Monday, November 30, 2009


FINDING TRUTH WHEREVER IT MAY BE FOUND: "A deceiver can never be at ease, knowing how effortlessly one can get past a man's defences and that practicing the art confers no immunity from becoming a victim oneself." from Douglas Galbraith's "Rising Sun"

QUOTE II: "A man can be a great artist and be a bad man." Jaques Maritain


Here's a great site that provides fun facts about saints. Might be a good one to get the kids interested in learning something about the saints if you just don't find it interesting yourself.

Power to the people! Okay, this video has nothing in common with this blog but it made me happy. Thanks Frank.

Gus from EWTN sent this in: "If you’re still deciding what to do for the great season of Advent, which began yesterday, why not consider listening to a great EWTN homily each day? You can find it by going to our home page,, and looking down the right hand side for “Today’s Mass: Readings and Homily.” When you click on that, you will see an icon at the top of the page that says “Today’s Homily.” You can listen or watch on your computer or download the homily to your MP3 player. If you already go to Mass, you can drag the cursor along the bottom to get past the readings and go straight to the homily. If you can’t attend, then you may want to listen to the readings as well. What a great way to lift your mind and heart to God this Advent!"

Sunday, November 29, 2009


Now I get it!

Thanksgiving always seemed so easy when Mom did it.

I hosted Thanksgiving for the first time in my life for about 20 members of my family. To be honest I did not even have to cook. I just had to provide the house and some plates. If I had to cook too you probably would have been reading my obituary at the moment.

How do you people do this?

For some reason (I blame the devil) the work load at the parish increased incredibly as Thanksgiving neared. My desk looked as though a dump truck and backed up to it and unloaded itself after gorging itself on its own version of Turkey Day. And my desk, because of lack of space in the rectory, is in the living room. So that just would not stand. Besides, where would the drinks table be then?

So as the magical hour arrived for people to start showing up I got the biggest box I could find and just shoved EVERYTHING into it and hid it in the closet. My desk looked fabulous.

But unfortunately nothing miraculous happened. Reality did not match the illusion. The box did not disappear. *sigh*

So, it was time to play vacation – a game I only play in extreme emergencies. No, that does not mean I jumped into my car and drove to Niagara Falls leaving the work behind; while fun for a day that just makes the pile that much bigger when I get back. “Vacation” is when the doors are locked, the blinds are drawn, the cell phone is left upstairs, and items are taken out of the box one by one and handled immediately and without interruption until every last scrap is gone as if tomorrow I was leaving on vacation and wanted it done before I left.

I was so happy to legitimately see the top of my desk that I brought people in to look at it. Now all I have to do is catch up on 75 Emails and a number of phone calls. (You may have noticed a distinct lack of posts last week!)

But for the rest of Sunday, I will enjoy the illusion that I am really all caught up from the looks of my desk and pretend that Monday will be a lazy day.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009


In a comments section last week it was stated that a short series would begin today. With Thanksgiving tomorrow and a few other things on my plate, that will have to wait until next week. Fortunately CK, a regular guest blogger on Adam's Ale, sent an excellent post in so that I could have a little break today. Thank you CK! I hope everyone finds it as useful and well said as I did.

On November 6th, The City Club of Cleveland sponsored a talk by Barbara Coombs of the euthanasia advocacy group “Compassion and Choices”, formerly known as the Hemlock Society. In her speech Ms. Coombs claimed that her group promotes dignity and truth and religious groups, on the other hand, are in favor of dogma and guilt.

She told sad stories of patients who suffered because their end-of life wishes were ignored. But in all of her stories, the patients’ requests would have been acceptable to every major religious denomination, including the Catholic Church. None of them expressed the desire to poison themselves.

She claimed to be on the side of truth, but went on to say that poisoning yourself is not suicide, and a doctor prescribing poison is not euthanasia, it is “aid in dying”. (I recall a certain priest cleverly suggesting that if we call toxic waste “drinking water” we still should not dump it in our rivers.)

She claims that Churches and those with conservative values impose guilt and shame, but her group advocates for advanced directives that ask a patient if they want to be a “burden to their families” by extending their lives and or if they want to live lives that are “useless”. Who is causing guilt and shame here?

Contrary to what Ms. Coombs claimed, the Catholic Church does not demand that death “always be fought” (an extraordinary accusation to launch at a Church full of martyrs). In all of the examples she sites, the Church would have allowed the cessation of the extraordinary means she described. The Church even allows as much pain medication as necessary to eliminate pain, even if it shortens life, but doesn’t directly cause it. The Church only demands that you allow the patient to die of their disease or condition, not of poisoning or dehydration.

If someone in unbearable emotional pain tries to commit suicide by jumping off a bridge, we don’t stand back and say, “Well, they are exercising their autonomy.” We run to their rescue. If they poisoned themselves instead of jumping off a bridge it still would not be a “death with dignity”. The Catholic Church tries to end the pain, not the person.

It is Christian churches who have true mercy on the dying by lavishing their fellow brothers and sisters in Christ with a love that makes many patients change their minds about suicide. The Catholic Church asserts their inherent dignity, even when the patient’s life is seemingly unproductive and full of suffering, like Christ on the cross. Euthanasia is the false mercy that releases the living from their duty to care for the dying and to suffer with them, the true meaning of empathy. It is my hope that Catholics succeed in showing the world who is really on the side of truth and dignity here.

Monday, November 23, 2009


FINDING TRUTH WHEREVER IT MAY BE FOUND: “The vast mysteries of the universe should only confirm our belief in the certainty of its Creator. I find it as difficult to understand a scientist who does not acknowledge the presence of a superior rationality behind the existence of the universe as it is to comprehend a theologian who would deny the advances of science.” Werner von Braun, the father of space science as reported in Lee Strobel’s, “A Case for a Creator”

QUOTE II: "Not serve two masters? Here's a youth will try it. Would fain serve God yet give the devil his due; Says grace before he doth a deed of villainy, And returns his thanks devoutly when tis acted." "Old Play" as found in Scott's, "Kennleworth"


The Diocese of Cleveland reports, "The Catholic Conference of Ohio has issued the following Action Alert pertaining to restoring budget cuts to Chartered Nonpublic School Students." See here and here.

P sent in this movie trailer for The Blind Side. Looks interesting.

This two minute video certainly puts a new twist on a certain Scripture passage!

Here is a site that offers Catholic fun facts. Okay, I don't know how fun they actually are but have a look.


Occasionally priests are called upon to attend events to be a presence of the Church and to give benedictions or talks or whatnot. That was the case for me this past weekend. It was worthwhile event and I was seated with a number of very interesting people including a friend who was in the next chair. The program consisted of speeches and performances from various people. Then a person was called forward to speak that we were unaware was there at a second head table. When this person’s name was called my friend and I locked glances. We sat closest to the microphone and were in full view of everybody. The person is somewhat hostile to the Church in general and is, in particular, a radically devoted pro-abortion proponent with whom I have exchanged letters.

I am somewhat sure that nobody was as sensitive to the situation as my friend and I were. To us, every action meant something. To others it most likely was a pleasant evening of dinner and a program. Thoughts ran along these lines, “Would polite applause show tacit approval of this person’s position or would the refusal to clap during this completely unrelated and worthwhile event give fodder to those who are pro-abortion or who are on the borderline to say, ‘See? Do you want to be like those rude and radical people?’”

She, of course, had no idea that I was the person with whom she had exchanged letters but the sight of my collar would be a dead giveaway that we were at odds philosophically, morally, and religiously. That being said she was completely gracious it must be noted and there was no pushing of any controversial agendas.

It is interesting that we had grown up almost at the same time in the same neighborhood and had spent our youth hanging out in the same places doing the same things. Much of the memory portion of her talk could have been written by me. But now we could not be more different in our defense of life. Her focus is on a grown woman that she can see and talk to (and who can vote), my focus is also on that woman but also on the person in her womb that we cannot see, that we cannot touch, that we cannot talk to, that cannot vote, and has very little in the way of protection under our laws; a place that many persons in the history of man has held.

So we were polite; neither showing enthusiasm nor disdain. But through it I think that I am coming to a new insight into the pro-life movement. I think of all the times in history when being a churchman was unpopular such as in England during Henry the VIII or that a Church teaching caused a person to be in such direct conflict with the state such as in Communism, Nazism, or even during the Dioclesian persecution of our own St. Sebastian. Did it start with political correctness and politeness or was it flared by stubbornness and confrontation?

In any event the waters are troubled and it is difficult to navigate in these nebulous times. I would like to hear what you think you might have done given this situation.


I was asked the other day by a kind individual to stop referring to this parish as St. Sebastian and to refer to it as St. Sebastian’s; the argument being that St. Sebastian is a person who lived hundreds of years ago and that this is a place put in his care. So the parochial vicar and I went through some of the paperwork from the founding of the parish and looked at the Latin which side stepped the matter entirely by stating that this is the Parish of Saint Sebastian which we think could be translated either way.

Upon further reflection we came up with the idea that this parish while being placed into his intercession is not his, but named after him. If it is indeed possessive, would not also have to call a parish that is named, for example, Sacred Heart, Sacred Heart’s? or Assumption Assumption’s? or Divine Word Divine Word’s?

I am open to your input once again!

Thursday, November 19, 2009


If your church dates back to pre-Vatican II and you still have the old high altar many times there was what was called a reredos directly behind it. It is usually a carving but sometimes a painting or tapestry that either sits on the back of the altar or rises behind it attached to the apse wall. It may contain images of the patron saint of the parish or other significant saints or scenes from the life of Christ. A crucifix is there or a place for one and often there are relics. If you look at the sanctuary in your older church and think, “Something just seems wrong. Like there should be something there.” Chances are there was a reredos and the architecture was designed to draw your eye to it and thus down to the mensa of the altar and now it is missing.

This is particularly apparent in our Cathedral of Saint John. There is a gorgeous rerdos attached to the rear wall. The altar however has been moved considerably closer to where the people sit. There was always something that made me feel uneasy in that space and one day it became clear what that was. I was singing in the choir loft and because the organ sits in front of the choir I watched Mass from mirror. The mirror cut everything off from about the height of a person on up. The whole space then made sense. All our attention was drawn to the new altar. Later I went down stair and held a hymnal in front of me so that it blocked my view of the sanctuary from about the height of a person on down. The whole building was designed to draw one’s attention to the rear wall and to where there was once an altar. (This is why those who do renovations must be so very careful.) The building is fighting against itself. But it shows how effective it was in its job of pulling your attention to what was once there. In any event there is an excellent example of a reredos as well as at St. Bernard for locals.

When the priest led the people in facing liturgical east (Christ and His kingdom) they would all be facing toward the reredos which was a bit like facing a slice of heaven. Indeed the depiction of the saints and the sacrifice of Christ were seen there.

It is now preferred that altars be free standing but that does not mean that a reredos is not useful. It would take a certain amount more ingenuity to design something that would not attract attention to itself away from the altar but it could still be done.


(The following is constructed from my notes taken during the Mullen Lecture at Saint Mary Seminary, Cleveland. The presenter was Fr. Keven FitzGerald SJ)

We talk a lot about the race against disease but the question must be asked, “What kind of race to we want to run?” There are different courses that could be tackled. The predominate goal line toward which we run today seems to be that which may have the greatest monetary reward and may affect percentage wise a very small amount of people at some point in the future. But we know that hundreds of millions of people today could be saved from death and disease right now if they had access to clean water and had proper sanitation. And it would be comparatively inexpensive to achieve.

The touted theory is that there will be a trickledown effect by attacking these highly complex problems. By spending most of our dollars and time on celebrity diseases eventually what will happen is that these cures will be made accessible to the masses. Yet, without any further research, we can state categorically that hundreds of millions of people can be preserved from a profuse amount of diseases and suffering and even agonizing death if they have sanitation and clean water. And we could afford to do right now. Yet this simple solution has not trickled down.

The axiom, “What is more important than you health” has many answers. It is possible that a pill could be developed that would solve all of your problems. But what if you were the only able to afford it? What if the perfect pill for one reason or another made you the loneliest but healthiest person in the world? On the other hand, instead of a pill, what if life met you with a chronic illness but provided you with such a deep love that it made life worth living?

That is not to say that all research in diseases should be stopped. I hated that my father died of Alzheimer’s and my mother of cancer. Yet if I knew that if they endured that (and that I may have to also) that hundreds of millions of people would live far better and longer lives, it would choose it. My cure may not come in my life time – but if my cure is at the expense a X1000s of others’ cures, “no greater is there than this; to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”

These are questions worth thinking about for they will tell us what race we are going to run.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009


When YK2 was all the rage I was an MC for the First Night Celebration in downtown Akron. At midnight they shoot off fireworks to mark the start of the New Year and my cousin and I stood in the Polsky’s Parking Deck both for the grand view and a quick escape. The place was absolutely packed even though it was frigid outside. One young man on the road below us was practically stripped though it was obvious he was also rather chemically protected against feeling the cold. Apparently if the machines of the world decided to rebel against us at the stroke of midnight for not enabling them to count higher than 1999 he wanted to go out in a black haze.

The countdown began to the New Year and possible end of the world. A jet soared across the night sky. The blue lights of televisions and computer screens lit up various windows of the Mayflower apartment building nearby. The crowd yelled out, “10! 9! 8!” The excitement level was particularly tense this year. It was YK2 – people had bought provisions, purchased crank radios, and had plans in case the country went wild with looters. “3! 2! 1!” Fireworks lit up the sky. The plane didn’t fall. The blue monitors kept flickering away, and the lamp posts didn’t rip themselves up from the ground and start attacking us. I turned to my cousin and said, “Well THAT was disappointing.”

So I suppose you heard once again that the world is coming to an end. Apparently the Aztec calendar is coming to its completion which marks the end of life as we know it. I apologize for yawning at the prospect. I am tired of gearing up for the end of the world every couple of years. Of course it could happen. It might happen before you read the end of this sentence. Or this sentence fragment. Or this one. If you are still reading, chances are the end of the world has not taken place. Now, you could have fretted until you reached the end of each sentence worrying that the world might end. But would you be living if you were in constant fear that the world might end there? Or here?

And to be quite truthful, as Christians we should not worry. The world is going to end for us whether it is actually the earth shaking us off or we get hit by a bus. The point is we are ready. Whatever. End or don’t end. We should neither fear death nor refuse to live. We are ready in any event and if we are here we have work to do – so BRING LIFE ON!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009


FINDING TRUTH WHEREVER IT MAY BE FOUND: “The finish line is not avoiding death or disease or diminishment at all costs. The finish line is that all live well, love well, and die well. What counts for “well” is what more fully develops our shared human nature both individually and communally. Therefore each and all have much to give and much to receive.” Fr. Kevin Fitzpatrick SJ

QUOTE II: “We are all beggars at the table of grace.” Righteous B


There is always something fun going on at St. Sebastian. Thanks to Chilly Pepper and crew for helping paint the safe.

The Diocese of Cleveland Enewsletter has a report on Holy Love Ministries where Our Lady is reported as appearing. Bishop Lennon has recently written a letter and issued a decree on it. If you are interested you can find the letter here and the decree here.

Steph sent this article in which reads in part, "Traditionally, conventional Christians believe that only humans have redeemable souls, said Laura Hobgood-Oster, a religion professor at Southwestern University in Georgetown, Texas. But a growing number of congregations from Massachusetts to Texas to California are challenging that assertion with regular pet blessings and, increasingly, pet-centric services, said Hobgood-Oster, who studies the role of animals in Christian tradition. She recently did a survey that found more than 500 blessings for animals at churches nationwide and has heard of a half-dozen congregations holding worship services like Eggebeen's, including one in a Boston suburb called Woof 'n Worship." Before anyone asks - "No."

P. sent this lengthy article in. In summer it reads, "David Kinnaman, president of the Barna Group, said it's important to realize the research does not prove that spiritual activity as a young person causes spiritual engagement as an adult. In fact, the research confirms the pattern that many students who are active early in life disengage from their faith as they get older. "However, . . . [the study] provides clarity that the odds of one sticking with faith over a lifetime are enhanced in a positive direction by spiritual activity under the age of 18."

41 Seconds:

Mary sent this video in. It was produced by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. It is a 6.5 minute presentation about the Champagne for Human Development.

News reports indicate that abortions were down over 15% this year in Summit County. This is in addition to three years of decline.

For those of you who caught the above spelling check error - I liked it so much I thought to keep it. Cheers!

Saturday, November 14, 2009


If you were among those who have not heard the news yet, I am no longer the administrator of Saint Sebastian Parish in Akron. As of 2:50 of Tuesday past Bishop Lennon has named me pastor.

A summons from his office came a couple of weeks ago to meet him in his new office in downtown Cleveland. All of our diocesan offices have moved across the street from the cathedral to what I call “The Revco Building” a business which no longer exists and the building is now called Cathedral Plaza – which sounds very European and suggests a cobblestone – well – plaza with maybe a fountain and some benches and a statue. In reality it is a downtown business building without so much as a front stoop.

The new (to us) building is very nice. I will grant that the old building, which had a lot of character, was rather impractical and had many maintenance problems – but there was something homey about it. Then again, I didn’t have to work there. The new building is very sleek and corporate and perhaps after we’ve been in it for years it will look more lived in and Catholiced up.

A guard greeted me at the door and I showed her my ID, signed in, and jumped into the elevator to the bishop’s floor. His new office is very white. A carved wooden table in the conference room from the old building sits in front of a glass wall that gives a grand view down Rockwell Avenue. The meeting is both relaxed yet very formal for this is the actual moment the assignment takes place. The ceremony in the Church after is just that: a ceremony and celebration.

There are a couple of things that need to take place in order to become pastor. First a Profession of Faith is made. This largely consists of the Nicene Creed but goes on to include everything contained in God’s word written or handed down by the Church. It is read aloud and signed and witnessed. Then an Oath of Fidelity on Assuming the Office to be Exercised in the Name of the Church is given in which a new pastor promises to preserve the unity of the Church, carry out all of their duties, shall hold fast to the deposit of the faith, follow the common discipline of the Church, and promise obedience, “So help me God, and God’s holy Gospels, in which I place my hand.” This too is read, singed, and witnessed.

Bishop Lennon then pronounced that I now held the position of pastor of Saint Sebastian and offered his congratulations and the official papers of appointment which read in small part, “After proper consultation, I hereby appoint you Pastor of Saint Sebastian Parish, Akron. . .” Also contained with the paperwork was the ceremonial for the installation Mass to be celebrated by Bishop Pevec who is very special to me – and of course you are all invited.

I knelt down and received my bishop’s blessing and then headed down the elevator and out the door to a gray Cleveland sky that was just beginning to spit rain. Crossing the street to the Cathedral I slipped inside to say a prayer of thanks and ask for guidance. Within moments someone came up and asked to have a confession. Not ten minutes a pastor and already a sacrament celebrated! A fitting way and a good foot on which to start a new endeavor.

Friday, November 13, 2009


Today we start a new series for Friday Potpourri. We are going to take a tour of church architecture; what the various parts are and if they have any discoverable meaning, which I can dig up, what that is.

So you are sitting in your pew looking forward toward the altar. Though the rest of the building is very square you might notice behind the altar (if it hasn’t been moved elsewhere) some features that incorporate semi-circular curves. It may be a curved or wall, it may be only rounded about the top, or it may appear as on quarter of a ball. This area is called the apse. We do not have such an area here at St. Sebastian but for locals for the first type Saint Mary in Akron is a good example, for the second St. Augustine in Barberton is a good example, and for the third the top portion of St. Bernard is a good example.

There is a symbolic reasoning for the curvature. Early in this series (a few years ago) it was noted that straight lines and squares represent earth, man, and the things that he makes. Curves and circles represent the realm of God and His creation. Is it not symbolically fantastic then that the very spot where Jesus is made truly present, Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity, Who is 100% God, 100% man, the only, true, and perfect mediator between God and man is where architecturally square lines intersect with curvy lines? Here is where heaven and earth meat most truly and our churches try to tell us that in their own language.

Thursday, November 12, 2009


I heard a news program on NPR yesterday that is bothering me tremendously. The great temptation was there to turn off the radio and not think about it but that seemed irresponsible. So because it is still a bur under my saddle you will be saddled with it today.

It was a political program and the topic was abortion. The person on the program was radically pro-abortion. But more on that in a moment. What became clear to me for the first time was how divided we are as a nation on the topic. Of course you already knew that and so did I, but it became clear to me yesterday how difficult it will be to be a united nation in this great debate.

Trying to see the issue from the pro-abortion side I can see why they would want to call the issue pro-choice. In their eyes there is only one person involved – the woman. There is only one body involved: the woman’s. Passing legislation concerning limiting or abolishing abortion to them is a state violation of the woman’s bodily integrity. It would be a kin to forced operation – or better yet the refusal of an operation because the state wants a say in how a woman would look or what kind of operation she wants concerning her body. Viewed in this light abortion limiting laws must seem like an abomination and explains the harshness of the words of the person on the air yesterday.

She is a politician and was stating that she was going to work hard at bringing down any politician that voted for any legislation that would in any way impede a woman’s right to an abortion. Any politician that voted in this manner is “against the women of this county” and they will make sure that they will be opposed wherever they are running for office. To be “anti-choice” is to automatically be opposed to women.

That is mighty strong language but again, if you have the mentality above it makes sense. The problem is that pro-choice people recognize that more than one person involved. There are two human beings present and the strong feelings that the pro-abortion side has toward the bodily integrity of the woman is extended on the pro-life side to the life in her womb – the child. If you see the life within the womb of the mother to be a person, then the above paragraph stated by the politician no longer sounds like a champion for the underdog but a terrifying speech of a powerful person who wants control to do with as they wish to a powerless person. This may sound a bit strong so brace yourself: But if you see two people involved here and one has absolute power – even to put to death the other – it sounds like the horrors of our human history being played out once again – in most recent times acts against the Jewish people and slavery.

Can it be that we could exist as a country where one’s conscience can be the determining factor? The question becomes can a people live in unity where one sees a soul-less life to be treated as the “host” wills and the other who sees a person with legal and God given rights of peace, liberty and the pursuit of happiness? At question is a deep anthropology: “What is man? When does life become man? When does he deserve rights? Who has the right to decide?” We do not agree on these things as a nation and the answers will have extreme consequences in every area and stage of our lives (who should receive health care and how much for example.)

In the end it is a question of who we are – how much power we have – and who has the right to decide. It is much more than about abortion. It is much greater and much, much more is at stake.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009


Here is an interesting almost quote:

“It is time for a cultural change. We can no longer operate under the idea that everyone makes money and why shouldn’t I? This mentality is a very easy slope to slide down one day finding yourself breaking the law. There is no acceptable level of corruption. Our role in this is not a job it is a calling and together we can make a difference.”

This is not from a papal encyclical or a statement by the USCCB. This call for cultural change stemming from this calling is not even a homily. It is from a presentation by an FBI agent speaking on how we can save ourselves from financial ruin in this country. But in every way it sounds like the Christian message. It is the call we have as baptized Catholics anointed as priests, prophets, and kings, imbued with the responsibility of infusing our homes, schools, workplaces, neighborhoods, and nations with Divine moral imperatives of virtue, duty, honesty, and integrity. In our role there is no acceptable level of corruption. Our role in this is not a job but a vocation and together we can make a difference.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009


FINDING TRUTH WHEREVER IT MAY BE FOUND: “[T]here is a kind of relentless spirit of androgyny pushed in our intellectual culture, where manliness is actively discouraged and disparaged and womanliness is taken to be a kind of servitude from which women must be delivered. The goal seems to be to make men more like women and women more like men, so that, by their eventual blending together, they become indistinguishable. The result, of course, is that male and female become morally insignificant distinctions in our minds.” Benjamin Wiker in the NCR

QUOTE II: “Hell is our doing, not Gods.” Fr. Peter Stravinskas


Here is a two minute must see:

It is a production of Catholics Come Home which you can find here.

Here's what happens when you cannot find things - you look in the recycle bin on your desk top:

St. Procop Parish closed in Cleveland this week. Here are some pictures of the church building.

It's a slow news day - that's all there is!

Monday, November 9, 2009


In a large family it happens so slowly that it can be barely perceptible until it has already advanced quite far. As children grow older, older generations pass and babies are born, everyone takes a step up and fills in the roles of those that they used to think as what “the older folks do.” One day you are patted on the head as you take off running around the family house and then one day you find yourself engaged on the topic of politics.

Being a member of the priesthood is much like that and I had that experience this past weekend. The parish parochial vicar and I went to the closing ceremonies of Forty Hours at a nearby parish. The priest gatherings are not what older priests tell us about “in the good old days” when priests made such clergy gathering a priority (and there were more of us) and there would be a good number of clerics who would come to dinner, celebrate benediction, and then had back to the rectory for socializing. (I remember serving such dinners in our school gym growing up and seeing all of the priests. It was good for me to see them having such fun being together.)

We did not have a gym full but a handful of good priests got together for dinner and benediction. Sebastian even came. He was invited to visit one of our older priests who used to have Labs. So we sat upstairs before dinner while the younger priests caroused downstairs. I would normally have fidgeted and then found an excuse to break away but not that night. I like to think of myself as a relatively young(er) person at least as far as priest years are concerned but there are still some great names out there from priests of days gone by that I knew that the young pups only know by reputation. We were reminiscing about some of those guys (and I was getting the inside scoop) when dinner was called.

At dinner it struck me that perhaps the lines have been slightly shifted. Though we share a lot in our clerical family I have begun stepping slightly in the next stage. This happened once before being named an administrator of a parish. No longer simply concerned with the beauty of a building I started looking at tuck pointing, the condition of the parking lot, and calculating the amount of work a parish may need. (I suppose that is not much different from becoming a homeowner.) So subtly and quietly you step into a next stage of priesthood and are planted in it before you even realize it.

Friday, November 6, 2009


The Rose window is a circular window in churches that has tracery radiating from a central point. It is most often found in Gothic architecture but is present in other types of churches also. Most often they are found over the front door of the Church, usually visible on the inside over the choir loft. When church buildings were still built on an east-west axis quite often the main rose window would be in the west end of the building. As the priest faced the same direction as the people in more of a guide like Moses leading the people in the desert those things from which he read would face the west. The rose window would then allow the last rays of the setting sun (Son) fall on the Gospel as day came to an end.

Rose windows can be in other locations as well – in the transept – or over the altar. At Saint Sebastian there is an example of a rose window in hall which is the old church. It used to be over the altar (in the south wall) but when the building was renovated it was preserved and moved to (interestingly enough!) the west wall over the main doors to Zwisler Hall.

Another name for a rose window is a Catherine window since St. Catherine was sentenced to die on a wheel covered with spikes.

Thursday, November 5, 2009


Actually, no He wouldn’t and neither would we since it would be the Second Coming. But a more important question is did Jesus attend services when He did live here on earth. The answer is yes. He studied the Scriptures (Old Testament obviously) went to synagogue, observed the high holy days, and some suggest that the tassel that the lady plagued with hemorrhages touched and was subsequently cured was part of the religious dress of the Jewish people.

Now think about that. It is true that Jesus is 100% human, but He is also 100% God, the second member of the Holy Trinity. If anybody did NOT need to go to religious services it was Him. But He went just the same. In this way He set the example for us (and we would not have the excuse, “Well, Jesus didn’t go to services.”)

This came to mind yesterday as I was tooling about on my day away and there was a Protestant radio program on what to say to adult children who no longer go to (established Protestant) services on Sunday. There was the example of a young family who decided to no longer attend their church. As far as not attending an “official church” they said that they did not like the music and that the sermon was barely adequate with only a smattering of Scriptural references. As an alternative they now get together with other families in each other’s homes. They have a service that they worked out based deeply in Scripture, there is a faith sharing (I suppose this is like a sermon) and use commentaries and like resources to scour the depths of Scripture.

There were some attempts at trying to bring some arguments to the table as to why they should be attending an established church but they were weak. The best was that one does not attend Church for one’s self but for God and the benefit of the community. That is good. But in the end one of the panelists said, “I guess you have an apostolic Church. Good for you.” I suppose if you believe in Sola Scriptura, if your building has no Sacramental presence of Jesus, there is no sacrifice and so no priesthood, if there is no divine authority given to a church structure, and you are forming a community of believers I would be hard pressed to say otherwise.

Unless we are speaking about the Catholic understanding of Church. Church, the way we believe in it requires a set community, interconnectedness, unity, sacrifice, authority, Tradition, fixed theology, a priesthood, and a sacrifice. These are impossible to establish on one’s own by starting a church in your dining room. It is not about enjoyment – your type of music or your style of worship though we should strive to do what we do well and relevantly. It is not about the personality of the priest though it does help. It is not about getting anything “out of” of the service – you come to serve. And in turn you do “get something” – Christ speaking to you in His own words of the Gospel and receiving Him Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity as the Eucharist.

We go to Mass weekly because this is the example set by Jesus Christ. We gather in the Catholic Church because we believe He gave His authority to the Church in matters of faith and morals. We gather at a Mass rather than a service because we believe that He gave us a sacrifice and a sacrificial system through the priesthood to be celebrated. And we do it as the universal Church because Christ’s mission was and is about unity. That is our role as sons and daughters of our Father. We come first in love and then in duty in season and out, in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health all the days of our lives until we are one with Him in glory.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009


A homily is a tricky thing. A precious few minutes are allotted to bring to light one sliver of truth from Sacred Scripture or about the feast of the day or season. It can be a particularly delicate challenge when the message of Christ is not rainbows and blue birds. Jesus Himself mentions such things as hell and condemns such things as extra marital sex. A preacher facing a congregation from babes in arms to those who have already said good bye to their octogenarian years, from those who are well established in their faith to those who are hanging on by his fingernails has to find a way to proclaim such truths of the faith so that as many people will listen to the message without anyone else storming out I protest. (Actually I only saw that once but it was quite dramatic.) One way to do this is to avoid all controversial topics. That would certainly make the trial much easier but it would of course be denying the community the fullness of the Gospel.

Another sticky wicket is the one shot listener. When it is time to mention something difficult, say divorce, there will be that one person who came back to the Church after a long absence due to an ugly divorce and who will walk out never to return again. Or perhaps you have been moved to preach against a societal wrong and all of a sudden realize that in this case it will only make things worse. A silly example that will help get the point across is say that you were railing about how Martians should be treated better by our parish and it turns out there is one green Martian in the room and now they stick out like a sore thumb and feel 12 times more uncomfortable than they did before.

Then there is the unexpected. I once wrote a wedding homily about the difference between real love and the artificial mimics that people push off as love. An example was used between real flowers and those awful plastic artificial flowers that people sometimes use. Now I have never had before a wedding that employed artificial flowers nor have I since, but when that bride came forward to exchange her vows she had a full bouquet of fake flowers made by her grandmother. (She was a good sport about it by the way.)

There is the temptation to qualify every statement that is made. “THIS IS TRUE,” followed by a disclaimer reminiscent of a pharmaceutical commercial. “DIVORCE IS WRONG (unless you are in abusive relationship, a same sex marriage, the marriage is unlawfully procured, the marriage was never consummated, you are exercising the Pauline or Petrine privilege, or one of you is a Martian. Consult your canon lawyer before administrating. The Catholic Church does not recognize divorce except for the legal separation of property so you may still qualify for the sacraments. You may qualify for an annulment which does not cost a shiny penny if you do cannot afford it no matter what rumor you have heard. This also does not affect the status of your children. God will not stop loving you. This offer as well as marriages themselves are void in heaven.) Well, that is about the time we have for this homily. Come back again next week when I pick up with my second sentence.”

That is why preaching is fun, requires all the planning and cunning of a good crime, and runs all the excitement and risk of sky diving – you just have to know that if you dive enough one time you will do something wrong, you shoot won’t open and there is going to be a price to pay! But it is so worth it.

Perhaps that is why the Church in her wisdom never says that you have to say “Amen” to the homily.

Monday, November 2, 2009


FINDING TRUTH WHEREVER IT MAY BE FOUND: “It is a shame that we tell our children that they can grow up to be president of the United States when in reality only one or two of us in every generation could possibly succeed and we do not tell them that they can be saints as if it were the most difficult thing in the world when in reality it is open to everyone.” Homily

QUOTE II: “. . .the one thing I cherish most: his letters. Even when they don’t give me as much of him as I long for, at least I know that at those moments he is writing only to me, and I am getting all his attention. When do we ever get all of someone’s attention anymore? A handwritten letter is a small but priceless gift: the envelope is sealed, the stamp applied, the letter dropped into the dark box. When it arrives, I curl up under my blanket with me tea to read it. It is this ritual that keeps us friends.” Courtney Rogmans in “The Sun”


This was sent to us through our Catholic Charities: "Dear Friends, The following was just sent from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. This is important for all of us. Please take action immediately. For more information, visit Thank you!

B. sent in this 10 minute video on Padre Pio:

Here's a minute long good one:


The saying for electricians is, “Green is ground the world around,” meaning that whenever trying to figure out which of three wires is the ground wire all one should have to do is look to see which one is green and that, in a perfect world, should be the ground.

In theory much is supposed to be the case for the Catholic Church. You would think that our carefully constructed Mass would make it so easy for a priest to pop into any Catholic Church and one would just know what to do. Ah! But such is not the case. There are of course weird quirks that an individual parish might have that are not in keeping with the rubrics that make it difficult for a priest who is not intimately familiar with a parish to catch on to. Then there are those things that are not covered in the rubrics that can differ from parish to parish. An example of this would be the Communion Rite. Where do the Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion stand? Who receives first? How do you distribute everything without causing a train wreck? Then there are the little options such as how are all of the other ministers used to entering at the beginning of Mass? Are the gifts brought forward? Do they expect you to help them set the altar at offertory?

I will admit that I used to just fall short of panicking before celebrating Mass at a parish at which I’d never celebrated Mass before. I would show up very early and ask a thousand questions (as though I would remember all of the answers while trying to concentrate on celebrating the Mass.) More recently I have my stock couple of questions and then I tell the servers, “Tell me what to do and don’t let me fall out of the sanctuary,” which most of the times they are fairly good at doing.

This past weekend I was the guest homilist for wedding. I showed up early as I have always done but there was no celebrant. People were asking me questions about the Mass and I could do was shrug my shoulders and say, “I don’t know.” But the joy of it was that it was just fine. It only took eleven and half years but I figured instead of having a Mass like a fine piece of crafted Classical Music I can deal with Jazz. There is still a lot of structure but like a pick up ensemble a lot more attention will just be paid in the performance of it so that I don’t clash with any other player.

When the celebrant joined us in the sacristy instead of peppering him with a thousand questions about what we were about to do we talked about how his diocese was just about to start the same process we were in the middle of here in Cleveland with the closing of parishes. When the magical hour had arrived he stood and said in gruff voice, “Let’s go!” and we marched out into the sanctuary with polite orders half whispered to us. “Stop here. Reverence the altar. Go to your chair.” And then louder, “Alright everyone we are ready. Stand up and sing!”

There was a time that this would have driven me absolutely nuts! I do prefer much more solemnity at the Mass and always have. But a wise priest once counseled me that I do not have to pray like everybody, but I do have to pray with them. And in the end we did pray and celebrate the sacrament, it was enjoyable, I was able to be relaxed with that, and there was infinitely more to talk about after than if everything were absolutely perfect.