Wednesday, April 30, 2008


This post is being written specifically for those who think they do not need to read it. It concerns a certain body of knowledge that many people do not find it necessary to know at the present and figure that when the time comes, there will be plenty of knowledgeable people and handy resources to help them through. Such is not the case.

Most likely one day you find yourself in need of this information. Life will be going on somewhat normally and all of a sudden people will be looking to you to make a decision. If you are lucky you will have a few days to decide. If you are not, you will have someone standing in front of you looking at the second hand of his watch and saying, “We need a decision.”

The body of knowledge is bioethics. Or more specifically Catholic bioethics. At the very moment you need the information the most, chances are you will not have ready access to it. Not everybody thinks like you do and not everybody has the same intentions that you do. Some people are simply avoiding lawsuits. Some people are making money. Some people are very sincere but have different values from you. Some people do not care. Nobody is as invested in the relationship in which you are asked to make a decision as you.

At this point you do not want to just call a priest and ask, “What should I do?” You want to know “whys” and options and true teachings of Christ not something easily grasped in desperate moments. You want to be able to say to others who are emotionally involved, “This is why our decision is alright,” not just, “Father said so.”

We also do not have a bioethics “hot line” though that would be very cool. As we have less and less priests, they are less and less available to be able to sit by a phone 24 hours a day, seven days a week just in case they are needed at the hospital. It is sad but nonetheless a fact. Far too many “chaplains” at hospitals, nursing homes, and even many hospices do not get extensive training in care for Catholics. For many it is just a section in a workbook that they turn to and it may very well be that they are not very invested so as to be able to enlighten you and know fine points.

Until this situation is corrected it is time to arm yourselves with knowledge.


I for one am glad that CDs and Ipods etc. have taken over from records for personal music entertainment. There are songs that to this day when I hear them I tense up waiting for that part of the song that has been seared into my mind as having a skip that used to plague the records I had when I was very small.

“Does your chewing gum lose its flavor
on the bedpost over night?
And you mother says, “Don’t chew it,”
Do swallow it, (click) Do you swallow it, (click) Do you swallow it”
“in spite.”

Sometimes people come into the confessional and say, “Father, it’s the same old stuff. I sound like a broken record. Can I just say ditto?” The dejection they express is almost palpable. But I encourage them to keep up the effort, to come back as often as necessary, to not be embarrassed and most of all to not lose hope.

Someone asked why more people do not come to confession. There are a lot of theories. Here is one more. Homiletic and Pastoral Review had an excellent article on sin called, “Pornography, Electronic Media and Priestly Formation” by Marysia Weber. As you might suppose it centered on those addicted to porn on the Internet but I wonder if it does not speak to sin in general and furhter point to a reason why some people do not go to confession.

The article listed 5 “successive and interdependent stages through which individuals progress into an addiction into Internet pornography. These include, 1. Discovery, 2. Experimentation, 3. Habituation, 4. Compulsivity, and 5. Hopelessness.” Could we not as a culture be headed into this last stage of hopelessness in the area of sin in general? We are saturated with enticements to sin not the least reason being is that sin sells everything from cars to toothpaste. (See how dazzling my smile is and how attractive I now am to the opposite sex?) Hopelessness says, “What is the point? I’m just going to do it again and there is very little support not to do so. Why even think about it then? God is just going to have to take me for who I am and forgive me.”

But the point is not that God chooses or does not choose us for He already has chosen us. The point is do we or do we not choose God? Do we follow what He clearly laid out for us to do? Do we not lose hope? Do we rely on His mercy and power rather than trying to white knuckle our way into heaven? Are we humble enough to sound repetitive in the confessional? Do we have the courage to at least try again to get up and walk after falling?

I used to go the chiropractor only after some activity that would mess up my back. I wanted his adjustment to last longer. That was until he slapped me upside the head and said, “Father, you have an adjustment so that you can do the activity better in the first place!” In like manner don’t wait to be perfect to get to confession. Use confession, as often as you need to, to work toward perfection.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008


FINDING TRUTH WHEREVER IT MAY BE FOUND - "If God gave virtue immediate recompense we should straightaway find ourselves engaging in commerce instead of perfecting ourselves in His service." from a second century homily.

QUOTE II - "We're all damned angry we're not God." Fr. Gene Fulton


I thought the site called "Is This Your Name?" was pretty cool. I found out such interesting information such as, "According to the US Census Bureau°, 3.283% of US residents have the first name 'John' and fewer than 0.001% have the surname 'Valencheck'. The US has around 300 million residents, so we guesstimate there are 0 'John Valencheck's." There was also this:

Are you Well Envoweled?
How well envoweled is John Valencheck?We checked 1,000,000 names and 84.4% had more vowels than 'John Valencheck'. That means you are
modestly envoweled.
Check your envowelment, find your Power Animal, and see your name in binary at

My cousin sent this video in. It's a bit too sweet for Sunday Video, but just the same I think some of you really like these cute kid videos so here you go.

Somebody asked for a Gregorian Chant site akin to the link posted on Change Ringing. MJ made a valiant attempt and found this site on which there are links to hear different chants of the mass. Thanks MJ.

Psssst! Guess what?! L.M. (who has posted here often) has decided to join the Trinitarian Sisters! WooHoo! Keep her and the sisters in your prayers.

Late entry: Adding to the list of places one might catch some good snippets of Catholic music, Keven was kind enough to send this link to Choral Treasures. Thanks Kevin!

Monday, April 28, 2008


A young man came into my office on Thursday night. He is seriously entertaining the notion of entering into the seminary in a bout a year or so and we talked about the journey and what he might do to prepare. I told him that when my priest friends and I get together we often say, “I can’t believe more guys don’t want to do this!” If this is what God is calling you to, this is a great way to live life!

But it is different. You get used to that difference after a while and do not even realize it. It takes someone else to point it out. My sisters are good at that. We will be walking down the street and one will remark, “Why is everyone being so friendly today?” Then she’ll look at me, see the collar and sock me in the arm. “Oh! That’s right. I with YOU!”

The essentials are the same. For example priests have friends just like anybody else but there will always (or should always) be a slightly different element in the relationship that does not exists elsewhere. So last week I went to visit a friend whose young adult children were just about to switch kidneys. But you are never just a friend, you are also a priest and so I talked to the them about being anointed. One readily agreed but the other baulked saying that he was not planning on dying. Now this kid knows his theology and his sacraments and should know better but I showed him the prayers assuring him that they were not putting the mark of death on his forehead but asking for his protection and healing and so we were able to go ahead with the sacrament.

Back to the young man who wants to become a priest. I asked him what led him to desire priesthood and he responded that God has touched him so deeply and that it is so awesome he wants to in some radical way share that with others; to get them to wake up to the joy that is there waiting for them if they would just wake up to it! That is also part of the delight of being a priest as well as friend. What an honor and privilege it is to be able to bring Christ to those who are close to you in such a way.

Sunday, April 27, 2008


I really like these guys. They are different. I hope you enjoy it too.


Jay annouces a great new deal on Catholic Carnival 169 at new low prices.

This was sent in recently. "I blog to you on behalf of Fr. Frank Pavone and Priests for Life. Fr. Pavone recently posted two videos on You Tube in which he describes and demonstrates the two most common abortion techniques, using the actual instruments of abortion and the words found in medical textbooks and court testimony." These are heart wrenching videos. They seem, in my estimation, to be fair and accurate. Each is about 3 minutes. Video 1 * Video 2

The Diocese of Cleveland Enewsletter sends us more information on the Vatcian Exhibit coming to Cleveland. I plan on attending the last Saturday in July. Anyone interested?

You are going to have to do your own research in this one. Neven Pesa sent this Email to Adam's Ale requesting assistance. It is a story I know well here at Saint Clare as we just had a someone join a religious order who first had to pay off major debt - a more and more common occurance as vocation are entering later in life and thus acquiring substancial debt first from their college years. Neven is looking for people to puchace his album in an effort to curb his financial obligations. If you want to start looking into this matter here is his site.

Saturday, April 26, 2008


On special occasions bells may be manually played to add a special celebratory flavor to their toll. There are two examples of this. One is called Change Ringing. I was blessed to come across a group practicing this when last I was in England. With this post is a picture of the Church and of the choir loft (and the "Ye Olde Six Bells" tavern near by.) The bells are played in a certain mathematical sequence rather than any kind of melody. Here is an example of what it sounds like. (It is a cool site!) Quite a challenge! If you would like to read more about change ringing (from whence bell choirs come) read here.

There is a slightly different tradition that I am sure others have also but am only familiar with it from my Slovenian background. Perhaps on Easter of for Midnight Mass at Christmas a group of people would gather in the bell tower, one for each bell, and with hammers strike the bells. Like change ringing it is not to produce a melody but neither is it necessarily a mathematical pattern, but (if I have understood it correctly) rhythms. The effect us quite enchanting and exciting but loses its effectiveness quite a bit if done electronically or via a key board connected to the organ.

More on bells to come.

Thursday, April 24, 2008


A couple of weeks ago I stumbles across a radio program to which I used to listen. It might be of some interest to you too so here is a link to the archived show. As you can see it is in three acts the last act (entitled Nuns Amok) is the one about which this post is concerned.

It recounts the destruction an order of Glenmary Sisters. Most interestingly for this program (which is not necessarily at all Catholic friendly) it traces their dissolution through the letting go of their vows one by one. First was obedience. They did not want to be answerable to “the Church” and so left and started an independent order of sorts and gave their vows to each other.

Without the support structure of the Church their ability to live in poverty and do the amount of charitable work they desired became impossible and so had to be abandoned. They had also done away with the habit and found that people related to them differently, the men particularly affectionately, and so the last vow, that of chastity, gave way to marriage.

By the end they had left obedience to the Church to obedience to the government agencies, had given up the freedom of poverty to focusing on making a living to survive and have families, and had left chastity for all to chastity with a partner. None of this is bad. In fact all of it is good. But is it a religious order? They still met yearly for prayer and meeting, but they had no common work, no common prayer, no common dress, no common meals, no common recreation, no common living spaces – in fact they only thing they had in common was this yearly meeting and that even rankled them to the point that even this last thread was cut. Now nearing the sunset years they are returning to live with each other in retirement.

At what point did they stop being a religious order? It might be easy to say that it was at the point when they decided not to be under the official umbrella of the Church but they were still in community at that point, much more so than some communities today. So when did they change the rules so much that they started playing a different game?

It is an interesting study but we will lose out on the lesson it has to teach us if we merely cluck our tongues and point out what we think are flaws in their journey. Rather it will be far more constructive if, in the face of this example, we each turn inward and offer to God those parts of us that are not living as authentic and radical a Christian life as we might wish these former nuns had. For 2,000 years the only way true and lasting positive change has brought life and vitality to the Church is when common men and women like you and me decide to every day convert our hearts and minds more completely to the message of Christ and strive to live it more fully lives. We have the example, the ability, the support of the Church, and the Spirit. We can do it.

Monday, April 21, 2008


When I was first in the seminary the music book de jour was the “Glory and Praise” hymnal; the yellow one with the sunset and dove on the cover. (Until I hid them.) Fr. H. and I were so appalled at the content of those books we sat down one day and tried our best to come up with a song to make fun of them and point out how insipid some of that music was. Here at least are the words to that song.

Here we are together in this space,
Standing together, hand in hand, face to face.
Let’s join together now,
Put division on a dusty shelf.
Let’s pray together
Cuz’ you’re my other self.

The only problem was that some people liked it and wanted to use it. So we tried harder.

Where is Jesus now?
Look both high and low.
Just where is Jesus now and where did He go?
Do you know what you’re lookn’ for
Do you know where Jesus is, is, is?
He’s in you and me,
That’s where Jesus really is. (Kazoo interlude. Repeat)

Some folks thought it would be a good song for kids. No matter how inane we tried to be it simply sounded like a modern hymn being produced at the time.

That being said I realize some of the music that I like from ages past is equally as sappy in other ways, perhaps a bit over sentimental (though still better theologically.) I find it sad that these old tunes are no longer being used and so have some sympathy for those who actually do like the current heave of music. They should not have to go through the banning of tunes as others have. So let there be a compromise! Let us find new uses for these modern ditties so some in this generation will not feel as alienated as prior ones have.

It would be too easy to make fun of this music, as did a friend of mine. He uses the songs in crass ways in order to show his disdain of them. One example would be “Blest Are They” which he re-wrote for his answering machine.

Blest are they who call this number,
I am not in my room.
Please leave your name and your telephone number
I will get back to you.
Rejoice and be glad
Wait for the beep, your message will keep,
Rejoice and be glad
I will get back to you.

I want to take this project a little more seriously. For example, so much of our hymnody has predictable and simpleton melodies that do not seem to live up to the dignity we are trying to foster in the liturgy. Take, for example (sorry if you like the tune) “Sing to the Mountains.”

Maybe we could take this song and give it a different use. It would be a great prelude to mass, much more useful, and add to the dignity of the celebration if we just changed the words some. Change the title to, “Ring Tones Annoys Us.”

Ring tones annoys us
‘Specially yours.
Turn off pagers, phones, and toys.
This is no place for that mess
It’s time to pray the mass.

On a more serious note, we have an overabundance of “I” songs. Theses songs incessantly put the singer (I, me, I, me) into the role of God. How many of these can we have before we become confused about who God is and who the creature is? Perhaps some of these can be reworked also. “On Eagle’s Wings” could be “On Legal Things” and used at a Red Mass. A Red Mass is generally said once a year for judges, prosecutors, attorneys, law school professors and students, and government officials. The Mass requests guidance from the Holy Spirit for all who seek justice, and offers the opportunity to reflect on what Catholics believe is the God-given power and responsibility of all in the legal profession. Much could be done to diswade Catholics from illegal acts by singing, “And they will bring you up on legal things, jail you in the county jail, make you to pay a hefty fine and scold you with a list of demands."

Finally, there are way too many songs that refer to the Eucharist as Jesus the fun time snack. Let us rework at least some of them to be more useful to us. For example, with talks on chastity to youth, “One Bread, One Body” could easily be reworked into, “One Bed, One Body.” What an effective and clear message that our youth needs to hear.

Those are my ideas, perhaps you have more. Let us work together to save this body of music.


Dear readers, today's guest blog is from the indomitable Fr. F. which made its way to my end of the wires on Monday. Perhaps it will lend a little flavor to the in depth coverage you have received from other sources. Thanks brother!

I was glad to see you wrote about the pope's visit today. If I didn't have four 15-20 page philosophy papers due in the next week, I would have gladly guest blogged for you, but +Lennon sent me here to study, so that is my first priority. However, I thought I might share with you a little something that you and your readers might appreciate and probably will not get from anywhere else.

I was part of three audiences with the Holy Father during his visit. The first was as part of the crowd that welcomed him as he made his way to meet with the bishops at the National Shrine. The second was the Mass at Nationals Stadium, at which I concelebrated. (If you get a chance, go to and click on the pope's photos page. Go to the shots from National's Stadium and check out picture #7. Note - It is a picture of Fr. F . Follow his directions and fish a round a bit.) The third audience was on campus here at Catholic University. CUA made tickets available to students, faculty and staff, and we filled the law school mall and welcomed Benedict as he made his way on campus to address Catholic educators. (If you haven't read this talk yet, download it right away.) Anyway, although Fr. O'Connell offered the Holy Father a gift on behalf of the university, which I believe was a picture of the university, the students, faculty and staff also offered him a gift as he left campus. As we were waiting on the lawn for him to arrive, Fr. Bob, the head of campus ministry, along with the help of 30 college students, taught the crowd to sing Regina Caeli. (See the picture I sent of our music practice.) When the Holy Father made his way out of the lecture hall and back into his popemobile, we started to sing. He rolled down the window of his popemobile and beamed as we belted out the beautiful Marian hymn. (See the other picture.) Perhaps he'll remember this whenever he thinks of the Catholic University of America. I know I will.


FINDING TRUTH WHEREVER IT MAY BE FOUND: "The tempter is not so crude as to suggest to us directly that we should worship the devil. He merely suggests that we opt for the reasonable decision, that we choose to give priority to a planned and thoroughly organized world, where God may have his place as a private concern but must not interfere in our essential purpose." from Pope Benedict XVI's "Jesus of Nazareth

QUOTE II - "Computers are useless. They can only give you answers." Pablo Picasso


Habemus Papem sends this link along with the note, "it is very cool."


View from the pastor's office window:
The view from my window.
(But then again, I don't have to worry about the leaky roof or potholes in the parking lot!)


It has been pretty fun having the pope here on American soil and seeing how the nation responds to him though I’ve left remarking on it to other bloggers much more dedicated to the endeavor of watching, commenting and analyzing.

Even if you are a jaded individual when it comes to meeting famous persons (as I tend to be) meeting the pope is a moving experience. Those coming in contact with Pope Benedict seem greatly moved, many to tears. I did not get to see him this go around (though I hope to get a glimpse of him this summer down under) but as I’ve reported here before I did get to meet Pope John Paul II about nine years ago at the Vatican. After a mass in his private chapel we were escorted into some chamber where the handful of priests that were there removed their vestments and then were shuttled off to a library with a few of the people who were granted short audiences with the pope. He worked his way down the line, greeting, listening, blessing, and giving out rosaries. I remember thinking, “What do you say to the pope? Is it possible even to say anything profound? I so don’t want to say, something trite like, ‘Great job,’ or ‘Hi from everyone in Cleveland,’” though now I wish I would have.

When he finally got to me his secretary said, “Father Valencheck from Cleveland. The pope shook my hand and said, “Ah! Cleveland!” to which I responded, “Blablablab.”

I told that story this weekend in my homily and of course it got a laugh. But what was really funny is what happened after mass. We were over in the parish hall for coffee and donuts (where two or three are gathered in His name, we shall serve donuts) when the mother of the young lady from this parish who joined the Sisters of Life in New York received a phone call. “Mom!” she very excitedly reported on the phone, “I got to meet the pope and shake his hand!” The only downside of the event was that she was listening as the pope made his way down and hearing people saying such things as, “God bless,” and “We love you,” but she said something much more profound. “Blabldhekl!” Good for her. “That’ what Fr. V. said when he met John Paul!” her mother informed her.

One may think what one will about the state of the Church in the United States but it has been inspiring to see the enthusiasm and the piety of the young people over the days of this papal visit. It must be remembered what a mixed up and difficult period from which we are just now emerging. We have every right to be a bit dysfunctional IMHO. But was there not hope here? Was there not a brilliant future emerging from a long season of confusion? This great outpouring of faith, devotion, and love of the Church was not just a fluke with John Paul. This will continue. And we as Church can expect a brilliant future.

Saturday, April 19, 2008


There IS hope. I'll grant you that there is sadly a lack of any mention of the God through whom we have life and who is the cause of our hope. But this is still inspiring especially if we take from the perspective of a people who assume that our Loving Father is the basis from which this hope springs. (Approximately 2 mins.)


HEAR YE, HEAR YE! Jay announces the opening of Catholic Carnival 168!

For those of you who read The Priest magazine (I realize it might have limited appeal with the general public) I have an article coming out in the May issue.

We here at St. Clare have been pondering using blogs for a couple of ministries to keep people informed about goings on. (The website thing is just not happening.) Here is a good site where they are using a blog for use by the youth at Our Lady of Victory. It might be a place for you to seek out good ideas. Don't you know they (Thanks Wayne - who just happens to work with Fr. Schnipple.)

CATHOLIC SCRIPTURE STUDY IS BACK! Rob announces that everything is back on track for those of you interested in reading and studying Scriptures together on live. Check his site out HERE.

Friday, April 18, 2008


The use of bells has had a strong and important use in the Church. They notify us of events occurring, they mark the time, they lead us in prayer, and sing out of God’s presence through the business and terrors of the world. So bells have been treated reverently, almost more reverently than the pipe organ as an object worthy of receiving a special blessing before use.

Last week Melody mentioned that the bells in her parish tower have names. It is through this special blessing that bells receive names. The blessing is called the baptism of the bells but do not take that too literally. The are not baptized but consecrated for use as is the altar or even the church building itself. During this blessing (in which Sacred Chrism is used) the bells are dedicated to a patron saint in much the same way a parish church is. Many bells will then be cast with the saint’s name on them. If you are able to visit a bell tower (make sure they are not scheduled to ring, you’ll be sorry) the name is usually to be found (most often in Latin) toward the top, several inches down from where the bells begins its major downward slope.

The blessing of bells is of course limited to real bells and not electronic mimics. If you would like to read more on the baptism of the bells there is a good article here.

Here is information on the bells of the Cathedral of Saint John in the Diocese of Cleveland from their website. "In the ancient tradition of the Catholic Church, the six bells were named. The largest bell, 3,300 pounds, was named after the first naturalized American citizen to be named a saint, Frances Xavier Cabrini. The second Bell, 2,000 pounds, was named after the first American born saint, Elizabeth Ann Seton. The third bell, 1,200 pounds, was named St. John Nepomucene Neumann. The fourth Bell, 850 pounds, was named Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha. The fifth bell, 525 pounds, was named Blessed Katherine Drexel. The sixth bell, 375 pounds, was named Blessed Junipero Serra. All of these saints and blesseds are a part of American History."

Oh, there is more to come on bells.

Thursday, April 17, 2008


A seminarian interviewed me for a project on which he was working and one of his questions was if I thought there was still a climate that promoted clericalism within my circle of priest acquaintances. I readily agreed that there are individual priests who have clerical tendencies but that the general mindset is frowned upon in the presbyterate as a whole.

I want to change that answer.

There was/is a reaction against the abuse of the collar that was so strong that it could be labeled bitter. But when a reaction is too strong the correction tends to be an over compensation and in the end we are left with a mirror image of what it is we tried to eliminate. In other words, we become what we hate. It is like being in a small sailboat listing heavily to port in a strong wind and overcompensating too much to the starboard side. End result: You get wet. You just happen to be on the other side of the boat.

So at the Mass, says Pope Benedict XVI in The Spirit of the Liturgy, “It must be plainly evident that the oratio (prayer/praying) is at the heart of the matter.” “In this prayerful approach to participation there is no difference between priests and laity.”

The priest does what he does because we need him to do it. But the heart of the action is the great prayer being offered to God (and God’s offering to us.) It is devastating to our understanding of who we are as Church to downplay the role of the priesthood of the baptized. What the average Catholic does in the pew every Sunday is not a passive absorption of something important someone else is doing but in itself a vital, essential, meaningful role.

But we do not believe it.

As evidence of this I offer you a common theme in liturgy planning meetings. The sentence is often murmured, “What can we do to get people more involved?” This usually means inventing or duplicating ministries. This is a huge mistake. It sends the message loud and clear that what is happening in the pew is not important. It says if you want to be important you need to find a role that comes as close to mimicking the role of the priest as possible. What does that smack of? The clericalism we tried to snuff out.

Further quoting the pope, “Of course, external actions – reading, singing, the bringing up of the gifts – can be distributed in a sensible way. . . We should be clearly aware that [these] external actions are quite secondary . . . The almost theatrical entrance of different players into the liturgy, which is so common today, especially during the Preparation of the Gifts, quite simply misses the point. . . If the liturgy degenerates into general activity, then we have radically misunderstood the “theo-drama” of the liturgy and have lapsed almost into parody.”

This abuse is particularly prevalent in “youth masses.” People want the kids "more involved." But in fact what we are inadvertently teaching is that what they do at Mass when they do not have an extraordinary role is not really not all that important. What a tragedy! The opposite is in fact the case. Those busying themselves about are actually fulfilling secondary roles. What happens in the pew is (or should be) the primary action. The oratio!

Here we can also see why the Church makes such a fuss about people not taking on multiple ministries at the same mass. That is if they are the lector, they should also not be an extraordinary minister of Holy Communion or some such combination. Even if the person does not mind it is patently unfair as it robs the person from performing their priestly and ultimately more important role.

Hence we have from the General Instruction of the Roman Missal (5) “In addition, the ministerial priesthood puts into its proper light another reality of which much should be made, namely, the royal priesthood of believers. Through the ministry of presbyters the people’s spiritual sacrifice to God is brought to completeness in union with the sacrifice of Christ, our one and only Mediator. For the celebration of the Eucharist is the action of the whole Church, in it all should do only, but all of, those parts that belong to them in virtue of their place within the people of God. In this way greater attention will be given to some aspects of the Eucharistic celebration that have sometimes been neglected in the course of times. For these people are the people of God, purchased by Christ’s blood, gathered together by the Lord, nourished by His word. They are a people called to offer God the prayers of the entire human family, a people giving thanks in Christ for the mystery of salvation by offering His sacrifice. Finally, they are a people growing together into unity by sharing in Christ’ s Body. These people are holy by their origin, but becoming ever more holy by conscious, active, and fruitful participation in the mystery of the Eucharist.”


Somehow I lost today's post. Fortunately there are a couple of guest blogs on deck! Today's guest blogger (C) has written a good number of times for Adam's Ale and never fails to satisfy! Thank goodness she was in the mood to send something in! Enjoy!

When I was in my early twenties I had a favorite rock band, and through a weird twist of circumstances I met them. They came to Cleveland frequently during their tour, and I was always their guest when they were in town. I loved the attention - the lead singer sang to me at one of his shows and my friends thought I was too cool for words. But eventually the tour ended, and frankly all I ever did was drink their liquor and smoke their cigarettes (I was certainly no groupie) so I'm sure their interest in me was waning.

I went through a horrible spiritual darkness shortly after that. One of the questions I was trying to answer was, "When I'm 50, what am I going to say my life was about?" I finally decided I want only one thing: to get myself to heaven, and get as many people as possible to go with me. I had a special devotion to Divine Mercy, so I decided that every day at 3:00 PM I would pray for someone different. The list got very long, and I was running out of ideas of who to pray for, and I thought, hey, what about the guys in that band? At first I objected because in my mind they were somehow not really people, and they were probably hopeless (a heavy metal band - some of their lyrics would curl your hair). But they made the list.

Some commenters on this blog have pointed out their sympathy for rock stars who have died tragic deaths. Their stories ARE tragic! Kurt Cobain was a sweet happy child until his parents divorced, and his bitterness ended in suicide. Anthony Kedis of the Red Hot Chili Peppers had a drug dealer for a dad who bought Anthony hookers when he was 12 years old. Good and evil effect everyone. I think we neglect certain souls because they seem non-human somehow. Did you ever notice how it seems OK for people to lust over a celebrity, even if they're married, because somehow we think, well they're not really a PERSON. Maybe that crazy YouTube guy with the eyeliner was on to something, crying over Britney Spears, "She's a HUMAN BEING!" (OK, maybe he's just a freak, but you get my point.)

We delude ourselves that there are people beyond prayer. I think part of the reason why people loved Ozzy Osborne's reality show is because you got to see glimmers of humanity, weakness, and even kindness in someone that we all assume was evil at worst and inhuman at best. A friend of mine had a short-lived relationship years ago with a charming guy who manipulated her, lied to her, and played with her head. He called her recently to tell her that he had quit drugs and alcohol and that he just wanted to say he was sorry. I asked her, didn't you think he was just a hopelessly evil person, and she emphatically answered yes! I suppose on the flip side of that, priests and nuns don't get prayed for because they are thought to be untarnishably good.

I was watching PBS a couple of years ago. It was December and they were playing a concert of Christmas music by a rock band. I was looking at the guys playing and suddenly I said "John? Chris? Hey, these are my guys from that metal band! They do CHRISTMAS music now!?" Now I know that doesn't make them saints, but compared to the stuff they USED to do, it is a VAST improvement.

Monday, April 14, 2008


If you are not good at something it is best to admit it and move on to more constructive things. The same advice would do well for the Church.

We are not good at marketing ourselves.

We aren’t.

We are not good at wording things. Well, that is not exactly true. We are very, very good at wording things as long as you agree with the definition of the words that the Magisterium uses and understand the concepts behind certain phrases that are used in Church circles. Those who write most of the official things for the Church could never get a job in a local newspaper. Half of every paper would be apologies and corrections for the previous edition. Not that what they say was incorrect, but the way in which something is said is open to misinterpretation by those not using language in quite the same way.

One perfectly good word (that I happen to like) that does not work so well anymore is dogma. To the kennel with it! Perhaps the reason it does not seem to go down the collective gullet so well is because we have not explained it properly. If someone said they did not believe in a particular dogma they might be told, “But you have to or you cannot be Catholic!” “Who says?” might be the response to which the very well intentioned, budding apologist might say, “Because Rome said so!”

Is it any wonder people mislabel dogma as “man made laws, rules, and ideas?” But dogma is not a bunch of guys sitting around deciding what everybody needs to believe. It is the collective knowledge that we have of God. It is formal stating of revelation (God revealing Himself and His mission to us.) It is the result of the careful study of Scripture and Tradition. (Tradition being another word that is wildly misunderstood. See how we get into trouble?)

For example, our central dogma is the dogma of the Trinity. Thus did God reveal himself to us. To not believe in the Trinity is to put one’s self outside of not only the Catholic Church but Christianity in general.

Problem number 2: Say you do not believe in a particular dogma. It is said that you are anathema. You are kicked out of the club. The natural reaction might be, “Says who?” To which our earnest budding apologist might respond, “The pope!” Well, that is not exactly true (while at the same time sorta true.)

Look at it this way: One of my favorite professors in the seminary said, “You can only change the rules of the game so much until you find you are playing another game.” So you want to play basketball. But you want to play it with a ball with pointy ends, so that means you can’t dribble, and you decide that to make a point you have to run the ball into an end zone. You can call it basketball all you want but the expert in basketball will say, “You have changed the essence of the game so much that you are playing a different game.”

Dogma is our basic knowledge of God. To reject that revelation of Him is to change the rules to such a degree that you are playing a different game. Rome does not decide this, the pope does not decide this, this is the treasure that the Church has been given of which an individual has chosen not to partake. The big bad Church did not kick them out. They left even if they did not realize it. Dogma helps them (us) realize it. As Russell Shorto said of it, “Dogma wasn’t a dirty word – it was ground. Dogma was conceived not as an external shackle but as the living source that made knowledge of truth possible in the first place.”

Fixing our language. This is where you come in. The Church cannot change her language at society’s whim or one document would not be able to speak to another document without being thoroughly confusing. But we who love her as God’s instrument for His mission on earth must come to understand her language and interpret it for others.

Sunday, April 13, 2008


FINDING TRUTH WHEREVER IT MAY BE FOUND: "If technical progress is not matched by corresponding progress in man's ethical formation, in man's inner growth, then it is not progress at all, but a threat for man and for the world." from Pope Benedict "Spe Salve"
QUOTE II - "Throw dirt, lose ground." Anon.


Kaz, our correspondant from NY sent this in: "This summer the Communion and Liberation will be hosting an education conference for high school teachers, administrators and university faculty in the field of education. With this conference we hope to meet and begin to dialogue with educators interested in a truly human education, using Fr. Giussani's method of education as a starting point for the discussion. Space is limited so people are encouraged to register early at

Raven Smiles sent this Metro Ad in concerning the popes visit with preemptive appologies for anybody who might find it offensive. "Part of the joy of being a Catholic is knowing the difference between an indelicacy and an indecentcy."

VERY DANGEROUS: Habemus Papem (from whom we've not heard in a spell) sent this in. The rules are VERY simple. To fly the helicopter press the left mouse button to go up, release to go down. Sound painfully easy does it not? Do not start this game at work. DANGER: ADDICTION LEVEL HIGH.

Saturday, April 12, 2008


TRYING TO ANSWER THE QUESTION, “WHAT DOES A PRIEST DO?” When I was in high school I went down to the guidance counselor’s office to take a career aptitude test. This was in the Stone Age, several minutes before computers went crazy and took over the world. My neighbor had a computer and we used to play on but for the life of me I couldn’t figure out what to do with one. He said, “Well, maybe your Mom could store her recipes on it.” When I told her that in hope that we too might get a computer she laughed and said, “What would I want to do that for?”

But I digress.

So instead of clicking answers on a computer, I had to answer questions in a booklet. Based on the score received, (“If you answered yes to question one you get ten points, if no, five points”, etc . . . ) you were to take a straight metal bar about the diameter of a coat hanger and stick it through an assigned hole in a shoebox sized container filled with index cards and lift. Like a fortuneteller, the card that came up would predict the job that you were forever to stear your life toward, as this was the career path for you. So I stuck in the bar, lifted my card and read.

Cruise line director.

Yes, cruise line director. As in Julie McCoy on “Love Boat”. I was mortified (and slightly intrigued.) Then again, I am relatively certain that “Roman Catholic Priest” was not on the list of options.

I thought of this last Sunday as I busied myself around the parish. One of the anxieties I had as a teen was that I would be doing the same thing every day. There is very little to worry about that in the priesthood. At times the activities on any given day can swing wildly, taking you from one group of people to another who are engaged in disparate activities involving emotional states all over the scale. The kind of varying activities that might take the aptitude of a – er – uhm – (mumble, mumble mumble) cruise line director. Yes. Well, moving along.

Take this past weekend for example, in addition to the usual day to day obligations and appointments (there was fortunately but oddly no weddings or funerals) there was a sick call in a home, confessions, mass, and then attending the Booster’s Final Four party. (C. S. Lewis once said that “Duty is none the less for being pleasure.) The next morning between masses there was the welcoming of new parishioner’s reception, running from that to the Blue and Gold banquet to bless the track for the Pinewood Derby, leaving that to welcome friends to the baptism of their boys. A quite enjoyable weekend. They are not all that nice, some are busier, some less, and there was mundane stuff going on under all that. But there is a lesson here. And the lesson is this: If you are a practicing Catholic and you take a career aptitude test and it suggests that you should be a cruise line director, you may actually be called to be Catholic priest.

I’m just saying.

Thursday, April 10, 2008


I cannot believe that I am posting this. But Fr. F sent this in and I must admit I would have loved to have seen the network muckity mucks sitting around and deciding what they wanted to the American Idol contestants to sing. "How about a blatant praise song to Jesus Christ?" Well they did. Nothing else proves the presence of the power of the Holy Spirit in the word I suppose. Enjoy. (Approximately 3 minutes.)

Jay announceth Catholic Carnival 167 is available for your reading pleasure.

Kaz, our correspondent from New York, sent this in. Looking for Ben-o-bilia? Look no further. You can also look here for more information on the Pope's visit and here for even more "Official D.C. Papal Visit Merchandise".
Lilliam Marie sent in a story about the Archdiocese of St. Louis opening up a sacred music institute.

Speaking of which, I hope they do something about the current state of mildly heretical elevator music in the Church which brings us to another article proposed for you reading called, "Heretical Hymns."