Sunday, January 30, 2011


If you came to one of the Masses at which I preached this weekend you would have heard this story already. My apologies.

10 minutes later . . .
Problem solved?

What I thought was reasonable solution No. 2.

Cooperation with one's pastor when he is trying to delegate responsibility makes for much easier living.

Friday, January 28, 2011

FRIDAY POTPOURRI: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9

So . . .

. . . novenas.

So terribly misunderstood and often maligned Catholic practice.

At its core a novena is a prayer said over nine days or over nine weeks with the prayer being prayed once a week. They are not necessarily for anything except being about the business of prayer although people can and often do use them as a petitionary form of prayer.

The idea of nine days of prayer is Biblically based. It takes its length from the time that St. Mary and the Apostles waited for the coming of the Holy Spirit between the Ascension and Pentecost (Friday through Saturday though that is thrown off in many diocese now that we celebrate Ascension Thursday Sunday.) In this way it is a very pious prayer and has been endorsed by the Church often over the centuries though it only really came to be popular in the seventeenth century. To this day there is a partial indulgence attached to those who take part in a publically celebrated novena before the solemnity of Christmas or the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

There are two ways to go off track with novenas. One is to cast them aside as not part of the modern Church. They are very squarely on the Catholic playing field and to dismiss them out of hand is to deny those who derive spiritual nourishment from them their ability to try to fulfill the Gospel’s command to pray always. On the other hand, that does not mean that every parish must do novenas. There is only so much that you can do. I am simply saying don’t be too quick simply to dismiss the whole notion. We should neither be holier or less holy than the Church.

The other way to go off track with novenas is to fall into the idea that a) you have to WANT something other than growing closer to Him in the praying of one, and that God HAS to grant you what you want because you prayed this magic formula. Not so.

In the end it is a form of prayer that obeys the rules of all forms of prayer. When properly used it may be very beneficial, when improperly used it can lead one astray. If it is a type of prayer for you, do it and don’t worry about it. If not, there is nothing that says one must pray this type of prayer that is so relatively new to the Church.

Thursday, January 27, 2011


Rust belt Catholics: the news is not all bad. Our experience is not the experience of the world or even all of the United States.

I have been blessed to visit Florida for a couple of days. We stopped to see some of the Catholic parishes here. They are large but not large enough. One congregation in this area has collected half of the cash they need to build a larger church for all of their people. Driving down the street someone pointed out a new parish that was built to help relieve the pressure off of another burgeoning parish, “but it didn’t help much,” he reported owning to too many people coming to Mass.

One spoke about how some people at his parish never step into the church – not because they are not coming to Mass but because it is so packed that they have to stand in the narthex and for communion someone comes out to them and they never cross the threshold into the nave.

In my little corner of the world the news is about parishes and schools closing due to lack of people, funds, and priests. We deal with it. We do our best to make the remnant spectacular. But it is nice to know we are not the rule. There is life and hope. There is always life and hope.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011


Every time the Church appears in the paper it requires faithful members of the Church to hold their collective breath. Is this false, mostly false, misleading, mostly true, absolutely true, and is it good or damaging and if so did we do it to ourselves? Nothing hurts more than damaging, absolutely true and we did to ourselves. And this last scenario happens often enough that you wouldn’t think that any false or misleading scenarios would need to be invented but they are.

Appearing last week in the Cleveland Plain Dealer was an editorial that appeared in the Los Angeles Times written by Michael Kinsley concerning John Paul II’s beatification this coming May. Most of the article is the kind of writing that his author likes to see in secular media. I had no idea of he was for it or against it through most of the reading. There was a healthy balance between a positive an accurate reporting of facts, the Church’s perspective, and a healthy asking of questions that I would expect of a paper that does not purport to be Catholic or a proclaimed defender of the faith.

Then one hits the last quarter of the article and it falls apart. Using techniques reminiscent of 1970’s values clarification, a misleading proposition is presented with implied solutions that leaves the reader siding with the author in a, “of course I couldn’t possibly accept the other position” stance. Limit the possible answers to my good one and the terrible one that I assign to my opponent and I win followers. A sneaky, disingenuous, and unhelpful technique.

A quick background: A nun was miraculously cured of Parkinson’s disease, a malady shared by both the author of the article and John Paul II. The cure was attributed to intercessory prayer made through JPII. The first question, one that is asked in every high school religion class, is why doesn’t JPII or God just eliminate Parkinson’s disease all together. This is a fair enough question and worthy of theological discussion. Nobody has the definitive answer to this question though I think C. S. Lewis made an excellent shot at tackling it in his book, “The Problems of Pain.”

But then Kinsley starts to go off course. The first false statement he makes is that the Church opposes stem cell research. Not true. It does however oppose embryonic stem cell research. It is clear he does not think there is a person in the early stages of human life. “They are not fetuses; they are clumps of a few dozen cells.” To his credit however he does add, “Of course none of this matters if you believe they are full human beings like you and me.”

Finally we get to end of the article and the part that wrinkles my liturgical underwear. (“Finally” I hear you saying.) Here is his statement: “The famous test of belief goes something like this: Suppose there was a fire destroying your house and you had the choice of rescuing either one real 1-year-old baby or two test tubes containing an embryo each. Would you really go for the test tubes and let the baby die?”

The implication is a) embryonic research really does show potential for curing anything (it hasn’t) and b) that to slavishly follow Catholic teaching means that you absolutely must rescue the test tube humans and not the 1-year-old. So let’s offer a similarly ridiculous scenario back. You are able to go back in time to the Circus Maximus and three unidentified men are being fed to the lions and you, somehow, have the ability to rescue either one man who is running and screaming away from the lion or the two other men who are unconscious. You have no idea if the two unconscious men will live or not, they will feel no pain, they are not as in immediate danger as the lion is chasing the conscious one (and a one year old is breathing smoke – not so a person in a test tube) and since they would survive longer in the situation in which they were placed, they are not immediately suffering, we do not know if they will survive already, and there is the slimmest chance that they could be rescued yet, who would not go for the man running from the claws of the lion or the child breathing in smoke? (Similarly would we be able to get the test tubes to a place that would preserve them in time? I have no idea how to preserve rescue or preserve them. I do know how to save a one year old and make sure that he is Okay.) NOBODY is less or more worthy to be saved - but one senario seems to have the best chance of succeeding with the most people.

This may not be the best answer (it most likely isn't) and there are probably moral philosophers out there cringing at these words. This was the best I could come up with fifteen minutes on my vacation, but the point is that there are other options (don't accept the one falsely assigned to you) - we do not need anyone assigning a false absolute position to the Church (a straw man) and then pointing out how ridiculous that (false) assertion is.

Manipulating emotions fails because that does not make the problems or the questions go away. Deal with the facts and grapple for a solution. It is only then that real answers begin to appear.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011


FINDING TRUTH WHEREVER IT MAY BE FOUND: “After the murder Danny – the opposite of the criminal genius – drove around in the dead man’s van and used the dead man’s credit cards until he got arrested. His life as a free man had been destroyed by drugs, and he’d been indoctrinated by racists in prison, but he loved Jesus.” from Saint James Harris Wood’s, “Saving Danny James”

QUOTE II: “Today’s civilization is full of people who have not the slightest notion of the character or the poetry of the night, who have never even seen night. Yet to live thus, to know only artificial night, is as absurd and evil as to know only artificial day.” from Henry Beston’s, “Night on the Great Beach of Cape Cod”


Mallory sent this State of the Unborn Address 4 mins.:

Fr. P sent this over to my office. I don;t know if I'd call it freaky but it is pretty cool. "This is freaky! This year we will experience 4 unusual dates...1/1/11, 1/11/11, 11/1/11, and 11/11/11. Now take the last 2 digits of the year you were born plus the age you will be this year and it WILL EQUAL 111.... Crazy, right!?!!?"

This week we celebrated St. Sebastian Day (and Sebastian the Dog celebrated his 4th birthday.) Elena sent this sight in with a collection of images of our great patron. Click here.

Do you need to smile for the next five minutes click here and watch this video sent in by Lynn. Apparently God has an English accent. We've been shellfish.

Here is three and a half more minutes of pure happiness. Knowing that I am Slovenian, Frank sent this video in. "The video is of the insanely popular Slovenian choir Perpetuum Jazzile (Vocal Ecstasy) singing the most played instrumental tune by Avsenik – Polka Na Golici (Trumpet Echo Polka)."

From the Diocese of Cleveland Enewsletter: "Pope Benedict XVI approved a miracle attributed to Pope John Paul II's intercession, clearing the way for the late pope's beatification on May 1, Divine Mercy Sunday. Pope Benedict's action Jan. 14 followed more than five years of investigation into the life and writings of the Polish pontiff, who died in April 2005 after more than 26 years as pope. Click HERE to open the Catholic News Service CROSSPLAYER video page to watch a brief video."

From the same source: "Two separate marriage initiatives in February affirm the priority of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) to support and strengthen marriage, said Bishop Kevin Rhoades of Fort Wayne-South Bend, Indiana, who oversees the bishop's efforts in this area.

"In a January 13 letter to all Catholic bishops of the United States, Bishop Rhoades, the new chairman of the USCCB Committee on Laity, Marriage, Family Life and Youth, highlighted World Marriage Day, National Marriage Week USA and numerous resources offered by the USCCB, saying, "I encourage you to share this information with the clergy and lay leaders of your diocese so that together we might strive to become 'marriage building' communities of faith and action." Read more here.

Finally: Jeanette sent this article in about the identity of Catholic schools. Thanks!

Monday, January 24, 2011


Sebastian is barking like there’s a boogey man in the house. I roll over and see my clock: 3:30AM. Sheesh. “Maybe he’ll stop and the problem will go away.” He stops barking. Then I hear a noise. I am now fully awake. I put on some clothes and start walking downstairs. This time Sebastian stays in his closet – he must figure that I am going to take care of it now - and I think, “Wait a minute. This is HIS job.” So I go pull him out of bed and make him go before me. Now he thinks it is a game and takes off barking. Somehow I already know who it is.

I wonder if there are as many people who innocently run into police officers in their pajamas as I do. Apparently one of our doors did not lock and the police came to check things out when the alarms went off. It could have been anything including the wind blowing. But I took Sebastian with me anyway to walk through the church. If anyone was in there, everyone would know about it soon.

There was nothing of note to tell you but now I was wide awake and needed to up in an hour and half to catch a plane. I was in a phase for a while of not wearing my clerics while traveling. Quite honestly they are not the most convenient clothes in which to travel these days. I prefer loose fitting, simple clothing for the strip down at the security center at the airport. About a year ago a security guy in Chicago after checking my picture ID asked with a broadening smile, “Traveling incognito Father?” So now I don’t. The slight inconvenience seems worth the witness value.

There is a certain amount of risk. You are about to sit, trapped next to someone for a couple of hours. You hope that their inclination toward the Church is at least civil of not sane. The conversation usually begins, “Excuse me, are you a Catholic priest?” Why we don’t just start saying to everyone, “Before we begin, yes, I am a Catholic priest” is beyond me.

There is the slight holding of the breath for a moment until the next words come out of the other person. “How interesting,” she says, “I grew up the child of a minister!” Breathe easy.

As it turned out both she and her husband were children of Evangelical preaching fathers. She readily offered that there are “good Catholic people” and I agreed that there were one or two. She asked about how I felt being celibate and whatnot (I LOVE this! Would you ever think to a ask a random stranger how they like being married?) As it turns out however, her oldest grandchild strongly desires to become a Catholic priest. So we talked about the implications and I assured her that if God were truly calling him to this, it would be what would make him happy. She showed me his picture and I promised to say a prayer for him (maybe you could too.)

All made possible by a black band with a white block on it. Would that have happened with a polo shirt and pair of jeans. Maybe, but maybe not as likely.

Friday, January 21, 2011


Devotions are notoriously misunderstood, especially those that come with promises. “Do this and your prayers will be answered.” Or “Do this and you will get into heaven.” Particularly to Protestants and devotional shy Catholics this can sound heretical.

That is because they can be.

They cross the line when we think that they have some sort of magical power over God and if we do certain things we can control God. “All I have to do is say this prayer and leave copies of it in the Church for five consecutive days and then God will make sure I get my rent money.” We cannot cause God to jump through hoops no matter what we do.

On the other hand he does say, “Truly, truly, I say to you, if you ask the Father for anything in My name, He will give it to you,” and, “Ask and you shall receive.” So a few questions must be asked. To begin is what is being petitioned to God an actual prayer or is it a wish? Is what is being asked something that pertains to the kingdom of God or more something that you would really like? If I find a “devotion” that says, “pray this prayer and God will give you whatever you ask as long as you are sincere,” and pray for a full head of thick, luxurious hair, I bet it doesn’t happen no matter how sincere I am.

Another question to ponder concerns God’s power. Does the petition concern things God does not interfere with such as free will. Just because I want someone I love to become a good, practicing Catholic does not mean that if they are determined not to become so God will take away their free will to choose the devil over him.

Also, promises of devotions come with LOTS O’ strings attached to them. Does your devotion promise heaven? Even a scapular will not get you into heaven should you be so lucky enough to die with one on. It is not a lucky charm. It is a charge to live a certain life. It is a reminder and assumes that you do your best to stay in a state of grace, practice the sacraments, grow in love, say your prayers, and fulfill the requirements of the devotion etc. etc. etc. If I die in a gun shoot out as a robber in a bank I can’t rest easy because I got my scapular on.

And it must be kept in mind that simply because a prayer was not answered in the way that you wanted it to be does not mean that it was not answered. “What father gives his son a snake when he asks for a fish?” God can only give us what is actually good for us. We may think we know what is best but we might not know the inside scoop.

When I was in grade school our teacher taught the young girls in the class to pray to Saint Ann in order to find a husband. “Ann, Ann, find me a man!” “But,” she warned, “If you ask, you have to take whoever she sends you!” Unlike a friend who may give you want you want in order to remain your friend, God will give you what you need. And what you or someone else needs may be painful.

Hence the line, “Be careful what you pray for – you just might get it.”

Thursday, January 20, 2011


The story of Saint Sebastian (patron of my parish and whose feast day it is) is a great story. You can read more about it here if you wish. But the best part of the story was his clinging to Christ and His teachings despite social pressure not to. The emperor Diocletian would have just been the tip of the iceberg though that was quite enough to get you killed alone. Imagine the social pressure among his fellow soldiers, among the citizenry and clergy who wielded power in his day and would apply pressure to try to get everyone to conform to the present day social norms. At work, about town, probably even among his acquaintances there would always be the constant threat to His love of God and the Eucharist save for that bit of time he had with like minded persons in prayer and sacrament. Yet through it all he stood as a strong and sure peg in a storm.

He is a model not only for us but for the Church in general – particularly in this country. Go back five hundred years and the Christian world (consisting almost entirely of Catholics and Orthodox) would have been in agreement on social and doctrinal issues to the greatest extent. Today, sadly, the Christian Church is divided more than ever. In 2002, 82% of persons in the United States declared themselves Christian. Approximately 24% of all Christians in the U.S. consider themselves Catholic. 76% of that number consider themselves Protestant or that part of the Christian world that is not Catholic. It is difficult to say how many Protestant denominations there are because some Protestants do not consider themselves a denomination and many ecclesial communities come and go on a regular basis. That being said there are approximately 217 denominations but somewhere between 300,000 and 600,000 church communities.

Keeping that in mind, in 1930 the Anglican community divided from the commonly held belief that contraception was a sin for married couples to use. Since that time the Catholic Church has come to stand virtually alone in U.S. concerning the combined topics of contraceptives, abortion, premarital sex, the indissolubility of marriage, masturbation, marriage between one man and one woman, and the dignity of every single human being. ALONE! Like St. Sebastian it matters not what the government says, what our entertainment world says, what our friends (other Christian ecclesial communities) say, what today’s experts say, the Church, and she alone stands alone with truth not caring what arrows are thrust at her. Why? Because she believes that it is true and best for all her people spiritually, mentally, and physically, and will not tell you otherwise because that is what you may want to hear.

Someone once said, “Why do dissenters stay in the Church? That is a mystery. It is also why you need a pope and a teaching magisterium.” When the waves of public opinion, the winds of change, the storm of controversy hit she stands firm on her rock foundation with the teachings that have been hers for 2000 years – hers alone – and though her standard is perhaps a bit frayed at the edges, the colors remain true and like St. Sebastian she will stand firm even through the threat of barbed arrows.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011


There was much speculation over a question asked early on in the life of the Church concerning how one could know the true Church when one found it. This was the birth of the Four Marks of the True Church. You know them already. You say them every week in the Creed: “We believe in one, holy, catholic (or universal), and apostolic Church.”

Catholicity and unity are interesting aspects. In part it means to be Catholic is to be Catholic. You are never a visitor at a Catholic Mass. That is why it is patently inappropriate for the priest to ask visitors to “stand up and be welcomed by the community” just prior to Mass starting. You are not a member of a local branch church, you are the universal Church and at home at Mass, not a location. The Church is northern hemisphere and southern, it is poor and it is rich, it speaks all languages, sees all horizons, embraces all cultures. It did so yesterday, it did so today, and it will do so tomorrow. And even if Saint Ewe-no-hoo closed tomorrow in your neighborhood, the Church would not close, it would still flourish in you and in the form that you know it though perhaps not the way it once did at that exact spot.

So in the paper a couple of days ago it was announced that a megachurch was opening close to our neighborhood. There is much excitement in that ecclesial community about their expansion into Akron. “We have become a multicultural church, one in multiple locations . . .” This branch, according to an article in the Akron Beacon Journal, is an effort on their part toward an “overall goal to become more diverse.”

I will admit that being a lifelong Catholic this type of thinking confuses me a bit. It is not so much reinventing the wheel as it is reinventing roundness but making it less encompassing. Diversity and multiculturalism is a great goal but is what is preached on Market Street going to be a unified message to what is preached in the slums of China or among the fashionable in the Riviera? If you were moved by your company would you still have a home in Kentucky or would a new search need to begin?

This may sound biting but it speaks to Christ’s message: “That they may all be one.” On the one hand it may sound noble to take my one location church and expand it so that it is more encompassing but it is an encompassing of an incredibly small universe. It may include minorities, languages, sexes, and world views, but only as they exist in the present in the Greater Cleveland area.

I do envy them the excitement they must be feeling at the moment and how wonderful it must feel to see, in some sense, God’s Word spreading. There is attractiveness in the new. It certainly sells. But will it be Christ yesterday, today, and tomorrow? Christ in Whom there is no east or west? Will it be one, holy, catholic, and apostolic? Or is it Christ sufficient for a day?

Tuesday, January 18, 2011


FINDING TRUTH WHEREVER IT MAY BE FOUND: One had to be patient to thrive in Rome, where time is measured not in centuries but in millennia, where patience and the long view have always distinguished political life.” from Mary Doria Russell’s, “The Sparrow”

QUOTE II: “There is a special place in the lower edges of Purgatory for priests who make up the canon – who think, “I can improve on 2000 years of traditions off the cuff.” Fr. Groeschel CFR


This came in: "This is Martin from John Paul the Great Catholic University. JP Catholic will be hosting their first Biblical Theology webinar with Dr. Michael Barber on January 28th at 4pm (pacific). Dr. Barber will speak about how the second Luminous Mystery of the Rosary, the Wedding at Cana, reveals the New Creation." You can find more information here.

The Diocese of Cleveland Enewsletter reports, "The annual Youth Rally for Life will take place at noon on Friday, January 21, 2011 on Cleveland's Public Square at Superior Avenue & Ontario Street. This event is sponsored by Cleveland Right to Life. Students or young people 26 or younger are encouraged to let your Pro Life voice be heard on January 21. Teachers are encouraged to allow their students to attend and participate in this life changing rally." Read more here.

Sorry so short today! God bless!

Monday, January 17, 2011


The following story is true. Only initials were used to protect clerics of minor age.

About a month ago one of our beloved bishops came St. Sebastian to celebrate a baptism for a family member. As part of the ceremony he took the baby over to the altar and held the newest member of the Church over it as a sort of presentation to God.

After the baptism he came over to the rectory for coffe (one of us had milk) and the following conversation took place. This is as close as I can remember it:

Friday, January 14, 2011


Let’s go in a different direction for a spell – I tire of crosses. Perhaps we will come back some day.

Let’s do devotions for a little while.

Devotions have always been an important part of the Catholic experience though there are different levels at which people like to be involved. There are, of course, those who reject them out of hand and say that Vatican II freed us from devotions and then there are those who take them to such an extreme as to misuse and abuse them.

Vatican II in fact warmly commends devotions while trying to reign in some of the abuses. There are 5 principals to keep in mind when looking at a devotion of any sort.

1. All devotions flow through Christ to the Father in the power of the Holy Spirit. So a devotion to Mary is to ask her to intercede for us with her son to the Father in the power of the Holy Spirit.
2. A true Catholic devotion is at least aware of the greater Church. It is never “me and Jesus.”
3. It should always include Scripture in some way.
4. It should flow from the sacramental life of the Church.
5. It should relate in some way to the liturgical calendar of the Church.

Lastly, when devotional objects are used (medals, candles, holy water, etc. . .) the objects themselves are not what is important per se, but what is behind the object and gives it its meaning. So a scapular is not itself a talisman that protects you from anything – it is the prayers of the community and the intercession of the Blessed Virgin that is.

Thursday, January 13, 2011


I grew up in a small city we were either related or knew most of the people in town. It was like the Kennedy Compound writ large and without any of the extravagance. It made getting into trouble very difficult. One day getting off of the school bus I ran out into the street or some stupid thing after which there was a short two block walk home. Mom was at the sink washing lettuce for dinner. “Do you have something to tell me?” she asked.

“No,” came the innocent sounding response.

“Are you sure?”

“I don’t think so.”

“What if I told you I got four phone calls since you got off the bus?”

“OH! THAT . . .”

This is one of the reasons I became a priest. It would be impossible for me to get away with anything anyway.

Sometimes it was hard living in such a close knit community, but it kept a lot of us out of a lot of trouble. (Side note – if you were not getting into any trouble it was actually kind of nice. Anybody see any correlation between those orders that welcomed the Vatican visitation and those that scorned it? But I digress . . .)

It was pointed out recently that most of our community safeguards are gone. We are more and more on our own. “Official” safeguards are all but useless. What word can’t you hear on television or what body parts can’t you see being used in graphic ways? The answers to both questions can be counted on the fingers of one hand. Neighborhoods are more fractioned. Way too often people do not know their neighbors let alone well enough to call and say, “I saw you child kicking Mrs. Longbottom’s trashcan.”

From the extreme of children being spanked at school and coming home and being spanked again because you did something that made a teacher spank you, we seem to be at the opposite end wherein if my kid did anything wrong, it is YOUR fault.

But even as adults we are more inclined to speak poorly about someone with poor taste than about their lax morals, a foul mouth, unfounded criticism of the faith, the watching of movies and television programs that are not very edifying to the soul – and if one does speak up they are labeled as condemnatory, strange, or prudish.

The safeguards are, in large part, gone. Being Christian, and I might add especially being Catholic, can no longer be done on autopilot. It takes the development of all the gifts of your confirmation – working them out as you do your muscles, to be Christian. You are needed to actively live your faith. You are needed to be a symbol – a sign post of the faith that others might notice and find hope for being a person of faith. This is what is needed – the replowing of the fields until the tide of faith rises once again and societal safeguards make it easier for us to live the faith as community.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011


Of all the trends that the Catholic Church has successfully fought off is the recent trend in how things name themselves. When I was growing business took on personal names. We went to Bodner’s Drug Store to get candy, or bandages, or (yes I’m this old) to go to the tube testing machine. We knew the Bonders. Mrs. Bonder was the pharmacist. The Bonder twins led the local high school to a basketball state championship.

The Herwicks had the local flower shop. The Wiegand Family owned the Wiegand Furniture Store. Momchilov’s Meat Market and Al’s Meat Market were owned by respectively by the Momcholiv family and by a guy named Al. And while there was nobody named Marshall that owned Marshall’s Dry Goods, there was a local family that owned it that gave it a name that at least appeared knowable. (The building had been previously owned by someone with a name beginning with the letter W which was etched into the windows and when they took it over they turned the windows upside down a simply picked the name Marshall to go along with the “M” that was created.)

There seems to be a trend nowadays to make names of business seem as corporate and cold as possible. (Or is it just me?) I’ve had the same bank since I opened my first account back when Shep was a pup but the bank has changed names and locations at least four times. The time before last it became Society Saving Bank. I rather liked that. It sounded classy and having something to do with human beings. “Where do you keep you money?” “Oh, I keep my money at Society.” Sounds nice doesn’t it?

Now the bank that in every other way I am relatively happy with is called Key Corp. The sound grates on the ear. No longer a “saving bank” it is a corporation that can’t even bother saying the whole word. The name sounds dark, metallic, and rather authoritarian. (If that is what they are trying to put forth – bravo.)

But even they are not as bad is the recent spate of entities that wish to be known only by initials. I like shopping at the Revco which has been replaced with the cold CVS. Ma Bell and all the baby bells are now AT&T.

Not all initials are bad. But USA is often softened by the preface, “Good ole . . .” Sometimes it is a note of affection. In my hometown Saints Cyril and Methodius Parish (a mouthful of syllables) was known as Sts. C & M. It was a nickname rather than an official name such as calling Saint Joseph Parish, “Saint Joe’s.”

By and large the Catholic Church has refrained from becoming such things as, “The Route 3 Church of God,” or “SSCC INC.” We connect our names to real people – saints – with whom we develop a relationship. Saint Sebastian and I have become great friends over the past few years. I learn more about him and try to grow in his courage and faith, something I wouldn’t quite get from a few initials and an incorporation abbreviation. There is a life, a face, a personality, a person, a saint, a connection behind (most) of our names. And that is good. Like going to the old time drug store, I have a special connection with those whose name is over the door.


FINDING TRUTH WHEREVER IT MAY BE FOUND: “Your thoughts are as loud in heaven as they are in your head.” Mrs. Fulton

QUOTE II: “There is nothing worse than an enemy with imagination.” from Sharon Kay Penman’s, “Time and Chance.”


Russ sent this Steve Martin comedy sketch in about atheists not having music. Funny. Thanks Russ.

Ken sent in a website he just finished and he is looking for some input - or just some friendly readers. I had a chance to glance at it for a few mintues but that was about it. If you would like to check our Faith and Common Sense go here. Thanks Ken.

Think that you are only one person and can't make much of a difference in this world? Check out this three minute video sent in by CK. Thanks!

The Diocese of Cleveland Enewsletter asks if you realized that 21 bishops are up to retire in the Unites States this year? "Five U.S. cardinals and 16 other U.S. bishops could retire because of age this year. There are 12 active U.S. bishops, including three cardinals, who have already turned 75. Two cardinals and seven other bishops will celebrate their 75th birthday in 2011. At age 75, bishops are requested to submit their resignation to the pope." Read more here.

Here is great video on Theology of the Body that I so stole in part for a presentation to our confirmandi last night.

Monday, January 10, 2011


This past week I was on retreat. Just as I was getting ready to leave New York (where I was on retreat) was hit by a terrible snow storm. Driving was hazardous – the snow was coming down so hard I could not see very far and braking was at best difficult. So that added two hours to the trip home which meant I didn’t make it home for confessions or to see the staff before they knocked off for the day. (In fact I almost called my parochial vicar to say that I was just going to stay in New York for another day until the storm blew over. It would have been the wise thing to do.) That being the case the house was pretty quiet when I got home – much preferred to the kasseri that it usually is. The usual conversation is, “Oh! Welcome home! How was the retreat? I know you just walked in the door but . . .” A drawback of living in a house where you work. As it was there was just Sebastian there to greet me, wagging his tail and crying and saying, “I know you just got home but . . . I really need to go for a walk.”

This retreat was pretty special. The other priests that were supposed to be there had to cancel and so I had the house and the retreat master to myself. The town was still pretty bustling though, unusual in winter, but so close to the holidays that nobody had taken off yet. So as I went on a daily constitutional I would walk around and when passing someone would say, “Hello,” and at best the other would glance up and give a flash of smile – you could miss it if you blinked – and then return to the downcast, serious look.

At first I was a little offended by this. When my family came in from Slovenija to visit Ohio they would ask, “Why is everyone smiling and saying hello to us?” I would respond, “That’s just the Midwest.” I’m rather proud to live in a place like that I would admit.

A digression: I was traveling in Zimbabwe and as we drove through the poorest of the poor stretches of the country people would stop whatever it was they were doing, stand, wave, and smile at our van. When we headed back into the city, particularly Harare, we would still be waving and smiling and the city wise people would stare at us suspiciously.

It occurs to me that one of the best lessons that I learned on this retreat (and there were many wonderful things) was that I was a stranger in somebody else’s territory. I was judging a New Yorker by Ohio standards and was feeling rather condemnatory. It was not that there wasn’t pleasant, faith filled people there, it was that they did not snap to attention, smile, and offer a, “Good morning to you too,” when I thought they should. Hence one of my favorite quotes, “More offense is brought into the world by people taking it than by it actually being offered.”

This is a lesson I need to learn over and over and over: It is not about how I want other people to act, it is about the person that I am supposed to be. (In this particular place perhaps I was the rude one breaking in on other's solitary walks.) I can preach that – but boy is hard to live it.

Thursday, January 6, 2011


Give a quick and honest reply – what is the FIRST thing that comes into your mind when you hear the following question:

What are the priorities in your life?

Was number one – far above all others – “To get myself into heaven.”

Was number two, “Two get those I love, especially those for whom I am responsible into heaven.”

If not it is time to stop and prioritize.

Recently a gentleman came up to me and asked, “What are your priorities for the parish?”

I said with no hesitancy, “The brick parking lot!”

He looked a little distressed and asked, “Really? Nothing spiritual?”

I covered well. “Oh! Spiritual! In that case . . .” But I already knew that a retreat was in order.

I know, I know, you don’t have time for a retreat and can’t find a spiritual director and your stack of spiritual books are collecting dust for want of time and motivation to sit down with them during some quality time.

But stop today. Just for 5 minutes, especially if you can get to a church and sit – just for five minutes before the Blessed Sacrament. Are you becoming what you hoped you would become when you took vows – became a parent – took that job – started that ministry – began this friendship – engaged this project – set aside that time – or has your brick parking lot (as important as it is – and it is) sliding into the number one spot? Are you loving first what should be first even if the issues are not as pressing? How does that manifest itself? Would others know it? If it does, great, today you had 5 minutes of self affirmation. If not – RETREAT from what you are doing, regroup, realign – refocus – and then step back into the business of life with your priorities straight.