Wednesday, November 30, 2016


Imagine a world without God.

There is no Being to help guide the actions of man.

How are we going to establish right from wrong?

One might argue for Natural Law but that is a slippery slope.  Once you argue that there is inherent right way to live and wrong way to live in nature, then you start sneaking in an intelligence to nature and that will just ruin everything.

But wouldn’t it be good to not kill?  Could we not begin there?  Possibly.  But even there is a dangerous pin upon which to stand.  If this marvelous, complicated universe just happened, like snow flakes falling from the sky accidentally forming a snowman but WAY more intricate, then life really has no meaning except to the person who happens to have it.  Why should life be better than no life? Why should your life be important to me if you have something (land?) that I really want?  There can be no inalienable rights because that implies order, intelligence and meaning, which leads us to a discussion of God, which is something we want to avoid.

There can only be one answer in this type of universe:  The one with the most power decides what is right and wrong.  It could be an individual dictator, or committee, or even a whole voting nation.  We could vote in many of the dictates of any particular religion if we want.  And we could vote them right back out again.  It will, of course, lead to even greater meaninglessness with a thin covering of legitimacy.

Take, for example, marriage.  Back to the true pagans, it had to do with fertility and child raising.  In our modern age we have removed that definition completely so our brothers and sisters, or brothers and brothers could experience a type of permanent relationship, legaly binding, that we call marriage.  This particular route seems compassionate but this idea of marriage is destined to disintegrate.  If a desire to be married is the only requirement for being married and we have removed any ties to our history, then why stop at two people?  Why worry about a brother and sister who want to marry?  Why shouldn’t all the religious brothers of a monastery be recognized as one giant marriage to give them all of the protections that others have?  

The argument can’t be, “That just wouldn’t happen.”  What are you going to base a “This far and no further” law on other than right makes right?  (There are already legal attempts at similar scenarios of the above to this.)  In the end then, marriage will cease to mean anything unless the individuals want it to and have the freedom to do as they please by those in charge.

Now imagine we have formed a society that has bought into a meaningless universe.  Imagine further that you are frustrated young man who does not happen to be part of the society that makes decisions and has a voice.  You think culture is wrong and you see those you love and their ideas abused.  You have no power except to conform.

You are angry, powerless, and have no hope even in a next life.  What is to stop you from grabbing a gun or a knife and going on your college campus . . .

Tuesday, November 29, 2016


FINDING TRUTH WHEREVER IT MAY BE FOUND:  "Men are blaming universal suffrage, merely because they are not enlightened enough to blame original sin."  G. K. Chesterton "Democracy and Industrialization"

QUOTE II:  "Anybody might guess beforehand that there would be blunders of the ignorant.  What nobody could have guessed, what nobody could have dreamed of in a nightmare, what no morbid imagination could ever have dared to imagine, was the mistakes of the well-informed."  G. K. Chesterton "The Common Man"


If you haven't seen it yet, HERE is the Hipster's manger scene.  I found it humorous.  It's just missing the shepherd doing a photo bomb.

Crains did an article on the new Julie Billiart School of St. Sebastian, Akron.  It was really well done.  See it HERE.

I'm afraid to look at my high school prayer journal:

Monday, November 28, 2016


No Shave November is quickly coming to an end.  My beard, not having been this long since college, is coming in full if not a little grayer than I remember it in the 80s.  So much for memory.

Marcy sent the picture below of the two well bristled manly chaps with their hairy chops done up for Christmas.
I did not find it humorous.  Beards are far too serious a thing to be done up so.  It gives in to the whole notion of Santa Clause and the commercialization of this Holy Day.  Let us remember that the original story on which this day is based contained many beards too.  St. Joseph is oft depicted follicularly decked out and fashionably trimmed.  And heaven knows that those rough and tumble shepherds who spent so much time out in the fields (at night for goodness sake) did not get up early in the morning before moving the sheep to greener pastures and grab a can of Bermashave, walk down to the outhouse with mirror in hand and scrape the stubble off of their chins so that the sheep might be impressed.  Even the goats and possibly the ass in the manger had beards.  Beards are holy.  Beards are Scriptural.  Beards are intimately tied to the whole Christmas story.

So here is my pushback.  The THREE KINGS (+ one camel) BEARD!   
Talk about imperial beards!  Talk about the royal stubble that proceeded this august personages leading them to the manger.  This advent these wise men and their camel shall be led by my beard during my sojourn to seek out the Christ Child at Christmas until, coming to the manger at Christmas at last, I shall remove them and place them at  next the Divine Babe in Arms.

However, I think I may not use paps clips with such heavy ornaments.

Friday, November 25, 2016


I remember being a kid and there still being commentators at Mass explaining what was happening following the wake of the changes that occurred the Second Vatican Council.  The commentator explained what was going on and what the people were supposed to be doing.  It seemed that, just about the time I was aware of it, there was a call to bring this role as it pertained to teaching people the Mass changes to and end.

Interestingly enough, this role, if truly needed in a given situation, is still permissible according to paragraph 103 b.  The use of such a role is to be highly restrained however.  There are a lot of phrases such as “if appropriate,” “briefly explains,” “thoroughly prepared,” “notable for their restraint.”  In other words, it is not to be a distraction, but if really needed, to be an aid to lead people into the Mass.

The person may not give the instructions from the ambo but another suitable place within site of the people.  It reminds me a little bit like a good commentator for golf: quite, reserved, and somewhat minimal.

When might one use such a person today?  I was wondering about this myself.  It might not be a bad idea at large weddings and funerals and other such events at which there may be many people in attendance that are not Catholic.  It might aid them in understanding what is happening or at least what it is that they are supposed (or nor supposed) to do.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016


I was making a Google search for some information for a homily I gave last weekend.  I needed, “Examples of things that are legal but immoral.”  The last entry on one site said this:

“That depends on your definition of ‘immoral’.  Defined as such in some book?  Then almost anything can be immoral, including things that are legal.

“But if you're talking about actual morality (which is relative, not absolute), not the fake stuff religions claim, almost anything that's legal can, in some instances, be immoral.  Legality is orthogonal to morality (IOW, one has nothing to do with the other)”

There is a lot of rich, fertile soil to dig in here.  Probably because the cows have been standing over it too long. 

So what is “actual morality?”  Morality is the extend that one (or a group) can say something is right or wrong.  If it is completely subjective, than I cannot say that something is right or wrong for someone else, only myself and those who either agree with me or that I can force to be obedient.  Therefore, it may be illegal for me to let my dog do his business on you lawn, but I may think it moral.  After all, dogs have rights, he enjoys the freedom, his gift to you is good for your lawn.  And prevents filling up landfills.  

The owner of the lawn however thinks it is completely immoral.  He does not want my dog’s gift on his lawn, does not want my dog trespassing, does not think it is good for the environment, and is upset he is going to have to go outside and pick it up.

There is something we can do legally here of course, but is there anything we can say morally of morality is relative or subjective?

If morals are subjective then no.  I think brown is horrid and you think it is the best color ever.  I think something is immoral and you see nothing wrong with it.  If this is true, then there is no such thing as morality.  There are preferences and all we have left is legality and with it “might that makes right.”  Legality is no longer orthogonal to morality, it is morality.  

The paragraph would be better written:

“But if you're talking about actual morality (which is absolute, not relative), not the fake stuff relativists claim, many things that are legal may be immoral.  Legality is orthogonal to morality only insofar as there is a basis for absolute morality.”

Tuesday, November 22, 2016


FINDING TRUTH WHEREVER IT MAY BE FOUND:  "Always remember that it is impossible to speak in such a way that you cannot be misunderstood: There will always be some who misunderstand you."  Karl Popper quoted in the book, "The Last Days of Night" by Graham Moore


Hope to see you at the next Theology on Tap Akron with this guy.  If you've not met him before you will not recognize him when you see him from this photo (taken from the St. Sebastian bell tower btw.)  He took No Shave November to an extreme.
Actually, I'm trying No Shave November myself but not quite with his spectacular results.  Case in point: My cousin was desperate to take a picture of me with Sebastian (my dog) this Sunday.  Below is the result.  "Look!" she said, "You and Sebastian look alike!  You both are getting all white in the face!"
Finally the snow is out and about at St. Sebastian.  (Maybe the above mentioned dog will stop itching now!)  It seemed to take fall unawares.  It was odd seeing so many colorful leaves on the trees with so much snow on the ground.
The above mentioned ToT Akron speaker plays the guitar.  I challenge him to learn this song.  (4 minutes)

Sunday, November 20, 2016


Yes, I understand that this is a First World Problem and that compared to other difficulties in the world, this is a stupid thing to get upset over.  But who, by that is holy, designed modern car keys?    They do all kinds of things that I never request of them.  Because they have buttons and are in my pocket my car carries out unintended orders ALL OF THE GET-OUT TIME!  For example, you have your arms full of stuff to put in your car, you get there and find that it is LOCKED and you have to set everything down, dig in your pockets, and because I am both dyslexic and developing poor eyesight, have a Jim-dandy of a time trying to unlock the blessed car BECAUSE OF THIS:
I will admit, I was a bit enamored of the thing when I first got it.  You pressed the little circle thingy and the key part of the key swings out.  I thought this would better on the material of my pocket.  But no, because the button sticks out so far that is constantly being pressed in my pocket and THIS happens:
The other day I was visiting my sister in Barberton and we went outside to find my car doing this:
Just about every button on my "key" that could be pressed was set in motion because I made the mistake of putting the key in my pocket with something else that must have kept activating all of the buttons.

So here I am feeling old and cranky again . . . but remember when THIS was a car key?
It opened your car
It didn't need a battery
If you needed another it was able to be copied inexpensively
It didn't do funny things in your pocket
It didn't activate anything you didn't intend to be activated

Of course,
It doesn't cut down on nearly as much time in Purgatory
It didn't make nearly as interesting a blog post.

Friday, November 18, 2016


It takes a lot of people to properly get the Mass off the ground at any given parish.  Paragraph 105 lists some of the people that are often not thought about.

The first is the sacristan.  The sacristan works primarily in the sacristy which is the place where everything for the Mass is prepared. Of primary concern for the sacristan is all of the liturgical books needed for all of the rites (which may be more than many realize) all of the vestments “and other things necessary for the celebration of the Mass.
This last part can be expanded or retracted depending on the policy of the parish.  Does a sacristan simply make sure that the vestments are properly stored or do they set them out for Mass, mend and launder, order and create vestments?  There are chalices and ciboria, thuribles and aspergilum, candles, purificators and corporals.  There are flowers and decorations, holy water fonts server’s vestments.  The list (and the amount of time) can be great.  You are very fortunate if you have someone who is not only talented and efficient, (here we go into opinionland,) but also subtle (when things to south) and who makes people feel comfortable and welcome in the sacristy.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016


Recently on the news someone pleaded with our newly elected president not to reverse the progress that has been made in our nation against global warming.  (Don’t worry, this is NOT a post about the president nor is it about global warming.)  In support of his position he said that it would be a moral failure not to do so.

Interesting position in our politically correct atmosphere and further points out that it is impossible to have a morally neutral position even in national politics.

In the name of tolerance, could we not say that if I don’t “believe in” global warming, (or if I am looking forward to it) then I should be able to live my life as I wish as long as I allow you to live life as one who believes in it?  Or could I say as a politician I personally believe in global warming but I don’t believe I can force my view on the world on others and so reject passing bills outlawing open trash burning?

“Of course not,” many would respond, “because this is something that effects all of us and science has proven it.”  And so there is a perceived moral imperative that overrides individual’s strong desires and beliefs.  

Or suppose I am all about being able to drown kittens if I have too many of them.  “They are mine and my property.”  The moral outrage would be great.  Laws would be enforced - cruelty to animals.  My idea (not really mine - but you get it) belief that animals are here to serve us and I should be able to do with them as I want is suppressed.

We make moral laws all of the time: This is right and protected.  This is wrong and punishable.  On many such topics, there CANNOT be a morally neutral position and moral positions are imposed or lifted by law all of the time.  

Often Catholics are harried into leaving their faith at home when it comes to involvement in politics as if it is an unfair thing to bring to the table or that it would be the same as forcing faith down someone’s throat.  This is unfair.  It instantly negates anything oppositional to popular culture which is making moral imperatives all of the time.  It forbids the idea that a topic of faith may actually offer a moral truth.  If this idea is fully realized it makes Christians in general and Catholics in particular second class citizens.  This epitomized Pope Emeritus Benedict’s comment that we are experiencing the tyranny of tolerance.  It is as inequitable as it is unAmerican.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016


FINDING TRUTH WHEREVER IT MAY BE FOUND:  "Technology is nothing.  What's important is that you have faith in people, that they're basically good and smart, and if you give them tools, they'll do wonderful things with them."  Steve Jobs

QUOTE II:  "One could not be a successful scientist without realizing that, in contrast to the popular conception supported by newspapers and mothers of scientists, a goodly number of scientists are not only narrow-minded and dull, but also just stupid."  James Watson (co-discoverer of DNA)  Both quotes found in the book "The Last Days of Night"


On pictures that I was hoping would turn out but didn't really:

The brown sign in the picture below reads, "Glendale Cemetery: Beauty, History, Serenity."  The Orange sing next to it says, "BLASTING ZONE AHEAD"

 This was in the Thirsty Dog men's restroom:
If you can't read the second part it says, "If employee is busy, you may wash your own hands."

Speaking of the Thirsty Dog, David Stavars pictured below will be speaking at the next Theology on Tap on Wednesday, December 14th.
The blimp was flying over the other day.  I used to know the sound of it anywhere.  I could be in my office with headphones on and the dog barking and I would know that the blimp is passing by.  This one is not only considerably larger, it is also sneaky!  
Mark Wahlberg is calling for vocations to the priesthood:

Monday, November 14, 2016


I am old enough to remember that one could not just sit down and 8:00PM and decide to turn on the television and watch T.V.  It took TIME to turn on the T.V.
(Yes, we did watch Her Haw much to my everlasting embarrassment.)

This is because television had tubes and they required warming up before a clear picture would appear.  (I also remember having to take tubes down to a test machine at Bodnar's Drug Store that would tell you if you needed new ones or not.)

Then television technology improved!  If you wanted to watch Twin Peaks at 8:00PM then, by golly, you could sit down at 8:00PM and turn on your T.V. and not miss seeing the falls as they cascaded below the Great Bear Lodge.

Not so today - NOT SO!  Saturday night I had some unexpected evening hours to myself and decided to go downstairs and watch something on my Apple T.V.  This begins with the dumping out of all the remotes out of a box that sits on the coffee table.

Things were not destined to be simple:  
The first half an hour was spent trying to figure out why there was not signal.  Magically it appeared while I wasn't looking.  I have no idea why.  It just did.  Why do you fall in love?  You have no idea why.  One day you are just fine and the next day, for no apparent reason, you are an idiot and you can't concentrate on anything.  But you accept it an move on.

Three or four remotes later, I am picking out a movie.  Then, due to some update, I had to enter my iTunes code, password, and length of inseam.  Fine, fine.  But then it asked for some new numeric code.
I have no new code.  I try random numbers but of course that is completely unreasonable.  FINALLY the T.V. tells me to check my most trusted device to which it will send me a code so that I may unlock my televisatory wonderland.  So I go upstairs and get MY PHONE and bring it downstairs.  There are no texts, no Emails, no phone calls giving me my magic numbers.
So now I go back upstairs and get my computer and haul that downstairs (are you getting the idea of how many pieces of equipment I needed in order to watch reruns of the Gene Caroll Show?)  I tried searching the web for problem solving but the step at which I need instruction is always the most vague.  "Go to your secret solve button screen and click on the anonymous button."  FINE!  BUT WHERE THE GET OUT IS IT?

Then the T.V. fairy decided to smile on me once again and sent some magical numbers on my computer.  SO after entering FOR THE 50th TIME my identity and pass codes and inseam length I CAN ENTER THE SECRET CODE which doesn't work.  Now I'm going through random screens and pressing things.  Guess what.  It worked.  Why?  I don't know.  I don't know that I care.  But THIS time after entering my identity code, my secret pass code, my inseam length, my NEW super secret pass code, the T.V. was finally ready to go.
So I went to bed with my Kindle.

Which promptly ran out of power.

Friday, November 11, 2016


Nothing is worse than a meeting when nobody is really in charge.  The proceedings go off topic, conversations last too long, people lose interest, bullies arise who try to save the day, and little beautiful happens.

It is the same with music.  Aug!  Have you ever gone to a Mass where there is no organist or leader and someone starts a song - maybe it is even introduced by the priest, and it gets slower and slower, maybe changes key, someone in the back starts trying to rally the troops, some roll their eyes and wag their heads and close hymnals . . . why even bother trying?

I find it painful.

Paragraph 104 calls for a choir director for the Mass.  If there is no choir director, then the cantor needs to be able to lead the singing.  This person is chairman of the (musical) board.  Like a good  leader of a meeting, they make sure we are on the agenda (so to speak), are proceeding in a way that keeps interest and encourages participation when called for, and does so with craft and decorum.  

It’s not just about singing.  It is about making something beautiful.  Beauty inspires, lifts, directs.  Music for the sake of having music can be torture.  If you are going to do it, do it as well as the community can muster.  Those present deserve beauty whether it is because they are listening or they are asked to participate in which case they are part of creating that which is beautiful when giving glory to God.

Thursday, November 10, 2016


Another great night for Theology on Tap! Thanks for all that were there or helped out. Awesome job to seminarian Dan Samide.

IN OTHER NEWS: Today, the Feast of St. Leo the Great, is the 7th year anniversary of Bishop Lennon assigning me as pastor of St. Sebastian (though didn't celebrate it until the 8th of December.)

Wednesday, November 9, 2016



The alarm went off this morning and I knew I had a precious number of minutes before I would start the onslaught of talking about the you-know-what yesterday.  In peace I prayed my Liturgy of the Hours, took a shower, and then took Sebastian for a walk.  There we ran into a couple of fellow dog walkers and their dogs and just guess what was the topic of discussion.

When we got back, the newspaper was proclaiming election results.  I turned on my computer - well, you can guess what went on there.

Some friends are gloating, some are licking wounds.  There is the possibility that an already divided nation can become even more so (and I would have said this no matter who won.)  Now is not the time to put all of our political activity on a shelf for another four years.  Let us remain concerned and involved.  Let us start the real work:

Tuesday, November 8, 2016


FINDING TRUTH WHEREVER IT MAY BE FOUND:  "If you would be quite sure of your salvation, strive to be among the fewest of the few. Do not follow the majority of mankind, but follow those who renounce the world and never relax their efforts day or night so that they may attain everlasting blessedness."       St. Anselm, Doctor of the Church

QUOTE II:  "As a man lives, so shall he die."  St. Augustine, Doctor and Father of the Church


It's time to do this:

 So consider doing this:
 This is just my annual fall picture of my favorite tree:

Let this inspire you for today - our Diocese of Cleveland seminarian choir:
National_Anthem_9-21 from Diocese of Cleveland on Vimeo.

Friday, November 4, 2016


Here is a debatable topic.  Many are divided on it.

Paragraph 103 states that, “among the faithful, the schola cantorum or choir exorcises its own liturgical function.”  It equates the those two terms.  I argue that what they mean by choir and what we mean by a schola are slightly different things.

Here we are getting into opinion land so hold on to your hat.  (Does anyone get the picture reference?)  Everyone agrees that we need a group of people to sing at the Mass.  Most parishes, I would argue, have a parish choir.  By and large, the purpose of the choir is to lead congregational singing.  This idea has been enshrined in much of our newer liturgical architecture.  There is no choir loft or ideal placement of the choir to give an optimal experience of the music they produce.  There has a choir “designated area” pretty close to being at the same level as the rest of the congregation, and with luck they are centrally located so the experience is heard evenly (instead of one side being blasted by the choir and the other being far away.)  In these churches, one can get away with doing a choral piece, but you are fighting poor placement and poor acoustics.  

This is good, serviceable, and worthy as far as it goes.  Most parishes survive just fine with a choir consisting of a group of people who help bolster the singing of the congregation.

A schola does this also but is expected to do more.  “It’s purpose is to take care of the parts proper to it.”  As we have explored, there are many things that it is possible for the choir to do alone, or in back and forth with the congregation in addition to simply assisting the congregation.    There are the propers of the Mass to be sung (such as the introit) and the tradition of chant to be upheld and fostered.  The schola takes the music to the next level, not merely supporting but by expanding the musical experience to express a greater depth and width of the Church’s Tradition.  It educates.  It becomes a ministry similar to that of a lector, itself proclaiming the Word and giving sung instruction in the Christian life to be heard, digested, and applied.  (Which is why they should be as good as they can be in any particular parish, not merely good enough.)  With this in mind we understand church architecture that places the choir in the building in such a way that they are most easily heard and understood with acoustics suitable for the production of music.

Okay.  Enough of my opinion.

In general, this paragraph says, the norms for the schola apply equally to other musicians with a special emphasis on the organist, once again giving emphasis that the primary instrument of the Catholic Church is the pipe organ.

Wednesday, November 2, 2016


"Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness" is a well-known phrase in the United States Declaration of Independence. The phrase gives three examples of the "unalienable rights" which the Declaration says have been given to all human beings by their Creator, and which governments are created to protect.

The above is from Wikipedia.  They are great, foundational words that guide our nation.  But what do they mean?  Take, for example, the very first word.  “Life.”  It is supposedly obviously inherent in our very being.  But to what does it refer?  Do we really all agree on it?


What gives it meaning is the understood context of the greater community.  

A person may have a right to live, but do we all agree what that means?  Is it simply living?  Do you have a right to a college education, a third kidney transplant, “gender reassigning”?  Does everybody have the same level of life’s advantages?  What if you are poor, an illegal alien, or of an enemy nation?  Is life universal?  What if you committed a particularly heinous crime, were of advanced age with a very expensive illness, or unlucky enough to be conceived to parents who do not want you because you do not meet their idea of normality or convenience?

So who gets to decide?

IMHO part of the problem of the Protestant movement (speaking in VERY large brush strokes) is that there are no failsafes to keep their teachings on track.  The Protestant world of today would be completely at odds with the Protestant Church of even 200 years ago.  

The advantage of being Catholic (again, IMHO) is that it does have a failsafe.  Tradition, Scripture, a pope, (and of course the Holy Spirit) make it virtually impossible for the universal Church to be swayed much by passing cultural storms.  A case in point is the definition of marriage.  Governments and many religions, unmoored from having to be consistent, can take a vote and decide truth now means “X.”  As one Protestant bishop said a number of years back, “Don’t throw Scripture at me.  You can make Scripture mean whatever you want.”

Unless it is moored.

And so “Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.” Who gets to decide what it means?  There can be no neutral - universal position.  It must be based in something.  Right now the Christian influence is waning and we are experiencing the onset of the culture of death.  As G. K. Chesterton pointed out, say what you will about the ancient pagans, at least they were on the side of Life.  We are failing at that.  Where is there anchor to which we might tie our ship?

Very soon you will be asked to help steer the future of nation by voting.  We will get what we ask for and our course will be guided by our compromises.  The more we are willing to put our Catholicism aside in the voting booth, the less Christian our nation will become until we wake up one day and slowly discover we are no longer on the favored end of the definitions of Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.