Saturday, June 30, 2007


Thanks to Lilly, I won't have to search high and low for interesting videos for you anymore. Catholic Tube collects them all! Here are two example from this week. This first one might be of interest to those who have been following "Symbolic Saturday"s.

Thanks Lilly!


Jim sent this link to a cool Tic Tac Toe game.

The Diocese of Cleveland E-Newsletter wants you to know about the Catholic Health Association of the United States. It exists to support and strengthen the Catholic health ministry in the U.S., seeking to achieve a vision that is inspired by Biblical justice and informed by the church's social tradition.

Sylvana sent this interesting story about a new television show coming up about priests. I pray it isn't one of those, "If it seems too good to be true" senarios.


Size does matter, as does orientation. Take for example Michael Angelo’s David. Notice the size of his hands; they are all together out of proportion to the rest of the statue. This is not an accident or due to lack of talent, but a point is being made, a tie in to his story. The artists wanted you to notice his hands.

If the artist knows what he is doing he will often distort perspective in order to make specific statements. You may have noticed in century’s old paintings an almost complete disregard for perspective. Sometimes this is intentional. Important people in the picture are presented much larger than others who, if this were a snapshot, should have been the exact same size. But the representations are manipulated to make a point about who is most important in the group.

Center and height denote importance and precedence also. Right tends to be better than left. Our word sinister comes from the Latin word for left, sinistir. Jesus sits at the right hand of the Father. The goats are placed on his left and the sheep on his right.

You can see this played out somewhat in the rear wall of the Sistine Chapel. Heaven is higher, hell is lower, Christ is located in the upper center. When we come to understand this it is of little wonder that so many people became upset (and still are) when the tabernacle is moved from the high, center spot of the large main alter to a side spot. We are messing with the symbolic system and few parishes did it well making inadvertent statements about the Eucharist.

Direction is also very important. (Remember that this symbolic language was developed in Europe so symbolically some of this might not make sense if you live south of the equator.) You don’t put your plants in a north window because we get the least amount of light from the north. It is the direction of cold and night. That is also the direction in which the barbarians lived earlier in the history of the Church.

South is the seat of light and warmth. That is where (for us in the northern hemisphere) where the equator is.

East is where the sun rises, the Son of the universe. It is holy.

West is the seat of darkness, the abode of demons and California. (I realize this is only funny for those living in the east. Sorry.) (Really.)

So Churches before Vatican II were often built facing east. If they were not, they were built facing what was deemed “liturgical east”. For the mass everyone, including the priest, faced east or the Son. The liturgy faced God, uniting them as a people before their God, the priest acting much the same fashion of Moses leading the people through the desert.

The New Testament Epistle was read from the south side of the altar bringing us the light and warmth of the Scriptures. The Gospel was read from the north side of the altar, symbolic of our desire to convert the barbarians.

The rear of the Church faces west, the furthest point away from the Son. The rose window in this wall let the last light of the day shine on the Gospel on the altar, bringing light to those who sit in darkness.

Most interesting however was that axis of many large ancient Churches fell upon the exact line upon which the sun travels on the feast day of the parish. By a clever method, two points would be established on the ground marking exactly where the sun rose and set on the day of the feast after the which the Church would be named. The center of the Church was then placed along this east/west line. So technically, if the name of a parish would ever be forgot, if one could figure out the day on which the sun traveled the spine of the roof, match that day to the Church calendar, the patron of the parish could be discovered.

Friday, June 29, 2007


N.B.The following post mentions topics that sensitive readers might find objectionable.

Ask any golfer (or at least golfers as poor at the sport as I am) what will happen if, when they are getting ready to swing at the ball, they think to themselves, “Don’t hit that tree. Don’t hit that tree.” Unable to hit the tree intentionally on their next twenty swings, that one time they will hit it square in the center.

A spiritual director of mine once said this is due to the body’s inability to hear the word, “Don’t”. In effect, what was being said to the body was, “Hit that tree. Hit that tree.”

Many people try to overcome masturbation in much the same way. Christopher West calls it, “White Knuckling It”. We, especially men, grit out teeth, tense out muscles, and say, “I’m not going to do it. I’m not going to do it.” Anybody who works my side of the confessional screen will tell you that this method does not seem to work well. First of all, the mere fact that you are repeating this line keeps the thought alive, and secondly the body is only perceiving the positive, “I’m * going to do it. I’m * going to do it.”

So let’s say that you visit this sin often and want to stop. The first step is to stop punishing yourself too harshly about it. Be clear, I am not saying that it is not sinful, ripe for regular confession or that we shouldn’t strive to stop it, but that overly punishing yourself will only dig you deeper into it. Because why do people masturbate in the first place? Usually to feel better, to escape, or to relieve tension. What happens when you punish yourself too severely? You feel guilty, shameful, and full of tension. Well, what can you do to relieve these feelings? Ah! The horrible cycle builds on itself. So, take it to confession, keep working to eradicate this cycle from your life, but don’t over react to it – don’t give it too much power over you.

Next, don’t try to quit under your own power. Start trusting God to help you. Give the problem over to Him. Be humble. Ask for His saving help. Admit your weakness and need for assistance. Learn to rely on Him.

A priest once told us boys when we were growing up to run laps or do push ups to help overcome the urge. Well, that works as far as the adage “Idle hands are the Devil’s workshop,” but every little bit helps. And it helps to avoid being hungry, angry, lonely, or tired. But sometimes all these are out of our control.

It helps to treat your body like a temple of the Holy Spirit, treating yourself with respect and adorning your body with modesty. It helps to train yourself to start looking at others as human beings worthy of respect rather than sex objects (including those found in advertisements, television, and movies). That also means being careful what you watch and read also. Don’t place yourself in a near occasion of sin. If you know your weaknesses, avoid putting yourself in a situation that will exploit them as far as possible.

Other acts of self-denial help us learn the discipline needed to be chaste. It also helps to have a regular confessor, spiritual director, as well as a trusted friend so that the two (or more) of you can keep each other challenged and accountable to chastity. Deep prayer, perhaps holy hours, and use of the Sacraments are of course essential.

Saint Augustine once said, “The worse thing about sin is that the body remembers.” Some people have indulged in this sin for many years and the solution to getting out of it does not most usually happen overnight. One has to change his perception of humanity and sexuality. New thinking patterns during idle times or times of stress need to develop. And the start of the process can be painful. It takes time for the wound to heal and to gain your strength.

Why does the Church care about this topic anyway? Because it wants you to enjoy your God given freedom. If you know someone struggling with this issue you know that it is a destroyer of freedom. Like many vices, it is not something that a person chooses freely to do or not to do but feels a compulsion. That is not freedom. And when one is not completely free, that person cannot give him or herself completely to another. Nor can they find complete happiness because as with many such vices, it ultimately fails to satisfy. Our faith wishes to restore us to true freedom, joy, and honest fulfillment. It may be a hard battle to win, but the fight is well worth the effort!


I almost did not post yesterday’s quiz but I am sure glad I did. You guys had me laughing all day! C.O. I think had the best answers but Bob got it right. (I really thought it would be easy!)

The answers to yesterday’s picture quiz: These are different kinds of tans that are traditionally named after various jobs.

Upper left: Priest tan.
Upper right: Trucker tan.
Middle: Farmer’s tan.
Lower left: Man pretending to a nun in full habit.
Lower right: Lifeguard

Thanks for the laughs one and all.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007


Of what are these graphs?



Time was when kids wanted to get a baseball game together the problem was finding enough mitts or getting the guy with the good equipment to play. Now if kids think about getting together to play baseball the questions are, “Who will we get to coach? Who will sponsor us? What kind of uniforms will we have? Where do you want to go out for ice-cream afterwards?” No wonder kids would rather play a pickup game on their computers.

Like wondering why kids no longer use ball fields we priests sit around and wonder why not as many people are using the Church to get married. There are many reasons not the least of which is the loss of a willingness to commit. But it has been suggested that some don’t want to get married because of the whole fuss, pomp, and circumstance it is perceived that one must go through in order to get married in the Church. “With this ($5,000.00) ring (and the help of 43 paid professionals) I thee wed (at this multi-million dollar affair).” No wonder couples would rather simulate marriage or just go to the justice of the peace.

“We just want to get married,” some couples say and this past month I have had three separate incidences of couples being relieved and joyful when it has been explained that they can be married in the Church with just two witnesses and a 15 minute ceremony costing next to nothing. No organists and singer, no dresses to buy, no tux rentals, no cast of thousands, no flower arrangements, no invitations or worship aids, no limousines or rice, no rehearsals or liturgy planning meetings, just a few short, relatively painless meetings with me, a Precana Day for those for whom it is appropriate, and a date when the Church and I are both available.


If you are going to marry a non-Catholic in a non-Catholic ceremony, IT IS OKAY! But you must let your parish know. Most likely they will make sure that you are receiving some kind of wedding preparation and then have you sign a dispensation form. This basically allows you to marry whomever wherever you wish if you are both free to marry.

If you do not do this, your marriage will not be recognized in the Church. This may not seem like a big thing until your little brother asks you to be his sponsor, or your asked to be a God-Father to your niece or some such thing. At that point, your marriage will have to be reconciled with the Church. That means exchanging vows before a priest in a small ceremony. Avoid that fuss. Go sign the paper.

Your partner does not have to become Catholic to be married in the Catholic Church. The Catholic party does have to sign a dispensation form however which states that he plans on practicing his faith in the Catholic Church (they are not just using the Catholic Church because it has a longer aisle or prettier altar) and that he will do what he can to instill the faith in his children.

You do not have to have a mass. In fact, if your partner is not Catholic (and the rest of your partner's family is also not Catholic) it might be most wise not to have a mass.

If you are already married to your partner, you can still have your marriage recognized in the Church if you were both free to marry otherwise. Please contact your parish for further details.

Monday, June 25, 2007


Does viewing movies cause violent tendencies in those who watch them? I can answer this from personal experience and my answer is unreservedly yes.

I was working at the West Theatre (owned and operated by the Slovenian Community since 1942) when “E.T.” came to town. The West was an old time single screen theater and everything from collecting tickets to selling popcorn took place in that one auditorium. My job as assistant manager (which meant I was paid 25 cents more than everyone else) was to watch the movie and make sure the it remained clear and the sound was good, and to see to it that nobody was smoking or talking, and that, in general, everything ran smoothly, which it did most of the time, which made the job after seeing any movie two or three screening incredibly boring.

Well “E.T.” was so popular it ran for two weeks, which meant at least two screening every single day of the week and three on the weekend. Mercifully that little extra terrestrial left. But he came back again for three more weeks. This is where I can testify that movies cause violence. By the end of the run I was wishing that just once that ugly little thing would die a slow horrible death at the end of the movie.

All joking aside the issue of how we portray life in the movies, sexuality, about what it important and what makes us happy, and the amount a violence we see has an effect on our lives. It is like Scriptures that call us to task when we blame God when everything goes wrong in our lives and take all the credit when thing go right. Karen Hershenson brought this notion up in her book, “Hollywood vs America”. Here is an excerpt from an old article on the book;

The book exposes what Medved contends are Hollywood’s "three big lies" — that movies and TV don’t influence, they just entertain; that they merely reflect what’s going on in society; and that producers are just being good business people."What has happened in Hollywood," he says, "is the lunatics have taken over the asylum."

"Medved recalls talking recently to a top studio executive who claimed "Lethal Weapon 3" — last year’s action blockbuster — "saved thousands of lives" with a four-second close-up of stars Danny Glover and Mel Gibson fastening their seatbelts. Never mind the exploding office buildings and 150-mph car

It's one way or the other guys. You can't have it one way when you are blowing up people and another when you are putting on seatbelts. Either art influences or it does not. I happen to believe that art - even bad movies - has a great impact on our lives.

This whole notion came up the other day with a man whom I have a great deal of respect and he shared his observations.
A few weeks ago, yet another all-too-familiar tragedy played itself out in the news. A young woman, eighteen years old and only recently graduated from high school was abducted from the parking lot of a shipping center in suburban Kansas City. Her body was found a few days later in a secluded area outside of town. She had been strangled, and a local man is in custody for the crime. No connection has been established between suspect and victim at this writing, and this appears to be yet another random tragedy.

“On the increasing-ominous web site My Space, the young man’s “profile” contained a number is disturbing entries including his desire to torture and kill. According to one article in the days following his arrest, a connection was made between the crime committed and a similar crime depicted in a movie.

“The charge that movies incite, or at least inspire – behavior is not new. It’s also pretty hard to debate on an empirical level. How many violent acts can be attributed to an urban gang film? I’m not sure; how many people suddenly went out to feed the birds after watching “Mary Poppins”?

“But consider this detail, which I have not seen in any article relating to this crime. The victim was employed at a movie theater. It is conceivable, as I allow my undisciplined imagination free reign, that this was not such a random action after all. Did the victim, on some occasion, meet the suspect perhaps serve him his popcorn or tell him to, “Enjoy the show?” Was she, in fact, targeted as an indirect result of her job?

“On a larger scale, what culpability does the movie industry – indeed this entire culture – share in this sad sequence of events? As our senses are assaulted and our nerves dulled by depictions of violence, do we even shake our heads and cluck our tongues anymore as we switch from CNN to HBO?

“Movies such as the “Saw” and “Hostel” franchise depict unspeakable acts of depravity committed in the name of entertainment. The egregiously flawed rating system in use by the movie industry restricts admission solely on the basis of age. While there can be no practical way to assess mental stability, the notion that “Saw” or Hostel is truly intended for “mature audiences” is ludicrous. No mature and reasonable individual would patronize such films.

“The week after the girl in Kansas City was killed, “Hostel 2” opened in theaters across the country. Hundreds of refreshments stand and box office clerks waited on thousands of complete strangers who paid to see brutality and carnage enacted on the screen. We can only imagine what twisted fantasies were indulged there in the darkness. Who knows what unspeakable plans were made on the way out the doors?”


FINDING TRUTH WHEREVER IT MAY BE FOUND: “Shame, I do believe, is the most powerful emotion known to man; most discoveries and journeys of importance have been accomplished because of the ignominy that would be the result if the attempt were abandoned.” – from “An Instance of Fingerpost”

QUOTE II – “It may be love, it may be an anxiety attack. At the moment it’s hard to deduce.” – from Kattie Schneider’s, “We All Know Love”


Jeffery Smith over at The Roving Medievalist (who seems to be having a crisis at the moment, please keep him in your prayers) has this must read link on the abuse of minors.

Earlier this year when Cleveland was graced to have Dawn Eden visit, we happened into a used bookstore in one of Cleveland’s trendier neighborhoods. While there I picked up a 1936 copy of “Kristin Lavransdatter” by Sigrid Undset and am now using for my summer reading. If you are looking for something Catholic to read, I recommend it to you (even though I am only half way through the trilogy.) In it are real characters dealing with relevant issues of faith and sin and redemption sprinkled here in there with little gems of wisdom.

A priest talking about parents not allowing (or forcing) their children to go into religious orders says, “’Tis thus that parents deal with their children now. To God they give the daughters who are lame or purblind or ugly, or blemished or they let Him have back the children they deem Him to have given them more than they need. And then they wonder that all who dwell in the cloisters are not holy men and maids-”

The priests in the story are neither too holy to believe or dastardly underlords of vice. They are men struggling for holiness though one priest it dealt with thusly, “Have you never heard how it fares with the false and unruly priests who hatch out devices against their spiritual fathers and those in authority. Wot you not of the time when the angels took St. Thomas of Canterbury to the door of hell and let him peep in? How he wondered much that he saw none of the priests who had set themselves up against him, as you have set yourself against your bishop. He was about to praise God’s mercy, for the holy man begrudged not salvation to all sinners – but at that the angel bade the devil lift his tail a little, and out there came, with a great bang and a foul smell of sulphur, all the priest and learned men who had wrought against the good of the Church. Thus did he come to know whither they had gone.”

The heroin of the story is not presented in an overtly virtuous way, but rather she is a sinner in need of healing. Without giving away too much, her first recorded misdeed is only signified by three dots. We know perfectly well what happened without the lurid detail of modern novels that become quite graphic in describing what body part is coming in contact with another’s body part. (All this tab A and slot B bologna is too much for me.) Pages of such graphic detail are captured in this sentence, “She sank back upon the hay . . . .”

As she searches for God’s mercy and healing she is told, “’Kristin,’ said the priest sternly, ‘dare you think in your wicked pride that this sin of yours can be so great that God’s loving kindness is not greater?’”

So you get the drift. If you are in need of summer reading that is good and won’t be an attack on your faith, I recommend, “Kristin Lavransdatter”.


There are a few sins that people regularly confess that always give me pause. One common one is this, “I prejudge people before I get to know them,” as opposed I suppose to prejudging people after you get to know them. Or just plain judging them before you know them. Or judging a person after you know them. Ah, none-the-less I get what they mean. And it’s a good thing to confess.

I fell victim to being prejudged twice in the same day just a short while ago. This is in addition to the usual batch of suppositions and assumptions people make of a guy simply because he is wearing a Roman Collar. The first was when I was trying to exit the parking lot at the hospital. I was coming down one of the ramps when someone pulled in front of me and came to a complete stop so that the front of my car was aimed at the driver’s side window. I knew he had absolutely no idea I was there. I was in no particular hurry and so I thought I’d give him a little while to get his bearings. Then another driver pulled up behind him who had no patience at all. He plastered his hand on the horn visibly shaking up the man in the offending car. As unaware of me as he might have been, it was apparent that he was even LESS aware of the guy behind him. Thinking it was I who had blown the horn at him he turned and glared at me in all my glory, collar and all, and shot me nasty look and mouthed something that I was sure had nothing to do with any benefit to my soul. There was nothing for me to do. He took off so quickly I didn’t even have a chance to shrug my shoulders with an apologetic look in my face – or perhaps to point vehemently at the antagonist that was behind him, “He did it! He did it!”

But as bad as that was, it did not make me feel nearly as bad as the misjudgment of my character that happened when I got back to the rectory. With the embers of, “You can live with someone hating you mistakenly like this,” finally dying down came the discovery of a long and gracious message on the answering machine thanking me whole-heartedly for the wonderful flowers I had left at the hospital and how thoughtful it was of me to do such a thing. Apparently the calling card I left in the patient’s absence was misinterpreted as coming with a bunch of flowers that had arrived after I left. How embarrassing to have to say, “No, I actually wasn’t all that thoughtful. But now I wish I were.”

I know I judge people all the time. Throw a cigarette butt out the window and you’ll earn my ire. (A friend knows how much this disturbs me and got me a bumper sticker that stated, “Keep your butts in the car and drive,” but I was too much of a coward to put it on my car.) But let me cut in traffic and I will include you in my next rosary.

I’m trying to break myself of the whole judging thing. Who knows what is in people’s hearts and minds in even seemingly obvious situations? Besides, who needs prayers more, someone doing something you like, or someone doing something uncharitable? It’s nice to pray for people we judge to be good and worthy of our time and effort, but it is perhaps more beneficial for those who don’t, for there is a far better chance of them converting and we being able to be friends if we pray for them in their apparent brokenness rather than prejudging them and refusing prayer or friendship thereby completing the circle and sealing off the possibility of healing. I wish I could remember to whom this should be attributed, but someone once said, “Those who are in most need of love (and I would add prayers) are seldom those who are deemed most worthy of it. Thus it is the sinner who most needs prayers but often is the least prayed for.” (Or something like that.)

Saturday, June 23, 2007


I love "That Catholic Show". Here is one of their 5 minute episodes.


An excerpt from, "Music - We Must Learn to Celebrate" in the Liturgical Arts Quarterly of 2 February 1970 by Fr. Robert Hovda and Gabe Chuck as reported in this month's addition of Adoremus Bulletin.

There are no rigid criteria for selecting good music for the liturgy. In recent months many songs have appeared that could well find an appropriate place in the liturgy; these might include ‘Both Sides Now’, ‘Abraham, Martin and John’, ‘Mrs. Robinson’, ‘Gentle On My Mind’ (there is a real need for good love songs in the liturgy), and ‘Little Green Apples’. In a sense we need ‘disposable’ music just as we need, and to some extent have, ‘disposable’ art objects which are created to last not centuries, but weeks, (or hours). Our secular music is that way; the amount of new material is so great that even many good things pass quickly. While many of the songs from the folk and pop lists (as well as the country-western list or the Broadway list) do not have the depth or quality to last for decades, they still have the power to enrich the liturgy here and now.”

I am quite offended that they did not include music from the "Polka List." Just the same they are correct, some art should be disposable and thank goodness it is. Those felt and burlap banners just did not stand up to the test of time. I hate to say this about my formative years, but it is articles like this that make me glad the 1970's are behind us. Apologies to those who might be offended.

A couple of post ago, Bob had me laughing out loud when he commented, "My parish's church building looks kinda like a big Pizza Hut. But, it's not as bad as St. Pascal's. Their church looks like Darth Vader's head." As fortune would have it, St. Paschal Baylon Church is a bike ride away. So on Friday night I took a little ride north of us to put Bob's observation to the test. Below is a picture of St. Paschal and a picture of Darth Vador's helmet. You be the judge. (The actual Darth Vader is the one that is lower and to the right.)

This comment from Jeron to Wednesday's Adam's Ale was far better than the post on which it was based. I thought it well worth reprinting here in case you missed it. Please remember Jeron next time you find yourself in conversation on this topic. And thank you Jeron for having the courage and care to write this.

"Just my 2 cents as a *Courage* member: it took me about 18 months of faithfully attending *Courage* meetings (after being sexually active in the gay scene for 15 years, both "underground" and out of the closet) to finally understand that my identity wasn't "gay boy" but "child of God." Once I finally understood and accepted that in my heart, God begun the healing (or at least I started noticing the healing). And by "healing" I mean being OK with the Church's teachings on homosexuality and my responsibilities as a Christian Catholic, faithful to the Magisterium. There's a line from the movie *The Spitfire Grill* that has stuck with me for the past decade, and I'll paraphrase: "Do you think the healing of a wound can be as painful as what caused it?" My answer: Not just "yes," but "Hayle Yes!!!" But I have a deep joy now that no one can take away; an abiding sense of "rightness," or integrity, I guess; by which I mean "integral." Things are aligning as they should. I've not experienced a change towards women, romantically or sexually speaking, and that's OK. I'm not sure I ever will. For as long as I can remember I've been attracted to boys/men. I'm grateful the Church doesn't require re-orientation, or I'd be in big trouble! LOL! But that's not to say that I don't have faith God can heal my woundedness. How He does that is up to Him. I'm content to live according to the Church's teachings because I firmly believe it's Christ's Church & this is what HE wants. This was NOT an easy revelation to accept, but by God's grace (truly) I was able to come to this acceptance. There's a verse in Proverbs that helped me along: "Sometimes the way seems true to a man, but the end of it leads to death." In my experience, homosexual persons are social-justice oriented. Maybe in their heart of hearts, as they pursue truth and justice, they'll find Truth - the Person - Jesus Christ ... and be able to accept and return His love. I'm learning to slowly & it's not always easy, but I do what I can. Getting up after falling & beginning again. It's what we're all called to, no matter what our orientation. And Father V., please please please start discussing this topic with folks. People are afraid of what they don't understand. Maybe if more Catholics were aware that they probably know or are even close to someone with this struggle, they may become more compassionate and willing to pray for/work with the SSA person vs. vilify them. God Bless."

Friday, June 22, 2007


Here are some numbers to crunch.

12, as was mentioned before, is the number that represents the whole Church. There were the Twelve Tribes of Israel and the Twelve Disciples from whence we all came. When used it usually means all of us who are gathered to Christ in His Church.

13 is symbolic faithlessness and betrayal. At the Last Supper there were thirteen people. The thirteenth person was Judas who betrayed Jesus with a kiss.

40 denotes a period of probation or trial. The Israelites wandered in the desert for 40 years, Moses was on Mount Sinai for 40 days, Noah withstood 40 days and 40 nights of rain, Christ spent 40 days in the wilderness and Lent lasts 40 days. In Psalm 95 God says, “Forty years I endured that generation. I said, these are a people whose hearts go astray and they do not know my ways so I swore in my anger they shall not enter into my rest.”

100 when used symbolically means plenty while one thousand means beyond numbering. It is like Carl Sagan describing the number of stars in the known universe. He was want to say, “There are billions and billions.” To get a similar point across Scripture uses the number 1,000.

Now here is where things start to get interesting. N.B. – What follows is not definitive interpretations of Scripture but rather one way of seeing the numbers used in Scripture and ritual in a symbolic fashion.


The Kyrie in the old mass was said in three sets of three. The Kyries, three Christes, and then three Kyries again. Three is a perfection number. Repeating the three three times repeats our plea for mercy in a symbolically perfect way. It is our perfect cry for mercy.

For a service I attended in a Byzantine parish they repeated, “Lord have mercy” 40 times in the cry for mercy.

666 is associated with the Devil. One of the definitions of 6 is frustrated perfection or imperfection. So imperfection is repeated three times, or is perfect frustration or evil personified.

Christ calls us to forgive 70 times 7 times. 7 is a perfection number, the number put to Christ as the number of times one should forgive. Jesus was not satisfied. He multiplied their perfection number by a commandment number (10) and then multiplied that by a perfection number again! “I’m serious guys, I want you to forgive perfectly and always as your heavenly Father does!”

In Revelations Chapter 7 it talks about the 144,000 who had been marked with the seal. Many of our Fundamentalist brothers and sisters take this number quite literally. But there is at least one other way of interpreting this number. Remember twelve is a number that signifies the whole Church. If you want to get across the idea that the mark of salvation is for all those who are loyal to he Lamb, you could take twelve and multiply it by twelve, which gives you 144. But to really get across the idea of the seal marking the great multitude of the faithful, you could multiply this by a number that means beyond counting, the number 1,000 which gives you 144,000 or the whole faithful Church.


One, showing our unity, is more recently expressed in that modern church buildings should have only one altar. It is not unusual for older church buildings, particularly those built before Vatican II, to have multiple altars, usually a Marian altar to the left of the main altar and one to Joseph to the right. There is no mandate to remove these “extra” altars in older Churches. In fact, we are called upon to preserve them particularly if they are intrinsic to the design of the building. But new buildings should have one altar around which the community gathers.

Additionally there should be one baptismal fount showing our common baptism, one tabernacle, and pulpit from which all the readings are proclaimed. These all help emphasize the one Body of Christ of which we are all members.

Two becomes relevant especially when bringing to light the dual reality of what is taking place in this space: the worldly and the spiritual. As mentioned before, this may be seen in the combination of circles and squares.

Three signifying the Trinity might be incorporated into the style of a building, for example, by having three main doors with a sing arch stretching over them. Three persons in one God.

I once saw a tester made of stained glass in a sanctuary that had three doves connected together in a circle. They represented the four books of Gospel proclaimed at the mass.

For major celebrations we are traditionally called to have six candles. Remember that six can also be a perfection number and in this way would signify a perfect round of prayer.

Eight, if you remember, is the number of the resurrection. If you’ll notice the baptistery, which is to the right of the Cathedral of Saint John, has eight sides to it. Often the fount itself (at least they used to) will have eight sides.

Churches often have 12 pillars. These signify the Church, all those gathered to celebrate the mass. In fact, there is a parish in the diocese whose 12 pillars further symbolize all the people of the Church by being of different colors which represent the different the different skin tones of humanity.



A Sunday many years ago in Saranac Lake, NY we went searching for a place to attend mass. We had gone to mass earlier in the week in a little place outside of town. It was a charming little church (St. Paul?), which I later found out was a “mail order” church. Thinking this little place a gem we deduced that the church in town must be spectacular. So we rode into town seeing striking stone edifices of various churches. We would see the Methodist Church and say, “Wow, if that’s the Methodist Church, what must the Catholic Church be like!?” So it went with the Lutheran church and the Episcopalians, the hope mounting at what the Catholic community must have for the greater glory of God.

The good news is that there was not a grand old building that had been wreckovated in such a fashion as to break an architecterphile’s heart. (I believe a fire took care of that.) The bad news is, the present building looks like a K-mart. It was a giant square room with a low ceiling that happened to have a bit of stained glass in the walls.

Such has been the case all to often in modern church architecture. To make this point Robert Krier says, “Do you want to see good Modernist architecture? You must have plenty of time and your own Lear jet.” Although I think things are taking a turn for the better, we are not at a cure for church architecture. Perhaps it is more like being past a broken bone but still having a severe sprain. Accompanied by gout.

And leprosy.

A circle of friends and I occasionally go on what at been dubbed “Architectural Safaris”. From these excursions I’ve started compiling a little journal of architectural details that have stood out in various buildings in the unsure and uncertain hope that someday I will build a church building that people will want to see, to be in, to be inspired by; that would pass muster of Archbishop Christophe Schonborn O.P. who said, “The most convincing reception of the work will perhaps be this: that in such a church, before such a work, a young pagan can kneel and pour out his whole heart. Then the artist will know that God is truly served by him.”

But the real question is; is it even possible to build grand churches anymore? Governmental regulations have placed many restrictions on how to build, our people are constantly populating and the depopulating areas, we are less connected and donate less. With fewer priests we build bigger when we do build and with an eye toward practicality and speed. And though many people say they want a real Church building, is it more of a wish than a possibility? Except in some rare instances are we incapable of building anything but theaters and big box store buildings? Must we come to accustom ourselves plain, nondescript, symbolphobic, utilitarian structures, doing to architecture what the “Glory and Praise” hymnal did to music?

Gah . . .

Perhaps I was born too late.

But then again, perhaps I am cutting edge.

There's always hope.

Thursday, June 21, 2007


Apparently I cannot link you directly to the article sighted below. To read it click on the Catholic Culture link from TUESDAY, then click on "Library". At the bottom of the page where you see the alphabet, click on "C", scroll down to "Catholic Medical Association" click on that and then on the document "Homosexuality and Hope." Sorry for the run around.


The next Catholic Carnival is up and running at "Just Another Day of Catholic Pndering."

Wednesday, June 20, 2007


Father, I am dying of terminal cancer.” “I am getting a divorce.” “My husband beats me.” “I am having spiritual doubts.” “We are thinking of pulling the life-support equipment off of my Father.” “My wife just died.” These are the things that a person might make an appointment to speak to their priest about. By and large none of these situations intimidate me. That is, though they are highly emotional moments, I know my role and, for the most part, what is expected of me. At some topics I am better than others, but basically there is general understanding of exactly what it is I am supposed to do both from the person approaching me and from the perspective of the Church. So even if someone were to come to me with information about a pedophile (thanks to recent scandals) it is very clear what I should do and say. In fact, this last example may be the easiest of them all now.

But there is a topic about which I feel lost, one that I avoid more than any of the above. That is not to say that I do not know the teachings of our faith on the matter, but that it is such a hot potato subject both within and outside the Church and that so little sane conversation can be had on it, that it makes guiding people down the best path difficult.

So I avoid the topic. When I told a priest friend about this, he advised staying out of the conversation altogether lest I be tagged as “one of those kind of priests.” I even put off blogging about it for months just so as not to find myself in a quagmire of controversy though I felt a nagging to do so.

Then a friend came to see me about another person facing this issue. She had me read an article by the Catholic Medical Association entitled “Homosexuality and Hope” (which I ask you to please read before commenting on this post), which states, “The failure of the Catholic community to provide for the needs of this population is a serious omission which must not be allowed to continue.”

In particular, to priests, it says, “It is of paramount importance that priests, when faced with parishioners troubled by same-sex attraction, have access to solid information and genuinely beneficial resources. The priest, however, must do more than simply refer to other agencies (See Courage and Encourage in the Appendix). He is in a unique position to provide specific spiritual assistance to those experiencing same-sex attraction. He must, of course, be very sensitive to the intense feelings of insecurity, guilt, shame, anger, frustration, sadness, and even fear in these individuals. This does not preclude him from speaking very clearly about the teachings of the Church (See CCC, n. 2357-2359), the need for forgiveness and healing in Confession, the need to avoid occasions of sin, and the need for a strong prayer life.

“The priest needs to be aware of the depth of healing needed by these seriously conflicted persons. He needs to be a source of hope for the despairing, forgiveness for the erring, strength for the weak, encouragement for the faint of heart, sometimes a loving father figure for the wounded. In brief, he must be Jesus for these beloved children of God who find themselves in most difficult situations. He must be pastorally sensitive but he must also be pastorally firm, imitating, as always, the compassionate Jesus who healed and forgave seventy times seven times but always reminded, "Go and do not commit this sin again".”

This is not an official document of the Catholic Church, but the most clear and practical piece of work I have had in my hands on this topic period. It calls us all to be open in placing our faithful attention to this dilemma facing Catholics who find themselves in this situation. In part, they state, “There was a time in the not too distant past when pregnancy outside of marriage and abortion were taboo topics and attitudes toward the women involved were judgmental and harsh. The legalization of abortion forced the Church to confront this issue and provide an active ministry to women facing an "unwanted" pregnancy and to women experiencing post-abortion trauma. In a few short years the approach of dioceses, individual parishes, and the Catholic faithful has been transformed and today true Christian charity is the norm rather than the exception. In the same way the attitudes toward same-sex attraction can be transformed, provided each Catholic institution does its part."

So here with this post is my tentative foray into this confusing arena. (Which in the end is really only a recommendation to read another article!) Never short on opinions and hot air, I uncharacteristically find myself short on words other than hoping that I’ve not unintentionally offended anyone. But this is a matter of our faith and something with which we need to deal and deal with good information (which is why I recommend this article). For, as the CMA says, “Those who wish to be free from same-sex attractions frequently turn first to the Church. CMA wants to be sure that they find the help and hope they are seeking.”

To close, here is one last quote from their paper by Jeffrey Satinover, MD, Ph. D., who has written of his extensive experience with patients experiencing same-sex attraction: "I have been extraordinarily fortunate to have met many people who have emerged from the gay life. When I see the personal difficulties they have squarely faced, the sheer courage they have displayed not only in facing these difficulties but also in confronting a culture that uses every possible means to deny the validity of their values, goals, and experiences, I truly stand back in wonder... It is these people --former homosexuals and those who are still struggling, all across America and abroad --who stand for me as a model of everything good and possible in a world that takes the human heart, and the God of that heart, seriously. In my various explorations within the worlds of psychoanalysis, psychotherapy, and psychiatry, I have simply never before seen such profound healing."( Satinover 1996)


Holy is getting a rotten reputation.

What is holiness? For some inexplicable reason it has become associated with some archaic list of random rules that God (or some gray headed men in Rome) has whimmed up for us. Our lives are seen as some contrived, real time, 3D game that, if we follow the rules set out by the game master, perfecting our skills at maneuvering the playing field, we can enter the top level where you can list your names with the other winners of the game who gained the moniker “saint.”

How many times have you heard someone say after failing to be holy in a situation, “I’m only human”? That little trite excuse is a misnomer. In a sinful action you are not being “only human”. It is at that moment that a person is being in-human, falling short, or missing the mark. If the action in question was perfectly explainable by referring to the fact that some action is in alignment with what it is to be human, then it would not be sinful; it would be part of what being you is. That would make episodes of “Law and Order” mighty boring. They would have a guy they captured in court, his defense would be, “I was only being human,” and the judge would shrug his shoulders, slam down his gavel and say, “He’s right. He was acting as human beings are called to act. Gotta let him go. NEXT!” But the case is “I am only human” is an excuse, and a bad one at that, not an explanation.

Now, what can be said is, “I’m a fallen human.” That would at least be closer to the mark. Jesus, though he was divine, was also fully human. I do not think that anyone (well, anyone who reads this site) would make a case that Jesus, being fully human, performed actions we would call sinful. Why? Because he was a perfect man. It is when we do something noble, something good, something inspiring, it is when we sacrifice for love of others that we should say, “what do you expect? I’m only human.”

I will grant you that on the details many people will argue about that which is best for a human. I happen to buy the whole ball of wax handed down and preserved within Scripture and the Tradition of the Catholic Church. In it I see the path to what is best for the human race.But it is this call to finding out what is truly human, that which makes us healthiest as individuals and as a whole, bodily, mentally, and spiritually, making our relationships healthy between each other and our God that makes us most human, that grants us most freedom. That makes us holy.

Monday, June 18, 2007


FINDING TRUTH WHEREVER IT MAY BE FOUND: "Virtue comes through contemplation of the divine and the exercise of philosophy. But it also comes through public service. The one is incomplete without the other. Power without wisdom is tyranny, wisdom without power is pointless." - from Iain Pear's "The Dream of Scipio".

QUOTE II - "What would you do right now of you were not afraid?" from Spencer Johnson's "Who Moved My Cheese?"


C. recommends this site on Catholic Culture. I was only able to review part of it but pass it on.

C. also let me know that some people (C. included) do not know how to contact me via Email if they have a private question. If you look under "contributors" on the right hand side of this screen and click on "Fr. V", another screen will pop up. Click on Email and that will set you up to send an wire to me.

The Diocese of Cleveland E-Newsletter recommends this site for people in the Cleveland area who are dealing with end of life issues.


We love heroes.

And we want them to be perfect.

And when they are not, we punish them.

Then we write a country song about it.

Fr. Damien, a priest for whom I have a lot of respect, wrote a laudable article in Priest Magazine about our need for heroes and the dearth of persons able to fill the role. When interviewing the seminarians whom he teaches about who they see as heroes in their lives, save for Pope John Paul II they named average Joes, Mr. Jones down the street or Mrs. McDurvish a secondary school teacher, who do the grunt work of heroes these days. All of our national heroes have become tarnished. It is hard to think of anybody whose name on a bumper sticker you could commit to your car and be proud.

Not even superheroes are exempt. The twenty-first century finds our squeaky clean men of steal and virtue having their dark sides developed. Their biggest foes no longer seem to be outside but inside themselves. They have become not the best side of ourselves, but reflections of ourselves. Who doesn’t want Batman to stop whining and moping around and go talk to his therapist? Or maybe go to confession.

In Cleveland at the moment we are a little over excited about LeBron James. LeBron “King” James, who grew up in Akron just south of here, attended St. Vincent St. Mary Catholic High School, went on to help lead the Cleveland Cavs to the play offs this past week. This is a good thing. As much as I like Cleveland we are like the lonely girl at the dance watching everyone else in their new clothes dance and have fun. So we have come to love ANTHING that makes us feel good about ourselves and he helped do just that. So he constantly appears on the front page of the PD, giant billboards go up bearing his image, and people shell out as much money as I paid for my first suit for a jersey with his number on it.

The latest cooing has been over the name of his second son Bryce. It was debated in the PD (my, how the mighty of fallen) weather this was a good name, how cute he looked, and would he have his Dad’s talent.

I find it all rather sad. I don’t think we would have made such a hero out of him anytime before thirty years ago. He is not married to his children’s mother. That would have been looked upon with a certain amount of shame. But we are so desperate for heroes we start making exceptions for their behavior (which sadly turns into exceptions for all of us).

I should be more like what I used to believe the Oscars were about. When I was small I thought there was a golden rule by which movies were judged and when held against this superior model, truly the best movie of the year was held up for special recognition. I have since come to believe otherwise. However, I still believe that there is a golden rule by which heroes should be judged. And if there is no one to fill the role we cannot accept second best. This year there just will be no golden statue given to anybody.

Lebron is fantastic at placing a round ball through a round hoop. He has a good public persona. He is intelligent and charitable. By all accounts he has some good business acumen. And it is reported that he is good to his mother. But he is more willing to have a permanent tattoo injected into the skin of his body than by his word and oath dedicate his life to the mother of his children. What will that teach his sons about the meaning of marriage and family; about life? What does that teach them about the way men treat women? What does that teach them about the importance of focusing on what is best for your children? What does that teach them about what it is to be a man? As things stand now, he could walk out on them with his only tie to them being that he must pay this woman to raise his sons until they reach the age of 18. It seems to me that though he is great at so many things, he fails at the most important thing about being a man. Some hero.

Rather than accepting second best, perhaps we need to focus on backyard heroes and household saints lest those whom we make gods lead us astray.

Friday, June 15, 2007


Happy Father's Day!


I've often wondered if I would be the same kind of father as my Dad. He didn't think much of the music to which I listened. I hear what kids listen to today and think it horrible. So I wondered if it really is horrible or do I have a generational deficit that does not allow me to appreciate it as my father did not appreciate my music. Then I saw this clip and think I am so completely justified. :>)

The PD published this list today from the National Fatherhood Initiative on 10 ways to be a better dad;

1. Respect your child's mother.

2.Spend time with your children.

3. Earn the right to be heard.

4. Discipline with love.

5. Be a role model.

6. Be a teacher.

7. Eat together as a family.

8. Read to your children.

9. Show affection.

10. Realize that a father's job is never done.

I would add that your relationship with your children will, by far, be the most profound means by which you children will come to relate with their Heavenly Father. Pray with them. Go to mas with them. And, as the sign in my parents bedroom used to read, "The best gift that a father can give his children is to love their mother."

Here is a link to this weeks Catholic Carnival.

Bishop Lennon speaks about clustering in the Diocese of Cleveland.


Your beautiful church building (if it was built back when we paid attention to such things) doesn’t have twelve pillars down the nave by accident. It was most probably planned that way to give some symbolic meaning to the building. Numbers can be extremely interesting and enlightening once their symbolic meanings are unlocked.

The number one calls first to mind our one true God. “The Lord is one” (Deuteronomy 6:4). It is also the symbol of unity. “We believe in one God . . . one holy, catholic, and apostolic Church . . . one baptism for the forgiveness of sins.

Two most readily calls to mind the two natures of Christ, human and divine.

Three is a perfection number. It is the number of completeness. Pythagoras thought so of this number because with it you have a beginning, a middle, and an end. You need at least three legs for a stool to be steady to support you.

Of course it is also the number of the persons of the Trinity and the number of days Christ spent in the tomb.

The four corners of the earth or the four cardinal directions call to mind the square, which was mentioned in the first chapter and so might represent things of the created order. But more so four is the number of the four Gospels and/or four evangelists.

Five is the number of wounds Christ received on His cross.

Six may have two basic meanings depending on the context in which it is used. It can be the number of creation and completion (remember the Star of David discussed in the last chapter.) But it can also be a number signifying frustrated perfection (or imperfection) because it is one day short of seven, the day on which God rested and is thus the true number of perfection.

Seven is a perfection number. See this previous post on this number.

Eight symbolizes the resurrection because eight days after Jesus entered triumphantly into Jerusalem he resurrected from the dead. It is the number of new beginnings.

There are nine choirs of angels making this number the angelic number. The nine choirs are Angles, Archangels, Principalities, Powers, Virtues, Dominions, Thrones, Cherubim, and Seraphim.

It is probably obvious to you that ten would be a commandment number being that there are Ten Commandments. It is also a perfection number as it raises all other numbers equally.

Next Saturday we will continue with numbers.

Thursday, June 14, 2007


Continuing on the topic of annulments.

So who needs a decree of nullity? Anyone who was married to another party in any church, by any recognized civil official, or by common law and now wishes to marry in the Catholic Church. Anyone. ANYONE. If a pagan was formally married to another pagan by a justice of the peace on a boat off the coast of the middle of nowhere, was divorced and now wishes to marry a Catholic, that person will need an annulment. If it was a Catholic whose first marriage was not even recognized in the Church and that person now wishes to be married in the Church to another party, that person needs an annulment.

When should a decree of nullity be applied for? After a divorce has been received and as soon after as you are ready. My personal recommendation is that you do it sooner rather than later. Who knows what God has in store for you and there is a minimum six-month preparation period in the Diocese of Cleveland. Other diocese will have similar stipulapulations and a date for marriage cannot be put on the books until it is determined that you are actually free to marry. Clevelanders are fortunate in that they have a good tribunal and even the most difficult cases can be handled in about six to eight months. But it is not until after this period that the six-month wedding preparation period may begin!

What can be expected of you in the process? You will need to meet with a person at the parish (most likely a priest) who will be the procurator for your case. His first job will be to determine what kind of annulment you require. Some are very simple and quick; others known as formal cases are more involved. It will be your job to collect the requisite paperwork (such as marriage certificates and divorce decrees), and information, which in some cases is little, in others a little more involved.

Your case is then sent to the Church tribunal. Note that only paperwork goes to the Church court, no persons are called in. In a formal case you will be asked for witnesses and they may be contacted by letter to give witness by answering questions and mailing it in.

It is all right if the former spouse refuses to cooperate. It is helpful but not absolutely necessary. There is no need to worry that they might try to sabotage the process. The judges in the court have seen it all a thousand times and are experts and sorting through the rubble. Remember: their goal is to help you move forward with you life.

Perhaps the most persistent “urban legend” about the process concerns the exorbitant fees involved. The point in fact is that you have a right to apply for a decree of nullity regardless of your ability to pay the requested donation. The reason for the donation is that this office is obviously not a parish and therefore does not have any income. Lights still have to be turned on, people still need to be paid, office supplies still need to be purchased and so on. Some fees are rather minimal. The most expensive is for the formal case which requires the most time and effort. In the diocese of Cleveland as of June 2007 it is $450. If the amount cannot be met, payments can be made in installments, a lesser fee might be negotiated, or in cases of great need, the fee is waved altogether. The ability to pay has absolutely no bearing on the outcome of the case or the speed in which it is processed. If the person with whom you are working is telling you anything too far off of this mark, get away from him and go to another parish to apply.

Why is the Church sticking its nose into this business? It arose from necessity. Originally you did not need a priest even to marry. You needed vows and two witnesses. But that allowed for a lot of abuse. One could find ways to say that he was never married, or pay witnesses to say that he was married, or skip town and marry another. So the Church started having official witnesses (and indeed I only witness marriage, the couple are their own ministers.) We also started keeping records for the same reason.

Likewise there can be many abuses in the dissolving of a marriage. Is a couple splitting up for legitimate reasons or is someone just being dumped? Is the sacrament being respected? Is the other person (and children) being properly taken care of? Should one or the other of the persons of the marriage have serous counseling before being allowed to be married in the Catholic Church again? In the end, it is about protecting the people involved and the integrity of marriage as a sacrament. It may seem like over kill in the United States, but the Catholic Church is more than the United States.

Perhaps the nullity process is not as great as it could be. There might be far better ways of handling it. But this is what we have. And it works. Of the many nullit cases that have been completed through my office there has been only one report of a person who said it was a horrible experience and they were sorry for having gone through it. But for the most part, even those who entered into it with trepidation have said that it helped them sort out what happened and to bring some clarity not only about the past but the future and are glad for the feeling of reconciliation and being able to start over again.
This is the end of the posts on annulments for now. If you have further questions contact your local parish or if you would rather, you can leave a comment over the next week or for more private questions you may Email me.

God bless you on your journey.