Sunday, January 31, 2016


Another danger in being a guy and never being married is that, unless you were a cook in a working life before ordination, your kitchen skills pretty much end at a college level.
I used to argue at the seminary that they should have classes on such things as cooking.  And if you see what horrible things happen when I am in charge of laundry, it might not be a bad idea to a class on that too.
We are extremely, wonderfully, absolutely blessed to have a small army of people who cook for us at St. Sebastian.  I know, I know, I know - believe me my Father used to read me the riot act.  I should grow up and take care of myself.  But if I were left on my own in the wild, every meal would consist of a salami sandwich.
A seminarian came over recently and gave me a dressing down for having some meat in the refrigerator that was ending its life span before he left after Christmas vacation.  I pointed out to him that we were still well within the 5 week rule.  He kindly pointed out that it is actually a 5 day rule.  Who knows this stuff?
Anyway, shouldn't microwaves kill anything bad?  Nothing goes through a microwave and lives.  Right?

Friday, January 29, 2016


Paragraphs 75 & 76

These posts offertory are starting to feel like 7th grade - it just goes on and on and on . . . 

But I an determined to be quit of offertory TODAY.

There are two last things, the second, in my estimation, being more interesting than the first so we will finish with the bang and start with a yawn.


I like incense.  If I didn’t like making the distinction between big celebrations and “ordinary time” celebrations so much (since we no longer have high Mass and low Mass) I’d use it all the time (which may certainly be done.)  On St. Sebastian Day, after an entire Christmas season of using incense, a man at the back of the church said, “I’m glad we are going to be done with THAT for awhile!”  

I understand.  I really do.  But I can’t seem to help myself.  Some day I’ll explore all that in a post.

There is a lot of history and symbolism involved with incense, but the reason everyone present (in addition to incensing the altar and the gifts) is thusly clouded in smoke is because of their exalted status in God’s Kingdom.   “The Priest, because of his sacred ministry, and the people, by reason of their baptismal dignity” all relieve this treatment.  (Notice even those in RCIA who are [supposed to be] non-baptized are excused before this point.  If RCIA is being done “according to the book,” baptized non-Catholics need not leave.)


Next involves the Lavabo or the washing of the priest hands.  Oh!  This is one of those topics on which we waisted WAY too much precious time in the seminary as a professor justified his reason for dumping the little ritual claiming that it was a left over from medieval days when people would donate animals and vegetables to the priest at offertory and the priest’s hands would be dirty and he needed to wash them.

Now, it is true that this is a ritual that was considered to be dropped, but recent popes including Francis have defended this action while noting that it is both ancient (the formula goes back to apostolic times according to Tertullian which greatly predates the medieval period though it was not practiced universally) and that the symbolic value is just far too great.  Read more HERE from the Vatican website.

At this point in the Mass we are about to head into the holiest action of our lives on earth - the source and summit.  As the water is poured over the fingers that will be touching the host, the priest says, “Lord, wash away my iniquities and cleanse me of my sins.”  

A couple of things to note: that it resembles Pilot’s action, it has no connection whatsoever.  That it is a part of the Seder meal or even that it comes from Psalm 26, “I wash my hands in innocence, and go about your altar, Lord, proclaiming aloud your praise and telling of all your wonderful deeds,” is not officially claimed.  In the end its greatest strength is in the priest’s ardent desire to be purified before acting on behalf of the Body of Christ.

At some point we must remember that we (priests) are called to obedience.  That does not mean that we can’t argue and petition against something, but this is not a democracy, this is not “our” Mass, and we are not free agents.  It is good to remember the passage (Mathew 25:21), “His master said to him, ‘Well done, my good and faithful servant. Since you were faithful in small matters, I will give you great responsibilities. Come, share your master’s joy.’”

If your priest skips this part however, please don’t worry.  The Mass is NOT invalid - illicit perhaps - but not invalid and that is a HUGE difference.  

But it would just be sad to not be able to use this joke anymore:

A server showed up late to serve Mass and the celebrating priest was upset with him because this was not the first time.  The priest pointed to the door and said, “Leave!  If you can’t be on time I’ll just do this myself!”

The server looked up at him and said, “But who will wash away your iniquities and cleanse you of your sins?”

Thursday, January 28, 2016


Don’t worry - there will not be any spoilers beyond the obvious in this post.

So recently I viewed another extremely popular movie and was left a bit empty at the end.  I enjoyed the movie even with some of its more than obvious flaws, and people are praising it for its handling of mercy and vengeance . . . but I think . . . eh.

Here is why:  My cousin once said to me, “The worst thing you can wish on anybody is that they learn.”  That is, what a terrible thing it is to discover that your actions that you formally thought of as justifiable or even good are suddenly revealed to you to be abhorrent.  It is like waking up the next day after tying one on and realizing that you had been an absolute jerk to everyone and thoroughly embarrassed yourself.  Now you have to live with it and clean the whole mess up.

Hollywood, for the most part, does not operate that way.  What is the ultimate payback?  Death to the bad character.  The evil one goes around creating havoc and destruction and then, at the end, usually at the hand of the good guy, the evil guy is destroyed in some gloriously colorful fashion, (usually to rise again after not being thoroughly killed, only to be killed again - not unlike Saint Sebastian.)  

The mentality in this thinking is rather medieval.  There was the practice of not permitting someone who has committed a rather heinous crime the sacrament of confession.  The thought was that, not only will they be punished in this life, they will be punished for ever in the next because they were never able to confess and receive absolution.  It was thought to be the ultimate of ultimate punishments though, as you and I know, the theology has more holes in it than a window screen.
In Hollywoodland, there are two rare exceptions to this mentality.  One is a superhero villain that must live because he needs to come back for a sequel.  The other is the even rarer case of someone coming to grips with either how evil they are and find they have to change, or have to face the consequences of their actions such as in the movie The Shawshank Redemption when the antagonist that *ahem* took advantage of the main character was beaten to a pulp because of what he did and would spend the rest of his life in a wheelchair sipping his steak through a straw and knowing it was because of his own inappropriate (to say the least) actions.

So the bad guy gets blown up - lassered - shot - crushed - vivisectioned - WHATEVER - so what?  It’s just over.  There is no horror of realizing the depravity of their actions, there is no guilt, there is no consequences to be lived out, nor is there any chance of redemption (which is part of the reason we are generally opposed to the death penalty.)

I would like to propose that, except in certain cases, this “easy ending” to a movie is neither beautiful nor satisfying.  It is unimaginative and unedifying and the story teller does not give the viewer anything to use, process, or contemplate.  It points to nothing and in the end is selfish.  “We don’t have to share the world with that creep anymore.”  

Wednesday, January 27, 2016


Late last year there was an episode of This American Life about Christmas that I found so touching that I used it extensively in my Midnight Mass (at midnight) homily.  You will not find it on our website where you may find the rest of our homilies.  The recording device was not set up properly that night.  There is a rough written out version of it just after Christmas here on Adam’s Ale if you are interested.

There is a part of that show that I didn’t have a room or time to share and it was one of the most important pieces.  I have been holding on to a scrap of paper on which I transcribed this wonderful insight looking for a use for it.  But it really only works as part of the whole.  So here is what I am going to do:  First I will quickly give it context and then give you the quote that explains what I think is the only way the Church in the United States will start reaching others again and is the theory behind the way I try to lead this parish.

First the context:  The Columbian government hired an advertising firm to try to get gorillas in that country to lay down their arms and bring peace to the country.  Over the years, the firm realized that they were most successful at Christmas time.  So they focused on Christmas over the next few years with different and extremely successful campaigns.  One year they made thousands and thousands of softball sized globes that glowed purple and contained little gifts or word of encouragement and let them go in the jungle river at night where they would float by the gorillas who found them and having been move by them found led of the soldiers to demilitarize and go home.

Now the quote:

“Everything you do needs to be beautiful.  The only element we cannot lack is beauty.  Make sure you like what you are seeing.  You cannot do ugly stuff.  When you see all these lights floating down the river - floating down toward you - you cannot escape the thought that this is a beautiful thing.  

“Regardless of what it is - how beautiful is it?  Because if it had been a thing that was not beautiful, I probably wouldn’t have looked at it.  I probably would say, ‘This is trash floating down the river.’  But if it is a beautiful thing that’s coming down - it’s coming down in numbers - then I’m drawn to it - I’m interested.”    

Tuesday, January 26, 2016


Sue read with interest one of the articles in today's post and kindly allowed me to reprint some further information she had on the great Highway Blizzard Snow Mass of 2016.  Thank you so much!  How amazing!

Thanks for sharing the photo of the blizzard Mass. My husband was on a bus with the Students for Life and Newman students from UA (his bus was cancelled, but the students knew my husband from St. Bernard and the K of C so they graciously welcomed him to their bus - he and the driver were the only geezers on board!)

They left (for) Washington at 2:30 PM on Friday, stopped in Breezewood PA for a quick meal and gasoline around 6:30, and promptly got stranded between Bedford and Somerset PA around 9 PM Friday night, along with miles of other buses, cars, and trucks. Saturday morning, they got word that there were five priests in surrounding buses who were going to concelebrate Mass at noon. Students from the vicinity got together and built the altar of snow. Fred and the UA students were fortunate to be near the front. He says there were hundreds of people in attendance! It was beautifully and reverently prayed, and Jesus was definitely there in the blizzard with them!

Meanwhile, all of us at home (Secular Franciscans, St. B prayer chain, St. B Divine Mercy Cenacle, parents, friends, and our good parish priests) were praying our brains out. They only had a few granola bars and bottles of water between them, but they remained in very good spirits and made themselves useful by helping to dig out cars. They were a real joy!

For whatever reason, the PA troopers told their driver to get on the narrow emergency lane they had plowed for police vehicles and EMS and exit to US 30 around 9 PM on Saturday night. After passing many vehicles that were ahead of them, they exited and made their way beyond the blizzard. They finally got home at 2 AM on Sunday morning, and were very happy to see St. Bernard and UA at the end of their long journey!

God is very good! 

If you want more news on the even and to see a short video go HERE.


FINDING TRUTH WHEREVER IT MAY BE FOUND:  "Most things don't stay the way they are very long.  Knowing this, however, does not make me cynical.  Cynical means believing that good isn't possible; and I know for a fact that good is.  I simply take nothing for granted and try to be ready for the change that's soon to come."  from Richard Ford's "Canada"

QUOTE II:  "I'm intrigued by how ordinary behavior exists so close beside its opposite . . . Some people want to be bank presidents.  Others want to rob banks."  same source


What do you think of the white background?  I have no idea how that happened.  Such is the case with most of the changes on this blog.  All of a sudden the header is smaller and I don't know why.  It really is time for a makeover but I barely have time to make a post most days.

A couple of people sent a news item in about busses on the way to the Right to Life March in Washington D.C. sidelined on the highway because of the weather and the students creating an altar out of snow and having their priests say Mass for them.  (Let me guess, you didn't read about this or ANY news about the Right to Life March in your local newspaper even though hundreds of people from this area go.)  Read more HERE.

I walked into the office of St. Sebastian's Academy of Culture and Arts and saw a small army of mountain dulcimers.  "How funny," I said, "Someone just sent me a video of someone playing a dulcimer."  Turns out that the two are connected.  The instruments were donated by the person who sent me the video to give me an idea of what they are.  Now you can know too!

If you want a digital copy of our diocese's new magazine go HERE.

Ed sent this video about our society's crisis concerning masculinity.  For example:  "By the time a boy turns 6 years old he will have spent more time watching television than with his dad for his whole life."  Ten and a half minutes.

Sunday, January 24, 2016



Regular readers of Adam's Ale will recall that recently St. Sebastian laid to rest its third pastor, the well beloved Fr. McDonough.  It is a tribute to him that, even though he had been retired for about two decades, we still expected an onslaught of people for his funeral and a council full of clerics.  

I have to laugh when (obviously non-Catholics with little contact with or knowledge of the Church) claim that "those Catholics" are all a bunch of mindless rule followers in lock step with the Pope.  (Let me pause for a moment to wipe the tears from my eyes from laughing too hard.  There, that's better.)  It may be that no-one will ever be able to destroy the Catholic Church, but if you want proof that it is solely the Holy Spirit holding this whole mess together, try doing anything with priests that requires them to cooperate in a single goal with a single purpose requiring even little effort.  It just aint gonna happen.  (I can say this because A) I am a priest and B) I am very guilty of this.)

So when it came to preparing for the priests to show up for the funeral, I knew it was going to be like herding cats (see video above) to get them all to vest in the right place.  Our parking is horrible, our campus confusing, I am too much of a control freak, and it was freezing outside for the first time all winter.

So I tried some preemptive strategies:  
Now, to be fair, for those priests that showed up early, found parking, weren't rushed, and weren't afraid of dogs, this was no problem.  But for the guys that showed up just in a nick of time, who had to park three city blocks away, were cold, irritated, and just wanted to change and get into a pew, they were not interested in the finer points of finding the exact proper place to vest.
As you walked around the buildings, running into vesting priests was like running into Munchkins in Munchkinland, or pigeons in the attic of an abandoned warehouse, or or or former movie stars in an upscale rehab facility.  Hallways, bathrooms, storage closets, baptistry, you name it, there was probably a priest or two vesting in it.

And really, I didn't mind.  No really.  Even though I like things in their place (that was one of my Mother's mottos: A place for everything and everything in its place) I understood the spirit of the day and the difficulty for the guys who lost a close friend and who just didn't want to fuss.

THAT BEING SAID:  It was AMAZING how much clothing was left behind.  A walk around the buildings turned up coats, jackets, hats, and single gloves.  Remember I said it was the first day of earnest winter?  I have no idea how they got home without contracting hypothermia.  THIS IS WHY WE SHOULD ALWAYS LEAVE A CALLING CARD IN OUR COATS!  I have no idea to whom they belong and since we all wear black, it's not like you can show it around and someone would say, "Hey, that looks like Pete's"  

Friday, January 22, 2016


So . . .

How much of a rubricist (sp?) are you?  Paragraph 75 says that, after all that was done in the last paragraph, “the bread and wine are then placed on the altar to the accompaniment of the prescribed formulas,” that is, the prayers in the book that you might sometimes hear: “Blessed are you, Lord, God of all creation . . .”

So imagine you are a typical American parish and you have a few hundred people in attendance meaning that you probably have a bevy of extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion.  For them (and we can get into the discussion as to whether we rely to heavily on too many EMHC as some would put forth,) you will need multiple ciboria and chalices.  Now, you could have a very large cereal bowl for the main ciborium and then at the Agnus Dei spend an exorbitant amount of time dividing hosts between six to twelve ciboria.  Not so with the cups not so!  For the practice of consecrating a flagon of wine and then dividing it up between the many cups is now forbidden.  So at a minimum, you will have a very  large cereal bowl and many chalices.
SOOOOO, when the rubric says, “the priest places the bread and wine on the altar”, does he have to place ALL of them on the altar?  Or does this just refer to the gifts brought forward in the procession?  Does this assume that all the bread and wine is brought forward in procession (I’m not keen on 6 cups full of wine being carried up) or one flagon that is then spilled into all of the cups at a painfully long offertory, or can we bring forward just a symbolic bread and wine?  What if the deacon receives the ciborium and places it on the altar while handing the priest a patten with a “priest host” on it (which has not yet been set on the altar.)  Does it matter that the wine is poured into the chalice by the deacon while it is sitting on the altar only to be given to the priest to be placed on the altar?  (A former liturgist of the diocese was very much against this practice.)

These are the things that my priest friends and I love to debate while having a glass of - er - blueberry cool aid.

Here are some possible answers:

  1. You MUST allow the priest to place all of the gifts.
  2. You MUST allow the priest to place the symbolic gifts.
  3. The point is that some of the gifts are offered symbolically so that they are all, in fact. offered.
  4. God doesn’t care.
  5. You are entirely missing the point.

You might be inclined to ask yourself, “Why is this important?”  I will give you a moment to ask yourself that question.


I’m glad you asked.  When something is place on the altar, the altar representing Christ, it is assumed that it becomes part of the sacred action.  It is to be made clear not only to the priest and his fellow ministers, but to the congregation as well (otherwise, why bother turning around the altar?)  Remember, anything not prescribed directly by Christ probably came about because at one point there was some problem, abuse, or scandal that is trying to be corrected.

“What might these be?” you might ask yourself.  I will give you a moment to ask yourself that question.


I’m s glad you asked.  Here are just some examples (that did not happen at my current parish) that I have witnessed over the years:

  1. A priest is celebrating a Mass at which there are approximately 500 people in attendance.  He is not paying attention to the fact that the servers did not bring over three of the six ciborium that he needed.  He assumed there must be A LOT in the tabernacle.  There was not.  At Communion time, when he realized that he wont have enough hosts for everyone without breaking every host at least in half, can he decide that he intended to consecrate enough hosts and so include the ones that were sitting on the credence table that he did not even know existed as consecrated hosts?  Will the people really receive the Body and Blood of Christ?  (He decided to do this.)
  2. A priest leaves the water and wine cruets on the altar during the consecration.  The new sacristan, left alone at the end of Mass, is concerned that the wine left in the cruet may have inadvertently been consecrated and is upset over what she should do.
  3. A sacristan is seen putting unconsecrated hosts in the tabernacle.  Asking why he is doing such a thing he says that it makes things easier in the long run and (considering the logic of #1 above) they become consecrated anyway.  Right?

So, my beloved brothers and sisters, rubrics are A LOT like manners.  They may seem arbitrary at times but they are there for a reason.  They are there to serve.  They are there to make things run as smoothly as possible.  They are there to put people at ease.  They are there to try to avoid misunderstandings.  Love your rubrics!

Thursday, January 21, 2016


So the story is that Superman comes from another planet.  Now I realize that his parents sent him as a baby when their own planet was being destroyed.  But think about it - would his parents send him to a planet where life was taken too lightly - where, if a baby were found in a field and the poor family was concerned about having another mouth to feed they might readily throw the child in the trash - or maybe eat it?

I would guess not.  I would guess they would choose planet that thinks along their same lines - whose ideas of right and wrong would be fairly similar to their own.  The Rockafellers don’t send send their kids to live with Crypts.  

Just as amazing as it is that everyone in the universe (according to Hollywood) speaks English at least as a second language, mostly the idea of right and wrong remain fairly standard (at least for the good guys.)  Assuming that we accept the legend of super heroes, especially those the likes of Superman, or of the morality of the universe (which is why you can have something like a Star Fleet or Jedi), that would mean that we accept that there are universal notions of right and wrong.

If there are universal notions of right and wrong, that means there is sense in the very fabric of the cosmos - that it is not a meaningless accident.  You can study the universe and understand a little better how we are to live and what we should and should not do.

Of course, that means admitting that there is some sort of intelligence in the universe.  People of faith, in sometimes different ways, call that intelligence God.

And, of course, that assumes Superman is real.  

Wednesday, January 20, 2016


This may seem odd at first but give it a chance.  It is only 4 and half minutes.

Test your archery skills HERE.  WARNING: Addiction level LOW


St. Sebastian is one of the very few martyrs not pictured in they way he was martyred.  (He survived being shot with arrows, recovered, and then was clubbed to death by Emperor Diocletian.)

The earliest depictions of St. Sebastian was that of an older man with gray hair and beard.  It was only later that he grew progressively younger in art.  

The United States Navy had a patrol ship named the U.S.S. Saint Sebastian in the early part of the 20th century.
(This is a detail from a painting by Eric Armusik that hangs at St. Sebastian Parish, Akron)

In addition to being patron saint of athletes, soldiers, and archers, he has also been known as patron saint of pin makers, (have you ever known a pin maker?), book binders (only heard that once so . . . )   But several sources name him patron saint of those who are dying, police officers, and is one to invoke against plague and enemies of religion.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016


FINDING TRUTH WHEREVER IT MAY BE FOUND:  "But God does mean a man to have a little Fun; and I mean to go on having it."  from G. K. Chesterton's, "The Flying Inn"

QUOTE II:  "Whatever we may think of the rights and wrongs of the vivisection of pauper children, no progressive mind can doubt that the influence of the Vatican is on the decline."  same source  (I just thought it was funny)


I know Christmas is well over but I liked this picture of my tree and thought to share it here before I delete it.

Two minutes:

Friday, January 15, 2016


Paragraph 74

There are not a lot of rules (none to be exact) about who sings the offertory hymn, or what style of music it is, or even if there is music.  (All of the preceding is accompanied by the phrase, “within reason.”)  

If there is music, it should last at least until the gifts have been placed on the altar.  Which means there could be no music.  It also mean there could be no gifts procession and no music.  It might also mean that there is music but  no gifts procession.  (“Vatican II, options for you” as they say.)

So on to something that has NOT mentioned in this paragraph.  What do you do if there IS music, you are not bringing up the gifts, and the music is going on without your direct participation.  (instrumental solo, choir . . .)

Some people like this.  I’ll never forget one of my first weekend Masses as a priest and I tried to get people sing at offertory who were not accustomed to singing - and, in fact, came to this particular Mass because it was not all gussied up with music.  It was horrible.  I sang alone.  I promised the people that I would never do that to them again.

Some people hate this.  They like to participate by singing at all of the allowable places (but not enough to join the musical group) and feel robbed if they don’t.  

Whose right?

They both are.  The Church allows for there never to be music at this point, music only for the musicians, or to have everybody sing, and to switch it up.  Of course making everybody happy never works.

If participatory music is played, there is some onus on us to participate.  Pick up the book and sing.  If God gave you a poor voice, give it back to Him.  

If there is no music, it is a time for contemplation.  There are plenty of things about which to think.  “What the get-out was that homily supposed to be about?”  “Am I prepared to enter into this next part of Mass?”  “What do I need to offer God or for what do I need to petition Him during this next part?”  “I probably could give more that $2 in the collection.”  Or it could (even better) be a time of meditation and contemplation.

If there is music in which you are not directly participating, it is in opportunity to use the music (hopefully) to be moved by beauty into a deeper meditation on God and His wonder.  The music should lead one more deeply into prayer which is the primary duty of the priesthood of the people.  It is not simply to be listened to.  It is to be meditated upon.  One is not merely entertained, one is asked to enter more deeply into the mystery.  

Some do it by singing, some by listening, some by silence.

Thursday, January 14, 2016



Please let me explain.  

“Please stop talking in Church before Mass.”
“This is the Body of Christ.”
“Your sins are forgiven.”

NONE of these statements raised more eyebrows, caused more controversy, or or were met with more unbelief than when I said this in my homily:  “I HATED the new Star Wars movie.”

Now wait, wait, wait.  Please let me explain.

Most of the corniness and melodramatic acting I could put up with and, in fact, liked.  I didn’t mind (what I considered) giant holes or none-continuities in the story line.  I didn’t even mind the whole-sale trashing of the laws of physics NOT THE LEAST of which was putting AN ENTIRE SUN INSIDE A PLANET (*ahem*) and not even so much as altering one iota of gravitational pull.  (My Mother, God bless her soul, always complained that I over-analyzed movies.  She never met Fr. Pfeiffer!)  But really, I was Okay with that.

What was the laser blast that broke the X-fighter’s back was what a professor at the seminary used to call an, “unearned ending.”  I suppose because the heroine of the movie was a sad orphan on a horrible planet with a crumby job, we were supposed to be very excited that she saves the day and rises to prominence.  But really, what did she do to earn the role?  Was there a lengthy process of learning how to deal with the power that needed to be developed in her?  Where her boundaries tested?  Did she have to face hard knocks as she developed her knowledge, skills, and strength?  Was she even surprised?  I picture her ending up on French Canada lost with her friends and suddenly being able to speak French and thinking nothing of it.  “Wow, I can speak French!”

INSERT - BEST GOLDIE HAWN QUOTE EVER:  "I speak French! Do I know what I said? Yes I do. I must've learned in Paris"

She masters this awesome power, knows her way around, understands and can manipulate advanced machinery (the size of a planet) without even really thinking about it.  She can do all and knows all.  She is a demigod.  It would be like LeBran James playing basketball against a bunch of 8th graders and we are supposed to be all excited that he won.

Think of the life of Jesus Christ.  What if He, as God, didn’t come to be like us in all things but sin, but was also incapable of pain, could destroy His enemies by saying the word, had the strength of - well - God - so that carrying His Cross meant nothing nor could He feel pain  Then when we faced hardship and pain and someone would say, “Think of Christ,” we might respond, “Yeah, but He was God.  He didn’t feel pain, didn’t suffer doubt, and had the strength of a thousand giants.  Who cares?  If I had that going for me I could withstand all things too.”

The movie, for me, was the equivalent in the faith life of Bonhoeffer’s cheap grace - all of the benefits with none of the work.  It was a mediocre story well told, but it left me empty.  

(Maybe I’m just getting old.)

On a side note, having this discussion with some die hear Star Wars fans, I was told that something could come up in a later movie like she was fully trained but then had amnesia and was abandoned on this planet until this story picked up at which point it all came back to her.  We shall see.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016


I think this is a case of “sometimes the old ways are the best ways.”

Last Tuesday, the the Rev. John McDonough passed away.  He was the third pastor of St. Sebastian.  Upon hearing the news, the seminarian staying here for the holidays and I put up these black and white mourning banners around the church building.  They looked especially jarring next to Christmas decorations.

There are some who would (and did) say that these are old fashioned and melodramatic.  I think they just plain work.  It was interesting to see the number of people who parked on the street and walked up to the doors of the church to read the notice to see what they were all about.

I suppose we could have waited for the weekend and just made announcements or even send out a mass Emailing.  That would have accomplished something similar I suppose (though I would argue a little less elegantly.)  But like the manger scene that stood in front of the church reminding everybody about the season we were celebrating, the banners were a constant reminder of what the parish was noting.  Even if you did not know him (he’d been retired from the parish for about two decades), who he was and what the parish was noting could not be put out of mind be a mere hitting of the delete button on your computer.  The banners held vigil like sentinels, day and night, sun and snow, paying honor, calling for prayers.

Sunday, January 10, 2016


So, this past Friday night Sebastian and I went on a long, long walk around West Akron and we came across this scene:

A car lost control somehow, veered off of the road, and hit a lamp post.
Our neighborhood has two different styles of lamp posts in them.  One may THINK that the differences are largely identified in the cartoon below:
 However, that cartoon does not tell you what the true difference is between the two posts.  The true difference between them is exemplified in the cartoon below:

Yes, somehow through some metaphysical reality, cars are drawn like magnets to the fancy posts and are repulsed by the thought of scratching their paint jobs by bothering to hit anything that might be considered less aesthetically pleasing.  Seriously.  For a few years I was developing a theory that it might be some gang or cult initiation ceremony.  "Now, if you want to be a member, you must pass the final test.  Find a fancy lamppost and hit it with your car."  No kidding.  The Mull/Hawkins roundabout is nothing but a bunch of black nubs.

I think there is a conspiracy afoot!

Friday, January 8, 2016


I was out walking Sebastian this morning and a jogger stopped to say thanks to the Church for keeping Christmas alive throughout the Christmas seasons.  “I can’t believe how many trees I’ve already seen on the devil strip!”  

On the other hand, Sebastian was in need of a long walk last night after my duties were done and so we took a long night walk and I was very proud of my neighborhood as the number of lights and trees that we did see gave testimony that there are still some people out there who get it.

My jogging friend (who is always great for giving me things about which to mull over) said, “Christmas should be more like art.  The muse gives you inspiration and you contemplate the work, then you have the gift as the art is brought to life, and then you live in the presence.”

That is an apt expression of the Church’s liturgical life during this season.  Advent is the time to anticipate.  The Gift comes on Christmas day, and then we live in the presence of Christmas until the Baptism of the Lord when His public ministry begins.

As a society though, we eat most of the sugar first (trees, decorations, lights, good, parties,) have a duller moment of gift, and then are ready to go on a diet once the actual Christmas season begins.  

Does this not seem to mimic how society celebrates married life?  Traditionally it’s, “First comes love, then comes marriage, then comes the couple with the baby carriage.”  But very often today first comes the sugar: living together and practicing married life without being in the season of marriage.  Then there is the duller moment of gift - there will be no firsts.  Besides the exchange of vows, life will continue as it did the month before with possible exception of a change in name.  Than it’s back to life as usual.  

I think there is something to be said for delayed satisfaction.  (It's no guarantee mind you, but I believe the odds are in its favor.): The season of anticipation, hoping, dreaming, longing - terrible, terrible longing.  The gift then is so much sweater!  At last!  Relief!  Satisfaction!  Satiation!  And THEN we settle in for an extra long season of living in the presence.  Of gratefulness.