Friday, April 30, 2010


One of my favorite names for a church is one that I used to pass on my way to Wooster. “The Route 3 Church of God” Catholics cannot be so specific in the names of their churches. Mention the name of a Catholic Church and most likely you wouldn’t know where it was unless it was one of those rare instances that the title of the saint gives some clue. “Saint Mary, Our Lady of the Lake Parish” would at least let you know that it is a parish near some large body of water.

No Catholic Church can be established without a titular. “As soon as its construction is properly completed,” says canon law 1217, “a new church is to be dedicated or at least blessed as soon as possible.” Further, “Each church is to have its own title which cannot be changed after its dedication” 1218. This you may find interesting since it is the case of many parishes merging and the name of the parish community changing.

My home parish was Sacred Heart. It was a small Slovenian parish that was combined with St. Mary, and even smaller Polish community. The two congregations became one, they changed from a nationality parishes to a parish with boundaries, and they now meet under the new title of “Prince of Peace.” Soon the parishes of St. Bernard and St. Mary will combine to become St. Bernard/St. Mary. Interestingly enough however this does not affect the name of the church buildings in which these congregations meet. One simply cannot change the titular of a building once it has been consecrated. “So sorry Mary, we are done with you. We switching to Prince of Peace like an NFL team switching cities.” So the building in which Prince of Peace meets is still titled Sacred Heart and the Sts. B & M building will still be officially known as St. Bernard (though if anyone actually makes use of those names we will see) though the congregation that meets within its walls may change.

So there is no need and in actuality it would be wrong to obliterate the name from the building altogether. Remember those grand old bank buildings that had their names etched in stone? “The First Federated Money Bank” or some such thing? When we went through a flurry of sales and bank name changes somebody would take some cement, climb to the top of the building and fill in the letters for the name of the bank and the building changed. If there were such markings on a church building there would be no need to fill in the letters because unlike the bank, the church building still retains its name.

Thursday, April 29, 2010


Seize the moment! Remember all those women on the Titanic who waved off the desert cart.” - Erma Bombec

There is something true that rings with us in that statement yet something untrue also. To follow it as a general rule of life we would end up unable to move from our generous girth, to completely ignore we would never eat desert and then die. Neither is a great option. But we like something about the saying.

A number of years ago I was sitting in the lobby of the diocesan offices waiting to meet with somebody and picked up a magazine. I don’t even remember the name of the magazine. I started reading an article that intrigued me, set it down to go to my meeting, and have been wondering about it ever since.

The basic gist of the article was this: The successful parish of the future will look something like the successful religious orders of the past. Now, I cannot imagine any congregation showing up for Mass all dressed in the same clothing so there is part of this that is exaggeration but still it seems that there is some kernel of truth here worth pondering.

Like I said, I remember almost nothing of the rest of the article. This is where you might come in. What do you suppose rings true (if anything) about that statement? What could be implemented in parish life that would strengthen it that we can glean from successful religious orders?

First, what constitutes a successful religious order? Certainly that they provide a model of living that not only assists its members on the path to sainthood but one that also attracts others to the life.

Second, what are the characteristics of a successful religious order of the past? Some of these will be helpful, others not so much. There was common living, common eating, common prayer, common apostolate, and common dress. There were also vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience and sometimes additional vows such as stability. There was also a common philosophy, a common rule, a particular charism.

Thinking quickly off the top of my head these are the hallmarks of traditional religious order living. Now, stated as they were I don’t see them being very helpful for parish life but is there something underlying that would be helpful and that would help enliven a parish (that is also feasible?) Is there a shared underlying theme that would so stir our hearts as to foster women and men becoming saints in our midst?

This is where you might come in. If anything here rings true to you, leave a comment or Email me. I would appreciate it.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010


Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are formal names.

We pray, “In the Name of . . .”

We baptize, “In the Name of . . .”

We bless, “In the Name of . . .’

We are saved by The Name above all other names.

We hold God’s Name as sacred.

But did you know that your name is sacred also? Not in the same degree, but sacred none the less.

When you received a name at your baptism it became your name for eternity. Even marriage is “until death do us part,” but your name is yours eternally. God calls us each by name and when He does so, “the mysterious and unique character of each person marked with God’s Name will shine forth in splendor.” (CCC 2158-2159)

A person’s name demands respect. It stands as an icon of the person and is a sign of the dignity of the person who bears it.

I hope you like your name.

LogoThere are
or fewer people with my name in the U.S.A.

How many have your name?

10 million people in the word may have your name. That number could be multiplied a number of times over if one considers all those who may have your name in the Kingdom of Heaven. But in the mouth of God it is a unique calling. Like a parent who calls your name out in a crowded grocery store you know it is a distinct call to you. Only more so. Every angel, St. Thomas tells us, is so unique that each represents a sort of species unto its own. Our names are unique in a similar fashion and when God calls us by them 10 million people will not look up for all will know that he spoke your name and your name alone.

In this life he calls us to reflect Christ. We all cannot possibly reflect Christ perfectly. In fact we can only stumble about trying to be like Him partially. But He calls each of us by name to reflect Christ in our particular and unique way. We know what it is. It is a calling that rings something inside of us, makes us feel alive. It makes us excited to wake and tired but happy to bed. We are animated in talking about it. It is constructive and beautiful. Sometimes it seems unreasonable and often life tries to beat it out of us as we are called to fill our “normal” social roles.

This is not a calling to a vocation. That comes later. This is first a specific knowledge of what you are supposed to do or who you are supposed to be. It is a basic movement without a job title. Perhaps it is a movement toward the poor, or creating something beautiful, or imparting knowledge, or ennobling society. The list is endless. But when one finally hears his name being called and understands it (a process that hits many people in their 20s) then one needs to decide what kind of vocation will best allow for the living out of my calling.

Then before the heavenly gates it will not only be a matter of how well you respected The Name, but how well you respected the name by which He called you.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010


FINDING TRUTH WHEREVER IT MAY BE FOUND: “We are subjects of the King of Heaven in the richest and most powerful nation on earth.” Archbishop Niederaurer

QUOTE II: “There was never anything so perilous or exciting as orthodoxy.” G. K. Chesterton


Habemus Papem (from whom we've not heard in a while - good to hear from you) has sent in this new site from the Nashville Dominicans. It is for those considering a priestly or religious life (or for the curious.)

This picture stolen from Fr. Z:

The Diocese of Cleveland Enewsletter reprinted this speech by a prominant Jewish business leader. "The following is a transcript of a speech made by Mr. Sam Miller, co-chairman of Forest City Enterprises in Cleveland, Ohio. His speech was made at a luncheon gathering of the First Friday Club of Cleveland on Thursday, March 6, 2003." If you would like to read it click here.

Frank sent in this site from Creighton Jesuit University. They asked the faculty, staff, and administrators to comment on the readings of the day each day of the year. Might be interesting! Have a look.
B sent this in. I can't remember if I posted it or not so here it is. It's a trailer for a movie (2:45) called Blood Money. See what you think. Here is a site about the movie.

Monday, April 26, 2010


Storms and drought. That is the life of a parish priest. Storms and drought.

There are seasons in which there is so much to do you just start letting go of things. There is not even someone to delegate any longer to and so you just come to the thought “Oh well, that just simply won’t get done.” Then you made a vow. “When the work load has somewhat died down again I swear I am NOT going to feel guilty for taking and afternoon and/or evening off to do nothing.

Then you hit the drought. It is not that there is no work to be done. There is nothing with a pending deadline so that it can sit on your desk for a month if need be. This is the time to take advantage of some personal time to rejuvenate, reinvigorate, and above all not feel guilty!

Part of the problem is you live in the same building that other people work in. So I go downstairs and they are as busy as ever. I tell myself, “but you will still be working until 9PM tonight and the weekend! Go ahead! Take a bike ride!” But then I think of the parish employees working and guilt comes in. Yes, it is stupid. But there it is. Actually it wasn’t so hard before I was pastor but now . . .

“Don’t cry for me Argentina.” (As if priests were to only ones to suffer from this - but this is my diary.) I still wouldn’t trade it for the world. Part of the problem is convincing myself that I don’t have to do, do, do. In fact it is patently wrong. It is part of the character of the priest that he get away and read and study. To not do this is to fail in part of his ministry.

This past Sunday there was nothing that I had to attend to after the last Mass. I turned my computer off so that I would not be tempted to look at Emails. There was a storm brewing that the news service issued a warning about. I was going relax if it killed me.

Though there was a promise of thunderstorms it was hot and partly sunny. So the first thought was to wash and wax the car. It was still do, do, do but at least it would be fun. But as soon as everything was arranged it turned dark and rain started sputtering down. So much for that.

But that led to an even better solution. I grabbed my diary that had been so terribly neglected as of late, several journals that were past due for reading, and book , Sebastian, a snack, and went out on the parish porch to read and listen to the rain. It wasn’t the thunderstorm for which I hoped but the steady rain provided a soothing background.

I wrote in my diary and then opened my journal, and the next thing I remember is wiping the drool off of my chin and realized it was time to go in and make some dinner.

Oh well.

Friday, April 23, 2010


Continued from last Friday.

Next we move inside your parish church. It too has a lot to say to you. What is its primary focus? When you walk in what is the first thing that strikes you? Is it the crucifix or the tabernacle? Is it the altar or a window or the congregation? Different churches try to emphasize different ecclesiologies. It will shape the liturgy.

How does the space feel? Are there soaring ceilings with pointed arches that emphasize our reach for heaven, or low ceilings and all things at eye level to relate more closely to the people gathered? Does it make you feel a small part of something greater or a great part of something great?

Where is the tabernacle? Is it easily viewed? Does it have a place of high honor or is it even present at all? If it is not in the main body of the church is it in a suitable space, well decorated, easily accessed, and fit for adoration?

Is there much artwork? Does the artwork teach and inspire or is it simply beautiful? Can you relate to the artwork? Is it so abstract or so stale as to be mere decoration to you? Where is the choir? Are they in a place that inspires great choral singing or great congregational singing? Is there an area for the choir to sing that fosters a choral sound or is there a “designated choir area” that provides a force of sound to boost the congregation singing?

Was the church built for sound or silence? When the choir sings is there need for microphones to overcome the absorption of sound in the building or is there a ring that musicians look for? Are microphones essential or merely a boost? In other words, was the building built with music in mind or was music an afterthought?

What does the nave look like? Are the pews (if there are indeed pews) all facing toward the altar, or do the face each other across the sanctuary? Is the building fan shaped or classical “bowling alley” shaped? Is it bright and easy to see everything or is it dark and contemplative?

Some sanctuaries are brilliant for Sunday Mass but completely fall apart for something special such as the Easter Vigil. Has the sanctuary been well thought out to be useful for even the most complicated of liturgies?

Is the pulpit simply a stand or is it a cockpit of sorts one obtains by going up some steps? Are the materials used to construct the sanctuary furniture fine or practical?

Where is the baptismal font? Is it in the narthex symbolizing that one needs to be baptized before participating in the Mass? Is it among the people? Is it in the sanctuary to be easily seen by anybody in the church? Is it massive or small? Is it possible to immerse an adult fully, partially, or only by pouring water?

What about the Stations of the Cross? Are they situated in order to make communal stations easy or are they all bunched in a corner? Are confessional easy to find and recognized? Are they well thought out? Are they well designed for face to face or the screen?

Does your church have a place to somewhat hide in? A pillar to hide behind or an alcove to duck in when one is not yet sure. Or does it foster full participation of everyone? Is it carpeted or is there a more substantial floor treatment.

All of these are saying something and attempting to form the liturgy and the very people who gather to celebrate. There was something in mind when the church was built (and, possibly when it was later renovated which may have augmented, changed, or now competes with the original design.) So what is your church saying to you? It may match you or not. It is both extremely important and not all that important at all. If you are strong in your faith you can carry on in your spirituality anywhere, some will be helpful or more enjoyable and others not. But it helps to be aware of your surroundings, what it is trying to tell you, and incorporating that which is helpful and doing your best to ignore what is not.

Thursday, April 22, 2010


One of my favorite online shops is called Etsy. All of the products are handmade by the seller and you can find everything from jewelry to art to Kleenex cozies. Every once in a while I will stumble across someone selling an occult item, and usually I am relieved to see they have almost no sales, but last week my stomach dropped when I saw that one particular seller had made over 5,000 sales. Unconvinced that there was that big a demand for spell books, I looked at buyers’ comments somewhat relieved to find statements like, “your incense makes my room smell so good” or “your candles are so romantic” instead of more sinister uses.

One of the things that convinces me so much of the truth and uniqueness of the Catholic Church is how universally her trappings, like candles and incense and altars, are used to evoke the otherworldly and supernatural, particularly by those who serve evil. Like Frodo said in the Lord of the Rings, evil cannot make, it can only mock.

I encountered a young man recently who really knew his Catholic faith. He was such an apologist that I could not help but ask how he knew his faith so well. I guessed that he was raised in a solid Catholic household or he went to some unique school where authentic catechesis had survived. Imagine my surprise when he said he used to worship the devil! He told me briefly what it was like and I was struck by the Catholic symbols they used, including a sacrifice on an altar (they used cats *shudder*). It seems that evil is more than happy to use our signs and symbols, our vestments and sacred silence. (I’ll bet Satanists never need to be told to stop chit chatting and shut off their cell phones for their sacrifices.)

I encountered this young man again in line for confession the day before Divine Mercy Sunday. I asked him how his Easter was and he smiled glowingly and said it was fabulous. He fidgeted nervously in line and said that he’s always nervous the priest will say, “No, you’re too bad. I can’t forgive you”. I know he knows better. When I made my confession, our new priest absolved me in Latin and I was struck by how mystical the words sounded and felt – the kind of feeling I imagine young people are looking for when they buy a “spell book” full of strange incantations . I thought of that young man and how I hoped that he would find his appetite for ritual authentically satisfied now that he is back home.

I also thought of the power of Divine Mercy. I know God can forgive anything, but standing next to that young man in the confession line made it real for me. I will admit a bit of discomfort and fear standing next to him and fighting my doubt that God can really forgive him. But when Divine Mercy Sunday came and I saw him go to Communion with such joy, genuflecting before the tabernacle as he re-entered his pew, it dawned on me that, in the eyes of God, both of our slates were wiped clean. The ex-Satanist and I, presuming we both made good confessions, were now equals in the merciful sight of God. I stood in joyful awe of God’s liberality and love on this special feast. I imagine that this young man will realize that call he has that we all do: to lead those dabbling in the occult to the Merciful Heart of God, the only place where they will find peace and have their hungers truly satisfied.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010


Last week I was invited to hear a talk given by Teresa Tomeo. She is a veteran broadcast journalist that worked in the Detroit area for many years. If you would like to read more about her and her career and subsequent rediscovery of her Catholic roots look here.

Coming from an insider’s perspective she told how our newsrooms are generally staffed with people who know little about the Church or our faith or who may even be hostile toward it. This is easy to see from reading local newspapers how many errors in reporting our faith there is. It can be frustrating at times and I wonder if they could they not have asked somebody who really knows the faith to check their reporting before they go to print.

She gave several suggestions for engaging the various news media out there in hopes of helping them understand us better and report on the Church in a more fair, informative, and truthful manner. What follows are her suggestions:

1) Pray for those in mass media. Pray for those who are hostile toward the faith, pray for those who report errors because of a misunderstanding of the faith, and pray for Catholics who feel pressured by their peers. The point is not to make them a Catholic news source but a better, more factual news source.

2) Know your stuff. We cannot help others know their stuff if we do not know it. Read documents. Go to sources. Find out the story.

3) Encourage Christians to go into secular media. Our first knee jerk reaction is to say, “Fine. Then I’ll abandon you.” But then nothing changes. Rather, enter the problem and be part of the solution. Then go back to step one.

4) Support Catholic and other Christian media that helps get the other side of the story out.

5) Examine your own media habits. Is it fair and balanced?

6) Be proactive with the media rather than reactive. If there is something going on important in your area and you or someone you know is an expert on the topic contact the media and let them know that this person is available for research or interview.

7) Write to the editor. You may not get published and that is Okay. However your letter may be the only source to broaden the editor’s perspective in the matter.

8) Be polite. Don’t fuel a stereotype or give reason for someone to be further distanced from wanting to cooperate in getting the full story.

9) Don’t give up. Like Monica praying for Augustine keep plugging ahead. Who knows what good might be going on even if you are not aware of it?

Tuesday, April 20, 2010


FINDING TRUTH WHEREVER IT MAY BE FOUND: “Envy is an open wound in human nature, which is likely to become infected.” Fr. Benedict Groeschel CFR

QUOTE II: “Just because I don’t believe in a place does not mean that I won ‘t end up there.” Fr. Peter Stravinskas


Recently U.S. Congregations completed a survey of church congregation leaders in the United States. (I participated in it.) The survey includes all denominations and faith groups. The average congregation size in the U.S. is about 130 active participants. (In the Diocese of Cleveland we would close a place that small!) The median number of a place with only one priest/minister is 100. (In the Diocese a place technically needs 2,500 families to warrant a second priest though the bishop does make exceptions.) The average age of a leader is 55. (I am 44.) The percentage of women pastors has risen to 28% in the past 8 years. The median work week is 50 hours and most report taking at least one day off. 13% of pastors blog. 93% report being happy in their vocation. (WOW!) For more on this survey look here and for more on the survey on which this one was builds look here.

If you would like to see National Institute for Media and the Family look here.

Fr. F sent this in: Spanish cloister nuns see resurgence. About four minutes. Thanks friend.

The Diocese of Cleveland Enewsletter asks, "Did you know, April is Child Abuse Prevention Month? The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops' (USCCB) Secretariat of Child and Youth Protection has compiled a number of resources to use in April."

Monday, April 19, 2010


There are some difficulties with living in the same place that you work particularly if that place is a parish church and rectory. It can mean that you are more accessible than you care to be at times. (On the other hand, that can be a boon. Feeling lonely? Just go outside for a little while. Someone will turn up.)

But there are also some real advantages to living at the parish also. I guiltily take full advantage of them. Because of the nature of these perks they usually have to take exercised later in the evening or on Sunday afternoon when everyone, and I mean everyone has gone home.

For example, I have always loved to sing in the choir. It is hard to sing in the choir when one also is the celebrating priest. We have a fantastic choir at St. Sebastian and would love to sing with them but such is not my role. So, sometimes, late at night, I’ll take a recording of a Mass, say, Kodlay’s Missa Brevis or some such thing and put it on the church sound system, get my music out, and presto, I’m just a tenor in a great choir singing in a marvelous venue.

If that is not to your liking, how about a late night session in an empty gym? Last week Sebastian and I went down to our gym, grabbed a basketball and ran around for a little while. It is not everyone that has a gym in the place where they live.

Oh! Those cold wintery or stormy nights! Does the dog say, “Never mind master. You do not have to take me for a walk. I don’t mind.” Of course not. He wants to go come hell or high water. What a wonderful thing a ball and long school hallways are. “Go get it Sebastian!” There is a great clicking of nails and padding of paws running down the linoleum.

Need to escape or watch the sun set? Bell towers are wonderful places (if kept clean) as are roofs and they afford great views too. All of these are far greater than watching T.V. – something I’ve grown to detest. But I suppose the roof is not so unique. I used to do that at my parent’s house growing up.

Friday, April 16, 2010


Your church talks to you.

You may not realize it, but it is definitely saying something to you.

No, I don’t mean the institutional Church – I mean your church building.

Its constant chatter is like a radio or T.V. left on all day. You may not be minding directly, but it is droning out its message at every moment and subconsciously it is making an impression on you.

A church building is trying to make a statement about the people within as well as forming the people who gather there to worship. Stand outside your church. What does it say to you? Do not be cowed by an “expert” who tells you what it should say. They can only tell you what it says to them and to people who agree with them. They can classify a building perhaps better than you informing you that it is “Modern Romanesque with hints of hints of (whatever) in the style of (whatever) reflecting the work of (whoever.)” But they cannot tell you what the building is saying to you. A church building is a symbol and symbols only have the meaning to which we attribute it. I may say a circle represents nothing, a big zero, an empty hole. You might say that it means eternity, totality, encompassing everything. Is one of us right?

Start with the outside of your building. What strikes you first? Is it a powerful presence or does it try to blend in? Chances are that these are very deliberate choices which are connected to movements. Some buildings want to blend in and not cause waves. They want to be approachable by their shear lack of making a splash. By contrast Saint Sebastian stands out almost in defiance of the neighborhood. A soaring bell tower marks the horizon, the fa├žade rising briskly against the street. Over the doors in large letters it proclaims, “THIS IS THE HOUSE OF THE LORD.” A giant coat of arms tops this. What does this mean to you?

Does your church look “Catholic”, churchy, or could it pass for the local library? There may be zoning reasons, diocesan regulations, or perhaps a particular message is trying to be put across. But still what does it say to you?

Are there symbols marking what kind of building your church is? A visible cross? A statue? A prominent entrance? Any type of reliefs?

Architectural styles, zoning laws, diocesan regulations, the size and sacrifice of the congregation, the vision of the pastor and leaders of the congregation, modern movements, ideas about theology and the role of the laity, the community, local ideas of how faith mixes with the greater community all converge to bring about a particular building in which people meet to worship God.

What is your building saying?

Thursday, April 15, 2010


Sliding home in baseball and sliding home in life are two very different things. Sliding home in baseball is a very definite decision. It is a risk. One chooses to go that extra length in hopes to achieving something above and beyond the mere call of duty. “He who dares magnificently can expect magnificent rewards.”

Sliding into life is not nearly as dramatic (or safe.) A person may choose a vocation because it is all that is left. The person may have been in discernment for so long that neither marriage nor religious life is any longer a viable option so by default they slip into a single vocation.

Or there is the couple that started dating and then came to live with each other, discovered that they have a child on the way, and then thought, “We should get married.” Better that they did rather than not, but instead of a clear and radical decision, a choosing of what they are going to do in life, they wake up one morning, discover what is, and try to make it “legitimate.” “I give myself to you because we’re together anyway.” That would not make for an inspiring greeting card.

Criminals often find themselves in like situations. They often do not set out to be criminals, but one rationalized decision after another leads down a certain path and they wake up one morning in a jail cell often quite surprised.

Sometimes people want to straighten out their lives after a life time of choosing things that lead further and further away from what they would wish for themselves had they thought it out and planned. Following one quick fix after another they find themselves in a jam that is difficult to get out of. It is not uncommon for a person to have several marriages, be uncatechized, unregistered, living with another person and discovered that they have another child on the way and then be asked by their beloved niece or nephew to be a godparent. So they fly into my office, in all sincerity, and they want to straighten out everything from their past forty years within the next week so that they can be a god parent at the upcoming ceremony. Having to tackle one problem at a time and realizing it will take a little effort and some time they lose heart and in doing so take another couple of shovels full of dirt out of the bottom of the ecclesial hole in which they are standing.

Don’t be that person. Choose the person you want to be. Examine the possible outcomes of your decisions and decide if you can live with the consequences. But make them your consequences, not merely what will fall to you when all other decisions have been taken away.

Sometimes it helps to think of yourself as another person. Picture that person at your house or at your job or at your school and think what would make you think that person nobler or their life more attractive in your eyes. What would they have to do to achieve that? How is that in keeping with being a Godly person? Then do it! Build a foundation on which to stand. Build a life. You will not accomplish anything great without making a decision for something. Only when you say one yes and definitely say no to everything else can you create one great thing. After people who succeed, the next most admired group are those who tried nobly. Having tried to be president is a great thing too. And it is certainly better than waiting around hoping something great will simply happen to you.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010


The poor dog, in life the firmest friend, The first to welcome, foremost to defend, Whose honest heart is still the master's own, Who labours, fights, lives, breathes for him alone, Unhonour'd falls, unnoticed all his worth, Denied in heaven the soul he held on earth, While man, vain insect hopes to be forgiven, And claims himself a sole exclusive heaven.” Lord Byron It is an amazing thing that the worst of men can have the most loyal, loving, and beautiful dogs as companions. I think of my dog (spoken of too often here I know) and his great devotion to me. He sits now looking at me just waiting. Later I shall breakfast with a friend and as I walk out the door his ears will droop as if losing his best friend. I will return and it will be as the Prodigal Son, greeted with a joy and enthusiasm all out of proportion.

Sometimes I think of evil men and their dogs. They too are greeted with great enthusiasm, they too are protected to the death, they too are afforded all the signs and symbols of love by their canine companions. Even if they abuse their charges, the dog will come back cringing and lick the hand that had earlier landed blows. I’ve often thought if life were more artistic these men would have mangy dogs with temperaments as bad as their own. You would be able to look at their dog and say, “That is a bad man. Just look at his dog!”

But such is not the case. Oh sure, there are people who form their dog to do aggressive things, but they do it because that is their training. That too is a fierce loyalty. But good men’s dogs and bad men’s dogs are devoted to their owners in a way that is all out of proportion to our ability to love. They wait hoping to be afforded a moment of attention and seem even grateful to be able to return that simple sign with an abundance of attention in return.

It seems ridiculous. Who deserves that kind of fidelity? I dare say not even the good man. But there it is. And we can take advantage of it or no. Even if forgotten and neglected, one need only turn and it is there waiting to pounce on you once again.

As wonderful as it may seem, this is only a pale symbol of the Love God has for you. The meanest, roughest, most sinful soul in the world has not lost the love of God. He waits, straining to pour out His love and forgiveness on the one who neglects His call to a deeper relationship. God never, ever stops loving us, even the most sinful and hateful of us. It is rather that we turn away from Him. We close the door. Hence the God of the most saintly one among us and the most horrid among us has a Beautiful, True, Holy, Loyal God Whose ardent desire is to overwhelm us with His love.

It seems ridiculous. Who deserves that kind of fidelity? I dare say not even the good man. But there is. And we can take advantage of it or no. Even if forgotten and neglected, one need only turn and it is there waiting to be poured out over your head and into your lap once again.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010


FINDING TRUTH WHEREVER IT MAY BE FOUND: "We're not hear to preach to the choir. We're here to get the choir to preach to others." Fr. Joseph Fortuna

QUOTE II: "[T]hroughout our life, the worst weaknesses and meanesses are usually committed for the sake of the people we most dislike." from Chas. Dickens' "Great Expectations"


A friend stopped in to see me today who said a site posted here a while back was of great service. It is an aid to those trying like the dickens to drop some addictive behavior from drinking to porn to cutting oneself etc. It reportedly worked wonders with the caution that it is obviously a Protestant site so a couple of the lessons need to be read and modified. It is called, "Setting Captives Free" and you can find it here.

Fr. P sent this interesting article in that defends those who don't sing at Mass. Don't read it though. Even if true - I would still like you to sing.

The Diocese of Cleveland Enewsletter reports, "Jim McIntyre, host of the program "Cleveland Connection"
heard on Cleveland radio station Soft Rock 102.1 FM WDOK recently recently interviewed The Most Reverend Richard G. Lennon, Bishop, Diocese of Cleveland." To listen to the interview go here.

There was an editorial in today's Beacon Journal stating that the fire and smoke over Pope Benedict is largely smoke. Holy/Easter Week must be over . . .

Need the Bible on line? Here is the NAB including a NAB podcast.

Here's a good song/video. 3 and a half minutes.

Monday, April 12, 2010


I am afraid there is not too much intriguing to report from last week. Most of Easter Week I was as sick as can be. I got up tried to work for an hour or so and then would be so tired that I would have to lay down for a spell. It was supposed to be a catch up week and now I find I am further behind than ever.

One thing I did not miss however was getting together with priest friends to do an Easter report. We talk about what went right and (mostly) what went wrong at our respective parishes. Of course I told the story that I told you last week about getting to baptisms and suddenly discovering that we had forgotten to prepare for this most important moment.

One of the topics we discussed I almost hesitate to mention now because it is so charged with emotion. But it happened. One of my best priest friends asked, “What did people most complain about?” That was easy. On Maundy Thursday the celebrant had washed only men’s feet. That brought about an equal amount of mail both pro and con but the cons were defiantly more passionate. With a grin he reported that he had received equally heated letters because he had decided to wash women’s feet this year.

If you want to have a discussion about rubrics and symbols versus social justice please feel free to carry that on among yourselves. I will not get involved. If we were truly equal it wouldn’t matter a jot if it were all men, or 50/50, or what have you, it would be “people had their feet washed.” But it shows we have a long way to go that it matters so much. Such is life.

But what gave me a heart attack was the Easter Vigil. We are in the sacristy and I am giving last minute instructions when I stop in mid sentence. “Where are the girls?” Out of 12 servers there was only one girl. This was not planned. A sheet is posted on the wall and people sign up first come first serve. It just happened to be mostly boys that signed up. A certain dread fell over me. “This isn’t good,” I thought, “this is going to come back in a bad way.”

Then the readers stepped forward. Man heavy. Oh! We shouldn’t care! But we do! And I felt a trickle of sweat go down my back. It was like a dream where you are at a party and think everything is Okay and then suddenly realize you don’t have pants on and you pray nobody notices. So every day of Easter Week I approached my phone, mailbox, and Emails with trepidation. Fortunately there were no more angry letters concerning any observances of my boxers though I am sure there are those who noticed and for one reason or another decided not to mention them.

So . . . if your pastor seems to have done something (anything) that you find offensive might I suggest to you that you call, write, Email him a polite letter of inquiry to make sure if he woke in this dream discovering he had only boxers on or if he in fact purposefully came to the party sans trousers and what his motivation might have been in appearing so. The motivation may have been noble or innocent even if it does not appear to be so at first. More offense is brought into the world by people taking it than by it actually being offered.

Friday, April 9, 2010


According to Vatican II documents the official instrument of the Catholic Church is the pipe organ. NOTE: That does not mean the plug into the wall and have speakers that sound LIKE a pipe organ, but an actual pipe organ. Of course Vatican II also allows other worthy instruments to be played but first in line is the venerable pipe organ.

The reason the organ has become so favored is that it takes only one good musician using both hands and both feet to somewhat mimic an entire orchestra. In this way it is a very versatile instrument. Here is the console of an average sized organ. All of the little white dots are called stops and they represents different kinds of pipes. Pull one and it might sound like a trumpet. Pull another and it might sound like a french horn. The reason there is more than one key board is that you can make them sound different from each other. One might have a solo stop accompanied by a mellower set of stops in the background for example. Sound is made by air being forced through pipes. Here you see part of the wind chamber that forces and regulates air going to the pipes. This usually requires a hidden room as part of the church structure.

It takes pipes of all kinds. Some made of metal and some of wood. Some as big as your pinkie, some as thick as your chest and a story high. There is one pipe for every key and every different stop. They are tuned (and this needs to be done once or twice a year) either by sliding a lever like on a slide whistle, or denting a pipe.
Volume is controlled by these leavers. They are like vertical blinds on a window. When you have your blinds fully open they let in much light, when shut, very little. That is the theory behind the pipe organ sound dynamics. When fully open the sound is at its fullest, when they are shut, the pipes themselves give off the same amount of sound, but it sounds softer because it is as if the pipes are now in another room from the congregation.
Here is an interesting site that allows you to hear the sound of famous pipe organs.

Thursday, April 8, 2010


We are hard to please. We can be bedazzled by something one moment and completely board by it the next. Last week many people gravitated to the local gadget store to see the latest and greatest gewgaw that modern science has to offer the masses. That is not to say that, whatever it is, (it will eventually make its way into my life with no effort on my part) is not truly something of note and wonder, but it makes everything that comes before it old and useless. Yesterday’s marvel is today’s landfill. (If you think this is harsh, remember that this is coming from a man who still listens to a gramophone from time to time.)

Think of the innovations of the past that we now take for granted. There was an article in the newspaper the other day about the invention of the gas lantern. Previously at best a room would be lit by candles or a fireplace. But now there was a lantern that could be hung in the center of a room and everyone in the room could read from the one light source! Now that was a show! To them, the paper reported, the simple gas lamp would have been a spectacle like a laser show to us. Perhaps not though since we grow used to laser shows.

Then a book I was reading, Pillars of the Earth, told the story about an architect and his first encounter with stained glass windows as they were just coming into fashion. The character told at how amazed he was at the color and the light streaming in to the cathedral like nothing he had ever seen before. Today the simplest of churches seem incomplete unless they have some sort of colored glass in their windows.

Things get even more basic than that. Reading for leisure is a relatively (considering the total history of man) recent phenomena. And at some point reading silently was a new fad. If I remember my history correctly it was Saint Ambrose who taught St. Augustine this novel way of reading. Could you imagine what a modern library would be like today if everyone read aloud? Oh wait. Yes we can. It’s called cell phones going off.

There is a certain danger in getting too used to things of the earth and to be in the constant practice of setting them aside for the newer and (usually) better. Not that we cannot come to appreciate the new, but we should also remember that the new was built on the shoulders of the old; that the simplest of things were once marvelous, new, innovative achievements without which we would not have magic phones that can give us movie reviews, tell us where it is playing, buy our ticket, tell us how to get there, and enable us to call friends to meet us there.

Goethe said, “He who cannot live on 3,000 years of history is living hand to mouth.” It is only when we can look back and marvel that we can come to fully appreciate the Resurrection. A good historian knows how the world changed through the invention of the stirrup, which was not an original part of a saddle. We too must contemplate what it meant to be looking forward to a coming Messiah, to not have assurances of life after death, to not have God fully revealed to us through His Word. It is only then that we can fully and most joyfully celebrate this modern Easter Season.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010


FINDING TRUTH WHEREVER IT MAY BE FOUND: “On the third day the friends of Christ coming at daybreak to the place found the grave empty and the stone rolled away. In varying ways they realized the new wonder; but even they hardly realized that the world had died in the night. What they were looking at was the first day of a new creation, with a new heaven and a new earth; and in a semblance of the gardener God walked again in the garden, in the cool not of the evening but of the dawn.” - G.K. Chesterton (The Everlasting Man)

QUOTE II: “I think that someday historians will look back upon our age of divorce, abortion, capital punishment, euthanasia, and war and say, ‘at least they didn’t smoke.’” Dr. John Chalburg


The first meeting of the Saint Sebastian Chesterton Society was last night (Easter Monday) and we had a play and discussion with Dr. John Chalburg her performed Chesterton for us. It was an intimate crowd but many friends showed:

Founders of the St. Sebastian Chesterton Society (Akron), Fr. Valencheck and Matt Wyzinski with G. K. Chesterton (Chuck Chalburg) Visiting Chestertonians Ellen Finan of the Warren C. S. (who helped us put on the Hilaire Belloc play last year), Sue Morton of the North Pinellas C.S. (Florida), and Vickie Darkey of the Western PA C. S. Thank you for coming! Hope to see you again in the future.


C. K. Sent this interesting link in. Neal McDonough is a Catholic actor who was recently fired for refusing to do a sex scene. Here is the story.C. R. sent this in: "Father, You have likely heard of this but I just did this weekend. This is a new opera by Marcos Galvany. I did some research and it seems to be a work of reverence honoring the life of Christ and Mary. It premiers at Carnegie Hall Saturday 4/10." Here is a link to the video.

C. C. sent this article in.

Oh! That's all there is time for!

N. B. - There is a very good likelihood that there will be no post on Easter Wednesday. If that is the case know that I will be back Thursday. God bless and Happy Easter!