Friday, March 29, 2019


Living at a parish once, I would often run into visitors who would come in and say, “This is a beautiful building!”  The first thought that would pop into my mind was, “Really?”  It was not what I would consider a beautiful building but would thank the person and try to find out why they were drawn to it.

Like the word “love,” the word “beautiful” is also over used.  It seems to have become a synonym for others words such as “pretty” or “attractive.”  Something can be attractive without being beautiful  (I realize that this is being said without beautiful yet being defined.)  I think many people found the building mentioned above attractive but were moved to say beautiful.  The building was spacious, comforting, clean, functional, colorful and comfortable.  In this way it was also very attractive - it drew your attention.  Even after a lot of time had been spent in the building, one could still feel very much “at home” in the building.  But, I would argue, the building itself was not beautiful.  It did not continue to inspire a person to observe it and where it was attempting to lead you.  It did not, of itself, inspire a person to go out and see beauty in the world or to create something beautiful from its inspiration.  In fact, it somewhat fell into the background.  It was an attractive and functional building, it was not a work of art.  Nobody would ever take a bus trip there to see the building.  Ever.

“Pretty” works much the same way.  The pretty object too is pleasing to (many/most) human beings, but something about it falls short of beautiful.  The colors may be pleasing to the eye, it may bring a smile to your face, it may be clever, pull at the heartstrings but seldom (if ever) has any deep meaning.  A typical little girl’s bedroom might be pretty.  A painting that matches the couch might be pretty.  A Christmas tree might be pretty, but is it necessarily beautiful or art?  

Not that there is necessarily anything wrong with attractiveness or prettiness.  In the right context they are exactly what we need.  At other times they are distasteful.  When a person wants that which is beautiful, to be confronted with the merely attractive or pretty (or interesting) is mightily disappointing.  That is the inner urge in you to say (and you are polite enough not to blurt it out) “I could have done that!”  This is confronting the lack of inspiration, the lack of being drawn in, the lack of being transformed, the lack of being moved to create beauty in the world for having been exposed to the beautiful.

Of course, this assumes art and beauty are connected which, you may have well guessed, I do, though I have not really defined much yet except via the negative.  I also know my former art teachers are turning in their symbolic graves but there you go.

Thursday, March 28, 2019


There is a saying that goes, “Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to open your mouth and remove all doubt.”  When a person is not careful about their speech they can end up revealing much more than they intend.  It is part of the “why” behind the Gospel injunction to always be truthful and speak that which is Good, True and Beautiful.

Take today’s Gospel for example.  Jesus drives out a mute demon and his detractors say, “It is by the prince of demons that he drives out demons.”  In their carelessness in denouncing Jesus, they inadvertently bring Him some credence.  Notice that they didn’t say, “Nothing happened.”  Clearly something happened and they needed a way to discount it and so ascribed the miraculous thing they witnessed as being evil.

So first they inadvertently give great testimony to something that they themselves witnessed.  Then they reveal something about themselves in turn.  Jesus explains the weak logic of their argument and then says, “Those who are not with me are against me.”  Who is He?  God.  If one are not with God, with whom else can one be?  There is a lot of things being revealed here though an attempted deception.

Something similar happened in the local newspaper recently.  In a letter to the editor this week entitled, “Stop the Hatred,” the author rallied against what she saw as growing division in the United States.  She wrote, “If you are an anti-Semite, racist or whatever else, bigotry is an equal opportunity killer.”  What is interesting here is that she takes a group of people (who by and large are clearly in the wrong from a Christian point of view) and separates them from the rest of the “good people” (My words, not hers) and then sort of sets up this “we good people” pointing that the “bad people” and berating them.  “What these bigots don’t realize . . .”  (To whom is she speaking?  People who who are not bigots?  Wouldn’t they already know this?)  While I agree with her premise that if we allow hatred of any group, we may, one day, find ourselves on the wrong end of the stick, her method for getting there is not to engage those whom she may desire to convert to a more loving stance, but to put them in a group and denounce them and inadvertently becomes, at least somewhat, what she hates.

In another interesting article in the Beacon Journal this past Saturday entitled, “Planned Parenthood funding cut.”  The subtitle was, “Federal Appeals Court upholds laws ending flow of state dollars to abortion providers.”  The title and much of the writing is an enormous reversal of language normally used in the public media.  There was no mention of “abortion foes” (as opposed “Pro-Life Advocates” that those who promote life would prefer to be called) or the masking of abortion by the writer as “women’s health care” and in describing an abortion procedure the baby is referred to as a fetus not a mass of cells.   

Is this, too, starting to reveal a change in popular culture?  Only time will tell.  It was only one article.  But it was published and makes one wonder what truths it may be revealing.

Tuesday, March 26, 2019


FINDING TRUTH WHEREVER IT MAY BE FOUND:  "Saint Augustine, who knew a thing or two about delay, warns us, 'God has promised forgiveness to your repentance, but He has not promised tomorrow to your procrastination.'"  from Rev. Paul Scalia's book, "That Nothing May Be Lost."


G. P sent in THIS article on Art for World in Need of Truth.

E. P. sent in THIS article on the defunding of Planned Parenthood.

Well . . . I think they are working on the plaza.  Things have been kinda still for a couple of days.
But this made up for it  - as seen in Schneider Park walking the dogs before morning Mass.
Jordan Peterson on the Problem with Atheism - 6 mins:

Monday, March 25, 2019


Do you ever have the dream that you are taking a nap in the back seat of a car and you wake up and discover there is nobody driving?  

I have.  

The "Dream Doctor" says that it means something is on autopilot in your life.  

Sometimes it is easier being a pastor than others.  For example: personnel.  If you have someone assigned to your parish that is a bit rounded in a square hole, you can always say, "I'm doing my best but this is who the Bishop sent!"  (Nobody like that here by the way.)

Then there are those you bring to the parish.  You do your best to vet them - ask priest and other Catholic friends, look at their web sites - ask the questions . . . 
But in the end you just have to trust.  There is a point at which you are not in control and you get ready either to patted on the back for such a great choice are start figuring out how you are going to apologize.

Friday, March 22, 2019


(This is not exactly what I said I was going to talk about but . . . )

Furthering my distance from modern culture and making people upset, there is the problem of exactly what is meant by “art.”  For some people, almost any human effort - and sometimes happenstance - can be considered art.  Quite literally, putting an old shoe on a pedestal with a clever title, in some people's book, could not only be considered art, but high art.  

I was swimming in Lake Erie and stubbed my toe.  Reaching down I brought out of the water a worn brick with tiny pebbles stuck in the holes.  It was interesting.  There was something oddly attractive about it.  My sister suggested that I keep it and put it on a shelf in the rectory which I did.  In some people’s opinion, this is art, or more specifically, “found art.”

I can’t stretch out my definition (not given yet) of art that far.  That doesn’t mean that something like this should not be put on display.  There are things that are truly interesting, the definition of which is something that arouses curiosity.  It draws you to itself for some reason like that brick.  There are things in local museums that come nowhere near my definition of a combination of the concepts of Beautiful and Art but none-the-less deserve to be on display.

There is still such a thing as craftsmanship, ability and perfection.  A certain piece may inspire me with its human ability to pull something off.  Often (personally) I see such things as great ability being ready to be applied to art - or extreme talent applied to something ordinary.  Even if you do not see a piece as art, you can still appreciate the human endeavor.

Then there is the brick.  It is an oddity.  Human forces (some intentional and some carelessness) and nature combined to put something together that draws one’s attention - at least for a moment.  (Since I found it and recognized it, am I the artist?)  It might not bring more than a smile to your face or it might spark a project in your mind to create something like it.  But is that enough to consider it art or merely interesting?

In this blogger’s humble opinion: it is worthy to put such things on display for interest and inspiration.  It curles my black oxfords however that it is classified as Art.  I wish there was another term such as “Interesting.”  But then, who would pay $25 to see the West Akron Museum of Interesting?

Thursday, March 21, 2019


Last night was the diocesan wide Night of Confessions.  For three hours Fr. Anthony, Fr. Miller and I manned the confessionals at St. Sebastian and heard pretty steady confessions all night.  Fr. Pfeiffer joined us for dinner after and we talked about what a wonderful experience it was for us.

But more importantly it was the satisfying experience of those who went to confession.  The absolute relief many people expressed when they finished was an honor to witness.  I made the comment that I wonder why more people don’t take advantage of this.

Well, maybe I don’t wonder that much.  First, there is the courage it takes to make a good confession.  No matter much relief there may be after, you still have to have the courage to go in the first place.  One of my relatives just had knee surgery.  Now she is SO glad that she had it done.  Life is so much easier (and pain free.)  But still, before hand she had to work up the gumption to go into the hospital and have the surgery done in the first place.

Then there are all of the typical arguments that people have:  Why should I tell my sins to another human being?  Why do I need a priest to absolve me?  I can just tell my sins to God . . . and there are all kinds of responses to this but here is one very human reason why should do this:

It works.  Jung who was developing his psychological treatments in Vienna found that most of his patients were Protestants and Jews despite the fact that most of the population was Catholic.  This led him to speculate that the Sacrament of Reconciliation makes psychiatry much less necessary.  The sacramental practice already largely handled (and had for 2,000 years) what psychiatry was developed to do.  No wonder Jesus gave it to us.  It is good for us.

Not that we do it in order to feel good.  But it is a nice side benefit.  So why don’t more people do it?  Why don’t they exercise and diet more?  Why not read better books?  Why not expose themselves to well produced art?  Why not fix up their houses?  We know we would be so much happier in life.

Why not?

Tuesday, March 19, 2019


FINDING TRUTH WHEREVER IT MAY BE FOUND:  "Everyone has a story, and the cowards never tell the truth."  from John Grisham's, "The Reckoning"


M. S. sent THIS in.  I guess I'm the jerk 😀.  Thank you science.
St. Sebastian Parish Mission begins THIS SUNDAY at 7PM.  Fr. Phillip Scott will be presenting on the healing of the family.  You are invited.

I just thought this was cool:
 I thought this only happened to other people:
 This made me laugh:

E. P. sent in THIS article entitled, "Governor Cuomo's Bridge"

Hope this 7 minutes helps:

Monday, March 18, 2019


A decade ago, when Fr. Pfeiffer was a newly minted priest and assigned to St. Sebastian, he and two other of his young whelp priest friends were gamboling down Mull Avenue in West Akron and they invited me along.  It was a beautiful spring day and as we walked along the iconic brick road and saw the towering oaks coming to full leaf, the birds and squirrels fussing about and children riding their bikes, feeling a bit blissful I said, "I wonder when was the last time Mull Avenue saw four young priests walking down its sidewalks."  To which the young master Fr. Pfeiffer cleverly retorted . . . 
But time was on my side.  All I had to do is sit and wait.  My vengeance would come.  I mean - come on - I was BARELY into my 40s.  Well, now ten LONG years have passed and it is my joy to welcome Fr. Pfeiffer into his 40s.
Happy birthday old boy.

Friday, March 15, 2019


Part III

Art is not (or shouldn’t be) an inert object that sits passively in a room.  Useful objects have artistic elements to them that make them an object at which it is more pleasant to look upon, but a “piece of art” is something that has a message.  Art is an interpretation of reality.  It is describing to the viewer what what the artist sees about reality that is true, good and/or beautiful.  

This weekend we will have the reading of the Transfiguration.  This is when Jesus goes to the top of the mountain and is transfigured before His disciples into dazzling white garments, Moses and Elijah.  In the West we tend to view this from the perspective that Jesus changed, revealing His true nature to His disciples.  The Eastern Catholic Church (thanks D.S.) looks to the change in the disciples - that their vision of Jesus changed to see Him as He truly was.   Which is more true?  Are they equally true?  It is difficult to say.  Here are the same facts, the same incidents, but two very different ways of interpreting exactly what happened.  How might the artistic interpretation differ?  What if you didn't believe in Jesus?  What if you didn't believe in God?  What if you believed this story was part of a dominating hierarchy to keep people in line?  What if you saw yourself as Jesus?  

Some see Christopher Columbus as a great and brave man, others see him as a horrible monster.  Some see life as a great and lovely adventure, others see it as meaningless, brutish, and short.    Sometimes it helps if, when looking at a modern piece of art that initially does nothing for you, to ask, “Is this a new take - a different vision - a unique vision - a fun insight into the workings of a world vision that I don’t particularly share?”  

Not everything that is true, good and beautiful is obvious at first.  (Remember your first taste of wine?  Yuck!)  And maybe you wont ever come to like a particular school (there are whole schools without which I think the world would not suffer) but you can have a moment to understand what world view is being portrayed.  

Now, you may still walk away from the piece thinking, “what a waste of the $25 admission fee” and largely think that the price tag on the “art” as a fraud on those with too much money to spend and too little common sense to go along with it, but you will come away with a greater knowledge of how at least part of your culture if viewing reality.  If you never come to like it or at least appreciate it, decide if it is because it is poorly executed or if, in your estimation, it appears to be utterly false.

Next week - we will start looking at ideas of what is beautiful and what may be just pretty or interesting.  

Tuesday, March 12, 2019


FINDING TRUTH WHEREVER IT MAY BE FOUND:  "And what about chastity?  It's a basic truth of Christian discipleship.  And it does not mean, "Sorry, no sex for you."  Rather, God asks us to live our sexuality virtuously according to our calling."  from Archbishop Chaput's, "Strangers in a Strange Land."

QUOTE II:  "Choices don't stay buried."  same source


G. P. sent in THIS great article, "Do Catholics Care about Art?"  

E. P. sent in THIS article, "Rhode Island Catholic Mom Fights Abortion with Powerful Campaign."

P. V. sent in THIS article "5 Kids Who Think They Are Transgender."

Our very own Marty Miller will be speaking at the next Theology on Tap Akron!  PLEASE NOTE THE CHANGE OF LOCATION!
You are invited to this concert coming up at St. Sebastian:
I am very excited about this new stone sign next the main entrance at the Julie Billiart School:
St. Sebastian Parish Mission is coming up on Sunday, March 24th through the 27th at 7PM with Fr. Philip Scott.  His ministry is the HEALING OF THE FAMILY.  YOU are invited!
Fr. Philip's website can be found HERE.

Here is an example of his speaking:

Sunday, March 10, 2019


One of the things that I am doing for Lent this year is a practice of every day giving something away and/or throwing something away.  We've been off to a great start!
It is not always easy.  It can be a challenge.
The sad thing is that this is the third year in a row that I have been doing this particular penitential act and I cannot fathom why there is STILL SO MUCH STUFF THAT I CAN GIVE AWAY.

Friday, March 8, 2019


So your friend and you are standing before someone’s work and one of you think it a masterpiece and the other wouldn’t insult his trash by disposing of it in the same place.  Is the problem with the piece itself or with the viewer?

Well, possibly both.  It’s not that simple.  How can two people see the same piece with the same lighting at the same time of day and having the comparable eyesight be so divergent?  Is it purely subjective? 

The liking or not liking of a piece of art is the flowering of a plant with very deep roots.  A certain amount of it can be subjective (well, I simply do NOT like the color orange my dear) but it is not purely subjective.  And this series is not so much focusing on liking a particular piece of art as much as it is looking at styles or schools of art.

Let us say the you see a piece of art to which you have a strong affinity.  A large part of it is based upon you world view.  Is there such a thing as absolute truth?  Is there such a thing as The Good and Beauty?  Is there a God?  Does life have meaning or is it absurd?  Does beauty reside in a thing or only in your perception of that thing?  

“In shaping a masterpiece, the artist not only summons his work into being, but also . . . reveals his own personality by means of it.”  So says St. John Paul II.  So of course, something of the artist’s belief is going to be incorporated into whatever it is he creates.  You can see this in children’s drawings.  Give a kid a bunch of paper and box of 64 crayons and tell him to draw his house and family and in pretty quick order you will know if the child has a positive or negative outlook on life.  Now imagine a talented artists painting from a particular world view.  It will reveal itself.

So here is our step one: Not liking a piece may not mean that you have failed the “taste” test, it may mean that you are working through a different world view, one that does not hold up as a value that which are seeing.  This is the first thing to at least consider and develop your thoughts on so when someone attempts to put your in your place for not having the education or training to fully appreciate a piece, you will have something to say other than, “I don’t like it” because, frankly, who cares?  

Thursday, March 7, 2019


There is not a lot of accountability in lent.  If you did not fast yesterday, chances are there was nobody around who had power to discipline you.  If you ate meat there wouldn't be a cut in your pay. If you are not giving up something for Lent (of doing something extra) you won't get a ticket.  If you are not diving into prayer and almsgiving, you won't receive a warning notice from the city.  Lent is entirely voluntary and you will get out of it exactly as much as you put in to it.

How awesome it is that we are encouraged in our self disciplines rather than under the watchful eye of a Big Brother.  It means that whatever we undertake, it is not a matter of outside forces guiding our actions from which we look forward to escaping the moment the pressure is released.  It is, rather, something that comes from within, forming habits and character, not just compliance.

May your Lenten practices steep you in Truth, bathe you in Goodness and set you aglow in Beauty for the rest of you life.

Tuesday, March 5, 2019


FINDING TRUTH WHEREVER IT MAY BE FOUND:  "The profound boredom which worldly persons experience and drag with themselves to every part of the world is a sign that their heart was made for a good infinitely higher than anything they are seeking."  from Fr. Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange's, "Knowing the Love of God."

QUOTE II:  "If you are a person here who has had an abortion, I encourage you to seek healing because abortion is not normal.  Taking the life of an innocent human being that is you own flesh and blood and your own DNA is not normal."  see video below.


Young adults - HERE is the website for the ITE PROJECT and their upcoming goings on.

E.F. sent in THIS article about how during World War II triptychs were commissioned for the Army, Navy and Air Force.

Theology on the Rocks is on hiatus for two months; this month because we are encouraging people to attend the Parish Mission at St. Sebastian and Easter the following month.

This may be difficult to hear - 10 minutes.

Monday, March 4, 2019


In the seminary we had some instructions on the special rules of being a Catholic gentleman as a priest - that is, things that pertain to us that tend to not be as relevant to the general Catholic gentleman.  One of the things we were taught is that priests should not smell.  That is, not just that a priest should bathe regularly but that he should not wear cologne or use products that produce an aura of scent around him.  A priest should smell neutral.  But we are constantly in situations that make this difficult - small rooms (especially confessionals) lots of heavy clothing, poor diets . . . It works against this principle.

A priest friend of mine tells the story of his Mom and Dad's first date and how it was almost a disaster.  His Dad, a young man at the time, was picking up his wife on their first date.  He pulled up, escorted her to the car, opened the door, and then as he was walking around the car to get into his side, he thought it a good time to pass gas.  Unfortunately he was wearing a big, long coat and it trapped everything inside until he sat in the car and his attempted sneak gas leak became apparent.

That happened to me in the confessional the other day.  Thinking I would take care of things before I went in, I was foiled when my cassock betrayed me by holding on to it like a giant balloon, the concealed silent release escaping though button holes etc, only after I sat down to hear confessions.
Two days ago, one of the dogs named after a famous English Catholic writer of the last century had an accident on the floor.  It was discovered when I stepped on it.  I cleaned it up, washed my shoe, and headed over to confessions.  I was both annoyed and confused when, after a few minutes, I still smelled the dog.
Between people coming in and out of the confessional I would search - Did I get it on my hands?  No.  My pant leg?  No.  After about three confessions I found the source.  I had stepped on the mess with my other shoe and it was all hidden up there behind the heal.  We were packed with confessions so what are you going to do?  Have everybody wait while I go change shoes?

Then there was the day - not too long ago - is this happening because I am over 50? - that confessions were slow.  It was almost the end of the hour and I hadn't had anybody in for 10 minutes.  I had been holding things back knowing the effect - but there were no footsteps, I hadn't heard the church doors open, no noises in church.  So I relaxed knowing that I would be leaving the box anyway in about 30 seconds . . . and just as I pressed by hands against the arms of the chairs to launch myself out of there . . . the door opens.  "Bless me father for . . . ewww."

Saturday, March 2, 2019


If you find yourself in a museum looking at a piece of art and wondering who in the Good Lord’s Name decided that something that appears as though a 5 year old could have produced should be worth 5 million dollars and be hung in a museum and guarded by alarms and armed docents, this might help you.  A couple of nights ago someone was telling me that they were in a modern museum of art (where, by the way, she was the only person viewing a particular show) and walked through quickly describing it as looking as though it were just a string of yard sales.  The guard was surprised that she walked through so quickly stating that, “People spend hours looking at his installation,” and then insinuated that it was too bad her education and taste were so poor.

So why is it that two people could look at a piece of art and one be willing to sacrifice a years salary to own a piece and another would throw it away thinking it was trash?  Know this: it has more to do with than art education or good or bad taste.  It runs more deeply than that.  If you and a friend stand before a piece labeled art and one of you reacts in awe and the other guffaws at the piece of tripe, the underlying issues may be much deeper than questions of taste or aesthetics.  

Over the next couple of weeks, Friday Potpourri will be exploring one possible theory of art and why what some people see as a joke, others see as high culture.  You probably wont agree with everything, but at least it will help you understand why this great divide (or divides) and how you fit into it.