Friday, May 29, 2009


Storks are an interesting animal. According to George Ferguson’s book, “Signs and Symbols in Christian Art” they symbolize prudence, vigilance, piety, and chastity, but it does not say why. Why this particular bird (perhaps because of its stateliness and call) is picked out to be the announcer of spring among all the birds is also a mystery to me. But because it is the announcer of spring and new life it also is associated with the Annunciation and the coming of Christ and thus, Ferguson surmises might be the origin of fable of the stork bringing babies to new mothers and fathers.

This may or may not be the case as there was recently a story on the radio that explained that storks used to roost in the straw roofing of people’s homes. More babies meant more homes meant more storks meant the association of each. Perhaps the truth is somewhere in the middle.

Thursday, May 28, 2009


It was such a happy time when the law was changed and we could begin turning right on red. What a relief that was! No more senselessly sitting at light with no traffic is sight! When that law was changed, it did not have an influence on other laws to any great extent. We did not have to redefine stopping or driving or intersections or the definition of cars. Most laws are rather independent of each other in this way. Where this changes is when law starts touching on morals.

Church teaching is mostly faith and morals and at least within the Catholic Church it is very difficult to change a teaching on faith and morals without having a profound effect on other teachings. Unlike many Protestant denominations that see individual teachings as independent agents that can change if the church body thinks Scripture can be reinterpreted to support a particular issue.

It is not quite the same with Catholic teaching. Catholic teaching more like a great ball of yarn. You cannot take one strand and pull on it without affecting the whole ball. Catholic teaching is that solid and interconnected.

For example, some denominations see no problem in allowing same sex marriage. It is an independent issue and a decision on this matter affects only this independent teaching. Ta-da. However to change this one teaching would be to put much of Catholic teaching into question. How sex is defined will in part define for us what it means to be a human being. It makes us reevaluate what the purpose of sex is and what marriage is. That will change what it means to be in relation with each other and with our God. For such a radical change in the 2000 years of Church teaching would mean a change in the very fabric of what it is to be Church and how faith is handed on. It would mean that there is possibility of a complete cut with Tradition and that faith is not necessarily a thing to be passed on from one generation to the next for it may not be the same thing from one generation to the next.

Our faith teaching is solidly built on Scripture and Tradition, well thought out and heavily interdependent. That is not to say that there is no room for dissention. There is. To begin there is a hierarchy of belief, those things that are essential for being called catholic and those things that, while important, are not essential. Otherwise for a person to dissent the first step would be to know WHY, through Scripture and Tradition, a certain teaching is taught and how it is interdependent with other teachings and the ramifications of changing it.

So if someone is saying that a teaching should be changed because, “This seems more fair,” or “Jesus just wants us to love,” or, “this is more modern and where people are today,” run away.

Run very far away.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009


Have you every realized how much of the ritual of the Mass relies on gravity? Not gravitas – but physical gravity. This came to mind the other day when watching the new Star Trek movie. I was thinking that if this were a Catholic enterprise (pun intended) there would be a crucifix over the door to the bridge, a rosary hanging over the main screen, and a Sacred Heart Auto Club statuette on the railing. There would be a number of problems for a priest on board. For example, who would have jurisdiction for the Enterprise out in space? In some dioceses Ascension Thursday is on – well – Thursday. Other dioceses such as mine has Ascension Thursday Sunday. Catholic are obliged to follow the practice of whatever diocese they happen to be in. So would the Enterprise need to figure out over what exact spot on earth they to figure out what they are to do?

Well, they would have to have their own prelature most probably. A diocese of one congregation. The Diocese of the Final Frontier. But how do you make the Liturgical Calendar and the Star Date calendar collaborate? When instructed to have the Easter Vigil after sundown – how do you figure that out if there is no sun? Or if you happen to be in a solar system with several suns? This is perhaps why they did not have a priest as part of the story line. FAR too complicated.

But I digress. Back to gravity – something we have not come up with a great alternative for in space. It would be virtually impossible to have Mass as we now celebrate it. There would certainly have to be a Missale Romanum – Space Edition that a Pontifical Committee would probably spend the next 12 years trying to produce. Vestments would not work. These big – loose flowing gowns would just float and around. The lavabo would be tricky. How do you pour water over the priest’s hands if it would just come out in a glob and float around? It would be much the same thing for the wine being poured into the chalice. Corporals would be next to useless as the particles of the Eucharist would simply float, not fall to the table top to be captured by it. Sitting works if you are strapped down but what about kneeling and standing?

There is a reason astronauts don’t smoke. Well, maybe two reasons. One is that they tend to be health conscious people. The second is that there is smoke and can’t be good for the sensitive machinery and flames and oxygen tend not to mix very well – or perhaps too well. And it is not like you can just go out for a smoke. So what of candles? Don’t see it happening. Can you imagine wads of hot wax floating around? Then there are processions, incense, sprinkling rites, baptisms, distribution of the Precious Blood, and a host of other things that I have not more of my time thinking of.

It seems to me that if we want more Catholic astronauts these are some things we should consider addressing. I can’t imagine going on a five year mission to seek out new life and new civilizations, boldly going where no man has gone before without Mass.

I’m just saying.

And finally: Just out of curiosity I typed "Mass in space" into Google and this is what I found.


FINDING TRUTH WHEREVER IT MAY BE FOUND: “Forlorn France at that century’s turn labored under far more than weariness; it had become spiritually dispossessed, in a kind of Babylonian captivity of its own devising. Under the sway of ruthlessly secular authorities, the Church had gradually recovered for itself the bracing counter-cultural vitality of early Christian history, and it was this hardiness, the unshakable appeal of an irrational power, which Napoleon shrewdly saw fit to co-opt with the concordat.” From Thomas Nevin’s, “Therese of Lisieux

QUOTE II: “(La Mannais) became convinced that Christianity was itself true democracy; - it alone recognized the equality of all souls.” Ibid


Thank you for all of you who took part in the penance poll. I gave me some food for thought.

I was not able to make it but C. said that "The Human Experience" reported here was fabulous and if you get the chance you should see it!

Fashion Rebels!

The Diocese of Cleveland Enewsletter reports, "Following President Obama's March 9 executive order, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) has proposed guidelines for federally funded embryonic stem cell research. The guidelines would - for the first time - use taxpayer funds to encourage the killing of embryonic human beings for their stem cells.The public has until Tuesday, May 26, 2009 to submit comments." Read more here.

From the same source: "Did you know, the Catholic War Veterans of the United States of America is the preeminent veterans service organization for our nation's Catholic military veterans?"

Now this is interesting: "The new media of Facebook, the iPhone, YouTube and Wikipedia are increasingly becoming the new forum where the Catholic Church dialogues with the world. As Pope Benedict XVI noted in his message for the 43rd annual World Communications Day, the Internet is a place where young people need to develop true friendships which spring from an encounter with the Risen Christ. With this awareness and the courage to enter into the world of social networks, the project Pope2You was started with the idea of helping these networks become authentic places of friendship and true dialogue.

"Pope2You ( HYPERLINK "" \o "blocked::" was created in collaboration with the Pontifical Council for Social Communications as an experiment in providing a new forum and channel of communication using the latest platforms. The Pope2You website provides a new way for Pope Benedict XVI to reach out to young people around the world. The site can be viewed in five languages and allows young people to learn more about the Church and Benedict XVI through his own writings, starting with the message for the 43rd World Communications Day. While the site aims to generate the interest of young people, it is also meant for people of all ages. It features news on the Catholic Church and details on the pastoral activities of Benedict XVI incorporating content from the Vatican’s YouTube channel. At the same time, a new application for the iPhone and iPod Touch has been created by the Catholic news agency H2Onews, with plans to add other mobile platforms later.

"These new applications highlight the latest example of the Church reaching out in new ways in the world of social networks – a forum where the Church can meet new people, make new friends, dialogue and offer solidarity."

Monday, May 25, 2009



Friday, May 22, 2009


The partridge can represent the Devil or in more general terms deceit and theft. But can that explain the ratings of the television show?

The sparrow is one of my favorites. Sitting at an outdoor table of a coffee shop they come and keep company and clean up any crumbs I might accidently drop. Very serviceable, humble, and friendly bird. It may not surprise you then that it is the very symbol of humility because of its ordinariness and brown color. Perhaps that is why he is so often associated with Saint Francis; they have the same tailor. This bird also represents the humble who are none-the-less special in God’s eyes and are under his protection.

In the news yesterday there was word that there is a falcon close by that has built his nest too close to the ground and is terrorizing the neighborhood. We have two that have taken up residence in our big bell tower. I think I’ll keep my distance until the little ones have flown away so no more bell tower parties. Wild falcons represent the evil of man who follows his passions. A tame falcon represents the spiritually refined person who has brought his animal instincts under God’s control.

Thursday, May 21, 2009


Years ago I was riding the bus to downtown Akron and there was a man in the bus making the rounds of the passengers. He would say, “Have you been saved?” If they said no he would inform them of how they were going to hell. It did not take long for the passengers to catch on to his method and would immediately block conversation with him as he made his way to their seat. Interestingly this is one of my strongest memories of my very young years and it is a negative one.

In a similar way we spend much of our time passing on the faith through the negative. “Don’t do this!” We also make the practice of the faith through lots of deadlines and warnings. “You must have this in by this date or you will be terminated.” (Okay, maybe that was a bit extreme but you get the point.) That is not to say that we should throw out the “Don’ts” and the regulations, but if that is all we present, it makes religion seem like one giant downer.

I know I have a tendency to fall into this that I have to fight against. I was working up a program for our students when I realized it was all, “You must complete this by this date. Failure to do so will mean . . .” When I re-read it I realized I was turned off by the program. It makes it easier to manage but a drag to live.

Perhaps there was a time when people knew their faith well and all they needed was little reminders of, “Don’t.” Perhaps there was strong community and family support for faith projects and much more positive interaction with the faith so that all people needed was, “Here is your deadline!” But it is not exactly so today. The teachings of the Church are beautiful. But when they are reduced to “don’t” we miss the beauty. Sacramental preparation should be a time of community and growth, but when they are reduced to deadlines hoop-jumping they are as manipulative as the pressuring man on the bus.

What we need is to be careful the way we present our faith especially to our youth. They need the joy and beauty as well as the responsibilities. We need to help them become part of the community through our activities, not simply jump through a hoop to get the carrot. Now, I grant you, some people need to be told “DON’T” and some people are so uncooperative that hoop-jumping is about all you are going to get out of them if you are lucky. But we will let the positives rule, not the negatives.

I do realize there are no solutions here. It is easy to name the problem and walk away. But the cause is good – the solutions will come if we search for them.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009


Two people pass each other in the doorway of the Church. One is entering for ever thinking, “Finally I have found the Church that speaks with legitimate authority. Faith is handed on here. Truth is passed down through the centuries and like a rock it never changes. Here is a place where I can be told about God.”

He passes shoulders with the man walking out of the Church for ever thinking, “Finally I am leaving this Church that tries to speak with such authority. I have no say in faith and morals. So called truth is pushed down my throat like a rock that I must swallow. I feel stifled at being told who my God is.”

As Mom used to say, “One man’s junk is another man’s treasure.” Sometimes the very things that make the Church attractive to one person makes it a turn off for another. Proper authority is one of those things, you might presume, that attracts me to the Church. After all I knelt down before the bishop, placed my folded hands into his before a cathedral full of people and promised proper obedience to him and his successors.

Why would this be attractive? For me it was seeing the fractioning of the rest of Christianity. It was seeing denominations voting on believe so that by popular vote (as well informed as it may be) a particular denomination now says God wants us to believe X instead of Y. Another area that causes me to pause is the practice of individual congregations picking pastors that teach God the way they want Him taught. So if a particular minister was too Roman, or too fundamental, or used Scripture to show that pigs should only marry pigs and not intermarry with hedgehogs and the congregation did not like it, they could fire him and get someone else who would teach that God says that it is Okay for pigs and hedgehogs to marry.

The possibility here is that God becomes a mirror of the worshipper. Garrison Keeler once said, “They loved God, but only because God agreed with them.” There is the chance that God becomes simply a higher form of ourselves, our beliefs, our comforts, our hopes, and this is very attractive to some people. But if this is the case, who ultimately are we worshipping?

It can be challenging, difficult, disturbing, even humiliating to confront a God that is not a grander copy of our own hopes and desires. Through the Catholic Church He asks us to freely kneel down, place our hands in His, and vow obedience to Him in saecula saeculorum. For those for whom this is attractive this quote from Chesterton makes perfect sense:

“We don’t really want a religion that I right where we are right. What we want is a religion that is right where we are wrong. . . They say they want a religion to be social, when they would be social without any religion. They say they want a religion to be practical, when they would be practical without any religion. They say they want a religion acceptable to science, when they would accept the science even if they did not accept religion. They say they want a religion like this because they are like this already. They say they want it, when they mean that they could do without it.”
(Did anybody get the title of this post?)

Tuesday, May 19, 2009


FINDING TRUTH WHEREVER IT MAY BE FOUND: "That does not mean we shouldn't enjoy ourselves. But rather that the universe has put us here for higher purposes than watching television reruns." Duane Elgin

QUOTE II: "Television hates you." from Dawn Eden's, "The Thrill of the Chaste"


Fr. Kyle over at Called by Name has a post on how one might obtain an indulgence during the Year for Priests. You can read about it here.

And from the same source - I have been asked a number of times if I'm going to go see Angels and Demons. No. Read the book. Thought it trite. Have no desire to lose ten dollars and two hours of my time. But Fr. Kyle found this video concerning the movie if you really do have questions. But WARNING! SPOILER ALERT!

One more thing from Fr. Kyle:

The Diocese of Cleveland Enewsletter asks, "Did you know, the Marian Library, on the campus of the University of Dayton, is recognized as the world's largest and most comprehensive collection of printed materials on Mary?"

C sent this in. (Lots of videos today isn't there?)

Our long lost Jay sent this in: "Hi guys, Hope all is well. I've turned over the Catholic Carnival to a longtime contributor and she asked that I pass this along to you: 'Hi, I'm RAnn and I'd like to invite you to participate in Sunday Snippets--A Catholic Carnival. It is a successor to the Catholic Carnival run by Jay at Living Catholicism for many years. It is a way to share our best posts with the Catholic blogging community. Each week, I will create a Sunday Snippets post that includes Mr. Linky.If you want to participate, create a post on your blog highlighting your best post(s) of the week, and linking both to them and to the master post on my blog. Then, go to my blog and use Mr. Linky to link us to your post.'" You can find this weeks post here.

Monday, May 18, 2009


Ahhhh. Is there anything like ordination weekend? And this one was a wild at least for me. What are the odds that I would be named administrator of a parish that would be assigned a newly ordained parochial vicar at the same time that my cousin would be ordained a priest, who grew up at the parish at which I am administrator and where he was having his reception? With those kind of odds I think I would have rather won the lottery to pay for new parking lots and pew repairs. And to boot, they all broke Monsignor Manners Rule Number One: Please do not have all of your receptions and Masses at the exact same time. Which of course they did.

I believe I reported about ordination last year so I won’t go into too much detail except for two notable events. You know, priests sitting in their seats at Mass can tend to do exactly what drives them nuts from the congregation when they are presiding. (whisper*comment*whisper) But there was a hardy laugh from the first reading chosen by those being ordained. From Numbers, “He asked the LORD, "Why have you brought this trouble on your servant? What have I done to displease you that you put the burden of all these people on me? 12 Did I conceive all these people? Did I give them birth? Why do you tell me to carry them in my arms, as a nurse carries an infant, to the land you promised on oath to their ancestors? 13 Where can I get meat for all these people? They keep wailing to me, 'Give us meat to eat!' 14 I cannot carry all these people by myself; the burden is too heavy for me. 15 If this is how you are going to treat me, please go ahead and kill me—if I have found favor in your eyes—and do not let me face my own ruin." Of course it goes on to become quite fitting but the mumblings back and forth at this portion were hysterical.

The other interesting change was that there was no sung closing hymn, it was all instrumental and that changed the entire dynamic of the recessional. Instead of being glued to books or programs the people were able to pay attention to what was going on. The entire time the many priests were filing out there was applause like a gentle rain. As we rounded the corner of the back of cathedral the newly ordained were leaving the sanctuary and the applause broke out into fever pitch and cheers! Even having gone through this ceremony as a priest for 11 years and as a seminarian for some years before that, I still got chills.

Because they all had their Masses of Thanksgiving at the same time and in the morning on Sunday my choice of attending one was rather limited. With the Masses I had to do at St. Sebastian the only hope I had of going was to Fr. Trenta’s. I must say I was proud of my cousin. He did right by the rite – fine and noble job. The most touching part came as he was surrounded by the priests in attendance and he began the Institution Narrative. Tears welled up in his eyes and his voice became just slightly shaky as he consecrated the Eucharist. Can you imagine how emotional that is – for a Catholic who believes this is the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of His God? “On the night He was betrayed, He took bread in His sacred hands and looking up to heaven to You, His Almighty Father, He gave you thanks and praise. He took the bread, gave it to His disciples and said, ‘Take this all of you and eat it. This is my Body which will be given up for you.”

There was a pause as the new father mustered his inner strength and began again. “When supper was ended . . .” What a thing to ponder! How accustomed we grow to these magnificent words and mystical deeds! That we would all pray them with lumps in our throats always! Be damned the upcoming soccer game, the grocery list, the yard work, the breakfast buffet you hope to catch.

This is God.

Friday, May 15, 2009


I received a phone call from a parish in Cleveland recently wanting to know about some symbolism displayed on the high altar. They were putting together a guide to the symbolism in the parish and wanted to make sure they understood what the particular symbolism meant. Since I had the chance to look it up I now share it with you.

The symbol in question is the peacock. The context was needed because like the number 6 depending on how it is used it can have a negative meaning or a positive one. (Six can mean evil – incompleteness since on the 7th day God rested or it can mean completeness since technically the work was done – there was just some resting to do.) So the peacock can imply vanity and pride because of the way it can display itself and “strut its stuff.” But in the right context it can also imply immortality. Once again the Church baptized ancient legend and used it for the glory of God and education of His people. It was once thought that the flesh of the bird never decomposed reminding us of the eternal life we have in Christ.

The symbolic statement in question involved two peacocks drinking out of a chalice. Understanding the above legend we can easily apply the Scripture passage from John in which Christ says, “He who eat my body and drinks my blood has eternal life.” A similar symbol might be the peacocks drinking out of a fountain – Jesus the Well Spring of Life – or even in scenes of the Nativity though I’ve rarely – quite rarely witnessed that.

The design of the feathers can look like they have eyes on them so it can also represent the "all seeing Church." Sometimes ancient depictions of God in other religions show God with many eyes. It is not that they necessarily think that God has that many eyes but that was their way of saying God sees all in much the same way we might have one giant eye representing God's perfect vision of everything.

Thursday, May 14, 2009


It said that, “There is always a king.” When it comes to Christianity in general I would add, “There is always a pope.” One of the hallmarks of Protestantism is that there is no official pope. But in reality there is.

This came home to me last week as a person who is seeking to jump the Tiber came to speak to me about becoming Catholic. His reason for becoming Catholic is the reason cited by perhaps 60% of the people who are becoming Catholic with whom I speak.

This person’s particular story in part concerns a parent who found employment in certain denominations. After a while, this father would find himself at odds with a pastor and be told in one way or the other that things were not going to work out. He would state that the Holy Spirit was guiding him t interpret the Bible in such a way and the pastor would state categorically that his interpretation was wrong. Unless he went to the church down the street. This happened in a number of situations. It occurred to this person at young age that there was something amiss. All of these churches claimed inspiration of the Holy Spirit but were at direct odds in matter of faith and morals. How could the Holy Spirit tell one pastor that alpha was the case and another omega? Did God allow confusion to reign in this way? Who had authority to decide? Each of the pastors claimed authority to interpret the Scriptures. But who had actual authority? Was it the alpha preaching minister or the omega? How do we know how to choose?

The conclusion that this person came to was to find proper authority. (There are many issues here, but this is one point on which I am focusing.) Is it a test of faith from God to find the right church or did God set up a Church with the authority to interpret Scripture? If that is the case, there is only one choice (save for those who believe that the Church went immediately into schism only to be reclaimed in recent centuries thereby nullifying Christ’s promise that the gates of hell would not prevail against her.) This leads them to a pope who had no qualms against stating that he is the pope. It is not a matter of finding a church that matches your beliefs, but a Church that teaches truth despite what you might wish to believe. At least this is one reason I am Catholic.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009


There was a debate on the radio on Tuesday as to whether accused Nazi death camp soldier John Demjanjuk should be deported to Germany to face war crime charges for his alleged complicity in 29,000 deaths that took place at the hands of the Nazi soldiers in World War II. Whatever your thoughts on the topic might be there is (at least) one spiritual lesson to take away from this discussion. It is spurred on by this comment made by a defender of the action of deportation and trial who happens to live in Youngstown, the city from which Demjanjuk was deported. He said that there are some things that “should never be forgotten and never forgiven.”

Lest anybody be confused, forgiving and forgetting are not Siamese twins. Nowhere in the Bible does it say that one who forgives must also forget. If every time you walked out of Mass on the weekend your pastor jumped out of the bushes and kicked you in the ankle and you very nobly said every time, “I forgive you and I forget!” next week when you walked out of the church you will be kicked in the ankle again.

Nowhere is it mentioned in Scriptures that one must needs forget NOR does it say that you must not let someone face the consequences of his actions. The most loving act in fact may be to allow another person to face the consequences of his actions that he might find opportunity to repent or amend his ways or to protect others who may be in their path of destruction. In these cases it would be foolish and unloving not to allow them to face the consequences of their actions as long as it was not matter vengeance but of justice and salvation.

What is involved in forgiving is relieving oneself of the tyranny of the other. It was said by someone, “To not forgive is like swallowing rat poison and waiting for the rat to die.” If you are for Demjanjuk going to trial it cannot be for unforgiveness and vengeance. If that is the case he (if guilty) has succeeded in transforming you into the very thing you claim to hate. If it is for justice, for pricking the conscience of the world, for giving him the opportunity to face his deeds and hopefully at least privately repent, for making a statement that as a human race we will not tolerate these actions against any human person because as men we have inherit dignity given us by our Creator, then we have no choice. But to not forgive makes us the monsters we hate.

Monday, May 11, 2009


FINDING TRUTH WHEREVER IT MAY BE FOUND: "We need to be servants of Christ. Not servants to other's emotions, not servants to desires, not servants to manipulation." Fr. Gene Fulton.

QUOTE II: "(Slogans) replace arguments and proofs, skirting man's reason. in colleges and universities they foster academic deterioration, degrade learning, and anesthetize logic - all enemies of wisdom and truth." Alice von Hildebrand


Dr. Trew sent this in and it is well worth noting. You might remember when Adam's Ale gave you the heads up about the film "Bella" and the screening at Tower City in Akron where the audience got to meet the star of the film. Well there is going to be another worthy and worthwhile film coming to the same venue called "The Human Experience." You can view their website here. The trailer below is about two and a half minutes:

"Young men, brothers from Brooklyn, search for meaning in this perfectly sincere and pro-human documentary tale. Laden with their own emotional scars inflicted by an abusive father, they travel to places where human suffering far exceeds their own—among the homeless in Manhattan, at a Peruvian home for lost children, with HIV/AIDS sufferers in Ghana, and in an African leper colony. Without a whiff of preachiness or sentimentality, this extraordinary film reveals the dignity and resilience of the human spirit, the joy of living, and the value of suffering."
- 2008 Maui Film Festival Review

The movie will be Thursday, may 21st at Tower City Cinema (Cleveland). Movie tickets are $5 or you can bring the following items: diapers, baby wipes, toothpaste, toothbrush, canned food. Only 600 seats available. From 6:00 to 7:00 there is a networking hour, 7:00 to 8:30 is the movie premier, and at 8:30 there will have a meet the actors and Q & A session. Anyone interested in going?

"Sex Sermonist's Heroes: Pope John Paul II and Hugh Hefner" This is the title of an online ABC article on Christopher West and Theology of the Body that you can find here.

The Diocese of Cleveland Enewsletter asks, "Did you know Did you know, at we celebrate all things Faith, Family and Fun from a Catholic perspective?"

P.V. sent this in: "The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) has launched a new “Oppose Destructive Stem Cell Research” campaign, which urges citizens to contact Congress and the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to oppose embryonic stem cell research and support ethical cures and treatments. The campaign is facilitated by the USCCB’s partner organization, the National Committee for a Human Life Amendment (NCHLA).The NIH proposed guidelines for federally funded research will require destroying live human embryos for their stem cells. The draft guidelines are open for public comment through May 26.

TAKE ACTION: The website enables citizens to send messages to Congress and then to the National Institutes of Health."

Sunday, May 10, 2009


You know, I was hesitant about getting a rectory dog. In general I don’t believe they are appropriate for rectories. There are many stories about dogs not working out so well in such a public place or a new associate coming and not liking or being allergic to dogs and having to give the dog away amidst much sadness by the school kids. So it was a rather rigorous interview that Sebastian (then Roomy) went through. I did want a dog here in this big old house thinking that at best it would be some years before the parish would be assigned a parochial vicar (what did I know – God is ironic) and it would be nice not only have another living presence in the rectory (besides the mice) but some security as well.

Surprisingly enough it turns out that one of his greatest assets is that of being a minister of outreach (I know – that sound cheesy.) He enables people to make contact with me that otherwise might not take place. I suppose this is the same reason guys get dogs and use them as “chick magnets.” There is something inviting about a dog that fosters communication between humans.

For example, there was a young lady riding her bike down the street the other day as we were out for afternoon airing out and she stopped and turned back – not to greet me – but to say hi to Sebastian. After a few moments she introduced herself to me and we talked. She had been wanting to come back to Church for some time and wasn’t sure how to go about it and was glad Sebastian provided her the opportunity. He is that safe something to talk about until someone is comfortable enough to say, “So I’ve been thinking about talking to a priest about . . .”

Similar things to this happen constantly. School children come by to check up on him, people bring treats, people stop in the park to pet him and then we get into conversations. I’ve met members of other congregations and we discuss goings on in our places of worship and in our city. I meet fallen away Catholics and provide them with encouragement and direction if they need it. And I meet some cool other dogs – Mia Sophia, Molly, Mattie, Bean, Duke, Ace, and a host of others.

So, I don’t know that I am completely won over to the idea of rectory dogs. I am won over to THIS particular rectory dog – and his mentor Vinnie over at St. Vincent – and am thankful for the ministry he does.
And now that my sister has taught him how to go through the swinging door into the kitchen we have to figure out now to stop coming through it at opposite sides at the same time. That can't be good on the nose.

Friday, May 8, 2009


The ermine made it into the symbol lexicon in a rather sad way – or – rather their tails made it in. Have you ever seen the inside of a fanciful king or queen’s cape and there are those little black things amid the white fur. Those, my friends, are ermine tails. I guess better than having symbolic legs . . .

The ermine was known to be extremely clean and so became the symbol of purity. A saying sprung up around the legend of its cleanliness, “Potius mori quam feodari” or “Rather die than be soiled.” The tails seen in the armorial cloak were fastened with a three headed pin. They appear on coats of armor in stylized form. You can see here how they are part of the arms of the Diocese of Cleveland. This coat of arms is based on that of the first settler which became the See City of this diocese. Moses Cleveland’s family crest had added to it the three crosslets which you see here.

Part of the neat things about coats of arms is that they often reference each other. The coat of arms for Saint Mary, Our Lady of the Lake Seminary, the diocesan seminary for Cleveland also has the ermine tails on it simply to show its connection to the coat of arms of the diocese.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009


Feeling great should be a side benefit to going to confession, not the reason why we go. It is not a matter of no longer feeling guilty about a broken commandment or wanting to feel better when you are in church, but primarily about mending a relationship.

Often at the end of a confession someone will say something like, “And that is what I feel guilty about since my last confession,” or “. . . and those are the things that I want to confess at this time,” as if there were more, but this is all I am interested in being absolved of at the moment. What needs to be remembered is that you are trying to mend a relationship with another person. Granted this other person is a Divine Person, but it is a relationship with a person none-the-less. As with truly loving relations with another human person you would not constrain yourself to only apologizing for transgressions that you feel guilty about, “I’m sorry that I ate your share of the chips but I am not going to apologize for scarfing all of the chip dip. After all I went out and got the dip and even though you think you were entitled to some since you brought the chips that is not where my head is at the moment.” How far does that go to engendering love between two persons?

A second hitch is the sin of eclipse. It is a sin that weighs so heavily on a person that it obliterates any other sense of sin in their lives. The “M” word (is there any word in the English language that has so many euphemisms?) often eclipses a person’s examining of their life in general (thereby preventing them from growing in other areas) because of great feelings of guilt. So a person comes in and very rightly confesses this sin and nothing more. This is understandable if they attend the sacrament regularly and need only this little ‘update’ between complete downloads, but as a regular practice is not good for the soul. It is an all meat diet without fruit, vegetables, or dairy. You need meat but gads, all pork and no hay makes Johnny a heart attack waiting to happen. Once again, this is a case of, “I feel so guilty – I just want to stop feeling guilty!” to the loss of other spiritual growth.

Looking for that relief from guilt is not a bad thing but it is like giving blood. I hate giving blood. But absolutely love having given blood. There is certain natural high to it. But that not why you give blood. You give blood out of charity because there are people who desperately need it. We go to confession to mend relationships, not just to feel better.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009


What do you expect when you go into a confessional? It is interesting to hear people who have come out of what they interpret as “a really good confession” describing what made it such a positive experience for them. The problem in listening to try to discern what might be helpful for me to know as a confessor is that they are often opposites. One person might say, “The priest was so kind. He listened and gave me penance without making me feel worse about what I had done.” But there is also, “The priest kind of kicked me in the posterior and told me that I had to stop doing what I was doing and take control of my life! I really needed someone to kick me.”

I take the general tact of being a lion in the pulpit but a lamb in the confessional. This stems primarily from a guy I talked to my first year at the University of Akron. He was a bit older than I and somehow we got on the topic of confession. He told me about going to the sacrament when he got home from serving in the military and thought he would make a clean slate of it by confessing to the priest. I guess the priest was scandalized by whatever it was the man said, told him that he that he was to identify himself as Mr. X and that he was to report back next week for a continuation of his haranguing. He never went back to church again.

When I arrived at St. Sebastian I saw this scribbled on the side of the hearing impaired phone in the confessional. I image a priest sitting there with a pen in his hand, head resting against the side of the confessional box finding himself becoming frustrated with what was being said and scribbling this little note to himself, “Be kind.” It is easy to forget why you are there. You are nothing more than an instrument of God’s mercy. It is not yours to judge. You may need to clarify something or at times challenge someone in their behavior (or at least ask them to explore it) but except in some rare incidents (such as the person not the least bit remorseful rendering the confession null anyway) the priest is there to convey the gift that he was given freely to pass on – forgiveness.

So it is a long day, confessions are going long, and I grow tired and annoyed I do my best to err toward being too kind rather than gruff. Sometimes I worry about seeming soft on sin or perhaps I do not give that kick in the posterior that some of my confessees really need. But we trudge along, some of us being too kind, some of us being too tough – but ultimately it is the Holy Spirit who works in spite of us priests and I pray that He act where I fail to perceive that more attention or action is needed with those who brave the confessional line to tell God (not me! – though I do represent the community) they are sorry.

That is why there is a priest for everyone, not an everyone’s priest.
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Monday, May 4, 2009


FINDING TRUTH WHEREVER IT MAY BE FOUND: “Heretics always think they are holier than the Church.” Fr. Stanly Klasinski

QUOTE II: “That’s the thing about dogs. There isn’t a human being in the world worthy of a dog’s welcome.” From Richard Power’s, “The Echo Maker”


Andrew McNabb sent this in: "I thought that your readers might be interested in knowing about my recently-released book, The Body of This, which is getting lots of attention in the Catholic press. In particular, a passionate discussion over at and, last night, a discussion of the book and the present state of Catholic literature on Cover to Cover on Catholic Radio International between which Matthew Lickona (Swimming with Scapulars, Loyola,) Katy Carl (editor-in-chief of Dappled Things,) and Joseph O’Brien (poet and host of Cover to Cover.)

"Would very much appreciate your mentioning my book. There is such a dearth of contemporary Catholic writing, and we are much the poorer for it. Please visit for more information about me and the book."

The Diocese of Cleveland Enewsletter has a couple of interesting stories this week. The first is, "The U.S. bishops' Committee on Divine Worship has posted on the Web a series of 10 questions and answers related to participation at Mass during the time of the swine influenza (swine flu)."

Then there is this story: "Did you know, the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, located in Washington D.C., will mark the 50th anniversary of its dedication on November 20, 2009? In keeping with the tradition of the Church, the Jubilee is currently being celebrated for the entire year before the date."

Kaz, our correspondent from New York sent this in: "FOCUS, the Fellowship of Catholic University Students, is a national campus outreach that meets college students where they are and invite them to examine the meaning and purpose of their lives."

My cousin sent in this color/word test. Make sure you can pay attention before beginning! It is tougher than you might think.

This press release was sent in from EWTN, "EWTN Global Catholic Network will air complete coverage of Pope Benedict XVI’s historic visit to Jordan and Israel May 8-15, 2009.

"EWTN will follow the Holy Father across the region as he visits such sites as Bethany Beyond the Jordan, where Jesus Christ was baptized; the Grotto of the Annunciation, where Mary learned she would carry the Messiah; the presidential palace in Jerusalem, where the Holy Father will meet with Israeli President Shimon Peres; the Caritas Baby Hospital, the only pediatric hospital in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip that cares for poor children; the Aida Refugee Camp near Bethlehem, where the Holy Father will deliver an address, and much more.

"Coverage will also include Pope Benedict’s meetings with numerous other heads of state, including the King and Queen of Jordan, and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and with other religious leaders, including the Greek Orthodox, Latin and Armenian Catholic patriarchs, the grand mufti of Jerusalem, the chief rabbis of Israel, and many others.

"EWTN News Director Raymond Arroyo will anchor the English coverage. Spanish coverage will be anchored by Alejandro Bermúdez, director of EWTN Noticias, EWTN’s Spanish news service, as well as director of the Catholic News Agency, and by Father Daniel Cardó Soria, chaplain of St. Malo Retreat Center in Lyons, Colorado, and an expert on the life and papacy of Pope Benedict.

"For a complete television itinerary, with air times, please go to The event will be carried worldwide in English and Spanish on the EWTN television network, which is carried by EWTN’s cable affiliates, DirecTV, Dish Network, and AT&T U-verse. For a complete radio itinerary, please go to The event will be carried on EWTN through Sirius Satellite Radio and EWTN AM & FM radio affiliates. In addition, the event will be streamed live on EWTN’s website ("

Concerning last week's report that the Akron Zoo was outside of the Saint Sebastian boarders: Adoro sent in this little reminder. (It is a picture of the Saint Sebastian rectory.)

Sunday, May 3, 2009


I’ve been to camp more as a priest than I have during my childhood. As a kid I never made it to Camp Christopher, a CYO camp run by the Diocese of Cleveland. My sisters who are significantly older than I (don’t tell them I told you so) did go there however in the early 60’s. My parish school closed shortly after that and so I did not attend (things like that happened back then too.) But I did see an 8mm film (you young’ns will have to ask your parents what that is) of my parents dropping them off at the camp gates hair all done up in a beehive or some near approximation thereof.

Then about eight years ago I was asked to come out to the camp to say Mass or hear confessions or some such thing. Never having been there I had to get directions. Once I was there I knew the place directly for it had not changed one iota since at least the 1960s! The major differences were the new cars and the children were wearing jeans and had sensible hair.

This past week I was back at camp again with my WWII U.S. Army Mass kit in tow to say Mass for our 6th graders who were on a nature retreat. The first order of business was to determine where to have it. The first stop was at the outdoor chapel (I knew I should have worn boots and black pants already ready for the wash machine!) but though the altar had a covering on it, the seats were wet – the kids were wet too – but MY seat was wet so we ixnayed that idea.

Mass was held in one of the assembly rooms. The altar was as big as a cargo ship but serviceable. The kids from four schools came and sat on the concrete floor in front of the altar. I must say it was a very well behave group of sixth graders.

Having a more relaxed atmosphere we were able to do some things that are prohibitive at a Sunday Mass. As I dressed I explained to the young folk what the different articles of vestments were for. It took a little encouragement but they sang and made the responses. It was a fine Mass in not so perfect conditions.

After there was the the obligatory bon fire at which the horrible jokes came out. “Doctor! Doctor! I’ve been having terrible dreams!” He said, “Tell me what you dreamt and I tell you what it meant.” “Last night I dreamed that I was Wigwam, and the night before that I dreamed I was a Teepee.” “I know what your problem is,” said the doctor, “You’re just two tents!”

Yuck yuck yuck

Cue the priest: Time to go home.



In another stunning turn of events in the art and architecture world as well as the Diocese of Cleveland it has been announced that Saint Ignatius parish will remain open! There are certain conditions however including that they continue their outreach to the poor, welcome parishioners from closing parishes, make the very necessary repairs to the building, and pay down their debt over the next four years.


Saturday, May 2, 2009



Two things of note that I didn't want to put off until next week:

1. After a re-examination of the merits of the parish, Bishop Lennon has decided that Saint Coleman's WILL REMAIN OPEN as will St. Steven's. Cool.

2. In a further case of coolness - It is time for the annual Crescat Awards. The nomination are now closed (I didn't even know they were open until today.) Adam's Ale was nominated for "BEST BLOG BY A RELIGIOUS WHO'S NOT FR.Z" and "BEST 'SPIRITUAL TREAT' BLOG." Voting commences May 3rd. You may also want to pop over there to find links to all of the nominated blogs to see if there is something there that you like.