Thursday, February 26, 2015

ON WHY IT IS A GOOD THING THAT I AM NOT MARRIED

I can't believe (well, actually I can) that I missed MY OWN ANNIVERSARY!  ADAM'S ALE turned eight years old this past February 9th.  Every few months I think about hanging it up.  I am surprised that it has lasted as long as it has.  Just when I start praying and asking God if this project has run its course, something happens - one of you will say something - and I take it as a sign to keep writing.  I do (most of the time) enjoy this little project.  Nothing like combining ministry with a hobby of sorts.  But it wouldn't mean anything without you.  Thank you for reading.
 
To date there have been:
 
328,352 visits
476,588 page views
About 115 unique readers each day.
64% of readers are from North America.  (Hello to everyone!)
2% are from Canada don't you know.  (I'll be up that way in September.  Canada is awesome.)
1% read ADAM'S ALE in Russian.  Dobroye utro!
1% read this in Spanish.  Hola!

The most read post of all time is "How Come I Don't Remember."  But it was not a great post.  I think it just got read a lot because of it's title.  See it HERE

China, United Kingdom, Ukraine, France, Germany, Poland, and the Netherlands all make it on the percentage board for reading this blog the past year.  Keep the faith brothers and sisters.

There have been 8,685 comments made.
2,081 post have been written.
 
Just for something fun to do on this day - here is a Lenten Game that sounds easy but requires some thinking and time.  READ THE INSTRUCTIONS.  Go HEREWARNING: Addiction level MODERATE.
 
THANKS FOR READING!
 
 

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

"PERSON"AL

I wrote a letter to the editor recently and it hasn't appeared so I thought I would share it with you.
 
 
Dear Editor,

 

In her letter, Maria Miranda (Resist Campaign to Restrict Abortion) states that “the decision to terminate a pregnancy is intensely personal and private. . .”  Unfortunately she does not tell us why this is so.  This statement is the same that has been used throughout history to shut down interference and conversation concerning the way husbands have treated their wives, how parents disciplined their children, and how persons have treated their slaves.  The only way Maria’s statement could make sense at all is if the being within the mother’s womb, that has all of the chromosomes and DNA of a unique human individual, is not a person at all.  That such a large percentage of citizens of the United States do recognize the humanity of the person within her womb makes the argument that this is a private matter as untenable in this case as it had at one time in those others mentioned above.
 
To quote Elizabeth Cady Stanton, a pioneer of the American Women’s Rights Movement, on her views on abortion, “When we consider that woman are treated as property, it is degrading to women that we should treat our children as property to be disposed of as we see fit."
 
Rev. John A. Valencheck


UPDATE:  I spoke about this letter in my homily this past weekend at it started some interesting philosophical debates after Mass.  One of the most interesting was a distinction between a personal and private belief and that of action.  Our government has always been involved when actions start effecting other people, but personally held beliefs and thoughts of the individual we hold sacrosanct.  So that a person believes that abortion is a good that should be available to anyone at anytime is a right in our nation, but what we focus on is when that belief is put into action (and in this case, an unique human person's rights are destroyed.)  To have it any other way would have our nation act as thought police.  Nice distinction. 

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

TUESDAY QUOTE OF THE WEEK CCCXCVI

FINDING TRUTH WHEREVER IT MAY BE FOUND:  "We all come into existence as a single cell, smaller than a speck of dust.  Much smaller.  Divide. Multiply.  Add and subtract.  Matter changes hands, atoms flow in and out, molecules pivot, proteins stitch together, mitochondria send out their oxidative dictates; we begin as a microscopic electrical swarm.  The lungs the brain the heart.  Forty weeks later, six trillion cells get crushed in the vise of our mother's birth canal and we howl."  from Anthony Doerr's "All the Light We Cannot See."
 
QUOTE II:  "Stones are just stones and rain is just rain and misfortune is just bad luck.  Some things are simply more rare than others, and that's why there are locks."  same source
 
QUOTE III:  "Sometimes the eye of the hurricane is the safest place to be."  same source
 
QUOTE IIII:  "A real diamond is never perfect."  same source.
 
IN OTHER NEWS:
 
GO TO CONFESSION IN CLEVELAND:  A nice mention in Fr. Z's blog.  READ HERE.

News from the Diocese of Cleveland Enewsletter:  For Lent the Diocese has started posting Lenten Reflections by Fr. Robert Barron.  Go HERE.
 
Mary a priest friend about how to teach young adults about modern marriage issues.  " He said that it cannot begin with speaking against same-sex "marriage", but rather that it must begin with helping young people to see the beauty and the wonder of how we are made male and female, with the marvelous complementarity that we enjoy with one another. Then he went on to say that a beautiful example of a tool for doing just that is the Humanum video series, a beautiful series of short films on marriage and family. . ."  HERE is a link to the series.  Below is the trailer (1:42)

Friday, February 20, 2015

FRIDAY POTPOURRI: IFEELISTS AND THE MORALISTIC THERAPEUDIC DEISM


I” and “feel” are two of the most damaging words toward the faith in the world today.  I think it should be its own heresy.  The “Ifeelists – Ifeelism.)   You’ll be having a perfectly good conversation about something faith related and somebody will say, “Well I feel . . .”  There are two problems with this.  The first is that it is an inherently selfish statement.  Who can say anything to you?  You are simply stating how you feel.  It’s like saying, “I feel satisfied.”  What can I say to that?  “No you don’t.” 

 


The second problem is that whatever is stated after “I feel” often has no connection to the lived faith of two thousand years of Christianity, the early Church Fathers, the writings and lives of the saints, the logic of the greatest minds of mankind, a children’s catechism, or even a casual conversation with someone remotely connected with any orthodox faith.  “I feel” is a cloud.  You can’t punch it, defend it, or debate it.  It is simply a thought someone has that makes them feel good.  The full consequences need not be thought through, possible blow back, inconsistencies, or the fact that it may have been held in the past and rejected due to its ill consequence.  Any debate is likely to be answered, “Well, I don’t agree.”
 
One author calls this Moralistic, Therapeutic, Deism.  This is truly the opiate of the masses.  What you feel or think is of course truth – at least for you.  This is where relativism sneaks in.  “Well, that may be truth for you but . . .”
 
This is why the Church has always insisted on a formed conscience.  That means being in contact with Scripture and Tradition, it means having some training in the early Church Fathers, lives of the saints, and 2,000 years of Christian thought (which comes to us at least in part through the Catechism, Catholic schools, PSR, CCD, etc.)  All of which leads us to the third precept of the Church: to study and learn the faith in preparation for Confirmation, to be confirmed, and then to KEEP LEARNING.  I know that perhaps your particular parish is horrible at teaching the faith.  That doesn’t lift the responsibility of the individual from forming their conscience.  We are too rich of a nation with too much information at our disposal to say, “Nobody ever told me.”  At the click of a button on your computer (or at the library’s computer) there are all the Church documents, tweets by the pope, Church history, lives of the saints, writings of the Church Fathers, apologists, videos, podcasts, links, all floating around in the air just waiting for you to grab them and study them like angels surrounding us, just waiting for us to take advantage of them.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

YOUR MAGESTY


One of the attractions of such book as Harry Potter is that here is a seemingly very ordinary person who all of a sudden discovers that he is really quite special.  All that was needed was for someone to uncover it.  Did you, like me, at least once in your life dream that maybe, just maybe you were at the obscure tail end of a line of royalty?  (My Mother assured me that we were Slovenian hillbillies that that I shouldn’t hope for a European castle, rule, or treasure.)
 
Well guess what, Mom was wrong.  (And that is something I rarely get to say.)  When you were baptized, holy oil (Chrism) was taken and a cross was traced on your head as has been done to Kings and prophets since deep in the Old Testament.  One of the offices in which you were anointed was KING.  (This is the same if you are male or female.  It is the ancient right of office not the sex into which you were anointed.  That is why we all have the status of sons with the Father.  We are equal.  It is the status into which you enter.)
 
Now, it may seem to kind of spoil it if you are a king among a nation of kings.  When everyone is a king, is anyone a king?  That is like the dilemma we are on the verge of entering into with marriage – because it won’t stop with same sex marriage between two people.  And once marriage can mean anything, does it mean anything at all?

 


But as far as you royal status goes it still does!  It does my fellow kings!  It may not play well in Cucamonga, but it will in the Heavenly Kingdom!  It will mean everything.  And this life we train ourselves for the office.  (What better way to train properly for the office than to do it without many perks?  It’s like starting out in the mailroom before become the CEO of a major company.  It sets your head on straight.)
 
So how do we train?  By doing all in our power to bring about the Kingdom of Heaven now.  The Kingdom exists in this life wherever we live it.  Where it does not seem to exists at all, we live it, it is there.  It is like what St. John of the Cross said about Christ.  Jesus saw where there was lack of love in the world and He became that love.  The crucifixion was not a place of love but He became love there and transformed the world!  “Father forgive them.”  “This day you will be with me . . .”  “Mother behold your son . . .”  “Into Your hands Lord . . .”
 
How much time can you tithe for your office as king?  Long enough to send an Email Letter to the Editor when you read something misleading about the faith?  Long enough to post something positive about your parish on your blog, Facebook, or Twitter account?  Long enough to challenge someone (lovingly) on a misperception that they have about the faith?  Long enough to stop some injustice in your neighborhood?  Long enough to vote like a Christian?  Long enough to consecrate your home?  Long enough to say grace at work, school, or restaurant?  Long enough to say a prayer for the Coptic Christians who were beheaded or those who are in similar danger?
 
We are flush with royalty!  What if only a small percentage truly acted in their role a little bit each day?  The world would be transformed.  If only, when you looked in the mirror, you could see your dignity and your high office (even if nobody else can!)  Just wait until it is revealed for all to see!  How much more joy you will have for having been true to it even when it was difficult to understand and comprehend!

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

GREMLINS IN YOUR CHURCH


Most likely last night there were some volunteers in your church.  They came in after the last service.  For St. Sebastian that would have been after 8:00PM Vespers and Benediction.  They carted away all of the plants in the church.  The altar clothes were removed and replaced with simple altar clothes.  The ones that were removed (for St. Sebastian this would be four of them; great swaths of material from the two altars in use and the two side altars) were taken to be laundered and then (God bless our volunteers) ironed and put into storage.  Extra candles and all other decorations were stored away.  (I believe in undecorating for Lent.)  For those parishes that believe in decorating for Lent, purple banners were put up, dead twigs and other various and sundry things brought out.   Green vestments are put away and all of the purples ones are put out and made handy.
 
Perhaps palms were burned to make ashes.  Fr P. called yesterday to say that he had burned his palms.  I asked if he were at the hospital.  They are then placed in containers so that they may be easily distributed today.  A table is probably set up with them and the holy water.
 
This was all done in order for you to have a Lenten experience when you showed up at Mass this morning.  Say a prayer for the gremlins that just make things happen.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

TUESDAY QUOTE OF THE WEEK CCCXCV

FINDING TRUTH WHEREVER IT MAY BE FOUND:  "The approach in today's hospitals is on 'fixing' people rather than 'healing' them in the traditional sense."  Fr. McCormick SJ
 
QUOTE II:  "Healing is a natural process and is within the power of everyone.  Curing, which is what doctors are called upon to do, usually consists of an external treatment; medication or surgery is used to mask or eliminate sumptoms."  Christiane Northrup
 
IN OTHER NEWS:
 
Pope Francis' 10 suggestions for Lent.  Find it HERE.
 
Adam sent this in:  Statement by His Bishop Angealos following the brutal murder of Coptic Christians in Lybia.  READ HERE.
 
Eric sent this article in on why so many seminarians come from so few parishes.  READ HERE.

Practical methods for avoiding the near occassion of sin of pornography on the Internet.  READ MORE.

Thought this was cute considering this past weekend was Sts. Cyril and Methodius Day!
 

Friday, February 13, 2015

PRIDAY POTPOURRI - PRAY PRIEST


Second precept of the Church.
 
There are two categories of priests in the Catholic Church.  The first is the ordained priesthood.  These are the men who are trained and ordained by their bishop for service to the Church.  It is, admittedly, a rather small group.  But there is a second category of priesthood and it is the office into which you were anointed at your baptism.  You were anointed prophet, king, and PREIST.  This office has real and serious responsibilities.  It aligns with one of the precepts of the Church which requires us to live a sacramental life.
 
Minimally it means to go to Mass on Sunday and holy days of obligation and to receive Communion at least once in a year between the first Sunday of Lent and Trinity Sunday.  It also means that you the priest will go to confession at least once a year if there is any serious sin.  This is the bare minimum – the scraping of the bottom of the barrel.
 

Showing up at Mass is not enough.  A priest participates in the Mass.  The priest prays the prayers and offers them for himself, for the needs of the world, and for the praise of God.  For example, when the ordained priest says, “Let us pray,” that is not a signal for the Missal to be brought to him.  It is not “dead space.”  It is the time for the priesthood (the Church – you) to call to mind things that need to be prayed for and then the celebrant collects those prayers in a  prayer called appropriately enough the Collect and presents them to the Father.  For someone not to pray during this time is for the Church to be less, for prayers to be less encompassing, for someone to miss out on the benefits of the Mass.
 
If the Mass is to transform you and the world, it must soak into your skin, radiate your marrow, and marinate your mind.  Only the engaged priest, the pray-er, the one that is THERE in mind as well as body is fulfilling this.  This is true if you are at a Mass in the ordinary form or the extraordinary form.  Being involved does not mean you get to read, or serve, or bring up the gifts, or sing (all important and wonderful) but that you do what is primary: PRAY.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

I BEG YOU PARDON


Lynn Anderson sang, “I beg your pardon, I never promised you a rose garden.” 


 

At least that line would not be a bad one for spiritual directors to sing to those who are embracing the faith for the wrong reason such as those who think, “If I am really, really, really good that means that God is going to love me more and take away all my distress, hurt, and angst.”  Rather than creating a rose garden where all of your troubles are gone, He is there to strengthen you, give you wisdom, hope, guidance, and understanding so that you may overcome your obstacles. 
 
The great saints did not talk about how life was easy for them once they started taking their faith seriously.  They talked about the Dark Night of the Soul, about desolation and doubt.  But remaining faithful and passing through such a time, they ended up with a mature faith, greater strength, more insight and empathy, they became silver refined.

 
Here is an analogy:  When my first nephew was born it was amazing to watch him develop.  One day, when he was still a baby (I was a kid myself), he was lying on his back on a blanket on the floor.  For the first time he was coming incredibly close to turning himself over.  He would get oh! so close and then fall back on his back.  I just wanted to give him the tiniest of helps.  It would only take slight pressure from my index finger to help him over.  My sister dissuaded me wanting him to do it on his own.  She wanted him to know how far he had to push.  She wanted him to build the muscle.  She wanted to give him the accomplishment and then the praise.
 
If that “almost turning over” could be substituted for a problem we need to get over, though He is always there to work with us, we can picture God allowing us to gain the knowledge and strength we need so that this hurdle will never be a problem for us again.  To simply take it away would mean being weaker, dependent, and more fragile.

 

I love a God Who wants me to be the best that I can be.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

ARE YOU READY? DO YOU HAVE A PLAN?

Wouldn’t it be great to wake up seven days from now and know exactly what you are going to do rather than scrambling and coming up with something less than spectacular?  We are seven days away from Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent.  There is no better time to prepare than now!
 
There are all kinds of categories from which to choose!  So many options!  So many ways to grow in freedom, joy, and holiness!  It is like an amazing box of chocolates.  Which one will you take?  The difference is that chocolate taste great but then leaves you with that extra pound around your middle.  These, however, may taste a bit bitter at first but then leave you with many gifts and consolations.
 
MENTAL
PHYSICAL
EMOTIONAL
 
You are an entire person.  You faith effects all of these.  What can you do to make them better in 40 days?
 
PRAYER
FASTING
ALMSGIVING
 
These are the basic, but not only tools.  These come first however.  They are the foundation stones.  How will you meet all of them during these 40 days?
 
DO
DON’T DO
 
What have you NOT been doing that you should?  What have you been doing that you shouldn’t?
 
SELF



OTHERS
GOD
 
In addition to what you can do for yourself, what can you improve in yourself for others?  What can you improve in yourself for the Kingdom?
 
PERMANENT
PERIODIC
TEMPORARY
 
Sometimes people will ask if Lenten observances should be just during Lent?  Can they be skipped on Sundays and Feast days?  Well that depends.
 
Let’s say that you are trying to give up drinking too much alcohol for Lent.  Drinking to excess is not good for you (or those around you) anyway.  So that would be a good one to start in Lent and carry our through the rest of your life on a pretty much absolute basis.
 
What about giving in on Sundays?  There are a number of questions to ask.  Firstly, is it something that is otherwise not good for you or sinful?  Then no, don’t do it on Sunday as a “break.”  If you gave up cake, don’t eat an entire cake on Sunday in celebration.  ON THE OTHER HAND (and here is a good reason to plan things now) what is your commitment?  Is it something that is not necessarily bad for you in moderation?  Did you give up coffee except on Sundays?  Or did you give up coffee?
 
ALONE
FRIENDS/FAMILY
PARISH
 
Is you Lenten observance (or part of it) something that you are doing quietly – a “don’t let your right hand . . .” thing?  Do you want to employ others for support?  (I highly recommend this for breaking habits.)  What is your parish doing for Lent?  Plan NOW to join that which you will have wished that you did at the end of Lent.  (Stations, missions, benedictions, confessions, concerts, classes, adoration, daily Mass . . .)
 
In any event – plan now so that at the end of the season you don’t have to think, “Wow, I really didn’t take advantage of this season in the least.”  You will have eaten it down to its marrow and rejoiced in the improved you.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

TUESDAY QUOTE OF THE WEEK CCCXCIV

FINDING TRUTH WHEREVER IT MAY BE FOUND:  "You are as sick as your sickest secret and you will remain sick as long as long as it is a secret.:  from the 12 Step Program
 
QUOTE II:  "If a philosophy is impossible to live out, that's a good sign that it simply wrong."  unknown
 
IN OTHER NEWS:
 
 
 
From the Diocese of Cleveland Enewsletter: Pope Francis will be speaking to a joint meeting of congress.  Read more HERE.
 
"In our time, when someone says, “I don’t agree with all of the teachings of the institutional Church,” you can bet your house that the disagreement has nothing to do with three Persons in one God, but rather two persons in one bed."  This is a quote from an article that Matt sent in.  Read more HERE.
 
Two things:  The first is that I recommend listening to the First Friday Club of Greater Akron podcast of the talk given by Brother Guy Consolmagno.  You may find it HERE.  And here is this week's video (about 3 minutes) 

Monday, February 9, 2015

MONDAY DIARY: ALMOST EXCRUSIATINGLY TRUE STORIES: THE COURT JESTER

Kings used to have court jesters to keep them humble and from their heads swelling to much.  They still exist.  For some people they are called their children.  For pastors they are often called parochial vicars.



Humility, humility, and ever more humility.

Friday, February 6, 2015

FRIDAY POTPOURRI: WITH GREAT POWER COMES GREAT RESPONSIBILITY


Here’s a new 7 week series for Friday Potpourri:  The precepts of the Church.
 
Fr. Kovacina had an excellent series at Faith Lodge concerning the rights of the faithful under canon law.  And as Catholics are (hopefully) painfully aware, all rights come with responsibilities.  The precepts of the Church outline those responsibilities as laid out in the Third Plenary Council of Baltimore.
 
THE FIRST:  Keep Holy the Day of the Lord’s Resurrection
 
Thought by many to be a quaint custom that has perhaps passed in the modern era is, in fact, listed first among the precepts of the Church.  It is, after all, a commandment and cannot (despite people doing so with Biblical strictures all of the time) be ignored.
 
There are, however, two extremes that must be avoided.  The first, most obviously, is to ignore this commandment all together making Sunday just or almost like any other day.  The other is to make TOO much of it so that what was to bring man relief becomes a heavy burden.  This is what caused Christ to teach, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.”

 

The day is to be, as far as possible, a day of sanctification, rest, and recreation.  First and foremost this means get to Mass on Sundays and Holy Days of Obligation.  There is nothing more important we do as the Body of Christ than to come together and pray in this way.  This is the family coming together.  If you don’t make it, it is like a husband not bothering to call his wife and family to let them know he won’t be there for dinner.  Even though the dinner is there primarily for you, there are certain obligations. 
 


The second is to do one’s best to avoid any activity that would hinder the renewal of soul AND body.  There are all kinds of things here and ways of understanding this.  Some people would say that no work at all should be done and one should wile away the day mindlessly.  I would argue that it would give greater glory to God to have a family wash the car together on a hot, sticky, summer day than have everyone vedge in front of the television watching some awful reality show.  What is to be avoided is needless paid work and non-life giving chores (enjoy working in the garden?  Then it isn’t really a chore is it unless it keeps you from worshipping God.) Unnecessary shopping is to be avoided.  (Coming home from vacation and are almost out of gas and may not make it home?  Go buy some!)
 
Some people must work on Sunday: Priests for one.   Sometimes it is my busiest day of the week.  Police, Fire fighters, ambulance drivers, phone operators, snow plowers, medical personnel, even those whose jobs are not vital but their business force them to work are not breaking this commandment.  BUT, they should do their best to observe the day as much as possible, and on their day off, observe a day of a kin to a Sabbath as they can.  If work makes it impossible for them to attend Sunday Mass, they may speak with their proper pastor and seek permission to make up for it on a weekday Mass if possible due to hardship.
 
I think a lot of people who are conscious and try their best to follow this first responsibility as difficult as it can be for some.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

IS IT TIME FOR THE RETURN OF THE GOOD DAD?


As mentioned Monday I was with some other priests during the Super Bowl.  Although it turned out to be a great game, at first I had more investment in the commercials than in the particular teams.  At one point during the commercials we looked at each other and said, “What is this?  Good Father Week or something?”  There just seemed to be a preponderance of “good Dad” commercials.
 
It is sad that we are so incredibly used to poor father figures in movies, in sit-comes, in books, and in the public awareness that we would find the presentation of positive role models odd.  One of them actually made me tear up a bit – not something you want to do during a football game, and so I excused myself to get another snack before anyone would notice.
 
A commentary recently said that Super Bowl commercials reflect where the nation is at the moment.  I don’t know if I would go quite that far, but it is an indication of something going on within at least a portion of our culture.  If it wouldn’t sell, they wouldn’t have used it for a commercial.
 
Is it true?  Are we ready for positive father figures?  Do we yearn of the “good father?”  Are we ready to inspire instead of pander?  Are we willing to reinvest in the family?  As they used to say, “Stay tuned.”