Friday, February 28, 2014


One of the images of Mary is that of a window.  One does not look at a window, one looks though it at something else.  Mary is a window through which we look to see her Son.  Another image of Mary is that of the moon.  The moon is a cold rock.  But when the sun hits it, it gives a glorious brilliance for us to see on earth on a dark night.  So Mary’s brilliance is in that she reflects her Son to us.  “My soul magnifies the Lord.”
In the same way this next paragraph (66) of Lumen Gentium states it, William Wadsworth once said more poetically is that Our Lady is “our tainted nature’s solitary boast.”  She is our exemplar par excellence.  Where Jesus is a divine person, Mary is fully human and so is set at our head to lead us in the way of fully following her Son.  Such has been the case since the very inception of the Church.  This is attested to in Luke where Mary says, “All generation shall call me blessed.”

A devotion to Mary is essentially different from the devotion given to the Trinity.  A devotion to the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit is an end unto itself.  The buck stops there so to speak.  God is the object of all true worship.  Devotion to Mary is a pathway to a deeper understanding and love of the Trinity.    
Think of it this way:  You might have a particular devotion to a preacher that simply wows you.  You might follow this person around, attend many services, and listen to numerous recordings of sermons and teachings.  But if the person’s preaching only leads you to like that person more deeply, that person has failed.  The inspirational talks are supposed to be a pathway to heaven and entice you further up that glorious trail.  True and loving devotion to Mary is to do the same thing.

Thursday, February 27, 2014



Truth be told, however, most of this is manageable.  But one thing that drives pastors (across this diocese anyway) absolutely nuts, is when our parish sports teams practices and games start competing with the faith life of the parish.  For many years, there was a raging battle to get CYO to stop having games before noon or one o’clock on Sundays.  Too many kids were skipping Mass because they had to be at the game or risk getting kicked off of the team.  Oddly, that threat is perfectly acceptable to some while cautions about not living the faith life of a Catholic is seen as harsh.
The center of the life of a Catholic parish is the Mass and the Eucharist.  Everything stems from that.  If this parish did not have at its heart the Eucharist, then there would be no point to staying open.  Send the kids to public school, let city leagues take over the sports, go to dance at the local social hall, have the art museums take over the art, go hear live music at the bar, and buy tickets to motivational speakers of we are not going to make Mass our source and summit.  For us, all these things draw meaning and importance because they are centered in the Mass and flow from it; grace being the only thing that you will actually take with you at the end of this life and these other activities being tools to help us live that grace more fully.
So when these other activities start competing with the Mass rather than flow from it, it is rather the tail wagging the dog.  And pastors become a bit hot under their starched collars.  But that doesn’t mean that Mass and those things most closely united to it should be made as inconvenient as possible and everything else suffer.  They should, rather, complement and build up each other, which I find most involved are more than willing to do, for it is then that we are truly parish and I thank them deeply for that.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014


I remember my first day at St. Sebastian.  It was a Tuesday on the feast of St. John the Baptist.  I woke up early in the morning and unlocked the house and welcomed twelve persons from the Parish Finance Council in the door for my first Finance Council meeting.  It was downstairs in the basement around a beautiful old, oak table with carved legs that once served as the dining room table in the convent.  I was nervous of course.  The only members of the council that I had met up to this point had been the president and my business manager.  Most priests with which I had been associated always dreaded Finance Council meetings.  Moaning beginning early in the morning they would let it leak out all during the day like a rusted bucket how much they were going to hate the meeting they were going to that night.
Maybe it was because it was the morning, but I enjoyed the meeting and thought the group was a pretty neat bunch of people.  I remember sitting around the table thinking, “I like these people.  I would like to hang out with them.”  (Truth be told, it took me almost a year to stop dreading Finance Council meetings.  I dreaded them because I had been trained to dread them.  But in the midst of dreading the thought would come, “but you like these people.  What’s the problem?” and the feeling would pass.  Now I know to look forward to them.)

Then it was time for my first morning Mass.  I was impressed that there was an organist and servers and deacon and a nice sized congregation.  The rest of the day was mostly unpacking.  The next day was my first day away (how do you like that!) and I had to return to my former assignment to pick up a few last things and stop at the doctor’s office.  When they asked for my new address I realized I hadn’t the slightest clue and had to call the parish to find out.


Now, everything I just told you is a lie.  Well, it is a lie that I remembered it.  I didn’t.  It was all a whirlwind.  I remember almost nothing about my first days at St. Sebastian.  The reason I can tell you even this much of the story is because I journaled it.  The journal was drug out recently as Fr. Pfeiffer was about to start his first day at his new parish.  “Journal it,” I advised him, “because you are not going to remember it.”  (I don’t think he did.)
That is my advice to guys going through ordination, or people getting married, or any significant event.  When my nephew was taking his first trip abroad I bought him a nice pen and a journal.  “I know you are not going to believe me, but you are not going to remember this.  Please journal on your trip or shortly thereafter.  At least it gives you something to do on the plane.”
Going back to my ordination journal I realized that I had completely forgotten that after the banquet following my first Mass, we had benediction.  And then there were the wonderful memories of the car ride home from the cathedral after ordination with just me and my nephew and the great discussion we had.
God gives us so much joy and so many important things happen to us (interiorly and exteriorly) that absolutely cannot be captured in pictures or video.  In fact, I would say that what is journaled is more important.  Everyone can have a picture of a building or a video of friends skiing down a hill, but there are intimate moments that cannot be captured by electronics.  Awe cannot recorded.  What God is doing in your heart cannot be digitized.  Your thoughts, inspirations, and insights are far too personal. 



Tuesday, February 25, 2014


FINDING TRUTH WHEREVER IT MAY BE FOUND:  "The statement 'God is' is an understatement."  from Abraham Heschel's, "God in Search of Man"
QUOTE II:  "For worship is an act of man relating himself to ultimate meaning.  Unless man is capable of entering a relationship to ultimate meaning, worship is an illusion.  And if worship is meaningless, human existence is an absurdity."  same source
Fr. G.D.B. sent this site in.  He does a lot of great cartoons.
The Diocese of Cleveland Enewsletter writes, "On Friday, February 28 the movie "Son of God" will open at several cinemas across the Diocese of Cleveland.  With the endorsement of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), this film is seen as a way to deepen one's faith and build community and fellowship."  Go here for the trailer.
This week's video is sent in from Fr. D and is on the Catholic World Report website.  Go here to find it.  This is a description:  "It’s a tough market out there for marriage-minded women. While women may be the “gatekeepers” in the sexual economy—deciding when and under what circumstances sex will occur—it is men who remain securely in the driver’s seat in the marriage market."

Monday, February 24, 2014


A good number of years ago on this blog I had a series titled, "Oh the Places You'll Go!" stolen from the Dr. Suess book of the same title.  In it I wrote about how sometimes being a priest opened doors (literally) and lets you see places that most may never have the opportunity to see.  One of those places visited recently I wrote to you about already is St. Paul Shrine were the Poor Clares who are cloistered live.  Almost nobody is allowed back in the cloister but Mother Mary Thomas and I have been working on some projects (on which I play an incredibly small part) and so I had the great privilege of being able to go back into the cloister of this beautiful building.
Here is a picture of Mother and me from last week at which time she revealed the finished painting of St. Sebastian.
Another good series might be, "Oh the People You'll Meet!" but it would be a lot like name dropping wouldn't it?  BUT it is very cool the people you get to meet because you are priest so with the aim of promoting vocations I will only do it once and limit myself to just a couple.
Of course meeting Mother Mary Thomas who is also a fantastic artist was a treasure.  Below was meeting Pope John Paul II (soon to be a saint!) after having celebrated Mass with him in his private chapel in the papal apartments.  I wish I could say I was very eloquent but after his greeting all I could muster was, "Ablagammagoogoo."  The reason the picture looks weird is because it is a picture I took of a picture.  You might be able to see me with the camera in the reflection.  Gosh, I had a lot more hair then!
Going to Rome more recently with the parish choir, after singing for the Mass we were invited back into the sacristy (bigger than my parish church) in order to meet Angelo Cardinal Comastri, Archpriest of the Papal Basilica of St. Peter.  People were freaking out.  "No choir ever gets invited back here!"  But we were.  Then he took us on a little tour through part of the Vatican.  What a great day that was.
On the same day of the visit to Mother Mary Thomas noted above, a friend named Sharon and I met with Bishop Gries and wonderful couple recently engaged (congratulations and prayers) John and Cortney hoping that they would be on the board of the Poor Clares which they agreed to do.  THANK YOU.  That was great enough but . . .
While we were there we also ran in to Larry Holmes and Hanford Dixon who were EXTREMELY kind to be bothered to have their picture taken with some anonymous priest.  God bless you gentlemen.
God is sooooooo very cool.  He is constantly blessing it seems.  I honestly do not know why more guys do not want to be priests.  It is good life if you're cut out for it.  (Just like any life I suppose.) 

Friday, February 21, 2014


If you want to know the wrong definition of a word, look it up in the dictionary.”  This was maxim given to us in the seminary.  Often words that the Church uses to describe something has been co-opted by popular culture and given a new meaning so that when the Church uses it the way it had for a very long time, all of a sudden she appears not to be saying what she intends.  A parallel example would be the word “gay.”  150 years ago describing someone with this word let you know that the person was happy.  To describe a guy with the same word today intending to imply that he had a positive disposition might lead one to assume something about him that could lead to an awkward situation.
That being said, the next section of Lumen Gentium is called, “The Cult of the Blessed Virgin Mary in the Church.”  The word “cult” has fallen on hard times within the Church as of late.  It has been reinterpreted as meaning something controlling and the phrase, “Drink the coolaid” comes to mind.  But that is not at all what is meant in this context. 

In Church speak, “cult” means a devotion or honor afforded to a particular person.  Of course there are healthy and unhealthy cults.  Somebody who bases their faith on a particular priest, for example, would be unhealthy.  The cult of Mary, for example, as far as it leads a person more deeply into the faith and into the arms of her Son would be healthy.
Another unhealthy cult, written about here before, would be a type of cultish dependency on a saint that says something like, “Sure fire novena!  Say these prayers for nine days in a church and leave nine copies of this prayer for others to find and you will get your prayer.”  That delves into superstition and the idea that we can control God.  This is very unhealthy.


The next couple of paragraphs of Lumen Gentium will describe the proper cult of Mary and how she is to lead us more deeply into the heart of Christ.

Thursday, February 20, 2014


Have you come home from a retreat or pilgrimage or any event on a spiritual high and want to find a way to preserve it?  Don’t try too hard lest you end up like Peter at the Transfiguration wanting to build booths and make the moment last and gets a finger waved at him by Christ.


Of course we want it to last, but that is not the point of it.  It’s like moments of intense love that we feel for another person.  But truth be told, after the puppy love passes, those become moments in our lives, not a 24 hour, I can’t stop thinking about you, I can’t sleep, can’t eat, rotten as a country western song type of love.  Those are booster shots that help us get through the day to day living and loving (which can be quite great by the way) but puppy love is not the love Jesus wants us to have for each other as our daily meat.  (A post for another day.)

But there IS something that we do want to carry on about those high spots.  How do you make their inspiration last?  Why do the coals seems to cool so quickly when we go back to our old routine?
Perhaps because we go back to the old routine.  Hopefully you have changed dramatically, or have had your eyes or heart opened, how should that change your life?  Someone just over an addiction cannot go back to their old habits and environments.  Things must change because they are changing.  If you have had a new awakening, how will your environment help foster it?  Do you still have Deaf Leppard posters on your walls and listen to raunchy music?  Are you careful about what you watch mindlessly on T.V. or the computer or what you read?  Where do you hang out?  Where do you get nourishment to feed that new life within you?  Who will you talk with/Email or what have you?  How will you pray?  When will you find silence?  What are you willing to suffer?  What is your art, your hobby, your expressions of love for others?  What is your ministry?  What is your outreach?  In short, what kind of support system are you building?


Or are you just hoping it will last without really changing anything?


It’s hard for even love to withstand that.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014


Now for something controversial:  The name of your parish.


Catholics are at odds concerning the exact name of their parish.  Let us take, for example, the name of this parish:  St. Sebastian.  This is not St. Sebastian’s Church.  To begin with, we are part of the Roman Catholic Church, not St. Sebastian’s Church.  We are properly known as St. Sebastian Parish.  The church (little “c”) is the building in which we have Mass.  The Church (with a capitol “C”) is the greater Catholic Church.  So if you were going to say (or print) St. Sebastian church (with the little c) you mean a specific building on the campus.  If you say it with a capitol C, you are talking about a schism.  (Okay, that may be a little bit extreme, mostly said for comedic effect, but you get the point.)  The point is this is St. Sebastian Parish.
And it is NOT St. Sebastian’s Parish.  (I am sure I’ll get some push back on this.)  He doesn’t own it.  It is named after and enjoys the intercession of this (really cool) saint, but it is not his property.  Sacred Heart Parish is not “Sacred Heart’s Parish” nor is Sweetest Heart of Mary Parish in Detroit named “Sweetest Heart of Mary’s Parish.”  Your local elementary school is not King’s Elementary.  It is King Elementary.  So this parish is properly known as St. Sebastian Parish.


So, these work:


St. Sebastian Parish (everyone and everything connected to this place.)

St. Sebastian Roman Catholic Church (if you want to specify to whom we belong)

St. Sebastian church (if you want to specify where something is taking place at the parish)

St. Sebastian Parish Church (if you want a formal title for that building.)

Tuesday, February 18, 2014


FINDING TRUTH WHEREVER IT MAY BE FOUND:  No matter what happens in life there is some way to please God.”  Fr. Benedict Groeschel


QUOTE II:  Celibacy has never been successful.  Then again, neither has charity.”  same source.


QUOTE III:  To many the priesthood seems odd like the French Foreign Legion.  But with celibacy.”  unknown


The Diocese of Cleveland Enewsletter asks if you are thinking of returning to the Catholic Church.  If so, know that there is a place for you.  Here is a website that they recommend.
Along those same lines, the diocese will be having their second diocesan wide confession night on Wednesday, March 12th from 5 to 8PM.  In theory, you may go to any Catholic Church in the diocese and there will be confessions being heard.  If you've not been in a while this migh be the perfect opportunity!
Frank sent this in:  The Seattle Sea Hawks discuss their faith in Christ.  Go here.
Sharon sent this video in:  It is a News Fox 8 story about a possible saint in Canton.  (Aren't saints only supposed to be from far away places?)  Anyway, it is an interesting story.  See it here.

Monday, February 17, 2014


So I was taking a shower minding my own business when it hit me!
Eight days ago Adam's Ale turned seven!  Good thing we are not married.  It would have been a disastrous week.
Since meeting the dynamo Dawn Eden those many years ago and having her twist my arm behind my back that I should be using the internet more in my ministry, Adam's Ale has been trudging along.  (Is anybody still here that started reading it seven years ago???) 
I was a parochial vicar when the blog was started and I had a lot of time on my hands then.  That was when AA was sent out seven days a week.  As a pastor there is not so much time and so it only goes out five days a week most of the time, at times not even making it out that often as you have no doubt noticed as of late.
The question is asked often concerning how time is found to pump this out as often as it is and to be quite honest, it doesn't take that much time (usually) for by the time I sit down to the computer it is already quite thought out.  Mostly it is just type and publish. 
Still, at times, I wonder if time could be better spent.  The current indicator in use to determine whether to continue or not is the counter: do significantly more people read AA than hear my morning homily.  So far yes, so I continue.
To determine this I have two completely unreliable counters on AA.  They never agree.  Sometimes one is high and the other low, and sometimes the opposite.  But they average out to still be higher than daily Mass attendance so AA continues.
Here are some interesting stats:
There have been 1873 posts (well, 1874 now.)
8,106 published comments
There are 71 followers
There have been 408,094 views throughout the history.
The most read post was "How Come I Don't Remember?" from 2012.  I don't think it's all that interesting. Maybe the title is misleading.
After the United States, the country that visits the most is Russia!  HELLO RUSSIANS! 
They are followed closely by the Canada and the UK.  Greetings to you.  I'd like to come visit.
The most referrals come from something called the Salem Web Network
This is just a superfluous Adam's Ale link.
If you are still reading . . . please consider taking the two poles in the side bar.  I would like your input in determining the future of AA.  Thanks and God bless,

Friday, February 14, 2014


Lumen Gentium paragraphs 63 - 65


If you didn’t want to read this whole chapter about Mary, these last three paragraphs will carry the day.  They are awesome.  They explain well why we Christian Catholics (and as of late even much of the Protestant Church) thinks Mary is the bomb.
Now, obviously Mary is close to God right?  She is, after all, the mother of Jesus (Who is God) and she is “full of grace.”  In the other direction she is close to the Church.  She is a symbol of the whole Church in faith, charity, and unity with Christ.  She does what we all strive for – to be full of grace.  Mimicking her our Catholic Church is the womb in which new sons and daughters of God are conceived and born just as Jesus was conceived in the womb of the Blessed Virgin, both through the action of the Holy Spirit.  She remains chaste, loyal to God alone and so does her Church in perfection. 
Interesting how we speak about the Church remaining every pure and spotless – “without wrinkle.”  And we also speak about how we are the Church and “we” are certainly not without spot or wrinkle.  In fact, we quite desperately need to see a dermatologist.  In one sense, we stop being Church when we sin.  And it is that Church, both as community and as an organ that provides guidance and grace, that leads us back to that purity and unity.  In that way she is our spotless mother as was Mary Jesus’.

So why do we hold her up and try to follow here example?  It is she who gives us an example of how to be united as Church to her Son.  When we preach about Mary, when we pray for her intercession, we follow the example of how to be united to Him.  She is the perfect fingerpost to her Son.  Her whole being magnifies the Lord.  She is a window through which we see Him.  To, in any way, honor her, is ipso facto to be lead more deeply to her Son.  And that is who we are to be as Christians to others.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014


The local grocery store may close followed by the gas station.  The post office branch might shut down and perhaps even the local public school.  It is the sign of a struggling neighborhood, or at least one in serious transition.  All of these hit a stressed neighborhood hard.  But studies show that one of the most devastating closures is the closing of a Catholic parish.  The closing of a service means that people in an area must go somewhere else to find them.  The closing of a parish means that people who were coming to the area bringing attention and resources, volunteer hours and activities, who cared about at least part of the neighborhood, are no longer showing up.

In our particular area, it is difficult to think of any other institution that has remained a constant in the 85 years that St. Sebastian has been here.  The parks.  The roads.  Buildings, yes, but not the businesses in them.  The post office moved, the public school has moved, St. Sebastian has even seen the local mall rise and fall, the last store closing this past January.  But the churches here stay for the most part.


Think of what your parish provides (setting aside, ashamedly for a moment, worship of God.)  We educate people of all ages from preschool to the end of life with a day school, PSR (CCD), adult education, RCIA, and sponsor community events and speakers, retreats and workshops.  Sports, marathons, summer camps, and playgrounds are available from various parishes.  There are concerts, art shows, festivals, dances, and other recreational events both for worshippers and for the general public.  Social services, social outreach, social justice, social activism, neighborhood initiatives all flow from a parish.  There is the pulling of resources to help causes locally as well as being combined with all parishes to help national and world problems.  Outreach to the isolated, the voiceless, and the poor are some other areas and I am sure I am leaving out some.  Even the fact that perhaps hundreds of people are attracted at least on the weekend to stop in to pray who might not have any other reason to be there. 
A parish’s budget can run in to the millions.  And because your parish is connected to all the parishes that surround it, in turn those parishes are connected to the diocese, a diocese to all of the dioceses in the United States, and this country united with all countries in the world to Rome, a local parish tends to bring a stronger voice and more attention to a neighborhood in which it is rooted.  (We couldn’t, for example, say that St. Buhba was in a bad neighborhood and therefore it is going to move out to the suburbs like many other churches might.  St. Buhba would be then in the parish of St. Whosit which simply can’t be.  So St. Buhba is invested in making the place where he is work.)
So you want your neighborhood to be strong and healthy, one of the ways to do that is to pray for your parish.  It is an anchor.  It is sustenance for the local scene.  In turn, pray for the local parishes that boarder you.  When one of us healthy, then all of us become healthier.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014


FINDING TRUTH WHEREVER IT MAY BE FOUND:  "Greek philosophy began in a world without God.  It could not accept the gods or the example of their conduct.  Plato had to break with th gods and to ask: What is good?  Thus the problem of values was born.  And it was theidea of values that tool the place of God.  Plato lets Socrates ask: What is the good?  But Moses' question was: What does God require of thee?"  from Abraham Joshua Heschel's, "God in Search of Man"
QUOTE II: "For there is no doubt in which faith is not involved."  same source
Interesting little tidbit about Chesterton and Pope Francis here.
This week's video is a recommendation from Dawn Eden via Mary.  "I highly recommend the Internet sitcom Ordinary, which is a Catholic sitcom about the life of a new priest in a parish. It’s done not like those Hallmark Hall of Fame, syrupy shows but with the same kind of entertainment value as TV shows like The Office or Community but without the obscenities or gratuitous sex or violence of such shows."  See it here.
That's all this week!

Monday, February 10, 2014



Apologies that there were no posts last week as I was out of town.  For some reason lost on me I was unable to post on the computer I took with me.  Another sign that I'm getting old.
I put off this Monday Diary a bit but it may be Okay to tell the story now.  Here at St. Sebastian we have a "feed the poor priests" ministry.  Four times a week some kind and loving soul will drop off dinner for us which is a good thing because if they didn't we'd eat salami sandwiches for every meal all week long.  There just isn't time (and quite frankly the inclination) for these two bachelors to cook a healthy meal.  (Read: spoiled.)
Be that as it may, I am extremely grateful for these people.  The only thing I ask is that there be nothing from the water.  "If the cow falls into the water before you make it into a hamburger, I wont eat it."  But virtually anything else will do.
Many people also bring something special for Sebastian, the parish dog.   
So . . . special treats.  Living in a house where people also work and cycle through all day long means that there are a lot of people willing to eat our cookies.  And God bless them, they are welcome.  BUT, occasionally there are some things that we selfishly like to keep to ourselves either because there are precious few of them or, to be honest, the are so crazy good.  So we have a system: Anything on the butcher block may be eaten by anybody.  Stuff on the counter is for us only.
Getting on close to Christmas we were incredibly busy and not always as vigilant about things as we would normally be.  So one day, having to rush, we left all of the treats on the butcher block just like this:

Some items from both dishes were missing and someone had kindly combined the plates and carefully wrapped them in cellophane.