Friday, July 13, 2018

FRIDAY POTPOURRI: THE RECTORY - WELCOME HOME

Today there begins a new series.  I wrote these notes on the history of the St. Sebastian rectory some time ago.  There are rooms in the rectory that nobody knows any stories about and there are almost no pictures of what the interior of the house looked like originally.  (We have a glimpse of what the curtains might have looked like from a picture of a wedding that took place in the rectory during WWII and that's about it.)   So as a hobby like project I started writing down these musings concerning the rectory.  I hope that you enjoy.

The house to which I was being introduced had been built for me about two and a half decades before I was born.  Well, it is a bit much to say that it was built for me, but rather, men like me.  The Catholics of West Akron sacrificed and overcame nay sayers and built this sturdy rectory about ten years after their parish of St. Sebastian was founded, in the hopes that a priest would always live among them and minister to the community,

About two weeks previously to this, I received a call from the Bishop’s office asking if I would  consider becoming the next pastor of St. Sebastian in Akron.  I had never even heard of the parish before and request the opportunity to go have a look at the place first, to which I was giving a resounding, “No!”  Furthermore (for various and good reasons) there was a directive forbidding me to set foot anywhere near the grounds until more official decisions had been made and the necessary people informed.  This of course meant a disguise of sorts would have to be donned and a drive to Akron taken.  But that was two weeks ago, I had since been named administrator and I was able to visit the parish openly.

The current resident of the rectory and pastor of the parish, the Rev. William Karg, took me to his sitting room on the second floor of the house.  Fr. Karg is a gracious but eminently practical, German man and the room was set up for efficiency, with filing cabinets and folding banquet tables and an eye toward getting work done.  Despite this, the attractiveness of the room shone through.  With bumpy, heavily plastered walls and candle sconces, the pastor’s suite is the most true to the building's Mission Revival architecture.  It is not the grandest room in the world, not even among its peers in rectory architecture, but to me, a poor Barberton boy, it was splendid.

Barberton, the Magic City, is a smaller city nestled against Akron; a fiercely independent relative of sorts.  My father built the house in which I grew up in Barberton’s north west neighborhood near Sacred Heart Slovenian Parish.  He chose a do-it-yourself kit out of a catalogue to build in the 1950s.  We have a picture of him picking up the pieces of the house off of a freight train to be hauled to, what was then, a tree filled lot on a dusty road.  The joists in the attic still have markings on them giving instructions exactly where they were to be placed.  In the catalogue (which we still have) the house is given the grand name, "The Belleview" though it is a very modest home.

As the story goes, after changing their minds about moving to southern California (Dad had discovered snow skiing), Mom and Dad and my two older sisters decided to settle down in Barberton where most of the rest of the family lived, buy a piece of land, and build a house.  Mother was rather flexible in her requirements.  As long as she got a dining room and a front porch she would be happy.  Of course the house that was built has no dining room and only an undersized stoop just about large enough for one standing person and a freshly delivered newspaper to inhabit simultaneously.  This was because Dad was enamored with the floor plan of "The Belleview" which had eleven corners.  It was going to be a challenge to build and that appealed to his adventurous spirit.

I think a lot of my father for giving the whole thing a go.  He was not a trained carpenter, roofer, plumber, or electrician (which we found out in spades after his death when we had the house inspected) but he had lots of self-esteem and energy and he built something that kept the family warm and dry for over fifty years.  That's not to say that it isn't without its quirks.  Much of the woodwork does not quite line up, the occasional hot and cold water faucets are reversed from those that most of the rest of the civilized world enjoys, and there are many features of the house that come with the paternal instruction, "All you have to do is . . ." as in, "The door's fine.  All you have to do to shut it is lift up the whole door by the handle and lean into it with your shoulder and it will close properly."

My father also did not believe in having things fixed.  He was sure that the world was out to swindle him out of his hard earned wages and so would "fix" things himself.  (Notice the quotation marks.)  Once, when the clothes dryer stopped tumbling Mom came upstairs and proclaimed that she had had it, the dryer was truly dead and that it was finally time to replace the forty year old beast.  Proclaiming that he could fix it Dad went into the basement and after some banging, cursing, and a run or two to the hardware store, emerged from the basement to announce that the darn thing had been resurrected.  "All you have to do to get it going is keep your hand on the start button, push the tumbler to start it spinning with the other and slam the door shut quickly with your knee.”  This was not met with the joy, awe, and gratitude he had expected and from that day forward, if any "fix" was accompanied by the sentence, "All you have to do is . . ." it was no longer deemed by Mom as fixed by any means.  Dad having to start the dryer every time it was now needed, a new one miraculously appeared in the basement.

Previous "repairs" that were still operating under the "All you have to do is" mandate were grandfathered in.  For example, the basement would flood if more than two loads of laundry were washed in any given 24 hour period.  The fix for this was in the form of a large squeegee, a half round rubber dam on a long stick that would enable the offending launderer to steer errant water into other available drains.  Years later when my sister purchased the house (only she and God know why) we called in a plumber to fix the basement drains.  It cost $30.

"THIRTY DOLLARS!?" I exclaimed, the heat rising in my ears.

The plumber was nonplussed and began to sputter, "Well . . . well, you don't understand . . . part of that is the house call and part. . ."

I interrupted him.  He was on the wrong track entirely.  "No.  YOU don't understand.  If I had known this would only cost $30 dollars I would have taken it out of my allowance and snuck you in here when I was twelve instead squeegeeing the basement for an hour every week for thirty years!"

The point is that I did not grow up in Downton Abbey, neither as an heir apparent nor the footman.  So in comparison with the lifestyle to which I had been accustomed, the pastor's sitting room in the St. Sebastian Rectory was swell indeed.


Not that even I wouldn't notice that it needed some help.  Not much, but some.  The whole house seemed to be an apology for being such a nice rectory and the pastor's sitting room was no exception.  I respect the former pastor as a very holy, loving, and intelligent man.  He was always mindful of the limited means of his parishioners at his previous assignment and desired to live no better off than they, though he could.  It was a mentality that he forwarded to his tenure at St. Sebastian.  The house was reduced to German efficiency and very little was allowed by way of ornamentation or excess comfort.  The house, once consisting of six suites, two guest rooms, and live-in quarters, now only had three suites left to living purposes.  To step our of your room meant you had to be dressed and presentable even if all you wanted was to run downstairs and get a glass of water.  Every other space had been turned into offices or meeting spaces.  The basement, the two floors of the main house, the west wing all contained metal desks and filing cabinets, ailing office plants, inspirational posters, staff’s family portraits, and worst of all: people.a

Thursday, July 12, 2018

RELATIONSHIPS AND LIGHTBULBS

Mr. Jordan Peterson said something that rings true to me (an I am paraphrasing) that “Faith is not here to make you happy.  it is here to help cope with suffering.”

On September 11th, 2001 I was driving home to see my Mother when I heard the news about the World Trade Center.  I called home and said that I would not be there that day and then I called the parish and said, “If anyone calls, just tell them that there will be a prayer service tonight at 7PM!”  I don’t know what it will be yet, I’ll let you know when I know.”

That night and for several nights after the church was absolutely packed.  There were a lot of people that I have rarely or never seen.  I think we burned every candle we owned and went hoarse praying.


Contrast that to the Cavs 2016 championship.  It was reportedly the 6th largest sports celebration ever.  But nobody was overrunning churches to light candles and wear out the knees on their trousers giving thanks and expressing and processing their joy.  By and large, we know how to process our happiness.  What we are not good at is processing our grief, fear, losses and disappointments.  This life is not good at answering the question “why” or patting you on the head and saying, “everything is going to be Okay.”  Life is geared toward success.

All too often people will come to Church in the depth of some tragedy after being away from prayer and sacraments for years and in torment they want answers from God.  What they are missing out on is a relationship with God.  It was this relationship, built up over time, that was also supposed to see you through challenging times.  Relationships are not turned on like lightbulbs and God is not a service.  It is like a financially broke person who now realizes that he needs to save money in a bank account.  It’s a little late now.  Perhaps we can begin to fix things for the future but it will be more difficult to get there.

Trust, acceptance, hope, fortitude, bravery, stout heartedness all come from a personal encounter with Jesus, with the wisdom that comes from having been in relationship with Him and understanding how He has worked in your life and how He will in the future.  This gives you the wisdom to know what is truly important.  It is a peace that can only be obtained when you are in relationship with Him in good times and in bad, in sickness and health, to love Him and honor Him all the days of your life.


Tuesday, July 10, 2018

TUESDAY QUOTE OF THE WEEK CDXXXIX

FINDING TRUTH WHEVER IT MAY BE FOUND:  "Just as some might have thought the Church simply a part of the Roman Empire, so others might have thought the Church only a part of the Dark Ages.  The Dark Ages ended as the Empire had ended, and the Church should have departed with them, if she had been also one of the shades of the night."  from G. K. Chesterton's, "Everlasting Man."

QUOTE II:  "A dead thing can go with the stream, but only a living thing can go against it."  same source.

IN OTHER NEWS:

Chuck Chalberg who will be putting on a Chesterton play here at the parish for our 90th anniversary wrote THIS article on Chesterton and evolution.

Go HERE for the iTunes store to listen to the podcast "D*mn Near" and listen to the episode, "Damn Near Recognizable" if you would like to hear an interview with the person who restored our mosaic.  She talks about the mosaic and her work on it about half way through the interview.

The Brick Street Jazz and Wine Festival is coming up SOON!  Go HERE for more details.

Here are some other events to keep in mind:

Adoration returns to St. Sebastian today.  If you stop by you will also see this icon of St. Sebastian given to the parish to help celebrate her 90th anniversary by the Bridge Flights of St. Sebastian (bridge games being the oldest fund raiser in the parish.)  It was written by Sister Iliana of Christ the Bridegroom Monastery.
 Here is Sr. Iliana:
On July 4th we climbed the bell tower to watch all of the fireworks displays that surround Akron:
Here is a shot of the new plaza that night from high above:
And Fr. Trenta finally made his way into the St. Sebastian Bell Tower Hall of Fame:

Just for laughs:

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

TUESDAY QUOTE OF THE WEEK CDXXXVIII

FINDING TRUTH WHEVER IT MAY BE FOUND:  "I care not that the sceptic says it is a tall story; I cannot see how so toppling a tower could stand so long without foundation."  from G. K. Chesterton's, "Everlasting Man"

QUOTE II:  "It has endured for nearly two thousand years; and the world within it has been more lucid, more level-headed, more reasonable n its hopes, more healthy in its instincts, more humorous and cheerful in the face of fate and death than all the world outside."  same source

IN OTHER NEWS:

The Diocese of Cleveland put out an online article on our kick off of our 90th year.  See it HERE.

B. R. sent in THIS article about the 40 martyrs who were frozen to death.

E. G. sent this in:  Take a look HERE at what the St. Sebastian art teacher is doing.

Here are some pictures from the Mass this past weekend with Bishop Perez!


Upcoming event:  The St. Sebastian Chesterton Society will be sponsoring a one man play on Chesterton in honor of the parish's 90th anniversary.  Chuck Chalberg will be bringing G. K. Chesterton to life on Saturday, August 18th at 7PM at Bricco's Pub in the valley (None-Too-Fragile Theater) in Akron.  Tickets ($20) going on sale soon!  Keep an eye out for details!


P. V. sent in THIS article about a group working to promote harmony between science and faith.

Also sent in was THIS article about the named Chief Creative Officer of Pixar being a Christian.

The Brick Street Jazz and Wine Festival is coming up.  See more HERE.

TODAY'S VIDEO:  Go HERE to find an interview with parishioner Mark Cook at Franciscan University of Steubenville.  (I think Chesterton would approve.)

Saturday, June 30, 2018

MONDAY DIARY: ALMOST EXCRUCIATINGLY TRUE STORIES: THE AMAZING THINGS THAT YOU CANNOT DO WITHOUT LIPS


So on Tuesday I was at a restaurant eating something highly recommended by the waiter and thought to myself,  "Wow, I can't believe how cheap they were with this cheese.  It is almost tasteless!  How could he recommend this?"  Later I realized that it wasn't the cheese it was ME!  I had lost taste on the left side of my tongue.

Now, my first bite was extremely hot and I thought, "I must have burned my tongue."  But then the next day when I still couldn't taste, that was my first signal that something might be wrong.  Later that night I noticed I was having difficulties whistling and wondered if I was having a stroke.  So I did what all good Slovenian men do.  I decided to sleep on it and see if it would go away.  (Yes, I know, I've already been yelled at extensively by my N.Y. sister.)

By morning my smile was getting crooked.  But I really wanted to go to a funeral for the father of a friend but then my guardian angel whispered in my ear, "If you are having a stroke, do you really want to be the center of attention at somebody else's funeral?"

So I went to the ER.  To make a long story short, (too late), I was diagnosed with Bell's Palsy, a viral infection that causes you to temporarily lose muscle control on one side of your face.  It generally passes in a couple of months.  So essentially I have no facial expression on one side of my face.
Yet another reason every man should grow his beard - for just such an emergency.  Between glasses and the beard it isn't too bad.  

Unless I have to make a facial expression.

Which, at first, I thought wouldn't be so bad.  I can live with this if everyone else can.  THEN I REMEMBERED that this is the kick off of our 90th anniversary year of St. Sebastian Parish and because of that the number of photo opportunities that there will be including the shots for our PHOTO DIRECTORY that we were currently taking!  For the rest of history I am going to be remembered for looking more like our founding pastor, Monsignor Hilary Zwisler, who was NOT known for smiling: 
Anyway, I thought I could swing it without too much distraction until I woke up on Friday morning.  The dogs are always outside the door of my room and I always swing the door open and greet them with a hardy, "Good morning my good morning puppies!"  But this is what came out:

So the letter "P" is a challenge.  And this is where we come to understand that God has a sense of humor.  The Mass that day was for St. Peter and St. Paul.  And NORMALLY you would mention the saint's name MAYBE three times during the Mass.  But not Sts. Peter and Paul!  Nay!  Nay!  It seemed like EVERY OTHER BUMBLING WORD WAS PETER AND PAUL.  No kidding!  Here is the preface:

For by your providence
the blessed Apostles Peter and Paul bring us joy:
Peter, formost in confessing the faith,
Paul, its outstanding preacher,
Peter, who established the early Church from the remnant of Israel,
Paul, master and teacher of the Gentiles that you call.

Wasn't that just too coincidental?  (!)  It was difficult for me not to laugh during the Mass though I dare say people might of though I was choking or something since my face would not match the noises I would be making.

Knowing that there were a lot of "P"s and not wanted to be a distraction, I told the people what had happened at the beginning of my homily instead of waiting until the end of Mass.  I was told later that when I said I was having difficulties with the letter "P" that someone thought I had said that I was having difficulties when I pee and thought it a little odd and inappropriate that I was talking about it during the homily.

Well, that's about it so far.  All is well.  If you have time for an extra prayer that would be great but other than that things are the way they are for now *BUT* there is one thing of which I would like for you to be aware: If you crack a joke or smile and wave, don't be upset that I don't seem to smile back:
#bell'spalsy

Friday, June 29, 2018

FRIDAY POTPOURRI: PARISH HISTORY: EVIDENCE OF OUR HISTORY


Though built for multi purposes, the original parish building is now used entirely for the school and hall.  But there is evidence of former uses.  The office located on the top floor of the bell tower was once the office of the sister principal.  A hole in the ceiling is where the rope for the bell in the tower once hung.  There is a window that is now plastered over in the hall but the evidence of which is still seen in this office by way of a sliding door that sister once used to keep an eye on her students during Mass.

In the basement under a set of stairs is an abandoned vault.  Here was kept the parish valuables when this building also housed the church, hall, and offices.  In the library is still seen an elevated area that served as the stage from when this floor was the church hall.  


On the second floor is a large classroom that housed the nuns.  The girls bathroom is larger and slightly more ornate than any others in the building.  This served as the communal bathroom for the religious faculty who lived there.  


On the front lawn of the school is the original parish bell.  Typically, Catholic steeple bells are given a name and are “baptized” before use.  In the Roman Catholic Church the name Baptism of Bells has been given to the ceremonial blessing of church bells since the eleventh century. The name given this bell is Annunciata.  It was caste by the Stuckstede & Bro. Co. and dedicated in November of 1929.  According to online sources this foundry operated in Saint Louis, Missouri, from 1890 to 1940, and intermittently thereafter until 1961.  At least 90 bells from this foundry (mostly single but some in peals of two or three) remain in the Saint Louis region.  This was the second largest and second longest-lasting of several bell foundries in this city.  At some point. during repairs to the tower, the bell was removed and placed on the school grounds, but is still very much in working order.

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

WHAT IS EVERYTHING FOR WHICH YOU ARE LOOKING FOR YOUR CHILD?

I am on a (painfully slow moving) think tank for the future of Catholic schools.  Doing some research online for the effectiveness of Catholic schools I came across a bushel basket of articles commenting on a study about the effectiveness of private schools vs Catholic schools.  It is interesting to note that, depending on what you want the research to say, you can make the study sound as though it backs you up.

For example, many articles sited that, correcting for other variables such as socioeconomical backgrounds, there is no difference between private and public schools.  Time magazine would argue differently; that the study shows that it does make a difference.

But let us set that argument aside for a moment - even say that public and private schools would give the same student the same education for their background.  Is reading, typing and arithmetic all that there is to education?  What about forming the human person?  Is this exactly the same in both instances?

One of the reasons parents choose private education is to avoid what they see as indoctrination of their children into a cultural outlook with which they do not agree - stewing them in the latest political correctness rather than a longer standing understanding of what it is to be a good citizen of the world.  What some parents are looking for is more local control and flavor in a school rather than a system subject to policies that must be followed in all schools from rural to urban, from New York City to Wellington.  

At a Catholic school it is possible to do things that are illegal in public schools.  Pray.  Go to Mass and confession.  Learn about religious history.  Celebrate religious art and music.  Discuss topics such as virtue and sin.  Hold students to a higher standard according to the path followed by saints who were scientists, artist, leaders, servants, rich and poor.  A place where we don’t have to pretend that it is not Christmas or Easter.  

I would like to say that any one of these things were the primary reason people choose our school, but it is not.  In our school surveys, what turns out to be one of the greatest reasons people choose Catholic schools is safety.  They feel more secure with their child in a private school.  

Maybe it is because there is more freedom to curb behaviors in a private school and an ideal toward which we are always pointing our students.  Maybe it is because the constant reinforcement (I hope) of duty, responsibility and charity rather than just rights and freedoms.  Maybe, just maybe this is why since the 1920s there has only been one shooting in a Catholic school, in the 1970s at Gonzaga University where 4 people were injured.  Maybe.


Is it just about grades?  If it is, go to public school and save yourself a bundle.  The cost of Catholic education is becoming untenable in many places because of everything they are expected to do (and it is NOT because the teachers are paid enough.)  But if you value something else and that aligns with what is being exemplified in your local Catholic school, that education is priceless.

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

TUESDAY QUOTE OF THE WEEK CDXXXVII

FINDING TRUTH WHEREVER IT MAY BE FOUND:  "Christianity has died many times and risen again; for it had a God who knew the way out of the grave . . . Europe has been turned upside down over and over again; and that at the end of each of these revolutions the same religion has again been found on top."  from G. K. Chesterton's, "Everlasting Man"

QUOTE II:  "Some stones of Stonehenge are standing and some are fallen; and as the stone falleth so shall it lie.  There has not been a Druidic renaissance every century or two, with the young Druids crowned with fresh mistletoe, dancing in the sun on Salisbury Plain.  Stonehenge  has not been rebuilt in every style of architecture from the rude round Norman to the last rococo of the Baroque.  The sacred place of the Druids is safe from the vandalism of restoration."  same source.

IN OTHER NEWS:

The St. Sebastian cutting garden that supplies the church with all of her flowers over the warmer months was part of The Ohio State University Extension Office's Master Gardeners Tour.  Between 500 and 600 people visited our gardens and church this past Saturday.


P. V. sent in THIS article on Bill Murray (comedian) about his faith.  Also, Hungary's abortion rate numbers plummet HERE.

M. S. sent in THIS article/video on Chris Pratt inviting people to learn to pray.

The new plaza is just about ready open and here is what the new lighting will partially look like (they are not all on yet.)  You are invited to see (almost everything) completed when Bishop Perez comes to celebrate Mass this Saturday (June 30th) at 4:30.

Just because I like this video and needed a laugh today:

Monday, June 25, 2018

Friday, June 22, 2018

FRIDAY POTPOURRI: PARISH HISTORY: A FITTING COAT


Over the main entrance of the old church is the original version of the parish coat of arms.  Heraldry is of serious matter and, according to James-Charles Noonan’s book, “The Church Visible,” “it is a phenomenon very much a part of the legal and social structures of practically every continent on earth. . . Heraldry is not independent of the law and is, in fact, strictly governed by international custom and state law. . . Ecclesiastical heraldry is not determined by heraldic considerations alone but also by doctrinal, liturgical, and canonical factors.”

The heraldry of St. Sebastian has an “escutcheon” or shield “per pale” or divided down the center.  “In sinister” or to the left as you view the arms are seven crossletes of “vert” (or green) on an “or” (or gold) field.  The crosses are an obvious reference to Christianity and that there are seven of them points to one of the main purposes of the parish which is to celebrate the seven sacraments.

“In dexter” or to the right, we have three upward pointing arrows in “or” on a “vert” field.  The three arrows have a double meaning.  The first is in reference to the Trinity as there are three of them pointing to heaven.  The second concerns the story of our patron, St. Sebastian, who is most famously pictured riddled with arrows when the emperor Diocletian attempted to have him put to death for being a Christian.



At some point in the 1950s, the coat of arms went through a redesign.  A chief was added with arrow like lines pointing toward the center.  Though the original coat of arms appears on the convent which was completed in 1951, this new version made its appearance on the Recreation Center (later to be known as Byrider Hall) in 1953.  There is a little debate concerning what these  lines mean.  Some think that they are the chevrons of rank of someone serving in the armed forces and so attribute them to St. Sebastian's status as a high ranking officer in the Praetorian Guard.  But this would be completely anachronistic.  It is more likely a highly symbolic depiction of palm branches which would be the Church’s symbol of triumph over death for her martyrs.  This version of the coat of arms continued to be employed through the construction of the “new” church as can be seen on the building, the doors, and the pews.  


Around the year 2009, finding many versions of the coat of arms in use at the parish, from what was found on the buildings, various letterheads, uniforms, signs, and other such uses, a concerted effort was made to focus on just one version of the arms and standardize the colors, fonts, and uses of the arms across the entire parish.  Though remnants of various versions may still be found, all new employments of the arms have since been strictly regulated.  This final version returns to the original version and has removed instruments of war such as helmets and pikes, which are strictly forbidden in ecclesiastical heraldry.  

Thursday, June 21, 2018

THE COMPLICATED YOU

I am fascinated by the idea that we are so complicated as human beings that we do not even really know what it is we believe.  A priest I highly respect and who has been quoted on these pages extensively brushes off many if not most persons who call themselves atheists with the phrase, “They are not intelligent enough to be atheists.”  What he means by this is that those who fit into this particular category do not lead a life in keeping with this self proclaimed position with the (relatively) sole manifestation being that they do not go to church or pray.  Instead of living a new order of an atheistic world, they live a weak-tea version of poor Christianity.


One time I met a true atheist.  He was about the only guy I ever met who truly believed everything was just happenstance of a random universe meaning nothing.  He was not depressed but the thought of this made him sad.  Even the conversation we had about it he labeled as pointless.  “If there is no God, then even this conversation means nothing beyond what little pleasure it may bring me.”  I respect that guy.

Jordan Peterson makes the suggestion that if you really want to know what you believe, don’t take the words that come out of your mouth at face value.  There is a lot going with these words.  They are not pure distillations of our hard held convictions.  Our words will be influenced by the person to whom we are speaking, by the community by whom we have been formed, by the point we wish to make, and a million other little factors that will form the tide flowing over our tongue.

Rather, says Mr. Peterson, if you really want to know what you believe, examine how you have acted in the past; how you have responded to the world and its surprises.  Despite vows of great love, did you stick it out during bad times and sickness?  Despite saying you trust in God no matter what, did you remain calm during times of turmoil?  Despite saying that you are an atheist, do you mindlessly follow the Christian/Judeo cultural patterns?  Despite thinking that you are a worthless sinner, do you keep coming back to confession?


Be careful to engage in contemplation. You may discover what you really believe.