Sunday, April 23, 2017


The other day I remembered a tune that I used to like a lot and found it on iTunes and downloaded it. It was the perfect song for a walk.  So I took Sebastian out, put the earbuds in, and turned up my tunes to full tilt.  It was wonderful

Maybe there should be a pre-warning or something of sorts . . .

Friday, April 21, 2017


So I made the mistake of saying that I would talk about presenting a flower to Mary during a wedding ceremony.  Probably should not have.  But here we go . . . 

For those who do not know what I am talking about, (I thought everybody knew what this was since it has been such a common experience in my Catholic life,) during the wedding ceremony, a bride, with a particular devotion to the Blessed Virgin, will process to the shrine (statue) of Mary at some point during the nuptial Mass, offer a prayer of petition, and as a devotion, leave a flower (usually a single, white rose) which would be much the same thing as lighting a candle.  The only more recent change that I have noticed is that almost without fail, the groom now attends to this devotion also.  (When I was a kid, it seemed that only the bride went.)

There does not seem to be an allowance for this practice in either the new or the old rubrics for the nuptial ceremonies.  This is a private devotion being done in a public forum and as such is “stuck on” to the Mass. 

99.99% of the time I am adamantly opposed to sticking things on to the Mass.  The requests received for private things to be done at Mass come in often.  Private devotions, talks, presentations, other ceremonies, blessings, many of which are not not only not mentioned but expressly forbidden by the rubrics are often presented as something needed to be done at Mass.  The two most pressing reasons given for the necessity of doing such a thing is 1) it would be beneficial/meaningful to everybody and 2) it concerns the whole community and this is when the whole community is gathered.  As for the first concern, having it Mass often makes more people angry than happy and the second is a bait and switch.  The people are there for the Mass.  If whatever else is going on is really important, then you don’t win them over by forcing them to sit through it.  (How happy are you to turn on Public Radio during a fund drive?)

ALL THAT BEING SAID, my liturgical heart says that this devotional as it is often practiced during the Mass should go the same way as the unity candle - that is - snuffed out!  But I am weak where Mary is concerned and unlike a unity candle ceremony, this devotion to Mary is something that the bride and groom can (and should if they are going to subject the congregation to this private devotion at their wedding) continue throughout their lives.  It is also something in which the congregation can at least tangentially participate.  

Further, it can take place in a way that doesn’t really interfere with the rubrics of the Mass.  For example, while the music continues after the reception of Communion, what is to stop the bride and her groom from walking over to Mary, placing a rose, and asking for her intercession in their married lives?  

What do you think?

Thursday, April 20, 2017


I hear you.

I just don’t understand you.

I can’t get over the number of times this year that I have discovered that what someone is saying to me and what I understand are two different things.  For example:  In keeping with the mandates of Vatican II, a number of years ago we started incorporating parts of the Ordinary Form of the Mass in Latin, usually only during penitential seasons (although I have been taken to task for this - why should Latin only be penitential some have asked? - B. S. - I know you want to jump on that comment ;>))  In the beginning we practiced with he congregation and had page numbers announced and posted etc . . .   And occasional someone would say, “I don’t now what we are singing,” meaning that they don’t understand Latin.

Recently someone said the EXACT SAME THING TO ME and in my mind I am wondering how an intelligent Catholic adult, after years of having sung this in church, could not figure out that sanctus sanctus sanctus is holy holy holy or that Angus Dei is Lamb of God.  I was so preprogrammed - thinking I knew what the person was talking about - that I didn’t hear what was really being said.  Had I taken the time to clarify, I would have discovered that some of the words were tricky to pronoun and remember, “Pleni sunt cæli,” and they would simply like the words again to be able to sing along.  It wasn’t a complaint about Vatican II.

This type of misunderstanding in other areas plagued me a few times this year.  I might think that I am working on a proposed difficulty or challenge when, in fact, I was completely off of the mark.  If your pastor (spouse, sibling, coworker, etc.) seems similarly off, it might be a good idea to clarify.  As it turns out, almost all of the areas that this happened to me this year were much easier to handle than the ones I thought I had.  

When someone asks me a question, I often ask, “Am I answering the question that you are asking?”  I probably should implement that in more areas of my life.  I hope this helps you too.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017


FINDING TRUTH WHEREVER IT MAY BE FOUND:  "Faith is preceded by awe, by acts of amazement, at things we apprehend but cannot comprehend."  from Abraham Heschel's, "God in Search of Man."

QUOTE II:  "A decision of the will, a desire to believe, will not secure it.  All the days of our lives we must continue to deepen our sense of mystery in order to be worthy of attaining faith."  same source


If you like the painting of the Crucifixion at St. Sebastian, the artist is selling limited edition Glicee prints of it.  See more HERE.

He has also started a site just for his liturgical art.  You can find it HERE.

The next Theology on the Rocks is coming up!

Here is episode 2 of Church Hunters:

Monday, April 17, 2017


As many of you know, I let my beard go a bit feral since November.  I rather liked it and so did a certain select group of people.  You know all those comics you see about men rating other men by their beards?  I hate to say that there is a modicum of truth behind it (and not being over muscular or particularly athletic, I liked that I could at least grow a decent beard.)

Among those who definitely did not like my bristly advantaged self was my sister.  She made this opinion so sisterly clear that back in January I promised her that for Easter, I would hack it back.  It seemed so far away as to not matter then, but as Holy Week approached the anxiety of getting the hedge trimmers out started to nag at me.

Monday passed.  Tuesday passed.  Wednesday passed.  Finally on Maundy Thursday I knew it was time.  I locked myself in the bathroom, put on some depressing music, and began the topiary task of carving a smaller beard out of the cathedralesque beauty that hung off of my chin.  To me it felt a little bit like this:

But let me tell you (although she did suggest that I did not go far enough) my Sister was well pleased.
When I was a kid, if I did my chores for a month and brushed my teeth every day, one of my sisters would take me to Bodnar's Drug Store to get a toy as a reward.  (Usually a Slinky - a real metal one - not that plastic trash they sell today.)  Things really haven't changed much: 
But as we approached the snack section at the ACME grocery store and searched the shelves, we could not find any Value Time Cheese Curls!  Now, we haven't had any for quite a spell at the rectory.  Marcy said that they were simply out of them (which of course made sense since they are so outstandingly delicious) and so bought me some other-not-worth-mentioning brand to hold me over.  Then I gave them up for Lent.  Now they tell me they don't carry them any more!
I don't think anybody really understands how much I liked this staple in my diet.

(Yes, I really did speak to the manager.)  He told me that the Value Time line was not a good seller and that they had stopped carrying EVERYTHING IN IT INCLUDING MY CHEESE CURLS!  Talk about throwing the baby, the tub, and his mother out with the bathwater.  

Of course, at Theology on Tap, Eric did buy some white cheddar popcorn that I couldn't even swallow before I was shoving another handful in my mouth!  When God closes a door . . . 


Monday, April 10, 2017


There won't be time to post this week other than these quick notes to you.

If you are looking for a place to celebrate the Eastertide, here is the St. Sebastian schedule:
8:00AM  Mass
8:15AM Mass
Adoration all day
(7:00PM  Chrism Mass at the cathedral.  You are invited.)
7:40 Compline and Benediction
8:00AM Mass
Maundy Thursday
7:00PM  Mass of the Lord's Supper
Good Friday
1:00PM Family Stations of the Cross
3:00PM Good Friday Service
Holy Saturday
1:00PM Blessing of the Foods
9:00PM Easter Vigil
Easter Sunday
9:00AM Mass
11:00AM Mass
1:00PM Mass (Extraordinary Form - Latin)

This past Sunday our choir performed Theodore Dubois', "Seven Last Words of Christ."  A little over 250 people were in attendance.  The music was magnificent.  I didn't think the choir could outdo itself but they did!  The church itself started out pretty bright with the light streaming in through the stained glass windows.  But as the piece progressed, night descended upon us and by the time they got to the point in the program where Christ died, the sun had nearly set, the church grew dark, and the only thing lit was Eric Armusik's painting of the crucifixion.  It was a blessed night.  Congratulations to Lynn, Frank, the soloists, the orchestra, and of course the St. Sebastian choir.
Last week was cold and as I was taking Sebastian for his last airing out, I was struck by this incongruous scene a snow covered lawn and a tree in full spring flower.
Then by Saturday, the sun was so bright and warm I was struck at how brightly Sebastian was lit up when he came to say good morning that I snapped this shot to share with you.

Friday, April 7, 2017


If you have been reading this blog for awhile, you know I have difficulties with the unity candle.  (We do not use it at St. Sebastian.)  Among other things, as we have been discovering over these few months, we have spent so much time and care making sure that everybody is aware, informed, and is consenting to what is taking place.  To whit:

  1. Before the ceremony, the couple is catechized and asked both verbally and through written statement that they are knowledgable about what is going on and that they freely choose to do it.
  2. Banns are published to the community for three weeks informing them of what is about to happen (and giving them a chance to weigh in if they feel so inclined.)
  3. The wedding bells are rung.
  4. It is announced that this couple is about to marry.
  5. They publicly state their intentions to get married with knowledge and freedom.
  6. They exchange their vows.
  7. It is announced that they exchanged their vows.
  8. If people still don’t get it they exchange rings.
  9. Often they kiss now as a further sign.

Then, for some inexplicable reason, some people feel a need to put on a piece of theater whereby, just incase somebody didn’t quite get what was going on, they take two candles, light one candle together with them, and then obliterate the light from the original candles.  (I have lots of problems with the symbolism, particularly at the Mass, with this.)

NOW, isn’t interesting that the new rite for marriage has new options for those entering into matrimony, but the unity candle is conspicuously absent?  Actually, I am so happy that they Church did not make it an official rite.  There would just be a ton of verbiage added to it.  “Now, bride and groom take the candle of their single selves, a light that has burned since their baptism, symbolizing the life of BLAH BLAH BLAH. . .

Read more HERE.

But there are some newly codified options but I doubt, unless our neighborhood changes dramatically, they will be of much use at this parish.  The first option takes the place of the exchange of rings.  It is the rite of the blessing and exchange of arras or coins.  These are used primarily with those of a heritage and practice from Spain, Latin American countries, and the Philippines.

Another addition is the blessing of the wedding veil or the lazo.  The lazo is a decorative chain placed around the bride and groom’s shoulder.  The veil would be placed on the bride’s head with part of it placed on the groom’s shoulder.  This would take place just prior to the nuptial blessing in those places where this is custom.

"Of course," some of my liturgist friends would say, "what does this say about taking a rose to Mary?"  

*sigh*  More on that in two weeks.

Thursday, April 6, 2017


Wednesday was FIELD TRIP DAY!

Fr. Pfeiffer and I jumped into his Bernadette Subaru and headed south to Columbus to visit the Jubilee Museum.  The Jubilee Museum in the Diocese of Columbus collects discarded Catholic items from closed or closing Catholic churches and displays them in a former Catholic school in Columbus.  (Some items were reclaimed from bars, junk stores, and other businesses that obtained sacred items when a church closed.) The founding priest is Fr. Lutz pictured below.
The interesting cross next to which he is standing was made of parts of the wrecking ball crane that was used to tear down a Columbus church the model of which you can see in the background.  (I will let him tell you the rest of that story when you visit the museum.)

There are many wonderful and interesting things to be found there and our gracious host gave us a most excellent tour.  Below is from the vestment collection, probably my favorite room in the museum.

 As evidence that he is not too narrow in his saving of items, below is an example of a vestment (that was quite well constructed) that looks - well - while well done would have been an excellent addition to a Lost in Space episode had a Catholic priest been on board.  
 The items are varied and sometimes surprising.  Below would be a case in point.  This is a portion of a branch of a tree under which the very first Mass in Ohio was prayed.  They were apparently cut and handed out as commemorative pieces to mark the occasion.  (That isn't even the most remarkable part of the story but again I will let a docent give you the full story.)
 I have had some personal items that I have saved from parishes over the years - items that were destined for the dumpster of which I said, "I'l take them to the dumpster for you," and they ended up in my basement.  Finally a good home was found for them and we did a little bit of bartering.  I exchanged my items for the item pictured in the backseat of Bernadette Subaru.  It is sanctuary lamp that will be used in the new chapel at the Julie Billiart School in Akron.
Fr. was also gracious enough to provide some materials pertaining directly pertaining to St. Sebastian Parish in Akron!  Those will be revealed on our 90th anniversary.  Thank you and God bless Father!

So here are a couple of things with which I will leave you:  The first, I have a chapel that I need to make Catholic.  The school, named the Julie Billiart School at St. Sebastian, Akron, is a Catholic school for children with learning challenges.  The chapel (shown below) will be used by the school.  It needs everything and I cannot take it out of the parish budget: candle sticks, statues, stations of the cross, alter linens, a nice sized corpus for the cross, processional candles and cross, pipe organ . . . you get the picture.  If you have anything, please consider donating it to the new school.
OR - if you have items that do not have a good home and they would not work in the chapel above, consider donating them to the Jubilee Museum where the will be given a good home.

Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, April 4, 2017


FINDING TRUTH WHEREVER IT MAY BE FOUND:  "Oh, if these new pagans would only be old pagans, they would be a little wiser!  The old pagans knew that mere naked Nature-worship must have a cruel side.  They knew that the eye of Apollo can blast and blind."  from G. K. Chesterton's, "The Eye of Apollo"

QUOTE II: "Cheerfulness without humor is a very trying thing."  from G. K. Chesterton's, "The Three Tools of Death"


Everyone was telling me that I needed to see the movie, "Logan."  I walked out on it (something I haven't done since "White Men Can't Jump.")  *BUT* seminarian David Stavarz wrote a good article concerning this movie on Word on Fire that you may find HERE.

From "America Magazine," HERE is an article about a priest struggling with porn addiction.

This Sunday is Passion Sunday, AKA Palm Sunday!  It is almost Holy Week already.  How did that happen?
A couple of last minute events at St. Sebastian for Lent:

TONIGHT is the final night of Deacon Terry's Parish Mission:
 Concert this Sunday at 7:30PM at St. Sebastian.  The Seven Last Words of Christ:
John Crist's Church Hunters episode one:

Monday, April 3, 2017


There are two kinds of bad moods.  The bad-bad mood which you and everyone around you want you out of as quickly as possible.  Then there is the good-bad mood that everyone except you want you out of as quickly as possible.  The problem is, you don't WANT out of a good-bad mood but those around you don't know the difference between a good-bad mood and a bad-bad mood and so work very diligently to get you out of it.
I was bound and determined to prove her wrong.

Then this happened:  I needed a hanger while in the sacristy this morning and while digging around found an old valise that I used to use for packing my alb and stole when going someplace to celebrate the sacraments.  It was actually a horse competition judge's case that I picked up on the super sale rack at the tack store back when I used to ride horses.  But it served this purpose well.

It brought back some marvelous memories.  But I have a new case - well - relatively new one that I use now.  I'd even forgotten that this old one was still in the closet.  So it seems appropriate to give it to charity.  But first it was checked for anything that might have been hidden away in it for the past couple of years like a twenty dollar bill in an old coat pocket.
One of the things that fell out was a business card holder that I have been looking for FOR EVER.  Years ago my Mom suggested I buy it and not to get just any old cheap one but one that I would really like.  So I did.  And I have been sad that it went missing a couple of years ago.  And then, "Voila!" there it appeared this morning like a little blessing.

A couple of papers fell out too.  These were print outs of Emails that a dear, dear friend of mine, the fabulous Miss Cathy who has appeared in these Monday Diaries in the past - usually in connection with Valutime Cheese Curls, that were written when my Mom was very ill and my Dad was entering into Alzheimers.  She too has passed away and is dearly missed.  The notes she wrote expressed her friendship and prayers and willingness to assist the family in any way she could during those difficult years.  Gosh!  How lucky to have had a friend like that.  What a happy memory.
I believe that it was in G. K. Chesterton's story, "The Three Tools of Death" that this quote comes, "If ever I murdered somebody . . . I dare say it would be an Optimist."

Friday, March 31, 2017


At one time it was against Canon Law for a lowly parish priest to wear any jewelry whatsoever.  That rule has been greatly relaxed.  I wear what looks like a wedding ring.  When I was ordained, one of my best friends, Cathy Paparella, gave me a ring and said, “Here.  Wear this.  I like my priests to wear rings.”  So I did and do.

They are pretty handy little trinkets.  One cannot always wear one’s clerics.  You don’t want to wear them while biking for example. They are impractical for such uses as well as being WAY too expensive.  So let’s say you are a Catholic priest and you are going swimming.  A ring on your finger helps unwanted attention if you understand what I am saying . . . 

Most of the time.

(Allow me to digress for a moment.)  Going to the beach with some priest friends, we were detained from going to water and so sat at the “soda bar” for a little while.  A lady started hitting on one of my friends.  She asked all kinds of probing questions, discovered that we were all together and finally that we were all priests.  Her disposition changed immediately.  “Oh.  You’re the boys who can’t have sex,” she slurred.

My friend, with all the dignity he could muster, replied, “Oh, but we can.  We choose not to.”

Now that all the matrimonial clarifications have been made and the vows exchanged, and announcement that the vows have been exchanged, now bride and groom exchange rings to be placed on their fingers FURTHER signifying what amazing even has just taken place.  Is it not interesting that these rings are blessed?  They are a symbol of a covenant, a mark of a change of status, a public indication of behavior, a sign of something created in cooperation with God.  Rings are AMAZING and powerful.  The last thing you want around if you are going to cheat on your spouse is a ring (or its tan line.)  It kind of throws a damper on things.

Can you see all the fuss that is going on?  How much of a public witness this all is?  There is a rash of young people not wanting to get married.  Maybe it isn’t so much a sign that they don’t care, maybe they are a bit overwhelmed by what a gigantic, public, important institution that it is.  You can’t take this lightly.  And you will be marked by a band on your finger for the rest of your married life and that assumes certain public and private behavior - not unlike a habit or a priest’s collar.  

But it is not a sign so much of your vows, but of the vows of the person who married you, for that person says, “Receive this ring as a sign of MY love and fidelity.”  It is a sign that someone loves you.

Thursday, March 30, 2017


This week we were marking an anniversary of the passing of Fr. Swirski here at St. Sebastian.  On the same day we received notice that Fr. Al Kunkel passed away.  In 1991 he was named pastor of Sacred Heart Parish in Barberton replacing Fr. Joseph Ozemik.  I was in the seminary at the time and found him to be a very supportive pastor.  (Interestingly that is not always the case.)  There is a part of the ordination ceremony when you honor a priest that was important to you by having him assist you when you vest for the first time in a priestly stole and chasuble and I asked Fr. Kunkel to perform that favor for me.

He also had restored a chalice and gave it to me to carry on the memories of the parish.  It is a way to remember him and the parish of my youth when I celebrate Mass.  Sacred Heart Parish is no longer in existence.  It is now Prince of Peace Parish (at Sacred Heart church) and is no longer a Slovenian personal parish but a territorial parish (and going strong under the pastorship of Fr. Robert Jackson.)  It is from there that he will be buried this Saturday.

Please consider saying a prayer for him and for all of our deceased priests.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017


It may be that many Parishes are struggling in the Catholic triangle, the three points roughly being Chicago, Boston, and New York where, at one time, 50% of American Catholics once lived.  As the Catholic population evens out across the map, the triangle looks as if the Catholic Church is failing while in other parts of the nation they cannot build churches and parking lots quickly enough.  Is there anything good to come from this for triangle Catholics?

There is at least this: survival of the fittest.  “If you don’t like it here, go to the next parish over,” is no longer a safe attitude to have because people can and will do just that - and possibly they will not stay within the Catholic family of churches!  It is not enough to open our doors anymore and say, “Okay Catholics, come on in!”  The ethnic fellowship, community pressure, our collective conscience will not get us into a pew.  You better have your Church act together.

That does not mean we should give in to the customer service mentality that plagues the American Church experience and mindset.  But it is similarly unconscionable to do things just adequately or minimally either.  If we want serious Catholics, we need to be a Church serious about being Catholic.

The same goes for our schools.  There is a misconception out there that when we were in the days of the nuns, everything was perfect.  They weren’t.  (Don’t get me wrong, I would jump on the bandwagon in a moment of orders reignited in our diocese and started staffing our schools.)  Ask a priest who had gone through the golden era of packed schools with our valiant nuns making up all or most of the faculty.  There were still terrible teachers and difficult principals.  The difference was that people were much more likely to be desperate to have their kid in a Catholic school.  If you kid didn’t make the cut, there were only so many seats and if you were lucky you MIGHT get in to the next parish over.  The balance of power was much more in the hands of the school.

Not so today.  Our schools now compete against each other for a smaller group of students.  It is interesting the people call our school now and ask, “If I send my kid to your school, what will you give us?”  We get LOTS of those.  (We do not do that type of funding for the general public.)

This means being a typical Catholic school in the Catholic Triangle is not enough.  Being a good Catholic school is not enough.  In some places, being a great Catholic school is not enough.  So in this and in all things that we do (evangelization for example) we must keep waking up and realizing, “Today, we must be better.”