Thursday, July 31, 2008


Seasons also have flowers associated with them. Advent tends to be a time that we do not decorate and so we begin with Christmas. The most obvious flower associated with Christmas is the poinsettia. But believe it or not, this is a relatively new addition to the symbolic vocabulary. It seems so incredibly entrenched that it is hard to imagine the altar not having them in abundance (thanks in large part to commercial growers and promoters.) In fact, it is not listed in older liturgical symbolic dictionaries. So here is evidence of something nice being introduced and the Church baptizing it and assigning symbolic value to it. The flower somewhat resembles a star which makes one think of the Star of Bethlehem. Some assign meaning to the various colors in which this plant comes but I find that risky since there is no universal agreement and the colors vary so greatly. But red is often associated with His humanity or the Blood which He would shed 33 years later. White brings to mind purity. But pink and mixed colors are kind of on their own.

You will find the almond associated with the birth of Christ. It symbolizes divine favor or approval. The symbol comes to us from Numbers 17;1-8, in which Aaron was chosen as high priest by God because his staff burst into bloom. “. . . and behold the rod of Aaron of the house of Levi was budded, and brought forth buds and bloomed blossoms and yielded almonds.” This then became a symbol of the Blessed Virgin. She appears in a Mandorla or Almond aureole, a shape made when two circles intercept each other, usually in depictions of the Assumption. This shows the divine favor bestowed upon her that derives from her being chosen to be the Mother of God hence, the appropriateness of use in art and decoration of using the almond not and branch.

Once again the daisy comes into use. It symbolizes the innocence of the Christ Child and considered more appropriate than the tall stately lily to exemplify his humility.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008


Once in philosophy class we had a long discussion about the difference between a Christian and an atheist doing a good deed – the same exact deed. What is the difference - or - is there a difference? We all wanted there to be one and came up with some possible answers. But fifteen years later the question seems a bit weak.

It is not enough to consider oneself a Christian and do good deeds. There was a great conversation had in this house the other night with a man on parish council who worried that such groups could easily fall into the “complaint and fix” mode. That is, somebody notices something like the parish fence needing painting. We get together at a meeting, somebody mentions that the fence needs painting, and then we pass a resolution to fix the fence, and then move on to the next complaint or idea.

He said that there has to be more to it than that and he is right. We cannot loose sight of the bigger picture. It eventually comes down to fixing the fence, yes, but it is not about fixing the fence and we need to remind ourselves of that from time to time. We are not here to preserve a church, but to provide a space in which to be Church. We paint the fence because we believe in Jesus Christ and His presence in the Eucharist and that we are called as His Body to worship Him and serve each other as Church; as brothers and sisters in Christ. And part of being able to do that is preserving our property which means the fence needs to be painted!

It is a subtle difference but essential. It poses the question of why we are here in the first place and aids us in building the community to which Christ calls us.

Every group with which I have met so far in my short time at my current parish I have emphasized that the first priority is the Eucharist; what we do as a community around His altar on Sunday. Everything else is important, but only so if it flows from what we do at the Mass. Basketball teams and sewing circles are great, but ultimately meaningless unless it flows from the source and summit of our lives. We are not here to sponsor teams or clubs or paint fences; we are here to worship Him.

It all must flow from this simple concept and then, at the end of the week, be offered back to Him otherwise our mission becomes to paint fences.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008


The fourth Adam's Ale get together took place last weekend. It was a time of prayer, art, friendship, deep discussion, and bit of goofiness. This was supposed to take place whilst I was a parochial vicar at Saint Clare in Cleveland with time on my hands, not while being a new administrator in Akron with a tight schedule! But I think it all went rather well none-the-less.

The first day was a visit to Our Lady of Lourdes Shrine in Euclid. It is run by the Trinitarian Sisters who Lillian Marie plans to be joining in a few short months! We had a tag team tour of the shrine by the sisters pictured here and we ended the visit by praying Liturgy of the Hours and the rosary in the shrine chapel.

That night Lillian Marie and her family hosted a cook out at their house. After a fine repast and some terrible joke telling a vote was taken and we decided to watch the Princes Bride, introducing the movie to Uncle Jim for the very first time. Inconceivable!

The next day, the reason for the get together, we met at the Western Reserve for the Vatican exhibit. If you do not have plans to go, please reconsider. It was well presented. They handled the crowd well and we did not feel rushed or overwhelmed by the number of people. The art itself was exceptional on many levels. This is our patrimony, our history, symbols of our faith. One cannot help but be moved by the art. That was the purpose for it being commissioned in the first place; to engage the not just the intellect but the senses and the emotions as well. That is what it means to be Catholic, to engage the whole person on every level. It becomes evident why purchasing catalogue art for the parish is such a shame and sells us so short (though I know, I know, it is sometimes necessary. But I do not have to like it.) It should also be a reminder that we are, as Church, patrons of the arts as well as caretakers. Thank goodness nobody saw these things as products of a by-gone era in the Church and sent them to the Goodwill. The gravitas of the items also helps instill in us the importance of the otherworldly realities with which we are dealing and how of ultimate worth those other worldly things are since we spend so much care with the earthly things we use to point toward them.

Ah well, enough of that.

Mass back down in Akron was next followed by dinner in my new rectory. Fr. Schnipple celebrated mass the next day at 11:00 (Sunday) and then off the local art fair. Dinner was planned but some how we ended up being satisfied with the delicious brownies that L. M. made. Boccie on the lawn was played and then a climb up to the top of the bell tower. Fr. Schnipple and I were the only ones to make it up. What a beautiful sight it was! We could see for miles and the trees being so large in this part of Akron made it seem almost as if we were in the middle of a woods.

We were just about to start down when who should appear but ADORO who braved her phobias and climbed up also! Of course the problem was getter her back down. But with a little coaching from Fr. S, all went well.

C. brought a game (Catchword I believe it was called) and we spent the last of our time together laughing around the table.

Thank you everyone for helping out or turning up for the day!

Monday, July 28, 2008


FINDING TRUTH WHEREVER IT MAY BE FOUND: "Make no small plans. They have not the fire to stir men's blood." Daniel Burnam


Like the sun bursting forth with the sun, Catholic Carnival 182 shines forth.

The Diocese of Cleveland Enewsletter says THE FEST is just around the corner. Here is their web site.

My sister sent this game in. WARNING: ADDICTION LEVEL: MODERATE

Fr. Schnipple visited Saint Sebastian this weekend (more on that on Wednesday I think) and celebrated the 11:00 mass. Somebody drove this great car to Mass that morning and I just had to have my picture taken with it.

Sunday, July 27, 2008


One by one we were called forth to kneel before the bishop and he laid hands on our heads. When we rose from that we walked around to the front of the sanctuary and knelt on the marble steps. The purpose of this was so that the priests of the diocese could file past us each laying hands on us in blessing. It was a long time to kneel on hard marble and a few of us secretly wore knee pads so that we would be able to walk after.

Some of the priests touched us so lightly that we barely felt it. Others clasped on vices perhaps in order to make the blessing soak in more deeply. I had lived with Fr. C. for a short spell and unfortunately he was deep into dementia, but he was more than aware with what was happening this day and he wanted to jump the line to come up to me and lay on hands. He could not remember my name or what day it was or even if he had eaten already, but something within him recognized me and knew that this was ordination. His escort had to gently guide him in the line and he came up, shook my hand, laid on hands, shook my hand again and continued down the line then.

Fr. Hilkert, a great man of whom I have spoken at length over the life of this blog, was not too much further down the line. It was with him that I was to spend my next assignment. He was already near eighty and had acquired that certain mystique that older pastors have. We had only met about a week before now we were to spend the next five years living and working together (but as it turned out, actually seven wonderful years.) He laid on hands, said in his gruff voice, “Looking forward to seeing you at Satin Ambrose,” and then, in the style of preconcicular confirmation, slapped me on the cheek. In that vast church the noise echoed and I heard gasps and giggles from the pews behind me.

Bishop Pilla then anointed our hands with Sacred Chrism and we slipped into the sacristy. A lady from my internship parish had made me a manaturge (sp?) with which to wipe my hands. It was a fine linen purificator with “My son’s ordination, The Rev. John A. Valencheck” along with the date. I presented this to my mother later privately and later when she died it was placed with her in the coffin.

Well, this was back when I still had hair from all the priests laying on hands I looked a bit like Phyllis Diller which is why I do not mind so much not having hair now. But it was all brought back under control and we headed back out to concelebrate Mass with the bishop for the very first time and join him in the final blessing.

After we met in the bishop’s parlor and he greeted us again, handed us our faculties and had his picture taken with us. We were then shooed out into the cathedral to greet the diocese and offer first blessings. That went on so long that I began to lose my voice.

My oldest nephew stuck around and helped me pack up all of my gear and took the hour ride home with me to my parent’s house. This was another fond memory as we talked about many deep subjects on that ride.

At home everyone was wiped out but there was more to do. There was to be a reception that night at Slovene Center. So we busied ourselves getting ready and then tried to steal a catnap as we were all running on fumes at this point.


Friday, July 25, 2008


Many flowers and other plants are suitable for ordination in art and arrangements. Symbols of purity and chastity are of particular appropriateness. Among these would be the lily, the laurel, and oddly enough the chestnut and the orange tree.

According to this sadly unnamable book (mentioned last week) are also the following suggestions. “The hyacinth signifies Christian prudence, peace of mind and a longing for heaven.” It actually comes to us through Greek mythology. While throwing a discus Apollo accidentally killed the beautiful youth Hyacinthus. Apollo then caused the hyacinth to spring up from his blood. The cause of new life from the death of the youth can symbolically remind us of our hope and our longing for heaven and new life after this life here on earth.

The fir tree has a lot of meanings. It of course represents Christ at Christmas and eternal life because of its ever green leaves, but it can also mean the “rejection of the low and base desires” characteristic of the elect of heaven who excel in the virtue of patience. In some Easter European traditions they sometimes take two tall firs or pines and chop off all but the upper branches, place them at the entrance of the event (in this case the doors of the church) with a banner between them such as “Welcome to out newly ordained priest”. I do not know if that has any connection or any meaning or if it is just fancy decoration. If you know anything your insight would be appreciated.

The fern, a symbol of humility, frankness, and sincerity is also appropriate. Its grace and beauty is hidden in the shadows of the woods and is only seen by the careful and honest seeker. Throughout Scripture the elm tree is a symbol of power and strength and the dignity of life. (Odd since the road that goes behind St. Sebastian is Elmsdale and currently only has one elm tree on it due to the elm blight that has swept our country.) Its mighty arms that stretch out in every direction gives us the idea of the strength we receive from the Scriptures.

I love this one: The plantain, though only a weed, is the symbol of the well worn path and traveled path of pilgrims seeking the Lord. It thrives along byways and paths and is also knows as “way bread”. It is often seen in Renaissance paintings.



Fr. Schnipple, Adoro, Uncle Jim, LM, and a host of other initials, monikers, and guest bloggers are in town for the Adam’s Ale visit to the Vatican Splendors! Originally thought the third A.A. get together is actually the fourth we realized. I will have mass at St. Sebastian on Saturday at 4:30 and Fr. Schnipple will have Mass on Sunday at 11:00. Today we will be at the Shrine of Our Lady of Lourdes for a visit around 12:30.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008


I've always loved detail in buildings. After taking in the over all lines of a structure, I like to focus in on particular aspects. We do that with people's faces too I suppose. We have our first impressions of their face and then get to know the dimple or the beauty mark and learn to love the face even more. Same with buildings. That is one thing that I do not like about much of modern architecture. (This is just a personal preference thing.) After taking in the grand lines of buildings there is very little in the way of intricate detail to capture the imagination. Rooms and windows are exactly the same from top to bottom and there is no wondering, "Oh! I bet that is a cool room. I'd love to get in there one day." There is often nothing that took an artisan time to create. No detailed design that sweeps you into its depth while you sit and think.

Saint Sebastian Church has a lot of that detail. As I take my constitutional around the grounds there are numerous aspects to catch my eye. Take this lamp. How many light fixtures have you enjoyed looking at lately? Yet this one always makes me smile. Windows and doors are more than functional. This door to the school lets you know that what is happening behind these doors is very important and worthy of the community's time and resources in construction and maintenance.
There are also well placed shrines here and there giving the grounds a park like feel as well as giving momentary reminders of prayer. It draws the neighborhood in to sit, play, or just walk through.
Details from the front doors of the old church.
Statue of Saint Sebastian in front of the old church.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008


To be a man or woman of faith means that belief in God has something to do with the kind of person that you are, not simply what you do. It is not an external activity like skiing or baking, it is part of your essence like being male or female. This in turn effects how you see the world and how you react to it.

For example, if a person understands faith as something he does rather than who he is, he might be more inclined to pick and choose from the things that Christians do rather than buy they whole enchilada and “go native” as it were. “Church” then becomes like joining the last gym at which I was a member. There was a basic membership. From there you could get extras such as entrance to the executive dressing rooms where there was a sauna and whirlpool. You could get towel service. You cold have appointments with a masseuse. But even if you did not do all of those things you were still a member of the club. You were in. You picked what you wanted and what you wanted to sacrifice for.

Such a person then might say, “I am Christian, but I do not believe that it should interfere with politics or the bedroom. I am an adult. I can decide what is good for me. I love this woman and having relations with her is my way of expressing my affection for her. Who is the Church to tell me to do otherwise?”

Now, if a person sees faith as something as intimately tied to who he is like being male, he is far less likely to be a cafeteria Catholic. Even if he have other predilections, opting out of being a man is not in the cards save through complicated and expensive illusion. The same should be said of the man or woman of faith. He would say, “I am Christian and that is the lens through which I see life and therefore effects even my politics and what I do behind closed doors. It is like being a gentleman. If I am pleasant in public but rude in private, I am not a gentleman but a rude person who has moments of acting like a gentleman. So if I love this woman, it is more important for me to say no to carnal relations even if I really want to have them because it will be more important for me to see the one I supposedly love get into heaven than it would be for me to demand this action of her for my benefit. We love each other more in saying, “No,” (even though it may not feel like it) than in giving in to what I want.

God and His commandments to love are the very air we breath and must influence every aspect of our lives or our faith is inane. As the devil said in the C. S. Lewis’ Screwtape Letters, “A moderate religion is as good as no religion at all – and much more amusing.”

Here is a poem that gets the same point across using being a gentleman as its theme:


To look at him
a person would see
a man with gentlemanly grace:
the finest of clothes
and goodness knows
a very distinguished face.

He’d sport with the men
and bow to the ladies
with an aristocratic air.
He’d mount a horse
and jump a course
yet never muss his hair.

Of worldly things
he’d quite a grasp
and could converse on every topic;
of Church, state, and sport
and news of all sort,
but would never, ever gossip.

But late at night
once out of sight
his own true nature arose:
He’d burp a lot
and scratch his butt
and pick buggers out of nose.

Too lazy to clean
he’d watch T.V. all day
and he often peed in his sink.
And week old Spam
in an open can
began to horribly stink.

Why does he lead
this two fold life
which to us appears so queer?
The role he would play
was for public display;
his gentlemanly way: A veneer!

Sunday, July 20, 2008


FINDING TRUTH WHEREVER IT MAY BE FOUND: "Rings and jewels are not gifts but apologies for gifts. The only true gift is a portion of thyself." Emerson.

QUOTE II "If you were a dinasaur in those days, you were sure you were in the right, and you made everyone look up to you." from Italo Calvino's Cosmicomics


This is BIG news. I've been trying to keep it low key but it has gotten out of hand so I've decided just to go along with it. Despite what you might think, it shant interfere with my duties as a priest.

Here and here are a couple of links for you to enjoy that feature the Sisters of Life at World Youth Day.

The good Fr. D sent this in about another proposed cathedral curtesy of the Shrine of the Holy Whapping. He also wishes to remind us that we are marking the 40th anniversary of Humanae Vitae soon. Here is a resource he forwarded for us to think about.

Jay says that the time is right for checking out Catholic Carnival 181.

B. says, "EWTN 8-10 p.m. EST.Tues. -Sisters of Life- check it out. Can you feel the love from Sydney? The Sisters are great!"

The Diocese of Cleveland Enewsletter has a few interesting tidbits to pass along. The first is an "important message to the people of the Diocese of Cleveland" (hold on to your seats guys, you are about to be shocked) "concerning unfair treatment of the Diocese by the Plain Dealer." Read more here. * They also report that next week, July 20th through the 26th is national Natural Family Planning Week. "NFP Awareness Week is an event begun by the American Academy of NFP, now American Academy of FertilityCare Professionals and promoted by the Diocesan Development Program for NFP, United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. The dates highlight the anniversary of the papal Encyclical Humanae Vitae (July 25) and mark the feast of Saints Joachim and Anne (July 26). This year also marks the 40th Anniversary of the document, Humanae Vitae." * Also, preparations are under way for The FEST, Northeast Ohio's largest free Christian festival which will take place in Wickliffe, Ohio on Sunday, August 3. * And lastly they call our attention to The Catholic League, the nation's largest Catholic civil rights organization. Founded in 1973 by the late Father Virgil C. Blum, S.J., the Catholic League defends the right of Catholics - lay and clergy alike - to participate in American public life without defamation or discrimination.

Saturday, July 19, 2008


After the long line of priests and deacons we fell into line in the procession around the Cathedral. The bells in the tower rang out their joy and we could spot people standing in their windows in the hotel across the street gazing on the scene below them. I’ve often wondered what they may have been in town for and what they made of the procession.

There were also people just going about their business downtown walking down the street or staring through car and bus windows. There were of course the protesters. First we passed the man who gathered with his family every year who held up signs such as, “St. Peter was a married man,” or “My Dad is priest”. I remarked in my journal my surprise at how tall his sons looked. The only time I had contact with this family was when they would protest at ordination over the past six or seven years and it was always a shock to see how they aged. Rounding the corner we ran into the second set of protesters making a case for women’s ordination by holding up a long sign that states, “Women are priestly people too.”

We had our picture taken and then we started up the steps into the Cathedral; the music from the pipe organ and small orchestra wafting out onto 9th street. It was packed and the singing loud and joyous. Flashes went off from the congregation and there were calls as family, friends, and parishioners called out our names and waved letting us know that they were there. The class bowed to the altar and then divided and went to our designated chairs in front of the pews. Our families sat directly behind us and I got a glimpse of their faces with their emotions so complicated it was difficult to exactly what they were.

We executed our roles well though I must admit in taking joy in having a last name that began with the letter “V” as it afforded me opportunity to correct any possible mistakes I might have made by observing my brothers. When it came time for the Litany of the Saints we laid prostrate on the marble floor while the people stood and sang. We were warned before hand not only to polish our shoes but to make sure we did the bottoms as well for just such times. (Funny little details.)

Some things come to mind that are so utter un-profound that it is almost an embarrassment to report them. One of those came at this moment. Laying there with my face an inch from the floor I remember marking that the floor was so shiny that I could make out the chandelier in the ceiling in detail. But on the other hand, I had never been so moved by hearing all of the saint’s names before. For the first time (and it is a shame that I had to wait until ordination to realize it) I heard those names as my actual and living brothers and sisters, not merely a hypothetical or even just a remembrance of the great ones that went before us. “Pray for us!” was not a nice thought but as true a request as asking my blood sister to help me move my things to my new assignment.

Fr. Kunkle, the pastor of my home parish, vested me in my priestly garb. He seemed to me down during the week but later I learned that he was ill and needing surgery but put it off until after ordination.

More next week.

Thursday, July 17, 2008


As you were promised, here are some of the flower associations that make certain varieties particularly pertinent for various Church celebrations. I wish proper credit could be given for the source of this information but it comes to you through an old Photostat that was given to me by a housekeeper at a parish where she also did the decorations. So the connection has been lost.

Some of these flowers could be used as actual decorations at the celebrations. Others, for practical reasons, might only be able to be used in art. For example, symbols of the Holy Trinity are a perfect fit with baptism. One of the plants most associated with the Holy Trinity (thank you Saint Patrick) is the three leafed clover. It would be difficult to decorate with this plant as anyone from any distance would not even know what it was. And it would be hard to make it look good. But it might be included in some art associated with baptism.

Olive oil is used in the baptismal rite and therefore olive branches are appropriate. They also recall the story of Noah to which reference is made in the blessing of the water. Since the 15th century the Daisy, associated with Christ’s innocence, has come to symbolize restored innocence and so is used particularly in infant baptisms.

Olive branches also work for confirmation as olive oil is used in the rite. Columbine symbolizes the Holy Spirit and is appropriate for any celebration that particularly concerns the Holy Spirit. (Columba is Latin for spirit.) Terebinth is also used in Chrism (it adds scent) and can also be used.

Red is the color of the Holy Spirit and is of course most appropriate in arrangements. Red roses or carnations should alert people to the type of celebration taking place. This also states well why we should be careful not just to put “pretty” things on the altar. If we put red on the altar let us mean to put red on the altar for a reason!

The carnation, actually is probably a little more appropriate as it is the symbol of pure love. (Not that the flower industry would agree – but that will come later.)

To be continued.


Some of you (who are far away) have asked for a little tour of St. Sebastian where I have just been assigned. Here is a picture from the front of the Church. I was standing across the street in a park that faces the Church. What a wonderful setting and we are very fortunate for that.
The nave.
The sanctuary. I should have had somebody standing in this picture to give you an idea of how large the mosaic is. But consider this: standing flatfooted on the sanctuary floor the top of the tabernacle is over my head.
Be it ever so humble there's no place like home. This is the rectory. It is quite beautiful and full of detail. This is where Fr. Schnipple will be staying during his visit.
A view from one of my windows. That is a rosary surrounding a statue of the Blessed Virgin. I guess the students stand on the beads as they pray the rosary each saying his respective prayer on his turn. That will be interesting to see. The grounds are taken care of by dedicated volunteers by the way. They do a spectacular job.
There are many other things to see and perhaps some time I will share them. But I do love this little building right off the Jr. High School wing. It is a little greenhouse.

Monday, July 14, 2008


The mystery has been solved! (I think.)

N. read about the mysterious discover of Fr. Ozimek’s copy of the “RULES of Saint Mary Seminary” showing up at St. Sebastian (see Rules, Rulers, Ruliest from last week.) When the priest that followed him retired he packed up a bunch of books to be donated to a resource library here and it is assumed that the RULES book must have been included and pulled aside as an amusement perhaps for the priests of the house. A reasonable explanation. Thanks N.!

Here are a few more excerpts from the book:

45. RECREATION DAYS: When out on recreation days they must not go to places of amusement, such as theaters, dances, ball-games, and the like. These rules apply, with proper modifications, to any occasion when they are out of the house.

47. RECREATIONS: Games that are mentally fatiguing rather than physically fatiguing are not be encouraged. Dice and cards are excluded, as are all games for money. Cheap joking, suggestive remarks and course amusements will not do. All are to share in the recreation period.

48. SICKNESS: (I love this one) A student who feels ill should ask for a doctor, if he thinks that there is anything seriously wrong.

49. MEALS: Nourishing food is ample quantity will be provided. There will be no occasion for talk and criticism about the quantity and quality of what is served, and there will be no reason to bring food surreptitiously or to take food from the refectory to be consumed in rooms. To do so is merely a confession of greediness. As to drink, any one found under the influence of liquor will be severely dealt with, and anyone who brings liquor into the house or who has it in his room invites expulsion.

53. DISPUTES: There must be no loud debates amongst the students. Men may differ in opinion and may state those differences in quiet tones; much vociferating (another great word) indicates a determination to win by strength of lungs rather than by weight of reason.

54. HONORARIUM: The bell should be obeyed as God’s command. Instant response to it will make obedience easier.

79. VACATION LETTERS: At the end of their holidays they are to remind their pastors to write out the report on their conduct while in the parish. The report is to be sent to the Seminary sealed.

82. SPECIAL OFFENSES: There are some faults which are so disgraceful in a cleric and so scandalous to the people that those guilty of them must be summarily dealt with for the good of all. And one who does such things, which God forbid, must be instantly expelled. Amongst such offenses would be, getting drunk, fighting in the presence of others, striking a cleric, insulting a professor, joining a group gathered secretly to gamble or drink, going out of the Seminary at night without the superior’s permission, foul language, or familiarity with a woman. Once guilt is established in such offenses, there is no reason for hesitation; the culprit is to be dropped at once as unfit to be a cleric.



FINDING TRUTH WHEREVER IT MAY BE FOUND: "The wisest Sovereigns ere like private men, and the royal hand has sometimes laid the sword of chivalry upon a worthless shoulder which had better been branded by the hangman. What then? Kings do their best and they and we must answer to the intent and not the event." Old Play

QUOTE II - "If you and I want to avade some dangerous duty the best plan is to find one or two other cowards and do our shirking in company." C. S. Lewis


In the mood for a carnival? Jay announces that Catholic Carnival number 180 waiting for you.

As much as I miss old friends it is exciting getting to know a whole new group of people here at St. Sebastian. At an open house in the rectory I met an artist and gentleman who describes himself as a post-modern realist. That had to be explained to me somewhat but I love his work. Here is his site if you are interested in checking it out yourself.

For those of you sending Email here is a little warning. For some reason they are not showing up very quickly here. I will go a long spell with nothing and then all of a sudden there will be two days worth. I don't get it - well I do - but late. Just sos you know.

One week away from the Adam's Ale get together at the Vatican Exhibit. If you wish to join us please purchace tickets for 11:00 that Saturday. Fr. Schnipple will say mass at St. Sebastion that weekend also. Looking forward to it.

Only slightly dissappointedly does this post come to you from the United States. You may be aware that I was supposed to be in Sydney at the moment but greater things started happening. Habemus Papem and CO. have reported landing after a horrendously long flight but they are doing well and gearing up for all of the festivities. Sr. Brigid said that the Sisters of Life are also well on their way. Her mother says that they expect the sisters to be on EWTN Tuesday July 15th though we do not yet know the time.

Sunday, July 13, 2008


I warn those who are going to be ordained to write everything down because you will forget. That had to be admitted even in the writing in my journal ten years ago. “There is too much to even try to remember and so I will give snippets of things that are standing out even now,” I wrote.

Ordination morning started bright and early in my room at the seminary. I was in an older part of the building with dark wood doors, high ceilings, and thick plaster walls. The rooms were just large enough for a bed, a desk, a chair, a bookcase, a closet and a sink. The closets in the older sections were considerably smaller than in the newer (they were once nun’s cells) but the woodwork a better sound proofing more than made up for that inconvenience.

I prayed the Liturgy of the Office, dressed in my finest black suit, packed up the things that I would need for the rest of the day and headed off for ordination. I was driving my Uncle Leo’s Grand Am. He had been my confirmation sponsor but had died a few years back and so it way of having him with me in a way. In any event it beat the 1979 Ford LTD that I had been driving – an auto junkyard on wheels – such is the curse of being a seminarian at times. Actually it was beautiful on the inside with a front seat as big as a davenport, but the outside had quite seen its day and every few days it was necessary to pull over and break off whatever had been dragging along the road.

After parking in the cathedral garage the walk was made to the chancery building. On the way I saw my family, Mom and Dad, sisters and nephews in a coffee shop and popped in to greet them. They were so excited and a bit nervous themselves.

We met in the bishop’s parlor. It was early but Bishop Pilla was already dressed and so we felt obliged to do so also. This was the year right after Bishop Pilla had major heart surgery and he was a bit pale but able to joke with us and recap with us what we were to do that morning.

The bells started peeling in the bell tower about fifteen minutes early. The class gathered to pray and to dedicate ourselves once again to the patronage of the Blessed Virgin. The Bishop signaled us over and prayed with us one last time and we were sent to line up “under the arch”, a large passage that allowed cars to pass into the heart of Cathedral Square that connected the cathedral to the chancery building. Traditionally this is where the bishops and main celebrants line up while the rest of the priests and deacons line up along East 9th street. For the first time we were lined up under the arch on this beautiful, sunny, Saturday morning. Bells still peeling in the tower above our heads, the crucifer started his journey down East 9th Street, turned right at the corner up Superior Avenue, and finally into the door of St. John the Evangelist Cathedral.

Thursday, July 10, 2008


Apart from religious symbolism, the Victorians had a rich communication using plants in every day life. There is a book on my shelf (finally unpacked) called “Parson’s Handbook of Business and Social Forms; A Compendium of Business and Social Rules and a Complete Work of Reference and Self Instruction, 1902. There is a chapter entitled, “Dictionary of Floral Sentiment and the Flowers that Represent Them”. For several pages there are possible messages listed next to the appropriate flowers or plants that signify them. Here are some examples:

A deadly foe is near: Monk’s-hood
Advice: Rhubarb
Agreement: Lancaster Rose
Aversion: Indian Single Pink
Be Mine: Four Leaved Clover

And there are hundreds more. In a single nosegay one could write a whole letter I suppose.

The Church was no slouch in this either. In symbolism plants are used extensively and there had been certain plants for certain occasions even in altar decorations that many would have recognized as easily as we do today when we see poinsettias for Christmas and lilies for Easter. Somewhere I have an interesting list that I hope to unearth for you soon.

But continuing the thoughts from last week concerning Marian Gardens, marigolds named after Mary were said to once said to have adorned the dress of the Blessed Virgin and were used extensively for decorating her shrine in summer time feasts. There are also Our Lady’s Slippers, Lady’s Mantle, Lady’s Purse, Lady’s Seal, Lilies, Lilly of the Valley (my Mother’s favorite that still surrounds her house), Violets, Spearmint, Rosemary, Thyme, and Mint all have connections with Mary and are appropriate particularly for gardens in her honor.

For a more detailed description of plants and what they mean (I would just have to plagiarize in order to tell you more) I would recommend the book, “Catholic Traditions in the Garden by Ann Ball: Our Sunday Visitor Publishing.


Wednesday past I had an open house at the rectory. In order to this I wanted my office to be cleared of the clutter which I had bestowed upon it in my hasty move. Becoming annoyed with my meager progress I decided to just start at one end of the room and start with whatever was there and work my way across attending to whatever was next in the path.

One of the first objects of attack was a drawer in an end table. It was full of discarded items: candle stubs, old decks of cards, light bulbs, and the like. But at the very bottom there was a little Brown book with the intriguing title, “RULES”. I picked it up and found that it was the seminarian’s rulebook of Saint Mary Seminary, Cleveland, Ohio. But here is what really blew me away. The book was inscribed by “Joseph Ozimek, 1942.”

Now, Fr. Ozimek was my pastor for most of my early life and was an ardent supporter of my in my seminary days. Even when diabetes took his legs he said, “If I have to crawl to your ordination I will be there!” He was at least in spirit.

I took my confirmation name in large part due to him and he was instrumental in my deciding to become a priest. As far as I can tell he had no connection with Saint Sebastian so why his book would be here is a mystery – and a happy sign.

The book itself is interesting. It was a much different seminary from the days when I attended there. Here are some of the RULES:

12. PROMPTNESS: The activities of the seminary are regulated by a series of bells. The ringing of the bells is a call to obedience. Slow compliance is grudging service to God; prompt and eager responsiveness is a good-will offering to God.

14. SACRED THINGS: The words of Sacred Scripture must not be used lightly or jocosely (that is a great word) in common conversation. And the same is true of names of God and the saints. When the names of Jesus and Mary are used, they should be reverenced by bowing the head.

22. MUTUAL RELATIONS: “But before all things,” says St. Peter, “have a constant mutual charity amongst yourselves” (1 Pet. iv, 8). Students will seek to preserve “the unity of the spirit in the bond of peace” (Eph. iv, 3). There will be no particular friendships and no private aversions. In occupations, games, walks or in any recreations they will exclude none of their fellows from their company, and groups will not clique together.

23. CONVERSATION: It is evident the Seminarians must adhere to the rules of good manners in their conversation. They will not use slang, loose grammar or vulgar expressions. Abusive language and, still more, indecent language, is contrary both good manners and morals. When jokes cause pain, they are no longer jokes, and the pleasantry becomes a persecution. This applies to the calling of nicknames, too; and it is a rare soubriquet (another great word) that will not make the subject of it resentful.

31. CHASTITY: There is not much to be laid down in the rules concerning chastity. The only observance of it is perfect observance. It is the Seminarian’s duty to imitate in spotlessness of soul and body the purity of the angels.

33. NEATNESS: Neatness is good both as example to others and as an aid to one’s own comfort and health. The students should keep their clothes tidy and clean, rents should be repaired and spits should be removed at once. They must not, of course, become fastidious. Plainness and neatness are the qualities to be sought in all such things.

34. ASSOCIATIONS: There is t be no unnecessary talking with the janitor or porter or other servants. Seminarians must not go into the porter’s room. Nothing but the most urgent reasons can excuse talking with the Sisters who have charge of the domestic affairs of the house or with the women who are hired to help them.

35. ENTERING ROOMS: No student may enter another’s room without permission. This rule is peremptory and offenses will be severely punished.

There are some more that are interesting but this getting long already. I finish up next Wednesday.