Friday, January 26, 2018


The Boy Scouts was a relatively new organization at this time having been founded in 1910. But
even more recent was the institution of a Boy Scout badge specifically for Catholic scouts.  Sensing a need for more spiritual development in the Scouting program, the Rev. James E. Dolan created the Ad Altare Dei program in 1926.   The aim of the first program Fr. Dolan developed was to recognize those First Class Scouts who had served "with loyalty and fidelity" as altar boys during their tenure as Scouts. He named the program Ad Altare Dei and created the Ad Altare Dei Cross as it's emblem. The English translation of the name means: "to the Altar of God."  The first emblems were presented nationwide in 1941.  The aim of the program was "an attempt to teach and inculcate a Catholic way of living through the Scouting program." The first set of requirements stated the Scout had to be at least First Class, a member of a registered Troop of the Boy Scouts of America, a resident within the diocese, and had served at the altar in any capacity for 250 hours. To be eligible for the emblem, the Scout had to demonstrate his ability to make all responses in Latin. The Scout's Pastor had to certify also that the Scout was worthy to receive the emblem because of his punctuality, fitness, decorum on the altar, and devotion.
1946 would mark the first time any Scout in Akron would receive this medal.  Across the city, twelve scouts earned this medal.  Of the the twelve, six were from St. Sebastian.

Thursday, January 25, 2018


Before you read this I want to make very clear that I am proud of my seminary, recommend it, and have great faith in what is happening there.  These events clearly happened in the past and were limited and are only used as an example.

When I was in the seminary, our entire, official exposure to the Mass as it was celebrated before Vatican II was a videotape played in fast forward by a professor who spent the entire three minutes making fun of the Mass with witticisms such as, “Look how funny they look taking off and putting on their hats.”  The clear message was, “Old is bad, only the new is good.”  I seethed with anger.  This was the Mass my parents, my grandparents, well . . . all of my historical family (and the majority of saints) celebrated and grew in sanctity through.  But we stayed silent.  Even attendance at one of these Masses were possible grounds to be removed from the seminary.

Fortunately things have changed.  The problem with this is the ignorance and error that it promotes.  By removing history and our connection to the past, the sole authority becomes the person in power.  As proof of this, even the Vatican II documents were called into question.  If there were something that directly opposed what a particular professor was saying, the answer was not in debating what was said but a justification was made that the portion of the document in question was clearly a “compromise” (RE: the Holy Spirit was definitely not present in this part of the document) and so it could be ignored - not dealt with - ignored.  From there, a person with power can lead you in all kinds of directions in line with or not in line with the Church and their position would be valid until someone with more power would take their place.

However, a Catholic steeped in history, mired in Church teaching, braced by the hermeneutic continuity can only be set adrift so far before the disharmony of his spiritual life and that of the Democracy of the Dead (as G. K. Lewis spoke our 2,000 year shared history of the practice of the faith) helps correct his course.

This concept is not just handy, it is of vital importance and here are two reasons why:  Say a set of parents has a child and they have decided not to “force” any religion on their child but rather let them decide for themselves what faith they want to be.  Statistically they will choose either nothing or a hodgepodge of convenient things.  This is because they have no ground on which to stand in order to judge all other positions.  It is all just soup.  There is no traction.  But as Archimedes said, “Give me a firm place on which to stand and I will move the earth.”

The same thing could be said of a study of Western culture.  It is vital that we hand on the culture that has been given to us to the next generation.  As much as it may need “fixing” it has gotten us somewhere.  It is not a marble statue to be handed on and preserved exactly.  It is rather like a clay statue to be improved by every generation.  If it is not handed on, then every generation must start from scratch.  Instead of being handed a clay statue, they are given a formless lump of clay.  This leaves them vulnerable to persons of unchallenged and perhaps unproven power to come along and shape their clay for them and not having anything to which they might compare it, allows for manipulation in the extreme.

History and culture are not weights to be discarded so that we might be free to have a better future, they ARE the very tools we need to create a better future.

Tuesday, January 23, 2018


FINDING TRUTH WHEREVER IT MAY BE FOUND:  "Reincarnation is not really a mystical idea . . . Reincarnation need only extend experiences in the sense of repeating them.  It is no more transcendental for a man to remember what he did in Babylon before he was born than to remember what he did in Brixton before he had a knock on the head."  from G. K. Chesterton's, "Everlasting Man"

QUOTE II:  "Simple secularists still talk as if the Church had introduced a sort of schism between reason and religion.  The truth is the the Church was actually the first thing that ever tried to combine reason and religion.  There had never before been any such union of the priests and the philosophers."  same source.


I did not think I would be posting to you today but my flight was cancelled and I am sitting here in the airport for 5 hours.  Yuck.

Of course nobody sent in anything this week but here is some news just the same:

St. Bernard Parish had the dedication of their rebuilt pipe organ.  It was a glorious affair!  The church was PACKED.  Fr. Reed, the pastor, graciously allowed Fr. Simone and me to sit in the sanctuary.  The Director of Music at St. Sebastian, Lynn Steward, was the guest organist and put the organ through its paces.
 This is Fr. Reed blessing the rebuilt Schantz organ:
My class was ordained on the feast of St. Joan of Arc.  My classmate has a little statue of her and I wanted one like it to begin developing my relationship with this saint a little better.  I found something I liked on Etsy though it was a little more than I wanted to pay.  But I've waited almost two decades to find something I liked and thought I better just go ahead and dive in.  Unfortunately this 104 year old statue from France arrived heavily damaged.
The person selling it was sad and very understanding and we worked out a deal that slashed the original purchase price.  Now it is matter of a lot of glue and patience.  Perhaps she already worked her first favor me.  I no longer feel like I spent to much money!

Here is a new Theology on Tap Akron:

Here is a vide about contemporary art that is not the usual diatribe.  I don't think it redeems the current situation but it does help me understand it a lot better.  I hope you get something out of it.

Monday, January 22, 2018


Here is what happens when we have fewer and fewer priests doing what was, at one time, done by many more hands.  Around this time of year, St. Paul, St. Francis and St. Sebastian have their feast days.  The priests from these parishes generally get to gather for dinner at this time.  This is becoming more difficult every year.  This year was ridiculous to the point of humor.  It was obvious that we all wanted to be together (considering the great lengths through which we went to do so) but still . . . 

We knew one of the priests had an evening Mass so we were going to eat as close to 5:00 as possible. The only problem was, St. Sebastian had confessions until 5PM.  
So everybody was notified.  "If confessions run long," which of course they did - for which I am always grateful, "please let yourself in and make yourself at home.  We will eat as soon as we are finished."  (Marcy: Do you like the way I worded that?)  The secretary was to turn on the stove at a certain time so everything would be done exactly when we needed it . . . 
No fear!  We can just eat quickly.  Time was running out so we started without Father.  Half way through the soup he came running in and sat down to a warm bowl.

Then one of the priests announced:
At one point, between courses, it was just me and Fr. Simone.
So we did!  We used the old, fine settings from the 1930's and so, of course, everything had to be hand washed.  I was not looking forward to staying up late or facing the tower of dishes and silver the next day and now we didn't have to!  Eventually, almost everyone returned and as we waited for the last person to show for dessert . . . 
All for the glory of God . . . 

Friday, January 19, 2018


Relief for a war weary world would come on September 2nd 1945 when the Japanese would sign an instrument of surrender aboard the USS Missouri bringing to an end World War II.  Over 300 men and women of St. Sebastian served in the war with 14 having given their lives in service to their country.  To commemorate the outstanding service of so many of the parish’s people, a military shrine dedicated to St. Sebastian was erected and dedicated on Memorial Day.  Unfortunately, the shrine was lost during a much later renovation of the original church building.

After the war, those who were in the armed forces organized what became, for a time, one of the parish’s most active groups.  A charter document proclaims, “By the Authority of the Catholic War Veterans, of the United States of America, Be It Known that the following members of the Roman Catholic Church, and Citizens of the United States of America; (here were listed hundreds of names) who served in the various wars and campaigns of the United States and were honorably discharged from such service, are hereby authorized to organize and conduct a Post in full accordance with the constitution of the Catholic War Veterans of the United States of America in Akron, in the state of Ohio, to be known as St. Sebastian Post Number 1632.”

Thursday, January 18, 2018


I was so disturbed yesterday I was nauseous.  On my day away I went to a museum to be inspired and rejuvenated by beauty.  My disappointment knew no bounds.  Far from being inspired in my vocation and personal life, I felt cheated (mostly out of the price of admission.)  There were (granted - in my estimation) a few worthy pieces but the rest were laughable, requiring dossier length descriptions with the kicker line, “which means this piece means nothing” or something rather ridiculous that no-one would pick up on their own.  It is interesting to note that nobody was there and it was all funded by corporations.  

Then it hit me.  If the name of the institution was changed I MIGHT be less inclined to feel insulted.  Let us suppose that the name of the place to which I went was the Ohio Museum of Art.  If it were changed to the Ohio Museum of Interesting, I think I might be less inclined to be  insulted (but still a little bitter about my loss of money.)  (INTERESTING:  That which draws one's attention.  Note that this word does not infer a value judgement.)  I thought, what if this display was introduced with a sign the read in part, “Here are some objects showing some techniques and ideas that might be of interest to you.”  Seeing it in that light (making the admission that these objects, while interesting, are not necessarily pieces of art) allowed me to at least take in the displays without anger.

To be fair, I did see two other people there (the only two) who DID seem engrossed in the works - sitting and staring, not with looks of disbelief but with what appeared to be genuine interest.  (Unless, of course, I mistook them for another installation entitled Interested Museum Patrons.)  

Yes, I know I am not sophisticated enough to “get it.”  Who am I to say what art is and isn’t.  But I have a very difficult time imagining that much of this display will be around a 100 years inspiring the next generation of artists.  And I know that Rocco architecture was considered by many to be terrible when it was first introduced and now it is cherished.  But so much of what I saw yesterday appeared to me to be so self involved and un-beautiful that it did not inspire me to go out and make a more beautiful, fascinating world, but rather, a piece of me was left behind and died there.

If you agree, what can you do about it?  Support arts when you see something worthwhile.  Go see an installment you think worthy.  Make a donation.  Stop buying “art” out of catalogues and buy or commission a piece for your home.  Encourage your parish and your community to sponsor art that you deem worthwhile.  He who pays the fiddler calls the tune.  Those who support artists also influence what they create and lean.  

There is an artist I recently asked to create for me a drawing of St. Sebastian.  The work he normally does and is paid for is a bit lurid.  But I saw a lot of potential there and for at least one project he had to learn about a saint and his story and create something (once again, I know, in my opinion) beautiful  It’s a drop in the bucket - but hey - it was a drop in the bucket!

Wednesday, January 17, 2018


In the constant war over what is appropriate clothing for any given situation, there is the assumption that we are dealing with the same philosophy, which we are not.  Just as much of the art world turned from an expression of a shared truth or beauty to an almost masterbatory self expression, the way many present themselves to the public has turned from my respect of the other in the way I dress to “This is me and you need to accept me for who I am.”  I doubt anybody is 100% in one category or the other, but a person tends to fall more heavily into one than the other.

I remember an interview an actress about 30 years ago on television.  She wore jeans, had bare feet, and sat cross legged on her couch and proclaimed, “This is me!  This is who I am.”  What she was saying in that is, “and you matter less.  I am popular enough to pull this off.  And if you want to interview me - deal with it.”

Maybe this is coming off a bit hard.  There is some amount of good in this (and is perhaps why most people fall to some degree into both categories.)  People should be accepted for who they are.  Judgement should not be passed on somebody because of their appearance.  There are all kinds of reasonable explanations why someone might not appear in what others may consider appropriate in any given situation.  Soon I will find myself in a part of Florida where nobody has a beard and they wear pastel clothing while all I own is northern, darkly saturated colors.  They will have to get over it.

ON THE OTHER HAND, a healthy society also takes in to account the other person.  How I appear also expresses my respect for you.  From fast food restaurants to lawyer’s offices they get this.  This is why they have uniforms and dress codes and don’t allow their employees to wear cut off jeans and T-shirts.  And if a man puts on a tie (or a collar) in order to speak with you, he is showing you great respect.  If I go to court in a torn undershirt and biker pants, it may be a clear indication that I am not taking this or your authority very seriously.  

A certain amount of conformity (dressing up for Mass for example) means that I think Mass important and that I identity and respect the people of this community.  Dressing down is often a sign that I don’t think that this is all THAT important and perhaps I am more concerned with finding “my look” than being part of the group.  (And then a person gets to judge the group for being judgmental.)  

That being said, there have been plenty of times, before I was a priest, that I ended up at Mass in band and basketball uniforms, and any other number of unusual costumes.  I was the organist and often had weekend gigs doing something that I had to sneak out of long enough to play Mass and then run back.  

In any event, how one adorns their body says SOMETHING.  Maybe not always aligned with the judgement of another (good or bad) but is a good idea to be aware of where on the scale of “All About Me” and “All About You” that you fall.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018


FINDING TRUTH WHEREVER IT MAY BE FOUND:  "[E]verything that human beings are doing to make it easier to operate computer networks is at the same time, but for different reasons, making it easier for computer networks to operate human beings."  From Archbishop Chaput's, "Strangers in a Strange Land."


A good number of years ago there was someone marking up the neighborhood with very thoughtful, artful, and quirky graffiti.  One almost (and I stress - almost) didn't mind it  because it was almost (and I stress almost) art.  

Walking up to visit the Julie BIlliart School on MLK Day I saw these quirky markings on the door and thought they had struck again - but no, it was just the very cold weather pealing the paint.  Doesn't the first one look like a combination sea horse and heraldic lion?

The 20th of January is St. Sebastian Day and my dog Sebastian's birthday.  The parish is 89 years old and my dog is going to be 12.  (We are moving our feast day to the weekend.)  Here are two events to help celebrate the day.

St. Bernard Parish in downtown Akron will be having a dedication and concert of their newly restored, 112 year old Schantz pipe organ at 3:00 on Sunday, January 21st.  St. Sebastian's Director of Music, Lynn Steward will be at the keyboard.  Read more HERE.  

At St. Sebastian Parish at 4:30 that same day, Mr. Adam Keeler will be giving a classical guitar concert in the church.  Free and open to the public.  

P. V. sent in THIS article about Russell Brand's appreciation of faith in the fight against addiction.

N. D. sent in THIS article (sorry I am letting you know so late) in which St. Sebastian was mentioned.

Fr. Barry Gearing spoke at THEOLOGY ON THE ROCKS last night on Theology of the Body and as part of his presentation showed this video:

Monday, January 15, 2018


I get it.  It's cold outside.  I don't even want to get out of bed to get to Mass and I don't even have to go outside to make it over to the sacristy.  Staying in bed is sooooo tempting that I can taste it.  So I do understand why people want to stay in their nice warm houses and not go to Mass.  I understand, I don't condone.
During the worst snowstorm it is not the young and fit that stay home from Mass, it is those who probably SHOULD stay home that still make it in.

What put me on this rampage on this Monday morning - granted it is cold outside - but could it really be that so many people couldn't make the sacrifice to be at daily Mass this morning?  How terribly disappointing.  Well, at least it WAS until I was walking out into the sanctuary to start Mass when the sacristan came running up and whispered in my ear . . . 

Friday, January 12, 2018


One of the great attributes of the parish has been its grounds.  It has always prided itself on its park like qualities and well kept gardens.  This has been the case since the first building was completed.  Under the careful supervision of Father Zwisler, parishioners created a place of beauty whose stated goal was to add to the value of life as well as property values in West Akron.

Father Zwisler had a deep love of flowers and gardening, which was shared with many those in the parish.  To that end, the Sanctuary Society established the Little Flower Garden Club.  The roots of devotion to St. Therese Little Flower reach back to the beginning of the parish and so it was fitting that this Club be named in her honor.

The primary purpose of the garden club was to take over the responsibility of presenting the yearly flower show which was an important event for the whole city.  Specimens of flowers and vegetables and arrangements in various categories were judged by respected horticulturists and florists with prizes awarded.  

Wednesday, January 10, 2018


Monday was the last day of Christmas as it is recognized in the Catholic Church, as opposed to the St. Walmart the Great calendar.  In regards to this, it is the goal of this parish to operate in much the same way the West Movie Theater was run when I was a kid.  During the last showing of a movie on Thursday night, the exterior of the theater was transformed so that no trace was left of that old movie!  Its now about the next movie!  So the marque was changed, the posters were changed, displays - as the people walked out of the movie everything was geared toward the most current.

When Christmas came to a close at the parish, it pretty much vanished (except for a forgotten star still hanging where the manger was and the parts of the outdoor manger scene that were iced to the ground.)  I wanted it to be startling and clear that we are back in ordinary time.  That means giving the poinsettias up for adoption.

I know some parishes keep their poinsettias up sometimes for months.  They are flowers and they are pretty no matter the strong connotation they have with Christmas.  So there is nothing “wrong” with leaving them up.  But when I do see them at other parishes I don’t think, “Look at the pretty flowers,” I think, “Those are left over from Christmas.”

I will grant you that I am a bit sensitive to symbolism but does it not help the celebration of the liturgical calendar to be just a tad overboard on these things?  If you went to the mall today and saw Christmas decorations (as opposed to St. Valentine’s Day decorations) would you not just think, “Somebody is not on the ball.  Time to take those down.”  Or if you neighbor had their Christmas lights still up (until July) would you not think, “Come on!  You’re bringing my property values down!”  But maybe in church people see the Christmas flowers and think, “Ah!  The long lingering glow of Christmas.”  I see coloring outside the lines.

Tuesday, January 9, 2018


FINDING TRUTH WHEREVER IT MAY BE FOUND:  "Man is meaningless without God, and any attempt to establish a system of values on the basis of the dogma of man's self-sufficiency is doomed to failure."  from Abraham Heschel's, "God in Search of Man"


Here are some events coming up at which you might like to find yourself:

Mother Mary Thomas, who has often been featured here, is now working on stained glass window designs.  My cousin's studio (Azure) has been commissioned to take the drawing and turn it into glass.  It will eventually be installed on the campus of Ave Maria University.  Here is a short video on its progress.

Friday, January 5, 2018


This is an interesting piece of history to recall as this parish readies itself to celebrate the beginning of its 90th anniversary this July:


On June 25th of 1944 the parish celebrated the end of it's 25th year with its 15th annual outing.  In the souvenir program, spirits seemed high despite the war and the declarations throughout the program to Buy War Bonds.  “There is nothing to indicate that the expansion of the parish and its physical properties is at an end.  At no time has the future looked brighter.

“The parish still has some unfinished business on its construction calendar.  There is a major project ahead - the erection of a convent building - a home for the faithful nuns who operate the school.

“This will not materialize until some time after the war but it is a certainty, since the parish undoubtedly will continue to grow and the space now occupied by the nuns must be turned into classrooms.”  At the time there were about 400 students in the school.  

The school prided itself on the plays it put on.  “There are a number of reasons for the school specializing in dramatics,” says the program, “It helps to make the pupils more proficient in their study of English, it develops in them better articulation, and assists them in the development of poise.” 

The events of the Parish Outing are also described.  Many sporting events for boys and girls were held including dashes and relays, a wheelbarrow race, base running contests and a cracker eating contest for boys 14 and under.  For women there was a rolling pin contest.  There was a pie eating contest for boys and girls, a Clothespin contest for men and women, and finally a Tug of War and Ball Game in which the married men were pitted agains the single men.  There were also prizes for the largest family on the grounds at 3:00, the oldest person in the grounds, a prize for finding the Mysterious Person, and a guessing contest at the registration booth.

Thursday, January 4, 2018


If you are Catholic and you didn’t make a New Year’s resolution may I suggest that you don’t bother.  They are quite ridiculous for the most part.  When was the last time you heard anybody at a New Year’s Eve party talk about being successful at fulfilling the previous year’s resolutions?  Most resolutions are wishes and seem so big that after trying for a month (or a day) they are conveniently forgotten.  

Far more realistic are the resolutions we make

all during the year particularly when preparing for and celebrating the sacrament of confession.  For those who practice regularly (monthly) we have the constant reviewing of what is going well in our lives and where we are missing the mark, to identify weaknesses, build on strengths, and making resolutions to do better over the next four weeks.  Unlike a New Year’s resolution, it isn’t fixing everything with one day’s fell swoop resolve, it is the inching every day toward that better version of the self with the constant help of self review and Divine assistance.  It is a far better plan than a once-a-year promise made after one glass of champagne too many.

So perhaps there is a great New Year’s resolution after all: to make better and more regular use of the sacrament of resolutions: The sacrament of Penance. 

Tuesday, January 2, 2018


FINDING TRUTH WHEREVER IT MAY BE FOUND:  "Choices don't stay buried."  from Archbishop Chaput's, "Strangers in a Strange Land"

QUOTE II:  "We can't simply blame 'the culture.'  We are the culture."  same source


Sorry for the lack of posts this past week.  It was rather a busy time and I figured that you were busy also!

D. S. sent in THIS LINK to a podcast episode of "Pints with Aquinas," a podcast that he, in general, recommends.

This was the first year we had a second 4:00 Christmas Mass at the Julie Billiart Akron Chapel and it seemed to help ease the overcrowding at he main church.  Here is a picture of it decorated for the holy day.  
Here is a great picture of St. Sebastian Parish for Christmas taken by K. S.
Chesterton celebrates his first New Year's with us:
For today's video please go HERE for a brief Christmas message from our Bishop Perez.