Monday, January 30, 2017


I'm not going to be able to post for a couple of days (at least I think) but there was a couple of things I wanted you to catch if you didn't already:

Wednesday, February 8th, Mother Theodora will be speaking at Theology on Tap Akron at the Winking Lizard in Peninsula.  Doors open at 7:00PM.  ToT Akron.

Just before that, 5 or 6 of the nuns from Christ the Bridegroom Monastery will be at St. Sebastian to pray Byzantine Vespers (or Evening Prayer) at 5:45 and YOU are invited!  Please come and join in prayer as they chant the prayers for and with us.  For those who are interested, there will be time then to jump into our cars and head out to Peninsula for Mother's talk.

The Akron Beacon Journal ran a great article on the front of the Lifestyle section last week about ToT Akron.  If you missed it or want to see more pictures go HERE.

Theology on the Rocks kicks off in February.  It is for adults with no prefaces (such as young or old.) It will be on Monday, February 20th at D'Agnese's on White Pond, Akron.  Doors open at 7PM.  Cost is $10.  Fr Valencheck will be the first speaker.

Thursday, January 26, 2017


Continuing our look at the revised rite for weddings.

So somehow we got ourselves in the church, have been warmly welcomed, and have made down the aisle and to our places.  The Sign of the Cross has been made and one of the greetings from the Roman Missal (The Lord be with you . . . ) has been exchanged.

Here is another change (one that I greatly appreciate) but one that may go largely unnoticed by most folks.  There is an opening address to be given by the celebrant.  I am TERRIBLE about speaking extemporarily.  All the words and ideas I have carefully thought out all go running to my mouth at the same time and create a log jam so that what comes out is either lacking, confused, or diarrhetic.  So there are two opening “scripts” if you will designed to invite the congregation to prepare themselves inwardly for the celebration.

However, for eloquent and capable speakers, there is another option.  The rubric says, “These or similar words,” which means he may use his own words.  But this are not the warm words of welcome, which has already taken place, nor the greeting offered with the, “Peace be with you,” these words have their own special function of preparing those gathered inwardly for what is about to take place ALTHOUGH I WILL ADMIT that the second prepared option does say again, “The Church warmly welcomes you,” which is why at least one priest I know uses this particular paragraph for the warm welcome when greeting the couple at the door.

WHILE I LIKE THIS, one thing that I don’t like (personal opinion here - you may completely disagree - certainly the bishops of the United States do) it seems that this particular rite is so very wordy.  About half way through the rite I find myself thinking, “Am I still speaking?  Even I am getting tired of hearing me speak.”  But nobody asked me so I will be an obedient son.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017


Although today is the feast of the Conversion of St. Paul (happy feast day St. Paulers in South Akron) here is presented a pious reflection on the life of St. Sebastian (January 20th) which was presented as a homily for our feast day this year.

A soldier lays on his bed; a cot perhaps really.  And though he put in a full, difficult day, he is wide awake.  He cannot fall asleep.  His military brain is on alert. It isn’t that he has a troubled conscience.  In fact, his conscience is quite at peace.  Just because something is legal or illegal does not mean that it is moral or immoral.  He is a soldier and he is supposed to obey.  But what about when obedience goes against truth, love, and even God?  So he chose to be as loyal as possible without compromising his ideals, his morals, or his heart.  It was not a rash decision.  Is was born of years of contemplation and reflection.  And even though years later he would be depicted as a young man in his prime, in actuality, though soldier tough, he was an older, wiser man with a heavy white beard.  And so he spent much time considering the consequences of this very day.

Finally came the noise for which he was waiting.  The sound of men coming down the corridor attempting stealth.  But he could hear them.  He was a soldier after all.  And he knew that someone had betrayed him and that it was only a matter of time.  So he gets up and sits on the edge of his bed, already in full uniform save for his weapons to show that he was both ready and that he possed no threat.  He was prepared for this night.

The door didn’t explode open as if they guards were coming to capture an enemy.  He was, after all, the head of the Praetorian Guard, charged to protect the emperor, which he did to the best of his ability.  He was their leader, their father figure, and friend.  No, the door slowly opens, almost politely, and there were his men with conflicted looks on their faces.  Only one word is spoken.


He stands and joins them and they walk down the corridor.  It has begun.

There was no man handling.  No binding.  These strong, proud men shuffle their feet and avoid making eye contact.  No words are spoken.

It is an ugly scene before Dioclesian the Emperor.  Right now it doesn’t matter if he is right or wrong, moral or immoral, if he is good or if he is evil.  What matters now is that he has the power to enforce his will and a soldier is condemned to death.

It is kind of a grotesquely gruesome death.  Not the arrows that will come, but the friends, the comrades, the fellow men-at-arms who suddenly find themselves on the opposite side of the law.  Friends must lead their friend, their authority and father figure, the person they respect to death.

Their own hands must strip the dignity of his uniform from his body, bind him to a stake and stand off at a distance and pull back arrows on the string in the direction of this great man.  Everything is said with their eyes.

“Why did you make us do this Sebastian?  We are soldiers.  This is our duty.  We follow the emperor even when we don’t like it.”

But Sebastian’s eyes convey their own message.  “You have to understand.  I am Christian.  I have a duty to the One Who so loved me.  This is what it is to love; to be able to sacrifice everything for the one that you love even when the consequences are not what you want them to be.”

Now, his friends are expert archers and the also know the human body well and they know where to pierce the body so as to not cause death.  The first flurry of arrows whisper through the air and puncture Sebastian's body causing him to buckle in pain and fall to his knees.  But he looks up and some mysterious glow shines on his face and he now knows how much he loves God and so fills with hope and begins to rise.

You can imagine the soldiers thinking “Just stay down Sebastian.”  But he doesn’t and they are forced to let go another volley of arrows that devastate his body and Sebastian collapses to the ground and they leave him to his death.

They must go on.  But someone else comes by; a woman by the name of Irene and her companions.  She has come to take Sebastian’s body to prepare it for burial.  But there is something odd here.  As she moves the body the wounds well with blood and bleed.  He is not dead!  He is alive!  

So she has him brought to her home where she cleans and tends to his wounds, bandages him, giving his nourishment, and when he is feeling a little better they begin to talk about his adventures in helping Christians.  

But one day the conversation becomes a little more serious.  Sebastian begins to speak about how important it is for all Christians to risk even their own lives for the faith.  "If we do not this, thing swill ever get better."  

“But seriously Sebastian, and don’t take this the wrong way, but how can we realistically accomplish by this?  Even being identified as Christian can lead to our death.  Look what happened to Marcillious, and Markus - look what happened to you Sebastian.  We all risked everything just tending to you.  A lot of good our mission will be if we are all dead, or jailed, or even just ridiculed.

“And of course it is easy for you to rest on your laurels and say, ‘all of you should go out and fight for the faith.’  The risk is over for you.”

That stung like another arrow.  

Once again, on a night after his body sufficiently healed, the soldier lay awake again on his bed.  And this time he was wrestling with his conscience.  He thought to himself, “If you perform a great enough act to show the person you love that you indeed love him, are you then off the hook?  When a mother goes through such great pain giving birth to her child, does that mean she doesn’t have to sacrifice anymore for her child to prove er love?  If a man gives up everything to marry the woman he loves, does that mean he mean he never need sacrifice for her again?  And if we love God and we perform one great act of love for Him, does that mean we need never risk again for the rest of our lives?  Can we even call it love if that is our mentality?”

So once again, Sebastian sits up on his bed, stands, and sets out to go before Dioclesian.  He comes across him on a set of stairs somewhere out on the Apian Way outside the walls of Rome and gives a prophet’s warning to the Emperor.  “You are mistreating God’s people and breaking his holy law!  Hear this from Sebastian who you tried to put to death!  God spared me and sent me to you to give you fair warning.  Repent of your ways and turn to the Lord and save you soul!”

Dioclesian is petrified.  Is this a ghost come to haunt him?  His bowels turn to jelly and his heart races.  But soon he recovers when he realizes this is Sebastian in the flesh.  Somehow he had survived his execution.  Pulling his wits together he orders his guards to bludgeon Sebastian to death and this time in his presence so that he can be sure that he is finally dead.  He orders the body to be thrown in the gutter and left like so much rubbish.  Then the procession continues.  The fury blows on like a storm passing through after it has done its damage.

The noble heart that loved so much, that was willing to risk everything for God and for his brothers and sisters to prove his love is thoughtlessly left by the side of the road.  A gift rejected.

Dioclesian wins.

Or did he?

The rule of Dioclesian is long over.

Rarely is his name spoken other than in reference to St. Sebastian.

There are no buildings named after him.

Nobody tries to imitate his life.

His name is not on our lips in supplication.

He is not remembered fondly.

He is nor respected for his nobility, his leadership, his love.

And one wonders where he is spending all of eternity.
He is a shadow in the brilliance of our patron, St. Sebastian who has a privileged place in heaven and who like to interceded for us.  

Lord, fill us with that spirit of courage 
which gave your martyr Sebastian 
strength to offer his life in faithful witness. 
Help us to learn from him to cherish Your law 
and to obey you rather than men. 
We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, 
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, 
one God, for ever and ever.


Tuesday, January 24, 2017


FINDING TRUTH WHEREVER IT MAY BE FOUND:  "It is an error, or rather a heresy, to wish to banish the devout life from the regiment of soldiers, from the mechanic's shop, the court of princes, or the home of married people . . . Purely contemplative, monastic, and religious devotion cannot be exercised in such states of life.  However, there are several others adapted to bring perfection to those living in the secular state."  St. Francis de Sales


A couple of people sent me this link to some church renovations with before and after pictures.  Normally the word renovation makes me nervous but these are cool.  See more HERE.

Catholic Schools Week is coming up.  There will be an open house for interested parents and families this weekend.  See more HERE.  Your parish school should be having an open house too.  Check it out.
 ToT Akron will have a larger room this month to welcome Mother Theodora.  Read more HERE.
This new Catholic school for children with learning challenges will be opening this August in Akron.  Several open houses are scheduled.  See more HERE.

Sorry there was no Monday Diary yesterday.  The day was just way to crazy to have time to draw!

I think it was Sunday morning Sebastian and I went for an early morning airing out.  There was a great fog about.  Luckily I had my camera - well - my phone with me.

 January 20th (though we moved it to Sunday) was not only St. Sebastian day . . .
 It was also Sebastian, my dog's, 10th birthday.
Speaking of feast days . . . happy feast day to Fr. Bline and Fr. Thomas and all of our friends over at St. Francis de Sales!

I am not sure if I can post this type of video but I'm giving it a shot.  It's Sebastian getting one of his birthday presents.  Below that is him opening his gift from me - the best part of it being the box.
Here is video is a bit controversial but I think it worthy of contemplation - for some reason I can't post it but you can to it HERE.

Friday, January 20, 2017


The Church really, really wants the soon-to-be-newlyweds warmly greeted.  Last week we read about them being met at the door warmly greeted.  This week, the priest, properly vested for Mass, goes to his chair OR to the place where the bride and groom will be to better carry out the warm greetings and waits.  The next thing that is said is, “When the bride and groom arrive in their place,” which means, I suppose, just about anything.  If it is an extremely simple wedding, they may just take their respective places when we are ready to get started.  (Honestly, a Catholic wedding can be quite a simple affair.  I have had people say they didn’t want to get married in the Church because of all the fuss and grandeur.  But there doesn’t HAVE to be.)  One other option being, I suppose, what we are accustomed to in the United States with some form of the traditional bridal pageantry.  

When they get there however, THEN the priest warmly greets them.  Perhaps it is a good thing that we are so insistent on greeting and showing that they Church shares in their joy since so many people opt not to get married in Church let alone at Mass.  BUT THEN, after the greeting, an entrance chant is to be sung at which point the priest does his customary reverences before beginning Mass.

Now, what constitutes a chant?  It could be anything from the simple introit for the Mass to a typical song from the parish hymnal.  This gets all of the bodies into the church and in their proper places and we are ready to begin, “In the name of the Father . . .  

Wednesday, January 18, 2017


This is the story of two mansions in neighboring cities.  Both are nationally acclaimed, both beautiful, both deeply tied to the community’s history and identity.

One still exists.

One has gone met the kiss of the recking ball.

The first is Stan Hywet Hall in Akron.  It is a major generator of traffic to West Akron both to see the mansion and to attend one of the events often held there.

The other is the O. C. Barber mansion in Barberton, Ohio.  It was torn down in order to make way for a Zayer’s store.  Do you remember Zayer’s?  Nobody does.

I remember my mother telling me that one day she was walking in downtown Barberton and man in a cowboy hat came out of the bank (also no longer in existence) when a strong wind blew papers out his hand.  My mother trapped the bolting paper under her foot.  The city cowboy gentleman lassoed his errant document and said, “Good work little lady!  You just saved the future of Barberton!”  As it turns out, it was (supposedly) the deed to the Barber mansion.  “If I had known what it was I would have let it fly away,” Mom used to say with a twinge of sadness.

Neither mansion has to exist.  Although I do realize that the history here is complicated, what comes down to is leadership and the interest of the community.  No mysterious force is going to come to the rescue.  If the will of the community is not as strong as the forces of decay or other interests, it will pass the way of history.

It is much the same with a Catholic parish.  It does not have to exist - at least the building does not have to exist.  Epic ecclesial edifices in Cleveland (long before the current closings) have ceased to exist.  St. Agnes on Cleveland’s east side is one of these casualties.  The long and short of the story is that Catholics moved away and now all that is left is a tower.  Once a proud, thriving parish, now the tower stands as a memorial to itself.  Societal pressures and preferences outweighed the desire to keep neighborhood and parish a thriving Catholic area.

Conversely there are other parishes that were closed more recently and the reason was perceived lack of persons, funds, and vitality.  But for some of them, the desire to keep them open was strong and the parishes re-opened.  (This is not an evaluation of either decision, just a demonstration.)

It is not enough to “tsk” the pothole in the parish parking lot, or the leaking roof, or think someone should do something about the poor sound system.  There is no mysterious force out there that is going to come to rescue.  Despite the illusion that people have that the Church is wealthy beyond measure, there is no magic pot of money anywhere waiting to save a beautiful piece of architecture.  The only secret source of resources is in the generosity of the people who love their parish and in the end it is largely up to them if their parish building is going to be a Stan Hywet or an O. C. Barber mansion.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017


FINDING TRUTH WHEREVER IT MAY BE FOUND:  "[It is] easier to fix a bad credit rating than a bad credibility rating."  from David Mitchell's "Slade House"

QUOTE II:  "War is ends justifying the means."  same source


The Last Theology on Tap Akron, sponsored by St. John the Baptist Parish & a ministry of St. Sebastian Parish was a hit at the Winking Lizard.  The room was set for 70 and we started turning people away at 100.  (SORRY!  Next month we are to have the larger room.)  Here is a shot from the back of the room (where I was because it was S.R.O.  Unfortunately I was next to the food table.  Huge mistake.)  A great talk was given by Fr. Thomas from St. Francis de Sales Parish.

Above is the up and coming talk by Mother Theodora of Christ the Bridegroom Monastery in Burton, Oh.  If all things work out, some of the sisters will be at St. Sebastian before hand to pray Byzantine evening prayer and you are all invited.  More information to follow.

Below is our next speaker!  Fr. Marty Miller - long time friend of St. Sebastian Parish.
Feeling left out because you no longer fit in to the young adult category?  Never fear and mark your calendars for Monday, February 20th when St. Sebastian will begin Theology on the Rocks (for those of us who are just plain "adults.")  More information will follow soon.

Come celebrate St. Sebastian weekend with us by attending a free, one hour concert beginning at 3:30 PM with renowned classical guitarist and teacher Stephen Aron.  Professor Aron will be performing classical guitar favorites along with newly composed pieces. Don't miss this rare opportunity to hear Prof. Aron play locally!  Free and open to the public.

This may be way to difficult to see but Sebastian and I ran in to a couple of fox this past Sunday in Snyder Park as we were rounding the Julie Billiart School.  The fox is the brown spot dead center of the picture.  Eventually we saw a couple of more.  Sebastian desperately wanted to go play but that didn't seem quite safe.
Here is one of my FAVORITE albums!  I highly recommend it for your next dinner party:

Monday, January 16, 2017


Last week somebody commented that my drawings are not keeping up with the times and that, "if I hadn't noticed, I now have a full beard."


But I' not entirely sure how long it will be around so I didn't want those who only know me from cartoons to be confused by the change ups in drawing.

There seems to be a definite divide among the pro-beards and the anti-beards.  There is a guy who opened a men's shop in Highland Square and he sells his own brand of beard balm.  I told him that my beard seems to be controversial.  Apparently that is a sore spot with him.  "Man!" he exclaimed, "I wish people would just let people look the way the want to look!"

Actually I wasn't complaining I was bragging.  It makes me kind of happy that people care and feel that they have a stake in it.

Generally the divide seems to be about age 45.  Under 45 people tend to really like it.  Over 45 - not so much:
In some ways, having a beard is a ministry - like having a dog.  When I walk Sebastian, people who would normally not talk to me will walk right up to me.  "Hello fella!  How are you!  You are such a good looker!"  They say that to the dog, not me.  But then they notice me and we might have a conversation.  "Oh!  Hi to you also Father.  I've been meaning to talk to a priest . . ."

It also is somewhat of an icebreaker to start a conversation with other men. . .
Growing a beard is one of the last socially acceptable, publicly masculine things to do.  The greatest men of all times have had beards.  In fact, the oldest depiction of St. Sebastian has him sporting a great white beard.  (It was much later that artists started depicting him as a very young man.)  But then there is St. Pio, St Kolbe, St. Nicholas (who you let into your house every year to fill your shoes with candy) and St. Francis.
Then there's St. Peter, and of course Jesus.  (Thanks Rocco.)  The very first pope NOT to have a beard was also the first not be named a saint.  Coincidence?  You decide.

From the "The Bearded Catholic Blog" it is pointed out that C.S. Lewis in his Screwtape Letters wrote this:

"The aim is to guide each sex away from those members of the other with whom spiritually helpful, happy, and fertile marriages are most likely. Thus we have now for many centuries triumphed over nature to the extent of making certain secondary characteristics of the male (such as the beard) disagreeable to nearly all the females - and there is more in that than you might suppose."

For these reasons, Tony Vasinda wrote an article over at the Catholic Beard Balm Co. that "All Catholic Men Eventually Grow Beards."  Read it HERE.
But for the time being, it remains somewhat controversial.  But hey, a guy can dream right?

Friday, January 13, 2017


The liturgical rubrics and books for weddings have been updated.  Some of it is rather mundane, just having a word here or there changed or added.  Some interesting things have been added.   I have found that some people love these changes and some look like a cat sulking in a tub of water.

For the next little while on Friday Potpourri we will be looking at the wedding rite.  (Ha!  I just remembered that I had a dream last night that I was getting married.  How ironic.  So I guess everybody can find some interest in this whether you are getting ready for the wedding OF your dreams or IN your dreams.)

As with all sacraments, one of the first things that needs to be done is get the ministers into the sanctuary.  So we have rubrics on how to get the priest, ministers, bride and groom, servers etc. into the church.  Paragraphs 45-47 give the FIRST, (preferred) but not only option and it looks like this:

(Hold on to your veil.)

It seems to me that the rite somewhat assumes that the bridal party arrives at the church kind of like a casket at a funeral - just in time to get things started.  Of the places with which I have been associated this is not the case.  They have been here for hours getting dressed, having pictures taken, and trying to do breathing exercises.  But imagine for a moment that we are in some quaint European town and the cars containing the wedding party pull up in front of some ancient, grand, ecclesial edifice (that most likely does not have a lobby or bride’s room - or large modern bathroom for that matter) then this first option might sound intriguing:

The priest and servers, fully vested, meet the arriving party at the doors of the church.  The party is to be “warmly greeted” and shown that the Church shares in their joy.  The procession down the aisle then begins “in the customary manner.”  What the bishops were hoping was that this would look a bit like a Sunday Mass; the ministers and wedding party going down the aisle with the presider coming at the end like Santa in the Christmas parade.  This was something I was not looking forward to telling brides.  Rome intervened however and said that the procession should take place “in the customary manner.”  This provides acres of leeway.  If you want what is most often seen in the United States with the priest standing in the sanctuary and the bride being accompanied by her father, you can still do it.

The priest, in the meantime, is instructed to do what he would normally do at the beginning of Mass, ending up at his chair.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017


Do you every wish/pray that a particular temptation will be taken away so that you might be free to be a better Christian/spouse/parent/friend/sibling/child . . .

You know . . . if it wasn’t for this strong desire (maybe addiction) you could be such a better man or woman for others.  It is awful!  The temptation seems to sit there at the back of your mind, waiting for a moment of quiet or the right opportunity to flare up and demand your attention.  Your love would be purer if only God would grant this one wish - perhaps it is the wish that Paul had - take this thorn from my side.

Now maybe it would be a good thing for it to go away.  Maybe you would be happier.  Maybe life would be easier.  But it does not necessarily mean that you will love better or truer.

Think of it this way:  If the person you choose to love lives in the same, safe, middle class home with you and each morning you can wake up and kiss that person on the nose and say, “I love you.”  That is nice and loving and beautiful and doesn’t cost you much.  But if that person lives in the next city over of a war torn country and in order to see that person, you had to sneak out of your nice, safe, secure, comfortable house at night where you could be perfectly comfortable and overcome fear, trepidation, and a strong instinct toward self-preservation.  Then finding that person and kissing that person on the nose and saying, “I love you,” seems a bit more meaningful..

And so it is with these terrible desires.  It is one thing to love someone when it is easy.  It is another to defy these tuggings at your thoughts, the shouting in your ears and choose the good - to love another as best you can.  They may not always understand the battleground through which you pass in order to prove your love, how easy it would be to be sucked in to the hole of self interest but that you fight your way through to your love’s door in sometimes heroic battles because that person is worth it, deserves love, and is far more valuable than any earthly desire.  That too can seem more meaningful.

For it is one thing never to be tempted and never sin for love of God, it is quite another to be bitterly tempted and choose not to sin for love of God.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017


FINDING TRUTH WHEREVER IT MAY BE FOUND:  "Democracy is like a tambourine - not everyone can be trusted with it."  John Oliver

QUOTE II:  "The most important political office is that of private citizen."  Louis Brandeis


The WVIZ special on Mother Mary Thomas and her painting (with a guest appearance of your chief Adam's Ale editor ME) that aired on January 6th has, on the WVIZ website, had 14,000 hits so far!  You SEE THE VIDEO HERE.

Stephen Aron will be performing classical guitar favorites along with newly composed pieces. Don't miss this rare opportunity to hear Prof. Aron play locally at St. Sebastian Parish as part of the afternoon with an artist series sponsored by the Academy of Culture and Arts! Read more about it HERE.

Theology on Tap AKRON will open its doors tomorrow night at 7PM with Fr. Louis Thomas of St. Francis de Sales.  There is a new location however!  TOTA invites you to their new venue at the Winking Lizard Tavern in Peninsula.  Thank you Thirsty Dog for your hospitality for our first three TOTAs and also thank you to St. John the Baptist Parish, Akron for sponsoring this month's TOTA.

Sunday, January 8, 2017


Despite what the retail stores may tell you or past experiences of Christmas may lead one to believe, It is STILL Christmas even if only for a few extra hours this year.  Granted, this Sunday may have normally been the last Sunday of Christmas but because of this year's slightly odd schedule and the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord being bumped off Sunday so that we can celebrate the Epiphany (which was bumped off of the 6th,) we will celebrate the His Baptism on Monday, so, according to the Ordo on Monday, January 9th, "After the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord, Ordinary Time begins."

Volunteers stood ready to start taking the sanctuary apart and a few parishioners inquired about adopting some poinsettias.

I will admit however that it is FAR easier to take down Christmas on Sunday afternoon than on Monday afternoon.  So perhaps I cheated.  A little.  I had some friends over on Sunday who helped me disassemble some of the rectory.  Evidence of this can be seen by the trail of the Christmas tree tinsel from my office to the trash enclosure.

Even Sebastian tried to snitch on me.
I think it is awesome to color inside the lines with the liturgical calendar.  There is something magical about coming in for the First Sunday of Advent and seeing a parish church different from what it was in Ordinary Time.  There is something awe inspiring to NOT see Christmas half set up on the Fourth Sunday of Advent but to walk in on Christmas Day and have your heart say, "WOW!" at the transformation.  Equally, there are those (and I DO understand, I just don't agree) who think the poinsettias look pretty, and being just flowers, should be left up for awhile even after the Christmas season is over.  But as soon as the whistle blows ending Christmas, I try to get them out of sight in order to advertise to the community symbolically that Christmas is absolutely over now and we are in ordinary time.