Friday, April 29, 2011


It is an odd thing that we light and bless a fire. It all sounds rather pagan like turning toward the four winds and praying to the elements. But there are practical as well as spiritually orthodox symbolic things going on here.

Much of the practical is lost on moderns particularly in westernized countries. Do you need warmth? Turn the thermostat up. Do you need light? Flip the switch. Do you need help hearing? Speak into the microphone. For most of the history of mankind and indeed for most people alive today this is not always a ready remedy. Things are much more basic outside of our little bubble of existence. Is it dark? Go to bed or light a candle. Are you cold? Bundle up together under a blanket and light a fire.

The candles at Mass have nice symbolic meanings which have been reported on here in the past, but they are also immensely practical: They provide light so we can see to pray the Mass, proclaim the readings and etc.

So back to the Easter fire. Fire is used for warmth, light, in preparations for nourishment, for sanitizing and purifying, and even protection. (Who doesn’t feel better sticking closer to the fire at a campout after a good ghost story?) The symbolism is clear then: Fire represents Jesus. This is the light that we carry into the Church, the light that destroys the darkness, Jesus, the light of the world and gives life and warmth. This is what we are to become and that night so we do as we each carry our light of Christ – “a light divided yet undimmed.”

The prayer over the fire points mightily to all of the symbolism going on. “We share the light of your glory through your Son, the light of the world. . . inflame us with new hope . . . purify our minds . . . bring us to the feast of eternal light.”

Finally, in some ways it undoubtedly has some roots in paganism. According to the OSV Catholic Encyclopedia, though the lighting and blessing of an Easter fire seems to have been present since the beginning of the liturgical celebrations of Easter, “in a custom attributed to St. Patrick, the Celtic Church began with the lighting of an outdoor fire, ‘baptizing’ the practice of local pagan priests, the warmth of the fire no doubt evoking the sense of the ‘quickening of life’ accomplished definitively for the Christian by the resurrection of Christ.”

Some Christians strongly object to the “baptizing” of anything pagan and using it in the worship of the one true God. As G. K. Chesterton once pointed out walking on two legs should be done away with also because they were used in the worship of the pagan Gods. The same would go with singing, the raising of hands, standing, sitting, the use of buildings, the non-use of buildings, silence and making noise, the use of incense and the non-use of incense. It all becomes rather convoluted. But if these practices bring us closer to God, make us understand His way better symbolically, help us relate better by using those things that are so part of the human experience, then it would be silly not to make use of them.

Thursday, April 28, 2011


Imagine going to Mass and hearing a fifteen minutes homily on how bad you are for not coming to Mass. The ironic part is that the people being harangued are people who are at Mass so maybe a better example are the endless homilies week after week about the paltry collection. If every time I came to Mass I was yelled at, if it weren’t for the Eucharist, I might be inclined not to return. “Why should I go? I’m just going to be told how poor my efforts are.”

Of course at times we all need a little “Come to Jesus” talk. But not constantly. It can be disheartening and off putting to the point that you wonder why you are putting yourself in the situation to feel miserable about yourself.

The domestic church, the home, is much the same. If home is the place where you are constantly nagged at and put down, instead of being the safe haven it is the place you don’t look forward to going after being away and a place from which you look for an excuse to escape when there.

There is a great scene in “The Incredibles” when the husband and wife are having a very difficult go of it. They bicker and yell at each other and it becomes apparent that neither likes being in their roles or in their house. But the wife makes an attempt to break the cycle (almost too late.) She walks up to her husband and says something along the lines of, “I know you hate your job but I want to thank you for sticking it out and doing so much for your family even though it is difficult for you,” and then gives him a kiss on the cheek. Now, instead of hating his job AND hating being home, there is the possibility of turning the home into a safe haven and a place of love, a place to be protected; a place that you mind a little less dong something you dislike because it allows you to defend the place you like.

Even closer to home is the same phenomena in the temple of the body. Say you are trying to rid yourself of some habit/addiction. It is good to feel some amount of guilt which will help you realize that your behavior is worth reforming, but if you constantly beat yourself up - who wants to live in that temple – especially you. Ironically what is the best way to escape feeling miserable (at least in the short term?) by engaging in the very activity that you are trying to escape. Of course after you feel even worse – so what is the best way to escape, by engaging in the very activity that you are trying to escape. Of course you feel even worse – so . . .

While keeping an eye on the desire to rid yourself of certain behaviors, rather than beat yourself senseless, concentrate on celebrating victories. “I feel great today! Yesterday I was free from that activity! Thank you God. Please help me continue. I know I may fall again, but boy does it feel good when there is a victory. Help me to have more days like this. Help me cleanse the temple and let it be a place I enjoy being.”

Wednesday, April 27, 2011


It is interesting (for a Catholic) to enter into a Catholic Church on Good Friday. The church is bare – no decorations or appointments – and most startling, the tabernacle doors are open, the inside is empty, and the sanctuary lamp is extinguished. Granted the altar of sacrifice is still there, much of the architectural art is still there, and it is still a consecrated space set aside for worship (we wouldn’t have a ping-pong tournament in there) but by and large it has become a fancy room. We are quiet but not because Jesus is present as the Eucharist, but out of respect for His conspicuous absence. It was if you were still in the King’s chamber and you respected it because it was his, but he wasn’t there so it seemed less alive.

Many non-Catholic Christian communities have this all of the time. I remember growing up having Boy Scout meetings in Protestant sanctuaries – playing around, putting on skits, parents drinking coffee, etc, because it didn’t matter. It was just a room.

Then we celebrated the Easter Vigil with new light, new water, fresh song, and of course Jesus was present to us as the Eucharist once again and some among us received Him for the very first time. The king returns to His chamber. Genuflections return, a quiet returns to his court. For one scary moment we have a taste of what it would be like if we had no more priests. For a lonely afternoon we had knew what it was like to walk into Church and not have Him there.

Pray for vocations. When you pass a Catholic Church, acknowledge His presence there. Never take Him for granted.

What does a typical vocation to the preisthood look like today?

Tuesday, April 26, 2011


FINDING TRUTH WHEREVER IT MAY BE FOUND: “Do you think, Cleisthenes, that Homer boiled eels while Agamemnon performed his great deeds?” asked Alexander.

“And do you think, O King, that Agamemnon looked into Homer’s tent to see whether he boiled eels?” asked Cleisthenes. The above two from Daniel Meyerson’s, “The Linguist and the Emperor”

QUOTE II: “More than ever do men need to come together to eat and drink and argue and think, because more than ever their work separates them from each other; but now they are virtually forbidden to do so.” From Anthony Esolen’s “A Requiem for Friendship”


The Diocese of Cleveland Enewsletter asks, "Did you know, a FREE Divine Mercy App is now available for Android or iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch users?" For more information look here.

Miss L. sent this clever song in.

From the same source: "During the 13th Biennial Legislative Breakfast on Monday, April 18, Bishop Richard Lennon outlined the Catholic stance on issues currently facing the state's budget. Dozens of local and state legislators were on hand to listen to the Bishop and featured speaker, State Senator Tom Patton. The Bishop spoke about the need to focus our attention on the least of our brothers and sisters, especially in the areas of healthcare, social services and education." Read more here.

From Habemus Papam: News from the Nashville Dominicans.

Here is a new Catholic Family blog.

Sunday, April 24, 2011




So several days before Holy Week Fr. P got a service for movies on line. "What do you want to watch?" he asked me. A bit embarrassed I admitted that I had never seen "2001 A Space Odyssey." As it turns out neither had he so we sat down one evening to relax and watch a movie that is on just about every body's Top 10 Movies of All Time list.

NOW TO BE FAIR, we may have never seen the movie but we have tons of spoofs of it over the years. So that took some of the punch out of it. Then remember that we were not watching it in the world that was watching it then: Cold War, nuclear threats, social upheaval, tie dye T shirts . . .

Besides, it should be remembered that when it came out it was panned by critics. It took time to digest it before the world came to appreciate the movie. It will take time for us too. This was our first reaction and, as research shows, it was critics' first reaction too.  So for those of you who love and breath this movie - apologies and get over it.

Granted, this would not have been a problem in a theater.  But with modern technology we assumed something was wrong.  "Do not adjust your set" or something REALLY ought to have come across the screen.  I mean really.  So, things were not off to a good start.

Now, I realize that life has monotonous moments.  My life certainly does.  You should see Fr. P and I trying to figure out what movie to watch.  "I dunno.  What do you want to watch?"  But did they have to film all of the monotonous moments?  That is why I watch movies.  To ESCAPE them.

Yes.  There really was an intermission.  Just like in the movie "My Fair Lady."  Ah!  Snack time.  I'm sure it was tastier than the trays of ketchup and mustard they were eating in the movie.

Fr. P is too young to get the above reference.  Did you every watch "Davey and Goliath" when you were growing up? 

Anyway, at this point I could feel my consciousness fading.  I can feel it.  I can feel it.  Will I dream?

As the song goes, "It's only just begun . . ."

There was another picture here.  Those of you who have seen this blog before have seen the picture.  However I woke up on Easter Sunday moring and felt that it was innappropriate while at the same time being absolutely perfect.  But in the interests of my salvation it was removed.  If you want to know what it was think of the picture of the church who has banners out that read, "Worship, Teaching . . ."

Maybe it will grow on me.

Friday, April 22, 2011


Today is a day of mourning and there are two places where this is most evident. One is in the kitchen. It is a day of fast and abstinence. The other is in your parish church. From the Gloria on Maundy Thursday to the Gloria on the Great Easter Vigil traditionally the organ (and subsequently all other instruments) are silent. Only the human voice rings out in any kind of music. Event he bells in the tower refuse to ring. The sanctuary is stripped bare, no flowers, perhaps the crosses are covered, the tabernacle doors hang open for there is nothing to contain within it. The sanctuary light is out. The altar clothes are missing. The church looks closed and abandoned. There will be no sacraments today except in emergencies. As part of our three day celebration (the Triduum) last night we celebrated the last supper, and later today we will mark his torture and death. Symbolically we relive that moment when Jesus dies and the world awaits to see what will happen. Can you imagine what the apostles are going through right now? Is Christ being mocked? Is he being crucified? Is he buried? 

What will become of them? What will become of all they had begun?

Who could eat? Who could celebrate?

All is quiet.

The lines from one of my favorite Lenten songs:

Veiled in darkness is the Mount of Olives
and brook Cedron sadly murmurs by,
the pale moon behind the clouds is hiding
not a star is shining in the sky.

Why is Mount of Olives in deep sorrow?
Why is all the earth in trembling throws?
Do not ask, oh! shed thy tear with Jesus,
to His cross in sweat of blood He goes.

"Unto death my heart is filled with sorrow
and my aching heart implores relief."
Lips divine are seeking consolation.
His disciples leave Him to His grief.

Thursday, April 21, 2011


Apologies. I had forgotten that I posted this story already. But here's the second part for those who didn't see it last time. 
The wedding day was a glorious fall spectacular and even the trees were in their finest form. Not to be outdone the attendees came to the wedding Mass dressed in their Sunday best and packed the beautiful old gothic Sacred Heart Parish church. The magic moment came for the bride to walk down the aisle and the mighty pipe organ, roused from its too long slumber of inept players by the finest organist money could persuade to play for the marriage rites, began the bride’s fanfare. Mary appeared at the end of aisle. Jerry’s breath escaped him and tears filled his eyes. The congregation gasped. As she passed each pew the people’s hearts were moved in love by her beauty. Reaching the sanctuary she placed her hand into her intended’s and electricity shot through his body. Everything was a blur to him until it came time to exchange their vows.

They stood holding right hands before the priest in front of the high altar and the priest began, “Do you Jerome Waverly take Mary Malloy as your lawfully wedded wife? Do you promise to be true to her in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health, will you love her an honor her all the days of your life?”

With great emotion Jerry responded, “I do!”

The priest then turned to Mary. “Do you . . .”

“Wait,” she interrupted him. Jerry’s heart began to beat erratically. Turning her eyes to the man who had just publically declared his undying love for her she asked, “Do you mean that Jerry?”

“This must be the test!” he thought to himself. So mustering all of his will he definitively declared, “Yes, Mary. Absolutely.”

“In good times and in bad? Sickness and health? All the days of your life no matter what?”

He started to tremble just a bit and with just a slightly less assured voice responded, “But of course Mary.”

“Then remember our deal.” And with that she left. Well, she didn’t exactly walk out as much as it seemed she faded away - or perhaps back – or up! In any event she was gone. Oddly enough nobody seemed to think it terribly strange. Mary was, after all, different.

Jerry was devastated. Believing that surely she would reappear over the next weeks and months he kept thinking that he spied her in a crowd or heard her voice across the room. With every door knock he was convinced it would be her on the other side of the door and every time the phone rang he answered with the question, “Mary?” But Mary had thoroughly disappeared. Nobody had seen hide nor hair of her.

Friends stopped by to console Jerry. Even Mary’s friends would drop in but often made things worse by reminding him, “Well, Mary was different after all.” One girl in particular made it her mission to heal his love sick heart and one day, one long day afterward, Jerry realized that he had come to love her. Not in the same way that he loved Mary, but he loved her none-the-less and so asked her to marry him. She gladly accepted and a year later at the stately Sacred Heart Parish church a wedding was once again staged with twice as many people in attendance (for who knew what might happen this time) and a new priest just for luck.

Nothing out of the ordinary occurred however and the guests, not entirely truthful in their stated relief, commented that the day went about as well as such days can. In reality each of them had been secretly awaiting a new development in the whole drama. But whole wedding day, the honeymoon, and even the settling into their new home went pretty much without a hitch.

Another year passed and Jerry was home alone when the doorbell rang. He felt a familiar tingling sensation in his stomach though he was not sure why. His heart raced. He opened the door and there on the stoop was Mary, still in her wedding gown, still radiant and hopeful looking. Next to her was the priest who was to marry them. “I’m ready now Jerry. I’m ready to say my half of the vows.”

Later he could only imaging how he must have looked; mouth agape, eyes bugged out, arms hanging limply. “B – b – b – but Mary! You left me at the altar.”

“That was the test silly! I warned you it would happen before I said, ‘I do.’ And now I am ready to forsake all and give my love to you fully and for the rest of our lives!”

“Oh gee Mary. I don’t know how to . . . you see . . . well gosh Mary, I’m married now.”

“I don’t understand.” She said it though with a wry smile as if she really did understand. “You promised publically to love me, and honor me, in good times and in bad forsaking all others for the rest of our lives. Did you falter in that so quickly?”

“But Mary! What was I supposed to do? I didn’t know!”

“But you said you were sick in love with me. That no matter what you had to have me and I told you that I would say ‘I do’ did I not? Can your true love only last a year and half?”

He opened his mouth but nothing came out.

She laughed. “Don’t worry my sweet Jerry. I knew you wouldn’t wait. You didn’t really love me like you thought you did. You wanted love from me, your new desire is to love your wife. You are going to be happier now than you know as long as you choose to love your wife in good times and bad, sickness and health, all the days of your life. I would have (and did!) eventually disappointed you and your dream would have been ruined too, but with her you are building a dream together.” With that she stepped backwards into the yard – really walking this time not just fading away. When she reached the middle of the yard she lifted her hands and as she did so she was transformed into a giant magnolia tree that over the years always seemed to be in blossom. Though people would comment on its beauty nobody ever questioned its blossoms. And on occasion when Jerry was standing out on his front stoop eyeing a pretty young lady passing by, a branch might fall from the tree and clunk him on the head at which point he would remember that he was happy, turn back into the house where was his wife and he would love her.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011


This is a little story that I wrote a while back for something that never panned out. In order to have a little more time to focus on Holy Week I thought to share it with you. This is the first part of a two part story. I hope you enjoy.

Jerry Waverly met the love of his life in Mary. This was not so amazing. Most everyone loved Mary to one degree or another. The amazing part was, at least to Jerry, that she loved him back.

Though she was universally loved or at least appreciated it was a strange point of fact that, when describing her, the first adjective anyone would use was, “different.” Not even would Jerry wax eloquently on her beauty, her intelligence, her honesty, her virtue, or any other of her outstanding qualities but simply stated that Mary was different. Even when asked by his brother over the phone to describe this person who had so thoroughly stolen his heart he found himself saying, “Well, Harry, I guess I would have to say that Mary is, well, different.”

Mary was indeed different and difficult to encapsulate with common descriptions. That task would have to be the job of a poet. Though Jerry had the heart of poet he lacked words. The closest he was able to come was to say that “when she was in the room it was if the sun were shining” and though it seemed short of the mark and rather trite, he was satisfied with his poetical effort for like the light of the sun there was still something not quite substantial about her. You never really possessed Mary, you enjoyed her light when she was with you and when she left the warmth of her presence stayed with you. But if you wanted to somehow hold on to a piece of her the effort more likely left an achy hole in your heart.

Despite this Harry loved her with all his heart – or so he thought. He did what he could to demonstrate to her his great devotion. Of course he employed all of the traditional means such as sending flowers with love notes, making minor repairs around her humble but charming cottage, and making sure that he always looked and behaved his best whenever he even thought he might see her. There were also employed the less than usual means of demonstrating his love. When he was painting her parlor he first painted, “Jerry loves Mary” on the wall. And then, fearing that the message needed further clarification quickly added, “and Mary loves Jerry.” Before Mary could see what he had done he quickly painted the wall completely over with the hope that somehow that subliminal message would get through to her and reinforce her love for him.

Soon he grew sick in his adoration of her. Whenever Mary left (it is difficult to say that she ever left, she seemed to just fade away) and the warmth of her visit had dissipated Jerry would mope around droop-shouldered, unable to eat, unable to sleep, neither satisfied sitting around nor being distracted by activity. The ache in his heart was extreme. “I’m sick in love with her!” he declared to himself. “There’s no helping it. I must have her! I am going to ask her to marry me as soon as I can.”

He had hoped that this decision would somehow assuage his passion for a spell but it only made it grow worse. So one day in a fit of unquenchable passion, quite out of character for him since he was usually given to romantic and picturesque declarations of his love, he fell on one knee at the bowling alley – right on the lane where Mary was picking up her ball! - and presented the ring that he carried around in his pocket and pleaded, “Marry me Mary!”

Mary’s eyes beamed and a beatific smile graced her lips, but there was something wrong. “Oh, Jerry,” said Mary, “I do love you. I love you with all of my heart. I could spend the rest of my life loving you. I would easily choose you among all possible suitors to be the object of my marital love. But even though you do not realize it, you do not love me in that manner. So because I love you so much, I say no, Jerry, I will not marry you.”

Jerry heard the words but they seemed not to make sense. He sputtered for a few moments and then, still on his knee and a bit dazed said, “No Mary. You’re wrong! I’m sick in love for you and there’s nothing for it. You are stuck in my heart like Author’s sword in the rock. I want you in my life forever Mary. I’ll do anything. Just say that you will be mine or I think I’ll die!”

They stayed mute, staring at each other for what seemed like eternity, the only sound was the rumbling of bowling balls and crash of pins in the back ground. Finally Mary sighed deeply and said, “I’ll tell you what. I’ll say yes under one condition.”

“Whatever it is Mary, I’ll gladly endure it.”

“Oh, I know you believe that dearest.” She paused for a few more moments in seeming anguish and then retrieved a serious countenance. “Here it is. We will continue from this day forth as if I said yes. But at some point before I say, ‘I do’ I will subject you to a test of your undying love and if you pass, I will choose you and love you for the rest of our lives.”

Jerry positively beamed! He knew quite instinctively that he could pass any test his sweetest could devise and so over the next six months they went about the process of planning their wedding. Every day Jerry would wake and wonder if that day would be the day that Mary would try her test of his love till finally it was days before the wedding ceremony and he began to think that perhaps the test had already occurred and he had passed it so easily that he had not even noticed it!