Friday, September 4, 2015


If you celebrate it, they will come.


Advertise that your Sunday Mass is only 20 minutes long and people will drive an hour to get there.

This hardly leaves time for any silence.

The mere size of the sanctuary at St. Sebastian helps fight against this.  When the first reading is done, it just plain takes a little while for the cantor to make it to the microphone.  Voila!  Pre-packaged silence.

Of course, most of us American HATE silence.  It is time being wasted when something productive (or at least entertaining) could be accomplished.  Sitting?  In the quiet?  With nothing "happening?"  Not so much.

This makes paragraph 56 perhaps one of the most neglected (and under appreciated) paragraphs in the whole GIRM.  It says, "The Liturgy of the Word (LOTW) is to be celebrated in such a way as to favor meditation."  Be honest, how many people, when thinking about what happens at Mass, say, "We go there to group meditate on God."  Sing?  Yes.  Be entertained?  Yes.  Listen?  Yes.  Read, sing, shake hands, take up gifts, if you're lucky pray along with the Mass?  Yes.  But meditate?  Never heard anyone say it.

"Haste," it says, "is clearly to be avoided."  So much for a 20 minute Mass.  (How do they even do that?)  Periods of brief silence are to be introduced for example before the LOTW begins, at the end of the readings, and at the conclusion of the homily.  (I think this makes the Catholic Mass startling unique from much of the rest of the Christian world.)  This is so that those who are there to pray and exercise their priestly ministry may have a moment under the guidance of the Holy Spirit to digest what they heard and so remember it.  
The periods of silence are something to be used, not endured.  Something IS happening there if individuals take advantage of it.  For example you might ask yourself, "What stood out in that reading for me?"  The celebrant may go in an entirely different direction with his homily, but something that was meant to touch you will still come in to your heart.

Thursday, September 3, 2015


Every now and then I pray that news agencies will hire somebody who knows the Catholic faith well before attempting to write a report on it.*  The simplest misunderstanding of a word can lead to grave mis-reporting.

Let's take just one example:  Who does the Catholic Church refer to when she says, "Church."

This is extremely important when considering sentences such as, "Will Pope Francis change Church teaching?"  The very phrasing of the sentence shows a Protestant mindset not consistent with the Catholic Church.  As we have seen, whether it be a storefront Church or a mainstream Protestant Church, tectonic shifts in what is considered core beliefs can change often by having a vote.  The Church, having come to a new understanding of what God intends, can take a vote and change what the Church believes.

When the Catholic Church says "Church," she does not mean Pope Francis.  She does not mean those "old men in Rome."  She does not mean all of the clergy and religious throughout the world.  She does not only mean every single Catholic alive in the world.  For the Catholic, the Church refers to every member of the Catholic Church who has ever lived.  St. Peter's mother-in-law is still a member of the Church.  A milkmaid in the middle ages is still a member of the Church.  My deceased Mother is still a member of the Church and still has a vote.  G. K. Chesterton called this the Democracy of the Dead.  What they held as true to the faith must be held by us and by those who come after us or the true faith has not only been unknown, it is unknowable.
It is categorically wrong to think that Pope Francis is going to change Church teaching.  Church discipline?  Maybe.  The WAY the faith is taught?  Sure.  But that he could change a doctrine?  It is impossible.  You might as well ask if he is going to change the laws of the universe.  The laws of the universe are not his to change nor is he capable.

Someone might point out to you something about the infallibility of the pope - another thing that is gravely misunderstood.  One of the very definitions of an infallible statement is that it does not contradict 2,000 years of Catholic teaching.  If it does so, it is not an infallible statement by definition.

Will Pope Francis change Church teaching?  That is the wrong question to ask.

* But not all the time because I would have a difficult time finding fodder for the blog.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015


NPR had a story on yesterday.  Later this year, Pope Francis is going to declare a year of mercy.  During that year, a priest may absolve penitents for the sin of abortion.  "But it is a limited time offer," NPR reminds us.  At the end of the year, things revert to they way they were.

Now, it is true that abortion is a reserved sin that may only be forgiven by the bishop.  This is because it is seen as an attack on the most vulnerable among us.  It is doing away with a life that can be hidden, legally protected, and forgotten.  And it is being reported as an extraordinary moment in the life of the Church, not to signal a change in Church teaching or to say this sin is any less severe, but to show mercy to those who need it.

The problem is, most Catholics will not notice a difference before the Year of Mercy, during the Year of Mercy, or after the Year of Mercy.  That is because as a practice, bishops have already given that authority (which is within their authority) to their priests.  It is a long standing practice already.  What does make this extraordinary is that the practice is coming all the way from the pope (for there are some bishops in the world that still adhere to this.)  Also, remember, John Paul II gave the same permission in 1983.  So although pastorally this is phenomenal, most people won't notice any real changes here.

The bigger news in my estimation (one that will show a change before, during, and after) is the recognition for a priest of the Society of Saint Pius X to hear confessions at all.  During this Year of Mercy the faithful may approach priest of SSPX, and go to a valid confession.



That is news,

But it is not the Year of Mercy yet.  Go to you local priest until December and then you have a year, if you should so desire, to go to an SSPX priest.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015


FINDING TRUTH WHEREVER IT MAY BE FOUND:  "I have never understood how people can disregard the damage they do by following their hearts.  Who was it said that following your heart is a good thing?  It is pure egoism, a selfishness to conquer all."  from Paula Hawkins' "The Girl on the Train"

QUOTE II:  "The sense of shame I feel about an incident is proportionate not just to the gravity of the situation, but also to the number of people who witnessed it."  same source


Father Pf sent THIS article in: 5 Eye Opening Things a Layman Learned from Wearing a Cassock.

Cathy sent this in:

From the Diocese of Cleveland Enewsletter:  "Retrouvaille is a three-month program to help couples struggling in their marriages.  It has three phases, starting with a weekend experience in which couples learn to re-establish communications and gain new insights into themselves as individuals and as a couple."  Read more HERE.

Here's another 5 and a half minute video:

Monday, August 31, 2015


You know, I think I look good baldish.  When I had hair it was full of cowlicks and was a bit unmanageable anyway.  Plus, our family tends toward very fine and free willed hair so everything made having hair difficult - wind from having the car window down, wearing hats (which I enjoy doing,) the price of gas in Tanzania . . .

And so I really, really think I am over the whole "Oh my gosh I am baldish" thing.  Except - EXCEPT, about once very other month I have this dream that I comb my hair just slightly differently and the result is that I discover that all this time really did have a full head of luscious hair!

I scare myself sometimes.

Of course, the next dream is that I get my hair cut at the Hershey Barbershop again where one of the Hershey girls used to cut my hair until I was too embarrassed to go any longer.

So it was the same thing with turning 50.  I thought I was perfectly Okay with it.  But so many people joined in on telling me that it was going to be Okay that I started thinking, "Maybe this isn't Okay."
So the whole thing starts playing with you . . .

I am SO GLAD that I am not a bishop.  How do they put with us priests?

This is one of drawbacks of celibacy - there's no wife there to say, "You're eating with your mouth open," or "You've worn those pants 5 days in row and you are not stepping out of the house like that," and finally, "Oh you big oaf.  You're just turning 50.  Get over it and get to work."

"And pick up some milk on the way home."

Friday, August 28, 2015



Today I have meetings all day so here is just a quick post.

On Wednesday I went up to The Conversion of Saint Paul Shrine to check on the progress of the painting Mother Mary Thomas is working on written about on the blog several times.  She is still plugging away.

Below you will see a Plain Dealer reporter and photographer.  There is a story coming and I was told, "You are going to blog on this are you not?"  The thing is, I am not sure exactly what I am allowed to blog yet.  There has been no official announcement concerning the thing that I am not telling you and I am pretty darn sure I am not to have the first exclusive so as the say, "Keep your eyes and ears open" and say a prayer for Mother Mary Thomas.
There is going to be a reproduction of the painting made but the question is, "How do you get a picture of it without distortion in order to reproduce it accurately?"  Below you will see one attempt (which unfortunately did not work out because it would have been a boat load of fun.)  They used one of St. Sebastian's pictures as an experiment flying a drone with a camera over it in Zwisler Hall.

(Being a priest is so much fun.)

More news will follow.

Thursday, August 27, 2015


Yesterday, my day away (somewhat,) a priest friend and I went out for brunch.  Though one of my favorite places for breakfast food, they practiced the uncivilized trend of having T.V.s playing in every corner of the restaurant.  So we were into our cup of coffee when Fr. B says, "Do you see what they are reporting on T.V.?"  It was the shocking story of the man who shot the reporter, camera man, and the interviewee on live television.  

"Can you imagine your world being so small," I opined, "that the only way this disturbance in your life can be dealt with is by killing somebody?"  

Fr. B replies, "How much you wanna bet it is a love triangle and that we find out he later ends his own life?"

Well . . . he was close.

Talk about jaded.

But really, are you surprised?  We are constantly working on becoming what some people consider a freer society, but it is leading us down some deadly paths.

1. You have a right to happiness in this world.
2. There are those who deserve life and those who don't.
3. There is no God who needs to be part of civic life therefore there are no absolutes.
4. Truth is subjective.
5. Man is the highest authority.  (At least the one with the most power.)

So, with these as your premise, where do you find meaning in your life; in what you do, accomplish, and are "good for."  That brings you happiness (or escape) is that which is labeled, "the good."  If these are the goods, anything that works against them is evil.  And if you don't have a well developed sense of God, Divine justice, hope both in this life and the after life, that you have dignity and meaning through simply through your being, which comes from this God, that there is such a thing as redemptive suffering, that every aspect of your life and the lives of those around you are a part of these paradigms, then for an increasing number of us, personal justice based on my idea of truth imposed by my will becomes a more realistic option.  
If we keep telling people McDonalds is a real food option, can we be surprised when people base their lives on a McDonalds diet even to the point where they get sick?  And if we keep teaching people that they are their own moral authority, can we be surprised that they take the advice seriously?

Wednesday, August 26, 2015


In the most recent Sherlock Holmes movie ("Mr. Holmes" starring Ian McKellen) we see Holmes retired in a remote country home with a servant. Holmes is distant and the housekeeper somewhat frustrated.  Clearly she has more skin in the game and therefore Holmes, as her employer and almost sole source of humanity (poor girl!) is in control of the relationship.

Later, the tables are turned, and when the housekeeper no longer needs Holmes, having had enough of him and finding a new job, it is Holmes who now has much more skin in the game and she becomes the more powerful of the two in the relationship.

In any given relationship (family, friends, lovers) one person is always more in love than the other.  And it is the one less in love who is in control.  Because it takes two to Tango, it is the one who loves less who's veto or disinterest determines just how far any relationship will go.  The satiated one forces the other to diet.  

There are two important things with this (maybe more, but we'll stick with two today.  I want to get my breakfast.)  One is, if you find a person who will continue to love you when that person has had enough, that is the person to marry.  That is true love.  To be chosen even when the other person no longer receives any further consolation.  Wow.  That is love in it's rarest form.

The other is to remember that God is crazy about you though He receives no consolation from it.  God is complete.  He IS love.  Yet, He made you.  He redeemed you.  He was made humble for you and was born into this world.  He lived for you, taught for you, and performed miracles so that you would believe.  He was arrested for you, tortured for you, and died for you.  He came back for you.  He makes available to you His dignity, His power, and His inheritance.  It would seem there was nothing left to give and then He made His Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity available to you as the Eucharist.  I can't even imagine anything left that He could give except for His infinite patience and mercy. 
And as those who love less than our Lover, we are in control.  He will not force anything on us (another sign of His love and respect.)  The Bridegroom will love the Bride as fully as she we allow.  How deeply it goes is entirely up to us.  And no matter how deeply you allow Him to love you, you will never probe the depths.  


I thought you might enjoy this as it is going live today.  There is more about this video that (hopefully) will be coming out soon!  See the site and the video about Mother Mary Thomas and her painting HERE.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015


FINDING TRUTH WHEREVER IT MAY BE FOUND:  "Today the way to the Bible is littered with heaps of cliches and preconceptions, and on arriving at its words the mind is blind with shallow knowing."  from Abraham Heschel's, "God in Search of Man"

QUOTE II:  "We easily forget that our reasons, too, are in need of reasons; no proof is ultimate or self-supporting."  same source


Off season but good:

Friday, August 14, 2015


GIRM paragraph 53

Sit down and make yourself comfortable.

We are going to be on this paragraph for a little while.

I suppose at this point you have two possibilities; 1) Go on for PAGES what happens during the Liturgy of the Word, or 2) Just say as much as you can in one breath and move on.  They chose both.  First they did #2 and then they did #1.  But as for this paragraph, if you were a administrative assistant (formally known as secretary) and someone wanted to leave this as a message (and you still wrote down the messages) and the message had as much information in it as these four sentences do, after a second or two you would put your pen down and say, "I'll just have Pat call you back after lunch."

Okay, it's just an introductory paragraph and then an explanation but I am in a mood.

What we have in this paragraph is a general overview of the LITURGY OF THE WORD.  First is a general outline of what makes up the LOTW; 1) Readings from Sacred Scripture, 2) the chants that occur between them 3) the homily 4) profession of faith, 5) and the universal prayer.

1 & 2 I am sure do not surprise you.  The purpose of numbers 3 through 5 (not always required) is to develop and conclude the LOTW.  

It would be interesting, along with trying to do a Mass in which first options are consistently chosen, to do a Mass in which everything that one can opt not to do is not done.  It is rather jarring because we are, in general, not accustomed to it.  (I don't really recommend it.)

When the choir was touring in Ireland we got a taste of it.  We were at a Mass (at a cathedral non-the-less and for a Sunday Mass to boot!) and they dropped several parts that we would never expect.  For example, after the exceedingly short (but brilliant) homily and creed the priest started setting up his altar skipping the Universal Prayers.  I knew that the choir would not be expecting that so I look up into the choir loft (from my seat in the sanctuary - fully vested) which was about a half a mile away, and frantically tried to signal the choir to start singing.  Things go quickly in Ireland and even though it was only a short delay, offertory was almost over already.

We'll pick up back here next time.

Thursday, August 13, 2015


There was a time in the Diocese of Cleveland that you would not be considered for a pastorate until you were at least 55.  So in "priest years" I am still a "kid" even though we are on the countdown to the half century mark.  Someone told me the other day, "Enjoy turning 50 because you know what happens when you turn 51 don't you?"

"No," replied, "What happens?"

"Nobody cares."

Jolly thought that.

About an hour ago we received word that a local, retired priest named Fr. Yahner passed away.  He was still very active.  As a matter of fact the way someone knew that he was in need of medical help was that he was expected to organize a crew of young persons to go do yard work and he didn't show up.

All of this makes one very thoughtful.

My first pastor as a priest was in his 80s and was still a workhorse.  "Died with his boots on" as the saying goes and he was the oldest pastor in the diocese at one of the largest parishes.  We used to discuss death.  "A healthy spirituality can talk about death," is a worthy quote.  

"As long as I have been to confession, God can take me whenever He wants," I once remarked to him.

"Wait until you are 80," he shot back, "and see if your attitude changes."

Another person told me the other day that 50 is the best age ever.  "You are not 'old' yet and you are not a 'young un' either."  Let me believe that this is true.  (It reminds me of a time when I was walking down Mull Avenue with a few other priests all dressed in our clerics and I commented, "I wonder when was the last time Mull Avenue saw 5 young priests in full dress walking down the street?"  Fr. Pf coughed and said, "Well, Father, 4 young priests and . . . "

So at this point you do a lot of thinking.  As a younger priest I wondered, "Will I some day regret not having kids?"  So far so good.  Will I start worrying about death like my first pastor warned?  So far so good on that front too.

One of the big things that motivated me toward the priesthood was the opportunity to get people to stop and think, evaluate, contemplate, and meditate.  Are you still living any of your dreams?  Did you accomplish what you set out to do?  Do you still have any of your idealism?  Did your faith grow?  Being a priest helps me accomplish these things in my life.

Most things we do will pass.  Our relationship with God is an eternal thing.  If you don't get the basement cleaned out today, nobody will know in 100 years.  If you work on your spirituality today, people may be looking at your image on a card and praying for your intercession for centuries.  Even if not, you will be with Him eternally.  Is there anything else worthy of such an investment of time?

As for Fr. Yahner, Sorry guy.  You had your chance to retire and you worked through it.  Now you are on the other side.  We will pray for you that your soul be sped on to heaven and you get back to work and intercede for us poor souls here on earth.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015


Despite all the gloom and doom out there, I think we are entering a great moment in the life of the Church.  If history is a consistent teacher, then all of this confusion and persecution is a precursor to God's action.

Look even before the foundation of the Church.  When did things start turing around in the Old Testament?  Just when things looked most bleak.  It was at that moment that a prophet or king arose and refined everything.  

In the history of the Church it was when things seemed hopeless that saints arise and that a new fervor, particularly from places unexpected (a man in poverty, begging and wearing odd clothes named Francis?  Really?  HE is going to restore the Church by telling people to be poor and live roughly?  Does THAT sound like a message anybody would buy?) 

The pot is being stirred.  The ingredients are being added.  The burner is lit.  Like a good soup it will not be done instantly.  It takes a long time for everything to simmer and then for the flavors to properly mix, and then cool and be served.  It is a process and a long one if you are already hungry.

Faith and hope. 

(About the title - It's aways darkest blah blah blah)

Tuesday, August 11, 2015


FINDING TRUTH WHEREVER IT MAY BE FOUND:  "There is some self-interest behind every friendship.  There is no friendship without self-interests.  This is a bitter truth."  Chancy

QUOTE II:  "If you have one true friend you have more than you share."  Thomas Fuller

QUOTE III:  "The bird a nest, the spider a web, man friendship."  William Blake


Okay, this video just tore me up.  It's part of the reason for some of today's quotes.  See it HERE.  Thank you Ronald.

Hallie sent this picture in from the mission trip to El Salvador with the question, "Can you guess which way is up?

Pat sent this trailer in for a new movie coming out: