Sunday, December 30, 2007


If people look at Christians and think us odd for the celebration we undertake marking things they site as mythical at best, I say equally as strange is this whole idea of New Years. What is New Years after all? Why should a new year begin on January 1st? You’d think that it would start on an equinox, perhaps the spring one as the world begins to enter into new life – well – that is – if you happen to live in the northern hemisphere.

For that matter, why start a day at midnight? Not everyone does. Why not have at, say, 8:00? Then we could toast the New Year with champagne along with the desert course at dinner and then go promptly to bed before we do anything we regret like the gentleman at the gathering I was at last year – and - well, that’s another story. I just hope he got some help.

Of course, much of the world does not follow our calendar and does not mark January 1st as the beginning of anything, let alone being January or the 1st. In fact, even we admit that we are not quite sure that calendar is quite on. Give or take three years we say. Not even our liturgical calendar quite matches up with this. (Is it not interesting though as we discovered earlier this year that whatever calendar we should adopt it is of our Tradition that a week must contain seven days?)

Time becomes very relative when speaking with someone who just doesn’t get it. No, I’m not talking about your sister who can’t seem to show up for anything on time, more like my Dad who, in the depths of Alzheimer’s has completely lost the gist of time. Day/night, month/year, breakfast/dinner time, he simply smiles and says, “Huh, what do you know?” (Though for some odd reason he still loves his watch.)

What if we were able to inhabit another planet? What would happen to the marking of years or hours? How would we communicate? (Maybe we would have to start a star date like on Star Trek.) One would have to figure out what relationship one’s own time zone is to that of one on a different planet whose days might be longer or shorter. “What time is it there? 2:00 am? I thought it was noon. Oh, that was last month you say.”

What if they got to celebrate Christmas more often than we do because their planet travels around the (a) sun more quickly? Kids would cry that it was unfair that their cousins got to live on planet X because they got presents twice as often as they did. Or what if the planet just kind of glided through space? What would be used to mark (or would there even be) days?

There are too many holidays right now anyway. It would be nice to spread them out a little bit more. We could use a bigger party in February. Things tend to get a little ouchy just then when you are housebound because of the snow.

Just the same, I am pleased to wish you a very blessed arbitrary marking of the passing of an artificial construct of convenience and pray that you may enjoy many more of them or of the alternate particular construct you might be observing from the various options from around the world (or other planetary or otherwise systems).

I wonder if in keeping with diversity and the ever expanding world economy that greeting will ever become popular in the retail world?

Friday, December 28, 2007


Here's something to help you continue the Christmas octave! (4.40 minutes. S.S. eat your heart out!)


The Diocese of Cleveland E-Newsletter reports that, "The message "Christ Our Hope," atop an image of an open-arms Pope Benedict XVI before the dome of St. Peter's Basilica, has been chosen as the logo for the visit of Pope Benedict to the United States, April 15-20."

Jay announces that Catholic Carnival 152 is up and running!


Not too far down the road from the Church of Saint Clare there is a grand old cemetery named Lakeview. It is truly a stunning place and well known for the amount of artwork there. Occasionally when someone comes to visit I’ll take them for a walk through it (after a visit to Little Italy). At first hesitant they almost always look for a chance to do it again someday.

Around these parts, modern cemeteries have taken to having gravestones flush with the ground. This makes it ever so much easier for these gigantic parks for the dead to be maintained. I understand. But the artist in me wishes it didn’t have to be so (though many are starting to allow them again in certain sections.)

There is an incredible amount of symbolism in cemeteries. Some of it is quite obvious, especially for a Catholic cemetery as we see rosaries and crucifixes engraved into headstones. But much of the symbolic language, very prevalent in the Victorian age, has been lost to moderns. Over the next few weeks we take a look at some of the symbols.

Here are just a couple to whet your taste buds. If a cemetery pays attention to such things, the trees planted are there because they have meaning. Where my Mom’s parents are buried the drive is lined with cypress trees. This tree is found on many Christian tombs. According to George Ferguson’s book, “Signs and Symbols in Christian Art,” this is due to it’s dark foliage and to the fact that once cut down, it never springs up again from it’s roots and thus is a sign of death.

Many older graves will have ivy planted over it. It is a sign of death and immortality because it’s leaves stay for evergreen. It is a sign of “attachment and undying affection.” Fir trees, once again because they stay green even in the winter, symbolize those experiencing eternal life in heaven.


Years ago my family was heavily involved in the restoration of an old silent movie theater in my hometown. It became the home of a professional company that produced shows for younger audiences and families. The family reupholstered every seat, installed windows, repaired plaster and painted, cleaned, and any other number of odd and dirty jobs to get the theater up and running often spending long hours late into the night.

The day the theater was to open they worked until the last possible moment, went home, showered and changed, and came back and ushered for a great little show called, “Cheaper by the Dozen.” When the show was done the director stood up to offer thanks for all those who played a role in the opening of the theater. Those who played obvious roles in the production, those who gave much money, those who were important people from the city were all given gushing thanks and flowers, but no mention was made of anybody who volunteered to do the actual grimy work of making the building itself useful let alone presentable.

As such things go, the people who were forgotten didn’t mind so much, it was those who love those who were forgotten that were hot under the collar. (Read: Me.)

I suppose that is one reason (as you all well know) I am so opposed to clapping at mass. Those for whom we clap of course do work many hard hours and deserve some recognition. But have you ever stopped to consider how many people it takes to make mass possible at an average size parish on a typical weekend; those whose efforts are not always obvious but whose services are heavily depended upon none-the-less? (We may not notice some of them when they do their job, but we would sure notice when they did not!)

Consider the numbers.

Here are some of the people that you might need for the whole weekend.

SEXTON - A sexton is the person who gets to church earlier than everyone else because he unlocks the place. Of course this role is often undertaken by the priest, sacristan, or janitor so we won’t count it.

SACRISTAN – This is the person who gets everything ready for mass by making sure all the altar appointments are ready and what not. Some places have a sacristan (or two!) for each mass others have only one. For the sake of argument we will count two for a whole weekend.

JANITORS AND ALTAR GUILDS – The church has to be cleaned. Even if there is a cleaning company (rare) there are still some things that need extra care. Let us suppose that you have one janitor and three Ladies who change candles, straighten books, and polish the brass.

LAUNDERER – All the altar linens must be cleaned in a special way. That is, they cannot be simply thrown in the wash. In addition they must also be ironed and in some cases, such as with corporals, heavily starched. Then there are the server’s cassocks and surpluses or albs and such things often done by another team of people. Let us cut the difference and say that there are two people doing everything.

ART & ENVIRONMENT – You might have one person doing this or a whole committee handling this. Then again, it might just be the pastor! They decorate for the high holy days as well as make sure the sanctuary is properly appointed throughout the year. The also keep the plants watered and make sure everything is in keeping with the liturgical season. Let’s say you have a three person committee that does everything from setting up the Christmas trees to having flowers at the Marian shrine in May.

COORDINATORS OF MINISTRIES – Somebody has to keep track of the servers, extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion, and lectors, assign them to the masses and make sure they are showing up. This is a huge logistical job. Most of the parishes I have been at have three different persons doing this so I will use the number three.

LITURGIST OR LITURGY COMMITTEE – Some places have this, others don’t, and many that do are using people already being mentioned so I will not add numbers for them.

MONEY COUNTERS – A delicate topic indeed, but necessary none-the-less. It is best to have at least three people and to have at least three teams of three. But for the sake of argument, we will only count three in total.

Now hear is a list of people that need for every mass on each weekend.

SERVERS – I like to use many, but here I am only allowed three a mass, and since many people only use two, so perhaps three works out to be average.

LECTORS – Let us just say one though many people use two.

EMHC – Here is bone of contention. I know some people will say that they are overused and maybe so, but that is not the point here. To keep mass under an hour here we use about eleven per mass.

MUSICIANS – This is hard to calculate. You might have a choir so let us assume there are 20 people in it. And there might be three more masses at which there is only an instrumentalist and a cantor. Let us average it out to six people per mass.

USHERS & GREETERS – Often these are the same people. How about we only use four for per mass though at this parish we usually have six.

CLERGY – Of course you need a priest and some places there are deacons. Let us count that as two.

GIFT BEARERS – At least two.

So, the total number of people needed to get the parish up and running for a weekend with four masses is:

Those needed only once: 17
Those we multiplied by 4 to cover all the masses: 116
For a grand total of: 133
(And we didn't even get into those who work with the RCIA or, as is in some places, youngsters and the like.)

Your parish may have a great deal more people in these roles or somewhat less. But these are the people I have in mind when I baulk (thanks for the correction in spelling) at singling obvious people out for applause at mass.

These (what Pope Benedict emphasizes as) secondary roles make it possible for the Church to fulfill their primary role of prayer and worship. They are not more involved because they get to “do something”, everybody is doing something and most of the people are doing the most important thing. But it is nice when ALL of the “secondary – though necessary – jobs” are done well. It sure makes life a lot easier and more pleasant.

So for all you unsung behind the scenes people out there: THANK YOU!

Tuesday, December 25, 2007


(Continued from yesterday - Fr. O's adventures in the Holy Land over Christmas Day.)

There was a large crowd gathered by the gates, hoping to get into the church. Nobody could get in without a ticket (free tickets - necessary for crowd control), and even those of us who had them had difficulty getting in. Fortunately, a local tour guide spoke to the guards in Arabic and explained that we were supposed to be concelebrating tonight, so he finally let us through. We found our way to the sacristy, vested, and were led out to the presbyterium behind the Patriarch's chair. By this time, it was about 10:30, so we still had an hour and a half to go before Mass would begin. While we waited, we listened to scripture readings and psalm responses proclaimed in a variety of languages.

The church was already packed to the walls, and most of the pews had been removed to make room for more people, so most of the congregation was standing. Brown robed Franciscans buzzed around, ushering people to their places and taking care of last minute preparations. Just when it looked like people were getting restless and tired, a beautiful choir of both adults and children began to sing, and faces lit up. Nothing makes you feel like Christmas more than the joyful voices of children, no matter what part of the world you are in.

When the entrance procession began, it became easy to tell that this was not a hometown crowd, but a congregation of visitors and pilgrims. As the Patriarch and several other bishops came down the aisle, nearly every hand in the congregation raised a digital camera, and flashes popped all over the church. This was a night to be scrapbooked. Not many people get to go to Midnight Mass in Bethlehem. I hope this will make a good memory for everyone, and that they will inspire more people to come to the Holy Land.

We prayed the Office of Readings before Mass. Most of the liturgy this night was conducted in Latin, but our guidebooks had the scripture readings translated into many different languages. The second reading and one of the petitions were the only things in English. I have no idea what the Patriarch's homily was about, because he preached in Arabic and then repeated it in French. I just know it was long - about 20 minutes in each language.

While the patriarch was preaching, the kids in the choir sat on the steps by the presbyterium, and I got a kick out of watching them. They were doing what kids usually do when grown ups are talking about things over their heads: they were poking each other, whispering back and forth, and giggling. They reminded me of my nieces and nephews back at home, who would be gathering at my parents house for dinner and gifts from Santa at right about this time. Since I couldn't understand what was being said anyway, I took some time here to pray for my family and friends at home.

At the end of Mass, all of the clergy processed over the to the Basilica of the Nativity to go down to the Grotto. Perhaps I should have explained this before. The Basilica of the Nativity is not a Roman Catholic Church. It is Greek Orthodox, so we could not celebrate Mass in there. The Roman Catholics have built a church right next door (called St. Catherine), so that is where we celebrated Midnight Mass. But after our Mass, the Greek Orthodox allowed us to go down into the place where Jesus was born: a cave which is underneath the sanctuary of their church. Fortunately, they do not celebrate Christmas until sometime in January, so the church is available for us to do this.

The cave is not very large, and there were well over 100 priests in the procession. I bowed to the shrine marking Jesus' birth place, then bowed to the manger carved out of the wall, and then turned to join the other priests who were cramming into the back of the cave like sardines. The Patriarch was at the end of the line, carrying the statue of the infant Jesus to be enthroned in his birthplace. But I didn't get to see any of that. Before he entered the room, one of the MCs opened a door in the back of the cave and said, "I'm sorry fathers, but there is just no room. Please come out". By this time, it was about 2:15 a.m., so I wasn't all that disappointed to miss out on the enthronement liturgy. I was pretty exhausted, and looking forward to going to bed. But I was very grateful for at least the opportunity to pray (even briefly) in the Nativity Grotto in the wee hours of Christmas Day. We put our vestments away and made our way through the now quiet, very much littered streets of Bethlehem back to our hotel.

The next morning, we headed back to St. Catherine's for 10 a.m. Mass at the shrine of St. Jerome. He is the patron saint of scripture scholars, so all of us who are studying at the Pontifical Biblical Institute gathered there for Mass with Cardinal Martini, a respected scripture scholar and the retired Archbishop of Milan. When he was translating the Bible into Latin, St. Jerome lived with a small religious community in a system of caves that were very near by the site of the Nativity. These are right below St. Catherine's church. There were Masses being celebrated all over the place - in many of the caves as well as in the main church - so it felt kind of like being in a liturgical ant farm. But it was a prayerful liturgy in a unique setting with people who share in my mission, so it made for a very pleasant Christmas morning.

After Mass, we took a cab to the border so that we could head for home. Getting back through the border was a much different experience this time. We waited in line for about a half hour. Just before we got up to the checkpoint, a Palestinian man gave some helpful advise. "If you are tourist, just hold your passport where they can see it. Even if metal detector sounds, they will let you through." He kept repeating this over and over, in hopes of making the line move faster. As I looked around the line, it became apparent who was Palestinian and who was not. The tourists all held passports in their hands. The Palestinians had all removed every bit of metal from their bodies - watches, earrings, belt buckles, etc. They are used to being harassed and held at the border, sometimes for hours, even if they are sick and on their way to the hospital. I can't even imagine how difficult life must be for them. I don't think most of the world realizes what they go through every day. This reminds me of why we so desperately need a savior, which is what this day is all about.

All in all, my experience here has been a tremendously enriching one. Living in the Holy Land absolutely transforms one's understanding of the Bible; makes it come alive. I hope that every Christian can come here and be amazed the way I have. Please pray for peace in this troubled land. It is still a very long way off. I don't think I've ever heard any hopeful comments about the progress of peace by any locals. They see the Annapolis meeting as just another show by a lame duck American president who doesn't completely understand what's going on here. I honestly think it will take some sort of miracle to establish lasting and certain peace here. But I also happen to believe in miracles. After all, isn't that what we're celebrating today?

Merry Christmas!


Here is one of the best Christmas presents I recieved. Fr. O, studying in the Holy Land, sent a report of what it is like celebrating Christmas there. This is great not only because I enjoyed it, but that he thought it would be appreciated as a post for a couple days following Christmas allowing me more time to spend with family. Thank you Fr. O! And God bless. And now, to Jerusalem!

Waking up on Christmas Eve morning, it occurred to me that this was the first time this season that I actually felt like Christmas was coming. Advent is kind of a different experience here in Jerusalem. Christians are a distinct minority, so I have only seen one Christmas tree and one store selling Christmas things this whole month, and there is no snow like we have back in Ohio. But this morning I woke up with nothing to do but explore the city, so it felt like Christmas to me.

I began my day in a peculiar place for a Christian: a few friends and I decided to go visit the Dome of the Rock. This is the third most revered Muslim shrine in the world, built on the site of the former Jewish Temple. The western retaining wall of this area is still the most important place in the world for Jews. Why a Muslim shrine in a Jewish locale on Christmas Eve morning? Just because it was something on our "to do" list that we had not found the time for until now.

It was surprisingly beautiful and peaceful up there. The gleaming golden Dome rises above an octagonal shrine, which is covered with blue and white tiles in geometric designs. All around it there are courtyards and gardens, and we spent about an hour just meandering around, enjoying the view of the surrounding Mount of Olives, Mount Scopus, Mount Zion, and other sites. Unfortunately, non-Muslims are not allowed to enter the shrine itself, but it was pleasant enough just taking a relaxing stroll in the sunshine. I took the opportunity to pray a Chaplet of Divine Mercy for all of the bad things Christians and Muslims have done to each other over the centuries, hoping for a brighter future.

We left the Dome of the Rock, and after a brief stop for a cappuccino, headed up toward the Latin Patriarchate; the seat of the Roman Catholic Church in the Holy Land. On our way there, we were most surprised to run into a drum and bagpipe corps of Catholic Scouts. Just imagine - about 200 Arab boys and girls dressed in their scout uniforms (along with capes bearing the Jerusalem Cross), playing bagpipes and snare drums. And they were really good, too! That definitely put a smile on our faces.

When we got to the Latin Patriarchate, we knocked on the door and asked to see the church, since none of us had ever seen it before. We weren't sure what kind of response we would get on Christmas Eve, but a very kind elderly priest not only gave us a tour of the church, but also showed us around the patriarchate building and took us up to the roof for another great view of the city, and then got some chocolate for us on the way back down. One of my friends remarked that one of his goals in life was to become a well adjusted old man that always leaves people smiling, like that guy just did. Sounds like a pretty good goal to me.

Since we had been to the holiest Muslim and Jewish places earlier in the day, we decided to go for the "Holy Hat Trick" and visit the most important Christian shrine in the world: the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. I wanted to see if they had decorated it for Christmas, but as I expected, they had not. In fact, they are not allowed. The Holy Sepulcher church is divided between the Roman Catholics and several Eastern Orthodox churches (mainly the Greeks and Armenians), and the only way they can coexist in peace is to never do anything out of the ordinary. That means that none of them are allowed to decorate their part of the church for celebrations; they must stricktly adhere to the "status quo" (the way they have done things for as long as they can remember), or else there would be some major fights breaking out. That's a sobering thought for Christmas Eve. Jesus has come into the world, but there is still an awful lot of squabbling among Christians.

At lunch time, I discovered that there was a small group planning to walk to Bethlehem that night. It's only about six miles or so, and the weather forecast looked pretty good, so that sounded like a plan to me. But a six mile walk followed by Midnight Mass would definitely require a siesta, so I took care of that first.

I met my walking group at Jaffa Gate at about 5:30. The group was mostly French, with a few Americans, a Portuguese, and an Australian also in the mix. And get this: one of the Americans was a woman who was 9 months pregnant - due that very day, in fact! Pretty tough girl. Her doctor told her that it would be OK to walk. If she started having contractions, she should just head to the hospital in Bethlehem instead of the church.

The walk was beautiful - pleasantly cool with a nearly full moon and no clouds in the sky. The bustling city around us made it difficult to imagine what it would have been like 2,000 years ago, but every once in a while, I would catch sight of an open patch of rocky, grassy field, and my mind tried to recreate the scene. As we drew near to Bethlehem, Christmas lights began to adorn the highway, and it seemed more like a scene from home.

Bethlehem today is part of the Palestinian Territory, so Israel has built a very large dividing wall at the border with a security checkpoint. Other than the imposing height (about 15 feet) and the barbed wire and bulletproof turrets at the top, the wall looks almost pleasant from the Israeli side. There are large, brightly colored banners from the tourism department, claiming "Peace and Love, Jerusalem - Bethlehem". We approached the wall and easily sailed through the checkpoint. One member of our group who lives around here commented that they must be letting everyone through easily tonight to make all of the visiting pilgrims think that the border is rather free and open - it's usually not so easy.

The Palestinian side of the wall looks much different than the Israeli side. It is loaded with the graffiti and political lampooning of an oppressed people. Messages like "To exist is to resist" and "Stop the apartheid" are spray painted next to a mural of a lion devouring a peace dove, or a Christmas tree hemmed in by a tall concrete fence. Life is very difficult for the Palestinians of Bethlehem, and especially so for the Christians. They are a distinct minority, in an already oppressed region.

We were greeted on the other side of the checkpoint by about 20 cab drivers, each vying for our attention, "You want to go to church? Is long walk - 10 kilometers! I take you, only 3 shekels each." To their dismay, we told them that we wanted to walk. "No! Is very long walk - 15 kilometers! I take you! Only 2 shekels each!" It was only about 2 km away. We walked it for no shekels each.

Downtown Bethlehem was all decorated up for the season with cheesy Christmas lights strung up all over the place. Above one of the shops on the main street, someone was blasting campy Christmas music from a speaker that sounded as if it were about to explode. The smells of Falafel and Shawarma coming from local diners reminded me that I had not yet had dinner. The main street was clogged with traffic, as pilgrims and visitors streamed in for Bethlehem's big night. The only thing that dampened the festive spirit a bit was the fact that there were soldiers with automatic weapons stationed about every 100 feet, all along the sidewalk. They did not look at all agitated, and merely stood at their posts without incident, but the mixture of battle fatigues, automatic weapons, and Christmas did not sit well with me.

After we checked into our hotel, we made our way down to Manger Square; the plaza in front of the Basilica of the Nativity. The place was packed with thousands of people, and there was a band playing on a stage set up across the street from the Basilica. Most of these folks were here for the party; the church can only fit probably 1,000 people or so. We weaved our way through the crowd, and stopped in at St. George's Restaurant for a quick shish kebab before heading to the church.


Sunday, December 23, 2007



This weeks quote was imported from the Holy Land (though it was made in the U.S.A.). Fr. O is studying there and sent this for you for Christmas.

FINDING TRUTH WHEREVER IT MAY BE FOUND: "This magical story is a cornerstone of the Christian faith, and I am sorry if it's a big hurdle for the skeptical young. It is to the Church what his Kryptonian heritage was to Clark Kent - it enables us to stop speeding locomotives and leap tall buildings at a single bound, and also love our neighbors as ourselves. Without the Nativity, we become a sort of lecture series and coffee club, with not very good coffee and sort aimless lectures.

"On Christmas Eve, the snow on the ground, the stars in the sky, the spruce tree glittering with beloved ornaments, we stand in the dimness and sing about the silent holy night and tears come to our eyes and vast invisible forces of Christmas stir in the world.

"Skeptics, stand back. Hush. Hark. There is much in this world that doubt cannot explain. (I might have told the kids that when you us the word 'awesome' to describe everything above mediocre, you're missing a word for Christmas Eve, but I'm not their editor either.)"


Bishop Lennon's Christmas message can be found here.

Saturday, December 22, 2007


Adoro sent the challenge of a Meme that asks you to name your top ten posts. The question being is this what I consider my top ten or what received the most responses? It's much the same with homilies; those I think will "wow 'em" don't and those I think "We'll get by with this this week" people love. So here, for better or worse, is a mix of ten (in no particular order) maybe only slightly interesting for those who have not been long term readers.

1. Taste Is Debatable, But It Is Not Infinitely Debatable. With the help of Fr. O. we took a look at some liturgical art and what makes for uplifting works and that which should be used for fill dirt for a new Target parking lot. The pictures for this one still pop up on searches.

2. No one else seemed to like this one as much as I did. Actually most of the fun came in the making of how to receive communion. Here is, "I've Got to Hand It To You."

3. There was series in which I mentioned some of the places I ended up as a direct result of being a priest. This was one I could not believe. I still get the willies when I pass this place.

4. "And Now from Our Correspondent in Rome" was probably one of the most popular posts on this site and I had nothing to do with it. Incidentally Fr. O. is now in the Holy Land and has promised *ahem* a post on Christmas there during the octave.

5. There was a little brouhaha over my post about the pope banning bulletproof vests for Catholics. It needed to be explained in a later post. But I still like it.

6. Just last week somebody mentioned this post. "I would have clapped Father," he said, "but I remembered your post and decided not to give in to the impulse." Here is, "Let's Give It Up for the Choir."

7. This one came with a warning: WARNING: I am in an outrageously good mood today. "A Shower of Blessings."

8. Hands down the most popular post on Adam's Ale. "Ask Not for Whom the Cell Phone Rings."

9. "If You Exist, Presume God Loves You." The name says it all. And I believe it.

10. And lastly here is, "Now Sit Back, Turn Off Your Brain, and Relax" about the troubles of watching television.

Friday, December 21, 2007


Need a spiritual boost before Christmas? Here is a minute and a half boost!


Jay announces that Catholic Carnival 151 is up and running!

L.M. sent another link to a religious order that popped up on her radar screen all of a sudden. It looks interesting so I though I would pass it on.

Sparky sent in a nice link giving more informarion about the spiritual motherhood for priests. Just letting you know now that it is a pdf file.

Does this sound cool or what? The Alexandrian is a quarterly online journal of art and thought published from the perspective of Catholic youth in Canada. Their purpose is three-fold:
1. To provide a community for Catholic writers and artists to meet and share ideas;
2. To publish the work of these writers and artists;
3. To engage modern Canadian culture in a dialogue with the rich Classical and Catholic traditions.


I remember my grandma having those electric candles in her windows at Christmas: the off white plastic kind with an orange bulb in the shape of a flame. You can still buy them but they don’t seem quite as nice as those old-fashioned ones, or maybe sentiment has more to do with it. Be that as it may many people still put these candles in their windows at Christmas and it is nice to come across a house on a darkened street and see them “burning” in their windows.

There is at least one pressing reason that individuals did this at Christmas. At the suppression of the Catholic Church in Ireland it was dangerous to practice the faith. It could even lead to your death. The vestiges of this can still be seen. One way that this still effects the faith life of the people there is the way the mass is prayed in certain quarters. I was told that mass can be said a bit more quickly, a hold out from the days when Mass was said quickly for fear of discovery by the authorities. In one place we attended when it was time to say the Creed, the congregation seemed to finish the whole thing before we got past, “We believe . . .”

It is said that Catholic families in Ireland would light candles and place them in their windows to signal undercover priests that there they could say mass in relative safety. But if questioned, the owners of the house would remind the authorities of the Christmas story when Mary and Joseph could find no place for Jesus to be born and these candles were let to tell the Holy Family that this house was open to them. Of course it was! Jesus was really coming to that house!

As pretty as candles in a window may be, it seems to mean so much more when there is a meaning, a thought, a purpose behind them rather than just thinking it pretty. That is what can change something from merely pretty to beautiful.



This was going to be a disaster. This is not one of those businesses that you can take off for a year and then come back as if nothing happened. Credibility is not a boomerang. Once you throw it away it doesn’t come back and I’ve worked too hard on this job. There was only one person brave enough, strong enough, and smart enough to handle this problem though. It was Mrs. Clause and right to her I went.

She was in her kitchen preparing the banquet feast for the whole team for the night of the big flight in the main house. “Mrs. Clause,” I said softly, not wanting to scare her.

She turned and her face lit up. “Brutus. What a surprise! What are you doing here? It’s so kind of you to visit but if aren’t you terribly busy now?”

I sighed. “We’ve got a problem.”

A funny look came over her face as if to say, “Now what did he do?” She walked over to the table, poured some tea that had been just whistling on the stove (how does she always do that?) and said, “Sit down right here, have a sip of tea, and tell me all about it.” She always seemed to be moving slowly when I thought it was the time for rushing and quick decisions but I’ve learned to follow her lead. She always seems to be right.

At the end of my story she didn’t seem the least bit flustered. She simply tipped the pot into her cup again and said, “Oh dear, that won’t do. It is simply a matter of confused thinking. They won’t love Jesus more because Santa refused to come. In fact, they may come to be actively angry at Him if Santa uses Him as the reason to cut off all gifts. Now that would be a disaster. No, people are just sleepy. They don’t need to be punished, just wakened up. Now you just go get things ready and I’ll have a nice heart to heart with Santa.”

She got up and got and started to put a couple of mugs of coffee together and since I wasn’t dismissed, I took the opportunity, in secret I hate to say, to see what would she do. She took the cups and some cookies (fat free, low sugar, and high in fiber) and sat next to Santa who was in his recliner. (Apparently the reindeer was just fine.)

“Are you mad?” he asked.

“When have you ever known me to be mad?” she said simply.

“I’m right you know.”

“Of course you are dear.” And she let a few moments pass. “And that’s why I’ve decided to stop cooking.”

“What?” exclaimed Santa.

“You’ve been overweight far too long. It is an abuse what you do to your body and I’m afraid my cooking is part of the problem so I am following your advice and not cooking anymore until you get your waistline down.”

“That’s ridiculous. Besides I’ll just find another way to get food.”

“Oh my! Do you think so?”

“Yes. And I won’t like it. So I’ll be fat and upset. That’s not healthy either.”

“Upset like the people you refuse to bring presents to? Do you think that will force them to think of Jesus?”

A hurumph came out of Santa. “All right. Out with it.”

“You can’t force Jesus on people. Punishing people for not paying attention to Him doesn’t work, or if it does, it isn’t a long-term fix. And making great shows like kneeling down before the manger didn’t work because it wasn’t sincere. You did it merely to be seen.”

“Alright then. What can YOU suggest that I do that Brutus and his team haven’t already tried?”

“The best way to pass on the faith is to live it and live it boldly. You are in the public eye. Time for you to be a man of faith. When is the last time you got to confession?”

“Well, I . . er . . . it was . . . let’ see”

“Uh huh. And the last time you made a Holy Hour? I’ll tell you when.”

“No need.”

“Or prayed with the staff? Or used wrapping paper or sent cards with a religious theme? Or offered your communion for all those who are spiritually lost at Christmas? Or blessed the tree and presents without being prompted? Or offered a prayer of thanks for our gifts . . .”

“God knows I’m thankful.”

“Or invited the good father over to bless the house. I do it, yes. But when did you initiate it?”

“Well. That always seemed your job.”

“The only sure way, the only lasting way to get people to pay better attention to Jesus at Christmas is for individuals to start doing so themselves and it always starts with an individual “you”. It is a slow process but the only one that works long-term. Now, I’ve called Father over at St. Nicolaus and he’s said to come right over, he’ll hear you confession. Make a Holy Hour praying for all those to whom you will be delivering presents, especially those who will be getting lumps of coal. Then come back here. We will pray with all of our friends and have a fine meal before you take off. Now go. I’ve got too much work to do and you’ve already taken up too much of my time. Go! GO!”

And Santa did. He came back. We prayed, we ate, and he left on his yearly journey. Nothing looked too much different that year, but in a sense it was. There seemed to be just a little more purpose to the season, a little more focus. Who knows? Maybe it was the start of something big.

Thursday, December 20, 2007



The other thing (I can’t believe this) is the concern over his, “Ho! Ho! Ho!” Interestingly enough according to our recent poll a significant group of people find this offensive. This is serious. It is his trademark saying. My personal recommendation is that we weather the storm for now. I got a feeling that if we change too soon, the storm will blow over, people will say that we were nuts for caving and demand it back. By that time he will have developed a new trademark and it would be hard for him to go back. He is not a big fan of change.

The big concern that my office is handling right now is trying to help people remember that this season is really about the birth of Christ. Santa is all upset that he as gift giver is upstaging the Giver of Life, Savior of the Universe. Changing this is not as easy as you might think. It was my idea a few years ago to have Santa publicly kneel down before the manger and worship Christ to show the proper order of things. It worked for about ten minutes and then it spread like cheap margarine and soon there were depictions of this everywhere like those “witches flying into a telephone pole” things at All Hollow’s Eve. Soon people even had “Santa’s” walking into mass – INTO MASS – to reenact the moment. Think THAT kept people’s attention on Jesus . . . ?

Anyway, we had a meeting about a month ago right here in this office around this old knotty table. It is about as old as the factory itself, but I love this table. It is worn smooth and wavy from heavy use over the years. It has thick, ornately carved legs in the shape of polar bear paws. It was on this table that the Christmas concordant was signed between the Vatican and Santa giving Santa the right in certain countries to deliver Christmas cheer to people on Christ mass day. If you look closely beneath the polar bear paws there is a ball and on each one is a symbol of Christ representing the foundation upon which all of this is built. Pretty cool huh? Helps me keep things in perspective.

Plus it’s short.

Santa sat at the far end in his throne like chair. He rested his chin on his fist with his elbow on knee since the table was too short for him and messaged his forehead with his other hand. All of us in the public relations department sat around the other sides of the table with me at the far end.

“What are we going to do?” he asked in a pained voice. “It is getting to the point where I completely outshine Jesus. This is so far outside the concordant that I fear bad things ahead.”

“I have an idea,” said Pinky and everyone growled. He’s a great one for ideas. It was his thought to do the, “Put the CHRIST back in CHRISTmas” campaign. That (and a couple of other marketing goofs) has led to the all but banned use of even the WORD Christmas by most people in the United States. Needless to say he remained quiet.

Several other people suggested a few things but they were all thrown out as causing more problems than they solved.

That is when Santa leaned down and pounded a fist on the table and made a grand pronouncement. I remember thinking that the mark the ring on his finger made on the tabletop would stand forever as a memorial to this moment when this decision was made. “If we can’t get people to stop paying more attention to us than to Christ, then we will stop! We will not deliver any more presents; I won’t make any more appearances! Let it be known from this moment on that I will not longer be a distraction from Christmas!”

Of course we all started chattering. “You can’t do that!” was the crux of most of the comments, not the least reason being that then we would all be out of a job. Can you see our applications? “Previous job experience: Elf: (or worker of undisclosed height) North Pole.” Besides most of the jobs are moving toward the warmer climates, not easy to get used to when you’ve spent most of your life in the coldest.

“Stop!” Santa bellowed. “No more discussion. Now I’ve got a sick reindeer to check up on. You,” he pointed at me, “figure out how to handle this.”

Tuesday, December 18, 2007


HEY - I need a break leading up to Christmas. Enjoy.


Yes, my name is Brutus and I am one of Santa’s (*sigh*) employees whose height status shall not be mentioned lest it bring offense to someone. Good Lord, I’ve been an elf-ay for what seems like a hundred years and I’m not even allowed to say the word on company property anymore. What I would really appreciate is no jokes about my name. It’s bad enough having to wear a work uniform that hasn’t been updated since the turn of the LAST century. I feel for the Swiss Guard.

I am the Public Relations manager. I keep Santa relevant and on the scene. Let me tell you it aint as easy as you might think. Now I’m good, really good, but it aint easy. Having Coke go back to its original recipe? Me. McDonald’s go healthy? Me. (Actually I did those on the side. The boss found out and warned me against freelancing. It’s good here I have no desire to relocate so I gave up on the corporate world.)

We make all of Santa’s important public relations decisions right here in this office. When it was discovered that smoking was bad for you and the world was trying to quit smoking, I got the jolly guy to stop smoking his pipe. (Not a very jolly year I’ll tell you.) Actually I felt sorry for the guy. When things got a little tense he could always go outside and get away for a few minutes with the excuse, “I gotta smoke.” Now he has to, “Check on a sick reindeer.” Let that be our secret.

I book him for all of his appearances all over the world. There are a few places here and there that will see him outside of the busy season but by and large, it’s the advent season that everyone wants to see him. Four weeks, 5 million appearances. Not easy. But I do it.

Nothing is left to chance. The reason we still have our same uniform is that we are constantly remaking the Santa’s to keep up with the ever-changing public opinion of what is acceptable. We went from all natural fibers and furs to polyester (a disaster in my book but then again I didn’t have to wear it) back to all natural fibers until fur became unforgivable to be seen in. Now there are new fibers out that are breathable and take moisture away but “locks heat in” that doesn’t involve the killing of just about anything. But I am sure at some point these too will be unacceptable. Of course, we will always have the polyester suit to fall back on should anything happen. That suit, I believe, may be ugly, but will be around until the end of the world.

There are two significant things on the board right now. One is the big guy’s weight. “We do not want to be promoting an unhealthy lifestyle in this health crazed conscience age,” I told him as I poked my finger into his “bowl full of jelly.” I suggested he eat the carrots kids leave for the reindeer and leave the cookies alone. I got him a treadmill for his Christmas present. We’ll see how that goes. Of course this means redesigning his uniform again.
To be continued . . .

Monday, December 17, 2007


FINDING TRUTH WHERE IT MAY BE FOUND – “We must go to the heart of that which is unacceptable, precisely because it is thus that we are constrained to make our choice. The suffering of children were our bread and affliction, but without this bread our souls would die of spiritual hunger.” (Fr. Paneloux in Swimming with Scapulars)

QUOTE II – “How can you say you love me and still objectify my sisters? How can you say you love me when your actions reveal you don't value the gift of femininity? How can you say you love me when your actions reveal that you don't know what love is?” – Adoro Te Devote

L.M. and Sparky sent this news item in (though for some reason I can't get Sparky's link to work). "The Vatican Congregation for the Clergy is looking for people willing to offer Eucharistic adoration for the priesthood and "consecrated feminine souls" ready to become spiritual mothers of priests." L.M. also sent this in for additional reading.
In a similar vein here is a new blog entitled, "A Tribute to Our Priests" by Easter. You might want to give it a little visit.

The Diocese of Cleveland E Newsletter asks, "Did you know Cleveland's TV station FOX8 and the Communications Department of the Diocese of Cleveland produce a weekly Sunday "TV Mass" for the homebound Catholic faith community in Northeast Ohio?Also, FOX8 will broadcast a special Christmas Day liturgy on Tuesday, December 25 at a special time, beginning at 6:00 a.m. and concluding by 6:30 a.m." Here is the web page for the Diocese of Cleveland T.V. mass.

L.M. (she was busy this week!) sent in this fun Christmas Quiz. (She also beat me by a mile!)

Sunday, December 16, 2007


As long time readers of Adam’s Ale know, I like to spend some time in prayer and reflection hanging out in the old choir loft (no longer in use) and bell tower here at the Church of Saint Clare. Sitting there and reading I came across a paragraph in Scott Hahn’s book, “A Father Who Keeps His Promises” that led my thoughts racing though a series of connections that I want to share particularly with certain dads.

Here is the paragraph: “After forty long years (in the desert), the first generation had died off, except for Moses and the two courageous spies, Joshua and Caleb. During this time, the second generation was being taught by their Levitical tutors and hopefully rehabilitated from the sinful ways of their parents. But patterns of bad behavior die hard, especially when they’re transmitted from parent to child . . .”

This is the meaning of, “The sins of the father are visited upon his children”. God is not going to punish innocent children for the sins that their parents committed. Just because my father may have cheated at cards does not mean that God is going to punish me for it. Rather the sins that the father (or parent) commits is setting up a pattern of living for his son – for his children. It is a cycle that is difficult to break and requires fathers, in this particular instance, to be incredibly strong and unselfish.

It is astonishing how many men say that their problem with pornography began with the unknowing example of their fathers. Men in their later years tormented that they have this problem that is so hard for them to kick (is that freedom America?) said it all began by finding their father’s (brother’s, uncle’s, neighbor’s dad’s) stash of porn magazines and how they’ve been haunted by it ever since.

Children are inquisitive and snoopy. They aren’t evil. It is what they do. And they find these things and the sins of their fathers haunt them their whole lives as it becomes their sins. I can only imagine what our kids, who are so much more savvy than parents on the computer, can find when snooping about on the home computer that adults think hidden.

Society tells us that it isn’t so bad. It is natural. Kids will get over it. Society does not sit in a confessional. It can be heart wrenching.

Dads with porn: Throw it all out. Today. Get rid of it. Clean it off your computer and make sure that there are controls on your computer never to let it back on again. Don’t let anything of the sort into your house under your Okay. Your sons are counting on you.

Saturday, December 15, 2007


This weeks Sunday Video was so stolen from Uncle Jim over at A Second Chance, but I did like it so. (3:38)


Jay announces that Catholic Carnival 150 is up and running over at A Third Way.

REW sends news of a new Vatican Web Site to help people in their reading of Scripture. Thanks! This program offers Sacred Scripture, its interpretation in light of Sacred Tradition and the teachings of the Magisterium, with appropriate theological commentary and exegesis.

Just for fun, if you are in the mood, vote in the new poll to the right.

You may remember that Lillian Marie sent us the links to two communities she was discerning. Well, the Trinitarian Sisters have updated their site. Here it is. Thanks LM!

THE REST OF THE STORY: Those of you who read the Cleveland Plain Dealer read on Saturday that the Eastside Catholic Center and Shelter will be closing. The article was very articulate in explaining that it was due to billing errors, mismanagement, and lack of funding. What it makes absolutely no effort to mention, however, is that this organization is not directly affiliated with the diocese. The offer was made by our Catholic Charities to take them under their wing, but for some reason, maybe a very good one, they declined. In any event, there was no effort to let the public know that the poor administration had nothing to do with the diocese. *ahem*

Friday, December 14, 2007


To tell the truth, I had intended to move on to something quite different in this series, but it did not seem appropriate for this time of year. So I thought I would share (at least one - there are more) origin of the Christmas tree borrowed heavily from the Catholic Source Book by the Rev. Peter Klein.

When I was in the seminary we used to try to re-create (somewhat) the Medieval mystery plays with varying success until some wayward turns had them banished for the past decade. (Please don’t ask.) If you know anything about these plays you might know that to represent the tree of good and evil in the Garden of Evil with apples hanging on it.

At some point much later in history the Germans brought back the tradition of the tree and modified the decorations by adding sacramental wafers along with the apples, “relating the eating that brought death with the eating that brings life.” I tried this one year on the tree in the rectory at my last assignment but too many people found the unconsecrated altar breads used in such a fashion scandalous so I never did it again. Of course I did lots of things one should never do in decorating a tree. I once used microwave buttered popcorn to string and decorate the tree. BIG mistake rancid butter is.

Anyway, the decorations evolved over time. Perhaps oranges were added to the apples, then colored balls, and perhaps the altar breads were replaced by breads in the shape of stars and angles and what not.

In Victorian times many trees took on the entire story of salvation history. There is one such tree that is (or at least was – I’ve not been there for a spell) put up in Cleveland at the Western Reserve Historical Society that had this theme, from the Guiding Star at the top to the devil being kicked off the tree at the bottom.


Over a coffee a priest was enumerating his points of disappointment with our new bishop. I was rather blown away for he was quite vitriolic. When he was done I said, “Wow, I rather like our bishop.” He surprised me even further by saying, “Yea, I do too.”

It seems in general man likes to grumble a lot. It’s the old, “You missed a spot” syndrome. It is glossed over that 99.9% of something is great but that one spot sticks out and ruins everything. That’s what news broadcasts are based on. We don’t hear about the hundreds of thousands of kids who went to school today with their homework done, who behaved, and got an A on the spelling test. We hear about the one kid who shot his teacher.

Fr. Crawford who made it a practice to be rather cynical and dry long before his time gave this advice before ordination, “Ten percent of the people will love you no matter what you do. Ten percent of the people will hate you no matter what you do. And the other eighty percent wouldn’t know the difference if there were a trained baboon doing your job.” Though some people will be supportive no matter what, some people will look for the crack in the damn no matter what.

I once had a spiritual director, an Opus Dei priest, who said after I had grumbled about my bishop, “Never speak ill of your bishop.” He was absolute. I don’t know if I am that absolute. Some bishops need to be spoken ill of at least in certain situations. But the vast majority of the Church’s grumbling is simply counter productive. Are we not family? Should we not be as “functional” as possible?

The thing is, the grumbling can bring a community down. The constant tearing down of a pastor, a bishop, or even a pope can only damage us. Look what happened to Saint John of the Cross (notice the saint part) whose community grumbled against him and treated him most sorely. A room full of people each stating one thing that they don’t like about someone up on the chain can leave the whole room with the impression that everyone is in agreement that they do not like him. All of a sudden a bad humor spreads and bad humors are generally hard to put out.

My pastor, my bishop, and yes, even my pope has from time to time done things of which I do not approve. But so what? He has to do something. He simply did not choose my way. Does that make him a bad leader? No. It made him different from me. Is what he did evil? No. Is what he did eternally damaging to the soul? No. So I give the poor guy a break and hope that some day when I am a pastor, the person I displease because a decision had to be made and I did not make it in this person’s favor will cut me a break too.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007


In a store a man stopped me and asked, “Are you a Catholic priest?” I had my blacks on but had pulled out my tab collar. After receiving an affirmation he said, “I thought so,” and then launched in on vicious attack, most of which was unfounded, against the Catholic Church. Don’t think I was hurt or offended, I relish in such things.

His biggest complaint was the wealth of the Vatican. It was the reason he left the Church so long ago. Why this particular point should be the linchpin for his leaving I can’t figure out (I would think some perceived false teaching would be a much better reason, but that is just me).

He was convinced that if the Vatican would sell off everything that it had, that there would be an end to poverty in the world. But the Catholic Church was there simply to suck up money from the rest of the world so that it (I suppose the lucky few that “get to” live in the Vatican) can live in luxury.

So let us suppose for a moment that the Vatican were to sell all that it had. To what end? Suppose every one who was poor in the world got $1,000 and a meal. Then what? Would the institutions and practices of the world have changed? Would the causes of poverty be wiped out? What of future generations who now also no longer have their patrimony as Catholics available to them?

And is not part of the “mission statement” if you will of the Catholic Church to be an influence on culture? What is to be gained by destroying some of the greatest collections of art and knowledge in the world? At the Vatican these pieces belong to all the nations.

There is the mindset too that the poor need a meal and a place to sleep and we have done our job. Not so. This is crass. This pays not attention to the dignity and complexity of the human person. The poor need beauty too. A sensual being needs to be fed more than in his stomach to be truly fed. Besides, to make this statement is to miss the fact that the Catholic Church is of the greatest contributors to those in need in the world already.

Perhaps I lack the eloquence to state the argument convincingly, but Professor Thomas F. X. Noble of Notre Dame does give some insight in his Popes and the Papacy course from the Teaching Company:

“Let’s do say the Vatican is not rich. There is this notion that the Vatican is rich. Well, the Vatican bank controls three and a half billion in assets but none of that belongs to the Vatican it belongs to the depositors. We could say, ‘Oh, they have all that stuff.’ Fair enough. Are they going to sell St. Peter’s? Are they going to sell Michael Angelo’s pieta? Are they going to sell the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel? How could one put a value on any of these things?

“It may amuse you to know that each of those things is on the Vatican books with the nominal value of one Euro. For what would the price be?”


How many little party favors and trinkets do you collect especially around the holidays? They may even be nice but the thought might spring to mind, “Where am I going to put this?”

It was not too long ago that I had this thought. The party favor was not all that bad, but as priests we have rather limited quarters and it was going to be one more thing for which I would need to find a spot. Besides, there was a much nicer one in a box in the trunk room that would be brought out for Christmas.

For some reason it was at that moment that I was yanked back into my childhood and saw the favor with young eyes. As I ran my fingers over it I thought how much I would love having one of these as my very own, not having anything like it. As tawdry as I may think it now, it would have been incredibly special to me at one time. I thought of all those with next to nothing for whom this would be quite a treasure, deeply appreciated and cared for over the years, this thing that I at first thought to throw out.

A vision of all the things that I own then came to mind along with the realization that there are many people who would look at these objects as cheap and worthy only of the trash can. Then a vision occurred in which the best of the best were mine, the finest living space, the best cars, clothes, you name it. But in the end it would be the wrong stuff. In fact, it would only be more stuff. None of it would be missed on the journey to heaven (if one indeed were going to heaven.) The finest the world has to offer will be dust and ashes, something to brush off of yourself as you reach for the only thing of value, the only food in the universe, the only thing worth having.

Which in the end made my trinket both the most valuable object in the world (for you are the richest person if you are satisfied with what you have) and absolutely worthless (if your heart is set on heaven.)

Tuesday, December 11, 2007


FINDING TRUTH WHEREVER IT MAY BE FOUND: "Under all our grumblings there is a subconscious substance of gratitude." G. K. Chesterton

QUOTE II - "If a woman can polka for an evening, she can stand up to years of marriage." Garrison Keeler.


I just thought that I would share with you another blog that I am starting with my sisters that might be of interest a few of you. In trying to organize Dad's estate a little bit we came across many things he has held on to since his days in WWII. He spoke of this time in his life only rarely and so what we are discovering here in letters, pictures, drawings, and other what nots are opening new insights for us. Unfortunately the people pictured or referred to in the letters are largely unknown to us and we agonized as to what to do with it all. We came up with the idea of posting it as we struggle to put it in order to see if people might find it interesting and perhaps educational, and who knows, maybe someone referred to might still be around.

The posts will not come nearly as often as they do on Adam's Ale; maybe once a week. And they are progressive and not timely so if you find interest in it, I recommend that you start with page one and work your way forward. And so, if you have an interest in WWII, you are cordially invited to USS PRIDE DE 323; Pages from a Scrapbook.

Sunday, December 9, 2007


Saturday night I was driving in an unfamiliar part of town with all of the priests from this parish. The road we would normally be taking was closed because of a water main break and we were circling around trying to get back to the parish. As we approached a main intersection a police car was coming straight at us flashing its lights and blaring its sirens. It blocked the street off across from us, which was fine because we were turning anyway. With the prodding from the other priests to, “Just go ahead,” we continued on only to be honked at by the police car.

The reason became somewhat apparent as soon as we turned the corner. There were police cars all over the place and the road was shut down. A normally busy road, it was empty of all cars as though we had stumbled onto a parade route, except that it was dark and there was no parade.

There was not a lot of time to decide between pulling over or finding a quick way off the street as just then a pickup truck came careening around the corner in a dangerous manner followed by police car after police car. One of the other priests mentioned after that they didn’t know the city had so many police cars.

Before I could register what was going on the pastor said, “We’re in the middle of a car chase!” It was actually quite thrilling although Sunday there was a big fat NOTHING about it in the newspaper.

How easily it would have been for the truck veering around that corner with its tires squealing to lose control. Had the street been wet or had the truck had bald tires or if he had simply been going more quickly we could have ended up on “Worlds Greatest Car Chase Crashes,” as we would have been right on his flight plan. Perhaps guardian angels were working over time. With the diocese facing a priest shortage as it is, this would have been a headache Sunday morning for somebody as we are taking care of not only the mass schedule here, but also helping out at a neighboring parish and a local convent. Thank you guardian angels.

I am not at all kidding when I say I put full stock in the idea of Guardian Angels. I’ve been pulled out of too many scraps (like pulling into the middle of a car chase) to not have caught a glimpse of a wing or halo here or there.

Here’s just one more story (are you reading M.O.?) I never claimed to be particularly bright and the following story may confirm that notion in your mind. One fall night out at the farm a few of us priests had gathered for a bon-fire. Late into the night there were only two of us left with a sizable fire still roaring when - DO NOT TRY THIS – the other priest said, “Ya know, when I was in the Boy Scouts, we used to put a bottle of water in the fire and it would squirt like a geyser.” I will spare you most of the details, suffice to say a) it didn’t work, and b) we progressed to the point of putting a bottle in the fire with the lid on. It started making funny noises (and not “ha ha” funny either) and one of us had the place of mind to say, “I think we should go stand behind the tree,” which we did.

We stood there for a few minutes while the “not ha ha” funny noise continued and I finally said, “I’m just going to go over there and knock the bottle out of the fire.” Right then there was an explosion. Not a nice, tiny, polite explosion, but the kind that brings people out because they think there has been a terrorist attack. The fire was blown out, large logs were flung out from the epicenter, and there was a little crater where the bottle had been. There was a beautiful aspect to it. All around for quite a large circumference there were tiny red coals that seemed to mimic the stars in the clear night sky. We felt like giants walking amid galaxies.

We started to laugh uncontrollably. That is, until we realized we could have died and gave up a prayer of thanks to our guardian angels for leaving us completely unscathed and much wiser.

Don’t forget that your guardian angel is there and ready to help you, and equally so, to remember to say thanks now and then. And be honest – you have a guardian angel story too don’t you . . .