will make it at least an interesting footnote for diocesan history classes.

Well within the next two decades the diocese will also see its traditional backbone religious orders all but disappear and perhaps the emergence of something new. That too will be a sad, sad chapter.

Is there also good news? Maybe – I think so, but it is too early to tell yet. Will this time period be seen as the age of renewed catechesis? Will it be seen as the age when, although our numbers may shrink somewhat, those who are still active become more deeply dedicated to the faith as the late Pope John Paul II predicted? Will we continue to see improvements in the number men coming to the priesthood? Will the Theology of the Body start having that great impact in renewal on the Church that was predicted?

So much can happen and we need not be the ones who simply sit on the curb and clap as the parade goes by. Almost all of these last points can be the beginning of something big and noteworthy for the history books but only of individuals decide to engage them – not “Church people”, not the active person in church who sits next to you, not your kids, but you. It is only when individuals decide to be holy, active, and responsible do great things happen. Sometimes it takes a lot of people acting on their own to make a change. We don’t have more men studying for the priesthood because a group decided to join the seminary but that individual men all step forward. And sometimes it only takes one person acting, like a queen inviting an estranged pontiff to tea.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010


Politics have been the cause of so many wars in history. It is obvious that politics are bad for human beings. Therefore it is my recommendation that we should get rid of all politics.

While we are at it we should get rid of all land ownership, ethnic differences, wealth, power, natural resources, national pride, and national memories. All of these have caused numerous wars over the centuries. We cannot live with it any longer! It is time we rid ourselves of all these things!

I hope you get my point. I made the mistake of listening to the radio concerning the Pope’s visit to England (to which he was invited by the way.) The ranting about how evil he and the Catholic Church are was at fever pitch. I will give kudos to the program for bringing some non-disgruntled Catholics on to give other views of the visit – quite an unusual event in and of itself. But to the rest of it I just kept telling myself, “Just listen so that you can speak intelligently about this,” but it was just one unsubstantiated, illogical diatribe after another. I have absolutely no problem with someone who wants to engage in a conversation about any topic calmly and intelligently, but this reached to point of ridiculousness.

I can’t even go into everything that was said but one guest on the show – not a call in – went on at length about how religion should be wiped off the face of the earth because it has been the cause of death and war for centuries. He was so worked up that the host had to turn off his microphone and move on. Has God and religion been cited as reasons to go to war and/or to rally troops? Yes. Absolutely. Even by popes and leaders of other religions. But does that mean that religion leads to war? Hardly.

There are two things to consider here. One is similar to reasons people give for leaving the Church. There is usually the presenting problem. For example; “I think the Church is unfair and uncaring about (blank),” and there is usually the real problem, “I was divorced, remarried without a decree of nullity, my new spouse wants nothing to do with it, we already have a kid, the Church won’t make it all go magically away and my parents are on my back.” Much easier to point at the evil Church than to take responsibility for one’s actions.

In war it may be that someone is saying, “This is a holy war! Fight on for God and for the Right!” That is the presenting reason whereas the real reason is, “They have oil!” or “We want that land” or “I want to be richer and more powerful!” I mean, let’s be serious. Let’s take the case of a radical Christian (not a person who simply does as he wills yet claims to be a Christian and acting for Christ.) If you are a radical follower of Christ you embrace poverty, you glory in your weaknesses, you fail to see but Christ in another, you are moved to forgiveness and reconciliation and love of your enemy, and turning the other cheek. So does it sound remotely like someone who goes to war can truly declare they do so on behalf of Christianity alone? Only a simpleton would think so.

Of course we could make reference to even wars sanctioned or declared by the Church. It is always dangerous and completely unfair to judge anybody of past generations by the morays of the present. If you want to judge a war one cannot sit comfortably in their armchair with their cup of mocha and expound upon the horribleness of past epochs going to war over things they do not approve of without experiencing at least through the lens of historian the fear of, let’s say, a barbarian invasion in a time of little to no communication that, at least to their minds, seems to threaten the very existence of civilization itself.

Or say that Rome is sacked (yet again) and the Vatican is taken over and used for some other reason. Radically I don’t think Jesus would care one jot. But many people not on the level of Jesus would. We might think it Okay to go in and relieve Rome from her distress (which is actually at least partly our distress) but generations from now (especially if we should fail in our mission) might say, “See how they invaded our nation! Killed our people! Tried to suppress us!” and no doubt there would multitudes listening to their car radios nodding their heads and saying, “Yes! See! We should get rid of religion!”

Let us suppose for a moment that we could wave wand and get rid of all religious beliefs. Say I could wave it over the Middle East and like that – ZAP – all religious fervor is gone. Does anybody really think that all of the war would stop? Do they really think that it is really just about religion? And without those who really practice what their religion says do they really think we would do better without those who would say, “But if you are serious about religion we are really going too far!”

Well, anyway, that is what was rushing through my mind as I listened to the radio and since the only one who could hear me was Sebastian I thought that I would let at least part of it out here.

Believe me . . . Sebastian heard a lot more.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010


FINDING TRUTH WHEREVER IT MAY BE FOUND: Perfection is not achievement. Perfection lies in untiring striving.” David Rast O.S.B.

QUOTE II: “It is difficult to deep a revolution of freedom and justice going when there is satiation.” Walter Brueggamen


Here is something I accidentally stumbled upon which may be of particular interest to Catholic bloggers out there. It is a site that ranks the top Catholic blogs. Adam's Ale is tied for 143rd place out of the top 200 Catholic blogs. This and more rankings can be found here at Divine Life. If you would like read about the methodology for the ranking look here.

Here is a cute one minute video of a dog saying grace.

This came in the Email yesterday. It is a source for Catholic posters.

H. sent in a notice about the Cleveland Museum of Art having a reliquary show on October 17th. Mark your calendars! Thanks H.

Don't forget! C. S. Lewis's Screwtape Letters are coming to Cleveland in mid October. For more details look here.

Here is a 9 minute video about what is right with the Catholic Church (how does he remember it all?:

Along the same lines - Rosemary has this great post on her blog. She gave it a lot of prayer and time (5 months!) This is her reasons for being Catholic. Thanks for sharing it!

Monday, September 20, 2010


When I went to bed last night, saints were peeking in through my bedroom windows. It was kind of cool actually. I could make out their faces and it seemed odd that they so blatantly looked into my room where I lay in bed doing a little reading. They are always there of course, but last night was one of those rare times that they showed themselves so brilliantly.

My room overlooks the church and my bed allows me to see the stained glass windows. Last night the church was lit up like Vegas as we were having out forty hours of devotion; Our Lord is exposed on our altar all day and all night until Tuesday at 7PM when we have our closing ceremonies. During this time the light in the church back lights the windows exposing the pictures of saints that normally remain dark and hidden at night. So I look out and see Saint Augustine, Saint Maria Goretti, and a number of their friends on this side of the church.

Once in a while Fr. Pfeiffer or I would wander over to the church to see how things were going during exposition and to pray for a little while. I tried to go during the transition times from one hour to the next allowing those who needed to leave to go but being there until the persons who showed up for the next hour to come. It turned out to be completely unnecessary.

I do enjoy sneaking over to the church at night when it is still and dark; Just a couple of “ghost lights” on and a glow from the candles. But last night I went over to the lit church just before 11PM to do my Night Prayer and Office of Readings. There were a number of people praying or coming and going. Everything was quiet except the roar of the air handlers. We had put one of my chiming clocks in the church to help people keep track of time but the clock that makes a ruckus in the house is almost not heard in the vast cavern of a church.

All is still save for the candles burn away as they stand in honor of the presence of our Lord. After my prayers I rest one elbow on the pew back and rest my chin and try just talking and listening to God. Occasionally my mind wanders and I shake myself back to paying attention to Him. This is not just a problem between me and Jesus, I experience it with just about anybody. My mind wanders and I think, “Hey! Pay attention to this person in front of you!” So, gently I come back – although much of the time the things that I am trying not to think about because I am supposed to be about the business of praying ARE the very things I should be praying about.

During my homily promoting our Eucharistic Devotions I used the phrase in reference to the Blessed Sacrament as Jesus; Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity. An older gentleman (as he put it) lodged a complaint about this. “Jesus said, ‘this is my body,’ why do we have to add anything?” My homily had been in part about how some people do not know what the Eucharist truly is anymore. I explained that this understanding is at the heart of the Church, the heart of Vatican II, the basis of our belief and many Catholics have lost this understanding and we must reclaim it so I constantly reiterate it. “It just sounds too EWTN,” he replied.

So, my mind wanders to him last night. I shake my head and try to come back to where I was supposed to be in my schedule of prayerful things I had to talk about. Then it caught me that this is what I should be praying about. And here is the glory of celebrating 40 hours, coming back to our roots, our reason for being in common union, the source and summit of our lives, the basis for being Catholic, the heart of our community and the center of our covenant – what better thing to pray about than that we as a community come to understand this better, grow in unity, and strive for sainthood through the Jesus present to us in His Eucharistic form.

Friday, September 17, 2010


Saint Florian was a high ranking officer in the Roman army. One of his main duties was organizing fire brigades. Part of his legend states that he once saved an entire town from a fire with prayer and a single bucket of water. When it was discovered that he was a Christian he was burned at the stake. Saint Florian subsequently became the patron saint of fire fighters.

St. Florian’s cross is very similar to the Maltese cross. The main difference is that the ends of the arms bulge outwardly. This cross most associated with firefighters coats of arms. According to the eight points for firefighters represent tact and discretion; loyalty and commitment; dexterity and mental adroitness; observation, attentiveness and perceptiveness; sympathy, compassion and sharing; explicitness and thoroughness; gallantry; and perseverance.

Thursday, September 16, 2010


There is a danger in extremes. One place where we readily see the damaging results is in religious education. One danger is in learning so much ABOUT God and faith that a person fails to be in a relationship WITH God. The other extreme is to focus so much on relationship WITH God that we fail to impart KNOWING God in any meaningful way.

One of the struggles we face today is resulting from the general tendency over the past few decades of emphasizing God’s love of us at the expense of teaching what that love entails. As a result we have adults passing on faith to children that is largely therapeutic. According to information from the National Federation for Catholic Youth Ministry, in the National Study of Youth and Religion, Teenagers “tend to espouse a religious outlook that is distinct from the traditional faith commitments of most U.S. religious traditions – at outlook that can be described as ‘Moralistic Therapeutic Deism.’”

Here are the basic beliefs and traits of such a view of God:
1. God exists.
2. God wants people to be good and fair to each other.
3. The central goal in life is to be happy and feel good about oneself.
4. God doesn’t need to be particularly involved in one’s life except when He is needed to solve a problem.
5. Good people go to heaven when they die.

As a list it is anemic, nebulous, as well as having some poor theology. It is poor in theology as far as having a “Santa Clause” idea of God. When we want something we call on Him. There is no idea of being in a relationship with Him (or the idea of sacrifice) and as we know true relationships involve much more than banging on the door when you need something. It is nebulous as to what exactly it means that God exists for example or that we are to be “good” to each other.

Parishes, parish schools, CCD programs, adult education, sacramental preparations, and programs in general are not designed to hand on the faith. They give help give some direction, knowledge, and inspiration in the faith, but the primary place faith is passed on is in the home. The Church recognizes this from an infant’s first moments in the faith. Right after the baby’s baptism the parents are blessed with the acknowledgement and prayer that they will be the first teachers of their children in the ways of the faith; may they also be the best of teachers by what they say and do.

What can you do? Of course, first model the faith. Pray. Pray with your family. God to Mass together. Do service hours together. Talk about the faith. Look at the above. You know that some things are missing. You may not know every detail about a certain sacrament, you may not know the difference between the first and second judgment, you may not know how many books exactly there are in the Bible, but you know far more than these five weak points and that’s a place to start. And if your kids or spouse ask you something you do not know look it up! That way you both learn something.

We have an uphill battle to not lose another generation the a therapeutic idea of God. But it is not an impossible one. And it need not happen in your home at all.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010


There was a time in the seminary (times, they have a-changed) when the altar was in the center of the nave on an oriental rug, which constituted the sanctuary, with chairs placed around it for whomever was attending. One day a seminarian was giving the homily. I don’t remember the exact context of the message but he asked the question if everything is made by God, is one place holier than any another? Standing on the Oriental rug he asked, “Am in a holier place now than,” and he stepped off of the rug, “now?”

The situation was much the same way in my first assignment. The daily chapel was a room behind the main church. The place where the altar, tabernacle, ambo, and celebrant’s chair sat would have been a hallway passage between the two doors that let into the chapel with pews fanning back from there. In fact, it was used as a hallway. It had to be. It was the only way to get to the pews or pass from one side of the church to the other without walking across the main sanctuary. In essence there was even less of a distinction between sanctuary and nave here than in the seminary.

So is – or should – the sanctuary area be any more holy than any other part of the church building? What does holy mean? Holy means set apart for the use of the kingdom. Is not the whole church holy – set apart for use to further the kingdom of God? Of course it is. A whole church is consecrated, not just the sanctuary area. The whole building needs to be treated with a certain amount of reverence. This is not just another building.

But further, the sanctuary is not just another space in the holy space. Here is where the most important thing on earth takes place. Here the Word of God is proclaimed; here Jesus is made present Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity. The altar is not just another table on which something grand takes place. Therefore the altar should never be used for anything unconnected to the liturgy. It is not a convenient place to set your scissors as you work on flowers, it is not place to set your papers or to lean against.

This does not make God happier or more holy. This practice is for our benefit. It reminds us not to become too complacent, too used to the miraculous and mystery in our midst. It says to us that something far too important happens here to be taken lightly. Set your scissors somewhere – anywhere else but here.

By extension also the sanctuary. This is not just another space. It is not even just another holy space within a holy space. There is something elevated here. We are to treat this space distinctly different than all other spaces. The general Instruction of the Roman Missal says that the sanctuary should be marked off from the body of the church by elevation or distinct design or architectural appointments. As one wanders around the church, it should be impossible to accidently find yourself here. In a terrible analogy it is like not walking on someone’s grave. Nobody is hurt by it. Not you, not the person who died, and not God. But not doing so reminds us of the dignity of the person buried there, of the reverence we should have for death, for the sensibilities of those who love the person, and remind us of our own mortality.

So we come to the altar rail which has had a fall from popularity that rivals that of Tiger Woods. Recently it was suggested by a parishioner that it be removed from the parish building. Besides making a terrible mar in the architecture would it harm anything to remove it? No. God wouldn’t be angry. Even the most orthodox liturgist would not think it a crime against the Church since the sanctuary would still meet the requirements for being distinctly set apart. But I think we would lose something.

One of the reasons people do not like altar rails is that it makes them feel distant from the altar. As if there is some barrier between them and the altar. Well – let’s be honest – there is. But if having an altar in a hallway is one extreme is having an altar rail the other?

One argument that I make over and over again is that symbols that were redefined in the 60s and 70s are being redefined once again. The things that were fought against represented by many symbols of the Church no longer exist and younger persons cannot connect them with what others see as oppressive signs of a bygone Church structure. Arguments to the contrary simply fail to move them and when we spend a lot of time arguing about them young people (here I mean approximately 45 and under) simply become disinterested, wonder what all the fuss is about, and, tragically, lose interest.

So we come to the altar rail. Quite frankly I think most people simply don’t register them. It is a bit of a non-issue. But looking back at being in church buildings with altar rails and not having grown up with what is now called the extraordinary form I find they have played a curiously opposite role in my life than that of which they are accused.

Far from making me think that I am somehow excluded or unworthy to approach the sanctuary, I find that they have always drawn me to the sanctuary. Stopping in a church on a visit I would always find myself kneeling at such a spot, not only getting one of the closest vantage points for looking at a beautiful sanctuary but also then (while I am kneeling) being drawn to prayer. As some people see them as off putting, they can also be an invitation.

Now, you certainly do not have to agree with my analysis. Except for the call for the sanctuary to be set apart from the rest of the church, everything contained herein is strictly my opinion (brilliant and humble, but just my opinion) and you will find scores of much more educated and professional persons who vehemently disagree. And that’s why it is a big Church. But be careful about completely ruling them out at least in such things as already exist as if it is a foregone conclusion that they should be wiped out from the face of the earth. In an age where sanctity is a dying concept it may be wise to not rail against such things.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010


FINDING TRUTH WHEREVER IT MAY BE FOUND: “Never allow someone to be your priority while allowing yourself to be their option.” Anon.

QUOTE II: “It is true we cannot turn the cheek to the smiter; it is true that we cannot give our cloak to the robber; civilization is too complicated, too vainglorious, too emotional . . . The command of Christ is impossible, but it is not insane; it is rather sanity preached to a planet of lunatics.” From Chesterton’s, “Twelve Types.”


For those wondering who Fr. D is that wrote last week's post on ke$ha, he is none other than Fr. Damian Ference, a professor of philosophy at our seminary. I forgot to ask him if I could include his name on Adam's Ale (sometimes people prefer to have only their on-line name posted) and so gave him the moniker Fr. D. Since you asked and he gave permission I post his name now with apologies and an invitation to send a post whenever he can.

Speaking of Fr. Ference, he sent this in. There's going to be "a great night on men & women at St. Mary's in Hudson in October. Fr. Larry Richards will be presenting on masculinity and Dr. Helen Alvare will present on femininity. This night is for teens, young adults, and older adults. Both of you would enjoy the night, and I imagine you might want to encourage others to come." Here is more information about the parish.

Valentino sent this in: "Hi, We are running a non-profit site; only for the sake of information sharing. We visit your site regularly. Recently we came across the "Blogroll" section in your site. Since our site is also based on regular news updates, we believe it would surely help us to be more effective if we get your site’s link." Go here to see more.

C.K. made us aware that the play based on C. S. Lewis's "Screwtape Letters" is coming to Cleveland October 15th and 16th to the Ohio Theater. It may be time for another ADAM'S ALE EVENT! Anyone interested in going? Leave a reply or Email me directly at JAVALENCHECK@AOL.COM. Here is more information. Thanks CK!
Since someone asked, the St. Sebastian Chesterton Society site has been updated. Click at the side or here.

Russ sent this video in (about 2.5.) One of the reasons social scientists say churches are losing people is because our belief in God is largely superficial - we rarely speak of the sacrifice involved. That makes this video at least interesting to discuss.

Monday, September 13, 2010


I need to evangelize more as a priest.” This was one of the conclusions that we came to on our trip to Canada this past week. We spent a lot of time “talking shop.” “If we are serious about that,” I said, “we could be wearing our collars.” “True.”

Unless I am riding my bike or some such thing, if I am out and about you can usually count on finding me in my clericals. Yet on certain vacations I don’t wear them. I get easily “peopled out” and desire to be left alone and so selfishly don’t wear them.

People find you out however. Going through customs into Canada we handed over our passports (can you believe you need a passport to get out of and into the United States to and from Canada now? That’s like needing a note from your parents to play with your brother) and the customs man asked, “Are you bringing anything into the country?”


“How about Bibles?” We have our collars on in our passport photos.

(Hearty har har.”)

At one of the theaters I was lamenting with the person in front of us during intermission how terrible our seats were for “A Winter’s Tail.” She said that she was a college professor of literature and eventually got around to asking what I do for a living.

“Well that’s very interesting!”

No matter how subtle we try to be in restaurants, people seem to notice when we bless our food. But be that as it may nothing says “PRESENCE OF GOD’S CHURCH” like the Roman collar (or habit) which also attracts people. I know this. It attracts me.

Last year I attended the festival by myself. Walking down the street I saw a man dressed in clerics sitting at a café table on the sidewalk sipping coffee. I stopped and introduced myself apologizing for interrupting his breakfast. I wrote you about him last year. He is from England and was filling in at the local parish while taking in the shows. I had extra tickets since my travel partner was out of commission and was able to share them with him. It was a great experience that would not have happened had he not been dressed in his blacks.

At my core I am an extremely private person in a very public role. My first day back I found myself being cranky because of all the sudden attention and spent much of Sunday afternoon locked in the rectory trying to prepare myself to be around people again. It takes a lot of energy for me. Actually I find most priests make a good show of being outward people-persons but in actuality are very private.

So – I don’t know. These are just my ponderings today with not a lot of direction.

Friday, September 10, 2010


The Maltese Cross should start looking familiar to those who have been following this series. It s base is the Greek Cross and since the arms of the cross flair out it reminds us a bit of the Cross Pattee from last week. The difference here is that the center of the ends of the arms point back toward the center forming eight points.

This cross was first used by Christian warriors known as the Knights Hospitaller or Knights of Malta and is roughly based on the cross used by the Crusaders. The eight points stand for loyalty, generosity, piety, bravery, glory and honor, contempt of death, care for the poor and sick, respect for the Church. They can also represent the Beatitudes. Eight is also the symbolic number for baptism since after eight days after entering into Jerusalem Christ ascended into heaven. This is why so many baptismal fonts or rooms have eight sides. Hence this cross is also known as the Rejuvenation Cross because of its eight sides.

Next: St. Florian’s Cross

Thursday, September 9, 2010


This week I am in Stratford for the Shakespeare Festival. There is something uplifting about Shakespeare that you don’t get watching television reruns. On the other hand there is nothing deadlier than Shakespeare done poorly. Shakespeare is not the stuff for children. Yet if we did not have our children see it or perform it, there would rarely be an adult who appreciates it or is able to perform it.

Actually that might be to the liking of some who, as adults, find Shakespeare daunting or even boring. Like symphonies at first they must often be endured until the ear, the eye, and the mind understand what it is they are perceiving. It is like a foreign language that is at first painful to listen to for so much effort is needed to try to understand what is being said. But once mastery begins there is so much joy in understanding the language, in unlocking the joys of Shakespeare, of hearing what tuned ears have come to appreciate in concerts. The more one listens, the more one understands. The more one understands, the more that is gained from listening. The more one ascends, less appreciated are the more rudimentary joys of one’s baser self and there is no going back. It would be turning in your steak for Nerds.

Mass is not too far from this. It is not meant for children’s enjoyment. At first it is endured. To the attendee that desires to train his soul to hear the depths of the Mass one’s appreciation soars. To the one who throws heart and soul into the Eucharist the more there is to gain. The deeper one studies the all that is contained in this great work of God and man, the more one’s soul finds joy in receiving Him so and will find no other comfort like it in this world.

Thus do great things grow within a man, becoming part of him, elevating him, and in the end ruining him for lesser things.

Monday, September 6, 2010


Just in time for me to get away for a couple of days Fr. D. sent this post in! Thanks D! Your timing is impeccable (and your writing, as always, is fantastic.)

Rock stars have always intrigued me. In third grade I read my first book about Bruce Springsteen. Two years later I wrote a book about him. In eighth grade I dressed up as Axl Rose and sang a song I composed about Earth Day in front of the entire student body at Incarnate Word Academy. My sophomore year of high school the topic of my informative speech was: “Guns N’ Roses; The Men Behind the Music.” When my mom and dad weren’t around, I’d tune in to Mtv, and Mtv News was always my favorite segment. I wanted to know about the man behind the guitar, the woman behind the microphone, the story behind the band. Some things never change.

I bought a subscription to Rolling Stone magazine when I entered the seminary after high school graduation, and seven years into priesthood, I still look forward to my issue every other week. I’m not as hip on the music scene as I once was, but I am charged with teaching seminarians philosophy and assisting in their human formation, so I figure it’s pretty important to keep my finger on the pulse of the culture, especially considering the major role that music plays in forming young minds and hearts in our millennial world.

Recently I came across an article by Austin Scaggs about a 23 year-old pop star named Ke$ha, who is a big hit with the kids. She’s a tall woman with dirty blond hair who parties like a rock star, because she is one. When I mention her name to a seventh grade daughter of a close friend, she squints her eyes and sings to me, “before I leave, brush my teeth with a bottle of Jack.” Why twelve year olds know the lyrics to every song on the radio but fail to know the cardinal virtues, the corporal works of mercy, or the ten commandments is really a shame, but it presents a invaluable lesson: pop culture matters. And like it or not, Ke$ha matters too.

Like so many pop stars, Ke$ha (born Kesha Rose Sebert) grew up in a less than ideal home. Her mother wanted a baby, and she wanted her baby to be a Pisces, so she “went through the necessary ways of having a child,” and Kesha came to be. She has never met her father, and probably never will. Concerning the situation she states, “I don’t obsess about it. Maybe I’m in denial. Maybe I need a therapist. But I had a complete childhood. I don’t feel like I missed out on anything.” Today Ke$ha considers her mother to be her best friend, but the way she describes her relationship with her mom makes me think she’s really never had a mother either.

A major tragedy of our post-modern world is that folks like Ke$ha have become our models and heroes, exemplars for young people to imitate. Philosophers from Aristotle to Max Scheler have argued that a key element to the virtuous life is to have living breathing models of virtue, good examples of what it means to be human, so that by acting like them, we too can become virtuous. (Of course, this is precisely the role of saints in the Catholic tradition.) But what happens when the only models our culture elevates are those of vice? What do we do when Ke$ha has more influence on young minds than our faith tradition?

Near the end of the Rolling Stone article, Ke$ha confesses, “My last boyfriend smashed my heart into a million pieces.” Everyone knows what it’s like to have a broken heart, and it’s never a pleasant experience. At some level, each and every human being desires healing, wholeness, restoration, and redemption – Ke$ha included. This is what makes her following admission so telling: “I’ve had no father figure, and I had finally trusted a man. If I were to get involved with another guy, he’d have to be pretty much the Second Coming.”

I doubt that Ke$ha realizes the depth of her theological insight, but it didn’t get past me. Like Augustine, somewhere in the deep recesses of her heart she knows what it is that her heart longs for; she wants the love of Christ. We all do.

Catholic journals and websites are places where you would expect to find deep theological reflections, but sometimes it’s even more fun to find them in the pages of a Rolling Stone.


FINDING TRUTH WHEREVER IT MAY BE FOUND: "More offence is brought into the world by people taking it than by it actually being offered." Sorry, I lost the reference for this.

QUOTE II: "Is this an outrage or a bummer? It's up to you. Think carefully before you settle into your choice." from Carolyn Hax's column, "Tell Me About It" in the Washington Post.


The Diocese of Cleveland Enewsletter made available the USCCB statement on Labor Day.

M. brought this to my attention. I thought it was great considering the new Missal is coming down the pike!

Try to win a car and support quality Catholic education. All proceeds go directly to St. Sebastian Parish School. Order tickets here.

For a virtual tour of St. Peter's Basilica go here!

Here is a 1:50 prolife video. Get ready for September.


May the only work you do today be work that you want to do!

God bless,
Fr. V

I am going away for a couple of days and so post may be scattered this week.

Friday, September 3, 2010


Another cross often constructed along the same lines as the Greek cross but not necessarily so is the cross pattee - as it is known in heraldic circles though when connected with Christianity if usually referred to as the Maltese Cross, Crusader’s Cross or Cross of Saint John. In essence this cross simply means that the arms of the cross are thicker at the end than they are at the center and that can be accomplished in many different ways. “Pattee” is from the French meaning “paw,” the paws or ends of the cross splaying outward like a paw.

The cross is often associated with the Crusades usually appearing red on a white background though it was never named as the official cross, any number of crosses being employed by the Crusaders.

If you want to know if a book, such as a book on theology or a Bible, is consistent with Catholic teaching, you might turn to one of the title pages to see if it has been granted in imprimatur (let it be printed). This cross precedes the bishop’s name that has the book reviewed and given permission for it to be printed with the Church’s official approval. This cross is also often employed to mark Christian sites on a map.

Next time: The Maltese Cross.