Tuesday, December 31, 2013


(Don't forget it is a holy day of obligation this year!)
Masses at St. Sebastian
7PM vigil
5:15 extraordinary form

Monday, December 30, 2013


Dear Diary,


It was a very good Christmas celebration.  Things seemed to flow alon  Well, except for the fire in the sacristy.  But that wasn’t all that bad.  We only lost a trashcan, some towels, and part of a sink is now singed black but what do you expect when you have a vocation that involves fire?  A fire once every 80 years is not so bad.

g fairly well this year.


Of course, I am not as young as I used to be and staying up for the Midnight Mass is a little more of a challenge than it used to be.  (Why doesn’t anyone ever call up and ask what time the 4:00 o’clock Mass is?)  The priests and seminarians here went down into the common room to watch a movie together to help pass the time.  It probably wasn’t the best choice of movies.  Definitely not a warm fuzzy Christmas movie.  But believe me it kept us awake if not a little shaken.
A very generous parishioner made a champagne breakfast for priests, seminarians, and some of family who came to midnight Mass.  Back when I was in the theater I used to dream about opening a show and staying up with just such a breakfast in order to be awake when the first edition of the paper came out with the review of the show in it.  Well, now that such a thing doesn’t really exist anymore, this is now the best thing going. 
It also helped keep me awake even longer since I had to lock up the church after everybody left.  Fortunately the alarms (which I do not know how to control) were set to go off at 3AM so there was the excuse to get stragglers out of the church.


Three hours later we were up and getting ready for Christmas Day.  Three hours or no three hours, Sebastian was insistent on his walk all the same.  What a beautiful morning it was.  Still dark because of the clouds, we had the park to ourselves.  It was a little bit of quiet before the day really started taking off.
Back at the ranch there were stirrings.  Everyone who stays the night at St. Sebastian at Christmas gets something to open on the morning.  You just have to no matter how silly or small.  Sebastian ripped into his packages with reckless abandon, paper flying and wagging tail destroying the bottom half of the Christmas tree.
There were still people in Church around 3:00.  “You can still get out,” I told them, “but you can’t get back in.”  This is important to know.  Don’t forget anything.  I could open up a small department store (or at least a five and ten) with the stuff left over from Christmas including 5 purses.  (How do you forget your purse???) 
Finally joining family, we had a nice meal after which I took a nap.  ZZZZZZZZZ  Of course, I was then refreshed and ready to go while everyone else was getting ready to go to bed.  We still had to open presents and then I went home to play with mine while everyone else was tucked in beds with visions of Christmas dancing in their heads.


What a glorious celebration.  Thank you God.  Happy Birthday.

Thursday, December 26, 2013


Merry Christmas!


The past two days made me so happy to be Catholic!  What a wonderful (if exhausting) celebration it was.  We may do a lot of things poorly, but we know how to do Christmas as a community.
This is also my favorite time to get into conversations with non-Catholic experts on Catholicism.  One of my favorites that usually takes place over the last cup of eggnog is the person who pushes back in his chair with a crooked grin and announces, “Well, you know, Christmas is just a pagan holiday that Catholics are celebrating.”  Then, for some inexplicable reason, Catholics feel they have to save the honor of the Church by fighting this accusation.
Catholics: Relax.  There are a number of reasons not to get excited.
#1  True pagans are not evil.  Paganism gave way to Christianity.  It passed for a reason.  Neo-pagans are trying to reclaim something like guys in midlife crisis trying to reclaim college dorm life.  (I know neo-pagans are not going to like that.  But this is not a pagan blog, it is a Catholic one and is expressing Catholic beliefs.  Counter this on your own blog.)  It may not have given birth to it the same way that the Jewish faith did, but in many ways it too prepared the way for a belief in God.  Chesterton spoke highly of them.  (Search for Chesterton and pagans and find various essays.)  Don’t take the bait about being “tainted” with pagans.


#2  So what if the 25th isn’t the exact date of Christmas?  What if it was just decreed that day, say in the year 350 by Pope Julius I, to help Europeans being introduced to Christ to make the transition from their pagan roots to Christianity?  The whole of society is celebrating and were Christians supposed to sit at home and twiddle their thumbs?  If we don’t know the exact date of Christmas, why not make it on this day?  Does that taint the day somehow and if so, how?  Once we “baptize” the day, does having it on the same day as a former pagan holiday somehow make it evil?  Is it really that far beyond the power of God to overcome?  Really? 
Does that mean we have to investigate every day of the year and make sure there was not a pagan holiday on that day so that Christians will not accidently celebrate something evil?  (Just how does one accidently worship a pagan god when their intent is to worship Jesus anyway?)  Here is just another example of something forming (worship of a god no matter how poorly conceived) giving way or blossoming into truth.  That is really quite beautiful.
#3  All that being said, there is some argument over which god was being celebrated and when.  There is some belief that it is possible that this was in fact THE DAY though we won’t know for sure in this life.  There is some scholarly evidence out there that in actuality it was not until AFTER Christians started really celebrating Christmas that the pagan holiday took off in order to counter it. 
In the end – who cares?  God is so powerful in can purify any day.  He is so awesome that He is not disappointed in us if for 2,000+ years we celebrated His birth on the wrong calendar day.  And so to the guy trying to be the (birthday) party pooper, the only response needed is, “And isn’t it so cool that God is so good and powerful that that doesn’t really matter?”

Monday, December 23, 2013


When I was a kid, my best friend and next door neighbor Andy got the first computer on the block.  It was a big, clunky thing that needed a cassette tape player thingy that acted as the dos.  (I really don't know what that means.)  We played games on it that by today's standards were pretty primitive.  (Pong.)  One day he said that I should get a computer and so being close to Christmas I went and asked my Mom for a computer for Christmas. 
"What on earth would we do with a computer in this house."  It was a statement, not a question.  It was kind of a "You'll poke your eye out" kind of kill statement.  (Remember this was before the Internet and when the typical phone was still leashed to the wall like a disobedient dog.)
So I went and asked Andy, my friend, what we could possibly use a computer for besides games.  I needed to sell my Mom.  He gave me some ideas and so I went back to my Mom:
"Mom!  Andy said you could write your letters on it or even store your recipes!"
Mom's eyes narrowed and she placed her hand on a wooden box.  "Here are my recipes," she said.  "No wires, portable, instantly accessible, and I can store it anywhere.  I don't need a computer to store my recipes."
My family was doomed to the stone age.
So I blame my parents for my lack of technical savvy.  Recently I was gifted with an ithing.  (I think it's an ipad but don't take money on it.  I don't really know an ipad from an iball.)  The problem is I can't figure out what to do with it like my Mother couldn't figure out what to do with a computer.
Fr. Pfeiffer (who helped me get it up and running) suggested that I do my Liturgy of the Hours on it.  (That's the official prayer of the Catholic Church to be prayed throughout the day.  Turns out it's a free download.  Try it.)  He said, "You know how you have to check an ordo to know what to pray and then flip pages like mad?  Everything is just laid out for you on the (ithing).  It helps you just focus on actually praying."
As it turns out, it did help me pray more:
"It's very intuitive," I was told.  "Just play with it.  It is very easy to figure out."

My liturgical underwear it is.
It just sort of happened and I have no idea why.  I figure I accidentally must of hit something on the screen and so spent the next hour torturing the thing trying to figure out how to get my prayers back into an language I could pray.
I finally find a help button.  Do you know what it says?  "Hit the flag button to change languages."  Sounds easy right?  I PROBABLY WOULD HAVE HIT THAT BUTTON A LONG TIME AGO IF I COULD FIND IT.  How this is supposed to be intuitive I don't know.  I'm turning the thing, rebooting, hitting every button that I can find and GUESS WHAT!  The FLAG BUTTON IS INVISIBLE UNTIL YOU HIT IT!
Well, now it works.  And has been sitting on my desk for a few weeks while I've returned to my book.  I'm trying to figure out what to do with it.  Maybe I can keep recipes on it.

Friday, December 20, 2013


Paragraph 56 of Lumen Gentium


God is so cool.  In the same way He allows us to make up for sin by our asking forgiveness just as He allowed us to sin by an act of our own free will, so also is Salvation brought about.  In Eve, we have a person who chose to act against God by an act of her free will.  In Mary, we have a person who chose to radically unite man and God together by an act of her free will.  Thus, as Scripture says that Eve became the Mother of all the living since she was our first mother, Mary again becomes our Mother since it is she, through saying yes to God, brought all of us a life of grace. 
Someone recently was telling me that one of their favorite images of Mary is “Untier of Knots.”  Eve’s knot of disobedience is untied by the Virgin.  I saw this images for the first time at the bookstore at St. Paul Shrine this past month.  Still learning new things!


Happy almost end of Advent!

Thursday, December 19, 2013


I love the whole idea that the Church is some great, well oiled mega power bent on taking over the world spawning books and movies about secret societies and codes and spying and etc . . .  Conveniently enough it keeps minds off our own government that is spying on us . . .
That being said, there are secret messages that even unknowing Catholics (and non-Catholic Christians) send out of which they may be completely unaware.  It is a little bit like playing records backwards (popular in the ‘80s if I recall) and finding Satanic messages.  In this case however, it is promoting the message of the Church.
Here is the secret to the secret message: 

First some background:  Many people do not realize that the first part of advent is not about the coming of Christ at Christmas, all the prayers of Mass and Liturgy of the Hours and etc. tend to be focused on the SECOND coming of Christ.  We wait of the second coming as the Jewish people waited (and indeed some still wait) for the first.  Starting on December 17th, we start making immediate preparations for Jesus’ birth at Christmas.  (By the by, the word “Christmas” is derived from “Christ’s Mass Day.”  Is it any wonder so many people want to rid us of this nasty word.  Do non-Catholics realize what they are saying when they say, “Merry Christmas???)  Secret, subversive, Catholic code #1.)


But I digress.  On December 17th, the official prayers of the Church change in nature to focus on the upcoming Christmas holiday.  (By the by again, “holiday” comes from two words whose definition is “holy” and “day” and means a religious holiday and a day of recreation.  So even though we fight against it, when we say, “Happy Holidays!” we are, in a sense, wishing people a joyous religious observance.  There is the subversive and secretive Catholic code #2)
But again I digress.  So starting on this day, we start praying the “O Antiphons” during vespers (the official evening prayer of the Catholic Church) just before proclaiming the Magnificat.  The O Antiphons give the titles of the coming Messiah as presented in the Old Testament – one for each day.  You know these.  You sing at least some of them every year in the carol, “O Come, O Come Emmanuel,” which is most appropriately sung starting December 17th, not the first day of Advent. 
So here are the titles; O Sapientia (Wisdom,) O Adonai (O Sacred Lord,) O radix Jessi (O Flower of Jesse’s Stem,) O Clavis David (O Key of David,) O Oriens (O Radiant Dawn,) O Rex Gentium (O King of All Nations,) O Emmanuel (a name which means God with Us.)  Now take the first letter of each title: SARCORE and on the last day, the day before Christmas, reverse the letters and you get EROCRAS or, in Latin, “Ero cras.”  Translated into English this means, “Tomorrow I come!”

Secret, subversive Catholic code #3.  Is that cool or what?


For more information go here.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013


IF your town still has a newspaper, and IF you still get it, and IF on Sunday they still have the Parade Magazine (will someday I have to explain what a magazine was to kids?) this past weekend you would have seen an article about Mark Wahlberg.  The short article is under a weekly feature called, “Sunday With . . .”  In it, they interview a famous person and there is at least one question that they ask every week: “How do you spend Sunday?”

Week after week after week I read this feature paying particular attention if it is a person whose work I like, just hoping that one of them would say that they somehow gave thanks for their talent, their wealth, their notoriety, or the fact that anybody cares that what they do on Sunday.  But week after week after week it is usually something along the lines of, “We sleep in.  Then I make pancakes.  We lounge around the house or go shopping or to the zoo.”  Not even a “we help out in a soup kitchen.”  Sunday, for many, seems to be “Me Day.”  I don’t have to work so we spend time on ourselves.  On the one hand that is good.  (I try for some me time myself on Sunday if it is available.)  But there is not even a mention of, “and we say grace remembering that everything is a gift.”
Then there is Mr. Wahlberg, former crack-addict, prisoner, Calvin Klein model, rapper, current actor and father.  Here is how he describes his Sunday;


“If the kids are good, I’ll have doughnuts for them at 6:30 in the morning,” (Note: 6:30 in the morning – ready for his kids.  I have just started thinking about becoming functional at that time – he’s already got doughnuts for the kids and I have Mass!) “and I say, ‘You guys gotta let Mommy sleep in!”  DO YOU KNOW WHY HE DOES THIS?!  BECAUSE THEN: “I’ll go to church” (read: Mass) “at 7:30 and everybody will be eating breakfast when I come home.”  Nice right?  Hold on to your biretta friends for the next sentence.  Then we’ll go to church again at 10:30. . .”
Okay, maybe he’s making up for some of his famous peers who forget to mention anything outside of themselves as a Sunday activity.  But still: he’s once again proven himself one of my heroes.  (If you hear that he kicks his dog or lets his kids eat Cheerios at Mass, please don’t tell me.  I need my heroes.)  But it just goes to show you how much good you can do.  He isn’t pictured waving a Vatican flag or preaching (apparently like I am) about what people should do if they consider themselves faithful, he was asked a question and he answered honestly.  It led to a second question by the interviewer, “Faith is obviously a big part of your life.”  Which, in retrospect is not a question but a statement.  But he answered none-the-less, “It’s the most important part of my life.”
There.  Very matter of fact.  No preaching (in the negative sense) and no theatrics.  And he did a world of good for Catholics that need a shot in the arm.  Thank you Mr. Wahlberg.  I hope more of us can follow your example.

(And we have dooughnut Sunday here.)

Tuesday, December 17, 2013


FINDING TRUTH WHEREVER IT MAY BE FOUND:  "You don't always have to destroy a wounded animal.  Sometimes you just remove the thorn."  from the show "Dexter" season three finale.
QUOTE II:  "The only thing new in the world is the history you don't know."  Harry S. Truman
This sent in from Sarah:  "Dear Fr. V,  Interesting article about a Jesuit astronomer at the Vatican in the Detroit Free Press. (Of course I relate because he grew up in the Parish where Ron and I were married - and I'm a "scientist" too!). Thought you might enjoy his closing comments about God and science..."  Read more and see the video here.
From the same source:  I can't believe this . . . but it was inevitable.  There are now ceremonial tablet cases so you can use your computer at Mass.  Did I really not see this coming?  Will you use this Pf?  See more here.
Ron sent this in:  Dog in Italy attends Mass.  See article and picture here.
From the Diocese of Cleveland Enewsletter:  "Pope Francis received a group of non-resident Ambassadors to the Holy See on Thursday in the Clementine Hall of the Apostolic Palace at the Vatican.  The Holy Father focused his remarks to his guests on the scourge of human trafficking, denouncing the practice as a “real form of slavery” and calling for renewed and concerted efforts to end the inhuman trade."  See more here.
From the same source:  "Did you know, February 8 has been designated by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) as a Day of Prayer for Survivors and Victims of Human Trafficking?"  See more here.


Monday, December 16, 2013


Last Monday I was on a field trip, which ate up a sufficient amount of time that the blog post that day had to be skipped.  Sharon Dietrick who is on the board of the Poor Clares, and Wes Hollendonner of Rubber City Productions (see photo below) headed up to St. Paul Shrine (see more here) to interview Mother Thomas (who spoke at a luncheon recently at St. Sebastian as a fundraiser for the new Academy of Culture and Arts) about her two works in progress.  Below is part of her studio.
It was rather a unique experience.  As you might expect not many visitors (especially men) are allowed about the cloister.  So it was a very special and solemn visit for us.
This is the backside of a reredos of an old chapel that has been converted into an art studio for Mother.  It is here that Mother is working on a painting of St. Sebastian that will be destined for this parish.  Below is an under coating and Mother is preparing it for the final stage of applying more exact coloring, shading, and details.  This is a picture taken by Sharon of Mother explaining her technique to me while Wes videos.
Wes shoots the nave from over the reredos for the second video we shot while I explored nooks and cranneys.
Below you can see the main room of the chapel.  Behind the altar is where the other pictures were taken.  Here you can see the enormity of the other painting on which Mother is working.  It is of mammoth proportions.  The title of it is Mary, Mother of the Eucharist and was destined for a parish of the same name in Philadelphia.  Unfortunatley, after it was commissioned, it parish was closed.  That is part of the reason for the documentary: a hope to find another home for the painting.
 I think this is one of Mother's finest works.  Here you can see Mary and Jesus surrounded by the communion of saints.  If you could see the rest of the painting it would work its way down to the Church militant.

If you get the chance I recommend a visit to the shrine.  You will get to spend some time in adoration (or go to Mass - see the link above for details) see the beautiful architecture, visit the gift shop (I highly recommend it if for no other reason than that there prices are VERY reasonable) and to see some of Mother's other paintings.  You probably wont get to see Mary, Mother of the Eucharist or St. Sebastian since they are in the cloister.  Hopefully, however, you might be able to see St. Sebastian at the parish as Mother hopes to have him done in time for our annual St. Sebastian Day celebration in January. 

Friday, December 13, 2013


Now here’s a case when I will use the term “the spirit of Vatican II” and think it has merit.  As we head into the last throws of advent (or perhaps slow boil of advent would be better,) we enter that part of Lumen Gentium that makes clear Mary’s role in salvation history – Totally unplanned which makes it cool.

One of the reasons the Harry Potter books were so popular was that it held out hope that even if it seemed completely unlikely, there is a chance that you are special; your ordinary life was masking great power, notoriety, talent, and all that.  So can you think of being a young girl in a backwater town, dirt poor, and of no note?  What if, in actuality, your life was actually part of one of the greatest stories ever told – of the greatest family lines in history – of a dynasty that would last forever?  And look at you sitting at home wishing something exciting would happen in this one light town.
The story concerning Mary goes back to Genesis (para 55 of LG).  There will be a virgin and a conquering of the serpent.  In Isaiah further prophecies are made.  Throughout Scripture, a blurry picture becomes clearer and clearer until one night it snaps into sharp focus on a young, faith filled woman, by the announcement of an angel.  From obscurity she is plucked, though in God’s eye she was never out of the center of His plan.  From her our God is given flesh and entrusted to her care until He could go about the business of saving us from our self destructive ways.
(This is not in this paragraph but my own thought.)  You, Christian, are not much different.  Scratch just below the surface there is greatness.  It is not in your wealth, your ability to command, your ancestry, or your prospects (or lack thereof!)  All that will pass and be forgotten.  But like in a C. S. Lewis novel, you have already been named a king or queen with great dignity, inheritance, and rule, and it will only come to light for the faithful who remain true to their nature and enter into the kingdom of our heavenly Father.

Thursday, December 12, 2013


While it is pretty cool that Pope Francis was named Time Magazine’s “Person of the Year,” he is not the first pope to be named so.  Blessed John Paul II was also given the moniker of “Person of the Year.”  There was one more pope thusly honored but technically speaking he was named Time’s “Man of  the Year.”  (Times and Time have changed.)  That would have been Blessed John XXIII.   I bring this up just in case people forget we have had a string of popular popes.  But this is not to diminish the uniqueness that is Pope Francis. 

As reported on a Quote Tuesday, Mr. John Allen, Senior Correspondent for the NCR and Senior Vatican Analyst for CNN, gave a talk on Pope Francis at the First Friday Club of Greater Akron.  In his talk he said that if you really want to understand this pope, one must see his actions through three basic pillars through which the pope guides his pontificate. 


The first is “Leadership through Service.”  If there was anybody deserving to be served and worshipped, it was God Himself, Jesus Christ.  Yet what did He do?  He came to live among us as a man and used His glory, honor, and power to serve His people who were in need of saving.  Likewise, Francis calls on his clergy to move away from a mindset of privilege and as shepherds to carry the scent of the sheep on them.  It is good advice for everybody.  Instead of using our resources and privileges solely for self aggrandizement, use what we have been given to assist those who do not have your blessings.
Second is the “Social Gospel.”  He eschews what he calls the “Throw Away Culture” of the world.  This does not mean that he wants us to recycle more.  This is referring to a tendency to see certain people as “less than” and not afford them the dignity that all human beings should have.  From conception to death, all humans should have the right to life and dignity.  Life is the most basic of rights and that upon which all rights rest.  And there will never be true peace on earth until all are afforded this most basic of rights.
Finally is the idea of “Mercy.”  Perhaps this pope will be remembered as the pope of mercy.  Though one cannot separate the idea of judgment from mercy, perhaps we have a great handle on the judgment of God, but not so much on His mercy, which this pope emphasizes.  “God never tires of forgiving.”  This is a message we need to proclaim and practice.
This is the new pontifical age.  With John Paul we had, “Be Not Afraid.”  With Benedict we saw highlighted faith being wedded to reason, and with Benedict:  “Mercy.”  How blessed we are in our leadership.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013


Yes . . . It’s a guilty pleasure . . .
I will admit that I watch “Dexter.”  For those unfamiliar with this show: it is the story of a mass murderer trying to live a normal life – except for those pesky murders.
For those familiar with the show: Don’t worry.  I will not be giving anything away.  I’m only on season three. 
Now, let me say from the start that much of the show is reprehensible.  That is the great thing about Netflicks: the “ff” button.  I do not recommend the show.  That being said if one pays attention carefully (at least in the three seasons that I have seen) they do grapple with lots of hot button issues concerning life, love, the role of faith, the dignity (or lack thereof) of the human person and so forth.  I rarely agree with the title character no matter how sympathetic they try to make him with swelling music, kind words, and someone saying to him, “This is the right thing.”


Dexter supposedly is unable to have feelings; particularly complicated feelings such as love.  He works hard then trying to figure what to do to express love to those close to him and make them feel love.  It is a radical decision for the other with little consolation to himself.  Inside his head he is saying, “This is all fake.  If they only knew I don’t know a thing about love.”  From a spiritual standpoint he is in the deepest throws of love.  If he acted lovingly toward those for whom he had great feelings of love, big whoop.  As Scriptures says, “even the pagans do the same.”  But he overcomes his deficit to love mightily.  His is probably the purest love in the show. 
Well, except for those murders.
That is the part of the show that peaks my interested.  The producers go through great lengths to make Dexter a lovable character.  And he had a code by which he lives; he will only kill those who kill and have escaped responsibility for their murders and who will most likely kill again.  So if you would become friends with Dexter, you most likely would never experience the dark side of him that “needs” to kill.  You would only know this great guy.
Think of that for a moment.  Allow Dexter to not be safely on the other side of the screen.  Suppose he was a true friend of yours and you know about his propensity for snuffing out life.  Could you be his friend and allow him to live his life as he allows you to live yours?  Though a bit odd and maybe a tich distant, he is thoughtful, friendly, pleasant, helpful, and fiercely loyal.  And really, he only takes the life of those many would say “deserve to die.”  Some would day that he is making the world a better place.


But he is in your living room having a beer with you and you can sense that you about to have a severe disagreement about something.  Though he says he would never turn his butchery on you, do you completely trust him?  Can you?  Would you not have some fear that the line that separates the “worthies” from the “worthless” might slip – maybe even for just a moment – and in a moment of passion you would become a victim instead of one of the protected class?
I submit that this is a wonderful analogy for our modern state which Pope Benedict calls a throw away culture.  The list grows of people we can discard – that are on the wrong side of the line.  This week was a story that there are more people on death row in Ohio than in a long time.  There is physician assisted suicides, euthanasia, abortion, and now we are on the verge of federal mandates forcing churches to be direct agents in actions they believe to be violations of human dignity.  There are questions about how we treat the poor, the insane, the refugee, the addict, the ignorant, the disenfranchised, and even the criminal. 
For every person added to this list of undeserving of life, the line that separates each of us from the undesirables creeps up.  It may seem a far distance away, but it is only an accident, a false accusation, or change in government away.  Many priests talk about the future and wonder if we will now end up in jail some day for teaching something that has been a part of our core beliefs for 2,000 years.


It’s the Dexter effect.


And it makes me wonder.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013


FINDING TRUTH WHEREVER IT MAY BE FOUND:  "(The room) smelled of the past, of a time before computers, before information was 'Googled' or 'blogged.'  Before laptops and BlackBerries and all of the other tools that mistook information for knowledge."  from Louise Penny's, "Bury Your Dead"
QUOTE II:  "In fact, I think most (persons of greatness) are both brilliant and demented and almost certainly unfit for polite society.  Unlike us."  same source
Parish duties made it impossible to post yesterday.  Sorry for the skipped day!
From the "In Box":  "When someone tells you the Catholic Church’s stance on abortion, homosexuality or euthanasia is wrong, when someone makes fun of your religion, when someone mocks a religious practice you hold dear, how do you respond? How should you respond? Can you really challenge someone’s deeply held beliefs or will you just make them mad? These questions are at the heart of an intelligent and engaging new documentary by Father Robert Barron entitled, 'Catholicism: The New Evangelization.' (Not to be confused with Father’s popular 10-part epic, 'Catholicism.')

"Most Catholics have heard of 'the New Evangelization.' But few actually know what it means, how to do it effectively, or why it’s so critical. Get the answers you want and need when this program premieres at 9:30 p.m. ET, Wednesday, Dec. 18 – exclusively on EWTN. The program will encore at 1 p.m. ET, Saturday, Dec. 21."
From the Diocese of Cleveland Enewsletter: "Most Reverend Richard Lennon, Bishop, Diocese of Cleveland addressed a room full of those enjoying lunch and waiting to hear him speak at the December gathering of the First Friday Club of Cleveland. The following is a video excerpt from his Thursday, December 5, 2013 talk at The City Club of Cleveland, 850 Euclid Avenue, Cleveland, OH."  See the video here.

Speeking of First Friday clubs, the Greater Akron First Friday club has a stellar presentation on Pope Francis this month.  The speaker was John Allen.  I was hoping to hook you up with the pod cast but it is not up yet.  Just the same, here is the site and you can hear past speakers and Mr. Allen when it finally make it up there.
Mary sent this interesting video in.  Enjoy:

Friday, December 6, 2013


Lumen Gentium paragraphs 53 &54
What was she thinking?  What was she feeling?  What was she facing?  To some extent, these are easier questions to ask about Mary than they are about her Son.  Mary is, after all, a human person.  Jesus is a Divine Person and therefore it is often very dangerous to say, “At this point, Jesus was feeling (fill in the blank).”  How do we know?  True, He was fully human, but He was also fully Divine and to think we could know the inner workings of His mind might be presumptuous.  (This is my opinion, not part of this document.)
Mary on the other hand is fully human without divine being a divine person.  True, she was also sinless from her conception, but still, it is a little less tricky to ponder what she might be thinking.
As she was the Mother of God and Mother of the Redeemer, she is also our Mother.  By her saying yes to God, she helped bring about our birth into Christ and everlasting life.  In this way, while being the best of us, she is still one of us, “who occupies a place in the Church which is the highest after Christ and also closest to us.”  (54)
The II Vatican Council did not write a complete end all be all treatise on Mary and even allowed for further development of our understanding of her place and our relationship.  Immediately following VII, there was the erroneous thought in many circles that Mary was being downplayed in order to more fully focus on Christ.  Nothing could be further from the truth to anyone who actually read the documents.  In fact, all valid schools of thought on Mary were upheld while still allowing for future development by theologians.

Thursday, December 5, 2013


Community is lost in virtual communion” was the title of an editorial that appeared in the Beacon Journal last week written by Alex Beam of the Boston Globe.  It concerns a Methodist minister in North Carolina who wants to start a “virtual campus” of religious services via computer which would include Holy Communion, one of two sacraments, the other being baptism, that the Methodists recognize.  Adherents would be able to have a house Church of sorts, gathering together on line to pray under the leadership of a pastor.
The article was against this idea.  I must admit that I am not that much against it.  Not for Catholics mind you, but for much of the Protestant world I do not think it that far off track.  Once one lets go of the catholic ideal in the small “c” sense (that they may all be one John 17:21), how can one really argue against it as long as certain precautions are met.  The word catholic means universal.  For Catholics, it means one Church for all peoples, all times, everywhere.  There a ton of implications with that, far too many to go into here but which include such as unity in worship, leadership, belief, and etc.


But what if you are starting point is a division?  (Remember, I am taking this from a Catholic position, my Protestant brothers and sisters will take a very different view.)  For example, the minister cited above makes the argument that Methodism’s cofounder, John Wesley, was a radical religious innovator in the 18th century.  Part of that innovation was to break from established Church and begin something new (or old, if one believes they were returning to something original in Christ’s mission.)  A new Church was formed with its own belief system and hierarchy.  What gave them the authority to do so?  Well, one argument is that the Bible did.  The Holy Spirit did.  The teachings of Jesus did. 
There was in interesting religious (non-denominational Protestant) talk show on the radio a few years ago (the particulars escape me now) concerning the problem of people not showing up for Protestant services.  A man called in who said he and few other families were no longer satisfied with the Protestant churches in his area and so, after taking classes in the Bible, they decided to start their own Church.  They gather at each other’s homes on Sunday morning, sing, read Scriptures, and have a sermon that is crafted just for them.  The radio host admitted that he could not argue with him.  They were getting back to the roots of Christianity (in their view.)  Where did they get their authority to do this?  The same place that John Wesley did.
The on-line Church is just the next phase of this I would think.  Why not?  The biggest question would be why bother?  Perhaps it would be nice not to have to write your own sermon, study the Bible, or come up with your own hymns.  But instead PayPaling this minister, why not invite your two neighbors over and start your own Church?  It seems a natural evolution of the roots of the movement. 
Unless your theology is really about universal community and sacraments and Apostolic succession (as the Catholic Church holds it) and human touch and voice and unity as a corporate body connected in worship, leadership, and belief.  Then there is a problem. 

Wednesday, December 4, 2013


I can’t tell you how relieved I am.
Last week in the Letters to the Editor of the Akron Beacon Journal, Mr. Thomas Fann, while pointing out that many people feel that certain provisions of HHS mandate impedes their freedom of religion, he assures us, “It does not.”
I was worried.  I am so glad he cleared that up for me.
Of course, he goes on to say that there really are limits to freedom of religion so even if it does really impinge on your faith: too bad.
Back to feeling bad again.
We are all free to believe what we want, conduct our lives according to our beliefs and worship as we please.”
Okay, I’m with you again.
However, our religious freedom does not give us the right to force others to change their behavior to fit our beliefs.” 
Of course it does.  Mr. Fann demostrates this himself.  His system of beliefs says that it may force another individual to violate his belief system by making him become directly culpable in what amounts to an intrinsic evil to him.  You can’t have it both ways.  Either we can force others people to behave according to a belief system or you can’t. 
Attempting to prevent or impede what many employees feel are valid (and legal) health-care choices is not a religious freedom protected by the Constitution.”
Here again Mr. Fann plays the game of denouncing a behavior for those he’s against, and then shows how perfectly logical it is for him to do it.  None of the people against the HHS mandate are forcing anybody to do anything.  Nobody is protesting that such items should be taken out of the store; nobody is protesting clinics because they are handing out free birth control, but Mr. Fann places the desire of one person to have birth control paid for by a person who finds it morally repugnant over and above the religious freedom of the provider.  One can still have the freedom to act according to his conscience (and have it paid for), the other may not.
And “legal” does not mean moral.
And since when is it not protected by the Constitution?  Of course it is.  On what planet is protection of religious liberty not a part of the Constitution?  It is a handy argument to make up with absolutely no citations or references.  “It just isn’t” is not an argument.
Employers are free to reject contraception for themselves, but religious freedom does not give them the right to make that decision for their employees.”
First, I am thankful that Mr. Fann has given me permission to reject contraception.  But I have not read a single article anywhere of an employee of any company has been fired because they used contraception even though his employer finds it to be morally abhorrent.  Or maybe there has been a rash of front page articles that I missed. 


The only person making demands on anybody’s behavior (and tapping their resources) is Mr. Fann and backers of this portion of the HHS mandate.  (This reminds me of 2 Maccabees chapter 7).
Where are the employees going to get the money?  From their paychecks, from the same employer who refuses to pay for contraception coverage on the grounds of ‘religious freedom.’ I don’t see the difference.”
And that is the problem.  You don't see the problem.  First of all, I highly recommend that you do not take a job writing an etiquette column.  If I give you a gift, it is yours.  I no longer have control over it.  If I give you twenty dollars and you use it on cigarettes, there is really not much I can do about it.  A paycheck is the same thing.  Once I give you the money it is yours.  What you do with it is your business.
Secondly, I recommend that you do not take a job writing an ethics column.  There is a huge difference between indirect and direct culpability.  It is one thing for me to give twenty dollars to a teenager who then goes out and buys smokes, it is another thing to make available smokes for the teenager “because he is going to smoke anyway.”
There is one thing Mr. Fann and I do agree upon.  It is this sentence: “This issue really isn’t about religious freedom; it is about control.”

I couldn't have said it better.