Thursday, January 31, 2013


First, I come before you with biretta in hand, to give praise where praise is due.  I do not think that a newspaper (or any news outlet) is good only if it agrees with me, but is good if it informs fairly on all sides.  (A tricky thing to do when you have your own personal beliefs as an editor and you have to make advertisers happy I realize.)  So after yesterday’s rant, I must offer praise to the Akron Beacon Journal for printing another Letter to the Editor in today’s edition written by the Rev. David Durkee, our fair neighbor to the south, that gave a more thorough view of what took place in Washington D.C. this past week and the titled it, “A Message of Life.”  Kudos to you.  Both.

A while back another article appeared in the paper in which the author, in a passing way, made reference to Scientology (of Tom Cruise fame) and said that it was a fraud and an abuse of the laws of this country that protect religion.  That may or may not be the case (I have no real idea only having a shmattering of an insight about Scientology.)  But we must be careful about deciding who should be afforded benefit of the law.  If they have not broken the law, even if we very much disagree with them, it is dangerous for us to say, “But they are undeserving of this law.”  That may be true.  But what recourse will we have then when a large group of people (we see this happening already) decides that we are unreasonable and that the law written to protect us should not apply to us?
Said much better, here is some dialogue from “A Man for All Seasons” in which St. Thomas More is engaged in a conversation with idealistic young man named Roper who would have another man arrested who has not yet broken the law.  (Wife and Daughter are More’s)


Arrest him!
For what?
He's dangerous!
For all we know he's a spy!
Father, that man's bad!
There's no law against that!
There is, God's law!
Then let God arrest him!
While you talk he's gone!
And go he should, if he were the Devil himself, until he broke the law!
So, now you give the Devil the benefit of law!
Yes! What would you do? Cut a great road through the law to get after the Devil?
Yes, I'd cut down every law in England to do that!
Oh? And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned 'round on you, where would you hide, Roper, the laws all being flat?
This country is planted thick with laws, from coast to coast, Man's laws, not God's! And if you cut them down (and you're just the man to do it!), do you really think you could stand upright in the winds that would blow then?
Yes, I'd give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety's sake!
Quote taken from this site.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013


Well . . . today I had planned on patting our local newspapers on the back.  (We only really write about them when we are disappointed in them don’t we?  When was the last time you heard someone say, “Did you read that article?  Not only was it fair and balanced, it was in proper form, with no grammatical errors and I feel a better person having read it?”)  Anyway, I was going to pat them on the back for finally (backhanded compliment there I realize) writing something about the pro-life rally in Washington D.C. where hundreds and hundreds of local residents go each year for 40 years and nary a peep is made of it.  Yes, I would have complimented them even though they persist in labeling the movement anti-abortion, said that thousands were in attendance, (while technically true, the actual number was close to half a million) and that the Plain Dealer thought the article needed to be buried because a front page above-the-fold article on women taking a taxidermy class was more important.  That aside, it was a decent article and I thank them for it.
Then the Beacon Journal printed a letter to the editor on Tuesday, January 29th written by Corey Raleigh which the editorial staff entitled, “A Woman’s Decision.”  Seeing it, I pulled my cup of coffee over closer to me, hunkered down, and hoped to find something worth engaging.  Actually I was quite intrigued at the writer’s second paragraph in which (I know both men and women named Corey so I’ll go with the grammatical “he”) he wrote, “Forty years is a long time, and we are still using the tired label of “pro-choice” and “pro-life.”  These labels cannot fully describe the complexity of this issue.”  Intriguing no?  It is true that labels such as these carry 40 years of baggage with them and cloud any conversation with great presuppositions.  (Glimmer of hope in my heart that something of interest might be said.)
Unfortunately the writer then goes on to say that abortion is a complex and emotional issue and therefore nobody can really have a say in it except the woman.  “. . . you should realize that while you may not feel you could support abortion, you could support a woman’s decision.”

So . . . the argument boils down to this: abortion is a complex and emotional issue so only the woman involved can have anything to say about it.
There is no argument here.  What about this issue being complex and emotional has anything to do with nobody being allowed to have a say in it?  (You may have reasons – but according to the writer that alone is enough.)  People face all kinds of complex and emotional situations all of the time.  In fact, I would say that it is exactly at these times that we engage the community, pull in other people who will be affected (in the case the father, the other children, the grandparents . . .) and that we look toward societal norms, and seek advice from those who have gone through similar situations.  Even in a country that holds up the Lone Ranger as the ideal American figure (a sad thing that) we tend toward this notion which for Catholics (and others) is very essential and part of the building blocks of civilization.
Although suicide is a very complex and emotional issue, it is illegal (at least mostly.)  Alcoholism is a complex and emotional issue.  Cutting is a complex and emotional issue.  But do we say, “No interventions!  This decision has to be up to the individual!  We cannot possibly understand!”  No.  We see that something is clearly wrong here and that the person is not only doing grave damage to himself but to others.  Sometimes in a deadly way.
The point:  Be wary of arguments that are not really arguments.  Taken quickly, one might be moved to silence with a position such as Corey Raleigh’s.  But in truth, there is no real argument here.  It is smoke and mirrors not really addressing anything and not advancing the conversation.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013


THIS MONTH'S QUOTES FROM THE ST. SEBASTIAN CHESTERTON SOCIETY:  "Discipline is not so important as Justice"

QUOTE II:  "It may be easier to get chocolate for nothing out of a shopkeeper than out of an automatic machine.  But if you did manage to steal the chocolate, the automatic mashine would be much less likely to run after you."

QUOTE III:  "Alone with God!  Then you do not know what loneliness is."


Fr. D sent in this article he wrote for Word on Fire entitled, "When a Priest Falls."  Very excellent.  Good writing friend.
It is Catholic Schools Week.  Go here to find a message from our bishop.
The Diocese of Cleveland Enewsletter asks: Did you know "the start of Lent is fast approaching. This year Lent begins on Ash Wednesday February 13. Click HERE for an explanation of fasting and abstinence and the age perimeters for both.
I just thought that this video was funny (and the reason we laugh is because you know that there is truth here in the joking - especially if you are over 40.)  I think you have to go here to see it.  1 minute 23 seconds.

Sunday, January 27, 2013


At our last Parish Pastoral Council meeting I was made aware that we are in the midst of a flu epidemic.  I really had no idea.  We had some lively debates about suggesting people not shake hands at Mass for a while and pitted medical reports against each other that state either that between the alcohol and metal in the chalice that you are safe to take the Precious Blood and others that say you will die a thousand painful deaths of you drink from a chalice during flu season.
I am now trying to be better about washing my hands.  It is amazing how many opportunities you have to come in contact with germs in the course of a day if you are paying attention.
They say (and they are always right) that door knobs are one of the worst places to pick up such germs.
It all reminds me of a movie (yes, an actual movie with film and a projector) that we saw in grade school.  (It sure made an impression on me.  I still think about it.)  It was about not washing your hands and how germs get from your fingers onto your food and into your system.  It showed film of actual kids eating and a cartoon germ would be superimposed on the frames and we would see the kids eat these horrendous looking slimy creatures.  I remember the whole class going "EWWWW!"
I was fairly traumatized by it.  And we have finger food sitting out all around the rectory and try as I might I keep forgetting not to eat any of it before I wash my hands.
There was a show on the radio the other day that said whatever is out there right now - they don't recommend relying on hand sanitizer.  Rather, wash your hands longer.  They have an allotted amount of time but I don't remember what it was other than it equalled the approximate amount of time it takes a person to sing "Happy Birthday" to themselves twice.
Not that I am that concerned about being sick - it means loosing weight and defining one's abs after all.  How many illnesses come with bonuses?  But I really, really do have other concerns.

Friday, January 25, 2013


We are up to chapter three of the first document of the VII and that is only a snowflake in the blizzard of paper work produced by the council (and we are doing the skimmiest of skimmings.)  But trudge on we shall!  It is our Year of Faith duty!


Far from doing away with sacramentals (as many have contended though I think we have worked through that now) the documents encourage them (59 – 62.)  It does ask that they be made more understandable and clear.  The vernacular “can often be of use” in their conferral.
The catechumenate is to be restored which we did in particular in the United States like gang busters.  You will recognize it better under the title RCIA (Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults.)
They document also calls for certain elements of enculturation into the rites in mission countries.
Next comes a long series of calls to update many different rites while not actually saying much about them other than they should be updated.  (Kind of like reading the “begat”s in the Bible.)  Is it not interesting the now-a-days probably most people would not be aware of rites being celebrated any other way than they way they experience them now?
It is also here that Extreme Unction receives its official name of Anointing of the Sick.  Though the theology was basically around since Trent, because of the name it was still dangerously held off until moments before death if you could find a priest in time.


Chapter IV makes clear that the Liturgy of the Hours is the official prayer of the Church.  It “is truly the voice of the Bride herself addressed to her Bridegroom.”  (That is, the Church and Jesus)  Whenever it is prayed we stand “before God’s throne in the name of the Church, [our] Mother.” 85
Look here for more general information on the Liturgy of the Hours.
There is a lot here so just a couple of notes:  It does say that priests who live together should pray at least some of the offices together.  Fr. Pfeiffer and I always pray at least Night Prayer (Compline) together every night before the Blessed Sacrament.  Whenever we have guests in the house we invite them and at times pray more of the Divine Office together.  Last night we had the priests from St. Francis de Sales over (since our feast days are so close) to celebrate and we all prayed Evening Prayer (Vespers) together. 
To encourage more people to pray the office it recommends that parishes pray the principle offices, particularly Vespers, at Church on Sundays and Feast Days.  I know of very few parishes that do this sadly including St. Sebastian although we do Night Prayer in Lent and Advent and occasionally Vespers as we did for 40 Hours, but this is not to the extent that the documents envisioned. 


Does your parish celebrate the Hours to the extent outlined?


I would like to do it more . . . and hoped to make that part of getting the new organ.  Any ideas?

Thursday, January 24, 2013


So, in most cases, we seem to be left with the two options concerning the current crisis we have with people obtaining guns and slaying a great number of innocent people:

1)       Take guns away from everybody.  If we cannot all be responsible with guns, let’s take them all away.  The net result of this would be, IMHO, that only none-law-abiding citizens will have guns.
2)      Give guns to everybody.  Arm teachers in schools and bus drivers on the Metro.  Like nuclear weapons the only real deterrent is to make sure that if you are going to shoot at someone that they have the capability to shoot back.  IMHO, another disaster waiting to happen.
But what if guns are not the problem real problem?  True, they are a problem all right.  And maybe it’s the type and amount of guns that are a problem – but are they the core of the problem or mostly a symptom?  If mice keep getting into your home, the problem is not mice - it might more likely be the cleanliness of your house or the hole in your foundation leading to a warm place to sleep.

As a society do we value the dignity of the human person – and by that I mean each and every human person?  Why, even in our entertainment, is it so often the solution to the problem with other people (from aliens to men in black hats) death?
Ethics is difficult to teach in our schools because it smacks of a Judeo/Christian heritage.  It is replaced by an intolerant Toleration policy.  As a society there is a movement away from the family as the building block of society model so society is in flux there too.  The faith that was the foundation of so much of civilization is losing sway, the focus of life is more toward what makes the individual emotionally happy rather than what is good for the community and nation. 
Oh, I could go on whining couldn’t I?  But here is the point: We have become more narcissistic, we have lost a sense of the dignity of life, have convinced ourselves that we have a right to be happy, we continue to remove social restraints, we have moved out of well connected communities, families are divided, and we have guns coming out of our ears.  Will the ultimate solution be to simply get rid of guns?  If we are too fat is the solution to limit food distribution?  If we are too drunk is prohibition a good thing?  Well, maybe to some extent.  But are guns the problem or is it something closer to core of the society that we are creating for ourselves?


Just asking for deeper thought on the question.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013


Joe Cullen of Alliance wrote a letter to the editor of the Akron Beacon Journal about guns and the NRA and PUCO, which might be good, but he so incredible annoyed me with his first sentence that I could not read on any further.  It was an unwarranted and ignorant attack on the Church.
Here is the sentence in part:  “. . .[it] makes me wonder if we are revisiting the times of Galileo and Pope Urban VIII.  That subject is a fear or hatred of science.”
This fallacy is kicked around so often it is thought of in the collective memory as true.  It is like Shakespeare’s “Richard III,” the story of the hunch-backed diabolical king of England that is such a good story that if it isn’t true, it should be.  Yet it is not.  In fact, Richard might have been one of the finest kings ever to sit on the thrown.  But who really cares in the light of such a good and well believed story?


So it is with Galileo and the Church.  To begin with, is it not odd that this is practically the only story that pops into anybody’s mind demonstrating a rocky relationship between the Church and science?  How many other monumental stories can you sight from history?  This is not an example of a war between science and faith, this is an example of the exception to the rule. 
Further, Galileo did not invent the idea that the sun was the center of our solar system.  It had been well known as a theory for centuries.  Further, a tiny bit of research would have revealed to Mr. Cullum that Galileo did not prove anything.  It was a theory that he put forth as fact that could not be proven by the scientific method.  Yet, despite warnings from his fellow scientists he put the theory forth as fact.  Further, he was wrong in stating that it was fact that the sun was the center of the universe. 
Yet still he might have been fine had he remained in the area of science.  Yet he pushed into areas of theology making bold statements using his (only partially correct, un-provable theory) as a means to dictate to Scripture scholars how they must interpret Scripture.  Then after many cautions and (perhaps inadvertently) publically humiliating the pope and alienating the scientific community, he was placed under house arrest under the most generous of circumstances. 
Could the whole thing been handled better?  Yes on both sides.  Was it the hatred of science that it is always carted out as demonstrating?  Not even remotely.
Far from being hostile to the science, the Church embraces science, has produced great scientists, has supported great science.  From the microscope to the telescope to the Big Band theory (as “invented” by a Jesuit priest) the Church helped invent, fund, support, and teach great science.  It is all there in history, methodically ignored by “historians” and misinformed writers of letters to the editor who try to make a point using false “truths”.


One thing that I don’t blame Mr. Cullun for is the title of his letter which was undoubtedly chosen by an equally misinformed editor.  “Medieval Thinking”  Not to say that the Medieval period was all a piece of cake, it had some serious problems.  But it was not all the vacuous black hole of human intellegence that light weight historians like to believe (and teach) that it was.  From this period we have the birth of universities, hospitals, modern forms of government, unparalleled opportunities for women to be educated and placed in positions of power (through the Church).  Architecture flourished.  Mathematics and philosophy and the intellectual life in general made great strides.  Countries were brought under leadership making crime and violence in a unified Christendom less of a threat.  Art takes on new importance. 
It is easy to look back on an age and point out all the bad aspects of it.  One can only guess how we will be viewed: the bloodiest centuries ever, wars, mass shootings, abortion, pollution, the highest ever incarceration rate, the suppression of religion, one third of the world starving and one third of the world eating itself to death, the baseness of modern entertainment . . . the list could go on and on.  So to use the term “Medieval” as a derogatory word is both pointless and misleading.  One could come up with a very plausible argument that the editor disagrees with the writer of the article sighting that he believes the Galilean controversy was enlightened.
(Can you tell I’ve been brooding about this for two days?)
The irony here is that Mr. Cullun and the paper did exactly what Galileo did (and I fulfilled the role of the pope.)  They state things as fact, based on faulty information, when they could have done so much good.  And I felt I had to set the record straight.  I would not, however place them under house arrest, I would take their pens away until they attended a middle school history course.

 Maybe they could start here.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013


FINDING TRUTH WHEREVER IT MAY BE FOUND:  "A man who has been shot at is a new realist and what do you say to a realist when the war is a war of ideals?"  from Michael Shaara's, "The Killer Angels"
QUOTE II:  "Honor without intelligence is a disaster."  same source
We continue our 40 Hours of Devotion through this evening with benediction at 7PM.  Come by and pray if you live in the area.
In honor of our ORGAN BEING PAID OFF, Emma sent pictures of the process.  You can view them here.  (P.S. If anybody is interested, we need about $2,500 to add chimes to the organ.)
Nan sent this in concerning and organ (almost twice our size) for the cathedral in St. Paul.
I made the St. Francis Bulletin.  (It is the home of my classmate, Fr. G. David Bline.)  You're a great guy.  Thank you for the compliment.  See their bulletin here.
From the Diocese of Cleveland Enewsletter:  "Most Reverend Richard Lennon, Bishop of Cleveland will celebrate a "Mass for Life" on the evening of Tuesday, January 22, 2013 beginning at 7:00 p.m. in the Cathedral of Saint John the Evangelist. All are welcome to attend."
From the same source:  "Did you know, that a Diocesan-wide Sacrament of Penance initiative to welcome Catholics who have been away from the Church is planned for Wednesday, February 20th?"  Read more here.
Here is an 8 second video that is jarringly true.  Does one laugh or cry?

Monday, January 21, 2013


Today, in honor of Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Sebastian (the birthday boy) and I decided to take a trip back in time.
We set the Wayback machine for Martin Luther King day in 1993 in the vicinity of Wickliffe, Ohio and ended up in one of my classes headed by a priest we will name Fr. Double P.
And so we hopped onto the seminary van and headed to the inner city from where, a couple of years previously, they moved the seminary because it was deemed too dangerous.
Fr. Double P's plan, in his efforts to teach us about inner city life, was good but flawed.
It is always good to call first.
Ironic isn't it?
But too late.  The van was gone and we were stuck in the city wandering around for hours with no place to go, no coffee shop to sit in to get out of cold, and nobody to visit.

So as it turned out, it became a great lesson in spite of poor planning.  Join us next time for "You're never to cold to learn" or "A hamburger in the hand is worth two in the suburbs."

Friday, January 18, 2013


The first document to take a quick look at is Sacrosanctum Concilium or the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy.  A bit misleadingly many say that this document is about getting the laity “more involved” in the liturgy.  But that can be misinterpreted as making sure that they are doing more things.  (Is the lector at Mass more involved that the person praying?  Is the server more involved than the lector because he does more things?)
It does go on to set the norms for a restoration of the liturgy however to make the Mass more accessible.  After highlighting the Mass as the most important touch point of our lives it sets out some norms and regulations on how the restoration should take place (not yet saying what exactly should take place in detail.  That would come later.)
Here are some highlights:
48:  “The faithful, when present at this mystery of faith, should not be there as strangers or silent spectators.”  It goes on to explain that it is not necessarily talking about doing more things at Mass but fully participating at the Mass.  The role of the lay person is extremely important.  We come to offer ourselves as part of the sacrifice and then to be commissioned to bring Christ to the world.  It is our duty to worship Him, to be taught by Him, and to fed by Him in order to accomplish this. 


THIS IS NOT SAID IN THE DOCUMENT – this is me speaking:  It is much the same for the priest.  As a man he benefits when he too offers himself in this way, united as we all are in the Body of Christ for this is the most important benefit to the Body of Christ at the Mass.
So the rites are to be simplified, Scripture is to be used “more lavishly”, more care is to be given to the homily, the intercessions are to be restored, and “a suitable space may be allotted to the vernacular in the Masses which are celebrated with the people, especially in the readings and ‘the common prayer’” and to those parts which pertain to the people. 54
As you can see, Latin, far from being removed from the liturgy is still foreseen is being a norm while allowing space for the vernacular.  In fact, the next paragraph it states, “Nevertheless, care must be taken to ensure that the faithful may also be able to say or sing together in Latin those parts of the Ordinary of the Mass which pertain to them.”
Communion under both species is then permitted but under very strict conditions such as at the First Mass of a newly ordained or for the newly baptized at the Mass which follows their baptism.


(We will continue next week)

Tuesday, January 15, 2013


I went to see the movie Lincoln with Fr. Pf.  My initial reaction afterwards was how glad I was that I was a priest and doing something that had a positive influence in people’s lives.


Prior to the priesthood I worked in the theater.  I believed in the theater.  I still do.  It is a great instrument for changing people’s lives.  After a show (even a trivial one) people were changed.  At the least they were entertained (hopefully) but at the best, they were challenged in their thinking.  But no matter how good a show may be, it would last a couple of hours and then it would be over.


What Lincoln did in winning the freedom for all persons regardless of nationality has a tremendous effect on us even to this day.  It will have an effect for as long as there is a United States.  Perhaps it might be remembered and have repercussions for as long as there is history recorded.  But there will not always be history and even this great achievement will pass.
There are a few things that humans do that last for all of eternity.  Procreation, creating with God a new human being is one of these.  We are all destined for eternal life – some with God and some not.  Either way, with the birth of each person, eternity is altered.
A priest’s vocation changes eternity.  We dabble in eternal things.  Baptism is an ontological change of the person that lasts for all of eternity.  It makes one a son or daughter of the heavenly Father.  When water is poured over the forehead of a tiny head and the Trinitarian formula is invoked, a whole destiny has been altered in a way that will not be fully realized or understood until such a soul leaves this life.
What an awesome thing it is to have a role in such an arena.  What an tremendous and terrible responsibility.  How desperately needed.


Please pray for vocations.

Monday, January 14, 2013


FINDING THE TRUTH WHEREVER IT MAY BE FOUND:  The St. Sebastian Chesterton Society voted to put a "Quote of the Month" in the parish bulletin.  This was the winner this month:  "We men and women are all in the same boat, upon a stormy sea.  We owe each other a terrible and trajic loyalty."
Here are the runners up:
Quote II "In truth, of course, tradition is the most democratic of all things, for tradition is merely a democracy of the dead as well as the living."
Quote III "But I cannot understand why any one should bother about a ceremonial except ceremonially.  If a thing only exists in order to be graceful, do it gracefully or do not do it.  If a thing only exists as something professing to be solemn, do it solemnly or do not do it."
Ellen sent this in:  "I see that Turner Classic Movies is showing the1954 film THE DETECTIVE, starring Alec Guinness as Fr. Brown this Wed. afternoon, January 16th, at 2 p.m. You might want to watch it/ record it.
"An experience Guinness had while filming started him on the road to conversion to Catholicism. See the story here."
Mary sent this article in about Christians, art, and culture.  Read it here.
Fr. Ference sent this in:  "We've got a new website for {TL} that you and your readers will enjoy."  Find it here.  Share it.
From the Diocese of Cleveland Enewsletter:  "On January 7th, following the lead of Pope Benedict XVI (Twitter handle @Pontifex), the Most Reverend Richard Lennon, Bishop of Cleveland will join millions of people, including many bishops and priests, on Twitter."  (I wont be tweeting any time soon.)  Read more here.
From the same source:  "Did you know, the Diocese of Cleveland's "Year of Faith" web site is currently presenting an article titled, Let's Get Together - Home Blessings for the month of January?"  Read more here.
Sharon sent this video of St. Joseph's song (St. Joseph was the patron of the retreat last week.


So as you may remember I was leaving last week to give a retreat to our third year seminarians (which for me was a lot of fun and I believe that none of them will need much therapy in the future for my efforts)  It was out in the middle of nowhere and whereas I had better phone reception there than I do in the rectory, there was no computer hook up and so I could not keep up with the blog.  (Also not a bad thing - that helped keep me focused.)
It is part of my general strategy to have my desk cleaned off before I go.  I get that from my mother who had to have the house spotless before we went on vacation.  If I get it all cleaned off, so the theory goes, then it won't be so horrible when I return. 
Or so I thought.  But there was one little post it note that I missed that was partially hidden from sight hanging over the side of the in box as it was.  Here is a still close up taken from the security cameras that you might have missed above.
Like kittens or puppies they look so cute and innocent at this stage.  But then like bed bugs they start multiplying.
It isn't enough.  They are like the demons from Mathew 12:45, "Then it goes and takes with it seven other spirits more wicked than itself, and they go in and live there. And the final condition of that man is worse than the first. That is how it will be with this wicked generation."
But the stick ems are only the beginning of the problem.  The mail moves in like the mafia and starts organizing the malefactors.
Soon they have transformed themselves into a hideous monster wreaking havoc and terror in the office.
There is not to be done.  No rest for the wicked.  No time to relax and get used to being home.  The monster must be vanquished.  And it can only be won one blade of post ems at a time.
But it can be done.  It may take some time, some aspirin, and a refusal to be nice and chit chatty with people, but the enemy must be defeated before he becomes so large that he becomes unstoppable.
Or so you think. 
What is that blue glow behind you? 
 Don't turn around. 
Run like the dickens.
And don't look back! 

Sunday, January 6, 2013



Usually about this time I pack my bags and head out to New York State to go on retreat at Trinity Retreat House in Larchmont.  It is a beautiful retreat house for priests right on the sound.  An old mansion donated to the diocese, one sits in the old living room on nice couches and can stare out the large windows and see the salt water which is only a few yards away from the house reflecting the sun like fish made out of diamonds darting here and there.
That is also one of its problems.  It seems that the last hurricane that made it through there did some pretty bad damage to the old place and so it is off line for a little spell.  But God is serendipitous and as it turns out I was asked (second string) to give a retreat to some of our seminarians this very week.  There are only three seminarians in the particular class that will be at my retreat (so I can't mess up the diocese too badly) and we won't be in New York, just a retreat house in diocese provided by the Notre Dame sisters.
When I go on retreat I have kept up the blog in the past, but I don't know if that will be the case this week.  So perhaps you will hear from me or maybe not until next.  In either event, please keep me, the seminarians, (and Sebastian who will be lonely without me) in your prayers this week.  It would be greatly appreciated.
Fr. V

Friday, January 4, 2013


One of the topics Pope Benedict has asked us to discuss during this Year of Faith is the Second Vatican Council.  So for a little while on Friday Potpourri I thought that we might hit some points of the council that might be of interest.
Here are just some interesting tidbits:  This was only the 21st such council to be held in the 2,000+ years of the Catholic Church.  That works out to be about 1 per century.  If averages hold out we should not be seeing another one in the lifetime of anybody reading this.
The name of a council comes from the place in which it was held.  This one was the second council held at the Vatican and hence the common name “The Second Vatican Council.”  The first Vatican Council was held in 1869/70 under Pope Pius IX.  It was cut short by the Franco-Prussian War and was never reconvened to finish.  As a matter of fact there was talk at some point that the First Vatican Council (only called the Vatican Council at the time) should be reconvened rather than starting a whole new council but you can figure out what happened.
Councils are generally called in reaction to something rather specific – perhaps to battle a heresy for example.  But there is some question as to why this council took place. 

About a year ago we threw a surprise retirement party for my cousin at the rectory.  She thought it was to welcome relatives in from out of town and so helped cook and otherwise throw the party.  When it came time for the toast she was instrumental in gathering people together.  “Come on,” she said corralling people, “It’s time for the toast, everyone in the living room!”  It was in the middle of the toast that we announced, “And what you don’t know, is that this party is for you and your retirement.”  Can you imagine the surprise and the gear shifting going on in her head?  Then you have some idea of what the 17 cardinals who didn’t see this coming when the pope announced the council at St. Paul Outside the Walls in 1959. 
There is a common misconception in the world that the Catholic Church is a monolith and that we all move in lock step.  But the announcement of the council was not met with unified support.  It was labeled a rash and impulsive even by some of those who would later become instrumental in the council.  A little better than three quarters of the world’s bishops expressed interest before the council.
The council is known as an ecumenical council.  Though representatives from other faiths were invited to attend and observe that is not why it is called ecumenical.  Ecumenical means that it is a worldwide initiative for all under the leadership of the Pope.  It was the largest (and most expensive) council every held with 2,860 bishops directly participating.  Bishops who participate are called the “Council Fathers.”
There is a story told by one of my seminary professors (I have no way of knowing if it is factual or not – but if it isn’t true it should be) that there was some debate as to whether the Vatican should buy or rent all the chairs that they would need for this great undertaking.  They gambled and just bought them and as it turned out it was a great savings.  Had they rented them for the four two months sessions it would have put a hefty dent in the Vatican finances.