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.”

Tuesday, March 28, 2017


FINDING TRUTH WHEREVER IT MAY BE FOUND:  "You can't change another person, but you can be the reason someone changes."  unknown

QUOTE II:  "What we can change and should change is ourselves: our impatience, our egoism (including intellectual egoism), our sense of injury, our lack of love and forbearance."  Hermanne Hess in The Sun Magazine


Last night was Theology on the Rocks.  There were 100 people!  Thank you to our volunteers, everyone who showed up, Fr. Orndorff, and D'Agnese's.

Bear this in mind:
We see Ann in the park about once a week.  She wants to start a small business taking portraits of people with their dogs.  She happened to have her camera with her and asked if she could take a picture.  I thought these turned out pretty swell!
 This is from the dog that is good looking and knows it:
 Great concert at St. Sebastian coming up:
 Day two of our mission with Deacon Terry is tonight!
Tiffany sent THIS article in about 20 pictures of great pipe organs in Germany.

PCV sent THIS article in about priestly celibacy.  Very interesting.

How to be offended:

Monday, March 27, 2017


It was a long week.  And Friday was a long day in a long week.  There were all kinds of appointments that day, Stations of the Cross, two sessions of confessions, and then to top it off there was confirmation.  Everything about confirmation was great.  We have fantastic kids, Bishop Gries OSB was the celebrant (everybody loves Bishop Gries) we had a fabulous dinner beforehand thanks to Marcy and her crew (and I didn't even so much as smell the fish being served!) and the reception after was great.  And the kids made me SO PROUD when they responded "I DO!" so emphatically during the reaffirmation of their baptismal vows that the bishop jumped backward! 

But at the end of the day I was beat.  Beat, bat, beaten.

Then I received the most wonderful text from Marcy:
That was SO AWESOME!  That meant my day was truly over except for Night Prayer.  I got back to the rectory, kicked off my uncomfortable dress shoes and my "dress socks of strangulation," put on some "I'm not going anywhere or will be seen by anyone" pajama bottoms although I didn't take off my dress shirt - I was that exhausted to the point that the thought of unbuttoning it seemed too herculean of a project.

And then . . .
Marcy sent another text.  "Now that I think of it," she wrote, "Sebastian only went #1.  I bet he still needs to go #2."


I toyed with the idea for about two seconds of getting dressed again to walk the dog but that effort would have placed me in the nursing home.  So I slipped some dress shoes over my bare feet and headed out for the nightly airing out of the dog.
Now, I live IN THE CITY.  But I am always amazed that when we are on our night walk, we almost never run into anybody.  Many, many times, when a fellow priest or seminarian is over late and go on this final perambulation with me, I comment, "Can you believe that we are in the city, and all these houses are FULL of people, and these are main streets, and we run into NOBODY?  How is it possible that we are the ONLY ones out?"

Indeed, that is why I enjoy the night walk.  I think, finish prayers, or just unwind and it is quiet and peaceful save for the occasional skunk.  You can always count on it being quiet at night.

EXCEPT FOR LAST MOTHER-OF-PEARL FRIDAY NIGHT.  Everybody and their mother was out walking their dogs.  Cars drove around the parish as if they were moths and St. Sebastian was a giant light bulb.  It would have been ridiculous to the point of humor if it weren't so not-funny.

Friday, March 24, 2017


Someone asked me the other day if one can accidentally marry someone: that is, say the wedding vows as part of a play, or the rehearsal, or joking around.  The question had to do with, if a sacrament has an outward sign that is efficacious, that is, it does what it says it does, then does the act of saying it make it come true?

Clever question - no.

Knowledge and consent are required.  

So is what you are seeing the real deal?  Just to clarify, the official witness of the Church will, following the vows, announce that you have declared your consent before the Church (using one of the formulas) and announcing the grand reminder, “What God has joined, let no one put asunder.”  One can almost hear the universe shifting.  A new, unbreakable reality has been created.  The course of history has changed. 

In Genesis, poor little Adam is all alone in the garden.  Adam, at this point, is not a guy by himself, he is what humanity was at that point: complete in this one person.  Then after being surrounded by all this life and beauty, he discovers that he lonesome.  St. John Paul II calls this the “original solitude.”  And it wasn’t good.  So God took from Adam, who was one, and created Eve.  Now man, who was one, is now two and incapable of doing everything that a human being is capable of doing until meeting up with a complimentary partner.  (It is only then that all of the equipment is united again if you will.)  That is why they become one in marriage.  They complete each other.  And once joined, they are never to be separated again.  

How amazing is this?  The entire face of the world is about to change.  If your parents had never met, you and your siblings would never have been born.  If your grandparents had not married, your parents, aunts, uncles, nephews and nieces would never have been born.  One generation before the number is already become so great as to be difficult to comprehend.  Go back far enough (and probably less far than you think) and entire nations begin to change.  Marriage is powerful.  This service to which you attend at which someone with you has asked, “Do we have to go?” and then huff through it is altering the course of the world.  

So after the declaration is something that I like but find difficult to do in practice.  This is new.  Immediately after this the celebrant sings (or says) “Let us bless the Lord!” to which ALL present are to respond, “Thanks be to God!”  This makes absolute sense.  We have just witnessed something awesome and we should sing an acclamation.  The problem is nobody is ready for it, has practiced it, or is looking at a program.  Even die hard Catholics who come to Mass every day are often have brains that shut down during a wedding and have to be reminded, “Let us stand now . . .”  And it kind of takes the punch out of it if you have to explain too much.  “I am about to say, ‘Let us bless the Lord’ and your are going to respond . . .”

Our Cathedral has a decent way of handling such things.  We will have to find our own way.  I sometimes poo poo such things with, “Well, THAT will never work.”  But I’ve also been wrong about that plenty of times.  Maybe this will become so common that it will even be used in movies as readily as “speak now or forever hold your peace.”

God is ironic.  It could happen.

Thursday, March 23, 2017


When I was first ordained, my first trip was to Slovenia in order to celebrate a Mass of Thanksgiving with my family in my grandparent's home village.  One of the things that I really wanted to do was go to visit the place where the sacramental  records were kept for the parish in order to trace back the family history a bit.  That is when we encountered a strange discouragement for doing so from family members.  There seemed to be a general, "You can't get there from here," or "the road is closed for construction."  Of course, in my head I am thinking, "There's got to be more than one way to get there," but there was also some language barrier issues so we let it go.

Then at the dinner after the Mass, my cousin handed me a wrapped tube.  I opened it and there were photocopies of our family records going back to the 1800s.  That was wonderful.  I still have those records.

Today I spent some time signing our sacramental books at St. Sebastian, putting my name next to the records of those who were baptized or married by me.  These records are meant to kept forever.  What a terrible loss if there should be a fire and they are not well protected!  Even in a closed parish, the sacramental books are taken someplace in the diocese (the parish with which it was merged or perhaps the archives of the diocese) so that they may be preserved for posterity.  

What a thing it is to think that, perhaps in a couple hundred years, someone might open these books that I scribble in today to do research on their family line . . . 

That is why we talk about Catholics having a permanent record.  Every time you receive a sacrament, that information is sent to the parish at which you were baptized.  So always remember where you baptized!  Your whole sacramental life is recorded there!

Wednesday, March 22, 2017


It's been a busy couple of days and I've not had a lot of extra time to post.  But today is my (supposed) day away and I thought would spend a little bit with you sharing some of my favorite recent photos.

This is my absolute favorite.  Fr. Bearing Gearing at St. Adelbert has had the good fortune to be a mentor to Deacon Eric Garris who is slated to be ordained a priest for the Diocese of Cleveland later this year.  They teach you an awful lot in 9 years of seminary, but feeding yourself, doing your laundry, and mending your clothes are not among the topics taught.  So when the deacon's button popped off, the good father said, "Come here son.  Let me show you how to sew on a button."  This is what priestly fraternity is all about.
Lucky for him I wasn't the one tasked with showing my sewing skills.  The results would have been less than satisfying.  On the outside it looks Okay, the inside threading would look like vandalism.

The next picture is not new and has shown here before but I like it.  It is of seminarian David Stavarz at his home parish of St. Francis de Sales.  There is so much peace in the picture.  Everything outside of this frame may or may not have been flying apart, but here there is peace.
This picture appeared this past week on the St. Anthony Parma Facebook page.  It reminds me of the recent post that said, "It's good to have friends who don't have beards.  That way, when you go out, everyone will assume that you are their leader."  The "leader" here is Fr. Kovacina who was once at St. Sebastian.  This will confuse someone who one day will be going through the archives trying to place pictures in chronological order.
Finally I had my phone with me one day when Sebastian was making a snow angel.  Now that I look at it again, maybe it is more of a snow ameba.  
Two days ago, one of our secretaries came into my office and said, "Father, there is a priest with another gentleman walking around the church."  Not expecting anybody, I went over to see what was up and indeed there was a priest (on his day away) with a friend who stopped by St. Sebastian to visit.  They are close to St. Agatha in Upper Arlington (see HERE) which was also designed by Mr. Robert Krause.  Apparently St. Agatha was the precursor to St. Sebastian and they wanted to do some comparisons.  Here is the facade of St. Agatha.
Here is the facade of St. Sebastian with some interesting similarities.
Notice, in particular, the ceiling and the pews.  At the top is St. Agatha and the bottoms is St. Sebastian.

It is not easy to see, but the metal grillwork over the pipes here is exactly the same as the wooden grill work at St. Sebastian (not pictured.)

Friday, March 17, 2017


Fifi, I think that you are the grooviest girl ever.  You make me so happy that I have decided that every day I want to wake up and see your beautiful face.  So I ask you to be my wife, like, unto forever.”  

These are vows that you wont hear at a Catholic wedding.  We would consider these better for a toast at the reception perhaps.  There are some specific things that constitute a marriage in the Catholic Church that would vary from the state requirements or that of other faiths or even the intentions of the couple.  That is why we had all this brouhaha making absolutely sure (as much as possible) that this couple knows what they are getting into.  Let’s take a quick look at the vows:

There are two sets of vows put forward in the wedding ceremony.  Each of these two sets of vows can be exchanged four different ways:  1) They may repeat them after the priest. 2) They may give consent through questions (the priest asks, “Do you take . . .” to which they respond, “I do.”)  3) They may memorize them (I have had only 2 couples do this in 18 years) or 4) Read them from a prompter.

The first set of vows is the “all the days of my life.”  Two minor changes were made.  The first is “I will be true to you” has been changed to, “I will faithful to you”.  The second is making the vow a single sentence instead of two sentences. 

The second set of vows is the “till death do us part.”  I like these ones better but the vast majority of couples do not.  There is one added, clarifying phrase.  Just before death doing them part was added, “”to love and to cherish.” 

There are a couple of interesting things to note about these vows.  (Probably a lot more - but these two will do.)  The first is that the priest in the Roman Rite is not the celebrant of the sacrament of matrimony, the couples are the ministers.  The priest is the official witness of the Church.  Way, way back in history one didn’t need the priest to get married.  (There are some extremely rare exceptions to this day that this are still possible - but none of you will qualify I dare say.)  Almost everything the Church does is because at some point there were abuses.  So now we just say that you must have a priest as a witness to the exchange of vows.

Secondly, there is nothing contained in the vows stating what it is that you expect from the other person.  That would steer us toward a contractual marriage and an exchange of services (such as one receives from the state) rather than an exchange of persons making it a covenantal marriage.  You can demand services from someone (a contract) but you can’t demand that the other person give themselves to you (a covenant.)  We enter in to marriage to serve.  If both persons are true to the covenant, then, of course you will be loved in return.  And our goal is to have two persons radically engaged in ministering to and loving each other (not trying to draw love out of the other person.)  It is our model for civility in general: That we be 1.2 billion people engaged in being of service to each other rather than being 1.2 billion people demanding to be served by everybody else.

Note that about marriage - that it serves as a model for the community.  It is also why marriage belongs to the whole community, not just the couple getting married (and why it is important for you to celebrate your 25th, 50th, 60th anniversaries publicly.  Your witness is needed!)  It is why we ring the steeple bells before a nuptial ceremony:  It is a public event.  And as the couple is to be a witness to love in the world, the community is to be a support to those engaged in living out their vows.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017


The patient is unable to speak for herself.  You sit devotedly by her bedside in the hospital.  Four hours and forty minutes ago the doctor, after first expressing his sympathy, informs you that he believes that she only has 5 hours to live.  

You have been devoted throughout this long sickness, making sure that the best of care has been given.  It wasn’t as though this was an accident and everything moved so quickly.  And now you are coming up on the end of your duties.  Carefully you gaze at you watch.  In five more minutes it will be time to call the priest to get him here right at the end of her life.

Except that it is Saturday afternoon.  You are calling the third parish.  The secretary at each place apologizes profusely but the priest has gone over for the vigil Mass.  “I will try to catch him as soon as he gets back,” she offers.

This may sound a bit silly but it happened twice this last month.  When we had so many priests that they were coming out of our ears and some were standing around on Saturday afternoon with nothing to do, this might have worked out well.  In fact, there may have been a priest assigned to the hospital full time.  But not so today.  

Imminent death has not been a condition for the anointing of the sick since the council of Trent.  Vatican II changed the name from extreme unction to anointing of the sick to try to get this point across more clearly.  To avoid the above scenario, consider having the anointing done when it is needed for the comfort of the sick or terminal patient.  There is the possibility for a much happier ending to this story if a call is made to the rectory and it is said, “The doctors don’t think she’ll live out the week” rather than, “They don’t give her past the next hour or so.”

Please tell you family and friends.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017


FINDING TRUTH WHEREVER IT MAY BE FOUND:  "'Something like an addiction to addiction plays a roll in all addiction . . . Addiction itself . . . is tempting; it has many attractive features.'  In an empty world people have a need to need."  Christopher Caldwell quoting Francis F. Seeburger in the April 2017 First Things article "American Carnage"

QUOTE II:  "In addiction, as in more mainstream endeavors, the lords of hedonism are the slaves of money."  from the same article


Last Wednesday northeast Ohio looked like this with Sebastian and Addicus playing in the pond:
 Six days later it looked like this:
Apparently what the second graders told me yesterday (honestly, I never heard this before) is that putting your pajamas in the freezer and flushing ice cubes down the toilet (difficult to do when you have the water saving kind) causes snow storms.  To them I say, "In MY day we just prayed for snow (the 1970's) and we had LOTS MORE days off than you!  Take note!"  Happy snow day everybody!

Don't miss this Wednesday when there will be confessions at all Catholic parishes in the Diocese of Cleveland from 5 to 8PM.  If it is still raging outside come!  It will be warm and the lines shorter! 
Also tomorrow, St. Sebastian pre-school and kindergarten will have an open house:
There will be a fantastic concert this Sunday at St. Sebastian.  One of the featured pieces will be dueling organs!  Free and open to the public.  Here is a chance to enjoy some beauty during our Lenten season:

 Deacon Terry Peacock will begin his Lenten Mission NEXT Tuesday at 7PM in the Church
Make plans now to catch Fr. Orndorff, pastor of St. Joseph at the next Theology on the Rocks.  Get there early.  Last time we were sold out even before the doors officially opened!  Fr. O is entertaining no matter what he is talking about.
If you want a more spiritually intense concert for Lent, mark your calendar for April 9th at St. Sebastian for the "Seven Last Words of Christ."  Free and open to the public.
Due to high winds and power outages, the last Theology on Tap Akron had to be cancelled.  There will not be one April due to Easter.  But mark your calendars now for the May 10th return of ToT Akron with, "Growing Up Catholic: Catholic Adulting."
Somebody, I won't say who, had a significant birthday last week.  If you stop by her office I think you will figure it out.  Happy Birthday!
Matt W. sent in a picture of another great priestly beard:

This is pretty cool: