Monday, May 31, 2010



Thank you for all of you who did and do serve.

God bless those who gave of themselves so that other would not have to.

Friday, May 28, 2010


As we continue our discussion on basilicas take a look at the unique coat of arms that they have. As written here (a few years ago) there are rather stringent rules regarding heraldry within the Church. There are certain restriction and requirements for the heraldry of a basilica. Removed from a coat of arms are any extraneous objects not prescribed. So there are no knight’s helmets or even a bishop’s miter. There are also no standards or other embellishments. Behind the actual coat of arms is the obrellino reported here two weeks ago. Every basilica has a special connection to the pope and so also seen behind the coat of arms are the silver and gold crossed Keys of Peter. This represents the special connection to the pope to whom the basilica belongs.

Thursday, May 27, 2010


This may seem trivial but it bothers me like a June fly incessantly circling my head. You try to ignore it but eventually it gets to you and today is a shot at taking a swat at it hoping that it will go away. (I fear few people will agree with me and so I must learn to live with the buzzing.)

It concerns a phrase used often in the Catholic Church and I can think of no place less appropriate to use it. It usually takes a form similar to this one: “Good morning! And welcome to Saint Wearehappy Parish.”

Sounds rather harmless at first does it not? But exactly WHO is welcoming WHOM? Is there a “we” by which I am being welcomed? And if so is the person welcoming me more a part of Wearehappy Parish than I am? I could understand if I were a visitor and I was being welcomed or if I had been away for a long time, say serving in the military, and came back after a few months or years being welcomed, but if this is my parish week after week, why am I being welcomed to it?

Coupled with this is the phrase, “Please join us.” Join WHO? The rest of the parish of which I am obviously not considered a full member? Now, if there is a specific group to which you are soliciting my participation I could understand that such as, “Please join the choir as they perform their winter concert,” or “Please join the Chesterton Society of St. Wearehappy for their annual steak dinner.” However, if you are saying, “Please join US as we sing,” I ask, “Who is the us? Some secret group of insiders? Are these the same people to whom I am being welcomed? How do you get to be the welcomers or the “us”es?

I suppose we could welcome visitors but most technically speaking, there are no visitors at Mass (for those who are Catholic.) Now that may be picky. There are visitors to a particular location – but even so. But I think I could handle, “We welcome all those who are visiting Wearehappyparish and invite THEM to join US in singing the opening hymn.”
That is not to say that parishes do not need work at being more welcoming. I am just saying that this particular phrasing is does not do the trick. In fact, it make me (personally) feel a bit less welcomed.

Ha! This was supposed to be a short, one paragraph post today. I guess this bothered Monsignor Manners more than I realized.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010


It seems that the Church has a cool name for just about everything. (I mean – come on – who really needs a word like “tintinnabulum” – but aren’t you glad we have it?) A number of years ago Adam’s Ale had a post on abuses in the way people receive communion in the hand and their proper Latin terms (see here.) Yesterday while with some priests we discussed the corresponding abuses that occur receiving on the tongue. Those follow. For obvious reasons there are not the same type of pictures that there were for the first post.

Now, of course, the proper way to recieve after bowing and saying, "Amen" is to open wide one's mouth and to seriously stick out one's tongue providing a nice landing runway and amply open hanger doors all the while keeping one's hands folded. (It is amazing how many people stick out their hands and their tongues.) This sends a clear message to the distributor how it is that you wish to recieve and is the safest form of recieving Him on the tongue.

Movingus Targetus: One of the most insidious of all tongue receivers because of their deceptiveness. All may seem absolutely normal and safe but at the last possible moment when it is too late to duck and swerve the person moves causing their tongue to slide up your finger. It is at times like these that I wish we had never gotten rid of the maniple. Whose idea was that anyway?

Postus Slotus: This is similar to Postus Slotus in the hand. Here, after saying, “Amen” the person barely opens their mouth in order to receive. Maybe it’s modesty I don’t know. And I will admit though I enjoy sports I’ve never been particularly good with aim. We had our International Festival last weekend and while the kids were setting up games they invited me to have a go at throwing been bags through a whole around which a great white shark was painted. BANG – I hit its nose. BANG – I hit its fin. “This is the million dollar throw Father! You can do it! Just one!” BANG – no, actually WOOSH – over the top of the board. Anyway, that is why when someone wants to receive a la Postus Slotus, not matter how careful I am a whack them on the front teeth or on the lips before actually making it in.

Snapus Turtleus: Once again, everything seems absolutely fine and the distributor can be lulled into a false sense of security. Then, the person leaps forward to snatch the host from your fingers much like a snapping turtle. Once again – maniple anyone?

Maximus Cavimus: Similar to the Postus Slotus but not nearly as dangerous. Here the person opens their mouth wide but fails to stick out their tongue. However it poses little risk for the distributor. One can give them Jesus without fear of hitting teeth or being licked. Kids, remember, this is the one time you can stick your tongue out at an adult and not get in trouble for it so do it!

Guessimus: After saying amen the person simply stands there without giving any indication whatsoever how they wish to receive. Sometimes it is the case that they person has never received before such as at the wedding and despite the announcement has decided to come up anyway. At times these give themselves away by responding, “Sure” when you say, “Body of Christ.” Other times, not so much.

Usually however it is simply a late bloomer. Slowly move the host toward the person and it is then that they put their hands out or stick out their tongue. They are, in my opinion, the least of the offenders.

Once again, we believe that the Eucharist is the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity or Our Lord Jesus Christ. Careful and proper reception of this great gift gives honor to God and witness to our brothers and sisters.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010


FINDING TRUTH WHEREVER IT MAY BE FOUND: “The real measure of your wealth is how much is how much you would be worth if you lost all your money.” -unknown

QUOTE II:Health is merely the slowest possible rate at which one can die.” -unknown

We have repairs going on in the church this past week. I could not resist the temptation to climb and take a couple of pictures of St. Sebastian. That is Fr. Pfeiffer way up there on the scaffolding.

Here is an interesting site with statistics on your diocese.

Russ sent this in. It is statistics for those in ministry in the Diocese of Cleveland. (It is a PDF document.) Pretty interesting stuff. Thanks!

This was sent to our attention:My name is Rev Robert Wright, Editor for, a social network made specifically for Christians, by Christians. We embarked on this endeavor to offer the entire Christian community an outlet to join together and better spread the good word of Christianity. has many great features like Christian TV, prayer requests, finding a church, receiving church updates and advice.

F. sent this in. It's worth a listen to. 1:42.

Monday, May 24, 2010


I do enjoy being a pastor. I wouldn’t trade it for the world. But even the best of jobs can have their tedious side. But amidst the usual brouhaha and costmary emergencies are always some distractions that add spice to the week.

One example was in speaking to priest friends from around the world. The priest reported earlier to you from India told me of his first experience of snow in Akron. He walked outside and saw this white matter falling from the sky and assumed that there was a fire somewhere and the ashes were falling over the parish grounds. When they started falling at an alarming rate it occurred to him that it would be this thing called snow.

The priest from Barcelona went with a walk with Sebastian, Fr. P and I and we came across a garage sale. This was the most interesting thing to him. “Are they always open? Is it like a store? This is just excess stuff that they have that they SELL?” On our second walk the next week he asked, “Will there be any garage sales today?” I think he is addicted.


Our choir was in the WCLV Jubilation choir competition which was held at our cathedral church of St. John. The purpose of the contest is to promote quality Church music from classical to modern and to recognize the fine choirs of north east Ohio from all denominations. St. Sebastian was one of the six finalists this year.

I was late getting to the contest and crept into the cathedral. Our bishop, bishop Lennon was sitting there and greeted me and asked if I would like to sneak down to the bowels of the cathedral building to let the choir know that I was there. We wound our way through the maze of the basement until we came to the room in which the choir was preparing. We prayed together and I gave them a blessing after which I said, “I’d have the bishop bless you too but that might be considered cheating!”

Back through the maze we found ourselves once again in the back of the cathedral. (It was swell of the bishop to perform that kindness.) I sat down and listened to other choirs. There was no clapping since the contest was performed live on the air. When the choir before us finished a man stood and waved his finger in the air giving us permission to applaud and the announcer, a smooth speaking man with a deep voice made some announcements and then said “And now back to the WCLV studios. The 2010 Jubilation Choir Competition will resume in about ten minutes.” And with that we were given permission to talk and move about.

Our choir then started to take its place at the front of the sanctuary. We were one of the largest choirs there and as a matter of fact they can no longer where our robes (which are getting quite old as it is) because had grown so large in numbers. We were ushered back to our seats and after some brief remarks by the announcers the choir was introduced, “. . .under the direction of Lynn M. Fry-Steward” and the choir began, “And the glory, the glory of the Lord . . .” from Handel’s Messiah. They also performed “Lacrymosa for Mozart’s Requiem, “Ubi Caritas” by Maurice Durfle, and “Arise, Your Light Has Come” by David Danner. At the end when the man waved his hand in the air the cathedral broke out in thunderous applause! It was a thrilling night.

In the end we did not win first placed (but just being there was an honor) but IMHO I think one would be hard pressed to say that anyone else came as close as we.

The other interesting thing that happened was that my ceiling in my room started leaking. We had a heavy downpour on Saturday just as we were getting ready for our International Festival. I remember listening to the rain and thinking, “Why does it sound like it is closer than it should be?” Sure enough water was gushing in. The cabinet in which the TV sat had a quarter of an inch of water trapped in the top. (Thank goodness is was well built enough not to let it soak down onto the TV!) I put buckets out and went to the festival for a few minutes.

Then it was time to go up on the roof and see what was what. I gentleman from the parish volunteered to help and we dug out a latter. I did not want to waste his time and so chucking my cassock went about the business in dress pants and white shirt with cufflinks. Mom would have been furious. We put the ladder up to one roof and got that high, pulled the ladder up and reached the level of the second roof. Finally we hauled ourselves up to the top roof and found inches deep in water. The interesting part was that once up there we discovered the trap door that is right over the back steps. We really only needed a step ladder. We could have just used the stairs the rest of the way. Anyway the drains had plugged! We unplugged the drains and the water rushing down them sounded like jet engines.

Then it was time to go back down. We had not used the ladder to get up to the third roof but scaled the wall. Funny how much more difficult it seemed trying to get back down. Down seems like such an easy direction. In any event I had been very successful in keeping mostly clean but the effort of climbing back down ended with a big green smear – of course on my white shirt.

Well that was the excitement from St. Sebastian this week. Sorry it was so long.

Friday, May 21, 2010


There is another object besides the ombrillino that helps mark a building a basilica. It is a staff with a bell on it called a Tintinnabulum. I’ve actually only ever seen one of these in Our Lady of Victory National Shrine and Basilica in New York. If you click here and take the pictorial tour of the front of the shrine and click on #3, you will see a picture of the tininnabulum. According to the shrine’s own website, “The tintinnabulum is a small gold bell mounted on a six-foot pole with a golden frame crowned with the papal tiara and keys. If the Pope was to say Mass within the Basilica, the tintinnabulum would be used to lead the very special procession down the shrine's aisle.” Today we would have an announcer, “Please stand and open your hymnals to number 5463” or some such thing. Not having sound systems for the entire 2000+ year history of the Church and someone standing at the door shouting, “HEY! HEADS UP! THE POPE IS HERE!” the bell helped people know when he was coming and where to look.

Thursday, May 20, 2010


Beauty, if it is truly to be thought so, must be wedded to some truth. Beauty without truth will ultimately fail to satisfy. If you should be lost in the woods that is absolutely full of rabbits which you are able to catch and eat to your satisfaction, you will ultimately starve to death because rabbit meat is too lean to sustain life. If something is beautiful but reflects no truth, it may attract our eye but it will ultimately fail to feed our souls and nourish us and give us life.

The truth of the piece may not be immediately apparent. Sr. Wendy came to the Cleveland Museum of Art to produce an audio tour of her favorite pieces. One little amazing piece was a small, heavy, brass bear, not so much in the shape of an actual bear but looking much more like an infant’s plastic chew toy of a bear (though a very well done chew toy.) She described the piece as a weight used to hold down the corner of a mat on which an official would sit during official business (I forget both the year and the province.) First she reminded us of people’s natural affinity for bears. We do find them fascinating. On the one hand there is the sheer power and awesomeness of these beasts of the wild which strikes in us some amount of respect and fear. If we encounter a bear in the woods (or in our kitchen) the natural reaction would be to flee.

On the other hand they are so attractive. They look soft and their fur draws us in to want to touch them. As they lumber and eat berries our minds turn to the overstuffed plush toys that we had as children. At the zoo we watch them play in the water or snuggle with their young ones and are moved to say, “Look! Awwwwwwe!” Such is our attraction to bears. Respect and attraction. Fear and awe. Beauty and strength amidst a certain comfortable frumpiness.

Then there is the little brass bear at the edge of the mat of the government official who sits squat, enduring some presentation by someone with more breath than actual information burning away the precious minutes of life that God has given him. He looks down and sees the bear perhaps at his right knee. For a moment he is brought to mind of our affinity for bears and he reaches out his hand and places it on the bear’s head and for a moment is relieved if the pain of the meeting.

I did not do Sr. Wendy’s talk justice – not nearly. By the time she finished her telling of the story I was foolishly near tears so much truth and beauty came melding together. Beauty must take us somewhere. And that somewhere must be part of the truth of the universe – of God – of what it is to be human – or it is something else - a technique – or even ugliness.

A couple of people asked about faces and what attracts us to them. One scientific study says that balance and symmetry does it. Well, sure, that is what attracts us to a particular face. We are drawn in. But each of us have experienced meeting something who truly looks beautiful but once we start talking to the person or getting to know them deeply and finding some ugliness discover that the beauty of their face can no longer attract us – or if it does we keep looking for something good – some truth convinced that some beauty MUST be backed up with some substance. Or perhaps there is someone whose looks at first turned you off, but after getting to know the person find that they now appear beautiful to you. This is far different from the initial attraction.

That is the attraction or pornography. A person is attracted to the beauty of the bodies that they view. There is no learning more deeply about the person. The mind can fill in the perfect personality. So the person being viewed can be kept beautiful in the mind of the person but it is a false beauty. As John Paul said the problem with pornography is not that it reveals too much, it is that it reveals too little. True beauty desires to lead us somewhere. “Beauty is truth, truth beauty,” says John Keats.

True beauty is a finger that points beyond itself. If it does not, it may be attractive (and empty,) but should not be thought beautiful from the “ism” through which we wish to evaluate it. It may be that we have failed to see through it and our “ism” requires us to search more deeply. And finally, if it is to be truly beautiful it must lead us to something great.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010


So let us say that you are going to go to the megaplex to watch a movie. Not having kept up with what is playing lately you decide to look at the ratings to decide which movie you are going to see. What rating system do you use? Stars? Thumbs? Alphabets? Tomatoes? Perhaps you pick the one with the four stars or the A+ but in the end you wonder if it really rated a superior marking. “Critics rave!” did not translate into your world of great movies. Not that you did not enjoy it or think it wonderfully shot or scripted, but there was something lacking – that sense of awe long after the movie is over – the kind that transforms the movie into a classic that you can watch year after year.

In truth there are many different ways to rate a movie or a book or a television show or a work of art. I remember as a little kid thinking that the Academy Awards was the most thrilling event of the movie year. I thought at the time that there was some universal, impartial, and truthful rating system that would truly mark out who created the best piece of art: the best movie of the year would truly be the triumph of mankind’s artistry in that field that year. (And I also believed that if we hadn’t had a quality movie that they just simply would not award a little gold statue that year.)

But human beings do not have an impartial and universal marker for the quality of such creativity. The best sighted person puts on glasses when critiquing art. The glass over the critics eyes are made out of an “ism,” even those who proclaim they partake in no “ism.” The “ism” comes out of our experience of life and colors how we see the world. Therefore when we approach an object who we are comes into play in the we interpret it and how much worth we attribute to it.

To exemplify this, Pope Benedict described in the forward of his book, “Jesus of Nazareth” how Jesus comes to reflect the persons using a historical critical method to classify him. So that “if you read a number of those reconstructions one after the other, you see at once that far from uncovering an icon that has become obscured over time, they are much more like photographs of their authors and the ideals they hold.” Who we are will always play a role in the way we see and interpret the world.

So people approach work from modernism, postmodernism, feminism, fascism, socialism, commercialism, humanism, name-anything-ism. How should we approach such works as Catholics? What should the glasses of Catholicism help us see and critique in such works of man?

At our last G. K. Chesterton gathering we came up with a short list of such things. But the short list needs to be explained a little so this will be a short series.

The first consideration is beauty. Is what is being portrayed in word, art, film, or even interpretation beautiful? Does it lift the spirit, exalt God and man, does it inspire? Does it leave you with something of an inspiration even after you have walked away from it for some time – even if your initial contact with the piece was difficult? Was there something about the beauty of the piece that would draw you back or inspire you on?

“In the end, it is beauty that will save us,” to quote Fr. Benedict Groeschel. God is all beauty as well as the source of all true beauty and true beauty can only lead to the good. For true beauty does not stand alone. Beauty has three sisters with her and she must always stand with them or the beauty being recognized is an imposter.

I had the most difficult time enjoying modern art for the longest time. Much gratitude is extended to those who helped me see, adjusted my glasses so to speak, so that I might appreciate it much better. But even having some of it explained well and in much depth to me, some works still leaves me cold. Here is a partial answer why. Some pieces are simply meant to be beautiful. One piece I remember being explained to me was a blue canvas. “See how the blue seems to rise up off of the canvas! The artist worked hard at achieving just the right hues and technique so that you might be lost in the wonderful effect of the color.” And to be fair there are people who could sit and stare at this all day and not as a novelty but as something beautiful and meaningful to them.

To me and my experience of “Catholicism,” it was a beautiful technique waiting to be made into art. For beauty, when not wed to the One, the True, and the Good is ultimately meaningless. This was somewhat summed up in a line from Don Quixote when he said of the beautiful woman, “Honor and virtue are ornaments of the soul, without which the body, though it be really beautiful, ought not to be thought so.” Beauty is the culmination and crowning of the One, the True, and the Good and cannot (or should not) stand alone.

So, critique #1: Is it beautiful in the way we understand beauty?

Tuesday, May 18, 2010


FINDING TRUTH WHEREVER IT MAY BE FOUND: “Catholicism is, and always has been, inseparable from the high ideal of chastity. When I say this I don’t mean that Catholics have always practiced chastity. Not at all. . .while committing sexual sins they have recognized that these really were sins: or, in others words, they felt guilty. . . If Catholicism is to be revived in the United States, this revival will have to include a revival of the deal of chastity . . . we can be sure that sexual sin will continue to abound . . . [but] unlike their typical fellow Americans, [Catholics should] feel guilty about their sins, and will perhaps commit them a bit less frequently than they have been doing for the past few decades.” from Dr. David Carlin’s article, “Thick and Thin Catholicism” in the Homiletic and Pastoral Review May 2010

QUOTE II: “The problem with evil people is that they can only see evil in others. It is one of the worse curses of being evil, that you can no longer experience good.” from Michael Gruber’s, “The Book of Air and Shadows”


M. sent in this article in which a priest asks people what they think of the new changes to the Mass.

F. sent in this great 5 and half minute video about Easter morning in Budapest.

Fr. Pf. sent over this video of the oldest known footage of a pope (1896). Interesting!

The Diocese of Cleveland Enewsletter reports, "The Vatican has given its 'recognitio,' or statement of acceptance, of the proposed U.S. version of the new edition of the Roman Missal. The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) now must decide when to authorize its use in dioceses and parishes in the United States." Read more here.
Fr. F. made us aware of this EXCELLENT video found over at the Mintority Report. Before you comment be aware of this: It was made by the kind of church that it parodies. Thanks friend.

Here are some interesting statistics from the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate that was printed in the last edition of The Universe Bulletin. DOES THIS SOUND LIKE YOU? Of the approximately 440 men who will be ordained to the priesthood this year in the United States:

70% are white
13% are Latino
31% were born outside of the U. S.
10% were converts to Catholicism
12% had experience as an educator.
59% name music, reading, and movies as popular pastime activities.

You are in luck! For some reason I cannot open my alternate Email accounts and so this is all I can offer today!

Monday, May 17, 2010


It was quite a weekend! Weddings, baptisms, ordination, first communions, regular Masses, confessions, and an anointing thrown in for good measure. It seemed that for most of the weekend the parochial vicar and I ran from one event to the next.

Being ordination season many priests are celebrating their anniversaries. Our elder pastor emeritus just celebrated his 60th anniversary! At the other end of the scale the parochial vicar is marking the end of year number one (after which he will finally be able to take a couple of vacation days.) Some time around now I am celebrating 12 years. I say “some time” because I never remember the exact date (that would not have been so great for marriage) but do remember that the Mass of Thanksgiving was celebrated on Pentecost which is next week.

There were two men ordained for the Diocese of Cleveland this year. The grand procession of servers, permanent and transitional deacons, priests, and bishops lined up on Superior Avenue alongside the cathedral to prepare for the opening procession. As the cathedral bells started ringing we wound our way to East 9th Street to the front of the cathedral. We passed the usual protesters though they continue to shrink in number while increasing in age. Four people held up signs begging for a married priesthood and five persons held a sign that I’ve seen for the past 18 years that reads, “Women are priestly people too.” I wonder if they would be as accommodating if we held a protest outside the church of their children’s weddings. Well – I suppose at least they care enough to be there right?

We walked up the steps in the bright sun and enter the cool, dark interior of the cathedral (through the new doors that my cousin helped create) and the bells were drowned out by the singing, organ, and other instruments. The place is packed to the gills – a good sign being that only two men were ordained. As we reached the altar we bow two by two, turn, and head toward Mary’s chapel where the priests are seated.

The actual ordination takes place around the homily time. After the bishop lays on hands each of the priests are invited to come forward and lay on hands. The newly ordained kneel on the marble steps and we file past and place our hands on their heads in an ancient gesture and prayer.

It struck me after how this was just the beginning of so much ministry these men would do. How many people would be baptized at their hands? How many families started through their witnessing of Catholic marriage? How many soothed through anointing? How many forgiven in confession? How many receive counseling? How many thousands receive communion?

Then following the ceremony I jumped in the car to race back to Akron. (Well – sort of. I ALWAYS think, “If I hurry and run to my car maybe I can get out of the parking deck quickly.” A sure sign of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. I sat still in the deck for a half an hour. But I digress.) I got back just in time to perform a wedding. The begging of a new life for two people and thought how the world is going to be different because these two people vowed to love. They will have children most likely because of this union, and children will have children, and etc. . . and the world will be as it is partly because of this simple ceremony today.

The next day was First Communion. As Fr. P. pointed out this should be the first of thousands of Communions for these young folks. It is the next step in their life in the Church. Some day they will be bringing their children to baptism, First Communion and presenting their sons and daughters for marriage (or other vocations.)

It was a tiring weekend but one full of so much hope and life. It was the Church ALIVE! It is Christ still active in the world. Praised be God!

Friday, May 14, 2010


There are different designations for church buildings. Most are familiar with the parish church or cathedral. Another distinction that may be bestowed upon one of these structures is the title basilica. There are major basilicas (St. Sebastian is Rome is one such church – oh yes, and St. Peter’s too) and minor basilicas which account for most churches with the title. Such a church is given the designation by the Holy Father himself and is a place of particular religious or historic importance. There are 56 basilicas in the Unites States.

If the front sign should blow off of the building there are a number of ways in which to tell that a church building is indeed a basilica. One way to tell is the ombrellino, which you may recall from last week as an umbrella like contraption that is also used at times for covering the Blessed Sacrament in procession. In this particular application it always appears in the colors of gold and red, the traditional colors of the papacy. At one time the obrellino would be held over the pope as he traveled about on horseback. Now it is an ornamental object placed to the right of the main altar whose symbolic purpose is to signify a building a basilica and is open when the pope is present and remains closed when he is not.

If you are wondering if you are in a major or minor basilica and nobody is watching and you do not see security cameras or a Swiss Guard with a halyard (er - I mean Halberd - thanks W. - so much for spell check,) go up and touch it. If it is of velvet, you are in a major basilica, if it is silk; minor.

Thursday, May 13, 2010


As I have traveled from assignment to assignment and parish to parish I was struck at the differences between the way funeral homes practice their trade. Some I thought good and appropriate, others I found almost offensive. One of my favorites was a guy who directed the pall bearers with all the tact of a foreman instructing a crane operator where to load a giant crate on a ship. “Alright men! One inch forward – ah – too far! Back! Okay, when I count to three lower very slowly. 1..2..3 Very good men. Release and step back!”

It was not until I was on retreat and the retreat director pointed out that the way we celebrate a funeral tells a lot about who we are. There are the standard aspects particularly among Catholics; calling hours, vigil services, Mass, burial, wake . . . But HOW we do these things can vary greatly and what I was disappointed in with some of the undertakers was less about how good of a job they were doing and more about what I had become accustomed to growing up.

This became apparent on this retreat as we were from many different nationalities and backgrounds. We were talking about death and a priest from Africa told how quickly things went there and how the family was required to feed everybody who showed up – and they wanted many people to show for that was a mark of honor. He went on to talk about what a great celebration there was for their mother.

From that point the retreat director would ask each priest about his background and most times he could tell them how they probably celebrated death. For example when the guy next to me said that he was Irish everybody smiled. Irish wakes are seen as very demonstrative and celebratory to put it in the very best light and all of us had been exposed to such things.

Now these are certainly not hard and fast rules but there is a general tendency. So when he asked me what nationality I was and I said Slovenian, he folded his hands in his lap, nodded, and uttered a very somber, “Ohhhh.” Then he added, “I would imagine that your experience is couched with great solemnity and respect verging on stoicism. There was a lot of truth to that though the edge of it has worn off as the community becomes more and more Americanized. But I do remember Mr. Haun who was the local funeral director that most people from my nationality parish used being a man of great gravitas. During ceremonies he would speak in hushed tones. Unlike the funeral director at the top who directed the carrying of the casket in loud and clear tones, Mr. Haun did much of his direction with intelligent glances, hushed tones, and discreet hand motions.

There is nothing in any of these expressions that is right or wrong (I have come to realize), they are different ways of expressing the same things. But it is interesting to realize that how one celebrates death has a lot to do with how you were raised and in what community. It can be a little self revelatory and something interesting to mull over.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010


Romance,” to misquote The Princess Bride “is not dead. It’s just mostly dead. See, there's a big difference between mostly dead, and all dead. Now, mostly dead: it's slightly alive.” As evidence of this I offer stories of how engagements take place. Part of my wedding preparations and getting to know my couples is asking them various question my favorite of which is, “So how did the engagement take place?” Interestingly enough of the scores of weddings I have taken part in, only three times has there been a report that the groom-to-be has not gone down on at least one knee when he proposes. Of those three, two of them did not end up getting married. (Don’t tell the third one about this. They seem happy for the time being.)

Here’s the problem: In easily one third of the stories the woman who is being proposed to does her best to mess up her future hubby’s plan to make the moment as romantic as possible. As soon as they start telling the story – just by the way that they look at each other as they begin the story - I KNOW that she did something to almost ruin the moment.

Now grant you, the guy may not have planned it well – thought it through – but when you are trying to be the lead in a romantic scene and you only do it once every few years you are going to be a little green on how to pull it off.

But still.

Here is a very typical example. HE: plants the ring in the sand at the beach. SHE: doesn’t want to go for a walk because it has started misting. HE: becomes strangely insistent because – well – THERE’S A VERY VALUABLE RING BURIED IN THE SAND OUT THERE!

HE: Has arranged for the server to bring the ring out with the desert tray. SHE: Doesn’t want desert. HE: suggests that they at least look at it. SHE: not only doesn’t want any but thinks he shouldn’t either! HE: becomes strangely insistent because – well – HE’D BEEN PLANNING THIS FOR MONTHS AND HE SLIPPED THE WAITER AN EXTRA TWENTY TO PLANT THE RING.

HE: Is going to propose just before walking into the family gathering. SHE: Is in hurry and is getting upset by what seems to her to be delay tactics to keep them from getting there on time. HE: is in fact employing delay tactics in order for the party to get ready and give him time to propose. He gets down on his knee on the front lawn. SHE: holding a covered plate of lasagna says urgently, “What are you doing? Get up off of the ground! Come on, let’s go they are waiting for us!”

Typical. Typical. I don’t know who this is a lesson for. If it is for gentlemen I say if you are not used to pulling romantic stunts ask someone who knows what they are doing. And have a backup plan. If she bulks at the first plan go to the second. No point in forcing cat into the bathtub. The results may be great but the road there might be a bit scratchy.

If it is for women – give the poor lug a break. He may not be very good at this. Give him some encouragement or he may never try it again. It will be anniversaries of “I don’t know, what do YOU want to do?” If something seems a bit off pay attention to the alarm bells in the back of your head. “Why is he so desperate that I smell the rose he gave me that I have no desire smell? Does he not realize that I am allergic to plants?” COME ON! THERE IS A RING IN THERE! Of course, if I am wrong he just may be strange and you have permission to punch him.


FINDING TRUTH WHEREVER IT MAY BE FOUND: “Feelings are a great gift but they’re treacherous if they’re all we live for. They drive us back into ourselves you see; what I want, what I feel, what I need.” from Tony Hendea’s, “Father Joe”

QUOTE II:We are never safe. But we have plenty of fun and some ecstasy.” from C. S. Lewis’s, “The Problem of Pain”


Living Faith At Work is a program based in the Diocese of Cleveland. Their mission is to empower people, through the Catholic tradition, to live out their faith at work. For more information look here.

Adoro sent an Email saying that she has been nominated for a Crescat Award and invites us over there to give her vote. Whilst there I noticed that I am too up for an award. So if you go to vote for her, throw one in for my category also. Or, if nothing else, have fun looking at the various blogs up for nomination.

If you have not already heard, the Diocese of Cleveland Enewsletter reports, "The Vatican has given its "recognitio," or statement of acceptance, of the proposed U.S. version of the new edition of the Roman Missal. The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) now must decide when to authorize its use in dioceses and parishes in the United States." Read more here.

R. M. sent in this New York Times article on the pope. Thanks.

Russell sent in this link to a video done by the same two guys was posted here last week. I though it pretty cool and something to keep in mind.