Monday, August 31, 2009


Last night Fr. Pf and I went to the Blossom Music Festival to hear the Cleveland Orchestra play Bolero otherwise known as the fifteen minute snare drum solo and crescendo – known to most people over 40 as the piece used in the movie "Ten." It was cold and threatening rain so we were able to get seats pretty close to the orchestra. “Wow,” Father said closely mimicking the C. S. Lewis book, “They have faces. I usually only see them as white jackets from a great distance.”

We were close enough that we could hear page turns and people taking breathes – even the soloists who were playing string instruments. It was if they were part of the instrument and they needed to breathe for it. It was neat to see so closely some of the world’s greatest musicians playing some of my favorite pieces. Our seats were eye level with their shoes and I was thinking that being the world’s best they could at least do with better socks.

They also performed selections from Carmen. Even if you are unfamiliar with opera in general you know at least some of this piece – especially the Song of the Toreador. According to the program notes when George Bizet premiered this piece it was an absolute flop. But that was due more to the audience not receiving what they expected than it not being a good piece. To put it mildly they went expecting Bugs Bunny but they got Henry V – a far better piece for which they were wholly unprepared. Three months later Bizet died thinking Carmen one of the worst operatic disasters in history instead of what it is: one of the most widely known and loved pieces of opera ever.

He was not alone. This happened quite a bit throughout history. Swan Lake was an unmitigated disaster when it was first produced. Not till after the death of the composer did it become the icon of ballet that it is today. And so it goes with art, books, and ideas, discoveries, and efforts of all kinds.

I think about parents teaching the faith to their children. Teach and desire it as they might some kids wander astray. That does not mean that what you give them will not bear fruit. I think of my Dad. He wanted nothing of Church or God his whole life. How that must break a mother’s heart. In fact, it was not until he was not far from his death bed that he took to prayer and sacraments. But that might not have been the case had his parents not laid some sort of groundwork. Would I have had the environment to become a priest had he not been baptized and confirmed as a youngster – marrying a Catholic woman and being married in the Church? Two generations later those efforts resulted in a vocation. Whoda thunk it?

Do not despair your efforts at bringing God into the world. Martyrs never experience their influence on the world in this life. Keep true to the calling, stay true to the course, your single life may influence more people than you can imagine in your lifetime.

Friday, August 28, 2009


Response to last Friday’s “Keeping it Real”

Fr. V. makes excellent points. Symbolism is important and we are to use real flowers, candles, etc. for the Liturgy of the Church. When it comes to the iBreviary, I must admit my own hesitation in using it at first. I decided after getting it to try it out for a couple of weeks and then make a decision. I did so and even asked my spiritual director about it. When all is said and done, the point is that one is still praying the Divine Office regardless of the medium as long as the medium prints the correct official liturgical texts (which “iBreviary “does). While I understand and appreciate the use of the leather bound book in hand, do we want to say that is the only “real” way? For instance, what if on Tuesday’s Holy Hour I included the praying of Evening Prayer (the Liturgical texts recommend this actually). For the people to participate in praying those prayers, I would need to give them all prepared leaflets as “worship aids,” which would have been made with a computer, copied by machine, and thrown away or recycled afterward. Are we not praying Evening Prayer or not being reverent of the texts because we do not use books?

Comparing the Breviary to the ritual books of the Mass is helpful because the Office is also the public prayer of the Church very connected with Holy Mass, but remember that there are rubrics that dictate the use of such books - the carrying and kissing of the Book of the Gospels for instance. There are no rubrics like this concerning the Breviary (none that I could find anyway). So treating the Breviary reverently with a kiss (which is what I often do after praying an hour) is praiseworthy but not required nor irreverent if it is not done.

This question raises another in my mind. I wonder if when the printing of books became more common that monasteries ran into similar concerns. To my knowledge, “back in the day,” monks would sing the entire Office from memory. If someone suggested to them the use of books, did they question its authenticity because books were a modern convenience? I just wonder how that transition happened because monks, friars, and nuns now all use books (I think so anyway).

The originator and co-inventor of the iBreviary application is an Italian priest named Paolo Padrini. He stated in an interview, “‘iBreviary’ is not only a text that can be read on the web, but - and it's this the [sic] great innovation - an ‘action’, that involves man and God: the prayer” (read short interview at Prayer is that dialogue of God with man and man with God in the sanctuary of his heart. Someone could look like they are praying from a book, but are merely reading the prayers whereas one using iBreviary is actually praying them - it is not the book or phone making the difference as much as the person’s heart and faithful intention or lack thereof.
Whatever one uses, the point is to facilitate prayer. Perhaps the iBreviary simply smacks too much of modern technology and the evils that unfortunately can come with it. For those people it will not facilitate prayer, so they should not use it. For some it is beneficial in helping bring them closer to God in prayer throughout the day and facilitates prayer through its convenience. Great! They should use iBreviary! As in many things, the Catholic “both/and” solution applies here. Both can be used. For myself I use both - the book while in our chapel, the iBreviary while I am out and about. Especially as a diocesan priest when schedules change and emergencies happen, I find it helpful.

Oh and by the way, in case the above arguments are not enough, the issue can be somewhat settled in that “iBreviary” has been approved by the Vatican Council for Social Communications (see article at It is not a matter of doctrine, but is nice to know that there is nothing officially “wrong” with using it.

Thursday, August 27, 2009


With the assistance of some donated paint and some kind volunteers we painted the sacristy recently. Funny thing about painting a room: When it is desperate need of pain everybody notices. When it is newly painted nobody notices. It just is the way it is supposed to be.

When you are driving down the highway it is very easy to notice rude, idiotic, and dangerous drivers. We are driving along not noticing (usually) how many good, courteous, and safe drivers around us when a MOTHER OF PEARL! driver cuts us off or rides the bumper of the car or some other such thing. There is a ready prayer that most people know for such moments. It is not nice but many of us learned it growing up. In the comics it looks something like this, “%$@** %#$@* ^#%%@?!!!!!!”

The unfortunate part is that the person never knows of your anger. They go along their merry way and you sit stewing and upset and miss some of the best lines from Lake Woebegone. That is unless you are the type of person who then speeds after the offender in hopes to of making them feel is rotten as you do. In that case the unfortunate part is that you have become exactly what you hate.

In the way that (far too many – I include myself from time to time) mark offenders on the road, have you ever given though to searching out people of Christian driving habits? Granted, they are driving the way and Christian driver is SUPPOSED to be driving, but why not give them credit. As a priest I usually give a little blessing the person – not that they can see, but just a little prayer for them that extended kindness toward me.

I usually do this for the person who slows down, moves over, or in some minor way inconveniences themselves to accommodate me when I am entering the highway or need to change lanes or such like things. The same goes if they do it for someone else. Out of state license plates get the secret blessing (which is confusing when I drive out of state) as well as newly bought car tags (because they will need it!) People who blast past me driving well over the speed limit also get it since they are sacrificing themselves to the speed trap so I do not get caught.

Overall it helps me have a more positive attitude and allows the mind to focus on what is good around me instead of only really noting the dirty, stinking, cigarette butt tossing jerky boys – uhm – I mean those poor souls who are probably in need of even more prayer.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009


We need better PR.

So many of our words have a negative connotation. Good things with bad words are hard to sell.

Let me give an outside example; EAT HEALTHILY

Most people I know at one time rolled their eyes at this phrase. It meant giving up everything that you like to eat, go outside, pick up some sticks and pine needles and pretend that you still enjoy eating. Now that is a hard sell – especially if you enjoy eating. And most people do.

One time I helped through a food party. It included everything that was not good for you in vast quantities. The amount of butter alone consumed that day was enough to keep a bakery in business for decades. The next two days we could barely move. Not because we had eaten too much but because we had eaten too much of the wrong type of things and had poisoned our bodies and they were rebelling against us.

Following that episode eating healthily was not such a horrible thing to consider. We absolutely did not give up on such things as butter but ate them in proper proportions. Well, most of the time. What is the result of this? Were we deprived of the glories of good food? In no way but they were in proper proportion. And our bodies were much more kind to us and we were able to function in life better. Suddenly eating healthy meant having more freedom to be all that we could be.

The Church has similar puzzles. We have a word that sounds negative, drums up suppressing ideas, but is designed for our happiness: Obedience. The very mention of this word brings up ideas of chains and shackles, of being deprived of freedom, of frustration and sadness. But it is designed to do quite the opposite. Its very purpose is to provide freedom. Just one more of the ironies of Christianity.

So a man who has loose sexual ethics is confronted with chastity. To him obedience at first will seem like a drudgery. At night his body may ache to fulfill its strong, animal desire. His mind may make it difficult to even think about anything else. “I am an adult!” he may think to himself, “If I want to act out sexually I will and nobody will tell me what to do!” And so he does. But is that act freedom? He is so driven by undisciplined impulses that he gives into them just to find relief. Yet he sees obedience as a heavy burden.

But were he able to be obedient to the call of chastity and discipline his will how much more freedom he would have! He could choose not to do the very thing his addictions tell him he must. He would have no more worries of perhaps being caught, or having a child, or a disease, or ruining his reputation, or feeling down because he cannot say no, or not steeling time from family, work, or other activities, or maybe just getting a full night sleep if he so chooses. Is that not the greater freedom?

The point is to find where a human being thrives the greatest. That is simply what God is calling us to. When something is called sin it is names so because it brings some harm into the world mentally, physically, or emotionally to the operator or someone else. Freedom has been curtailed and license set free. And hopefully then through confession we pledge ourselves once again to the joy and absolute freedom of obedience – a word only beautiful to those who know and live it well.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009


FINDING TRUTH WHEREVER IT MAY BE FOUND: “We call it a “sign” not only because there is a gesture involved – such as a greeting of peace or perhaps shaking hands of those nearest to us – but also that gesture has a profound meeting that we sometimes forget: it is a sign of peace. We really should not receive Holy Communion if there is serious sin on our sou, for serious sin means that we are not in proper relation with God or neighbor. The gesture involved with the sign of peace is not supposed to be merely some generic form of good feeling, let alone a disruption of the solemnity of the Mass. Coming as it does in this part of the liturgy, it is supposed to be a kind of sign or testimony that we are not seriously alienated from God or neighbor, and that we are in a generally fit state for receiving Jesus within us in Holy Communion. Sometimes people can get a bit carried away with enthusiasm at this stage of the Mass, but we ought to be saying when we exchange the sign of peace serves to correct any such exuberance, namely: “The peace of Christ.” Dr. Peter Kwasniewski in Homiletic and Pastoral Review magazine


CK sent in this tongue and cheek article on "Creation According to Athiests."
Greg sent this in: "The next campaign of this 40-day event begins Wednesday Sept. 23 and ends on Sunday Nov. 1. People anywhere can go to the national website and locate the event in their own geographical area. On this very professional website they can learn all about the event, the requirements, the reasons, the expectations. There are already (3) locations in the Cleveland area where 40 DAYS FOR LIFE prayer vigils will be conducted simultaneously."

The Diocese of Cleveland Enewsletter reports, "The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) launched a Web page promoting its support of "truly universal health policy with respect for human life and dignity." The page,, includes letters from bishops to Congress, videos, facts and statistics, frequently asked questions, and links for contacting members of Congress."

From the same source: "Marriage and the family are institutions that must be promoted and defended from every possible misrepresentation of their true nature, since whatever is injurious to them is injurious to society itself." This is just one of many of Pope Benedict's decisive statements on the unique good of marriage and the family, recently gathered into a new volume of USCCB Publishing's 'Pope Benedict XVI - Spiritual Thoughts Series," this time on the "Family.'"
Unsure if religious life is for you? Now you can meet others who are praying, laughing, and talking about the ins and outs of joining a religious community. Log on to

Monday, August 24, 2009


Occasionally it is part of the priest’s calling to put on major events. You plan gatherings for maybe a thousand people some groups within that number needing different types of attention. It seems odd that after a while you just get used to it.

This past week we had a large funeral for a prominent Akronite. It was an honor to have the funeral here and it created quite a bit behind the scenes organized pandemonium. As with all funerals, ministers of all kinds must be contacted, cleaning crews must change schedules and add extra between-events attention to the church. Time is spent making arrangements with family and, in turn, staff. Extra priests were expected and so seating must be arranged and liturgical accommodations must be made. Sacristans work to judge for how many communicants we must be prepared. Copies of reading are made, police are notified, and extra vestments are brought out. How many organizations can accommodate such a major event in the life of a family in a couple of day’s time?

This particular funeral the family made the request that Fr. Kraker be the main celebrant. It was such a good choice as he gave a very touching homily, one that I could not have given as I do not have the background with the deceased as he did. That was huge relief though I would have gladly done it. But we were blessed to hear his words.

Perhaps it is part of the charism of the priest to want to celebrate. My oldest sister is quite the opposite. Once my Mom called her in hopes of throwing her and her husband a party. She said, “Guess whose 25th wedding anniversary is coming up?” She honestly did not know. When she was informed she called to her husband and incredulously asked, “Have we really been married 25 years?” I on the other hand have always found an excuse to celebrate something. “It’s apple season! Get out a bottle of champagne and let’s celebrate!”

“We made apple strudel! Let’s have a party!”

“Apple season is over. I was getting sick of apples. Let’s have a party to celebrate.”

If you think about it a parish is a celebration center. The most important celebration happens daily with the celebration of the Eucharist. Confessions, baptisms, confirmations, professions of faith, funerals, and community and educational events. I guess the job aptitude test that I took in high school was not so far off of the mark as I thought it was now that I think about it. I filled out my questionnaire and pulled up the appropriate 3X5 card (computers were not big yet) and read my suggested future career: Cruise Line Director. Perhaps this is somewhat close. But more God centered. And not on a boat. Or near the water. And I wear black instead of white. And instead of a captain I have a bishop. And – well, Okay – maybe it isn’t anything like it.

Friday, August 21, 2009


Fr. P, a newly ordained assigned St. Sebastian, was praying his office with me the other day. There was one notable difference. I held a leather bound book with satin ribbon page markers and he held his phone. Was there any difference in our prayers? No. Not a jot. At least I don’t think so. But – am I just getting old? – there just seemed something – I don’t know – WRONG with praying by phone. Well – by the screen version of the breviary anyway. The problem is – I cannot define exactly what if anything is wrong with it.

I think there is a general consensus in the Church toward this idea. The Church abhors fake. The one, the true, the good, the beautiful – these are our ideals. (Is a phone version of the breviary fake?) We would never have (I should watch what I say – God is ironic) an electronic version of the Sacramentary or Lectionary or Book of Gospels. In fact, there are some general rules about how these books are to be reverently handled. (Does a phone remain an object to be reverently handled after the Liturgy of the Hours is no longer on the screen?)

It is interesting to note that according to the “Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy” (para. 120) the official instrument of the Catholic Church is still the pipe organ – very definitely PIPE organ – not electronically reproduced pipe organ sounding – like instrument. “Environment and Art in Catholic Worship” (para 102) states, “Flowers, plants, and trees – genuine of course – are particularly apt for decoration . . .” Those three little words are striking, “genuine of course!”

Wine must be true wine – bread true bread – sacraments must always involve more than one person and must be face to face with some amount of physical contact – music during the Mass may never be recorded – candles for the Mass may not be of the light bulb variety – always we are called back to the earthy – the earthly set aside and made holy for the worship of God – to smell, touch, hear, taste, see – not virtually but as messy as possible – which is why I like smells and bells I suppose.

So what does that say about polyester vestments?

Thursday, August 20, 2009


Catholicism for Dummies” states that a genuflection is a bending of one’s right knee to the ground while bending the left knee. (I would like to see someone touch their right knee to the ground without bending the left knee.) It also clarifies that such an action is only done before the Blessed Sacrament. Almost true. We do believe in the possibility of doing so before the Cross on Good Friday, when kissing the pope’s ring, and at an engagement as long as it is not a same sex marriage. A better word for this action would genuineflection as it is the genuinely proper way to do it.

That being said what are all the variations on this theme called? Could they still be genuflections or genuflectesque, or their own creature all together?

Take for example the almost genuflection: close enough to look almost like genuflection but not far enough to risk getting one’s pants dusty at the knees. I don’t think I buy that this particular maneuver is easier. It seems hard to get almost there, hold it, and then get back without the wonderful rest you get in between if the knee actually does touch the floor. Perhaps we could call this the “gymnuflection.”

The “Tightskirtuflection” could be the people who just do a little curtsy. People do it regardless of what they are wearing but it always reminds me of someone wearing a very tight skirt and so the closest they can get to an actual genuflection is to kind of do a miniature squat. If they were to go any further they would run the risk of a ripping sound and a trip home to change hopefully into clothes that are more genuflection friendly.

How about “Straybulletflection” for the very good souls who know that they should genuflect before entering into one’s pew but has lost the idea of why one should do it. Therefore the genuflection is not shot at Jesus but might go in any direction – to the wall, a lady’s hat, or even the end of the pew like water from a fire hose held by a 12 year old.

The “Forgotuflection” is epidemic among Catholics who visit other parishes where the Blessed Sacrament is kept in another room instead of in the main body of the church. Though a bow would still be appropriate they simply slide into their pew. It sometimes happens to students too and when I catch them I say, “Hey, get out here! You know better than that.” Then they do the “TIghtskirtuflection” and I say, “Hey, get out here, you know better than that.” This is sometimes followed by the “Straybullet” and by the time they are done they have had quite a workout and are allowed to skip gym.

There is the “Barely Ambulatory” in which a person who probably should not be walking without assistance goes down for a “Genuine” but once down are abaondoned by their body and must use the end of the pew and the assistance of two ushers and an altar server to get upright again. In this case a bow of the head would suffice. Funny however that often it is those who could get back up without assistance that opt for the bow.

“Both Barrels” or going down on both knees used to be reserved for when the Blessed Sacrament was exposed. It is no longer called for since the priest is not required to do so during the celebration of the Mass when he genuflects (hopefully) after Jesus becomes present on the altar. It is optional now. I like it. It feels right. Until you accidently step on your alb on the way up and choke yourself.

Kids are wonderful genuflectors. It’s great to watch one go down on his or her left knee, be corrected by a parent and with the slightest hop exchange it for the right knee to the ground without the rest of their body moving. How many gymnasts have been born of this move?

There could be more I suppose but none is more embarrassing (even more so than the alb choke and stumble) than the Habitualflection. Once in your life have you not genuflected at the movie show, or before entering the benches of some other venue covering by looking for a contact even though you don’t wear glasses?

Then there is the “Self-rightulfection.” This action is actually after the genuflection. It is done by those who think they genuflect correctly and then can comment on everybody else’s.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009


In a discussion about being pro-life, a Catholic asked me recently, with sincerity, whether we have the right to force our religion on other people when working for national policy. The question was asked with genuine concern. It is easy to lose nerve in this political climate and to think that we are trying to make the world Catholic.

Of course we have the right to do everything in our power to bring such ideas into law in our country. Don’t be cowed in the least in this regard. Are you not an American citizen? Do you not believe that what we teach we do not because it is Catholic but it is because we believe that it is the very best way that people and societies can live? That it would be healthiest for all? Of course. We do not want to make Mass attendance mandatory for everybody – but we want to stop what is destructive to the society in which we live and imbue our nation with all that is noble in mankind.

Those who would accuse Catholics of forcing their faith on others do so out of the mistaken idea that there is some sort of neutral or natural way of being. There is no such thing. Everybody worships at some altar whether it be in a sanctuary or at the altar of man or what have you. For some inane reason even Catholics are buying into the notion that being pro-life is a hard line Christian position. It is not. I would say that it is more pro-human that so called humanists.

Your position on such topics as life are just as valid as anyone’s in a democracy. They are not invalid because they also correspond to your beliefs.

Monday, August 17, 2009


FINDING TRUTH WHEREVER IT MAY BE FOUND: “Truth means having an openness to reality as it is, not as we would like it to be.” Bishop O’Donell

QUOTE II: “Truth is not determined by a majority vote.” Cardinal Ratzinger


I think I get this but am not sure. I have to think it through further. Frank sent this interesting stumper in. Give it a try. Very interesting.

I thought this video had dissapeared from the internet but found it last night looking for something else. It just silly but makes me laugh.

Russ sent this one in. Its only a few seconds long but worth a laugh or two. I would do this.


At the end of Mass I generally stand at the back of the church and shake hands as people are leaving. This last weekend a man followed me out and immediately asked if he could talk with me. I (of course) had never seen him before and, unusual for someone to have at the end of Mass, he had a Burger King cup of pop in his hand. I asked him to wait as I would anybody who wants an in depth conversation during this time as it is reserved for quick moments of contact with parishioners that I do not get a chance to see very often if at all. He did wait and then quickly asked for money. “We do not give out money,” I said, which we don’t, “If you want I can put you in contact with our Saint Vincent de Paul Society.”

He was willing to receive vouchers from the store instead but we no longer do that either. The offer for being put in contact with the SVdP was repeated but he wanted nothing to do with them. Later in the conversation it was revealed that he did not live in our parish boundaries. We do not offer assistance to people who live in other parishes. They should go to the local parish for assistance and if that parish is too poor we will send assistance through that parish if they vouch for him. This may seem harsh but it solves the problem of people going from parish to parish asking for assistance and draining resources from people who really need it. It also prevents your parish (I learned the long and hard way) from being put on the list for visits from all over northeast Ohio of people asking for whatever it you are giving away – except, of course, for community and Eucharist. (Oooh. Sarcasm there. Confession here I come.)

I member of the Knights of Columbus slipped him some money but he went away, of course, unsatisfied and I moped for a few hours afterwards wondering about the state of my soul. I have complained to you about this before I know. I know that Sunday morning requests are 99% planned with the hope that someone will throw money at the problem because it is such a busy time. I know people from outside the parish boundaries often make the rounds regularly. I know that if they lived in the parish and even more so if we see them at Mass and what not we would do what we could to help them (and such sincere people have no qualms about dealing with the SVdP and usually do not have a story about needing $100 within the next hour or [insert dramatic consequences here].)

BUT STILL . . . it bothers me or I would not be writing about it to you at this moment even though I am sure it was the right thing to do.


And after giving a homily about more authentically living the Catholic life.


I suppose it is not always about doing the right thing but about trying to do the right thing as best you can.

I think.

Friday, August 14, 2009


Is anybody else having difficulties downloading pictures?

I went to go see “Julie and Julia” the other day and thoroughly enjoyed it. In the spirit of that movie I thought this week’s Friday Potpourri would be a recipe believe it or not – I think a first for this blog.

Mom made her very own version of strudel and I fiddled with it myself so this is probably one of the only nearly original recipes in my bag of tricks. Here’s what you will need for the crust:

2 cups of floUR
Two sticks of butter – YES BUTTER OR DON’T BOTHER
¼ C of water
3 egg yolks (Save the whites for later.)
2 TBLS of vinegar. (I sometimes add vanilla – Mom didn’t approve.)

Cut the butter into flour until it is pea sized and then add the liquids and mix. Divide into 4 – 6 balls and kneed adding required amounts of flour until it no longer sticks (and makes a cool clicking sound in your hand.) Cover and set in the refrigerator for at least as long as it takes you to do the next step or overnight.

Here’s what you need for the filling.

9 apples unless they are gigundous. Mom always used half Jonathon and half Macintosh.
1 cup of sugar
Dash of cinnamon
Lemon Juice (buy a lemon.)
1 cup of crushed cornflakes.

Core, peel, and chop the apples. You could use one of those handy dandy chopping thingys but I like the chunkier more random sizes of apples.

Add all the other ingredients and mix except for the cornflakes.

Preheat oven to 325-350

Roll out the dough ball into a rectangle getting it as thins as possible. It’s best to do it on a sheet because then you can roll it with the filling much more easily and without breaking anything. Scoop out the appropriate percentage of filling along one of the long sides of the dough but not all the way to the sides. Along the side of inside line of the filling make a barricade of crushed cornflakes to act as a barrier to the apple juice. Put some of the egg whites around the edges of the crust and fold over the ends, role into a loaf.

Place on greased tray, swipe the top with more egg white and sprinkle with sugar. Bake for 45 min. to an hour or until nicely brown. Serve hot with vanilla ice cream.

A twist on this is to peel and core the apple, place in the center of a round of the dough, fill the center of the apple sugar, a little cinnamon, and a pat of butter on top. Apply the egg whites as a glue and envelope the apple in the dough. Cover with egg white and sugar. Cook at 350 for hour or until golden brown. Serve hot in a bowl with vanilla ice cream and melted St. Valentine’s Day cinnamon candy hearts as a sauce.

Thursday, August 13, 2009


Chesterton once wrote in the Illustrated London News, “The sentence ran something like this: ‘The time will come when communicating with the stars will seem t us as ordinary as answering the telephone.’ To which I answer, by way of a beginning: ‘Yes, that is what I object to.’ Now, if you could say to me: ‘The time will come when answering the telephone will seem to us as extraordinary as communicating with the remote stars . . .’ then I should admit that you were a real, hearty, hopeful, encouraging progressive.”

There is a certain sadness in that today’s innovation is tomorrows humdrum. Once I was in the kitchen when my young nephew came in, put something in the microwave and then collapsed against the machine and moaned, “Oh! I wish they would invent something that would make food more quickly!” Good thing he did not have to begin by killing the cow.

It seems to be human nature to grow “used to” things. I suppose people who live next to Niagara Falls never look at it. “Oh. That? That’s the falls. Nice huh? What do you want to watch on T.V.?” Even the Eucharist can fall prey to this. Unfortunately even spouses.

It does not have to be that way though. It takes a certain mind set – a spiritual practice to see everything new each morning. It may sound a bit corny but it is true that the tree outside is never the same tree twice – especially if you life in Ohio. There will always be something new about it – or at least something in it that can be appreciated. It takes the discipline to see the thing or person in the moment and to be appreciative of it.

Some people accuse me of being a Luddite. There may be a little truth to that accusation. Most of my clocks including my wristwatches are of the wind up variety. I am much more impressed with my ’46 Plymouth than I am with my 2000 Buick. I like fountain pens. I am horrible with them, but I like them. (Does anybody else end up with black fingers after using one? What on earth am I doing wrong?) But it really isn’t that I am opposed to quartz clocks, ballpoint pens, or iphones. I use many of these things. I think I am just not ready for them yet. I am still utterly amazed by the gears and mechanics of these older things. There is a victrola upstairs and I am completely fascinated that it can play a record without electricity. I still prefer my CDs most of the time (already a passing technology – sheesh) but I am more impressed by the ingenuity of the old beast.

It is not that the newer things are not incredibly clever things – even more so than these other devices – but that I am simply not ready for them yet. I am still amazed by the older versions and am not ready to be amazed by the new. I try to cultivate that in my spirituality – being amazed by the Eucharist – the Mass - by confession – by Christ’s teaching trying to hear them for the first time every time. Every day trying to appreciate anew the parish, the people, the neighborhood.

It’s bologna to say that I have got it down – but when it works it makes life so much grander. There is no need for something great and unique to happen every day when you can rightly appreciate what is there. More people have gadgets, resources, and means of mobility than any civilization has had ever and maybe will ever have again – who knows? How sad is for those who do not learn to enjoy and appreciate what is as best they can as opposed to what is not obtained yet.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009


The little girl in Flannery O’Conner’s short story, “A Temple of the Holy Ghost” thought that “she could never be a saint, but she thought she could be a martyr if they killed her quick. She could stand and be shot but not be burned in oil.”

I suppose I think of martyrdom much the same way. It seems like an easy in (said with only mild seriousness.) Much harder I believe is living day in and day out the life of a good man or woman. Not culminated in one brilliant, shining moment of sacrifice and love, but the day in and day out living through life’s joys, difficulties, temptations, graces, grievances, injustices, illnesses, gains, losses, insights, and love. How much more challenging! How many more graces available! How many more chances to get it right or at least better!

Along with this Catholics are amoung the few who believe in redemptive suffering. That pain in this life can have great spiritual and sometimes more earthly benefits. God is so great that anything offered to Him He can change into something for the good. Julian of Norwich even points out that the honest sinner can even offer His failings to God through prayer and the sacrament of confession and He can use that sin (not committed for the this purpose) to draw him closer to Himself.

When we suffer in this life never fail to offer that suffering to God. In the midst of suffering our prayer becomes greater when we unite ourselves with the sufferings of Christ. In suffering we continue to reach out in love through prayer thus purifying our praise and adoration.

In a minor way about two weeks ago I had my wisdom teeth out. There was a certain amount of discomfort involved - nothing of great note. But the discomfort I offered to God on behalf of the community that I was sent to minister to and for my loved ones and sometimes for those with whom I have difficulty dealing.

When you are passing through difficulty and it need not be physical, offer prayer through the mist of our pain. Unite yourself with the sufferings of Christ. Remember those who need prayer. Use your pain and do not be merely used by it.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009


FINDING TRUTH WHEREVER IT MAY BE FOUND: “But Christ did not overcome the world by running for office or leading a campaign of insurrection against the Caesars.” From Thomas Nevin’s “Therese of Liseux

QUOTE II: “In may day television was called books.” The Princess Bride


Fr. P and I were discussing Catholic friendly television shows – surprise – there are not too many. NCIS is one as well as the original Law and Order. Neither are a proponent of Catholicism by any stretch of the imagination but at least often they give the Catholic perspective up against others. N.B. This is not the case for the Law and Order spin offs. Eash.)

There is another program that I have come to like (although more recently came across a rather raunchy episode so my recommendation is not an excited one.) It is actually not Catholic friendly in the least. The characters are in fact rather anti-Catholic. But it is an honest portrayal of these characters with all of their foibles and not merely an attack on the Catholic Church. It is called “Mad Men” and one of the few, few, few shows that I take the time to watch.

My sister found a site at which you could “Mad Men Yourself” much like the site at which you could Simpsonize yourself. I could not get a Roman collar on so this is the next best thing that I could do – at a bar with Mr. Draper trying to convert his wretched soul on his territory. Gads, for some reason I can't get it on here. I will try again next week.

Here is the site if you would like to give it a go.

The Diocese of Cleveland Enewsletter asks, "Did you know, the National Catholic College Admission Association is a non-profit organization of Catholic colleges and universities committed to promoting the value of Catholic higher education and serving students in the transition to college?"

Martin wrote in last week a little too late for me to post, "This is Martin from John Paul the Great Catholic University, an authentically Catholic business, media, and technology school in San Diego, CA. Our theology professor Michael Barber has produced a video reflection on the Mass readings for August 9th. I thought your readers might be interested in it as a way of preparing for the Sunday liturgy." Or, in this case, reflect on what you heard last week. We are continuing with John 6 anyway and it might be a good recap. Here it is.

This is a picture that I could not post yesterday.The barn has the Mail Pouch logo on it that a friend of mine and I painted. It is the second time we painted it. Here is a site to see pictures of the first barn we painted which subsequently burned to the ground!

Monday, August 10, 2009


For some reason I am not having any luck downloading any pictures other than the one below. Perhaps I will post them tomorrow.
Friday night was free until a phone call came in. An emergency phone call to the rectory is not unusual though the subject matter was. The hay at the farm was delivered, it was threatening rain and there was no one to help load it in.

So I invited our new parochial vicar out for dinner at the farm. As we neared the farm I casually dropped the information, “By the way, did I mention we have to load 200 bales of hay into the barn before we eat?” I have since learned what a good Joe he is.

Sebastian also came along. He had the uncanny knack for standing exactly where the next bale of hay was to be thrown. It only took one bale landing on his head to break him of that terrible habit.


This past week we had the feast of St. John Marie Vianney. It was interesting reading about him this year with particular attention since it is the Year for Priests. I envy his love of his parishioners and the Blessed Sacrament. I pray to be a good priest in that way.

From time to time a new insight dawns while celebrating the Mass and I think, “Wow, I have to remember this forever!” After a while that is replaced by something else amazing about this sacrament. The depth of meaning and love in this sacrament is so great that we will live our whole lives and forget more than we remember in our insights and still have only scratched the surface.

Anyway, nearing the consecration I started wondering what might have been going through St. Vianney’s mind as he celebrated the Eucharist. (I think a lot during the Mass which is probably why I cannot remember ANYTHING that is not stick ‘em noted in.) Lifting the bread slightly above the altar and praying the words of institution the notion of St. Vianney’s great love for his people came to mind and I prayed to be able to love my people so. Almost at the same time I thought of his lips uttering the words of institution and of his great love of God present to us as the Eucharist. Then at the words, “Do this in memory of me,” when Jesus is lifted for a moment of adoration before the people it occurred to me in a new way what a privilege it is to be a priest. It was like a formal introduction of your two great loves: the God of Love being introduced to the Church and you near the center of it witnessing the moment. Wow- what a privilege! And very humbling. And a joy to be able just to stand in that intersection for this amazing encounter. Thanks St. Vianney for making a bit clearer this wonderful, wonderful moment in the life of a priest.

Friday, August 7, 2009


You came with a lot of great ideas for to replace Friday Fair. There are still some symbolic things we can throw in but a lot of the things about which you wrote were also very good. So maybe Friday will become “Friday Potpourri.” It will cover a limited scope of topics. Thanks for the grand idea.

One of the topics recommended is vocation stories. There was a series a long time ago in which I described my own vocation history. I enjoy hearing them also so if anybody has a vocation journey story and would Email it to me I would be most please to post one occasionally.

One of my favorite stories came from my first pastor as a priest. His name was Fr. Robert Hilkert. He had a way of telling stories and I do not know exactly how much of it was true and how much of it was true in a way to make the story more interesting. The way he tells the story however is that he and his brother were told that they were going to go away for schooling. A concept that was terribly exciting. It was not until he had installed himself at school that he came to discover that it was a seminary.

Apparently the pastor of Saint Vincent told him that his sons had possibilities and that they should try out the seminary – which they did though not of their own volition. The interesting part is that both he and his brother Fr. John Hilkert stayed the course and were ordained.

The brothers greatly loved the priesthood and were model priests in many ways though quite different from each other. Once in the seminary it never really occurred to Fr. Robert not to continue on in the priesthood. It was a natural fit though he claims not to have much considered it until he actual found himself in the seminary.

To his dying day he could not understand why more men did not choose the priesthood. He spoke of it as such a grand and privileged life and his example and joy was always evident.

Thursday, August 6, 2009


When I first went to college I started a major in music, switched to business, switched to psychology, switched to manual communications (and almost graduated), switched to . . . well, you get the idea. It was a wonderful opportunity to look into things (and none of the skills learned in any of these areas were left to atrophy in my current vocation.) I never felt that once I entered into one of these majors that I would be trapped and forced to commit once in the doors.

For some reason though people have the idea that this is the case for priestly vocations. “Going to the seminary” sounds like a done deal. The men in the seminary have not made any more of an absolute commitment to being a priest than I did as a new psychology or music major. Entering the doors of the seminary is a discernment process. You are going there to see if it fits, if indeed this is that to which God is calling you. And like all the majors I explored before priesthood are not wasted in my current vocation, a man’s experience in the seminary will serve him for the rest of his life. He will learn more about his faith, be given an intense opportunity to grow in his relationship with God, he will be exposed to learning, opportunities, and experiences that most people are not.

The Church in general also benefits. These men become laymen who are unusually well versed in the faith. They may be catechists or heavily involved in the parish or diocesan life in some other way – or be a writer – or just a promoter of the faith in whatever vocation to which they are eventually called. And, as I have often said to a man leaving the seminary, “Raise up many worthy sons who will become priests!” In this the culture for vocations grows.

If you are considering a priestly or religious vocation, do not be afraid to investigate! (Right Adoro? Kay?) If this is too much for you most places also have less “threatening” ways for you to explore vocations such as vocation visits or weekend or week long retreats. But please do not simply ignore the calling. I’ve met far too many men in the confessional who have ignored their calling and later regret it. If you are single and Catholic you owe it to yourself let alone God (for if it is what you are called to, only it will make you truly happy!) to explore whether you have a calling to priestly or religious life.

Saint John Marie Vianney, ora pro nobis,

Wednesday, August 5, 2009


The letters to the editors in these parts often contain words from a disgruntled Catholic complaining about of their shock concerning what is happening to their parish. (Cleveland is going through some parish downsizing.) There are a few incidences in which I understand why this is the case but for the majority this is not a surprising event. The process for closing parishes has been going on for years. Every parish was supposed to have a committee of parishioners that were intimately involved with the process and they along with the pastor were to keep members of each parish involved and informed. Apart from some specific cases this situation should not have occurred.

There are a couple of possibilities. One is that the parishioner did not pay attention, did not attend Mass, did not read the bulletin, did not listen to announcements, did not come to meetings, or really attends another parish and only occasionally their “home” parish and therefore was oblivious to these cataclysmic events at their parish. The other is that the parish priest or the committee did not take their mandate seriously enough to pass on the information about what was happening. In either even the bishop is blamed for the surprise attack.

It is also the case (I am equally to blame in not getting the news out) that a person will hear of something going on in the world and say, “Why haven’t the bishops spoken out on this! Why is the pope silent?!” This is often far from the case. Suppose the bishops (who put out copious amounts of statements and documents) or the pope does say something, how are we to hear about it? Quite often when the paper does report that Pope Benedict said something they tell of some obscure passing line of a much greater statement because it makes for great headlines. Or if the bishop should say something how is it get to the people? The newspaper? I think not. Send letters to everyone? That is called the diocesan newspaper and how many people have subscription to it and read it?

Priests should perhaps be better about spreading the word. But lay people too should mine for this information. The Vatican has a website (and a newspaper) as do most dioceses. Be informed! Know what the Church is saying! Search out these sources for important topics and know that the Church does indeed speak.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009


FINDING TRUTH WHEREVER IT MAY BE FOUND: “Oh, how beautiful will be the day of Resurrection! Those beautiful souls will be seen coming from heaven like glorious suns, to unite themselves to the bodies they animated on earth. The more those bodies have been mortified, the more they will shine like diamonds.” From St. John Marie Vianney’s, “Eucharistic Meditations” More quotes here.

QUOTE II:I think those are drawing nearer to heaven who, in this life, find that they need men less and love men more – in being loved and not being needed.” From C. S. Lewis’ “The Four Loves”


Oh happy day! This is the first feast of St. John Marie Vianney under his new title of patron saint of all priests! St. Vianney, pray for all of us priests!

In honor of the day Fr. P. and I have dubbed one of our guest rooms as the St. Vianney suite.

And I offer a prayer out to all you young men who are considering a call to the priesthood.
A study in Ohio weather:
Michael sent this in: “I am writing on behalf of Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), an international Catholic charity under the guidance of the Holy Father whose mission is to help suffering and persecuted faithful worldwide.

As an international Catholic charity under the guidance of the Holy Father, Aid to the Church in Need’s mission is to help suffering and persecuted faithful worldwide. As the voice of the suffering Church, with the help of our ACN family of faithful — hundreds of thousands of concerned and committed Catholics worldwide — we reach out to assist people in need in over 145 countries. Each year, we fulfill more than 5,000 projects through our spiritual and material aid programs. Our shared goal: To help strengthen the Church and keep the Faith alive."

You can also support the organization just by following them on the web and by spreading the word about their mission and the work they do:
Follow Aid to the Church in Need on Twitter.
Become a Fan of the charity on Facebook.
Read their blog at
View photos of projects and people on Flickr.

CK sent this video in that is intriguing. What is your take on it? 1.5 minutes.

Rob is back in action! He is continuing a Scripture Study over at Ecce Verbum Dei

For those who are somewhat more local: Theatre of the Word is coming back to Ohio. They were at St. Sebastian last year and greatly enjoyed. Much of the cost for bringing them here came from a local Chesterton society and myself. Is anybody interested in helping them return this year? It was a great to do!

By the by, whilst we were at it, we named our common room the Chesterton Room. A silly practice perhaps but none-the-less done.