Monday, June 30, 2014


If you ever listen to the radio game show, "What Do You Know?" you are familiar with the disclaimers that an audience member always is elected to read one of which states:
"Persons employed by the International House of Radio or its member stations are lucky are lucky to be working at all, let alone tying up the office phones trying to play the quiz.  Listeners who have won recently should sit on their hands and let someone else have a chance for a change."
It's good advice.  It was advice given to me by Father Hildert my first pastor when I was ordained.  "As much as you want to support causes at the parish, never buy a ticket for the car raffle or other tickets for large prizes.  It will always be a mark of suspicion should you win."
His advice did not swing broadly enough.
This past week we had our Third Annual Brick Street Jazz and Wine Festival at the parish.  At the festival there was a Chinese raffle - about a dozen bags in which to place your ticket in order to win a prize.  I was to draw the winning tickets (cleverly NOT buying any tickets for myself lest something embarrassing happened.)  So I drew the first ticket.
So . . . cute right?  The next bag came up.  It was shaken vigorously.  I slipped my hand into the depths of the tickets and . . .
My sister, who does not like attention or to be embarrassed whispered in my ear . . .
So the third bag came forward and of course this happened. . .
So I dropped my sister's ticket in my pocket.

The next ticket was my cousin.

Friday, June 27, 2014


Dei Verbum paragraph 13

One of my university classes (before seminary) was a class in which we were told we would learn how to communicate with anybody in the world.  That sounds intriguing does it not?  Although some of the class was extremely interesting, one of the first days when we were learning how to ask people around the globe where the bathroom was by placing our hands in the afflicted area and crouching with a pained expression on our faces, and the standing up with our arms out, palms up, indicating, “Where?” I remember thinking, “If my father ever found out how much money I paid to learn this he would go through the roof.”
But communication is important and how does one communicate with one who does not speak the same language?  What if you are God and want to speak to men?  What if you want them to write something down?  Yet God finds ways to get His message to us.  His words become human words in the Scriptures just as His Son took on flesh and became man.  They are, in every way, His words but they are in our language just as the Son is in every way THE Son from all eternity, but He took on a human nature and entered our world physically so that we could see Him, talk with Him, hear Him, relate to Him, be healed by Him, and know Him.

Thursday, June 26, 2014


There has been a lot of talk about excommunication in the news lately.  One story involved a woman in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (Mormons) who was excommunicated because of her “progressive” views.  She was a head of a large movement of women within the Mormons that promoted such things as priesthood for women.  (Ha!  Thought WE were the only ones facing that challenge.)  The news made it out to be a punishment for someone who has gone beyond the pale of what the Mormons were ready to accept.  Her case will be reviewed in a year.
Pope Francis also was in the news recently for excommunicating members of the mob.  For Catholics, excommunication is not to be seen as a punishment.  It is a warning that person is acting in a manner or teaching something that put their soul and possibly the souls of those around them in danger.  Excommunication is to be a last ditch effort to wake someone up – shock them back into the fold.

Today’s Gospel from Matthew says, “Not everyone who cries out Lord!  Lord” will enter the kingdom of heaven but only the one who does the will of my Father.”  As a mobster you may go to Mass and confession, pray the rosary and grace before very meal, give huge amounts of money to the Church and charitable organization, and even teach your children the faith, but if you are stealing, murdering, distributing drugs, bribing officials and police, crying out “Lord! Lord!” will not get you into heaven.  One must also act the part of a Christian.  This excommunication is a wake up call.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014


Trivia Day!
Here are two bits of interesting trivia for a rainy Wednesday.  Did you know that the Church developed a means whereby music could be remembered and shared? 
Think on this:  A button box accordion is not a chromatic instrument.  Not only are the buttons next to each other in harmony, the change keys when you are pumping in and out.  Writing music for such an instrument is extremely difficult although my uncle did develop a method.  But by and large, you learn how to play this instrument and various tunes by sitting down with another player and copying what he was doing.
Now consider music before musical notation.  How does one pass on music or be assured that one’s music will be remembered after one goes on to playing harps in heaven?  There are no recording devices and it would only take one period of people moving on to other more contemporary things to cause them to forget an old song.  “How did that go again?  No, that’s not quite right.”
Along comes Guido of Arezzo, a Benedictine monk (leave it to the Benedictines) who gave us the famous do re mi . . .” of Sound of Music fame.  He took the pitches from a hymn to John the Baptists (whose birthday we celebrated yesterday.)


Ut queant laxis resonāre fibris
Mira gestorum famuli tuorum,
Solve polluti labii reatum,
Sancte Iohannes.
Interesting bit of trivia #2:  Did you know that there are words to the Westminster Chimes, the song played on four bells at the top of the hour by your chiming clock – such as in the St. Sebastian bell tower?  According to my sources, “The music was inspired by a phrase from Handel’s symphony, “I Know that My Redeemer Liveth” and the words and music were arranged by William Crotch in 1793.”
Lord, though this hour,
Be Though our guide,
So, by Thy power,
No foot shall slide.
Westminster is also played unwittingly by “secular” universities, governmental institutions, and the like.  Please don’t tell them this.  Law suits will ensue.  And they can’t, for similar reasons, change to the St. Michael Chimes.  Perhaps they can go with the Whittington Chimes since their legend is more governmental.  Though they originated in a church tower, a young boy, who was running away from horrid conditions heard these bells and thought they told him Turn again, Whittington, Lord Mayor of Londontown.  Later he found his fortune and indeed became the Lord Mayor.  But to ring this tune, you would need twice as many bells and that gets expensive, something most of these non-religious institutions can ill afford.  So let’s keep this story between us.

Interested in change ringing?  Here is an interesting site.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014


FINDING TRUTH WHEREVER IT MAY BE FOUND:  "What would be the cost of not having an enemy?  Who could you strike for retribution other than yourself?"  from Charles Frazier's, "Cold Mountain"
QUOTE II:  ". . . no matter what a waste one has made of one's life, it is ever possible to find a path to redemption, however partial."  same source
Adam sent in this provocative yet interesting article in: "Why Evangelicals Make Bad Art"

Here is a picture of the St. Sebastian Choir.  This is a promotional picture by the Thomas Company who made our robes to be shown at trade shows across the country as their "Catholic Choir"
Ellen sent this article in about Distributism (a la G. K. Chesterton) for those who are looking for an explanation.  Thank you.

Mike sent this article in written by Archbishop Chaput on St. Francis.
Lynn sent in this must read letter from Archbishop Sample concerning sacred music.

These two pictures are from the past Corpus Christi weekend.  The first picture shows the pilgrims who walked the five miles from St. Mary, to St. Bernard, to St. Vincent, and then to St. Sebastian to make a holy hour and go to Mass.

The second picture is a shot of our Corpus Christi procession.

In honor of Corpus Christi this past weekend, here is our bishop speaking on the Holy Eucharist.

Friday, June 20, 2014


Dei Verbum paragraph 12

A mother, seeing her son make an ugly face at one of his friends pulled him aside and said, “Son, I want to tell you a story about a little boy who always made faces like the one you made.  One day his face froze that way and he was looked on as ugly by everybody.  Do you understand what I am trying to tell you?”
The little boy thought about it for a moment and said, “Okay, I’ll go play with him for a while if he doesn’t have any friends because of his face.”


Writings, stories, and the like are subject to interpretation and occasionally we can divine the wrong message; the author intends one thing, the listener receives another.  (Just ask a priest how often that happens with his homilies.)  Scripture is no less susceptible to this.  Though it is God speaking to us, He is speaking to us through human authors.  If we want to understand what Scripture is really saying we must first determine the medium that the author is using.  The Bible is not a book.  It is a collection of books – a small library containing books on poetry, history, stories, parables, music, and the whole lot.  A parable cannot be read in the same way that a book on history is read.  And sometimes history was recorded in a different (but no less accurate way) than modern history is recorded.
That being said, even though the Bible is many books, there must be unity among them.  The message must be consistent from beginning to end.  And interpretation of the Scripture (held firmly in check by Sacred Tradition among Catholics) must be consistent from first century to last.  This is where the Church plays a vital role in interpreting Scripture.  And by “Church” we do not mean three old men in Rome as the common fancy makes it out to be.  Chesterton would refer to it as the democracy of the dead.  It is the understood experience of the faith beginning with Apostles, the early Church Fathers, the lived faith of 2,000 years of Catholics, and how Catholics live the faith around the world.  It will not be the case that Holy Spirit will suddenly tell the pope that it’s now Okay to have same sex marriage or that baptism should only be performed on adults.  That is not the experience of the Church going back 2,000 years.  To be able to do that as many Churches do, would be to say what was truth in 1592 is not true in 2004.  It would be just as logical to say what is true at 2:00PM on Wednesday is not true on Thursday at 6:24AM.  Truth is either truth or it is not.  Modern culture says truth is subjective.  (But then is it truth?)  The Catholic Church holds that truth is always truth and it is universal (or it is not truth.)

Thursday, June 19, 2014


Okay, I did NOT see this one coming.


Though I should have.


I remember having the discussion that if the definition of marriage was changed from its ancient understanding that was attached to procreation and family (or even sex for that matter) and base it solely on strong emotional bonds that it would lead to other forms of marriage other than just between two people and being told, “Oh no, that would NEVER happen.”  Well since then we have had the mother who wanted to marry her daughter in order to assist her in raising her daughter.  More recently we have had the case of the three women who married out west and one of them being inseminated in order for triumvirate to raise a family.

Yesterday (Wednesday) on NPR there was a story about the development of robots.  As they become more complicated and self-sufficient the question was asked at what point will they become “persons.”  The prediction was that their rights would develop over time.  Robots will slowing gain “rights” and eventually be able to sue.  Law suits could be filed not because the owner of a robot was seeking damages to his property but that the robot would be able to sue for violation of (his?) person.  The prediction was that 20 years following the first successful suing by a robot (against a human or another robot was not specified) there will be the first wedding.  (Again, they did not specify if it was between a robot and a person or two robots – but now we see almost anything can go.)
Here is another article on the topic.
Which all leads back to the sticking point: Once marriage can mean anything, it ceases to mean anything.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014


That’s about all I got Father unless you have some suggestions.”


Occasionally this is a statement that comes up at the end of someone’s confessing of sins.  And sometimes I might offer a few suggestions of commonly unconsidered things.
Here is one example:  Remember when you were a kid and you abused your toys and received a lecture about, “Do you know hard your parents had to work to pay for that?  It is not going to be replaced simply because you abused it.  You need to learn to take care of your things . . . etc. . . “


In a similar vein I ask, “Are you taking care of your body?”


ü  Do you get enough sleep?

ü  Are you eating well?

ü  Are you exercising?

ü  Are you following the advice of your doctor?

ü  Are you dressing modestly?

ü  Are you careful about using your senses in what you read, watch, touch . . .


Your body is a great gift.  Through it you receive all the graces of God and in particular the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ.  It is a Temple of the Holy Spirit.  And it was a free gift to you.  No matter how far science advances, you only really get one body.  Like the rest of your possession it should be respected and treated well, given regular maintenance (like your house or car), and honored as a sacred gift given to you by Someone you love and Who loves you. 

Tuesday, June 17, 2014


FINDNG TRUTH WHEREVER IT MAY BE FOUND:  "30  years of Our Lord's life are hidden in those words of the Gospel, 'He was subject to them.'"  Anon.

QUOTE II:  "The Lord is not calling you because you are the strongest, most talented, or most qualified.  The Lord is calling you because He loves you and He can work with you."  Anon.
You will have to do your own search for this week's video as the education filter on my computer will not let me post it to you.  (And it really is Okay!)  Plug in "Coffee with Sister Vassa" in your search engine.  There are a number of 10 minute episodes.  Please enjoy!

Monday, June 16, 2014


When I was ordained my cousin handed me a cookbook and said, "You are now a public figure.  The only place where you will not have people telling what to do is in the bathroom and in the kitchen.  Learn to cook."  She was wrong.  There are people in the kitchen with ready ideas on how to cook whatever it is you are cooking.
So it is true, being a priest makes you a public figure and as such you must make certain accommodations to the people with whom you come in contact.  Sacrifices must be made.  It's the nature of the style of life.  For example, there are two types of people in the world: huggers and non-huggers.  I'm a non-hugger.  Huggers LOVE non-huggers.  It is like my dog.  He will find the one person in the group that does not care for dogs and try to prove to him that he is lovable.  Such is a hugger.
So there you go.  Over the years you grow accustomed but if I can avoid anything past the manly (with either sex) quick hug and two slaps on the back, I do. 
This past weekend I went with our youth to the Franciscan University of Steubenville's Youth Conference; 2000 very excited Catholic youth with all of the enthusiasm and desire to express their faith that comes with that. 
Mostly for the adults I think, they have emergency coffee stations in the morning.  Bleary eyed adults lumber out of the dorms like bears awaking from 6 months of hibernation (except in this case it is due to a distinct LACK of sleep) to make their way to the emergency coffee station to fill up on caffeine in order to make it through the rest of the day. 
But the coffee comes in Styrofoam cups, a thing I distinctly dislike.  Coffee is too important.  It is meant to be enjoyed and that includes the container from which it is drunk.  (Is "drunk" correct?)  Would you keep your diamond necklace in a shoe box?  No.  If the pope came to visit would you drive him around in a beat up late model pick up truck?  (Well, now that I think of it, this pope might like that.)  Just so, coffee should be drunk from a mug.
So I saw this sign written in typical teenage bubble letters.
Here's the problem with bubble letters.  They are open to interpretation.  For example, the "H" in this case could be easily mistaken for an "M" which, of course, I did.  Having a Styrofoam cup of coffee in my hands, this took place before I realized the mistake I was making:

Friday, June 13, 2014


Travel day to Steubenville with out youth group!

See you next week on Monday or Tuesday!

Thursday, June 12, 2014


So how does one help the Church continue on her mission?  Every last member of the Body of Christ has a role in the mission.  What is yours?
The first step, according to Jim Lundholm-Eades of the National Leadership Roundtable, is to figure out where what your authority is within the hierarchy of the Church.  There are four types of authority.  The first is cultural.  Cultural authority is somewhat bred into us.  We respect teachers because we know if we do not, we will answer for it at home.  Little does a classroom of seven year olds realize that they could rise up and take over the school if they organized themselves.  In much the same way we culturally give some amount of deference to clergy and religious, usually amplified by a Roman collar or a habit.

The second is positional.  One listens to the manager at work because he has been placed in a position of authority and is able to call some resources to his aid when trying to lead the company in a certain direction.  Likewise priests or bishops, or a mother superior (or the parish secretary for that matter) etc has some given authority because of the role in which they have been placed.

Relational is the third.  Because you have a relationship with a person you also have some influence over them.  If your son asked you for twenty dollars for gas to get to school (assuming he doesn’t do it too often) you might be more inclined to give it to him than someone walking up to your table at a restaurant and saying, “Hey, can I have $20?”  Likewise, getting someone to go to Church is more effectively accomplished by a friends saying, “Hey, wanna come to Mass with me?” rather than a billboard that says, “Hey!  Come to Mass!”
And finally there is competency.  This person has authority because they are good at what they do.  You go to the dentist and listen to what he tells you because he knows about teeth.  As highly as I think of our facilities manager, even if he said to me, “Father, I have a pair of pliers and I could rip that tooth out of your head for you for a fraction of the price” I would not listen to him.  Hence, they guy who knows how to fix the boiler in the Church should have more authority over the boiler than the parochial vicar.
So if these are the areas of authority within the Church, the first step is figuring out where in this system you fit.  Most laity will find themselves in the relational and competency areas of authority though occasionally in the other areas.  Understanding this allows one to understand his or her responsibilities.  After that, it is best to memorize the sobriety prayer, “Lord, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”  It is also good to remember that despite human beings being involved in the running of the Church for over 2000 years, she is still here and still strong.  Evidence enough that it is the Holy Spirit running the ship and can magnify and purify our feeble efforts.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014


Is your vision of who you are the same vision your friends have of you?
Are you as happy as you can be?
What kind of cabbage are you most like?
So, I fall for those tests that used to be in magazines that are now mostly on-line in which you answer a few questions and they tell you what character you are most like from the movie “Princess Bride” or what career choice would be best for you.


I fell into taking one from the National Leadership Roundtable on Church Management which is a tool to help determine how healthy your parish is.  The answers were not quick and easy however and I think this may be a project I give to Parish Pastoral Council to tackle.
There was a presentation by the service director of the Roundtable, Mr. Jim Lundholm-Eades at the last First Friday Club of Akron.  They have past talks on line on their website HERE and this is one I would recommend though I don't think it has made it to the site yet.  Part of the talk was discerning how healthy a parish is.  A healthy parish is like a healthy marriage; when the couple’s relationship is healthy, their love then spills out to others.  When a parish is healthy, instead of being insular its ministry begins to spill out to the community.  It is like the love of God.  One of the explanations of creation is that it is an overflow of the love within the Trinity.
There are smart parishes.  These parishes have a vision and a plan for the future.  They understand that they can no longer just simply open their doors and people will walk in.  There must be a presence in the community (which in business they call marketing.)  They are financially solvent and/or have a realistic plan to sustain themselves.  And they are technologically savvy. 
There are healthy parishes.  In a healthy parish there are minimal politics (there are always politics, it is a matter of degree), minimum confusion, high moral, high productivity, and low turnover. 
How out going, how smart, and how healthy is your parish?  If you are in the mood, maybe take a look at the questionnaires that the Roundtable provides that begins the conversation HERE.


Tuesday, June 10, 2014


FINDING TRUTH WHEREVER IT MAY BE FOUND:  "If you're going to move the Church forward do it out of love and not angst.  Angst doesn't work."  Jim Lundholm-Eades from the First Friday Club talk in Akron
QUOTE II:  "Deal with the Church as it is.  Not as you want it to be."  same source
QUOTE III:  "You're Catholic.  Deal with it."  Mr. Lundholm-Eades' mother
From the Diocese of Cleveland Enewsletter:  No, it's not the parousea, it just sounds like it:  "Cleveland Catholic Bishop, Most Reverend Richard Lennon, has notified all priests and deacons in the eight counties of the Diocese that the diocesan Tribunal will no longer charge fees for marriage annulment cases, marriage dispensations, and marriage permissions."  Read more here.

From the same source:  Go here to see a listing of parish festivals and picnics.

Matt sent this in concerning Ascension Thursday becoming Ascentsion Thursday Sunday:

Victoria sent this in for Chesterton fans about the Chesterton conference in England:  "If you are feeling wishful that you’d been there, have no fear…. Nancy Brown has spent considerable time uploading videos of these talks to Youtube, and we thought it would be a great idea for local groups to know that these exist, and consider watching them (either together as a group, or individually before hand) and using them as a springboard for discussion at your meetings.

No matter how you decide to use these videos, if you will share the link below with your group members, anyone who watches them will be able to enjoy the great talks from this Chesterton Conference, without the expense of traveling!
To see the videos go here.
WARNGINGI made the mistake of watching this while drinking coffee over my computer.  Don't do that.  THIS is why we have started the academy of Art and Culture here at St. Sebastian.  GO HERE.  (Thanks Adam)  For the safety of all, please make sure small children and animals are not present when you listen to this.