Tuesday, November 30, 2010


FINDING TRUTH WHEREVER IT MAY BE FOUND: Sebastian, “I wish I liked Catholics more.”
Charles, “They seem just like other people.”

Sebastian, “My dear Charles, that is exactly what they’re not particularly in the country where there’s so few of them. It’s not just that they’re a clique . . . everything they think important is different from other people. They try to hide it as much as they can but it comes out all the time.” from “Brideshead Revisited”

QUOTE II: “Show me ONE Roman Catholic who has really understood his faith, devoutly practiced it, loved the Church, and never dreamed of leaving it, yet who, through serious study, discovered that the Episcopal Church is in fact the one true Church, the Church that Jesus Christ established, the Church that has been entrusted with the fullness of God’s truth and means of grace, the Church that Jesus Christ has authorized to speak authoritatively and even infallibly in His name. Show me a Catholic like that who was therefore compelled by the direction of the Holy Spirit to enter the Episcopal Church. Show me just ONE Catholic convert to the Episcopal Church of whom all of this is true.” Fr. Raymond Ryland, formerly a priest of the Episcopal Church in the book, “Surprised by Truth 2”


Lynn sent in this great video. You have to get past the first minute or so before it gets food. Here is the Catholic Pick Up Song:

Here is a cartoon sent in by a priest that organists will love. Brides will not. I could not stop laughing. WARNING: There is one inappropriate word. Send it to your Church musician friends. They'll get it.

Cory sent this video in. If you loved the Macy's video last time you might appreciate the same idea taking place at a mall.

Here are three videos from our bell choir performing with the St. Joseph bell choir:

Monday, November 29, 2010


My first Thanksgiving at St. Sebastian I drove past Snyder Park, the park one block west of the parish, on my way to the ecumenical service at St. Paul Episcopal. There were quite a few guys out walking their dogs on that brisk holiday morning and I remember thinking, “Now that looks like something enjoyable. I want to be one of those guys.”

Two years later I thought of that morning as I put Sebastian on his leash and started out for his walk. It was raining – hard – and cold and I laughed mirthlessly recalling that morning two Thanksgivings ago. Of course I was the only weirdo out there tromping through the mud and rain. But Sebastian was happy. At least I found my extra set of car keys that were in my raincoat pocket for the last six months.

Thanksgiving Day Mass is one of my favorite Masses of the year. It is well attended and the people who show up for this Mass seem to throw themselves into it a bit more than at just about any other Mass of the year.

This year, not only did we have our usual Thanksgiving Day Mass, we also hosted the community ecumenical prayer service. West Akron boasts the oldest, continual, ecumenical Thanksgiving prayer service in the State of Ohio. My first year here some of the other ministers were upset with me for not cancelling our Mass in lieu of this service and it was difficult for me to explain that we can’t just cancel a daily Mass even for something so worthy. This year it seemed there was an air of openness to our situation and graciously they allowed for a 15 time change in time in oder that it could be hosted at St. Sebastian. So after our Mass I invited our people to stay and then ran over to join the ministerial ecumenical breakfast already taking place in the rectory and being hosted by Fr. Pfeiffer.

The night before we worked with one of our parishioners who was taking a large part in making the breakfast possible. We took care of the mechanics, expanding the table, brining out chairs, setting up place settings and such and so. I had never been to one of these breakfasts because I was always saying Mass. Last year Fr. Pfeiffer attended for both of us and reported that it was a very simple breakfast. So we were going to run out and get bagels and make coffee. What did we know?

“Oh, that won’t do,” warned one of our parishioners. “You are able to do more so you should do more!” (Here is one of the admitted drawbacks of having a celebate clergy - we don't have someone to say "The people you are inviting are not bachelors! Feed the right!) So we tried to pull something together with the help of a person who often cooks for us in jams such as this and were able to pull off a simple but very nice breakfast. I was sure glad to see it anyway coming back from the Mass and joining them at the dining room table.

To be quite honest, we get along well but there always seems (to me anyway) to be a little tension in the room. Nothing hostile, just a bit of unsurity as to how to get along - which is precisely the benefit of having this every year. The elephant in the room is that we all are representatives of theologies and philosophies that in many ways contradict each other and this context is not one in which we could (or should) get into even friendly debates. Our job at the moment was to get along and to offer thanks on behalf of the community for all the gifts we have received from our God. So the elephants are left tied up in the parking lot.

It is quite exciting actually to be part of this unique gathering of representatives of the area. My prayer is that it goes a long way in helping bring understanding between all of us. If we can eat and pray together there is hope that if we cannot agree theologically and philosophically on certain matters, we can at least show that we can get along just the same.

Friday, November 26, 2010


The Tau cross looks strikingly like the letter “T” and is in fact a letter of the Greek alphabet. It has many uses in other religions as well as science but in Christianity has come to be a form of the Cross of Christ.

Sometimes it is called the “anticipatory cross” because in the Old Testament (Ezekiel 9:4) those who were mourning were told to mark their foreheads with this sign. Interestingly enough we do the same thing today on Ash Wednesday. So it is seen as an early echo of future events, a shadow of the Cross and the Passion to come though unknowingly. Thus is it often used in advent which we soon embark upon.

Saint Anthony used this Cross in his ministry and so it also carried the name, “St. Anthony’s Cross,” but it is St. Francis that makes it so popular with us today. He adopted this Cross on his own personal coat of arms and from there it was adopted by the whole Franciscan order. St. Francis noted that when a monk spread out his arms, his habit formed this symbol and as such they were to where the Cross of Christ always in their ministry.

You may notice that many Franciscan rosaries have this Tau instead of a crucifix. One is to mark it as belonging to someone devoted to Christ through following the way of St. Francis, the other, in part, is to picture oneself on the cross, dying to this world, joining your suffering to Christ, and looking forward to living with Him forever in heaven.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010


When I was in the seminary, Bishop Pilla came to speak to the seminarians as he was wont to do from time to time. He would give us a little talk and then open the floor for questions. This was about fifteen years ago and even then we were concerned about the upcoming priest shortage. So we asked the question, “Will we still be able to be priests to a parish or will we become sacramental machines running from church building to church building dispensing the sacraments but not really getting to know the people of each congregation?” He did say that it was not in the immediate offing but did not say that it would never happen in our lifetime.

It does happen in other dioceses. In fact it is not all that rare that a man might be ordained and almost instantly become the pastor of two or three parishes.

There was a letter to the editor today (I question some of the facts put forth but am not desirous of debating them) that put forth a solution to the priestly shortage problem and the desire of many to keep closed or closing parish from being shuttered. It was suggested that we do as the dioceses above did and simply have a priest make a circuit through town hitting each of the churches and offering the sacraments. That would certainly make sacraments available in more spots but then it would take away from other things. There are calls for priests to be more available at the parish for phone calls and appointments, (where is Father now?!), to teach in the school and PSR, to offer adult education, (write a blog), to go to the hospital, to come to parish events and meetings, or to come to some civic event and offer the opening prayer or what have you (not to mention diocesan meetings, vacations, retreats, continuing education, day away.) Priests start to disappear off the scene the further you stretch out the priest between parishes. Every move has its consequences. As much as I wish certain parishes would remain open I am very grateful not to have to spend my day in the car running from building to building.

The interesting thing to note is that this is not a simply a Catholic problem though we mostly only hear about it from a Catholic perspective for some reason. In my home town a number of Protestant congregations have merged and/or closed. There are a couple of Protestant Churches in the vicinity of St. Sebastian that are looking to downsize and have placed their buildings on the market. The population of northeast Ohio is dropping and it is dropping for everyone, not just Catholics.

Yesterday I went to Canton to visit a closing (Lutheran?) congregation. They have a wonderful pipe organ for sale. (HEY! I can dream can’t I?) I was able to engage the pastor of the congregation in conversation and she told me that she and her assistant take care of the parish that has three separate congregations that are housed in three separate (and worthy) buildings, all within spitting distance of each other. On any giving Sunday she and her assistant make the rounds going to each of the sites. “I get to see each congregation a couple of times a month,” she said. This system does preserve the community to some extent, but the connection to a pastor is a bit more distant and his or her connection to the day to day goings on at the parish become more tenuous.

In the end, there is the choice of having priests available and connected or preserving a particular congregation of people. It’s a tough choice. I know what I prefer as a priest but might be inclined to think differently if I was coming at it from the other side of the altar rail so to speak. There are no easy solutions.

There is this however: to work together for the strengthening of the Church, to build up our communities, to live the faith well, to support our institutions, to speak well of the faith and of (good) priests, to make known that religious and priestly vocations are good and viable options for our young folk, and that there is nothing, NOTHING, NOTHING more important than the Eucharist. Then we are far more likely to preserve what we have and build on it for the future so that we may need never face these choices again.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010


FINDING TRUTH WHEREVER IT MAY BE FOUND: “Love of money is called the root of evil because money is often the first agent of self-gratification . . . You can’t buy your way into heaven, but you can perhaps hoard your way to hell.” from Richard Russo’s, “Empire Falls”

QUOTE II: “You have your eternal life before you. You are a millionaire in immortality, and a millionaire whose fortune cannot be lost, whose fortune is less perishable than the stars and as long lasting as space or time. It is impossible for you to diminish your principle.” from Jack London’s “The Sea Wolf”


Thanksgiving is just around the corner! Kaz sent in this Thanksgiving Day quiz.

Catholicweb.com has a Catholic Directory to "Help people find Mass." Here is the link at CatholicDirectory.com This may be particularly useful for those traveling over the next few days. Mass Times Trust has also sent us their link and wrote, "I am writing to you today to tell you about some of the new wonderful benefits of our website MassTimestel.org. The I-Phone and other wireless devices will be activated shortly to supply you with Mass Times and allow access to our global church data."

The Diocese of Cleveland Enewsletter want you to know, "The award-winning Daughters of St. Paul Choir is know for their fresh arrangements of time-honored classics. Their Christmas concerts allow them to do what the Daughters of St. Paul do best: communicate God's extraordinary love for every person. They sing well-loved carols and holiday favorites to combine a heartwarming collection of both lively and moving songs that celebrates the glory of the wonder and joy of the Christmas season." They will be performing at our cathedral church of Saint John on downtown Cleveland on December 3rd at 7:30. I'll be there! Say hi if you make it!

Make sure your kids watch this valuable lesson before getting into the Thanksgiving left overs:

Monday, November 22, 2010


So the deacon comes to morning Mass and says, “Did you hear the news? Someone made secret tapes during a meeting with the bishop about the closing of parishes! It’s going to be on the news tonight.” Now I don’t watch television news anymore. In fact I hadn’t watched television news for some years for reasons I won’t go into here. But one reason is because of the result of this story.

So everyone is abuzz. “What could this secret recording be? Did he have a mole on the inside that caught him in a relaxed moment blurting out something out of frustration? Was it at a parish meeting and did he blow up or something?” It was almost as exciting wondering who it was that did as to what was said and where.

Despite what anyone might think of our bishop, he is a prudent and pragmatic man in regard to law both civil and ecclesial, in public and semi-public. (I’m not in his inner circle and so can’t way what he says in relaxed moments but can’t imagine it would be much different.) So a few of us gathered in the rectory parlor to watch the news breaking story. I got out a pen and paper to try to accurately record what was said. Would I have to defend the bishop? Would I be able to defend the bishop? (Notice my first reaction is, “this is not going to be good. How can I help right the ship?” There was, after all, the real possibility that something could have been said that would upset already very upset people.)

The first clue that it was not going to be the Black Thursday that had been anticipated was the soft peddle that seemed to counter the hype that led up to the airing. The second clue was that it was not the very last story. Still, somebody said, “Shh! Shhh! Here it is! Turn up the sound.” I hit the remote and then grabbed my pen a pad. This was important me. The bishop is not the faith – that is inviolate. But he is the shepherd of this local Church and, to use the term bluntly, my boss. I believe in the faith and the institution of the Church (I dedicate my life to it after all) and this could have a strong impact on perceptions, levels of belief, and hence the difficulty of my duties.

Two sentences in I stopped taking notes. The biggest concern was the bishop’s bluntness and tone. Not what he said, but the way he said it. As to the bluntness – well God bless him, he is who he is. I think I would rather have someone tell me how it is rather than serve it up with an aura of false hope and confusion. And those who know the man know that he is not a Midwesterner. He doesn’t speak like a Midwesterner. His tone comes across very gruff to many born and bread Midwesterners and there are people who find it “a tone.” I get that. Our impression though was, “That isn’t his ‘tone,’ that’s just him.” Would it be great if he had a different tone? Sure. But he doesn’t. Perhaps he thinks the same thing about us, “I wish they were a little more blunt in their dealings!” But we are one Church, he is the bishop, and we are each who we are – all striving to be better.

Anyway, in the end I felt sorry for the person who made the recording. I fear it backfired save for those who are looking for reasons to be disappointed and/or angry. I did not think it possible but my respect for television news casts dropped even further. Right after the story the T.V. went off – probably until someone comes into the sacristy again and says, “Hey – you should watch the news tonight.”

Friday, November 19, 2010


I will admit that I never even heard of this cross before. I found it accidentally while looking at the site Seiyaku.com. Known as the Paternoster Cross (or Our Father.) Quoting the site, “Such a cross has been found on the walls of ancient Roman villas, with the letters A and O being the Latin equivalents for the Greek Α (alpha) and Ω (omega) terminating each arm showing Jesus to be the beginning and end, i.e. eternally divine.”

Using the beads of the Cross one starts with the large centre bead and prays the Our Father. The subsequent 10 beads one prays the Hail Marys as one contemplates the significant events of Salvation History and the life, death, and resurrection of our Lord. Therein is the nice tie-in with the mystery of the Cross.


Check the Chesterton site (click on the picture to the right) for meeting updates.

Anybody else as dissappointed as I am at the hype over Bishop Lennon on FOX news last night?

Thursday, November 18, 2010


There is a priest staying with us today who commutes regularly from Pittsburg to Akron. Talk about a commute! My commute is down the stairs in the morning. I suppose that allows me not to be so upset when driving (except by people driving erratically – I’m sure they do not think so – because they are on their cell phone) as some of my friends are who spend significantly more time behind the wheel than I do.

That being said I realized that I have relished in opportunities to honk my horn. I enjoy honking my horn but my father made it very clear that one only honks his horn when one absolutely needs to. So when someone is on their phone and doesn’t see the light has turned as quickly as I would like them to (because my life will be significantly different if I get through this light in two sends rather than one minute) I think to myself, “You have a right to honk your horn! Finally! It’s been months! Let them have it!”

Then someone sent me an Email (the kind I usually rarely read) about people being like dump trucks. Here is a link to the passage from the book. It is the only part of the book with which I am familiar so don’t think of this as a promotional for it. You will need to scroll down a bit to get to it. I thought it the most trite, inane thing I’d taken the time to read for a long time and erased it. (I had to search for it online to present it to you today.) But it kept bothering me and so revisited the whole idea that it presents.

Anger is not sinful – well – that is the emotion of anger is not sinful. “If you are angry, let it be without sin,” says Scripture. Emotions have no value on the sin/virtue scale. What we do with those emotions does however. There are times when anger for a just and holy cause should rouse passion and make one act for sake of righteousness. But even then we do not act out of the anger, the emotion that warned us that something might be wrong, but out of passion, compassion, and love to bring about good.

So, being cut off in traffic – is there reason for anger there? Yes. It is dangerous, rude, and self centered. But does that give another individual the right to be dangerous, rude, and self centered in return?

There is a traffic circle that is adjacent to our property. Occasionally there will someone who feels offended by what the person in front of them has done (to them) and will lay on their horn directly behind the person for their trip around the circle. Not a little toot that says, “Ooops! I’m here” accompanied by a wave – but a glaring fifteen second death blast with accompanying orphaned finger. This happens once or twice a month. Yes, they were cut off, yes they were wronged, yes, they will have to take three more seconds of their lives to get around the circle, yes, the person in front of them did something dangerous, but now they also allowed themselves to become what they hate. They are the distraction going around the circle.

And what of the driver against whom they honketh their horns? Having observe this happen a couple of times I’ve seen older drivers now shook up, penitent drivers, and those who are now equally mad right back. All that happens now is that driving conditions are now more perilous, and anger, like the flu in an elementary school in February spreading from person to person and being carried on out of the circle into the greater world. The garbage trucks fill up more and more and they will need to be dumped somewhere. Maybe around your dinner table tonight.

Garbage in – garbage out.

Don’t pick up garbage. Don’t give your garbage to someone else. Dispose of it properly.

Everyone will feel better.

And if this will help, go here and press number 17, my personal favorite.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010


Let’s face it, if you live in an area with an abundance of Catholic Churches as we do in northeast Ohio (though somewhat less in recent years) you can shop around a little bit to find a parish that is a fit for you. In the past you were pretty much stuck with the parish in which you were living along the same manner of being stuck with the family in which you were born. Today it is the practice to “adopt yourself out” to any family, sign up, and call it your home parish.

One of the things that we are discovering is that people find us on the Internet and come to check us out. We are not exactly on the beaten path and so having a website we are discovering is quite a boon for Roaming Catholics. One of our young families that moved into the parish not too long ago is now moving away to follow a job. *sigh* The way they found us was doing a Catholic Church search online and one Sunday we were next in line for a visit. Fortunately for us they landed here and nested. Now that they are moving, one of the first things that they are doing is searching online for a new spiritual home in their new city.

This trend makes me sit back and ask the question, “What makes a good parish.” I had a phone call the other day from someone selling something and they were telling me about their home parish. They went on quite at length about all the things that were happening at the parish and what a wonderful place it was and that every priest should spend some time there to know how to run a wonderful parish. Not once were sacraments mentioned.

At a recent diocesan meeting a guest speaker made the comment that if we want to compete with mega churches it is not matter of establishing one or two more ministries, but 20 or 30. I about choked on my overly sweetened coffee. My hero for the day stood up and said that we will never be able to do quite that much – nor should we. We should concentrate on what we do well – should be doing well anyway – sacraments and education. Then whatever we can do after that is icing on the cake.

Nobody joins the Catholic Church. I would discourage it if they tried. You don’t join the Catholic Church like you join the local gym that has all of the services you want. It is not the goal of the Church to entice people into the pews because we offer the most and best set of programs in town. Rather than joining the Church, you become the Church – you become responsible for the ministry.

So if you walk around your community and you see something that needs attention and think, “The Church should be here!” then realize that YOU ARE the Church and that you should then do something. If we blame the Church for not being present, we to some extent blame ourselves.

In this city we have licensed persons standing on street corners asking for money. There are all kinds of debates as to what a person should do. Give? Don’t give? One man from this parish decided it was neither a good idea to ignore them nor throw money at these people. These options did not seem like a Christian attitude to him. So he made it a point to go and talk to a number of these persons and offer to help them go from business to business and put in applications. Nobody took him up on it, but he did it. God bless him.

Now, the role of the parish is first to give that man in this ministry that he performed the opportunity to engage Christ, primarily through the sacraments, to give him the grace and the conviction of spirit that he needs to go out and be Christ for the world. The second role of the parish is to provide instruction in the faith that helps form his conscience and instruct him in Christian living. If the parish is capable, it would then work with him to give him the structure, credence, and possibly the pulled resources of communication, the gathering of likeminded individuals, maybe space, and other kinds of support needed to perform his ministry – all depending on the ability of the parish.

This has been the glory of the Church for two millennia. Many of the greatest movements in the Church were started just this way. Religious orders that did such great work did not start out as official Church institutions. Mother Theresa decided one day that should could not take one more day of seeing poor people neglected on the street and so started her ministry that evolved into an order. Saint Francis Xavier Cabrini began ministering to poor immigrants coming to the United States and an order was sparked. St. Francis decided on a life to live and was joined by others who liked what they saw, began an order and reformed the Church. In our own diocese a group of Catholics decided that there was a great need for apologetics and the now the group is so large that they are in need of seeking permission from the bishop to continue.

Is there something to which you are called? Does you parish celebrate the sacraments well? Does it provide opportunities to learn? And then, if it is capable, will it offer support. It seems to me that these are the signs of a good parish.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010


FINDING TRUTH WHEREVER IT MAY BE FOUND: “Contrary to John, Jesus seems to have understood that they only real and lasting contrition occurs, not when one is confronted with one’s sins, but when one experiences the gust of grace that makes a loving and forgiving God plausible.” from Gil Baily’s, “Violence Unveiled”

QUOTE II: “If therapy does not help you feel better we think it’s not working. In Naikan the purpose is not to make you feel better, it’s to help you see the truth of your life. Seeing the truth of your life may initially make you feel terrible, but if you are committed to truth, then the question of how you feel is not the main issue.” Gregg Krech (Note: I do not endorse “Naikan” but would substitute for it “Christianity” and think it a worthwhile quote.)


As to last weeks comment about my interview on Louiseville Catholic radio WCLR 1040, I found my note as to when it will be aired. It will air at 8:30AM this Friday the 19th. Of course you can listen to it over the Internet when it is archived. The show is called "His Father's Apprentice" with Andy Mangione. The topic for the program will be, "Men as Spiritual Leaders of the Family"

Dr. Chad Engelland proves that Google does indeed have a sense of humor in his last (excellent) article in the Cleveland Universe Bulletin. If you go to a Google search engine and type in the question, "The answer to the ultimate question of life the universe and everything," it will give you an answer before listing sources to look elsewhere.

Patrick writes in, "This is just a reminder for the Newman Conference this Wednesday and Thursday at the University of Akron. For more information look here.

The Diocese of Cleveland Enewsletter reports, "The Reliquary Bust of St. Baudime was unveil Monday, November 8 at a 2:30 p.m. media conference held at the Cleveland Museum of Art. The bust will be on display as one of the focal pieces of art in the Treasures of Heaven: Saints, Relics and Devotion in Medieval Europe exhibit open now through January 17, 2011." or more information look here.

Matt writes in, "A Spanish newspaper had some great shots of the interior of the Sagrada Familia when the Pope was there." This is what he is talking about.

Monday, November 15, 2010


I had to cancel my plans for Sunday night rather last minute. The other priests were out an about and it was just me and Sebastian. It was the weirdest thing. I looked at Sebastian and said to him, “We used to live here by ourselves. What did we do?”
I used to not be very good at being alone - I found it lonely. It was a huge step for me to eat a Taco Bell all by myself. Now I crave it from time to time.

I don’t like television much. I try to watch it but become so agitated by the commercials – feelings of being manipulated voluntarily – that I can scarcely survive twenty minutes so that was out. Fortunately I live at a parish and there is no lack for things to do to keep you occupied even when everyone else is busy.

About a year ago my parochial vicar and I discovered that it would cause a fraction of what we would pay to join a club if we purchased used weight equipment and put it in the basement. So that was on top the list followed by a long bike ride down into valley, following the trail to downtown, and then weaving my way back to the parish through the parish boundaries of St. Vincent. Back at the rectory I threw together a decent meal from pieces and parts of dinners from over the last week. Then Sebastian and I went to run through the school, I throwing his bouncy ball down the hall and him tearing after it. I gave up trying to play basketball in the gym with him because he just wants to pounce on the ball and deflate it.

Having run ourselves out we went into the Saint Joseph chapel in the rectory to do our evening prayers. The Saint Joseph Chapel may become the Lady Chapel since one of our priest friends donated a real altar for the room (the previous one being a metal table) and it has “Ave Maria” written across the front of it.

Then we settled down in the Chesterton Room with snacks, tunes, and some reading. It is one of the few rooms in the house where Sebastian is allowed up on the furniture. He puts one paw up, I touch him under the chin and he hops up, squeezing as closely as possible and falls asleep, paws moving frantically and ghost barks at an object in his dreams.

Passing through a few chapters in my book the CD starts to skip (I thought we were past that when we got rid of LPs) and instead of fixing it took Sebastian for his late night walk around the property. When we came back I started playing the piano, only intending to punch out a few notes but before I knew it the clock was banging away informing me that I had spent some considerable time at the keyboard – a very good thing since my skills are waning dramatically. By that time priests started coming back to the parish and so we did night prayer together and I went to bed having a full evening and happy that I remembered how to be by myself.

It used to be such an extremely rare thing at my last assignments – maybe only once or twice a year that I would have the house to myself and so on those rare occasions I would blast loud music and walk around in my pajamas not because I even liked doing such things, but like a teenager who does such things because his parents are on vacation, did so because for once I could!

Friday, November 12, 2010


The engrailed cross is a cross with scalloped edges that gives the impression of spikes or thorns. According to the site seiyako, “The word engrailed is distantly related to grill, implying protection. (Actually, grill is not such a neat analogy for Christians, since although a grill can protect something precious, the precious gift of salvation is not locked away but freely available. Indeed, the cross can make us free.)”

But there is another way to understand this protection. It is not the Cross or salvation that is being protected, but is itself invincible and thereby this cross protects us. It is a grill for the Christian, not for itself.

The thorns also make an intriguing connection to the thorn of crown that Christ wore during His Passion. Thus two objects that were intended to humiliate Christ (the Cross and the crown of thorns) are transformed into something magnificent – the Cross becomes the Tree of Life and the crown of thorns becomes the crown of glory. Perhaps a more common and better symbol of this was last week’s Cross and crown.

Thursday, November 11, 2010


Elections are well over in these parts and thank the good Lord. They were terrible. Very few candidates did not lower themselves to slinging mud all over place. It was very disheartening. Sadly, it does seem to help get people elected. But are we firing up our younger people to be excited about government? Do they feel like getting involved with a cause in which they can believe? Who wants to give up computer games, T.V. night, spending time with friends and family to choose between two people who point at each other, call the other a selfish, incompetent boob, and invite you to volunteer to work to send whichever you choose to head up that corrupt (whatever it is) government that they want to head up?

When it comes to politics, I’m not personally wed to any political party. I want someone who will go in there and work with whomever to do whatever it takes to make our city, state, and country better and I lose heart when it seems that the number one job among some elected officials when it seems they “stick to family above all else.” Sometimes I lose interest all together.

This takes place more than in politics. I was part of an organization that wanted to recognize significant figures from my family’s country of origin. There was a huge divide among the older people over who was recognized. Any person recognized was a political statement and declared that you were “siding” with someone. The younger folk scratched their heads and said, “Can’t we all just be united and recognize good works without assigning sides? Do we have to join a camp that means nothing to us and simply divides the community?”

Of course some would say yes for reasons that they find important, relevant, and visceral. Unfortunately when it is presented as, “You’re either with me or against me,” you start losing interest in people who do not have the same stake as you do and may cause them to lose interest.

So then we come to church. The days of liberal and conservative are quickly coming to an end. Chances are that if you get in much of a divisive conversation about such things with anybody under 35 (a somewhat arbitrary number, I actually think it higher) chances are that you will see a loss of interest. The argument itself will generate a certain apathy with accompanying roll of the eyes and loss of appetite for the faith. (Aren’t there more important things to debate that this?)

Taking over the liberal vs conservative debate is orthodoxy vs unorthodoxy. Is what is being debated on the Catholic playing field or not? Can we both get along and squarely call ourselves Catholic or not? That is the primary question. What is more deeply entrenched with the Tradition of the Church (not traditionalism – the deeper practices of the faith, the fundamentals) this is what starts sparking the imagination.

Do you want a young person to be excited about the faith, don’t do it by engaging in debates that divide the community. Invite them to experience the whole of the faith, be united even in our legitimate differences, do not water down the faith, give them the treasure of truth, show them the tradition, the raw earthiness of the faith and spark their interest.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010


This one is a little late getting to you – about a week late in response and also very late in the day today. Today is my day away but there were many meetings at the parish and so no time to play.

So anyway, last week in a letter to the editor of the Akron Beacon Journal, Patricia Tallon Hanson writes, “Is it any wonder that Catholics are leaving the fold and are disheartened by their faith? For the Vatican to waste time, effort and probably our hard-earned money to research what religion Bart and Homer Simpson practice is absurd (‘Vatican declares Simpsons Catholic,’ Oct. 20)

“With local parishes closing and the number of practicing Catholics dwindling, I would think the Vatican could use its time and money in better ways.”

Imagine the scene: Deep in the heart of the Vatican in a secret basement room not unlike the office shared by Mulder and Skully in the X-files, there are pale faced, bug-eyed clerics spending hours doped up on caffeine carefully researching each and every episode of The Simpsons, taking notes, reviewing each scene, looking for any little gesture, any remote hint that might tie these characters to the Catholic Faith. Though the Church could use these priests in closing parishes or send them out to mission territory, they sit in the glow of a monitory, stacks of Simpson DVDs on the shelves, notes posted on the walls, and sign on the door, “Simpsons Research Center – Saint Jude Pray for us.”

In reality, the Vatican had no connection to any study except that the paper picked up the storyy and printed it. The true author admits that the L’Osservatore Romano (the Vatican paper that carried the story) exaggerated the story. Others noted that the paper probably ran the story in (a failed?) effort to connect with modern culture. The blogosphere has been all abuzz with opinions on the matter from unmerited triumphalism to accusations that Catholics are just being greedy.

According to the Catholic News Service, “The Vatican newspaper column, titled "Homer and Bart are Catholic," referred to a nine-page scholarly analysis of the cartoon in the Oct. 16 issue of the Italian Jesuit weekly La Civilta Cattolica. That article, titled "'The Simpsons' and Religion," asserted that the series "is one of the few television shows for kids in which the Christian faith, religion and questions about God are recurring themes."

The idea of a Vatican Research Team on the matter then is on the level of Urban Legend. The Vatican wasted no time, no talent, and not a wooden nickle of anybody’s hard earned money save for the effort of putting the article in its newspaper as a human interest story of sorts.

I can’t imagine (though neither can I prove it either way) that the Jesuits spent too much time or resources on it. But is it “absurd” for someone to look at modern culture on behalf of the Church and make comment on it? We’ve been in that business for over 2,000 years.

Finally on the comment that, “With local parishes closing and the number of practicing Catholics dwindling, I would think the Vatican could use its time and money in better ways,” it is important to remember that the whole Church is not experiencing what we are by way of Church closings. In parts of Florida for example they can’t build churches or schools quickly enough. Because we are experiencing difficult times does that mean the whole Church must go into mourning? That may sound harsh but life goes on.

Lessons to be learned here: First: Stay humble. Don’t go about bragging about anything that isn’t true. Everyone knows that Simpsons are not Catholic and that fact is easily disputed and the claimant is by it brought to task as the L’Osservatore was.

Second: Check your facts before deciding to be angry or developing a hard opinion which you give publically.

The better question: The whole upset over the Simpsons turns out to be a red herring. The truly absurd notion is that anybody could leave the Eucharist over such a thing. But the truth of the matter is some people feel so hurt in the Church now that they are blind to the glorious gift of the Eucharist entrusted to a fallible institution. What better things could we be doing to help them remain close to Christ as the Eucharist? (But that wouldn’t get printed would it?)

Tuesday, November 9, 2010


TUESDAY QUOTE OF THE WEEK: “There is nothing more perilous than becoming used to what’s magnificent.” Pope Benedict XVI

QUOTE II: “People who live next to Niagara Fall never look at it.” Fr. Benedict Groeschel


A couple of people sent this in. I would have liked to have been a part of this! See when they start the guy in the light brown hat in the lower right corner jump!

The Diocese of Cleveland Enewsletter reports, "Friday, November 5, 2010 the Diocese of Cleveland launches new web site - Applications for utilizing social media are included: Last week, the Diocese of Cleveland launched a new web site at the familiar web site address http://www.dioceseofcleveland.org/. This new web site will allow the Cleveland diocese its first opportunity to enter into the social media arena."

Here's a new one from the Skit Guys for Thanksgiving. 3:20

One last bit of news: I was interviewed recently for WCLR, 1040 AM, Catholic Radio for Louisville! The show is a local talk show called His Father's Apprentice with Andy Mangione. I forget when I'm actually going to be up - or if - but keep an eye out for me name to appear in the marque for his show if you are interested.

Monday, November 8, 2010


Due to the generosity of some parishioners who had tickets that they could not use my sister and I were able to attend to the Akron Symphony this Saturday past. We got dressed up a little bit, me being in clerics – the perfect black outfit that fits in just about everywhere except canoeing.

At intermission we got a cup of coffee (it was a long day and I needed the shot of caffeine for the second half though it was a highly enjoyable evening) and we took a seat at one of the café tables in the lobby. Half way through the conversation my sister looks ever at me with a strained smile and asks, “Does it bother you that everyone looks at you?”

To tell the truth, I don’t even really see it anymore. Perhaps that is why priest’s view of the world can be a bit skewed from everyone else. When I wear my clerics people are more apt to smile and wave – after a while you just take it as normal and assume everyone is like this.

I was walking with both of my sisters in downtown Cleveland a few years back and one of them commented, “Everyone is just being so nice and waving and . . .” the she was shot with a ray from Dr. Horrible’s realization gun and said in an icy tone, “Oh. I’m with you.”

For one reason or another I might be walking down the street or some such place without my collar on and I am still waving and smiling at people and they look at me sideways and give cautious waves back. Then it will hit me: Oh. I don’t have my collar on today. They just think that I’m some strange, overly friendly person.

There’s no real point to this story and to further have no point here is one more clerics story. About twice a year my Mom buys me a nice present for no particular reason. Now, realize that my Mother died a good number of years ago but God bless her she still buys me presents and has the uncanny ability to read my mind and know exactly what I want.

Not too long I decided – er – I mean my Mom decided that I should have clerics that actually fit me. I have monkey arms and unfortunately if you are tall those who make men’s shirts almost invariably assume that you are also rather large. So I suffer from either shirts that have short sleeves or are extremely blowsy. So I saved up some money and went to a tailor. I was measured, picked out the material and the style, and waited.


Then my shirts came in. They are great and I really like them. The shocker though after all that was too look at the tag in the collar under the label that said, “Custom Made.” It was said simply, “Made in China.”

Friday, November 5, 2010


When you see this symbol of the cross and crown the meaning might seem simple and indeed most of the time it is. Found in stained glass windows, tapestries, and reliefs in many churches it not only represents the Passion of Jesus, but also his victory over the cross, the crown of thorns being substituted for the victor’s crown. He is Christ the King. He earned is hard won victory. “Bring forth the royal diadem,” goes the hymn, “and crown Him Lord of all!”

That being said, just because you see a cross and crown does not mean that what it marks has a connection to a Church or even Christianity so context is important. According to the site Seiyaku, “the symbol is not exclusively Christian - it is also used by the Freemasons, and from there became a logo for both the Christian Scientists and the Jehovah's Witnesses.”