Friday, April 28, 2017


Let’s say that it is your vacation.  It is one thing to interrupt your vacation to answer a short text, it is another to be interrupted by a three hour video conference call.  Secretly you are dying a slow and terrible death.

So it is one thing to have little ceremonies added to the nuptial Mass.  But the part of the Catholic brain that has not shut down at Mass, that is at least aware of the flow that should be happening, and that is looking forward to Communion, is suddenly thrown off track by a long, long nuptial blessing.  You know who loves this prayer?  The moms and the priest.  Everyone else has just run into a brick wall and is too concerned about why they are no longer moving forward.  

Well, I am exaggerating.  Maybe I just don’t know how to do it well.  And often I have a couple looking at me with dreamy looks in their eyes over what is being said about them.  Maybe it is my attitude.  About half way through I am thinking, “Gads, am I still talking?”

But it is a beautiful prayer.  And though now it is better translated, even ICEL did not strip it down in length during the post Vatican II translation and they were not adverse to slashing and burning.  AND AS IS OFTEN THE MISTAKE it should be remembered (even by me!) that the people present are not the ones being addressed at this point - it is our Father.  We are going to our Father and asking for a very specific blessing on two of His children who are being united.  Other than to remind us of what is going on and to agree, the job of those who are there is to offer with the celebrant the words being spoken to our common Father.  He is certainly the cause of the day in so many ways, the King present and begged for a blessing, the eternal Father Who loves and blesses His children.

Thursday, April 27, 2017


Many of you are experiencing priests collecting boxes.  It is the time of year when those who are completing their assignments are getting ready to move where the Spirit (and their bishop) calls.  For these more seasoned men, the news of where they are going is largely handled over the phone.

But there is another group of men anticipation something similar.  They are our soon-to-be newly ordained.  The announcement of where they will be spending the next four years of their lives is not handled so casually.  Rather, it is more like a game show.  Those to-be-ordained and their future pastors are invited to the Cathedral Rectory where Bishop Thomas would make the big reveal.
I was really not all that concerned.  It is a great group of men and I would consider myself lucky to have any of them.  But for some reason, I woke up nervous that morning.  I would meet the guy with whom I would be working and living for next four years.  So I guess that is worth being nervous over.

I rode up to Cleveland with other Akron pastors who would be receiving a newly ordained.  (That made the trip so much easier.)  We were ushered into the Bishop’s parlor, a large well appointed room.  We sat on wingback chairs in front of the large marble fireplace over which hung a large painting of the Blessed Virgin Mary who presided over the room.  The rector of the seminary spoke to us first and told us his impressions of the men we would soon be meeting as we distractedly sipped at our coffee.

Then, about a half hour into the meeting, the Bishop lead the soon-to-be-ordained-preists in the room and sat them in alphabetical order across from us.  Fortunately the Bishop was not of a mind to prolong the torture and immediately went about the task of announcing the assignments.  Here are the results:

Deacon Peter Bang                       Holy Angels, Bainbridge
Deacon Jacob Bearer                     St. Francis de Sales , Akron
Deacon James Cosgrove           St. Christopher, Rocky River
Deacon Eric Garris                      St. Raphael, Bay Village
Deacon Matt Jordan                      St. Hilary, Fairlawn
Deacon Robert McWilliams                St. Joseph, Strongsville
Deacon Peter Morris                     St. John Vianney, Mentor
Deacon Anthony Simone           St. Sebastian, Akron

Notice Deacon Simone is at the end of the list.  It was agony waiting to see who would be coming to St. Sebastian.  When it was down to just Deacons Morris and Simone, I was as tense as a cat on the sting above a pool of swimming doberman pinchers.  Quickly enough, by process of elimination, it became clear that we would be blessed to have Deacon Simone at St. Sebastian!

About a month ago we had a dinner for this class at St. Sebastian.  Even though they were not supposed to know, for various (and good reasons if anybody from the diocese is reading this) they knew that one of those men would be coming here in June.  “If they were puppies,” they told me, “and we get to pick one of them . . . “  Well don’t you know Deacon Simone was at the top of the list!

The rest of the afternoon was a workshop basically detailing how best it might be for old men (me) and young men (the deacons) to live together in harmony.  Then we had to go our separate ways for they had a seminar to go to that evening.  It was like getting a new bike and being told you can’t ride it for two months.

When I went through this as a young almost priest, we left the meeting and found phones to call people and tell them where we were going.  Whey Fr. Pfeiffer was coming to St. Sebastian, all of his class and phones to immediately text to their family fiends where they were going.  At this meeting, WE ALL HAD PHONES and by the time the meeting was over, parishes were already posting the results! 

Please keep all of these men in your prayers.

You are invited to the ordination at St. John Cathedral on May 19th at 7:00PM.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017


FINDING TRUTH WHEREVER IT MAY BE FOUND:  "God is of no importance unless He is of supreme importance."  from Abraham Heschel's, "God in Search of Man."

QUOTE II:  "An insight is not meaningful to one unless it is capable of becoming meaningful to all men."  same source.

On the first (and only) day after Easter that I was going to be able to sleep in, my phone pinged.  I tried to ignore it but thought, "If someone is calling this early, it might be an emergency."  And it was.  A cat fell in the window well at the new Julie Billiart School of St. Sebastian, Akron.  She was unreachable from the interior window so some concerned neighbors brought over a ladder, cat food, a carrier, and protective gloves in case she was a fighter.  (She wasn't.)

All safe.  Bet she doesn't do that again.

Fr. O sent this picture of Monsignor, the St. Joseph rectory dog.
It may not be Memorial Day yet but it's time for the summer hats to come out.
Last night was Theology on the Rocks!  The incredible Fr. Pfeiffer of St. Paul, Akron will be the next speaker.  Make plans to join him now!
The next Theology on Tap will be may 10th in Peninsula.  Looking forward to seeing you there.

Here's for a laugh . . . 

Sunday, April 23, 2017


The other day I remembered a tune that I used to like a lot and found it on iTunes and downloaded it. It was the perfect song for a walk.  So I took Sebastian out, put the earbuds in, and turned up my tunes to full tilt.  It was wonderful

Maybe there should be a pre-warning or something of sorts . . .

Friday, April 21, 2017


So I made the mistake of saying that I would talk about presenting a flower to Mary during a wedding ceremony.  Probably should not have.  But here we go . . . 

For those who do not know what I am talking about, (I thought everybody knew what this was since it has been such a common experience in my Catholic life,) during the wedding ceremony, a bride, with a particular devotion to the Blessed Virgin, will process to the shrine (statue) of Mary at some point during the nuptial Mass, offer a prayer of petition, and as a devotion, leave a flower (usually a single, white rose) which would be much the same thing as lighting a candle.  The only more recent change that I have noticed is that almost without fail, the groom now attends to this devotion also.  (When I was a kid, it seemed that only the bride went.)

There does not seem to be an allowance for this practice in either the new or the old rubrics for the nuptial ceremonies.  This is a private devotion being done in a public forum and as such is “stuck on” to the Mass. 

99.99% of the time I am adamantly opposed to sticking things on to the Mass.  The requests received for private things to be done at Mass come in often.  Private devotions, talks, presentations, other ceremonies, blessings, many of which are not not only not mentioned but expressly forbidden by the rubrics are often presented as something needed to be done at Mass.  The two most pressing reasons given for the necessity of doing such a thing is 1) it would be beneficial/meaningful to everybody and 2) it concerns the whole community and this is when the whole community is gathered.  As for the first concern, having it Mass often makes more people angry than happy and the second is a bait and switch.  The people are there for the Mass.  If whatever else is going on is really important, then you don’t win them over by forcing them to sit through it.  (How happy are you to turn on Public Radio during a fund drive?)

ALL THAT BEING SAID, my liturgical heart says that this devotional as it is often practiced during the Mass should go the same way as the unity candle - that is - snuffed out!  But I am weak where Mary is concerned and unlike a unity candle ceremony, this devotion to Mary is something that the bride and groom can (and should if they are going to subject the congregation to this private devotion at their wedding) continue throughout their lives.  It is also something in which the congregation can at least tangentially participate.  

Further, it can take place in a way that doesn’t really interfere with the rubrics of the Mass.  For example, while the music continues after the reception of Communion, what is to stop the bride and her groom from walking over to Mary, placing a rose, and asking for her intercession in their married lives?  

What do you think?

Thursday, April 20, 2017


I hear you.

I just don’t understand you.

I can’t get over the number of times this year that I have discovered that what someone is saying to me and what I understand are two different things.  For example:  In keeping with the mandates of Vatican II, a number of years ago we started incorporating parts of the Ordinary Form of the Mass in Latin, usually only during penitential seasons (although I have been taken to task for this - why should Latin only be penitential some have asked? - B. S. - I know you want to jump on that comment ;>))  In the beginning we practiced with he congregation and had page numbers announced and posted etc . . .   And occasional someone would say, “I don’t now what we are singing,” meaning that they don’t understand Latin.

Recently someone said the EXACT SAME THING TO ME and in my mind I am wondering how an intelligent Catholic adult, after years of having sung this in church, could not figure out that sanctus sanctus sanctus is holy holy holy or that Angus Dei is Lamb of God.  I was so preprogrammed - thinking I knew what the person was talking about - that I didn’t hear what was really being said.  Had I taken the time to clarify, I would have discovered that some of the words were tricky to pronoun and remember, “Pleni sunt cæli,” and they would simply like the words again to be able to sing along.  It wasn’t a complaint about Vatican II.

This type of misunderstanding in other areas plagued me a few times this year.  I might think that I am working on a proposed difficulty or challenge when, in fact, I was completely off of the mark.  If your pastor (spouse, sibling, coworker, etc.) seems similarly off, it might be a good idea to clarify.  As it turns out, almost all of the areas that this happened to me this year were much easier to handle than the ones I thought I had.  

When someone asks me a question, I often ask, “Am I answering the question that you are asking?”  I probably should implement that in more areas of my life.  I hope this helps you too.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017


FINDING TRUTH WHEREVER IT MAY BE FOUND:  "Faith is preceded by awe, by acts of amazement, at things we apprehend but cannot comprehend."  from Abraham Heschel's, "God in Search of Man."

QUOTE II:  "A decision of the will, a desire to believe, will not secure it.  All the days of our lives we must continue to deepen our sense of mystery in order to be worthy of attaining faith."  same source


If you like the painting of the Crucifixion at St. Sebastian, the artist is selling limited edition Glicee prints of it.  See more HERE.

He has also started a site just for his liturgical art.  You can find it HERE.

The next Theology on the Rocks is coming up!

Here is episode 2 of Church Hunters:

Monday, April 17, 2017


As many of you know, I let my beard go a bit feral since November.  I rather liked it and so did a certain select group of people.  You know all those comics you see about men rating other men by their beards?  I hate to say that there is a modicum of truth behind it (and not being over muscular or particularly athletic, I liked that I could at least grow a decent beard.)

Among those who definitely did not like my bristly advantaged self was my sister.  She made this opinion so sisterly clear that back in January I promised her that for Easter, I would hack it back.  It seemed so far away as to not matter then, but as Holy Week approached the anxiety of getting the hedge trimmers out started to nag at me.

Monday passed.  Tuesday passed.  Wednesday passed.  Finally on Maundy Thursday I knew it was time.  I locked myself in the bathroom, put on some depressing music, and began the topiary task of carving a smaller beard out of the cathedralesque beauty that hung off of my chin.  To me it felt a little bit like this:

But let me tell you (although she did suggest that I did not go far enough) my Sister was well pleased.
When I was a kid, if I did my chores for a month and brushed my teeth every day, one of my sisters would take me to Bodnar's Drug Store to get a toy as a reward.  (Usually a Slinky - a real metal one - not that plastic trash they sell today.)  Things really haven't changed much: 
But as we approached the snack section at the ACME grocery store and searched the shelves, we could not find any Value Time Cheese Curls!  Now, we haven't had any for quite a spell at the rectory.  Marcy said that they were simply out of them (which of course made sense since they are so outstandingly delicious) and so bought me some other-not-worth-mentioning brand to hold me over.  Then I gave them up for Lent.  Now they tell me they don't carry them any more!
I don't think anybody really understands how much I liked this staple in my diet.

(Yes, I really did speak to the manager.)  He told me that the Value Time line was not a good seller and that they had stopped carrying EVERYTHING IN IT INCLUDING MY CHEESE CURLS!  Talk about throwing the baby, the tub, and his mother out with the bathwater.  

Of course, at Theology on Tap, Eric did buy some white cheddar popcorn that I couldn't even swallow before I was shoving another handful in my mouth!  When God closes a door . . . 


Monday, April 10, 2017


There won't be time to post this week other than these quick notes to you.

If you are looking for a place to celebrate the Eastertide, here is the St. Sebastian schedule:
8:00AM  Mass
8:15AM Mass
Adoration all day
(7:00PM  Chrism Mass at the cathedral.  You are invited.)
7:40 Compline and Benediction
8:00AM Mass
Maundy Thursday
7:00PM  Mass of the Lord's Supper
Good Friday
1:00PM Family Stations of the Cross
3:00PM Good Friday Service
Holy Saturday
1:00PM Blessing of the Foods
9:00PM Easter Vigil
Easter Sunday
9:00AM Mass
11:00AM Mass
1:00PM Mass (Extraordinary Form - Latin)

This past Sunday our choir performed Theodore Dubois', "Seven Last Words of Christ."  A little over 250 people were in attendance.  The music was magnificent.  I didn't think the choir could outdo itself but they did!  The church itself started out pretty bright with the light streaming in through the stained glass windows.  But as the piece progressed, night descended upon us and by the time they got to the point in the program where Christ died, the sun had nearly set, the church grew dark, and the only thing lit was Eric Armusik's painting of the crucifixion.  It was a blessed night.  Congratulations to Lynn, Frank, the soloists, the orchestra, and of course the St. Sebastian choir.
Last week was cold and as I was taking Sebastian for his last airing out, I was struck by this incongruous scene a snow covered lawn and a tree in full spring flower.
Then by Saturday, the sun was so bright and warm I was struck at how brightly Sebastian was lit up when he came to say good morning that I snapped this shot to share with you.

Friday, April 7, 2017


If you have been reading this blog for awhile, you know I have difficulties with the unity candle.  (We do not use it at St. Sebastian.)  Among other things, as we have been discovering over these few months, we have spent so much time and care making sure that everybody is aware, informed, and is consenting to what is taking place.  To whit:

  1. Before the ceremony, the couple is catechized and asked both verbally and through written statement that they are knowledgable about what is going on and that they freely choose to do it.
  2. Banns are published to the community for three weeks informing them of what is about to happen (and giving them a chance to weigh in if they feel so inclined.)
  3. The wedding bells are rung.
  4. It is announced that this couple is about to marry.
  5. They publicly state their intentions to get married with knowledge and freedom.
  6. They exchange their vows.
  7. It is announced that they exchanged their vows.
  8. If people still don’t get it they exchange rings.
  9. Often they kiss now as a further sign.

Then, for some inexplicable reason, some people feel a need to put on a piece of theater whereby, just incase somebody didn’t quite get what was going on, they take two candles, light one candle together with them, and then obliterate the light from the original candles.  (I have lots of problems with the symbolism, particularly at the Mass, with this.)

NOW, isn’t interesting that the new rite for marriage has new options for those entering into matrimony, but the unity candle is conspicuously absent?  Actually, I am so happy that they Church did not make it an official rite.  There would just be a ton of verbiage added to it.  “Now, bride and groom take the candle of their single selves, a light that has burned since their baptism, symbolizing the life of BLAH BLAH BLAH. . .

Read more HERE.

But there are some newly codified options but I doubt, unless our neighborhood changes dramatically, they will be of much use at this parish.  The first option takes the place of the exchange of rings.  It is the rite of the blessing and exchange of arras or coins.  These are used primarily with those of a heritage and practice from Spain, Latin American countries, and the Philippines.

Another addition is the blessing of the wedding veil or the lazo.  The lazo is a decorative chain placed around the bride and groom’s shoulder.  The veil would be placed on the bride’s head with part of it placed on the groom’s shoulder.  This would take place just prior to the nuptial blessing in those places where this is custom.

"Of course," some of my liturgist friends would say, "what does this say about taking a rose to Mary?"  

*sigh*  More on that in two weeks.

Thursday, April 6, 2017


Wednesday was FIELD TRIP DAY!

Fr. Pfeiffer and I jumped into his Bernadette Subaru and headed south to Columbus to visit the Jubilee Museum.  The Jubilee Museum in the Diocese of Columbus collects discarded Catholic items from closed or closing Catholic churches and displays them in a former Catholic school in Columbus.  (Some items were reclaimed from bars, junk stores, and other businesses that obtained sacred items when a church closed.) The founding priest is Fr. Lutz pictured below.
The interesting cross next to which he is standing was made of parts of the wrecking ball crane that was used to tear down a Columbus church the model of which you can see in the background.  (I will let him tell you the rest of that story when you visit the museum.)

There are many wonderful and interesting things to be found there and our gracious host gave us a most excellent tour.  Below is from the vestment collection, probably my favorite room in the museum.

 As evidence that he is not too narrow in his saving of items, below is an example of a vestment (that was quite well constructed) that looks - well - while well done would have been an excellent addition to a Lost in Space episode had a Catholic priest been on board.  
 The items are varied and sometimes surprising.  Below would be a case in point.  This is a portion of a branch of a tree under which the very first Mass in Ohio was prayed.  They were apparently cut and handed out as commemorative pieces to mark the occasion.  (That isn't even the most remarkable part of the story but again I will let a docent give you the full story.)
 I have had some personal items that I have saved from parishes over the years - items that were destined for the dumpster of which I said, "I'l take them to the dumpster for you," and they ended up in my basement.  Finally a good home was found for them and we did a little bit of bartering.  I exchanged my items for the item pictured in the backseat of Bernadette Subaru.  It is sanctuary lamp that will be used in the new chapel at the Julie Billiart School in Akron.
Fr. was also gracious enough to provide some materials pertaining directly pertaining to St. Sebastian Parish in Akron!  Those will be revealed on our 90th anniversary.  Thank you and God bless Father!

So here are a couple of things with which I will leave you:  The first, I have a chapel that I need to make Catholic.  The school, named the Julie Billiart School at St. Sebastian, Akron, is a Catholic school for children with learning challenges.  The chapel (shown below) will be used by the school.  It needs everything and I cannot take it out of the parish budget: candle sticks, statues, stations of the cross, alter linens, a nice sized corpus for the cross, processional candles and cross, pipe organ . . . you get the picture.  If you have anything, please consider donating it to the new school.
OR - if you have items that do not have a good home and they would not work in the chapel above, consider donating them to the Jubilee Museum where the will be given a good home.

Thanks for reading!