Wednesday, August 20, 2014

I LOVE YOU JUST THE WAY YOU ARE


The Episcopal Church has been running a campaign for the past decade or so which says, “God loves you.  No exceptions.”  It is absolutely true.  It wouldn’t be a bad slogan for the Catholic Church to kick around.  It is defiantly a part of our theology and perhaps not expressed often enough.
 
Jesus, of course, demonstrated this.  Did he limit Himself to just loving those who got straight As in school and only crossed the street at the crosswalk?  No.  He hung out with prostitutes, talked with Samaritan women, and cured a Roman guard’s servant.  God loves every one of His creation.
 

The problem is with leaving the statement there.  God does love you.  But what does that mean?  Coming to realize that God loves you requires a response.  Love requires a response.  “This is me, love me or get away” is not part of the relationship of love.  Jesus loved the prostitutes but he didn’t love them because they were prostitutes.  He had something better in mind for them.  To have an encounter with Jesus was to know that God loves you.  But is also an encounter with the perfect being.  Part of His gift to you is to lift you up, raise your dignity, your sense of worth, to expand your freedom, increase joy, and push you toward the ideal.  Who in Scripture did Jesus leave exactly as they were?  Those that had no intention of changing never became part of His circle.  That does not mean that He did not love them.  He even loved the soldiers putting Him to death, but if He couldn’t work with them, He moved on.
 
When the Catholic Church says, “Jesus loves you, no exceptions,” she does not mean, “So therefore you need not change one iota.”  It means, “Jesus loves you and He wants MORE for you.  More life.  More freedom.  More healing.  A greater capacity for love.  A broader notion of who you are.  Love with God is a relationship that requires a response.  It will not leave you stationary.  (If it does, something is very wrong.)  This is ride to someplace beloved one.  Get ready for a journey.”

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

TUESDAY QUOTE OF THE WEEK CCCXXV

FINDING TRUTH WHEREVER IT MAY BE FOUND:  "A quick lesson in Natural Law:  If you fill (the gas tank) in your car with molasses, it won't run no matter what your paradigm."  Janet E. Smith
 
QUOTE II:  "Even if you stick your finger in a socket by ignorance, you still get shocked."  Rev. Gerry Bednar
 
IN OTHER NEWS:
 
From the Diocese of Cleveland Enewsletter:  Our bishop on the situation in the Middle East.  Go here.

Here is a picture entitle, "Don't Let It Go to Your Head"
(For those who don't know, that's my dog Sebastian.)  Thanks to seminarian Mike P. for the pic.
 
Need a laugh?  Frank sent this video in.
 
The new course catalogue is out for the Academy of Culture and Arts at St. Sebastian.  Here is the online version.
 
Imagine Sisters has been posted here before but they are on a role so here, once again, is more information about them:

Monday, August 18, 2014

MONDAY DIARY: ALMOST EXCRUCIATINGLY TRUE STORIES: PRACTICE WHAT YOU PREACH

So . . .

I am back from vacation.  When a priest travels he must have a letter of suitability with him if he intends to celebrate a Mass publically outside of his diocese.  I didn't get around to getting a card so I thought it would be fun just to attend Mass someplace and see how it is prayed elsewhere.
 
So on Saturday my sister and I were going to go to this tiny little church in the woods.  They only have one Sunday Mass and it was on Saturday.  I was very much looking forward to it but the forces that be prevented us from making it on time.  So I figured we was meant to go somewhere else and on Sunday.
 
The one we knew we were not going to go to was the "big" Catholic Church in the nearby town which looked more like a renovated Kmart - and I apologize for insulting Kmart.  I am sure they have a wonderful, perfectly valid and licit Mass, but I was on vacation and wanted beauty.
 
So we drove quite a distance to go to a lovely church - beautiful!  We walked in and took a pew and prayed until it was announced that we would not be able to hear their pipe organ as the organist had just called in sick.
 
Oh well.
 
Then the celebrant said, "We are a friendly church.  So I want everyone to stand up and introduce themselves to the person sitting next to them."
For various reasons I find this trite and I have written about it in the past.  Not the least reason I don't recommend this practice is this:
My goal was simply to be there and pray with this community.  Once, many years ago, I was speaking with a liturgist after a Mass and he was asked, "What do you think of they way we celebrate mass here."  He raised is eyebrows and put his arms out and said, "I came here to pray with you, not to evaluate."  I think he was lying or insane.
 
I tried SO HARD to do this but it was an uphill battle when facing this:
Like I'm perfect (or even semi-perfect) right?  So who am I?  But STILL.  ARG!  See??  SEE???  I'm still grinding my teeth over it.  How have I failed my spiritual director?  Oh.

So when I tell people to get over it from now on when they complain about how a priest says Mass, I will try to keep this in mind.  My advice won't change though.  So . . .

It's the end of Mass.  The priest says, "Let us pray."  We all dutifully stand.  He says the prayer and ends with, "We ask this through Our Lord . . . one God for ever and ever."  And we dutifully say, "Amen."  Then he sounds as if he is going into the final blessing  BUT IT'S A TRICK!
So we stand there for his final dialogue with our fingers stuck to our foreheads.  Only the locals know and keep their hands down.  Sis knows I've about had it.  She sneaks me out the side door and flicks holy water on my to calm me down. 

Next year I'm taking my Mass kit.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

TUESDAY QUOTE OF THE WEEK CCCXXIV

FINDING TRUTH WHEREVER IT MAY BE FOUND:  "We simply do not know enough about what we call 'sexual orientation' - nor are we likely to for a very long time - to embrace a completely novel understanding of the ultimate purposes of love and sex on the one hand, or to discount without pause the questions about it that both historical study and social testimony have raised on the other"  from Ephraim Radner's article, "Anglicanism on It's Knees" in "First Things"
 
QUOTE II:  "High school hockey is such a Catholic sport."  Said by a Protestant traveling hockey Mom who marvelled at a Catholic's ability to attend Mass just about anywhere.
 
IN OTHER NEWS:

 
I will be away from the parish for the next week so there will be no posts.  August 15th we get to celebrate the Feast of the Assumption.  The parishes in the Akron area feel so blessed by this holy day of obligation, the most important of the Marian feasts, that we make attending Mass as easy as we possibly can.  Here is the local (to Adam's Ale) Mass schedule:
 
Thursday, August 14th:       5:30PM vigil    St. Bernard
                                             7:00PM vigil    St. Sebastian
Friday, August 15th:            6:30AM           St. Vincent
                                             7:00AM            St. Hilary
                                              8:00AM          St. Sebastian
                                             9:00AM           St. Vincent and St. Hilary
                                              11:00AM        St. Vincent
                                              12:10PM         St. Bernard and St. Hilary
                                              5:15PM           St. Sebastian (extraordinary form - Latin)
                                              6:30PM           St. Hilary
                                              7:00PM           St. Sebastian
 
I SPY:  When can you view the International Space Station?  Frank sent this site in.
 
Matt sent this in:
 
Pat sent this in:  "Search engine giant Google recently made a groundbreaking decision to eliminate pornography from their advertising."  Read more here.
 
Here is a link to the Ohio Shakespeare Festival's Iambic Pentameter song.  GO HERE

Monday, August 4, 2014

MONDAY DIARY: ALMOST EXCRUCIATINGLY TRUE STORIES: GET USED TO DISAPPOINTMENT KID

We were putting a new roof on our school this summer and they had one of those things that look like a lot of bottomless trashcans stacked together forming a shut to allow roof rubbish to slide down to the waiting truck.  This led to the what I think is already the saddest day of the school year, which hasn't even started yet, as experienced by a kid who hasn't even started kindergarten yet.



Friday, August 1, 2014

FRIDAY POTPOURRI: NUMBER ONE AMONG NUMBER ONES


Among super important things, there are some things that are super-duper important.

 

There are four painting hanging in the rectory.  They are not great paintings.  They are probably mass produced by the square inch type paintings.  They are also not in tip top shape.  In fact, they were slated to be burned.  As parishes were closed in the diocese these paintings ended up in a warehouse and they were deemed so damaged as to be worthless.  Ever the good Slovenian I said, “I’ll take them and hang them in my dining room where it is so dark nobody will notice they are not in great shape.”



Score!  And so there they hang; one painting each of Matthew, Mark, and Luke are in the dining room and John, after whom I was named, hangs in my office across the hall.  The synoptic are hanging out together eating and John is doing his own thing in exile.  Seems fitting somehow. 
 
If you haven’t figured it out by now, the Vatican II documents want to hold up the inspiration and importance of all the Scriptures, Old as well as New.  (Kind of ironic to call something 2000 years old new isn’t it?)  But as important as all of Scripture is, the four Gospels have place of pride, are the crowning jewel, are the heart of it all, for in them those who lived with Christ, who were charged by him to preach, did then, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, write those things down.  (Jesus did not hand the disciples a book before His ascension into heaven.)  By this they are our primary source of knowledge of the life and teaching of our Savior.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

NO,NO, NO, NO, NO NO NO - WE WILL FACE THE SHARKNADO


Last night I watched the world premier of Sharknado Two; the Second One, unfortunately one of the best films of the summer.  The movie left off just as the clean up was about to begin.  The city is infested with man eating sharks (not enough room here to explain), injured people, and buildings left in rubble – not to mention the flooding.  Who is going to help clean all that up?
 
The Catholic Church.  We are so connected as a worldwide Church that we have the mechanisms in place to immediately step in and start bringing aid to those who need it.  Catholic hospitals will treat the patients.  Catholic social services, Catholic Charities, Catholic work groups would help.  Collections from Sunday Masses across the country/world would come streaming in.  Catholic services would be set up for those who need the sacraments.  The gates of Sharknadodom would not prevail against it.
 
Think of all the atheist societies that would come to help.  The Atheist General Hospital, the Atheist Charitable Society, money would stream in from collections at the Sunday morning atheist community gatherings and from collections taken up at the local Atheist Elementary Schools. 

 

I wonder if the local atheist meeting hall provides as much to a community as the local parish.  I think of all the things that this parish provides for this part of Akron.  Education, sports, concerts, lectures, arts, community support during times of death, crisis, or illness, retreats, camps, dances, cultural and entertainment events, hubs of information about and how to be involved in local, national, and worldwide concerns, clubs for persons of all ages, youth groups, gardening clubs, beautiful grounds and playgrounds used by the community, charitable organization that reach out to the parish boundaries, to the diocese, and to the world.  Permanent jobs are provided for a couple score of people in everything from teaching and arts to ministry and business offices.  Other recent jobs include roofers, plasterers, painters, organ construction, plumbers, heating and cooling professionals, landscapers, architects, construction workers, sign makers, carpet layers, and more.  A bit over three million dollars passes through this part of town as part of our budget annually.  It provides a voice for the neighborhood.  So much so that studies show that when a Catholic parish closes in a struggling neighborhood, the neighborhood goes into a steep and accelerated decline because a Catholic parish is so connected to other parishes, the diocese, and people outside of the immediate neighborhood it kept the neighborhood alive.  The parish also provides spaces for the community to rent for everything from wedding receptions to city meetings. 
 
AND ON TOP OF ALL THAT: providing sacramental healing, forgiveness of sins, adoption into the family of God, the reception of the Eucharist, receiving on the Holy Spirit, and uniting in matrimony.  All that in just a couple of acres. 

 

So beware sharks!

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

A GREATER HISTORY THAN FROM A SHELF AT KMART

One time I went to an (I am embarrassed to say this) Engelbert Humperdink concert.  (It was free and really good seats and accompanied by a great dinner.)  Anyway, at a certain part of the concert, Mr. Humperdink would swipe sweat from various parts of his anatomy with a red handkerchief and ladies of a certain age would crowd the stage and he would toss the handkerchiefs out causing a mad frenzy of grabbing.
 
I would like to tell you it is not my thing, but it is.  Not Mr. Humperdink's used hankies exactly, but i think humans tend to like things with connections.  I just took a clock to the clock shoppe (no, not that one) to have it repaired.  It belonged to my grandparents and because of that it means more to me than simply going out to Bob's Discount Clock Shop and buying another one.  Besides, it makes the story better.  Go to a flee market and the price goes up sharply when something has an interesting history.  "This once belonged to . . . "  Have two sailor's caps, one used by a sailor in WWII and another brand new - which do you think will be the greater purchase?
 
So we like things with history and Catholics are especially atuned to this, which is what made last Monday so special.  We came into possession (very temporarily) of St. Padre Pio's chalice.  As you can see below, it is a very simply piece but with some good weight to it.
We used to for Mass.  I was suprised that meant as much to me as it did.  My pinky caught on something on the bottom and a thought flashed through my head, "How many times did the saint's finger pass over the same familiar spot?" 
I was a little concerned about the authenticity of the chalice.  After all, what would his chalice be doing in Akron, Ohio?  "What good ever came out of Nazareth" right?  But it was sealed with all the proper seals and had a certificate "Certificato" of authenticity.  I spent some time trying to translate it (not too shabbily I might add) before I found an English translation on the reverse.  "This is a cup used by Fr. Pio in 1960 and shared with his brothers.  It was donated to the museum on 1977." 
So who knows how many times he actually used it.  Maybe once.  Maybe a thousand times.  It appears as though it was also used by the community.  I tried looking up an image of him using it but failed to do so. 
 
So afterwards we had an opportunity for people to come forward and venerate this second class relic.  But as absolutely cool as it was to hold onto what the saint did - to have that tie - what really gave the chalice worth is that it held, just moments ago - and at least since the 1960s, the precious Blood of our Savior, Jesus Christ.  In that way, every chalice should instill in us a certain amount of awe.
 
(But it was still cool.)

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

TUESDAY QUOTE OF THE WEEK CCCXXIII

FINDING TRUTH WHEREVER IT MAY BE FOUND:  Ode to summer quotes - "Porch sitting allow(s) great lapses while thoughts (are) gathered, or while there is no thinking at all."  from John Grisham's, "The Summons"
 
QUOTE II:  "This isn't a porch . . . This is a stoop!   A porch has a railing all around it, and it's all white, and it has a swing and some rocking chairs . . .and a little table with lemonade glasses, and warm nights, and fireflies, and crickets, and soft music, and a moon in the sky . . . "  Linus in a Peanuts comic strip
 
IN OTHER NEWS:
 
Divorce sometimes happens - but to pretend it isn't a big thing does not help the situation.  Here is a response to a Hufington Post article that challenges what it considers the benefits to children of divorce.
 
Hallie sent this in: "Attached is the photo of the Little Flower on the rose petal I showed you yesterday from the Rhoda Wise house. It is just so cool!"



Kevin sent this article in about a Catholic composer.
 
Here is over an hour of his music but I do not recommend it for work.  It is entitled "Sleep Music."

Sunday, July 27, 2014

MONDAY DIARY: ALMOST EXCRUCIATINGLY TRUE STORIES: A HUNTING WE HAVE WENT, A HUNTING WE HAVE WENT, ALL MY MONEY NOW IS SPENT, A HUNTING WE HAVE WENT

When I moved into the St. Sebastian Parish rectory most of the house had been given over to offices.  When I stepped out of my bedroom I would be in an office corridor which is wrong on so many levels.  So most of the offices were moved out of the rectory which presented a whole new set of problems.  Not the least of which was rooms now empty of furniture.
 
The rectory was built to have six suites, two guest rooms, and a live-in's suite.  Once all of the desks and chairs, potted plants, and inspirational posters had been moved out, there was need for furniture.  According to a 1961 appraisal of the parish property, the rectory has about 10,943 square feet of floor space, a lot of which now was bare.  In 1961 there was about $1,400.00 worth of furniture in the priest's residence, which is a scream.  I just plugged, "What is the average cost of a sofa" into my search engine and it said about $1,000.00.  That leaves enough money left over for a couple of lamps and a commemorative plate.  At the time this transition was happening the parish was in debt so furnishing the rectory had to be done on a shoes string budget.
 
Then came Fr. O to the rescue!  He was ordained and needed some place to store his stuff until he became a pastor.  In return for storing his stuff, I got to use it in the empty rooms.
Then with the priest shortage, he quickly became a pastor with his own rectory to furnish.
So I became a connoisseur of yard sales and junk shops.
And I was definitely not adverse to trash picking.  Here is an early example of it when I enlisted Aaron to help me pick up a coffee table that was sitting on the devil strip.  (If you don't know what a devil stip is, look it up.)  It is still in a guest room today.
I do take a certain amount of pride when someone says that they like a particular room in the house and I get to point at things and say, "Yard sale, yard sale, trash yard, donation, junk shop, and discount store."   Even Sebastian was a rescue dog.
 
The house is pretty much "done" now.  We don't need anything.  Everything from now on is just fun.  However, I was out to lunch the other day with our principal to discuss next year and beside the restaurant was a "high end" junk shop.  (I know, oxymoron)  We went in and there was a Regulator clock.  I have a fetish for mechanical clocks but I really didn't need another one.    What helped tremendously was that the clock was WAY over priced.
But it looked so pathetic sitting there - like a puppy at the dog pound.  My principal noticed that there was something wrong with the price tag and asked the clerk about it.  Apparently it had been in the shop so long it was now something like 75% off, a ridiculously low price.  So my resolve dissolved and I adopted another clock.
 
The only problem is that old clocks, particularly old mechanical clocks can have some oddities about them.  This clock only runs if it sits on the wall at an angle.  If you straighten it out, it stops working.  Such is one of the drawbacks of living a life of salvaging.  There was a merry war of sorts over the past month trying to get people to KEEP THEIR HANDS OFF OF THE CLOCK but now it seems everyone is informed and time has been marked well every since. 
 
Thank you to whoever kept good care of this clock in the past so that it could be handed on.  God bless you.

Friday, July 25, 2014

FRIDAY POTPOURRI: TO POST OR NOT TO POST? POST? WHAT IS POST?

We are in a new chapter of Dei Verbum called “The New Testament”.  What follows are some of my thoughts and then a look at paragraph 17.
 
Some events last forever.  Mount Sinai has been remembered and celebrated for millennia but who, other than historians and those who live in Texas, really remembers and celebrates the Alamo?  It is the same thing with writing.  The stories of Shakespeare are still in our cultural memory but how many plays, books, and poems that were once celebrated and predicted to be icons of our culture were never to be heard of again?
 
Shakespearean lines permeate our sub consciousness.  Some lines invoke certain plays everyone knows.  “To be or not be?  That is the question.”  So many of his phrases are so much a part of our everyday language we do not even know we owe Shakespeare for them:

 

Wild goose chase

Too much of a good thing

Mum’s the word

 

(Just to name a few)



 

It is much the same with Scripture.  Certain lines evoke scenes from the life of Christ.  “Truth?  What is truth?”  And our language is so permeated with Biblical references that even those who don’t know Christ use them.  For example:
 
A broken heart
A drop in the bucket
A sign of the times
A thorn in the side
 
The New Testament is a seminal work.  (I bet God is glad I approve.)   It changed everything.  It took culture in an entirely new direction.  Shakespeare named our culture well, Scripture formed it.  For those “with ears to hear” it is the revelation of things once hidden.  It is unveiling of who God is though his life, death, and resurrection, His ascension and sending of His Holy Spirit to complete His work of drawing all people together into unity and pointing them toward their heavenly Father. 
 
This was entirely novel.  Things were revealed that were never known before.  We have the opportunity to know truths that were not able to be known by those before this time nor by those whose hearts are not open to it.  “The writings of the New Testament stand as a perpetual and divine witness to these realities.”

Thursday, July 24, 2014

(YET ANOTHER REASON WHY) ART MATTERS


So Tuesday I joined another priest for lunch at a local grub joint and there was a T.V. in the corner competing for attention with assorted folk there.  On the screen was a black and white movie about the old west and in the scene which caught our eye, the closed caption revealed that one man was speaking to the other about King David and illicit desire for one of his commander’s wives, presumably to chastise him for whatever was happening during the rest of the movie.
 
The thought occurred to me then how amazing it is that art plays such a vital role not only in helping us understand who we are and where we are going, but how we view and understand our past.  It may be nothing like we imagine it but it will play a huge role in who we think we are and want to be. 
 
For example, ask any 15 year old and he will tell you the old west was full of cowboys toting around guns and having gun fights.  The fact is that this was not the case.  It is fabrication of our art.  Guns were far too heavy, awkward, expensive, and dangerous for everyone to be carrying around just in case they wanted to get into a fight.  (But that doesn’t make for a great movie.)
 
So it is with language.  A lot of slang, idioms, and references made up a lot more of everyday conversation in the past than it does today.  Yet when writing a old west cowboy script in 2014, one would never guess that Christ was ever born or meant anything to anyone.  That is why there is a fight over whether our founding fathers were interested in Christianity or not.  Exactly what does separation of Church and state mean?  Our history matters.  Our writers of history matter because they help influence who we think we are.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

WILL THERE BE ANYTHING ELSE FOR YOU?


There are two ways in which a person can own a horse.  The first (the model imagined by seven year olds everywhere) is where you pay to have your horse boarded.  You come by, when you have the time, to ride, give a carrot, and pat it on the nose.  The other way to own a horse is to 1) own a farm and 2) you go out twice a day to feed the horse, give a bale of hay (which you loaded into the barn last fall) and muck the stall, give it its daily exercise, groom, clean its hoofs, give it its shot and pills, find caretakers when you want to be a way, call the vet, etc. etc. etc. . .
 
This is also a model for two types of churches.  The first, you pay your money like you would at a gym, things are taken care of for you (babysitting, youth group, senior club, Bible studies, and so forth) and you can make certain demands (I pay good money to come here and I expect . . .) with the threat of going next door next Sunday.  The other is to belong to a church where you are part of the mission.  If there isn’t a Bible Study, you go talk to the pastor and if he can’t do it, you start one yourself.  If there are no greeters at the door, ask if you can start greeting people.  Outreach is not the pastor’s and staff’s responsibility, but everyone’s. 

 
Catholic parishes are closer to the second model in both, but often we try to be the first model and that frequently fails.  That is not to say that a pastor cannot use great ideas from the first model, but they are employed closer to the second model.  It is the difference in mentality of running a service in the hospitality industry and running a good family home.  The first has many perks and a few responsibilities, the second has many responsibilities and a few privileges and perks.
 
“I came to serve, not be served,” is the call we follow.  It is funny how easy it is to fall into the wrong mindset (from both sides!) 

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

TUESDAY QUOTE OF THE WEEK CCCXXII

FINDING TRUTH WHEREVER IT MAY BE FOUND:  This quote was partially posted once before, but it seems so apropos to today (though written a century ago) it seemed fitting to print it at greater length:
 
"We say that the most dangerous criminal now is the entirely lawless modern philosopher.  Compared to him, burglars and bigamists are essentially moral men; my heart goes out to them.  They accept the essential idea of man, they merely seek it wrongly.  Thieves respect property.  They merely wish property to be theirs that they may more perfectly respect it.  But philosophers dislike property as property; they wish to destroy the very idea of personal possession.  Bigamist respect marriage, or they would not go through the highly ceremonial and even ritualistic formality of bigamy.  But philosophers dislike marriage as marriage."

IN OTHER NEWS:
 
Fr. Ference has an article on Word On Fire concerning the coming home of LeBron James.  (If you haven't read enough about the event already.)  Read it here.
 
Joe sent this in from yesterday's post and asked, "Separated at birth?"

 
From the Diocese of Cleveland Enewsletter:  Our bishop was down in El Salvador, our sister diocese, celebrating 50 years of cooperation between us.  Read more here.
 
Kevin sent this link to a five minute video concerning a story about an aborted abortion.  Thanks!

Monday, July 21, 2014

MONDAY DIARY: ALMOST EXCRUCIATINGLY TRUE STORIES: IN GOOD TIMES AND IN BARD

This past weekend we went to Stan Hywet Hall (see here) to see Twelfth Night at the Shakespeare Festival.  Twelfth Night is particularly interesting to me because I was in the production when I was in college.
 
Someone on the trip said they would like to see a picture of what I looked like in my halcyon days when I didst trod the stage boards.  So here is a picture of a picture of me during a time when hair was more than just a happy memory:
So we were sitting in the audience waiting for the show to begin and I was peppered with questions.



The truth is . . . I had a blast.  It was a fun time.  But DAILY I am thankful for being a priest.  It may have been fun for that season of my life, but I also remember having times thinking, "There is NO WAY that can do this for the rest of my life!"  That thought has never occurred to be with the priesthood.
 
But still . . . from time to time . . . when I think nobody is around . . .