Thursday, February 28, 2013


Today at 2:00PM we will no longer say, “Benedict our pope . . .” at the Mass.  I tried practicing that part of the Mass today skipping that part and blew it right away.  (One would think it would be so, so easy.)  I said, “together with Richard our pope . . .” who is our bishop.  Glad I made the goof now instead of at the weekend Masses.
I told the 400-some-odd children at the Mass today that this is a historic moment.  They were attending the last Mass at this parish in which Benedict’s name would be mentioned as pope (unless the next pope takes the same name of course) and that after such time, the Church will be without a pope until the next one is elected.  It has been so long since a pope retired (around 6 centuries) that nobody even remembers what to do.  This will be a remarkable thing for the history books for some time if not forever and we were alive to see it.


Of course the pope cannot just retire – at least not in the United States.  I spent much of yesterday driving around in the car and listening to various NPR stations.  Half of the reports I heard of Benedict’s retirement were absolutely salacious.  At some points stunning in their viciousness and outright misleading statements (from stations that claim to present the unvarnished truth for educated people by educated people) to other stories that were quite good in which the person interviewed would equally tell of Benedict’s great achievements, acknowledge that at which he was not particularly talented, and refusing to give in to the interviewer’s obvious desire for unsubstantiated dirt.
In any event, one interviewer stated that the media had an obligation to speculate on motivations of the pope when information is not available.  Funny how it invariably has to be negative.  The most obvious motivation – he wants to retire – is never one of them. 
In a way it is kind of a back handed compliment.  They are paying attention even if it is, in many cases, in a negative fashion.  Is there leader besides the president of the United States that gets this much attention in the U.S.?  (Possibly English royalty on a really good day.)
Today was meant to be a fond fair well post for the pope.  I am afraid I got sidetracked by paying too much attention to the news.  Actually, today there was a lot of decent and balanced coverage.  Thank you Pope (for a few more hours.)  I hope your first day after your prayers you have a good glass of wine, play the piano, and take a nice long nap.




I couldn’t let this one go though.  Yesterday in the Beacon Journal, they found it timely and necessary to run an op ed piece about priestly celibacy from the New York Times by Frank Bruni.  The crux of the article is that the next pope should rethink the whole priestly celibacy thing.  Fine.  After all it is only a discipline, not a dogmatic teaching essential to the priesthood.   I think it would be a mistake to get rid of it (I know, shock) but the Church would not end if that teaching changed.
However, the reasoning that he used is not tenable and uses poor science and reasoning to draw his conclusions.  Take the following points:
“The church’s (sic) leaders preach a purity that its own clerics can’t maintain.”
This is partly true.  It is a bit sensational to make it sound as though every single priest in the world fails at this, but it is very true that there are dramatic failures – and even many of them.  So by his reasoning, we should stop teaching about charity (love the Lord your God with all your heart, your neighbor as yourself, and your enemies) because if we can’t live it, it must be done away with.


He also maintains that it keeps too many men out of the priesthood who would fill dwindling ranks.  “It renders the priesthood less attractive, contributing to the shortage of priests.”  It is similar to the possibility of getting shot by going to war.  First, we want men who are willing to sacrifice to serve.  Second, if this would really be a solution, then mainstream non-Catholic Churches that have married, male ministers/priests should have PLENTY of men willing to serve.  Such is not the case.
Bruni also alleges that all sexual misdeeds in the Church can be attributed to the unnatural state of a sexless existence.  I am glad he cleared this up for us!  Now all we have to do is let all priests get married and have sex and there will be no more cheating on spouses, no child abuse, no divorce, no remarriage . . . wait . . . then . . .  why doesn’t that sound true?  Maybe we should stop preaching about marriage and fidelity too.  (Touch of sarcasm there.)
Now what might be true is that some men go into the priesthood to get away from sexual desires that they (and society) consider impure.  Bruni may be right about this.  On the other hand, even if priests are allowed to be married it would revert to the ancient customs where by celibacy is optional, not done away with.  There would still be a celibate tradition in the Church and these men of whom Bruni is afraid would still be there.  Further, a marriage would have to take place before ordination, the man would be barred from the episcopate, and he would not be able to remarry.
The rest of the article is full of antidotal evidence, conjectures, and “people have told me,” type writing that if it were turned in as a paper for a high school class, it would receive an “F” for failure to make an informed opinion that could be backed up with actual evidence.  The lesson to take away here is to remember to think critically when an “expert” is being presented to you.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013


We are adults.  We know how we want to be treated.  We know by what person we wish to be "ruled."  And so it is very “in” at the moment to say that lay people should have more of role in the election of a new pope.  (Hey!  What about us priests and bishops?!)  It is a very enticing idea, but nobody is suggesting exactly how that should or even could be done.  It’s easy to say somebody should do something positive and then give not the slimmest suggesting on how even if (debatably) it is a good idea.

So say we want everyone to have a vote.  I think those who most push for this idea would be the least pleased with the outcome.  There are over I billion Catholics in the world and the vast majority of them are now south of the equator where sticking with traditional veins of Catholicism are much more in practice. 
And it is one thing to say that we in the West should get a vote, but if we do, then those living in the Sahara desert who are Catholic should get a vote too.  And exactly how would it be carried out?  Who would collect the votes in the Antarctic, China, Zimbabwe, or from persecuted Christians in Catholic-hostile countries?  How long do we wait to collect them all?  How do we make sure that they are well informed in order to make a good decision?


And who would be qualified to vote?  Can the C & E Catholics have a vote?  How about those with strong opinions but don’t go to Sunday Mass – do they get a vote?  How do we identify a voting Catholic?  Must they have a letter from a pastor?  (THERE’S a ton more paperwork)  How do make sure that there is one Catholic – one vote?
What if there is a split in the vote; the west clearly behind one candidate and the third world (in greater numbers) overwhelmingly for their candidate?  Is this not rife for division in the Church?
But in reality we have already voted – not directly, but we have made our desires manifest.  The reason there is so much talk about a pope coming from the third world country is (for whatever reason) they evangelize and keep adding to their numbers.  Sons are encouraged to enter the priesthood causing the powerbase of the Church to shift.  They will be providing more of the cardinals that will pick the future popes.
Meantime the west (generally) is less involved, our attendance at Mass is plummeting, we are more and more in conflict with 2000 years of consistent Church teaching, and we actively dissuade our young men from becoming priests.  And we want a vote. 


We have already cast it.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013


FINDING TRUTH WHEREVER IT MAY BE FOUND:  ". . . be careful when choosing what you're proud of - because the world has every intention of using it against you."  from Amer Towlese's "Rules of Civility"
QUOTE II:  "Humiliation, by contrast, does not merely require open recognition of an acknowledged foible.  Humiliation is public exposure of some secret vanity."  from Mary Doria Russell's, "Dreamers of the Day"

S. C. sent this in.  Thanks!
From the Diocese of Cleveland Enewsletter, "The Department of Communications, Diocese of Cleveland has created a web site resource of articles to keep you informed as the Catholic Church transitions from the Papacy of Benedict XVI through the days and possibly weeks before a new Holy Father is named."  Read more here.
From the same source:  "This past Sunday, some 400 catechumens and candidates participated with Cleveland Bishop Richard Lennon in the "Rite of Election of Catechumens and Call to Continuing Conversion of Candidates."  See it here.
P. sent this in:  "On Thursday at 5:15 pm, EWTN will broadcast a Mass of Thanksgiving for Pope Benedict's ministry and for the election of a new pope, celebrated by Archbishop Timothy Broglio at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, Washington, D.C."
Mary sent this 8.5 minute video in.  Evangelizing through beauty:

Fr. Miller sent this in.  It's a 16 minute movie.  Very good if you have the time.

Sunday, February 24, 2013


When I first came to St. Sebastian I was the only priest here.  So one of the first things I went about doing was fixing the rectory up in order to lure a retired priest to come here and help take some of the load.  Then I got Sebastian (the dog.)  Then help came by way of a parochial vicar, Fr. Pfieffer, and then Fr. Swirski, a retired priest came to live here.  It was a nice, full house.  It was especially nice to have so many priests to hear confessions.  When I first got here confession times were pretty lonely.  But as word got around that there were three priests here, things picked up dramatically.
Now four years have passed since Fr. Pfieffer came to St. Sebastian.  Fr. Swirski has moved to a retirement community and Fr. Pfieffer is up to move to a second assignment.  (Time has flown!)  It seems that the diocese is leaning toward sending us another parochial vicar unless something happens, but there is also a chance that it will be back to me and Sebastian and perhaps an effort to lure a retired priest back here.
It is becoming apparent that we are getting closer to the date that Fr. Pfieffer will be leaving as we talk about projects and then realize he will not be here to do them.  (Simba so sad.)  It made me think this past week of the moves that I made over the years from parish to parish, which leads me to some advice for those who are moving.
When I was clearing out my dresser drawers at the end of my first assignment I accidentally pulled out a drawer too far and it fell out:

Things had fallen out of the drawer and became hidden in the inner bowels of the furniture.  So this put me in mind of searching the inners of my desk before departing for good.
So naturally when I got to my next assignment the first thing I did was search behind the drawers there.  The results were not as wonderful.
It was much better when I came to St. Sebastian.
Now that I think about it, I probably should have returned them to the owner.  They were a swell pair of socks.

You might remember a few months ago we had donated to us a very nice desk once owned by a well to do fillanth . . . philanph . . .phiplan . . . good deed doer in Akron.  Of course one of the first things I did was go through the insides. 
It was mostly paperwork stuffed back there from the 1970s done on a typewriter.  There was letter saying his vacation house in Florida was ready for him to occupy and a few membership cards from local organizations such the Blue Coats.  Fun none the less.

Okay, now its time for you to take apart your furniture.  What did you find?

Friday, February 22, 2013


Here we come to the end of this document and it comes by way of the appendix.  It concerns a revision of the calendar but probably does not refer to what you think it refers.

The first point of this section states that the Church is not opposed to fixing Easter on a certain Sunday of the Gregorian calendar every year.  (Interesting no?)  The Council of Nicaea (A.D. 325) set the date of Easter as the Sunday following the paschal full moon, which is the full moon that falls on or after the vernal (spring) equinox.  Rather than a floating date, the Church said it would be open to something more stable “provided that those whom it may concern give their assent, especially the brethren who are not in communion with the Apostolic See.”  Good luck with that. 
There are organizations out there trying to unite the date of Easter between Catholics, Orthodox, and Proetestants. is one of those organizations.  I have no idea who sponsors this site (I'm not recommending it, just holding it up as an example.)  Isn't it nice to know that our Church is at least open to the idea?
The council also declared that there is no problem if there is going to be a perpetual calendar on society.  Not everybody follows the Gregorian calendar and not every calendar sees this year as 2013.  The only requirements are that there are 7 day weeks with a Sunday so that the liturgical calendar might be maintained.  But even so, with grave reason, some of this might be done away with also.


Who says that they Church isn’t open and flexible?

Thursday, February 21, 2013


Adam's Ale is SIX YEARS OLD this February!  (Actually, this happened on the 3rd of February but I forgot.  That's 42 in dog years.  This blog is almost as old as I am now.)

That also means that THIS GUY is six years old:

It all started six years ago when I accidentally came across this video:

Then read her book and invited her to Cleveland to give some talks.  When she was in town she twisted my arm into starting a blog.  (Thank you Dawn.)

1,653, well 1,654 now, posts later Adam's Ale is still plugging along in its small little way. 

There have also been 7,519 posted comments by you.
The highest ranking referring site is our Akron Knight of Columbus and the Catholic Blog Site.
The page that keeps getting hits to this day is "The Official Prayer of the Catholic Church"
The highest ranking countries reading AA is the U.S., Russia, France, and Germany. (Interesting) 

Every year about this time I start to evaluate if this is the best use of my time.  I wonder if it is doing enough good to justify the part of the morning that I spend on it.  Fortunately THIS GUY:

recommends that priests blog.  And still more people read this daily than hear my daily homilies.  The only other thing that really saves it is that it give me a platform to address certain issues on which I would not otherwise have the opportunity.  So for at least the time being we will plug along.  If you like the blog, please consider saying a little prayer for it.

God bless & thanks for reading!

Fr. V

Wednesday, February 20, 2013


I received a phone call yesterday from a local psator who is also a classmate.  “Are you going to get gold and yellow bunting for the new pope to put on the outside of your church?”  I’d completely forgotten about this tradition.  When John Paul II was elected pope I was in junior high school.  I remember I was at St. Ambrose when he died and we were instructed, in those parishes that were willing and able, to hang black bunting up.  It was a windy day and I got a ladder out to hang some from our roof.  A mighty gust blew the ladder down and I was suck up there until a friendly jogger happened by.


Anyway, I remember that I purchased a little pamphlet entitled “When a Pope Dies” by Christopher Bellitto Ph.D. those many years ago.  And by small I mean tiny.  I’d carried it from assignment to assignment (just in case) and always threw it somewhere behind books on the bookshelf.  Well, last night I remembered that I even had the book and started pulling shelves of books out looking for it and . . . IT WAS FOUND.  I can’t believe it!  Such things are usually lost until one week after they were needed.

When looking at the election of a new pope it is interesting that books tend to assume that the previous pope had expired, not simply given up the papacy for lent.  There are elaborate descriptions on how the cardinals oversee the destruction of his ring and seal and how he is to be buried with them along with them along with copies of his most important works.  (I imaging it was crowded in there with John Paul.)
So we are moving in to a new election without celebrating a funeral.  At the end of the month there will a period of interregnum between Benedict’s retirement and the newly elected pope.  Our current method of electing pope is relatively new – only about 1,000 years old.  It came about with the election of Gregory X.  There was such rivalry and fighting about who should be the next pope that the Church went almost three years without one.  Finally the town, tired of the whole thing (and probably tired of feeding and housing these guys) locked the cardinals in a building, ripped off the roof exposing them to the elements, and threatened to feed them only bread and water.  Quickly Gregory X was elected.
Since then it has been pretty much the same.  Every day the cardinals are will be driven from their simple accommodations to the Sistine Chapel and locked in with no access to news from the outside world.  They will meet twice a day and each session is can have two votes.  A man must have two thirds of the votes to be elected.  (Interestingly, if the number is such that they cannot be divided into three equal groups, the man must receive two thirds plus one.)


At the end of each vote a tally is made and a needle is inserted through the ballot so that it may not be counted again.  If no man is elected, the ballots are burned and black smoke tells the waiting crowd that there is still no pope.  If a two thirds majority is given to one man, he is approached and asked, “Do you accept your canonical election as Supreme Pontiff?”  If he says yes he is asked by what name he wishes to be known.  When he answers, he is then pope.  The ballots are not burned but sealed and put in the Vatican archives and chemicals are added to the fire to let people in the outside world know that it has a pope once again.
The man is taken to the sacristy and dresses.  He first receives the cardinals and then is taken to the balcony in St. Peter Basilica and the crowd hears, “Annuntio vobis gaudium magnum.  Habemus papam!  “I announce to you with great joy.  We have a pope!”  Then parishes throughout the world hang up their gold and white bunting.
Interestingly enough, the minimum requirement for becoming pope is that you be a Catholic, baptized male.  We have more requirements than that for becoming the milk lady in the parish school cafeteria. 
There is much more to the story.  If you found this the least bit interesting I assure you there is much more to know and plenty of places to find it.

Monday, February 18, 2013


FINDNG TRUTH WHEREVER IT MAY BE FOUND:  "Every age has it bigotry, which is blind to some particular need of human nature. . ." from G. K. Chesterton's "Four Faultless Felons"
QUOTE II:  "If you wish to see great modernest architecture you must have plenty of time and your own Lear jet."  Robert Krier
From thomried: I'm not a big fan of dogs at Mass but this article is kind of heart warming.
PV sent this in.  In light of Pope Benedict's pending retirement this video is kind of hear warming.

From the Diocese of Cleveland Enewsletter:  " On the evening of Wednesday, February 20th from 5-8 p.m. ALL of the churches in the eight counties of the Catholic Diocese of Cleveland will open their doors and offer the Sacrament of Penance...confession"  Read more here.
From the same source:  "Today's announcement (February 11) by Pope Benedict XVI that he will resign as Holy Father on February 28, 2013, is an historic event and an action motivated by his love of the Church."  Read more here.
R. sent this 10 minute video in.  It's worth the watch.


I hope that you are able to enjoy this beautiful, sunny day.  The offices of Adam's Ale are closed today and the staff is off enjoying not getting mail.
See you tomorrow!
God bless,
Fr. V

Friday, February 15, 2013


Yes, we’re still on the same document.  This week’s chapter is on Sacred Art and Sacred Furnishings (beginning with section 122.)  First, it names art as “the noblest activities of man’s genius, this is especially true of religious art and of its highest manifestation, sacred art.”  (Long time readers of A.A. know I have some particular opinions in this discussion.)  For this reason the Church has always been a patroness of the arts and “has been particularly careful to see that the sacred furnishings should worthily and beautifully serve the dignity of worship.”  (Editor’s note: maybe not on an individual basis from time to time, but as a whole – if you catch my drift.)
Art is tricky.  One man’s art is another man’s handi-wipe (and sometimes the opposite is true also – quite literally.)  So, some guidelines were set forth:
(123)  There is no particular style that the Church embraces, rather, the artistic expression of all people’s and times is to be cared for and preserved.  (Hang on to those felt banners.)


(124)  Bishops are charged to make sure that art in their diocese is worthy and to promote its commissioning and preservation.  True art is to be held in esteem and “sumptuous display” is to be avoided.  (I’d like to know what they had in mind with that phrase.  Some of my favorite churches I would label sumptuous.)  Conversely, bad, pretentious, and mediocre art is to be “removed from the house of God.”
(125)  The placing of statues and such is to be maintained but in “moderate” numbers (one man’s moderate is another man’s dehydration) and in “proper order” in order to maintain proper orthodoxy.
(126)  There should be a commission of experts in a diocese to assist a bishop in determining what pieces of art are worthy and he is to make sure that no such art is damaged or destroyed.
(127)  Bishops and priests who love art should have a special concern for artists and guide them in creating works of sacred art, even to the establishing or supporting of schools of art that would accomplish this endeavor.  Artists need to keep in mind that they share an imitation of God the Creator.
(128) This section basically says to take these points and develop new norms for sacred art.
(129) Seminarians are to be given classes in the history and production of art, its preservation, and be able to give good advice to artists.

(Painting by Eric Armusik)

Thursday, February 14, 2013


It’s Lent!  And time to start breaking the bindings of our seasonal missalettes to the song section immediately following Christmas.  Always an interesting time of year.  (I am about to rant a little.  If you are not in the mood, stop reading.)
Keeping strictly with the Vatican II documents which states that the words to the music that we sing should be in harmony with the faith of the Church, sometimes I scratch my head and wonder, “what the get out is this song saying?”  Yet we blithely carry on singing anything put in front of us like a pig that will eat any slop chucked down in front of him.


For example, the song, “Hosea.”  What exactly does this line mean?  “The wilderness will lead you to your heart where I will speak.”  When I spend enough time teasing out a possible interpretation (Jesus went to pray in the wilderness - The wilderness of our Lenten practices – will my bean burrito will lead me to Jesus?) then I suppose it can mean something.  But – really?  Is the best we can do?
Then there’s the song, “Ashes,” a perennial favorite.  There seems to be a lot of Pelagianism here, but perhaps I am being too sensitive.  It just sounds a little bit too much like I’m going to do this on my own, that I don’t really need God, He is just a crutch.  In the meantime God, here are some ashes that I offer you (as opposed to bread and wine.)  I know, I know, it is really saying we are offering ourselves (apparently the worst part of ourselves) until we have something better – but once again, really?  This is the shining example of what we as human beings can muster?
Then there are all the “I, me, me, I, I, I, me, me, myself, a little bit of us, but mostly ME,” songs.  Then again the whole book is chuck full of these.  For example, “Jerusalem, My Destiny.”  “I have fixed my eyes on your hills . . . MY destiny . . . I cannot turn away . . . this is OUR journey . . . I have found . . . I find a glimpse . . . I leave the past . . . I have met . . . I have found . . . I awoke.  I, I, me, I-monster”  I’m sure Jesus had SOMETHING to do here.
Then there is, “Lord, Who Threw Out These Forty Days?”  Well, of course nobody has.  They are still here.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013


Dan Brown’s books (and subsequent movies) don’t appeal to me not because of the way they treat the Church, but because they are so implausible.  I’ve heard of people such as police officers not liking some crime show because it rings so false that they cannot watch it without thinking, “Well, that would never happen.”  I, on the other hand, being rather ignorant of the inner workings of the police system can rather enjoy watching the same show.  I suppose the reverse holds true also, they can read a Dan Brown novel and think, “Wow, that is pretty cool,” whilst I role my eyes and think, “How droll.”
So now that Pope Benedict has stated that he intends on retiring, news analysts and commentators are clambering about “what the Church needs/should/must do,” and to anybody who understands history, the world-wide scope of the Church, and the general nature of how the Church operates, reads these commentators and has a sorrow in his heart at the lost of precious moments of the short life we are given on this earth in the reading.  A stupefyingly grand ignorance concerning the Church is shining forth.  “Experts” may have been able to fake it much of the time, but the light of this event has made the “I was once an altar boy so I know the Catholic Church” commentators knowledge show through where their knowledge is thin or lacking. 
Perhaps there is no clearer indication of this than in the idea that it would good for the Church to get on the band wagon with popular and fashionable movements within the United States culture.  The United States makes up a small portion of the Catholic Church, though, admittedly a wealthy portion.  Europe’s influence is waning, and the new power center (and growth) of the Church is south of the equator.  They are the majority now of Catholics and their issues are not our issues, yet we are the same Church and what we do here we must do there.  So if we satiated some of the West’s desires, for example a female priesthood, we must do it there also.  And much of the southern hemisphere is not even ready to entertain the idea.  Our experts are wonderfully parochial.
The amount of people talking about how Pope Benedict is “dragging us back to pre-Vatican II” appears to be by people who have never read the Vatican II documents (or have cherry-picked those documents that they like.)  With a vague notion of a “spirit of Vatican II” there is a feeling of where individuals think they want it to go or to where it should go, but that rarely has anything to do with the actual documents.  Few people site anything when they accuse the pope of such a thing.  It is well they don’t.  They are usually wrong. 
Now, someone might point out the allowing of the Extraordinary Form of the Mass.  Allowing something to happen and forcing the Church back in time are two different things.  In fact, instead of restricting different expressions of the Mass (which seems to be the “spirit” of Vatican II thing unless one is speaking of polka or rock Masses – we must all worship the same way) he has broadened it to include more people.  Another example would be the Anglican Rite.  (The word is diversity.)  The E.F. Mass is not a threat as some think it is.  Of the hundreds of Masses that will be celebrated this weekend in this diocese, 3 will be the E. F. Mass.  Why can we not celebrate this?
Am I getting off topic?
Anyway, be careful what you read.  When “news” commentators start talking about possible major swings in the leadership of the Church, when they start talking about what they Church needs to do, when they start talking about what they would like to see happen, if you value the time you have here on earth, stop listening and do something creative with your time – unless you are enjoying hearing what people are saying.
In the meantime, can I recommend this person’s writing on the matter?  He won’t say anything unless it is known and won’t speculate on anything that is not a true possibility.

Monday, February 11, 2013


FINDING TRUTH WHEREVER IT MAY BE FOUND:  "Men suffer the worst evils for the sake of the most alien desires, they neglect the most necessary appetites as if they were the most alien to nature."  Philodemus from the book "The Swerve" by Stephen Greenblatt
IN OTHER NEWS:  "Against other things it possible to obtain security, but when it comes to death we humans live in an unwalled city."  Epicurus from the same book.
From the Diocese of Cleveland Enewsletter:  "Our observance of Lent begins on Ash Wednesday, 13 February 2013, a day of fast and abstinence for Catholics."  Read more here.
Live in the Cleveland Diocese?  From the same source:  "Many Catholic parishes throughout the eight county Diocese of Cleveland offer Fish Fries and other meatless meals for their parish communities and the community."  Find one near you here.
From the same source:  "Did you know, last week the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services issued revised rules for the Healthcare Mandate?  Since then the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), including Cleveland Bishop Richard Lennon, looked forward for an opportunity to study the proposed regulations closely."  Read more here.
The diocesan wide night of confession is coming up.  Here is a video promoting it:

Russel sent this in.  I thought it was funny:  The Biblical Curse Generator.

Fr. Pfieffer commissioned another painting of St. Sebastian from artist Eric Armusik.  See it here.

J. P. sent a link in from Fr. Kyle's blog explaining why seminarians study art and architecture.  See it here. Fr. Pf. sent this in:


Well . . .
I’ll admit this is NOT what I thought I’d be posting today.  I’m rather stunned.
I walked into the sacristy today and greeting our deacon who said, “Good morning.  Did you hear the pope is retiring?”
No.  I hadn’t.
I was told it was all over the news so upon return to the rectory I grabbed a cup of coffee and sat down with our newspapers.  Not so much as a hint that anything was going on.
A phone call came in from a radio station wanting a comment.  I had no idea what to say.  (What do you say?)  Finally I got to my computer and read up on the whole thing (with as much information as is available.)  READ THE POPE’S OWN WORDS HERE.


Now, it is not so much that someone is retiring from the office that kind of made me step back for a moment, but that a pope has resigned (for the first time in centuries.)  When I was in the seminary there was discussion as to whether a pope could resign.  (Are you pope for life?  Or is it merely an office?  What if, after you retire, you change your mind?  Well, if it is merely an office, too bad for you.  If you are pope for life who voluntarily steps down, can you step back up?  Does it annul the office of the other pope?  Do we have two popes?  Even if we don’t, each thinking that he is the one who will save the Church from utter destruction, each takes those loyal to him and causes a schism?  THAT’s why we waist valuable time in the seminary thinking about such things.)
From the time that I was in junior high school (public school – the Catholic kids were allowed out of class to watch the election – can’t see that happening today) I’d only known Pope John Paul.  It was rather difficult, in my priesthood, to become accustomed to saying, “and Benedict our pope” at the Mass.
Now that I have thought about it a little bit, good for the pope to put the good of the Church ahead of holding an office.  But one of the things that I appreciated about John Paul was that even in his infirmities, he held on to the office.  It was a great message: we find all humans valuable even if they are not up to doing what they once could.”  But I understand that I don’t know what goes on behind papal palace walls or how physically and mentally difficult it must be to have attained his age and wake up each morning knowing that you are the pope.  That could be a strain beyond comprehension. 
So here is a note to arm-chair historians and teachers:  This is an historic moment.  Popes don’t retire every day.  It happens so rarely that there was question as to whether he could do it at one point.  So pay attention.  This is one for the history books and you get to live it.

Monday, February 4, 2013


I'm traveling today and do not have access to my usual computer so I am not sure if I am posting this week or not.
I read the paper here today and enjoyed the blow by blow coverage of the commercials of the Super Bowl.  The Clydsdale remembering the guy who took care of him as a pony taking top honors and the "And so God made a farmer" and "We miss you troups" commercials not far behind; tight skirts and fireworks trailing.  "What the United States needs," the article stated, "is faith and hope and love."  I almost fell off of my breakfast chair.
And how do we supply this need?

Friday, February 1, 2013


The detail that went into the documents is astounding.  A slow as the Church is to act at times it is amazing how much they were actually able to accomplish.  It is said that a giraffe is a horse put together by committee.  It is a credit to the Holy Spirit that such large and numerous committees were able to pull off Vatican II.

The next chapter of Sacrosanctum Concilium concerns the liturgical year.  After reaffirming Sunday as the Lord’s Day and lauding the holy seasons, mysteries of Christ, and feast days of saints, it makes recommendations to revise the Church calendar, “to suit the conditions of modern times.”  (107)


Far more interesting is the section on Sacred Music.  The same provisions for language is given that were previously given for the Mass.  That is, there is place for the vernacular but there should be some talent to sing in Latin by the congregation, particularly the Mass parts.  Sacred Music is to be preserved and “Choirs must be assiduously developed, especially in cathedral churches.”


“The Church recognizes Gregorian Chant as being specially suited to the Roman liturgy.  Therefore, other things being equal, it should be given pride of place in liturgical services.” (116)  “Bishops and other pastors of souls must take great care to ensure that whenever the sacred action is to be accompanied by chant, the whole body of the faithful may be able to contribute that active participation which is rightly theirs . . .” (114)  This is something we try to do at least in small measure during Lent at St. Sebastian.  All that being said, it does allow and even encourage other suitable, sacred music, especially polyphony, into the Church “so long as they accord with the spirit of the liturgical action as laid down in Article 30.”  (116)


“The pipe organ is to be held in high esteem in the Latin Church, for it is the traditional musical instrument, the sound of which can add a wonderful splendor to the Church’s ceremonies and powerfully lifts up men’s mind to God and higher things.”  (120)  Other instruments are allowed to be used if they are approved by the bishops and, “only under the condition that the instruments are suitable, or can be made suitable for sacred use; that they accord with the dignity of the temple and that they truly contribute to the edification of the faithful.”  (120)

Composers are then encouraged to keep composing for both large and small choirs and that the words of the music must always be kept in strict line with Catholic doctrine.  It is on this last point, particularly with Eucharistic hymns, that I would like to rip out much of what passes as Catholic Sacred Music in contemporary “Catholic” hymnals.  (Personal note.)