Friday, September 30, 2011


Let’s say that you are going to design a Catholic Church; where might you begin? Of course there are initial considerations: location, local architecture, the shape of the property, etc. But when it starts with the actual consideration of the building where might you start? The altar? The roof line? A floor layout?

If I were going to start, I would start on the ground outside which I think is often neglected. A Catholic church is not designed only for Sunday Mass. So much more goes on and too often a church is first designed for Sunday Mass and then everything else is figured out. A church building should (IMHO) be designed for the Easter Vigil. If that is done, everything else practically falls into place.

What is the first thing that takes place at the Easter Vigil? The blessing of the fire. In the design of your church where does this take place? Are you able to have a good fire going for the congregation to see or do you have to have a small fire burning in a hibachi that only a few people can gather around and enjoy? St. Sebastian has a small but serviceable plaza on front of the church building with a flower garden in the middle which is of course flowerless at the Easter Vigil. It is there that the Boy Scouts are able to get a decent fire going. Another parish has a round cement pad in the grass in front of the church that is used once a year, everyone gathering around though it might be wet and possibly snowy.

Then, if you are able to have the whole congregation join you out for the blessing of the fire, the next problem is getting them all inside for the singing of the Exultet. If you have two small doors squeezing you into the church it is going to take forever until the third “Christ our Light” is sung. We have three sets of doors in front without many steps to negotiate and they serve pretty well though even with that it takes a spell for everyone to get in.

In Europe the entrance doors to the church are sometimes set in a set of much larger doors so that on great occasion such as this or when there are processions, the front of the church can be opened to let large numbers of people move in and out on just such occasions.

That being said, front doors to churches are often unimpressive but there is a tradition wherein the front doors of the church were labeled “Porta Coeli” or the doors to heaven (the Mass being the closest thing on earth to heaven” and at times the door would be decorated in much the same way as the reredos of the high altar. The altar brought us to heaven, the doors brought us to the altar.

So there is where I would start.

Thursday, September 29, 2011


Religion causes violence. At least extremism in religion causes violence. So says an author to a letter to the editor in a recently. It was in response to the decision not to have any type of overtly religious overtones to the 9/11 remembrance. You may recall the brouhaha over the metal “cross” also. He reminded us that the atrocities in Nazi Germany during World War II were largely committed by baptized men.

I take umbrage.

He makes a direct correlation between the faith a person says he has and what he ends up doing. (I drank milk today, it must be a direct cause of my being baptized.) In some cases this correlation may be correct. It is not always the case however. When I am short with someone on the phone, it is not because I am a baptized practicing Christian; it is because at the moment I have fallen short of being a Christian.

While it may be true that extremism in certain faiths may lead to deadly deeds, one has only to look at Christ to see what extreme Christianity really looks like. It is a laying down of one’s life, it is absolute non-violence, it is the radical choosing of the good of the other. When a person uses the name of Christ and outlines God’s mission as one that causes death or fear or pain, it is exactly in those moments that people are NOT practicing radical Christianity. There may be the façade of such but it is only a veneer.

It is true that Christianity is a powerful tool and can be manipulated by strong leaders to make uncritical people act in direct contrast to what Christianity is supposed to stand for. But more importantly it is a powerful tool for combating that very thing also. It may also be true that some faiths and distorted faiths may lead to evil deeds in the extreme. But not having a faith is definitely no guarantee that there will be no evil either. In fact, I would argue, it is far riskier.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011


A sure sign that a friendship is taking off or that you are in love is that you don’t mind wasting time together.  Who cares if you are just sitting and talking?  For that matter, who cares if you are just riding along together in the car in silence?  You are together and that is all that matters.  It makes you happy and in essence you are saying, “With this limited time I have on earth, I am willing and/or desirous to waste it with you just being in your presence.  We don’t have to accomplish anything, earn money, or come to any great revelations, it is simply enough to be with each other.”

It is not much different with God.  Waste time with God.  It is not always about completing a set of prayers or pushing through a topic that you need to understand as good as those things can be.  Did you ever just consider wasting time with God? Stop by a parish and make a holy hour, or do 10 minutes in your house imagining Jesus in the chair across from you, go for a walk and take Jesus along.

We have two things working against us.  One is our great Protestant work ethic.  We always feel that we have to be producing something.  Time with another can mean getting something done.  At the other end is the complete crash and veg-out when we accomplish less than nothing such as when plopping down in front of the television or computer.  In between is a loving and refreshing waste of time with those you love and with God.  At the one end it requires a disengaging of the need for time to always be put good use (you will experience withdrawal) and at the other end it requires energy to sit up, turn off an electronic device that is pumping information into you and kick starting the brain (you will experience a certain exersion.)  But you might (at least eventually) experience a connection to the One Who loves you and wants to waste time with you.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011


FINDING TRUTH WHEREVER IT MAY BE FOUND: “I do not believe that our priest shortage is because God has stopped calling men to the priesthood. Rather, young men have stopped hearing and stopped answering this call.” “Denise” from Catholic-mom.blogspot

QUOTE II:You are qualified to teach. Remember: God does not call the equipped. He equips the called.” Ibid. h/t to Fr. B


P sent this in from a Christian Comedian:

Isn't nice to hear a comedian that isn't trashing Christianity or the Church or missusing God's name?
For local people P also sent this in: "In the moving and epic documentary series Catholicism, author and theologian Rev. Robert Barron tells the story of Catholicism around the world. Rev. Barron also examines how Christianity has helped shape the nature of this rich and powerful faith. The four-part series will air on Western Reserve PBS (WNEO 45.1/WEAO 49.1) at 10 p.m. on Wednesdays, Oct. 5, 12 and 26 and Nov. 2.

News from the Diocese of Cleveland Enewsletter: The following information pertains to two films "Courageous" and "The Calling" that will soon be available for movie fans to see.

"Courageous" - (In theaters September 30) Four men, one calling: To serve and protect. As law enforcement officers, Adam Mitchell, Nathan Hayes, David Thomson, and Shane Fuller are confident and focused. Yet at the end of the day, they face a challenge that none of them are truly prepared to tackle: fatherhood.

While they consistently give their best on the job, good enough seems to be all they can muster as dads. But they're quickly discovering that their standard is missing the mark.

When tragedy hits home, these men are left wrestling with their hopes, their fears, their faith, and their fathering. Can a newfound urgency help these dads draw closer to God ... and to their children?" For more informaiton look here.

From the same source: "Did you know, a new 'Parish Locator' feature has been added to the home page of the Diocese of Cleveland's web site? Now you can type in any street address in Northeast Ohio to find the closest Catholic parish." For more look here in the right hand column.

Monday, September 26, 2011


I was sitting at the table having lunch on Saturday in a moment of solitude before diving back into the rest of a very busy day.  One of the neat things about the room in which we have breakfast and lunch is that it affords a nice view of one of the doors into the church where you can see what is going on inside.  Half way through my warmed over pizza I see a gentleman come out.  I know him.  He has no connection to the community in anyway save for one.  He shows up every once in a while and asks for money, usually on a Sunday, usually having a great story about why he needs the money in the next 15 minutes or the world as we know it will come to an end and therefore I cannot put him in touch with Saint Vincent de Paul.  It will be too late.


I wait for the doorbell to ring hoping I could finish the pizza first.  “Father,” our secretary said, “there’s a gentleman here to see you.”

“I’ll be right there.”

He greeted me like an old friend.  “Can we talk privately?”  We went into an office and sat down.  Two visits ago I had interrupted his story and said, “Why don’t you just come to the part where you ask for money.”  Of course he was hurt and I felt mean so this time I sat through the whole telling.  It was worth the price of admission and ended with an unprompted promise that I would never, ever see him again.  Probably.  Unless things changed.

During the story I was thinking of my pizza and the twelve things that had to get done today as priorities for the diocese or one group or another that needs to have whatever done today about the same time this guys needs his money or the world will end.  I was at best a tolerant host.

He left and I went back to my seat at the table noticing that men in tuxes were beginning to show up for the next wedding.  I wish I could be as pleased to see my gentleman beggar as was to see them.  Sebastian was crying.  It was very late for his walk.  And the dishwasher is broken so first I would have to clean dishes.

And despite my angst and put-out-ness – everything got done.

Friday, September 23, 2011


So last time on Friday Potpourri we looked at how each of the month were dedicated to a certain holy personage or theological idea. Well, as they say, “Vatican II; options for you!” There is another set of things to contemplate on a daily basis. The names of our days (Monday, Tuesday, etc.) come from ancient mythology. For more on that please look here. But for a quick example, Monday ‘s name etymology is “moon day” and was important to the goddess of the moon.

Well, once again the Catholic Church “baptized” the days of the week to give us Christian things to contemplate and dedicate the day to. Here is a traditional listing:

Sunday – the Holy Trinity
Tuesday – the Holy Spirit
Wednesday – Saint Joseph
Thursday – the Holy Eucharist
Friday – the Sacred Passion
Saturday – the Blessed Virgin Mary

Here is how such ideas might come into play in your life. You might have a prayer with one of these concerns that you may not do every day, but on Wednesday you might remember to say a prayer to St. Joseph or stop by the church and light a candle on that day asking for his intercession. Friday might encourage you to fast in commemoration of the Lord’s Passion. In fact, Catholic are STILL obliged to do some sort of penance on Fridays though we may choose something else besides not eating meat outside of lent. (Nobody seems to know this.)

Now these day commemorations are pretty low in the hierarchy of importance. But if it is ordinary time and there is no other feast or memorial to celebrate, you might find, when you go to Mass on Saturday morning, that you will be celebrating a Mass in commemoration of the Blessed Virgin Mary as we worship our one true God, recalling his greatest follower and striving to be more like her in listening to and following Him.

Thursday, September 22, 2011


By no stretch of the imagination did my mother have a temper so when she was upset you knew that it was for a pretty serious reason. One time my sisters and I were going to throw a party at our house for a large number of our extended family. We told our mother not to worry about a thing. We would take care of it all. And then we left for a day trip.

Now, college students (as I was at the time) have a very different idea of what it means to throw a party than an adult. Even an informal party can require much more behind the scenes than meets the eye. A college student can throw a couple of bags of fun-time snacks on the table and cool some beverages in the refrigerator that they picked up on the way home and call it a party. That was our plan. So we came home to an upset mother who took it upon herself to get out bowls a glasses and service, make coffee for those who would want it, make sure that house is cleaned a necessities were stocked, extra chairs brought out, the bedroom were cleaned lest anybody accidently stray to those parts of the house, and, as I found out in detail, “etc., etc., etc. . .” A lot of effort goes into a party looking effortless.

We never did that to her again.

Church affairs are much the same. It is more than someone standing up in the sanctuary for an hour on Sunday. Hours go into a well celebrated Mass, a lot of effort going into it so that it looks effortless. It also takes a lot of people. The same is for something like Eucharistic devotions.

This past week we had our annual 40 hours at St. Sebastian. This year I tried (as well as I am able) to stay completely out of it and let our young parochial vicar take control of the whole thing from soup to nuts. The actual event lasted 40 hours but it took months of planning and work. Hundreds of people were involved. Consider if you will just the effort to have people in church for 40 hours. We tried to have at least 3 people at any given hour. 40 x 3 is a minimum of 120 people. Then there are the people who coordinate the people. The “out time” when you have to start advertising the event for calendars and so that people can plan what hours they wish to dedicate. Music ministries, servers, speakers, lectors must be sought and scheduled, programming planned, worship aids produced, décor to be decided and etc., etc., etc. . .

The kid did pretty well. My role was very slight. “Did you plan a dinner for the closing night speaker? Did you write a check?” But really it was his deal and it went well with a few hundred hours made I would say.

So, whenever you go to a well celebrated Mass or other service at your parish, bear in mind that it required many people and many hours to accomplish what you enjoy for that one hour. It is the tip of an iceberg of a great community effort.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011


For some of you this post will seem stupidly obvious.

For others (like myself) it is great advice.

Say you are at Mass and all of a sudden find that you have not been paying attention. If you live far too much in your head as I do you start planning on how you are not going to drift off. You thought pattern might go something like this:

“Uhg! I wasn’t paying attention again. Alright. I must stop this. I am going to stop thinking about (that other thing) and return to the Mass right now. I am going to start paying attention and listen to everything that is going on. Here I am now, paying attention.”

Moronic right? But for some of us it is a problem. Of course, in this type of attempt to pay attention what are you not doing? Really paying attention.

Alright those of you who suffer from this – listen up! (that was suppose to ironic) STOP planning how to pay attention, stop analyzing the paying attention process and simply start listening, participating, and paying attention. Don’t think about it. Do it!

For those who do not suffer from this problem, you either gave up reading already or are waiting for a punch line. But if you do, this is quite the revelation or a helpful reminder.

Monday, September 19, 2011


FINDING TRUTH WHEREVER IT MAY BE FOUND:  Don’t post Jesus on your Facebook page.  BE Jesus for others on your Facebook page.”  Msgr Raymond East   

QUOTE II:  . . . it’s true that the insults people prefer, the ones that come most spontaneously to their lips, often in the end reveal their own hidden faults, since they naturally ate what they most resemble.”  from Jonathan Littell’s “The Kindly Ones”


This happened to me once.  Anyway, Frank sent this video in for anybody who needs a laugh today.

ATTENTION!  IMPORTANT NEWS TO FOLLOW:  It is time to vote for Adam's Ale over at Crescat!  She promised me a bag of non-existant comperable brand Value Time Cheese Curls if I win.  Please help for a good cause!

Michelle from EWTN sent this over:  "Did you know that a preponderance of major scientific discoveries over the past 400 years were made by Catholic priests? That’s just one reason that using science as a club to attack religion is ridiculous! Tune into “Bookmark” this week as Dr. Stephen Barr discusses his book, “Modern Physics and Ancient Faith,” with Host Doug Keck. Airs 5:30 p.m. ET, Wednesday, Sept. 21 – exclusively on EWTN."

P sent this in:  "A CNN/ORC International poll released Thursday shows that 62 percent of the respondents believe abortion should be made illegal under most or all circumstances." Read more here.

Did you like the Food Court Musical?  Here is the grocery store version:

Sunday, September 18, 2011


This is an almost excrusiatingly true story of how good of a friend I am.
In truth it doesn't take a lot to make me happy.  Food makes me happy.  Good food makes me even happier.

One of the perks of being a priest at St. Sebastian is that we have someone to do our shopping for us.  Even more wonderful than that is that the person who shops for us is the fabulous Mrs. C.  Every week or so she comes in and sees what we have written on our shopping list and goes shopping for us.

Unfortunately the fabulous Mrs. C has taken to shopping at another store where she feels she finds better deals.  What she doesn't find there is Value Time Cheese Curls.

After a few weeks of moping and complaining about cheese curls substitutes which was the equivelent of drinking sour grape juice in place of a fine bottle of wine the truly fabulous Mrs. C went out of her way and bought me some Value Time Cheese Curls.  (Like I couldn't do it.  I know.)
And there they stayed waiting for the perfect moment - the perfect movie - the perfect hunger in which to indulge in what has become a rare treat at the St. Sebastian rectory.  Then one day it happened.  A friend of mine who shall go only by the name Fr. B. came by to watch a movie.  He brought his dog Aticus to play with Sebastian while we were to watch a movie.  He calls it "Mutts and Movie Night."  Then he said,
There are all kinds of snacks in the house.  Pastries, chips, dips, inferior cheese curls, candy, anything in the world a snacker could want - and one solitary bag of Value Time Cheese Curls hidden WAY at the back of the bottoms shelf of a cupboard behind some dog food.  Of course Fr. B found it and grabbed it.  "But," I thought, "That's fine.  There is enough for two of us."

I thought that because I carefully ration out the cheese curls when I eat them.  One bag can last through a number of movies thereby spreading out the cheesy delicousness over a number of days.

So I had no fear. 

I should have.

And I did not harm him much.

And that is the story of how good of a friend I am.

Sunday, September 11, 2011



I am traveling this Monday so there will be no post - in fact, I am not entirely sure if I will have a chance to post this week thoughthere is a chance that I will.  Perhaps see you on Tuesday.  If not - see you next Monday!

Friday, September 9, 2011


It is fairly common knowledge that the names we use for the months of year were largely named after the Roman gods. For example January is named after Janus, the god of doors. March is named after Mars, the god of war. July obtained its name from Julius Caesar, the emperor who took on god-like status.

Catholics in turn dedicated the months to certain holy personages to baptize them and to give us a time of year to reflect on certain aspects of our faith. This even plays a role liturgically as they can affect the musical selections if it is so desired. This is most commonly seen in May, the month dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary and often Marian hymns are more often sung during this month.

Here is a list of months at that to which they are traditionally dedicated:

January – The Holy Name of Jesus
February – The Holy Family
March – Saint Joseph
April – Blessed Sacrament
May – The Blessed Virgin Mary
June – The Sacred Heart
July – Precious Blood of Jesus
August – Immaculate Heart of Mary
September – Our Lady of Sorrows
October – Holy Rosary
November – Poor Souls
December – Immaculate Conception

Thursday, September 8, 2011


I truly believe that the most intimate thing people can do together – even beyond the physical – is to pray together, especially if that prayer involves some free flowing thoughts such as, “What do you want to pray about?” At that moment you are sharing what you hope for, what you are afraid of, that for which you are thankful, and that which you wish would change. With prayer such as this you expose, if you are sincere, your inner self – not only by the topics of prayer, but by revealing the intimate, often secret way in which you carry on a conversation with God, a relationship rarely seen by others.

There is also something incredibly tender and/or telling about how you are prayed for by another. How are you seen, what is wished for you, how well known are your inner wishes?

There is something to be warned about however. This type of prayer does not happen automatically. It needs to be nurtured. There needs to be trust. Some people are incredibly intimated about open prayer with another person. Some simply do not understand how to do it. Some do not feel they can share in this way. It is risky. And to ask someone to join you in prayer brings with it the same hazard of telling another for the first time, “I love you.”

Wednesday, September 7, 2011


So yesterday I was picking up something off of the ground in the garage when my cell phone slipped out of my pocket and hit the cement floor. It bounced one, twice, and finally came to rest on the hard surface of the garage. I did not hold out much hope. But lo! It seems to be just fine. I’ve not been this impressed since I washed and dried it and it resurrected after three days.

I remember a time when electronic devices were not that reliable. A drop (or a washing) like that meant doom. That was the end. Get your cash and go to the store. (Shoot, this was the way my Etchascetch stopped working.) Think what you want about modern electronic devices but as they used to say, “We’ve come a long way baby.”

Now think of the soul. The closer we grow to God the stronger our soul, our will, our fortitude becomes. It does not mean that we will never take it on the chin, in fact in this world we can pretty much be assured that we will, but the soul made stronger by God’s grace, exposed to it by prayer, sacraments, and study, will make it less susceptible to cracks, faults, or failures.

Unfortunately people tend to pray only when the need something. It would do no good only to decide that one wants a phone that doesn’t break at the point when it is dropped on cement. Likewise one cannot develop a very helpful relationship with the One who will see you through a hard time if you are only going to work in it when going through the hard time. We are to be in relationship with God so that when the hard times hit, the relationship is advanced in such a way that He can give us much needed help. Like advanced technology, advanced grace-ology is available for upgrade now. Get the upgrade before it is needed so that when it is, like the foolish virgins, you don’t have to run to the store because you are ready to go.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011


FINDING TRUTH WHEREVER IT MAY BE FOUND: “When you go at it alone the worst in you will come out.” Fr. Canice

QUOTE II: “Giving thanks is a discipline.” Fr. Fragamini


Do you like nice animal stories? How about one concerning elephants? Ron sent this in.

Do you want to support the sacred arts? Here is a site sent in by Mary. Thanks!

Here is an example of how to do ordinary things beautifully! "Deep underground in Poland lies something remarkable but little known outside Eastern Europe. For centuries, miners have extracted salt there, but left behind things quite startling and unique. Take a look at the most unusual salt mine in the world." See more here. Thanks Marie.

The Diocese of Cleveland Enewsletter asks, "Did you know, the general counsel of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) called on the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to rescind its mandate forcing private insurance plans to cover contraception and sterilization, calling the mandate 'unprecedented in federal law and more radical than any state contraceptive mandate'?" Read more here.

And that is all there is time for today! Hope you enjoyed your Labor Day!

Friday, September 2, 2011


. . .who knows of any reasons why this man and woman should not be joined in holy matrimony, let him speak now or forever hold his peace.”

The minister was taking a breath to go on with the vows never dreaming that anyone would actually say anything at this dramatic moment. But just then the back doors of the church burst open slamming against the walls and sunlight streamed into the old cathedral blinding the eyes of all who turned around to see what the noise was. “Stop!” a young muscular man shouted. It was obvious he had been tied up for the remains of ropes still dangled from him, his hair mussed and his clothes dirty and torn.

A great murmur went up. This was not just any man, under the dirt and black eye, it was a duplicate copy of the groom. “Melisa! It’s me! Brook! Don’t marry him! That is my evil twin! I denounce this wedding. It is ME that she wants to marry.”

Okay, except for daytime television (and even that is fading away) that probably never happened. Probably. But why don’t Catholics have that dramatic moment when the priest would say, “If there is anybody here who knows of any reason . . .?” Well, the fact is that we do, it just takes a different form.

It is our ancient custom to “publicize” an upcoming marriage in order to determine if there are any impediments to the marriage. In the early years of the Church it was announced after the second reading at Mass. Nowadays we publish the “banns.” For three weeks leading up to the marriage, usually in the parish bulletin, they will list the names of the intended couple with I, II, III printed after their names. Those in the community seeing these names and knowing of any reason why this couple should not be married are duty bound to speak to the pastor and let the situation be known lest the couple be in an invalid marriage.

Thursday, September 1, 2011


So if yesterday did not do it for you . . .

Another common thing that I hear is, “I have the feeling that God is really calling me to something, I just cannot figure out what it is.” This is more common than you might think. This is what that is sometimes:

It is a preparation. It is a breaking up of the field so that when the seed is sown, it can readily germinate and start growing. If your heart were not prepared in this way, your opportunity might come and leave while you sit about discerning, “Is God calling me to something here? Should I do this? I need to think about it.” With this yearning that you have in your heart, the opportunity will come and instead of angst and wondering you will say, “Finally! My calling to act is here! When can I get started? Just tell me what I need to bring with me.”

I usually find that when I start having these feelings of, “You should do something” but there does not seem to be anything to be done, it is because it is coming. So I gently set the angst aside and say a prayer, “Okay God, I know something is coming. Let me recognize it when it comes.”