Friday, October 17, 2014


Paragraph 24 of Dei Verbum
If you want a good plant, start with good soil and good seeds.  If these are not in place all sorts of things could happen.  I once unknowingly used dirt filled with wild morning glory seeds.  As you might well imagine, about the only thing grown was wild morning glories.  Or thinking you’re planting cosmos and finding marigolds.  There’s a shocker.
In a similar way we are encouraged to harvest all of our theology, or catechesis, our preaching from the seeds of Scripture planted firmly in Sacred Tradition.  Because it is the Word of God, it constantly leads us to truth and deeper understanding of our God.  (Personal note) When one substitutes or dismisses the Word or takes the Word but dismisses its Tradition, all kinds of strange and new (compared with the 2,000 year old understanding of the faith) start popping up.  One need not look very far to see examples of this.  Step off of the Catholic front lawn and you will find people teaching just about anything you might want to hear in the name of Christianity.

Thursday, October 16, 2014


Buenos dias” said the man with a broad smile wearing a security guard uniform and having a sawed off shotgun over his shoulder.  He unlatched the gate and swung it open for us.  This was a nicer part of San Salvador and we were staying in their version of gated community.  The first house on the right was the Love and Hope Orphanage, surrounded, as all the houses are, by a high wall topped with razor wire.  You ring the doorbell and someone opens a steel door and lets you in to the small court before the pleasantly sized home and its twenty or so children.
Inside a busy household is at work.  Children are completing their homework or kicking a ball on the small, well manicured lawn area.  Dinner is cooking, the tias and tios are helping with school work, tending a bruised ego, picking up toys, or sitting quietly with someone.  It is a true home of sorts and we were invited to come stay with them for a few days.
A young man joined the Catholic Church and the parish not long ago.  Hoping to get him more involved I asked him what his interests were.  He studied languages in college and now we are blessed that he offers classes in Latin for kids and adults at the parish.  “What are your other passions?”  He told of his mission activity down in El Salvador at an orphanage.  As it turns out until recently there was a parish in our area that took mission trips there and parishioners from St. Sebastian often joined in but they no longer go.


“Why don’t you put a mission trip together?” I offered him never thinking that he’s do it.


But he did.


And so eight of us got out passports out, packed bags and sunscreen and hopped on a plane with him at an hour in the morning I hadn’t seen in a long time.


When I got to the airport (at the agreed upon time I might add) I was the ONLY one there.  It turned out to be a good thing however as it would allow me to avoid publically embarrassing myself.  Going up to the counter to check a bag the lady behind the counter asked, “May I see your ID.”  Reaching into my wallet it was discovered, much to my horror, that I did not have my driver’s license!  This was the EXACT dream I had just the night before.


The day before I was at the ATM machine to get some funds for the trip when I realized all the cars stashed in my wallet had fallen out.  Had I dropped my driver’s license and lost it?


“Do I have time to go to Akron, get my license, and get back?” I asked the airline representative.


“Well,” she paused, “If you hurry.”


I ran out the door angry with myself.  A bus would have to be taken to my car already nestled in ling term parking, a mad dash made to St. Sebastian, a frantic search for my license, and then start all over again (assuming it was found).


Feeling dispirited standing on the sidewalk waiting for parking bus it occurred to me, “Wait.  I have my passport.  Shouldn’t that work?”  So I went back in and asked, “Can’t I just use my passport?”  The lady said, “Yes.  I was wondering how you thought you would get into El Salvador without it.” 
So we all eventually – a common theme for the whole trip - made it to the airport and on to the plane.  A flight attendant stopped by our seats and asked, “Are you missionaries?”
Confused we answered in the affirmative but asked, “How did you know?”
“Nobody from the states just happens to go to El Salvador unless they are surfers or missionaries.  And you don’t look like surfers.”
And thusly did our trip begin.

To be continued.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014


There is a lot of discussion about how boring certain priests can be.  Almost nobody talks about how boring a congregation can be.
Now, I am fortunate so this is definitely not about St. Sebastian.  But if your priest appears boring during the prayers of the Mass, look around and see to what he may be responding.  When he offers a prayer, do the people respond?  When he looks out at the congregation, does he see prayers in rapt attention or people with half closed eyes, arms cross, and a scowl that says, “Okay, entertain me.”  Is he dragging the people through the Mass like a man dragging a dead, wet cow across a sandy beach?  That can zap your energy.
Yes!  Priest (I) can be incredibly boring and priests are responsible for the lion’s share of the mood.  But are you, who have been anointed priest, prophet, and king at your baptism, giving him something with which to work?  Do you bring energy and prayer and ministry? 
It may or may not work in your particular situation but it can’t hurt and it certainly can help – if you don’t want your priest to be boring – don’t be boring yourself.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014


Guess who was let go from jury duty for today.  I have to call back after 5:00PM though.
FINDING TRUTH WHEREVER IT MAY BE FOUND:  "The turn of the tide comes earlier than men judging by surface phenomena conceive."  from Hilaire Belloc's "The Great Heresies"
QUOTE II:  "There is no universal cry of indignation, there is no sufficient protest, because there is no longer in force the conception that man as man is something sacred.  That same force which ignores human dignity also ignores human suffering."  same source

From the Diocese of Cleveland Enewsletter:  This is pretty cool - the Cleveland Orchestra and Chorus will be performing a FREE CONCERT at our Cathedral of Saint John Friday, October 17th at 8PM.  Read more here.
From the same source:  As you may know, I was recently in El Salvador (hence the picture above.)  Our bishop was also there recently to help celebrate the Cleveland Diocese's 50 year relationship with their diocese.  Here is reflection of his visit there.

The Cleveland Plain Dealer has a great article on Mother Mary Thomas, an 81 year old cloistered nun and painter.  St. Sebastian has a painting of (appropriately enough) St. Sebastian painted by her though most have not had the opportunity to see it yet.  It will be revealed in January.  She also came to St. Sebastian to give a talk and help us open our Academy of Culture and Arts (see more HERE) about a year and half ago.  More exciting things (good things) will be revealed in the near future.  It is a good story on which to keep your eye!  HERE is the article, pictures, and video.
Karen and Tony sent this in.  Thanks!

Monday, October 13, 2014


Believe it or not I shall not be posting today as planned as I have been called to jury duty.  I'll let you know how that goes . . .

God bless,

Fr. V

Sunday, October 12, 2014


Let's start with this: If today's title gave you pause - stop reading now.  Just stop.  It will save us all a lot of angst later.
A week and half ago I was in El Salvador on a mission trip.  I got back to my car at the airport, switched bags, and drove right to our diocesan priest convocation.  There I saw most of my priest buddies and we can sometimes get silly.  Hence today's post.  It may well be that I am sharing too much but I can't turn down a dare from these guys.
Now, of course when you get home from being away, what went WRONG is always FAR more interesting to hear about than what was wonderful, restful, and meaningful.  This is unfortunate but a part of human nature.  Especially a bunch of guys human nature. 
Today's story is a result of that.  More serious stuff will come later. 
So while in El Salvador many of the team came down with the El Salvadorian diet.  It is not pretty.  It can sneak up on you accidentally by drinking something with ice in it, or fruit that was cut with a dirty knife, or, as in my case, accidentally running your toothbrush under the tap.
Compared to everybody else mine was quite mild.  As soon as I realized what may be upon me, I took some medicine.  It seemed to take care of it right away.  But only seemed.  It was to be that there would be one more offensive.
We went on a long trip out to the Jesuit University to visit the very sacred spot where the Jesuits were martyred during their civil war.  It was then that my body started warning me that it was about to betray me one last time.
I didn't want anyone to make a fuss so I kept pretty quiet about it.  Things were Okay but time was running out.  When there was a break in our tour I asked our very helpful docent where the bano was.  She led me half way across to campus to the nearest one.  Time was quickly running out.  Not to worry though because there we were at the facilities and it was pretty fortunate too because much longer and this would have been a very different story. 
But then one of the worst things came to light.

There was not a lick of paper ANYWHERE.  It was too late to go back and ask one of the ladies who all seemed to have magic purses if they had anything I might borrow.  I had hit the end of the grace period.

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is the problem with truly intelligent people.  They are never there when you really need them.

Thanks to Fr. P for the song
Apologize for those who were offended.  It won't happen again.  I promise I think.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014


I will be on a mission trip with some members of the parish.  I will not be posting while I am away. 

God bless,

Fr. V


FINDING TRUTH WHEREVER IT MAY BE FOUND:  "Do not trust anyone, ever, if you hear them yelling into a telephone."  from Steve Hamilton's, "The Lock Artist"
QUOTE II:  "I didn't know that once you have proven yourself useful to the wrong people, you'll never be free again."  same source
QUOTE III:  "There's nothing quite as empty as an empty safe."  same source

The Diocese of Cleveland's sister diocese is in El Salvador.  This year we celebrate 50 years of cooperation between our dioceses and Cleveland's presence there.  Read more here.

Starting tomorrow I will be in El Salvador and so there will be no posts for approximately 2 weeks.

Do you remember the post and video of a few weeks ago about robots and computers taking over the world?  Christina (who was brought into the Church this past weekend) sent in this article with an alternative view.

My cousin Fr. Trenta, in residence at St. Sebastian but who is currently studying in Rome sent this picture from a recent Mass he attended and helped distribute communion:
 This was the Mass from which the above picture was taken.  It is three hours!

Here is something lighter and only three minutes:

Monday, September 29, 2014


It is always interesting to hear what you tell kids and what comes back out.

A Mom came up to me at Mass this past weekend and told me the story about her son.  At St. Sebastian Parish School we require the boys to wear ties for Mass day.  Usually Mass is on Thursday mornings but occasionally for various reasons it is on another day.  Such a day was a couple of weeks ago.  And this took place:
So she asked him to find out why he had to wear his tie that day.  Apparently somebody didn't read my bulletin article.  (If you are reading this - I'm just kidding.) 
The reason we had Mass that day was because we were on the last day of our 40 Hours (Eucharistic Devotions.)  Also at that Mass we introduced the new parochial vicar at St. Sebastian.  I'll let him introduce himself here.
Yes, he's one of those.

Anyway, Fr. K will be with us for the next 10 months (well, just slightly over 9 now) and he was introduced to the school that day.  The following was the result.
Actually, with this pope, it seems feasible. 

Friday, September 26, 2014


Dei Verbum paragraph 23
Do you have Ratzinger’s (aka Pope Benedict, aka Pope Emeritus Benedict) books on the shelf entitled “Jesus of Nazareth” with the intention that “someday I will get around to reading this.”  Well, today take the first volume off of the shelf and read just the forward.  You will see echoes of today’s paragraph ringing loudly and clearly. 
Sacred Scripture is a living thing which we are to strive to ever more understand it that it might bring us life.  Like heat from a fire that brings us warmth, Scriptures are designed to bring us insight, freedom of mind, and hope.  But there are just so many ways to screw that up.  In that forward, Benedict rips on some of the ways that exegesis is done today that make Jesus incredibly distant, or nonexistent, or into a remarkable carbon copy of the person who is doing the exegesis. 


John Cardinal Newman once said, “To be steeped in history is to cease being Protestant.”  When trying to figure out what Scriptures is saying we must take into account G. K. Chesterton’s Democracy of the Dead.  What have Christians been saying since the beginning of the Church? (and not just what someone tells you it said.)  The Church Fathers of both the east and west give remarkable insight into the early Church and Scripture. 
Recently, the local megachurch which is also anti-Catholic (in that they teach false things about the Church and then proceed to tear those falsities down and ask those who correct their misinterpretations of the Church to kindly never come back) asked to come and take pictures of our church building for a talk they were giving.  I am sure it will involve popish comments about how we make things up and that their services are much closer to what first Christians did.  But read the early Church fathers (first, second, third centuries) and you will find us doing the exact same thing that the early Church was doing.  In case you were wondering, I let them come.  Maybe someone will see the pictures, hear something that doesn’t quite jive, and be lead to explore this interesting building and be led to the faith.  Who knows?  Say a prayer.
But this is also why exegesis is done “with the mind of the Church.”  It is not because the Church wants to control over everybody but because there is truth and falsity.  One can fall way off of the track and end up leading others into a ditch going nowhere. 
Christ is the bridegroom and we are His espoused taught by His Holy Spirit.  The Bridegroom leads His spouse into truth and freedom.  The Magisterium (at its best) makes sure that the fields of exploration are fruitful ones.

Thursday, September 25, 2014


Books and programs come by about once a year that promise to rejuvenate the parish, save Catholic schools, cut down on the work load for the clergy, and in general bring about the parousia.  Cynical might best describe the attitude this author has developed.  Everyone gets all hot and bothered.  Committees are set up. Programs are held.  Speakers are brought in.  Posters are made.  Commitment weekends are staged.  And there will be some amount of success at least for a time.
First important lesson I learned: Every program that promises to make less work for priests will inevitable cause a ton more work for priests.  Period.  Don’t even go there with me.
Secondly, of the ones that work well, they tend to be emphasized aspects of what we should already be doing.  But it is kind of like lent; you can only keep the extra energy and focus up so long and then you fall back to a “ordinary time” state.


Now, I don’t want to put every program down and there will always be a couple of people whose lives were completely changed and now they are “active” parishioners.  So there’s that.  And I’m not saying I wouldn’t do another program, I probably just won’t put all my hosts in ciborium.
That being said there are two books that are making hot tracks around the diocese and as a diocese we are setting up programs to see what fruit will come from them.  The first is “Forming Intentional Disciples.”  The book upon which it is based, IMHO, could have probably been a pamphlet.  But its message is great.  We can’t be passive Catholics who go to Mass on the weekend.  We must be God’s agents on earth whether that involves being active at Mass or telling your wayward nephew to get his keester to Mass. (That was snarky but you get the point.)
The other book about which you may want to be aware is “Rebuilt.”  It is ideas from a pastor and his deacon who took a failing parish and breathed new life into it.  They openly discuss their failures and successes.  It is an interesting read.  I think there are some great things to learn from it though I don’t know that I would buy the whole thing.  (We have been talking about it at parish pastoral council.)  And it is obvious that his parish is some place warm as they talk about having parking lot ministers.  Try that in December in Ohio.
In any event, chances are these books or at least the ideas from these books are coming your way.  Watch for them in a parish near you.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014


The author of “How Google Works” was interviewed on the radio yesterday.  The book tells about how Google stays on top of the market by constantly reinventing itself.  He gave several examples (only one can I remember – sorry!) of businesses and institutions that failed to be innovative and suffered because of it.  The one I remember is the post office.  Had they be been innovative and adaptive, according to the person who wrote the book, they would have realized that parcels are still unable to be sent person to person over the internet and would have switched from letters to focusing on packages along the lines of UPS and would have fared much better.


This seems like a perfectly reasonable assumption and there are truths about it.  We might even look back and think, “Of course!  Had they only . . .”  But it is one thing to look back and think, “If they’d only changed this one thing” as opposed to being on the other end, “What is the thing we have to change to deal with this unknown future?”

The Church suffers from the same thing.  It seems to have a general sense that it constantly needs to change in order to stay relevant in people’s lives, but it suffers from knowing exactly WHAT to change.  So we have tried all kinds of things.  Change the music, change the seating, change the words of the Mass, add dancing, change the teaching, change the preaching, change . . . well, you get the point.
I would contend that we have far too often changed the wrong thing.  The post office still needs to deliver things.  If it suddenly decided to start raising horses like it did during the pony express, it might be a really great gimmick, make all the press, even call us out of our homes to watch a parade of them go by, but it wouldn’t really help the bottom line of the post office.  The right thing has to be changed.
It is not necessarily the music or the vestments or the perfect seating arrangements that will make things better in the Church (though they can help) and it won’t even be changing our teachings.  Rather, it will be emphasizing those teaching that speak to people’s hearts in a particular age.  In what areas do our youth’s hearts ache today?  There is an angle of our beliefs already in our books and in our hearts that can speak to that.  You won’t speak to it simply by playing music louder and the priest wearing jeans at Mass.  But after showing them how the faith speaks to their hearts, you can then open the rest of the world to them.

Monday, September 22, 2014


There are approximately two million Slovenians in the world and I am one of them.  It is my opinion that there are generally two types of Slovenians.  They are distinguished in how they deal with time.  Take the following two cartoons as examples:

The first type almost invariably marry the second type.  This was most noticeable on Christmas Eve going home from Grandma and Grandpa's house.  Dad and I would be sitting in the car with the engine running because we all agreed it was time to go home and Mom was inside for a good extra half hour/45 minutes "saying goodbye."
Yes, I am of the first category.  I didn't think so until our new priest came to stay with us.
Still, I could convince myself that others just didn't get the value of time.  But then I received a sign that maybe I was going a little overboard.  Next to the door where we enter the sanctuary for daily Mass, there is a clock that ticks down the seconds until the bells are going to ring.  I usually have us line up after prayer and watch the clock, ticking down the seconds like New Years Eve in order to start Mass. 
It hit me that perhaps I am a little overboard when this past week, during the marking of the seconds, one of the servers broke out in . . .

Friday, September 19, 2014


There was story about the Catholic Church that it used to chain its Bibles in the back of the church so that lay people could not take them away with them and have access to the Bible in their own home.  This is absolutely true.  Although the allegation was that they were doing so in order to keep Sacred Scriptures out of the hands of the faithful and therefore have greater control over the faithful, it was actually because all books were written by hand and were exceedingly expensive, rare, and time consuming to produce.  If you remember bank pens that were chained to the table where you wrote your deposit slip, the bank wasn't trying to keep pens out of the hands of non-bank personnel, they were trying to keep pens available to everybody.

In today's paragraph of Dei Verbum (22) the Council Fathers state that the Scriptures ought to be open to all the Christian faithful.  Not as easy a task as you might imagine.  A friend of mine has a parish not too far from here.  Once an exclusively English speaking neighborhood (after being heavily Italian) it then turned Spanish speaking then to be overwhelmed with (I believe) Korean speaking persons.  Now, if you have a few monks writing things out by hand and you are trying to make Scriptures available and it takes a couple of years to produce a book, how do you even get one done before a whole new group speaking a new language takes over the neighborhood assuming you have someone who can translate the Bible into their language in the first place? 
Easier it is today but not easy.  Who speaks Korean?  How do you have Mass and preach?  How do you find money to buy new song books and etc.?  If only we had a universal language.  But even if you do (and we do as reaffirmed by the Vatican II documents) that doesn't mean everybody understands it either.
Be that as it may, the Church promotes the translation of the Scriptures into all languages and even encourages, when it is possible and is deemed helpful, to translate them in cooperation with "separated brethren" so that one translation may be read by all Christians.

Thursday, September 18, 2014


There was a story on the radio about a guy’s first encounter with the acronym “LOL.”  His son signed off on a text to him with it and he assumed (as any good father would) that it meant “Lots of love.”  He spent the next month or so with the new found and what he thought of as hip knowledge writing notes to people such as, “Dear Max, I heard about the death of your dog.  You are in my thoughts.  LOL, Dan.”


I only learned about these types of things when I started writing this blog and people would send me notes such as “ROFL.”  This would then require a trip to the day school to ask one of the students, “Okay, what does this one mean?”

The other day I was at our seminary and was astounded at all of the initials I encountered.  I am rather used to them and wonder what non-Catholics think about all of our nomenclature.  Some of them are particular to this diocese but not all of them.
While at the seminary I encountered SNDs and OSBs.  I was reminded that we were at the CPL which is mighty close to our newly designated PCLs which used to be DREs, but was changed because it was considered more appropriate to call them PCLs.  PCLs, formally known as DREs, are often in charge of PSR programs which used to be known, when I was a kid, as CCD classes.  Often parishes will send persons to the CPL to become a PCL in order to head up their PSR and RCIA classes.
But not only parishes will do this.  SNDs and OSBs as well as a host of other initials send their initials to the CPL to that we can have SNDPCLs or OSBDREs so they can help teach RCIA in parishes especially since PVs, formally known as associate pastors, are becoming rarer.
But can you imagine an OSB who has taken over a parish sending his OSB PV to the CPL to become a PCL (not a DRE) in order to do RCIA and PSR?  He would be an OSBPVPCL who could also help coach CYO.