Thursday, May 31, 2012


There is no other dogma so central to Christianity than the one the Catholic Church celebrates this weekend: that of the Holy Trinity.  It is the building block upon which all Christian belief is constructed.  We hold, always have, and always will hold that it is essential to defining oneself as Christian.  It is not simply a belief in Jesus.  It must also be a belief in what He taught; which is a belief in His nature, which is in the unity of the Trinity.

It is interesting to note for fundamentalists who hold to a “if it is not in the Bible I do not believe it” faith that the word Trinity is not found in the Bible, and neither is the concept of Holy Spirit being part of the Trinity or that Jesus is of the same substance of divinity as the Father or that Jesus was fully God and fully human from the first moment of conception or that He was one person with two complete natures or how those natures function . . .  So neither the word nor much of the assumed dogma of the Trinity can be found in Scripture.

Some will argue that “it is illogical to claim that since the word "Trinity" is not found in the Bible that its concept is not taught therein. This kind of objection usually demonstrates a prejudice against the teaching of the Trinity. Instead, the person should look to God's word to see if it is taught or not.”  Yet this is precisely the argument used in teaching against Purgatory.  It isn’t a Biblical word so it is thought a Catholic invention.  Yet the Church freely admits to completely making up the name but it did so to give a title to a reality that Christ and others give us in Scriptural teaching.  We say very little about what Purgatory is other than it is a something most must go through before entering heaven for it is clearly taught that nothing unclean shall enter before God.  Purgatory simply means that one is purged of their sins before entering heaven.

The teaching of the Trinity is becoming more of an issue recently as Mormonism is rises in notoriety.  There is some debate between two camps that argue whether a Mormon is in actuality a Christian or not.  (Not whether they are good people or not – but as to whether they can take the title Christian or not.)  A recent NPR show had a woman who is a Mormon stated emphatically that she is Christian and will not allow anybody to tell her otherwise.

Here is the main point of debate taken from Fr. Z’s blog, “Gods, for Mormons, were mortals who became gods. Mormons hold that “God the Father” actually has a wife, a “Heavenly Mother”, with whom he procreated “Jesus Christ” who also acquired “divinity”. For Mormons, the “Holy Spirit” is also the offspring of parents. For Mormons, four gods guide the universe, three of whom form a sort of “trinity”.”  In order to claim that they are Christian, one must completely redefine what the Tirnity is – much the same way that marriage must be redefined as something else before it can be applied freely to other forms of relationships.  For further reading he recommends going here.

N.B.  This is not a commentary on whether a person is qualified to be president or not.  This is a post about the most ancient teaching of the Trinity and what it means to be a Christian,

Wednesday, May 30, 2012


Jennifer Turley writes to the editor in the Akron Beacon Journal Tuesday May 29th edition that she is interested in truth.  I am glad.  I hope she takes this analysis of her letter in that same vein.
Take this sentence from her letter; “How much longer must we endure the ‘traditional’ concept of marriage that’s being sullied by every celebrity on the planet (Kardashians anyone?) while those in loving, faithful, and devoted relationships are being denied the opportunity to solidify their commitment with a vow or ceremony?”

One might argue that not everybody who is in a “traditional concept of marriage” is trashing it nor are those not in “traditional” marriages honoring it.  And there certainly isn’t anybody preventing anyone from exchanging a vow or having a ceremony.  But I am fairly confident that is not what she means.  She wants these nontraditional marriages to be officially recognized by the government all of which sounds innocent enough.  I would also imagine that she realizes just because a same sex couple moved in next door to her that civilization would not come to a screeching halt, planes will not fall out of the sky, and the parousea will not begin.

She requests that nobody “thump a Bible” at her and I quite agree.  It will do little good.  To begin, not everyone in the United States believes in the Bible.  Further, not everybody believes that the Bible says the same thing.  As one Episcopal bishop put it about 10 years ago, “Don’t go quoting the Bible to me about this.  You can make the Bible say just about anything you want to.”  And he is correct.  That is what happens when there is no authority or tradition.

It is better to respond logically.  If I were a bettin' man I would wager that Turley did not write the title to her letter but that it was given by the paper.  It states, “Allowing Marriage for All Loving Couples.”  This title is rather short sighted and I would suppose that Turley would find it offensive and narrow minded.

Whereas the Church (and by that I mean the Catholic Church) cannot change its teaching on marriage because it would have to change the very definition of marriage thereby throwing most of its theology and tradition into chaos, the state is not thusly encumbered.  It can break with precedent (which in this case does go back to the Bible) and simply change its definition. 
But if this is done it spits amounts of toothpaste out of a tube most never imagine.  Once precedent is done away with, the definition of marriage can be whatever we want it to be.  (That doesn’t sound so bad does it?)  Here Turley states very well that marriage should be for those in, “loving, faithful, and devoted relationships.”  But who is to say that this should be between just two people?  Precedent is now done away with and the idea that having children (naturally) is done away with and eligibility for marriage is simply based on persons in a committed relationship, what is to prevent us from having three people married even if they be of the same or mixed sexes?  Why not 5 of various sexes and preferences?  Why not 20?  How can we possibly limit it to 2 people?  What is to prevent us?  What of those in truly committed relationships that are not in the “traditional” limit of 2? 

I contend that once “tradition” is breached then there are no safe guards, nothing to which we might refer that could morally or legally keep marriage to two individuals.  As long as there is a strong enough backing, marriage can come to mean just about anything.

It is not about hating anybody or depriving a good thing grom anyone.  It is about recognizing that when marriage can mean just about anything – it ceases to mean anything.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012


FINDING TRUTH WHEREVER IF MAY BE FOUND:  "I have had people tell me indignantly to read the Bible instead of the Catechism. I have had others denounce Catholicism as a "man-made" religion.  Others argue vehemently against the rosary or the teachings against contraception, about the pope, et cetera.  Virtually all of them have not done one thing though:  They have not read why Catholics believe what they do.  They say "I disagree" without knowing the premise.  They disagree only with conclusions - the surface level - not the teachings.  The Church has a formal instruction of the Faith because of its depth, beauty, and truth."  Stephen Muff in This Rock magazine


Mary sent this in:  "As I continue to follow your blog, with a particular appreciation for your appreciation of beauty, I thought you'd really enjoy this Catholic Exchange blog, The Way of Beauty. The blogger, David Clayton, is a teacher at the Thomas More College of Liberal Arts in New Hampshire, where he directs a program called, also called the Way of Beauty, which is an integral part of the curriculum, in which all students participate. Just take a look at yesterday's blog on "What is Culture?" for a glimpse of this man's writing. I am confident you'll be inspired. Also yesterday, he wrote about the "Traditional Symbolism of Four", which again, I think you'd find of interest."  Thank you Mary.

Here is a headline from the Diocese of Cleveland Enewsletter: "Cleveland-based law firm files suits across the U.S. representing 43 Catholic dioceses, hospitals, schools and church agencies . . . Diocese of Cleveland in full support"  Read more here.

Are you looking for Church statistics in the United States for the past half a century?  Here is a good place to start.  I came across it doing research for last week's post on priest to parishioner ratios.

Another Catholic Movie is coming out.  This one looks to have some real potential.  "Academy Award® nominee Andy Garcia headlines an acclaimed cast as General Gorostieta, the retired military man who at first thinks he has nothing personal at stake as he and his wife (Golden Globe nominee Eva Longoria) watch Mexico fall into a violent civil war. Yet the man who hesitates in joining the cause will soon become the resistance's most inspiring and self-sacrificing leader, as he begins to see the cost of religious persecution on his countrymen."  Here is the website for the movie, "For Greater Glory."

Friday, May 25, 2012


This is another monstrance at St. Sebastian.   We tend to use it at special events such as Corpus Christi (coming up in a couple of weeks.)  It is a bit larger than the monstrance featured last week and it weighs a ton.  It does not feel too bad when you first pick it up, but go on a long procession holding it up in your arms and it becomes a test of your endurance.  This year Fr. Pfeiffer has the honor of bearing our Lord in our Corpus Christi procession. Good think he is working out.

As you can see it is topped by a cross.  Our Lord finds His seat in the middle of a sun burst, which represents His Divine Glory.  Hundreds of gold metal rays shoot our from the center (and one has to be careful not to be stabbed by one or get it caught on a passing piece of material.)

It is difficult to make out here but Our Lord is surrounded by seven cherubim angels.  Cherub, according to the Catholic Encyclopedia, is an Assyrian word that means to be near.  These represent the "near ones" to Jesus who are His servants, body guards, and courtiers. 

The base is equally beautiful.  Notice the rams heads toward the top of the base.  The ram in Christian symbolism had a few meanings.  Since the ram valiantly protects its heard it is a symbol of protection - appropriately at the base of a vessel holding something we consider most dear.  It is also a symbol of sacrifice (the sacrifice of Jesus and of the Mass.)  The Latin name for ram is Aries taken from the word meaning altar and so becomes an Old Testament name for Jesus.

The silver symbol below is of the Holy Spirit.
The intertwining M and A below stand for Mary.

This symbol is a monogram for Jesus and is the first three letters of His Name in Greek "IHS".

Below is our Corpus Christi procession from last year with one of our seminarians in the lead as crucifer.

Thursday, May 24, 2012


The priest is just about to reach the grand crescendo of his homily and then the key sentence is obliterated by an infant’s “WhaaaaaAAAAAAAAAaaaaaa!”  It happens.  What do you expect?  These little one so recently from the womb are not the future of the Church, they are the Church.  They are home.  At home one must deal with such things.

That being said, Mass is not something that one can sit back and “let it happen to you.”  If you really want to receive as much out of the Mass as you can, it requires an investment of your body and your mind.  “Active participation” as called for by Vatican II does not mean multiplying made up ministries in order for people to “have something to do,” it means actively praying particularly when we are given the instruction, “Let us pray,” it means joining in with the prayers of the priest, it means paying attention to what is said in order to understand better.  All that can be pretty difficult if you have an air raid siren going off next to your ear.

There are two ways to look at this.  I am flipping a coin at the moment to see which one will go first.  Just a sec.  Heads – This is the view of some that screaming babies have no place at worship.  We are not simply talking about fussy babies or one terrifying scream, but loud and incessant screaming.  It is during these times that I know I am losing the attention of half the nave during the homily as heads are turning and faces are crumbling into annoyance.  “They should go to the cry room – or the narthex!” comes the hue and cry after Mass.  It is disrespectful to the rest of the community who cannot “enjoy” their Mass in peace.

There is some truth to this.  If it were an adult acting like this we might be forced to call the police.  And most parishes are equipped with a place for such parents and children to be so that they might still be present at Mass, but will somewhat contained the shouting.

The other is exemplified by something a priest said during a Mass when I was growing up.  He told the story (that I am sure is apocryphal) that one day a child in his tiny church (St. Mary in Barberton) was screaming during the homily and the mother stood up to take the child outside.  “He’s not bothering me,” said the priest.  “I know,” the mother replied, “You’re bothering him.”

The priest exemplifies the idea that little ones such as these are part of who we are.  “Let the children come unto me,” and all that.  It is a sign of life in a parish.  That is what it is to be a family.  “Cry unto the Lord!”  That these little ones are among us is a great homily in and of itself.

And cry rooms are not (usually) all that great.  Unfortunately some people use them as a sick room.  Studies show that many germs are passed on in these small confined spaces.  Others use it as a play room which is terribly distracting.  I recently heard that at one particular Mass we have certain persons making use of the cry room to escape the air-conditioning and are not particularly welcoming to persons with crying babies interrupting their quiet (and warmer) Mass.

So what do we do?  I definitely vote down the Cherrios solution (as does our cleaning staff.)  Of course there has to be some give and take on both sides.  It’s largely about being part of the family.  Families are sloppy conglomerations of people whose standards vary widely.  It’s the best of families that grant each other wide tolerance while hopefully trying to look out for the sensibilities of others.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012


Ask anybody and they will tell you that there is a priest shortage.  But as with so many things, we hear this so often that we do not think to question if it is, in fact, true.  What follows is simply asking that this assumption, which seems so true, be reexamined.  It is not a scientific study, just some observations and I invite you to expand upon it.

The benchmark for what the Church should look like for us in the United States is the 1950s.  Convents and abbeys were bursting at the seams.  Even smaller parishes which today might not merit a priest on its own may have had two.  But is this the norm?  Was it ever?  Were the 1950s an anomaly? 

The United States was considered mission territory until the 1920s.  Until about 1845 Catholics were a very small minority in here.  They tended to be English and well established.  From this point, especially with the Irish coming to the United States, Catholics quickly became (and remain) the single largest denomination spanning all classes of society.

As you can imagine this becomes a huge increase in a population that needs to be ministered to by priests.  Then throw into this mix those coming from other nations with different language needs and the whole situation in the United States becomes challenging.

Those coming over even from Catholic nations did not necessarily have priests falling all over themselves trying to minister to them in their native lands.  There were places that this was the case but not for all of them.  I take my family, particularly my father’s family, who rarely attended Mass save for very special days.  This was simply the way they experienced Church in Europe.  Until relatively recent times with improved roads and a better economy the priest only visited the village once every few months.  They did not have a full time priest.

My home parish did not have a permanent pastor at its founding in 1914.  This was not all that unusual particularly with the ethnic parishes.  There were simply not enough priests to go around.  They spent many years as a sort of mission parish with visiting priests from nearby parishes. 

In the 1950s a Gallop pole estimated that three out of every four Catholics attended Mass.  Let us suppose for a moment that this number remains true through 1965.  Here is where we get into it.  I invite people to check my math – a subject I have always liked but have never been good at.

According to this site, in 1965 there were 45.6 million Catholics in the United States.  At the same time there were 58,632 priests.  If we consider that only three quarters of those who were Catholic went to Mass, that means that there was approximately 1 priest for every 584 practicing Catholics.  (Gads, I hope my math is correct.)

Now, in 2011 there is a huge uptick in those who are Catholic in the United States.  According to the same source there are 65.4 million Catholics here.  But the number of priests has dropped to only 39,466.  But there has also been a dramatic drop in the number of people who attend Mass on a regular basis – perhaps as little as one quarter.  So, if we divide the number of current Catholics by 4 and then divide that number by the number or priests that we have, it comes out to about 414 people per priest.  If my reckoning is correct, we actually have a better priest to parishioner ratio. 
Of course the next question would be are fewer priest leading fewer people to come to Mass or are fewer people coming to Mass leading to fewer priests?  What is a good ratio?  Perhaps we are there and just do not realize it.  But if this is so why might it not feel like it?

There are a number of possible reasons for this.  The first may be the distribution of priests.  There are areas of concentration where there are simply more priests.  There are some diocese that produce more priests for service to their people.  This will throw the ratio off for such a large place as the United States.  Inside a diocese the distribution of people can set this off also.  Maintaining many parishes in an area with a diminishing Catholic presence will make staffing more and larger parishes in the suburbs more difficult.  This is the question of equitable distribution.

Lastly is the idea of what we expect a parish and subsequently a priest to do.  The main tasks of a parish is to perform sacraments and to teach.  If that is all we did we would be successful parishes.  But in the United States we are expected to do much, much more.  A parish responsible for all sorts of social programs, outreach, sports, arts, and scores of programs that make priests visiting our nation raise their eyebrows.  “You do all that?”  How did we get there?  There are two factors.  The first is the ethnic parish that became the center of their communities and tried to provide for their people all the things that society wouldn’t or couldn’t.  The second influence is the Protestant church that provides all kinds of services in order to attract worshipers.  The simple Catholic parish saw all this and thought that it had better get on the ball and so started expanding the area of services that it provides.

Life has also become more complicated.  The amount of work that is necessitated by government regulations, diocesan mandates, and good business practices require an enormous amount of time not previously needed.  For example a parish can no longer just let a volunteer or the parochial vicar run a youth group.  Today, priests and volunteers alike must spend time taking classes in how to be around children, have background checks, and participate in continuing updates.  Coordinating volunteers so that there are always two people present is a must.  There must be files constantly updated for all volunteers that show they are compliant, recruiting of volunteers and sending them off for classes and so forth.  And this is just one aspect of one area.  All this takes priests away from ministry.

So is there a priest shortage?  Maybe.  Is there a poor use of resources?  Maybe.  Have we lost sight of our mission?  Maybe.  Is it that we just expect more?  Maybe.  Or it could be a combination of all.  I’m not saying stop worrying – worry.  If we want to keep doing what we are doing – we need more priests.  But if the numbers above are true, does it not seem God is taking care of us even when we don’t see it?

Tuesday, May 22, 2012


FINDING TRUTH WHEVER IT MAY BE FOUND: "Unshared happiness is not happiness."  from Jon Krakaver's "Into the Wild."

QUOTE II:  "No priest will go straight into heaven.  We know too much.  'To whom much is given, much will be expected.'  We know what is expetected and we so often fail.  We are good men, but we will all spend some time in purgatory."  An almost exact quote from Fr. W.


The Father King Society was formed to make America's first Catholic University "honest, Catholic, and better."  Read more here.

Here is 9 and a half minutes of video I recommend sent in by E. S.

This is just interesting.  It is called the acronym finder.  Plug in some initials (maybe your initials) and find out what it can mean.  Mine were dissappointing.  They can either mean Jesuit Alumni Volunteer or Japanese Adult Video.  Find yours here.

From the Diocese of Cleveland Enewsletter, "The Church of the Diocese of Cleveland joyfully announces the Ordination to the Priesthood for service to the Diocese of Cleveland."  Read more here.

From the same source: "Here is an update on the status of the 12 parishes which are to be re-opened following the Decree from the Congregation for the Clergy in the Vatican and Cleveland Bishop Richard Lennon's decision not to appeal those decrees."  Read more here.

And finally, "Did you know, a Catholic/Jewish exhibit begins at the 'Maltz Museum of Jewish Heritage' on Friday, May 18? A Blessing to One Another: Pope John Paul II and the Jewish People is an interactive experience that allows visitors to follow in John Paul II's footsteps from his childhood to his role as head of the world's largest church."  See more here.

Monday, May 21, 2012


Dear Diary,

It was an exciting week.  There’s been little chance to do much than move from one activity to the next.  The weather continues to be agreeable so when I went to camp to say Mass for the campers this past week we had it at the outdoor “chapel” instead of the rec hall for the first time ever (for me.)  It always rains there whenever I have Mass.

The kids there from various schools were great.  When I was done a group of boys came up and one of them said, “We are from St. X school and we wanted to thank you for coming out to say Mass for us.  My name is . . .” and then he went on to make introductions which very much impressed me.  I want to tell our principal about this so that we might have our children do the same.

The Knights of Columbus has an appreciation meal for religious and clergy this past Wednesday.  It was very good and it was nice just catching up with people.

The big thing was that it was ordination weekend.  After Mass we had to high tail it down to the Cathedral.  I gave my cousin a ride and when we got to the Cathedral parking garage there was a line of traffic down the street.  But lo!  There was a space ON THE STREET.  Unfortunately the car behind me was right on my bumper and I did not trust that he would let me pull up and back in.  My cousin, however, offered to jump out of the car and throw herself into the path of oncoming traffic in order to for me to park in such an ideal spot.  God bless her.

As usual the priests all meet on the second floor of what used to be the chancery building behind the cathedral.  The building is largely abandoned now.  All the office doors are flung open and everybody finds a spot to put their vestment bags and change into Mass clothes.

A half hour early we go and line up on the sidewalk outside.  The bells start ringing and we start the long procession around the block and into the Cathedral.  There are many people with cameras, people coming out of the hotel across the street to see what all the to-do is about, and of course the protesters for married clergy and women priests.  It wouldn’t be ordination without protesters.

The ceremony went well – and lasted about two hours.  When it was done I slipped into my car conveniently parked and got out of town before most were even able to wiggle themselves out of the garage. 

After Mass I went to one of the newly ordained’s receptions.  Fr. Kovacina threw a great party for those wishing to celebrate his ordination  Most importantly he made sure that it remained focused on God and the Church.  A class act all around.

Today it is back to the grindstone; signing teacher’s contracts all day the next two days.  It always seems a swing from one extreme to the other.  That’s why I like it!


Friday, May 18, 2012


This week we are looking at one of the monstrances used at St. Sebastian.   "Monstrance" means" to show" and is the vessel used for adoration of the Blessed Sacrament.  The center is clear and a consecrated host is placed in a holder called a luna that presents the Blessed Sacrament to the faithful for adoration.

Below is the monstrance used most often at St. Sebastian.  It is a nice piece but I find the images a bit odd in their selection - mostly because there are repeats. 

The monstrance forms a cross with a sort of a fancy halo that draws attention to the Eucharist.  It is topped by a more easily recognized cross
There are four images at the ends of the arms of the cross that surround the opening in the center.  The "halo" contains four additional images.  Below shows the upper four.  At the top of the cross is Saint Matthew and at the left arms is the symbol for Saint Luke.  Between them is a saint holding a saw.  Traditionally this is the symbol for St. Simon the Zealot - which this could be but why he was singled out for this honor on this piece is puzzling.  To the far right is Saint Peter holding the keys.

Here are the bottom four saints.  At the bottom of the cross is the symbol for Saint John.  But interestingly enough just to the left of that is another depiction of Saint John.  Why this would be I have no idea.  To the left of the eagle is St. Andrew holding his Saint Andrew Cross and finally at the far right is the lion, symbol of St. Mark.  We can see that the four points of the Cross make up the evangelists.  I cannot explain the other choices.

This is the stem that is held during benediction.  As you can see there are some grapes depicted here.

Here is the base.  There are four faces and it is killing me at the moment that I cannot think of what these particular type of art is called.  Arg!  If you know please put in the comments. 

The picture facing the people is the Sacred Heart.  To His left is is mother, the Virgin Mary.
The depiction facing the priest (or deacon) as he lifts the monstrance for the benediction is of St. Joseph.  Lastly, and again interestingly is Saint Peter - a different depiction that the one above - but once again it is him holding his keys.  What he merits a repeat also is a mystery to me.
This monstrance can be seen in use at St. Sebastian most of the time there is adoration - most notably on Tuesdays from 8:30AM to 8:00PM

Thursday, May 17, 2012


In the continuing saga of how to reopen parishes that have closed, there was a meeting earlier this week called by Bishop Lennon for those pastors whose parishes will be affected by the reopening.  Also in attendance were experts in civil and canon law, finances, and Church procedure.  It was a very congenial meeting but one at the end of which one priest said, “We are just so tired,” which was met with a groan of approval around the room.

The main concern by the pastors was the fate of many of the parishes that surround those that have closed.  There is a fear that the reopening will ultimately cause the downfall of more parishes.  It is something like this: You have three infants and hopefully enough food to feed two.  It is a terrible decision to make but you did and so hope for the best for the two infants.  Now all three must be fed and there is a real concern that diluting the proportions that thinly could possibly cause the death of all three.  When it comes to parishes, while not the case for all that surround the twelve, it is for a significant number.

There is also concern about where the priests will come from to staff these new parishes.  There are three men being ordained this weekend for the diocese.  This will not even come close to covering those who will be retiring.  “We just can’t go out and dig up twelve new priests,” one person said.  “You just might have to,” came the reply.

There are other problems also.  The lack of funds being one major obstacle.  Five of the seven parishes had no funds when they closed. 

It also needs to be remembered that the parishes are being reopened, not restored.  It would be impossible to restore the parishes.  Priests have moved on, people have moved on, others have died, services were taken over by other parishes and so on.  The newly reopened parishes may feel very different from when the parish closed.  There is simply no way to avoid that.

It is not all gloom and doom however.  True, these are mighty obstacles but at least there is the chance now to overcome them.  Reopening was the first obstacle to overcome and I dare say I did not hold my breath for it to be conquered.  So who’s to say the rest cannot be overcome?  New pastors will have to be terribly clever and innovative – and hopefully work with their surrounding parishes that might suffer because of their success.

My greatest happiness is that there are a few examples of the best of Diocese of Cleveland architecture that are getting a second chance at life.  My prayer is that whatever happens, a new pastor starts making the building viable for whatever outcome.  Once gone – these buildings will be gone forever.

That being said, do not look for the reopening of any parish to happen next week.  Besides this meeting there are meetings with parish representatives and potential pastors or administrators.  Once that is finished there is quite a bit of civil and canon law hoops through which we must jump.  It will take a month alone to bring stored artifacts of each of the parishes from the secure warehouse back to their proper locations. 

This is all rather historic.  Keep abreast of it because something like this may not ever happen again.  This will be talked about for many years to come.  To exemplify this the bishop said, “You are expected to be leaders.  There is no blueprint however and no clear cut path, but you will be expected to lead none-the-less.”

Please keep the congregations, the priests, all those involved with the process, and the bishop in your prayers.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012


In my never unending quest to divide the world into two types of people, today we have the division between those who dress casually for Mass in the summer and those who still keep much of their flesh covered even in parishes without air conditioning.  Once again whichever camp you may find yourself you are making a philosophical decision.

First are those who come to Mass “as is.”  It may be while on the way to the beach, the opera, the ball game, or just to be cool.  A basic principle here is “God loves me just as I am and you should too.”  I don’t really recall any passage in Scripture where Jesus chided someone for coming to hear him preach inappropriately dressed.  When he talked to prostitutes there is no record of Him asking them to cover their bare shoulders first.  If we want people to come to Mass, we need to be open to who they are and part of that is how they are dressed.

The second group come to Mass as if marking a special occasion or meeting somebody special.  The basic principle is, “God is worthy of at least the respect I show to my employer, a bride and groom at their wedding, or the judge at my trial.”  Though there were no instances of clothing concerning dress at Temple in the Bible, Jesus was meeting them where they were and lifting them to someplace else.  What did the elect wear in Revelation?  Shorts?  Fig leaves?  No.  They wore long white robes immaculately cleaned.  If we want people to take the Mass seriously then we need to expect a certain level of seriousness from them.
Is it untrue that we should accept people for who they are?  Of course it is.  There are people out there who simply do not have or do not understand the least about why or how to dress up much more than putting clean underwear on.  This is a tragic fact but true.  In my own life there have been times when I had to wear pretty outrageous outfits to Mass.  I was organist and had to show up but would be leaving Mass already late for my next “gig” and so came to dress in band uniforms and other costumes of various types.  If looked upon in a condemnatory fashion such people may not come back to Mass.  Is having rid ourselves of short shorts worth the loss of soul?

On the other hand are those who know and can dress better for Mass.  The idea that God loves me “as I am and so should you” is an inherently selfish one.  It is not about you.  It is about us.  And part of being “us” is showing respect to those around you.  The reason we dress up for a potential employer or the judge at our trial is because it shows respect for that person and a willingness to be part of the goings on.  We do not expect them to “take me for who I am,” an absolutely ridiculous thing to do.

So what to do?  There was a group of young people in Cleveland that thought people should be dressed up for the opera.  Instead of passing edicts they went out, got very nice clothes, and started setting the bar higher themselves.  So the first step is to take care of self and family first.  Show that it is possible to survive for an hour or so in the summer in one’s Sunday best.

The second is to not too quickly take others to task who look like they are rather going to a beach party.  The reason we hear of no clothing disputes with Jesus is that he first got to know people and then invited them higher.  Imagine the difference in these examples:  1) The look of “how dare you dress like that” and the loud whisper to another saying, “how could s/he come dressed to Mass like THAT?” or 2) Getting to know someone and saying, “Next Sunday we are going out to breakfast after Mass.  Why don’t we all get dressed up and go out together?” 

Of course the pastor must set the tone.  Some are better about it (or care more about it) than others.  It is a service I believe to invite others to the call to dress well at Mass.  It breaks us out of ourselves, unites us more closely together in a common cause, and creates an atmosphere that is more reverent.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012


FINDING TRUTH WHEREVER IT MAY BE FOUND:  My baby cries every time I set her down, so I hold her continuously, even when I shower and brush my teeth.  But it’s constant motion that she wants so I walk her and bounce her on my knee until I am exhausted.  We are alone.  No one comes by with food or offers to hold her while I go to the bathroom or prepare a meal.  Mothers aren’t supposed to be alone with their babies.  For millions of years they have had other people around to help.”  L. B. in The Sun Magazine

QUOTE II:  Today I watered my lawn with better water than most of the world had to drink.”  D. M.


They’ve been cutting down unhealthy trees in our park.  This one, however, blew down in the last windstorm.  One of our fellow dog walkers took this picture for us.  Thanks B. P.
An article was sent in by T. V. written by Fr. Robert Barron about why Catholics leave.  "This short but interesting article summarizes a recent study that appeared in the April 30th issue of America Magazine."  Read more here.

Fr. D. is going to be a godfather.  There is a twist to this story however.  All life is precious is it not?  Here is the story.

Interestingly, with the advent of gambling in Cleveland, the diocese is already gearing up to deal with gambling addictions and such.  From the Diocese of Cleveland Enewsletter here is more on the story.

From the same source: "The Church of the Diocese of Cleveland joyfully announces the Ordination to the Priesthood for service to the Diocese of Cleveland"  Read more here.

Finally from the same source:  "Did you know, the Diocesan Department of Communications and their friends at FOX8 Cleveland produce a weekly TV Mass for the home bound Catholic community? The TV Mass is broadcast each Sunday at 6:30 a.m. on FOX8 ClevelandRead more here.

Monday, May 14, 2012


When I was in kindergarten we had a project in which we had to draw a picture of what work we wanted to do when we grew up and then tell the class why we chose it.  I did not choose priesthood at that time (though I used to play Mass all the time with all my Protestant friends in our basement - they were all for it because we used Oreo cookies for hosts.)  I drew a picture of a bus.  I thought handling a big piece of equipment like that would be great.  But I had a stipulation.  Meeting people and helping them get around sounded like fun but I did not want to go down the same streets every day as that sounded boring.  Rather, I would drive around and if people wanted to go where I was going they could ride with me.

I would not have made a good bus driver.

In high school when they gave us much the same project with a bit more seriousness I still wanted a job in which I would not do the exact same thing every day.  I think that was the reason for my choice studying theater.  If there is anything that would be unpredictable and exciting there it was.

It was priesthood that won out however.  And whereas there are some things that are fixed pegs such as Mass and prayer and such, other things vary wildly.  Take last Tuesday.  As you may be aware we are hosting a production of "Late Night Catechism" at the parish (see here on the rotating banner) as a fundraiser for our organ project.  Those running the evening wanted a short informative video to let people know about the project.  So they brought in a crew to shoot a three minute video staring Sebastian.  It took about three hours to shoot a three minute video but it was fun.  All my training in theater, music, and priesthood paid off for this one, brief, shining moment.  Here are some pictures of the event:

This is Sebastian in makeup before his close-up.
Some of the cast and crew in the "greenroom" waiting for their cue.

The director and one of the tech guys setting up the office for the shoot.
Time for my line done with passion, drama, and genius.

The final project was to get more "dog noises" from Sebastian and so the sound guy followed him around for about 20 minutes.  Notice the headphones.  It was all fun and games until the doorbell rang and Sebastian barked into the microphone.

Friday, May 11, 2012


This is a ciborium; a vessel in which, among other things, one reserves the Blessed Sacrament to be placed in the tabernacle after Mass. This one belongs to me and I use it whenever a sacristan happens to put it out for use.  It came into my possession during my first assignment at St. Ambrose.  It sat black and unused on a bookshelf in my pastor's (the Rev. Bob Hilkert) parlour.

One day I told him he should shine it up and use it.  He let me have a go at it and it turned out rather swell.  When I brought it back he said, "You take it.  I'll never use it."  Of course I protest - feebly - and soon relented and have been using it ever since. 

At one point it was knocked to the floor by an accidental swing of the arm of a parishioner and at that point it had to be repaired and so I also had it replated.  Not too long after that it was dropped again (you would be surprised how often that happens) and now the cross is a little cockeyed.  But it is still serviceable.

As you can see there is much ornamentation but little of it symbolic. 

It is difficult to see here but just below the cup and above the node is a grape and vine design.
The base is quite nice.  There are six figures.  They were made separately and then attached.  Above the figure shown below is an ornate Greek cross barely visible through the glare.  This is the side that faces the priest during the Mass.  The figure below it is an angel holding a scroll on which nothing is written.  (Interesting.)

Moving around the base of the ciborium to the right there is Saint Matthew, Saint John, the Virgin Mary holding the infant Jesus, Saint Mark, and then Saint Luke pictured below.
There are no markings on the bottom of the base to indicate from where it came, how old it is, or whom it may have belonged.  Unfortunately I did not get the information before Fr. Hilkert passed on.