Tuesday, December 29, 2015


FINDING TRUTH WHEREVER IT MAY BE FOUND:  "The paradox of vengefulness is that it makes men dependent upon those who have harmed them, believing that their release from pain will come only when they make their tormentors suffer."  from Laura Hillenbrand's, "Unbroken"

QUOTE II: "[R]esentment, the emotion that, Jean Amery would write, 'nails every one of us onto the cross of his ruined past."  same source.


You can find our Bishop's Christmas message HERE.

I took this picture walking Sebastian in my hometown of Barberton.  Notice the tree in the middle of the tracks.

I'm not sure if this is incredibly sweet or kind of mean - but it made me happy and reflective.  Thanks PCV:

Jason sent this in (5 mins.):

Monday, December 28, 2015


Of the Christmas Day duties, this is one of the bitter sweet activities.

It's that time of year when the Christmas proposals start calling for wedding appointments.

Saturday, December 26, 2015


Because people try to be helpful and adjust the sound system, usually causing us to have to hire a company to come out and retune to whole system for a LOT of money I put this sign on the front of the cabinet:
It didn't work.

Someone got in and switched RECORD to PLAY BACK and so we didn't get to record our Christmas homilies.  The happy thing about this is that it gives me something to post.  First is roughly my Midnight Mass homily.  (It was updated a bit on the hard copy.)

Merry Christmas to you,
and I know, not only is it the Christmas season,
it is also the season of Star Wars
but I beg your indulgence for a moment
because I was to say something about Star Trek.
In particular, Star Trek V
Considered the worst Star Trek ever made.
The one that almost finished the franchise.

Legend was
that coming up on the 25th anniversary of the inception of Star Trek
that, flying on the success of Star Trek IV
they were discussing a possible plot line for the next movie
But whatever it was, it had to be really, really big!

What hadn’t they seen yet?
What hadn’t they done yet?
What would be so big that 
it would blow everything else out of the water.

And supposedly someone said,
How about the Starship Enterprise travels to the very center of the universe
and Kirk, and Spock, and Bones and the whole crew meet God.

And apparently William Shatner said,
“No, It’s really gotta be big!”
(if that isn't true, it should be.)

So, in a similar way,
 my priest friends and I 
were having a lively discussion this past week
about what we would homilize about for Christmas
and there was the usual bag of tricks:
1. God is born a man
2. Virgin Mary & the fulfilling of ancient prophecies 
3. Angels singing & shepherds 
4. The beginning of our redemption
5. The healing of our nature
And we said, “No, it’s really gotta be something big and more exciting!”

But of course all of that IS big,
It is absolutely beautiful.
The problem is we get used to it.
We are rich with it.
We can spend it freely because we are so immersed in it like the great lakes - 
It’s hard to get excited about water when you are swimming in it.
Though to others in the world - maybe in the desert
there would be nothing greater.

So it might be a beneficial thing to do
to put ourselves in a spiritual desert as it were
in order to remember the awe and beauty of this night.


I want to tell you a story that I heard on the radio the other day:
(On this American Life)
There is a man named Jose Migel Socola (sp?)
and he own an ad agency in Columbia (south America)
And they work on projects for products you would expect:
Dog food
bug repellent

But in his country there is civil unrest.
There has been war between the government and gorilla fighters
for as long as he has been alive.

The gorillas are everything you think of when it comes to an army:
they live in the jungle
they wear fatigues
and they are heavily, heavily armed.

The government of Columbia hired his ad agency
to try to help bring an end to the war
by getting the gorillas to de-mobilize, stop fighting.

They tried a number of things over the years
until one of them noticed that they were always most successful
at Christmas . . . and so they divided a plan for Christmas 2010

They went into the jungle
and found gigantic fir trees - 75’ tall
and the decorated it with thousands of Christmas lights - 
A gigantic Christmas tree in the middle of the jungle.

There was a sign that lit up when the gorillas would walk by
and it said,

There were not presents, no parties, no family, 
just the promise of Christmas.
and about 5% of the fighters demobilized,
and went back to their families.

The people who walked in darkness
have seen a great light:
upon those who dwelt in the land of gloom
a light has shone.

The next year at Christmas they had “OPERATION RIVER OF LIGHT”
The gorillas the had demobilized the previous year
informed them that,
“You know, we may have lived in the jungle,
but we rarely walked through it.
The real highways of the jungle are the the rivers.”

So they designed the plastic balls,
about the size of softballs
and at night they glowed purple.

They then went to the villages and had people write Christmas notes,
or donate a trinket of some sort,
and the put these inside the glowing balls
which had clear tops so that you could see what was inside,
and then at Christmas
they let 7,000 of these glowing balls loose in the river.

Can you imagine what a beautiful sight that must have been,
In the dark, dark jungle,
thousands of purple glowing balls lazily floating down the river
bringing tidings of great joy.

You have brought them abundant joy
and great rejoicing
as they rejoice before as at the harvest,
as people make merry when
dividing spoils.
For the yoke that burdened them,
the pole on their shoulders
and the rod of their taskmaster
you have smashed as on the day of Midian.”

The next year was OPERATION BETHLEHEM.

The next year there were no lights in the jungle at all.
The jungle remained absolutely dark.
the lights were put in the villages - 
these lights were powerful spot lights that shown straight up into the air.
I giant been
reminiscent of the light that they put in New York City
to pay tribute to where the Word Trade Towers had been
right after 9/11

But there were signs in the jungle again,
and they said this:

For every boot that trampled in battle
every cloak rolled in blood
will be burned as fuel for flames.
For a chid is born to us,
a son is given us:
upon his shoulders dominion rests.
They name Him Wonder-Counselor,
Prince of Peace
His dominion is vast
and forever peaceful
from David’s throne
and over His kingdom
which He confirms and sustains
by judgement and justice,
both now and forever.
The zeal of the Lord will do this!”

This is the Christmas message
not just for those lost on the darkness of jungle
and the terrors of war:
but for us
who at times are equally lost
in the darkness of our sin and fear,
in the distraction of work, traffic, obligations, worries, and seemingly endless duties:

If Christmas can come to you in the city
You can come home to Jesus

Follow His light that leads you home

At Christmas, anything is possible.

It has become a standing tradition at St. Sebastian that the homily at the 4:00 Christmas Vigil Mass at which many children come be done in rhyme.  This year's rhyme is based on the story, "The Burglar's Christmas" by Elizabeth L. Seymour.  You can find the original HERE.  (Believe me, I know that rhymes are not great!)

Twas the Christmas Vigil Mass
And I know, very soon!
Everyone here will be asleep

Beneath a freakishly warm, late December moon.

Each and every child
in good ole’ West Akron
will be beneath sheets
of 50% cotton, 50% Dacron.

Sebastian dreams 
of squeaky toys in his teeth
And LeBron James dreams of Christmas free throws 
going through Christmas wreaths

The blimp is all nestled 
in its air dock
And the Swenson runners
are all off the clock.

All was as still
and quite, and sweet
Except for one man
walking down Mull Street.

He grew up  here
and went to our school
Played in Forest Lodge
and swam at the JCC pool.

But many years ago 
he took off in flight
and hadn’t been back
till this very night.

He was hungry!  So hungry
and down on his luck
All the change in his pocket 
didn’t equal a buck.

So on Christmas Eve night
foreswearing peace and goodwill
He crafted of plan
That bode nothing but ill

He’d fallen, he knew
to a particular low
but to become the Christmas thief?
Now that was a blow.

He’d given away 
his self-respect
Devised a plan
about whose Christmas he’d wreck.

He spotted a house
with poor locks and no dog,
broke in with ease
and his eyes went agog.

Here were presents
and wealth beyond all measure
a house unguarded
to rob at his leisure.

He filled his pockets
with all he could find
and with it, tomorrow
he’d have food and good wine.

When all of a sudden
the room went quite white.
Some light sleeper awoke
and turned on the light!

“James!” cried a woman
her hand on the switch
“You’ve come home for Christmas!”
Her joy fever pitch.

Our thief’s stomach clenched,
for while he’d be gone
his parents had moved
and he’d broke into their home!

His Mother embraced him
gave kisses and blessings
His wirey body
to her bosom pressing

“You don’t understand!”
James’ eyes steel blue
“That this house was yours
I hadn’t a clue!”

“I came here to rob you
See in what I’m indulging?
With your jewelry and money
my pockets are bulging!

A thought about you
I couldn’t spare
about what I wanted
was the source of my care

Don’t be silly said she
“This you can’t do
how can you steal 
what already belongs to you?”

“You don’t understand,”
(he had a tear in his eye.)
“Ah but I do,”
was her simple reply.

“Look at this manger
and the baby within
who came to save us
who were lost in sin.

He showed even me 
His mercy when
I was young and
far less virtuous had been.

If this is His gift to me
on His birthday
how much more should I
His generosity repay?

So as He showed us mercy,
And I mercy you,
Now vow to be generous
with mercy too.

To pass on the gift
granted this holy night
that causes sin
to take quick flight.


Here is a lesson
for this Christmas night
that where there is darkness,
you be Christ’s light.

Let those know
who far from him roam
that he waits in a manger
to welcome them home.

For the love that you know
that He brings you this day
You must pass on to those 
who come your way.

For all of your darkness
He can turn into light
and with that I wish you

a Holy Christmas night!

Wednesday, December 23, 2015


This was posted on j curt Browns website Sunday evening.  He played in the noon recital at St. Sebastian on Tuesday last:

Spectacular performance tonight of Handel's Messiah (Part 1) at St. Sebastian's Parish, Akron. What a heavenly venue for a heavenly performance under the direction of Lynn Frey-Steward, St Sebastian's music director, and Dr. Samuel Gordon, artistic director of Singers Companye. The exceptional choirs of St. Sebastian's and Singers Companye (a very large perfectly-balanced choir in combination) were accompanied by string orchestra and organ continuo on St S's new small tracker-action baroque organ at the front of the church from where the choirs performed rather than in the rear gallery.
Superb vocal soloists were soprano Rachel Morrison, mezzo-soprano  Laura Williams, counter-tenor James Schreck, tenor Kyle Kelvington and bass David Aberth. St Sebastian's has cathedral-like acoustics. The great gift to the community for the season. Packed house. I never use the exclamation "awesome" but this WAS awesome.  

Monday, December 21, 2015


I think the rumors of the death of the sacrament of reconciliation are greatly exaggerated.  I've been hearing about experiences at other parishes (at least from my confreres around the Akron area) and the news is good!  So good that I beg you to pray for and encourage vocations before things get too desperate!

Last week alone, at St. Sebastian, we had over ten hours of confession not including confessions for school, PSR, appointments, and helping at other parishes.  And lines were long, constant, and we often went over.  It led to this conversation with a parishioner:

Friday, December 18, 2015


Paragraph 73

So let's be clear, the above video is NOT what Offertory is about as much as it might seem that way.  The Liturgy of the Word is over, we take a seat, music plays, it seems as though a bunch of technical stuff is taking place such as the taking up of the collection, the preparation of the altar, the gifts are brought forward, music takes place, and at the end the first thing we do is stand and seem to pick up with part II.

But notice what doesn't happen.  We don't make the announcements.  If this were just a "killing time" moment, this would be the PERFECT time to make announcements: those who were late are there by now and it is before the time of those who sneak out after receiving Communion.  But this is just as much a part of the liturgical action as any other part of the Mass.  This is not just a convenient time to take up the collection.  Even the collection itself is a liturgical action: the members of the Church offering some of their gifts back to God and the community to carry on the work of Christ.  That is why I usually tell people even if they can't give of if they give electronically, they should drop an empty envelope in the collection and offer a prayer for the parish.

The bread and wine which will become the Body and Blood of Christ is brought forward - preferably by some in the congregation.  Other gifts may be brought forward (such as the collection, gifts for the poor, and such but these are placed in an appropriate place AWAY from the altar.  

Thursday, December 17, 2015


Remember that Advent has two component to it.  The first half of Advent we are preparing for the second coming of Christ.  (Apparently most people think that when He comes again it will be at the mall.)  The second half of advent we prepare for His arrival in the manger at Bethlehem.

Isn’t it cool that we don’t just remember this event?  It is not like Independence Day on which we say, “Remember about 200 years ago when this cool thing happened?  I’ll take my burger medium please.”  Instead, we get inside the story and live it.  We go to Mass to celebrate the event and then go home to mark it as if it were taking place at this time.  We open presents, pray as families, celebrate the birth not as a historical event but as something alive, active, and current.  

After the day, we don’t just pack the idea away like our ornaments.  We continue to follow and live with Christ through the liturgical year as He grows, pulls His disciples together, ministers, and finally dies and resurrects.  It is a life that transcends time.

Today, we live the period just before the birth of Christ.  We live in expectation.  All the oracles of the prophets are coming true and aligning.  The star is settling into place.  Mary and Joseph are nearing the end of their journey.  The manger does not yet know that it will be housing such august guests.  There is something in the air.  We know eternity is changing.  We just need to be aware.  

Wednesday, December 16, 2015


From the case file of "Why We Need to Teach Our Children Logic" comes this letter from Nancy Dollard in the Akron Beacon Journal.  It combines banning guns and abortion rights.  Put aside, for a moment, whether you thing guns should be legal or not and just take in the letter.

"I was horrified," she writes," to see a mass shooting at Planned Parenthood, a wonderful organization that helps women and men and is progressive about abortion rights."

Unless one is already opposed to abortions, this sentence seems logical.  Good people are shot by bad people.  However, if you see abortion as the taking of an innocent life, then this is a story of people taking the lives of people who take lives.  Only one of them profits by it though.

"Women have the right to have an abortion at any stage and to be free from gun violence."

This is true in our country.  Women have a right to take the life of the human being in their womb but they are themselves protected from any violence.

"Unfortunately, mass shootings are too common now because of the radical-right, National Rifle Association gun mentality which won't give up any rights."

So, you want someone to freely give up their rights, rights being something two sentences ago you held so dear, because somebody tangentially associated with them (albeit in a violent, and by the way, illegal way) wants someone else to give up their rights.  

"I'm sick of guns and mass shootings, and it's time to tell the NRA and hunting groups that we need every gun and round of ammunition in a registered federal database so we can prevent the next mass shooting."

I might use the same argument against abortion.  I am sick of so many human beings being slaughtered in their mother's womb.  I am tired of hearing that human body parts are being sold by Planned Parenthood for profit.  It horrifies me that humans are now being found dumped in local trash yards, not only morally disgusting but illegal.  It sickens me that men can treat women like objects because there is no longer a consequence to their actions.

(I'm skipping a little here) ". . . and get a required yearly mental health exam for anyone who works with a gun or owns multiple guns and rounds."

The writer wants everyone who works with a gun to undergo yearly mental health exams.  I wonder if she would be equally open to women being fully informed about her abortion before it takes place along with a similar waiting period before the abortion as there is with the purchase of a gun?

"It is time to put the safety of normal people first."  That is, people who take human lives but not the many people who own guns and do not.  " They (normal people) abhor guns and gun violence."

Yes, they do.  They certainly do.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015




Kay writes in that she wants you to know about a new blog in the blogosphere town:  Sisters of the Most Holy Trinity.  Find it HERE.


PVC sent in, "The Miracle that Converted Obi-Wan Kenobi to Catholicism."  Read it HERE.

VIDEO:  Justin Tucker (Ravens) changes out of his uniform into a tux to sing Ave Maria at a fundraiser for Catholic Charities.  See it HERE.

Thank you to this week's contributors!

Sunday, December 13, 2015


This Advent is going by so quickly!  And it's not the, "Oh! There is so much work to do," kind of quickly (though there is.)  It's the, "It just doesn't feel like Christmas is around the corner" kind of quickly.  It will be here and I won't be ready.

I will admit I am usually the one fighting off Christmas and pushing for Advent.  It is always an amusing but fruitless endeavor.  It is not one you really expect to win.  It is just fought on principle.

But lots of weird things happened this year.  One of my close friends (and one of the reasons I fight so hard against unseasonable Christmases) moved to Washington state.  He starts playing Christmas music three days after Easter.  I'm sure his Christmas tree has been up for months and has already had more than his fair share of eggnog.  And for some reason, it seems that the Christmas music in stores is toned down a little bit.  I don't feel like it's being forced into my brain hypodermically.  And people just seem un-stressed.  Maybe its this terrible weather.

Every day I wake up, it's another beautiful day.  We have saved a TON of money on plowing, heating, salting, and cleaning.  I can't stand it.
 It's playing with my brain.  I just can't get into writing my Christmas homilies - and I have the rhyming homily this year!

Friday, December 11, 2015


So let's say you put mints on the table for people at the end of dinner.  Uncle Ralph sticks his ginormous hand in the bowl, scoops them all up and plops them in his mouth.

Fortunately your Mother taught you your manners well and that keeps you from blurting out, "Ralph!  You big lug!  Those were meant for EVERYBODY."  It wouldn't matter anyway because he would just say, "What?  They were just sitting there and nobody was taking any anyway."

Some things are just so open to abuse.

So it is with the Universal Prayers.  (Petitions at Mass)  This is one of those things that make me cringe.  God allows this part of the Mass to teach me patience and to get over myself.

First of all, this is NOT a required part of the Mass.  Yup.  You can skip it.  It is "DESIRABLE" that there "usually be" such a prayer at Masses with the people, which means you could dump it.  (Just try it and see how many people freak out.)

Here are some of the various titles of this prayer to help us understand what their function is:  

"General Intercessions"
"Prayer of the Faithful"

"Universal Prayer"

What aren't they?  

"Personal Intercessions"

"Prayer of a Faithful"

"Individual Prayer"

These prayers are intended for the collective good: for the salvation of all and expressive of the prayer of the entire community.  So, no, it isn't proper to say, "and for the intentions that you now mention."

"For ME as I go to take finals today."

"For my Aunt Fifi who is going in for nose surgery."

It is also an abuse (though not a big one - just one I find annoying) to say, "And for the intentions, which we hold in the silence of our hearts."  Pause.  Pause.  Pause.

Why make a fuss about this?  BECAUSE WE HAVE ALREADY DONE THIS.  Remember at the beginning of Mass at the Collect (opening prayer) when the priest said, "Let us pray"?  THAT is when we should be praying for our final exam, Aunt Fifi, and ALL of the prayers which we hold in the silence of our hearts.  They are then collected in the Collect prayer and offered up to the Father to be prayed for in this Mass.

Bu that is another mountain not worth fighting on . . . but I got it out of my system.
Generally these prayers do have a form:  1) For the needs of the Church.  2) For public authorities and the salvation of the whole world.  3) For those burdened by any kind of difficulty.  4) For the local community.

They should be "sober" (whatever that means,) composed with wise liberty (whatever that means) and "few words."  (We know EXACTLY what that means.)

Finally, one last personal peeve.  If you construct these prayers, do your best to avoid the word "that".  It greatly reduces the scope of the prayer and makes a hoop through which God must jump.  Here is the difference:

"For Catholic grade school education."


"For Catholic grade school education, that God preserve our schools, keep students coming, tuition flowing, and parishioners supporting."
Okay, that might be very good and all.  But what if God wants to remake our model of schools?  What if there is a better way?  What if, by failing, we come up with a more economical, better educationally, more tenable model?  While He is working at that, we are looking at our petition and thinking, "Well, obviously THAT didn't work because God is not jumping through our hoop."

I'm just saying.