Thursday, April 30, 2015


How can we imagine the Catholic parish of tomorrow?

There is little doubt that many of the Catholic institutions of today will not be around for the next generation.  But that is to be expected.  We are not the same people we were 5 generations ago.  Can you keep offering what was vital to Catholics 5 generations ago to people in the next generation?  The Church has always adapted to its times.

Some things just will not change.  The Eucharist will be the source and center of our lives.  That won’t change.  Sacraments – Scriptures – worship - education – and all of the usual suspects.  But how do you present it?  How is it lived?  What will touch people’s hearts?  What is attractive while not sacrificing truth?


More recently I have been engaging people in a conversation on how to reimagine Catholic Akron.  What can we do now to prepare for the city as it will be in the near future?  It would be a mistake, I think, to wait until we have empty buildings and then say, “Okay, now we have an empty (school building – convent – what have you) what can we do with it?”  At that point you are already losing your audience (pardon the term.)  The risk that is being run is that you are dropping out of the greater public consciousness. 


Here is an example of what I am thinking:  There is a new paper about town called “The Devil Strip.”  (Akronites and Barbertonians will understand that term.)  There is an extremely interesting section where they ask a cradle Akronite and a new Akronite what they love about the city.  The arts always rate extremely high.  Now, there is a local neighborhood that is known for being “artsy.”  The Catholic Church has no presence there whatsoever.  As a matter of fact, in my collar when I am there one gets the distinct impression that there is an element of anti-Catholicism.  Of course there is.  When we don’t mix and mingle it is the rotten story that has a chance to germinate. 
Why aren’t we there?
So at St. Sebastian we are trying to be involved in the art scene.  Hopefully we are developing an arts friendly place that is attractive to those who shape our culture.  The Academy of Culture and Arts opened with the intent of being open to greater community at all age levels.  We are fortunate that we have a healthy school.  What if we didn’t?  We will already have an institution that could make use of the building and continue to be relevant to West Akron Catholic and non-Catholic residents alike.  (The champagne problem at the moment is that both institutions are healthy – I could actually use another building.)
That is one example.  There are a few other ideas in the pipeline that will slowly be rolled out as they seem feasible.  BUT what ideas do YOU have for the Catholic parish – the Catholic presence in the future?  Things that we can do that are within our control?  Not something like, “Start ordaining married men.”  That is quite out of our control as Pope Francis has reiterated.


If you have any ideas, I would be excited to hear them.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015


In the original Law and Order series they had the odd habit of ending conversations abruptly.  I suppose it was so that they could get more of the important dialogue in.  When the police officers would interview someone on the street, when they got the information that they wanted, the police officers just walked away talking to each other – no “good bye” or “thanks” not even a, “Don’t leave town” – they just walked away.


I find myself facing the same thing with my phone.  It talks to me now.  Usually when I am driving.  “Ciri,” I’ll say, “Please read my texts to me.”  He (and mine is a he – Father K turned him into an English gentlemen – he will say, “You have two texts from Fr. Soandso.  Would you like me to read them to you?”  “Yes!” I reply.  Ciri then reads my texts and asks if I would like to reply.  “No.” 

Then that’s it.
Just like a conversation on Law and Order.
It is a terrible habit in which to fall.
I say, “Fight the machine!”  Push the button again.  Tell Ciri, “Thank you.”  Every time.  He will have a response for you.  It takes a little extra effort, but do it.
No, Ciri does not need thanked.  Ciri is a mindless computer.  It is we who need to thank, not a machine that needs thanking.  We need practice to be gracious and mindful.  If you need something to be thanked, think of your thanks as a prayer for all that make Ciri possible.  Or make the thanks to God.  But be a thankful person.  It is a difficult enough discipline to form, don’t let a computer rob you of it.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015


FINDING TRUTH WHEREVER IT MAY BE FOUND:  "Guilt is never as good a motivator as love."  from Robert Dugoni's, "The Conviction"
QUOTE II:  "Mike Tyson, the boxer, had once said everyone had a plan until they got punched in the mouth."  same source
From the Diocese of Cleveland Enewsletter:  Ordinations are right around the corner and there will be live streaming available.  Read more HERE.

From the same source:  Live radio broadcasts from the Cleveland seminary.  (I remember this happening when I was there.)  Read more HERE.
Pat sent in THIS ARTICLE about a kid's "Make A Wish" Foundation request to be a priest for a day.
Ellen sent in THIS ARTICLE about G. K. Chesterton. 
A painting from St. Sebastian made it into the Diocese of Columbus's newspaper.  Read more HERE.  You will need to scroll almost all the way down to the bottom.
I can't remember if I've posted this video before.  It was sitting on my computer for a spell.  Time to move on.

And because I wasn't sure about the above, here is one more.  I've heard from a good number of people that thought I was moonlighting as an actor as the doctor at the end of this commercial.

Monday, April 27, 2015


For those of you who don't know, St. Sebastian is home of a brick parking lot.  Eighty some years ago, Monsignor Zwisler bought the brick from torn up Akron streets (which means the brick was already old) and installed it on the parish property as a parking lot.  80 years later, the 150+ year old brick is disintegrating and it is time to have a new lot.
The Belden Brick Company of Ohio was awarded the contract for making the brick that will be used.  The parish and Belden go back to 1929 when they began making bricks for the old church and school.  They have provided all the brick for St. Sebastian ever since save for the old brick parking lot.  As we were invited to the factory when our new pipe organ was being constructed, we were invited to Belden to see our bricks being made.  To tell the truth, this did NOT seem the least bit interesting to me.  But they were providing a free lunch in Amish country (I had country fried steak mmmmmm) so how could I say no?  As it turned out, it was really fascinating.
We did not plan on going for about a month and then we heard from Belden that they were going to start production on our bricks immediately because they had a lot of large projects coming up.  One of the projects is the expansion of the Notre Dame football stadium - I guess Belden and Notre Dame go way back too.  Anyway - if we wanted to see OUR bricks being made, we had to skedaddle down there.
Here is a picture of the land around Belden.  It is here that good ole Ohio clay that is made into bricks is dug up. 
The trucks dump the clay into large bins that drop the large chunks into the crushing wheel below.  It was fun thinking that this raw Ohio dirt will soon be bricks in our parking lot.
From there the clay was brought into the enormous building where complicated runs of conveyor belts would lift the clay high toward the ceiling and drop it into crushing mechanisms over and over again until it turned it into a fine, almost sandy substance. 
This building, by the way, would be ideal for napping.  The constant hum, vibration, and the warm temperature was hypnotic.  They could make a fortune helping out tired parents.  Instead of having to drive your child at night to get him to fall asleep, just come here.  And if it didn't work, the noise would cancel out the crying.
The only drawback is the DUST.  A snow storm of dust.  If you get to take this tour, DO NOT WEAR BLACK unless you just want to throw your clothes away after.  Also, when they tell you to wear boots - wear boots.  Do not wear high heals on shoes with sparklies on the them.  Not that I did, but some of our group did.  It wasn't pretty.
[Insert lunch here.  Fantastic!]
After a long spell of crushing a conveyor belt takes the clay to another gigundus building.  Do you recall the presses that they would make to play with Playdough?  You put the Playdough in and push a lever and it comes out in whatever shape.  That's what happens next on an industrial scale.  What you see below is what will eventually be the side of the brick.  The ridges are what will keep the bricks spaced when placed in the parking lot.  (This is where I blessed the clay.)
Next, the clay passes through a series of machines that cuts the long strip of brick into individual bricks using wire not unlike how you might cut cheese for a sandwich.  Except this would be a lot of cheese. 

A lot.
And then, voila, you have raw brick.
Like your cheese, however, it still has some ways to go.  Notice that it is GREEN.  No, we are not going to have a green parking lot.  Like the moon, our lot will not be made out of green cheese.  After it is fired, it turns the desired color, which in our case will be redish.
To get it ready for firing, complicated machinery sorts the bricks and stacks them to get ready to go into the furnace.
They are then placed on carts such as the one below.  The white is the cart, the green is the brick.  They are stacked 6 high and each set of 4 turned 90 degrees.  That is one heck of a lot of bricks in this picture.  (We will require just under 200,000)  They will all be coming to Akron in just a few weeks.
The carts then pass through large kilns.  Below are two of them. 
And so I thank the Belden Company for the time that they took with us on a tour and for their gracious hospitality.  I can't wait to see cars parked on these bricks!  God bless!

Thursday, April 23, 2015


Much of the work of Vatican II can be undone with just five simple words – words that strike terror into a liturgist who just wants to do the Roman Rite – and they are these, “Wouldn’t it be nice if . . .”  It is what follows these words that is often painful.


One of the things the Second Vatican Council did was to streamline much of the Mass.  What some saw as unnecessary repetition was trimmed away, accretions into the Mass accumulated over centuries were examined and much eliminated.  Now I like the extraordinary form of the Mass - don’t get me wrong - but I also like the ordinary form as the ordinary form.  “Wouldn’t it be nice” is a way to wedge into the Mass all kinds of things it is not designed to take on.  There are a limited amount of blessings that may take place during the Mass but that does not stop well intentioned people from requesting all kinds of blessings to take place at Mass with invented ceremonies that surround them.  Not that there is anything wrong (hopefully) with the ceremonies themselves and they may be jim dandy at any other hour of the day or week including just before or just after the Mass – just not during this one hour, which is aimed in an entirely different direction.

But it’s more than blessings, it new processions, recognitions, added ministers, invented ministries, new “rites”, presentations, and other activities, recognitions, and human activity oriented undertakings – all very well intended – during a time when the community’s attention is supposed to be drawn toward God, not to each other.
And even they still are aimed at God, the “wouldn’t it be nice” contingents (and at times I am among them!) still do not have footing to employ them.  Their brothers and sisters in the pews have a right to the Roman Rite.  I feel sorry for the poor priest who wants to return to what the Church asks us to do and to which his fellow Christians have a right who gets beat up pretty badly because he wrests the community back to what it is called to do, and not only to do, not only to do well, but in which he has no authority to add or subtract from that which all have a right. 

Now, wouldn’t it be nice if we were able to all start there?

Wednesday, April 22, 2015


The Liturgy of the Hours is the official prayer of the Catholic Church.  SEE HERE  The ordained and those in consecrated life make solemn promises to pray it prayer every day.  Everyone else is encouraged to pray it.  When someone sees me for spiritual stuff, I try to encourage the praying the Hours but honestly, it is a difficult thing to do.
Firstly, if you were going to go all out and get the entire Liturgy of the Hours, a book called the Breviary, it is four volumes (there is talk of it going to five) and can be very expensive.  You could buy a less expensive version that is only one volume but at times it is difficult to use when others are using the four volume.  Things don’t always line up.
Then there is praying the Hours themselves.  It can be very tricky.  There are all kinds of page turning back and forth.  Even if you get the page turning down in one season, it can change slightly in the next.  There is a companion booklet printed every year just to tell you what pages you are supposed to be on.

Thirdly, there are things that you are just supposed to know.  That is one of the advantages of praying them in common (with other people) you get to know all the little intricacies by being with and praying with the community.  But what if you are pushed out the rectory door with your own book after a half hour of instruction?  It can be a little overwhelming and discouraging.
Lastly, it is just a bulky thing to lug around.  It seems every time I go on vacation we are in the middle of switching between two books.  I know I’m whining but lugging around books is not fun.  Or if you are taking a day trip and know you’ll be gone when you should pray, do you want to take an expensive book where it might get damaged?  The beech?  The pool?  Do you want to pack it on your bike ride?
Well here’s some happy news:  There is a FREE app called Ibreviary.  SEE HERE All the prayers are right there.  There is no page turning.  Most of the things that you are just supposed to know to pray are written out every time.  You can have it on your phone (which is probably with you all the time anyway) or your Ipad or what have you – or just plain bring it up on your computer.  On the phone there are even options for hands free scrolling and to have it read to you though this feature needs quite a bit of tweaking.
Easy, convenient, and inexpensive: the trifecta.  It may not (and probably should not) completely replace the Breviary, but if it is a choice between politely passing or praying, get it.  GET IT.  GET IT!

Tuesday, April 21, 2015


FINDING TRUTH WHEREVER IT MAY BE FOUND:  "Even if the priest is as dry as dust on toast in the desert, God still works."  Anon.

QUOTE II:  "The Gloria is what lovers do."  Anon.


Karen got this in Mexico - a monstrance made from blessed palms.  This is pretty original:

 Jeannette sent this in:

Sunday, April 19, 2015


The first emergency call came late on Saturday morning.  It was in the form of a text sent from Fr. Pfeiffer.  He had the flu.  And if was anything like the one I had last week there was no way he was getting out of bed for the next two days.
Now, the prospect of staying in bed for two days isn't too bad except that it was the weekend and there a lot (hundreds) of people counting on the poor boy.  So his pleas for help were desperate.  I like to tell people that you can't tell a priest without your program but the programs were pretty useless this past weekend. 
Perhaps the most interesting thing was the wedding Mass that Fr. Pf needed covered a couple hours from when he texted.  He sent the readings over the phone and I threw something together.  After all, this was a WHOLE NEW CROWD right?  They've never heard my stuff before.
WRONG!  The server was from St. Sebastian, the EMHC was from St. Sebastian, the cantor was from St. Sebastian, and half the congregation was from St. Sebastian.  About the only people not from St. Sebastian was the bride and groom.
The little time we had before Mass was a maelstrom.  I had to keep sending the server to the back of the church with questions.  "Go find out their names."  Ask them if they want, "all the days of my life" or "until death do us part."  I usually know all this stuff months before the wedding and never had to think up all this stuff at the last minute.  "Do they want to repeat after me or say 'I do'?" 
Everything went well.  At least I am certain the sacraments were both valid and licit.  As I told the bride, if everything was perfect, nobody would talk about the wedding past the weekend.  "It was just fine," people would say.  But now . . . what a blessing . . . "The priest that was supposed to have the Mass ended up puking his guts out and they had to find someone else to run and have the Mass and you'll never guess who it was . . . "  It made it much more of a story.

Friday, April 17, 2015


My evil plan is right on schedule.
While I was in the seminary, the priest shortage was in full swing.  It did not bother me because it was all part of plan that would serve me well and as we all know, this is all about me.
Here is the plan:  The shortage would continue causing a “buyer’s market” meaning that I will get THE assignment that I had always dreamed about.  THEN, there would be a huge influx seminarians so that there would be a surplus of priests to take care of me in my old age.

Well, I cannot think of a better assignment for me than the one that I have right now.  And, in general, vocations numbers are rising.  So now it is time to kick things into high gear.  I’m not getting any younger and I have to train my handlers now while I have the energy.
One of the reasons that things have been so hectic that I could not post recently is that I was busy implementing the next part of my evil plan yesterday.  A group of young men approached the parish and asked if they could take a trip to the seminary to see what this priesthood thing was all about.  So we loaded up a few cars and headed out to the seminary.
We spent the day talking to seminarians, taking tours, praying, eating (lots of eating) and meeting with the vocations director.  Fr. McCandless and the seminarians were very gracious hosts and I enjoyed myself until we came across our ordination pictures on the wall.  “That’s YOU?  So that’s what you look like with hair.”
One of the biggest surprises of the day was from our young ladies who want to have a similar trip.  I had no idea.  So plans are in the making.  Thanks heavens they overcame my lack of awareness.

God always works with us.  He doesn’t force anything upon us.  He tends not to work in spite of us.  Like a good Father, he assists His children in their endeavors – does not tell them to sit the couch while He does everything the right way – and gives us some ownership.  So do you want more vocations?  Don’t sit on your hands and simply wish that there will always be someone to say Mass, hear your confession, or anoint your loved one.  Don’t simply pray that there might a priest around when you want one.  Don’t just simply talk positively about the priesthood.  Tap a young man on the shoulder that you think might make a good priest and TELL HIM.  One of the TOP reasons men who thought about the priesthood as a young person never looked into it is because nobody every suggested it to them – said that the community thought that they might just be good enough – that they want him.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015


FINDING TRUTH WHEREVER IT MAY BE FOUND:  "If a man is genuinely superior to his fellows the first thing he believes in is the equality of man."  from G. K. Chesterton's, "Heretics"
QUOTE II:  "The first-rate great man is equal with other men, like Shakespeare.  The second-rate great man is on his knees to other men, like Whitman.  The third-rate great man is superior to other men, like Whistler."  from G. K. Chesterton's, "Heretics"

Fr. Ference has an interesting article on Word on Fire concerning a profile of the 2015 ordinandi.  Read more HERE.  Interesting side note:  There are 595 men being ordained to the priesthood in the United States this year.  However, there are 196 dioceses in the United States.  That means there are only about three men per diocese who are being ordained.  The Diocese of Cleveland continues to ordain more than its fair share with four this year.

According to the Diocese of Cleveland Enewsletter, the number of men being ordained continues to increase in general.  Read more HERE.

Lynn sent the article, "What Happened to Our Catholic Artists" which you can find HERE.

You'll have to go to Vimo for today video.  It was made by a young lady who lived at the orphanage that St. Sebastian's mission team visited in El Salvador.  See more HERE.

Monday, April 13, 2015


And now the award for the best Easter Vigil incident:

As most of you are aware, the Easter Vigil is by far the most complicated Mass that the Church celebrates.  It is full of intricate ceremonies which are only celebrated once a year and each of these in turn have some variations depending on the particular year's circumstances such as if there are baptisms that particular year to take place.  As such, the ceremony is rife with things that can go wrong.  That we make it through relatively unscathed is a miracle in and of itself.
To help celebrate surviving this wonderful celebration we have the Easter Vigil Best Goofs Award.  This year's nominees are: 

Thursday, April 9, 2015


What is the best way to get over a chronic sin?


A)    Stop going to confession until you have it handled?

B)    Skip confessing the particular sin because it is an addiction?

C)    Confess it regularly over and over and over?


I think intellectually Catholics would say “C” but in practice choose “A”.  It can be embarrassing and humbling to confess the same sin regularly.  It dents our self-esteem.  It bursts the bubble of our self-mastery.  But you don’t get over a toothache by avoiding the faulty tooth.  You don’t mend a relationship by taking time apart.  And healing from sin comes through the Church with touch and prayer – the interaction of persons in community with God.

I had a chiropractor for a spell that I would go to see when my back hurt.  I would tell him that I had some big work to do and that I didn’t come to see him until after it was done so he could fix my back.  He chided me and said that the time to come to see him was BEFORE I did the “back breaking” work so that I could do the work more healthily. 
Do you have a problem with sin “A”?  Go to confession at least once a month even if you don’t “need” it.  Have the graces to see you through the temptation to come.  Pray for strength when you are strong.  Don’t wait until you are lonely, angry, hungry, or tired – don’t wait until temptation is pulling on your arm and whispering in your ear.  Don’t get caught at battle time naked.  Be prepared!
And don’t despair the lost battle.  It is not about the battle, it is about the war.  Go to confession.  Confess boldly.  Receive your new breastplate, new sword, new helmet, and charge out into battle.  If your sword is broken or your helmet dented, come back and get a new one.  Employ what you learned in battle.  Try a new strategy.  Nerve your arms and head back out into battle.  Do so bravely, confidently, prayerfully, dutifully.  Your opponent is counting on your discouragement.  Laugh at him as you stand in the confessional line.


N.B.  This weekend is Divine Mercy Sunday!  Check out your parish’s confession schedule!

Wednesday, April 8, 2015


Everybody cheers for the parade.

Most are appreciative of the work that went into floats and music.

Few think of all those who clean up after - unless they don't do their job.

Here's to the unsung heroes who cleaned up after Easter at your parish on Easter Monday when most parishes were "closed."

The counters who came in to tally the collection.
The cleaning crew that mopped floors and tended to bathrooms.
The sacristans that cleaned put all the of the stuff away used during the Triduum.
The guys who hauled the extra chairs away.
The crew that pinched the dead blooms and watered the lilies.
The ministers that took the Easter Sacrament to the shut ins.
The maintenance person who was busily fixing broken kneelers and doors.

Thank you.  You are not often recognized but we sure do know it when you don't perform your vital duties.  Happy Easter to you.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015


FINDING TRUTH WHEREVER IT MAY BE FOUND:  "You don't give a gift to shape someone into the person you want him to be.  You give a gift because it's something you couldn't bear to be without, but it's even more unthinkable for the other person to be without it." from Will Chancellor's "A Brave Man Seven Stories Tall"
QUOTE II:  "You can get away with just about anything in this world until it costs people money." same source
Eric Armusik who painted several pictures for St. Sebastian has won some competitions.  HERE is the story.

On Easter morning some astute parishioners noticed what looked like a halo over St. Sebastian church!  It lasted quite a long while.  How very, very cool.  Fortunately phones are now cameras and several people took pictures and sent them in.  This from Carey:

 This from Tom
 Fr. Kovacina took a picture and then photoshopped it in order for you to be able to see what it looked like.
A Cleveland seminarian, David Stavarz, has written an article that appeared on Word on Fire.  You can read it HERE.  His home parish is St. Francis de Sales though I think the picture of him at the end of the article is from the bell tower at St. Sebastian.
Pat sent THIS in about King Richard III
Jason sent this 5 minute video in:

Wednesday, April 1, 2015


St. John of the Cross said that when God the Father didn’t find love in the human race, He put love in the human race, in the Incarnation of His Son.  Then He found love, in His Son Jesus and on all who had become a part of His Body.  But what if the story had been different?  What if from the Cross Jesus had muttered obscenities, cursed those who crucified Him, (May my Father wreak vengeance on you and on all of your decedents!) and spit at the soldier that offered the wine on the reed?  Would we be inspired?  Would the world have changed?  We could then readily write off this Jesus as just another one of us who in the end died no better and gave no greater way to live and die.  Rather than being invited into the mystery, we would have walked away from the Cross disappointed.
But that is not what happened.  He readily stretched out His arms.  He forgave His persecutors and the Good Thief.  He took care of His Mother and St. John as He suffered.  Despite pain, humiliation, and ridicule, despite this was the very spot where there was the least amount of love in the world, He become the Love in the situation and now we see this moment as the greatest moment of Love in history and billions have been attracted to walk in His steps ever since.
We are to follow in those steps.  Where we don’t see love, we are to be love.  If we are not love, then we will inspire no one and our invitation to be like us and follow Christ will fall on deaf ears.

On Monday there were a couple of interesting exchanges in the comment section of Monday Diary.  Stephen said some silly things as he is want to do.  Two anonymous writers took great offense adding credence to the adage that, “More offence is brought into the world by people taking it than by it actually being offered.”  Was what Stephen wrote the best thing to post in these religiously tense times?  Maybe not.  But how much more progress could be made by the ones who were offended by those comments to love and invite all to something higher?  The placing of labels and naming of intentions heightens the tension and the stakes.  I wouldn’t blame Stephen for not wanting to embrace those who wrote about him, the Anonymi did not win as many people to their good cause as they could, and anyone else reading was forced to take sides; are you for Stephen or the Anonymi?  (I made that term up.)  There was no neutral, higher ground to which we were all invited.
So return to St. John of the Cross.  Where you fail to see love, don’t add to the dysfunction, be the love that you see missing.  Even if you don’t win your adversary over, you may win over others who otherwise might see the cure as worse than the sickness.
Thanks for writing comments!  I hope that you continue to do so.