Thursday, March 26, 2015

TOLLERANCE - BUT ONLY A CERTAIN AMOUNT AND ONLY ON THE TOPICS THAT I CHOOSE


Here’s an interesting statistic for you:  Approximately 300 persons per year are killed in the state of California in hit and run accidents.  That means most days a Californian will kill another Californian with his car and then drive away to avoid responsibility.  Yesterday on NPR an official of the state said (and this is an approximate quote since I was driving and unable to write down what I heard) that this is a horrible situation – near four times the national average – and that “a cultural change must take place.”  His concern is California’s lack of concern for accidents in which human lives are effected.  You cannot simply hit a human being with your car and then drive away.
 
But I thought, “Why not?”  Is change what California really wants?  Are they prepared to do what would be required in order to effect a “cultural change?”  Or do they have exactly what they want?
 


Consider this about the Golden State:  They are on the verge of allowing physician assisted suicide.  They are a death penalty state.  Abortion rights are vigorously upheld.  The state self-funded embryonic stem cell research.  And these are just some of the issues that over a period of time teach a people that when life inconveniences you, you may do away with it. 
 
If you teach a rectory dog to bark whenever someone rings the doorbell, you can’t expect him not to do so on the occasion that this time it is the bishop that is ringing the bell.  In a similar way, when you teach a body of people that when your life might be change in a way that you don’t like you have a right to ask for death, you can’t expect that people to keep such a belief in tight little boxes.  Why is it Okay to kill a child in the womb that will take away my college career or Okay to allow grandma to do away with herself before she eats up my time or inheritance, but it is not Okay from me walk away from an accident (after all, it was only an accident right?) since it will simply eat up my time, attention, and resources and not really solve anything?
 
So California, are you really ready for a “cultural change?”  My prayers are with you.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

THE MOMENT

Someone asked if I would print the description of the new painting at St. Sebastian that was printed in the bulletin but did not make it into the on-line version.  Apologies to those of you becoming weary of this topic.


The Gospel of Luke testifies, “Then Jesus cried out in a loud voice, ‘Father, into your hands I commend my spirit,’ and when he had said this he breathed his last.”  This new painting captures the center of this sentence; the moment between that last word and when His breath escaped his lips.  The painful writhing is coming to an end and His Body begins to relax upon the nails that pin it to the Cross elongating His wrists.  We see the hands in the process of unclutching, giving into the pressure caused by the spikes driven through them and the downward weight of the body, exposing the dirt on their palms that was ground into them when they were thrust forward to protect Our Savior when He fell while carrying His Cross.
 
Jesus’ face, which a moment ago was twisted in agony, now goes through a transformation as the pain lessens with the onset of death.  Though the depiction of the sky reminds us that “darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon,” a heavenly light falls upon Jesus’ face.  Is it just now that He begins to see His Father’s loving countenance?  We are half a heartbeat from death, halfway through the sentence in St. Alphonsus Ligouri’s twelfth station of the Cross, “And abandoning Himself to the weight of His body, bows His head and dies.”
 
Already the events that followed Christ’s death, portrayed in the Gospel of Matthew, begin to infringe upon the scene.  “The earth quaked, rocks were split, tombs were opened, and the bodies of many saints that had fallen asleep were raised.”  In the Old Testament, the coming of God is frequently portrayed with the imagery of an earthquake and Jesus speaks of the earthquakes that will accompany the “labor pains” that signify the beginning of the dissolution of the old world.  The ground begins to crack open starting at the base of the Cross and snaking out toward the bottom right of the painting.  The wind begins to pick up curling the proclamation nailed to the top of the Cross and a flash of lightning streaks over the city heightening the imagery of the disturbance of the elements.  “Surely this was the Son of God.”
 

This is the moment everything changes, a match in the process of being struck, the glass striking the tile floor but before it begins to crack.  In this moment, like a specter, a skull appears at the base of His Cross.  It reminds us of the transitory nature of this life, it tells us this place is Golgotha, “the place of the skull,” and lastly, reminds us that Christ, the second Adam, was crucified over the bones of the first Adam, making a fitting ending to our estrangement from heaven.  “And so it is written, ‘The first man Adam became a living being; the last Adam a life giving spirit’” 1 Corinthians 15:45)

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

TUESDAY QUOTE OF THE WEEK CCCC

FINDING TRUTH WHEREVER IT MAY BE FOUND:  "Feelings are not an omen of the right thing to do."  Anon.
 
QUOTE II:  "Why have an IQ if you're not going to use it?"  Anon.
 
IN OTHER NEWS:

Jason sent THIS article in: 10 Things I Wish People Knew about Mary

Brian sent this in.  It is a Lego representation of St. Sebastian's sanctuary.  Pretty cool!



Currently the new painting at St. Sebastian has 228,894 likes and 5,907 shares on the Lighthouse Catholic Media Facebook page.  See HERE.

Jason sent this 6.5 minute video in:

 
 
 

Thursday, March 19, 2015

SILENCE NOT THE CRITIC

Illinois Representative Aaron Schock, described by the Associated Press article as young, media savvy, fit, and having a certain talent for fundraising, abruptly resigned recently in part due to his extravagant office reportedly decorated in the lavish style seen on Downton Abby.  How do people feel about the beautiful space he created?  Opinions run from the uniformed and apathetic to the scandalized and angry.  Critics questioned the expense and appearance of extravagance and applied enough pressure that he decided to step down.
 
What would we do without the critic - the voice amid the crowd that cries out, "Are you sure that what you are doing is right and just?  I have another way of looking at this situation."  Like a conscience or the court jester, the critic makes those in power (if they are open) to at least stop and think for a moment.
 
Yesterday such a conversation took place in the comments section of this blog concerning a new painting installed at St. Sebastian.  The point in question, one that has been asked of the Church for hundreds of years concerning everything from the Vatican Museums to a new vestment at a poor parish, is, "Is art the best use of resources?"  There are those who would say, "No.  Before money is spent on art, take care of all the people in your area.  THEN think about art."  It is a statement that should make everyone stop a moment and think especially as they pass the person standing at the end of the highway ramp with a sign reading, "Any help would be appreciated.  God bless you." 
 
So I thought about it.  There are some ways in which I agree with the Anonymous person who posted yesterday.  We should be very careful in this regard.  Of course, we could, as a parish community EASILY just meet in the local school gym for Mass on Sundays instead of our church building but we chose to have a building.  Most people would give this a thumbs up.  But at what point do you cross over from prudent use of funding for such endeavors to a Downton Abby like scandal?
 
Large amounts of money are spent by the church every year on "art."  There is a new parish going up in our diocese and I have pleaded with the pastor not to buy his art out of a catalogue.  Now commissioning art can be dangerous and expensive.  But is it worth it? 
 
There are those who feel that the arts should be in free service to the Church (organists, painters, etc.)  For some reason the time and talent of artist is in a different category than roofers, HVAC personnel, the janitors, or even the priests for that matter.  But that is an extreme case - but none-the-less one that comes my way from time to time. 
 
This particular piece of art is attracting attention.  Half of the conversations I have are people telling me how this picture moved them.  Within 15 hours of this painting being posted online at Lighthouse Media, it has received 15,000 "like" hits.  (That's ten thousand an hour!)  People are already stopping into the church just to see it.  The conversation on this blog yesterday means that SOMETHING (whether positive or negative) is taking place.  People are talking.  That means the Church is making an impact on the cultural scene through art.  If we don't enter the scene here, we have begun to lose influence on our culture. 
 
Another aspect is that people don't stop to wonder where the money is going when true art is commissioned.  It doesn't get buried in the sand.  In this particular case a young man with a wife and three kids that he sends to Catholic school made a small portion of his living.  Since he was supported by the Church, hopefully he and his family will then take care of the very people that our critic hopes we would pay attention to.  Before people take care of the poor, they themselves must be inspired.  And long after the resources that would have been added to the large amounts that already pass through this parish to take care of the poor would disappear, the painting will remain to inspire and ITSELF BE A CRITIC TO A GATHERED COMMUNITY - WHAT ARE YOU DOING TO RELIEVE PAIN AND SUFFERING TO THE LEAST OF MY BROTHERS.  FOR WHEN YOU DO THAT FOR THEM, YOU DO IT FOR ME.
 
Not everyone will agree with me I realize.  And I hope they don't.  I hope they keep me on my toes, thinking and evaluating.  I'd rather my money go toward something like this than expensive cable and phone plans, fancy cups of coffee, and extra cushiony toilet paper.  And I will continue to sit back on my heels and think when such a critic (especially those I've met who purposely have chosen to live simply - small apartment - inexpensive car - volunteering in the community - working for non-profits) and evaluate very carefully if I believe in what I am doing. 
 
Even though at times it is a hard pill to swallow, the critic plays an important role.  Without the critic we may enter into the dangerous world of the unexamined life. 

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

THE ONE AND ONLY

About a year ago I received a call from a family of St. Sebastianites, expressing their desire to commission a painting as a gift to the parish and to support Catholic art and artists.  They gave a generous donation toward the project and we contacted Mr. Eric Armusik, the young artist from Hamburg, PA who also executed our beautiful St. Sebastian paintings.  After a period of prayer and discussion, it was decided that the painting would be of the crucifixion and that it would be approximately four by five feet.
 
Mr. Armusik was quite enthused about the project and the scope of the endeavor grew – literally.  The donors kindly enlarged their gift with the artist’s prompting and along with that, the painting grew to nine and a half by five feet!  The plan was to have the painting finished and temporarily installed in our sanctuary for the season of Lent to assist the parish in our Lenten prayers.  But the size of the task, other commissions being handled by the artist, and shipping difficulties delayed its arrival in Akron by several weeks.  But now it is here and installed in time for this last half of this holy season.
 
We are so fortunate to have this new work of art.  There is, in the end, these things: the one, the true, the good, and the beautiful.  And as Fr. Benedict Groeschel was fond of saying, “It is ultimately the beautiful that will save us.” 
 
It is not only beautiful, but utterly unique.  It was not picked out of a catalogue and no one will visit us and say, “We have that one at our parish too!”  There are no mugs, calendars, or prayer cards (yet) with this image on it anywhere in the world.  Like a song of worship, you must be here, at St. Sebastian, to experience its beauty and power to inspire.  May it inspire more Catholics to support Catholic art and artists so that the Church may return to its role of Patroness of the Arts and through it, train artists in the sacred and gain influence once again in the cultural scene.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

TUESDAY QUOTE OF THE WEEK CCCXCIV

FINDING TRUTH WHEREVER IT MAY BE FOUND:  "Tell me what you criticize and I'll tell you who you are."  S. C. Hitchcock
 
QUOTE II:  "Be careful who you pick as an enemy, they're the ones you become most like,"  Nietze
 
IN OTHER NEWS:

Pope Francis and our bishop want your input on the upcoming Synod on the Family.  Go HERE to learn more.

M sent this in saying that now he understands why I learned to play the accordion.  (Actually I play the button box.)

Adam sent in this link about a touching movie.  Go HERE to see the site.  Below is a trailer.  (3 minutes.)  Can you imagine yourself just stepping up and doing SOMETHING that needs to be done?


CC sent THIS article in about vocations to the religious life.

Jason sent in this awesome 4 minute video:

Monday, March 9, 2015

MONDAY DIARY: ALMOST EXCRUSIATINGLY TRUE STORIES: A HISTORY OF DANCE

 
 Irish Dancing
 It is said it started when English soldiers went to Ireland and disapproved of the dancing taking place there.  So, keeping the bottom half of Dutch door closed, they would dance with their feet while keeping their arms still so it wouldn't look as though they were dancing.
 
English Clogging
 Wooden shoes were preferred by those working in the dampness of the cotton industry.  Legend says they would tap their feet in rhythm with the machinery to keep their feet warm.  That is where English Clogging originated.
 
Northeast Ohio Stomp and Shuffle
With tons of snow falling on the populace and not wanting to soil their parish church with slush, this dance originated from parishioners stomping the snow from their feet and then shuffling on rough mats to get as much water of the bottom of their boots as possible so that they wouldn't go "SQUEAK SQUEAK SQUEAK" walking down the main aisle. 

Friday, March 6, 2015

FRIDAY POTPOURRI: 6TH PRECEPT


In my grandparents day, when many Slovenian immigrants were coming to my hometown, they wanted to start a Slovenian parish.  So they went about knocking on doors trying to raise funds.  The fundraisers were looked upon with suspicion however.  In the “old country” it was the government who built the churches through taxes.  People said, “You start building and then we will give.”  Of course, it doesn’t work that way.
 
That is one danger of government funding projects to too far of an extent.  We get the idea that things will always be there and I need not worry about it.  SOMEBODY official will make sure that things are taken care of.
 

Not so with a parish.  A parish does not have to exist.  It exists because some people are willing to show up, do ministry and projects, and donate resources.  As we have seen in our diocese, when people stop doing that (mostly due to flight to the suburbs,) parishes cease to exist. 
 
So we come across the 6th precept of the Church.  It is to support your parish, provide for your priest, and also to look out for the good of the greater Church around the world and the work of the Holy Father.  Yep, some of that means hard, cold cash.  There is no getting around that.  If you want to feed the poor, you need a kitchen, and a kitchen costs money.  MORE IMPORTANT is prayer.  Then there is showing up.  There is engaging in ministry and cleaning pews.  There are mission trips, supporting the teachings of the Church, helping struggling parishes, and reaching out to the greater community, social justice, and evangelization.  When a parish does all of these things, it is healthy.  And for a parish to do all these things, it needs you to do them or it doesn’t get done.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

LIGHTS! ACTION! SLOWDOWN!


I forgot to take the street sign down after the Diocesan wide Night of Confessions last night and so went out this morning to wheel it onto the rectory porch.  (We had a steady stream for all three hours by the way – with four priests hearing confessions.  Fr. P. came over for dinner after and very late because he went 45 minutes over at St. Paul.)  The taking down of the sign reminded me of my days of assistant manager of the West Theatre, owned and operated by the Slovenian Community of Barberton, Ohio.
 

It was (it’s now a storage facility) a single screen, large neighborhood movie theater.  Thursday night was always a busy night.  While the week’s movie was playing for the final time, we were busy erasing any trace of its existence.  The marquee was changed (swaying old ladder that took out bulbs on windy days) switching out posters, storing away displays, and in general whetting people’s appetite for the next thing - the old movie being “so two hours ago.”
 
How exactly opposite the Mass is.  Movie are, “FORGET!  LOOK AT THE SHINY NEW THING!  KEEP RUNNING!”  The Mass is, “REMEMBER!  LOOK AT THIS THING THOUSANDS OF YEARS OLD!  SLOW DOWN!”  We don’t put out a new, slick poster, we haul out the old manger scene.  We don’t cast our gaze longingly at some new star, but among the saints who have been around like old friends. 
 
I’m not sure where I’m going with this.  This dichotomy just seemed interesting as this little chore was performed.  “And how many lessons have you failed to learn from such experiences because you did not spiritualize them?”

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

IS THIS TITLE TRUE OR MERELY CLEVER?

I lost the reference for the following paragraph by it was from a magazine called, “The Sun” from an edition from this past year.  The author is going to make a statement.  After you read it, stop and think about it.  Do you agree with it or not and most importantly WHY? 
 
“The self is always moving.  It isn’t going to continue existing after you die.  The minute you buy into the idea that some part of you will hang around, you’ve removed yourself from this world of trees and clouds and birds.  And if you’re not in this flowing world of change, then you’re nowhere.”
 
Now stop, pray, and think.  Is this true?  If it is true or not true, why? 
 
Now that you have done that, here is one possible response:
 
The man who made this statement is a man of deep faith.  He bases his theory upon ideas that are no more “provable” than that of the Christian – I would argue even less so.  That nothing of us lives on is an assumed principle upon which the rest of his theory rests.  But even if we grant him this, does the rest of his hypothesis hold true?
 
If that to which he is referring is the Christian theology that is held by much of the Protestant world and that of some other religions that creation is bad and spirit is good, then he may have something.  Those who call the body evil (or at least opposed to that which is good) have to deny the body and focus on the spirit exclusively.  Mud is bad, angels are good.  Therefor the world is something to be used and discarded.  Its sole purpose is to steer us toward the spiritual.  Then it is true that we not ever really here and a part of creation.

 




But is the opposite true?  If nothing of us lives on does that ipso facto make us more here among the birds and the clouds?  If this is the case then there are no consequences for how we treat the nature other what than might recoil back on ourselves as the line goes, “Don’t pee in your own well.”  But when I die, I cease to exist.  Eventually there will be no one to remember me.  The Earth is a fluke that will one day also simply cease to be.  Humans will not even be a memory.  You might want to keep things nice “for the next guy” but in the end that would just because you want to not because there is any truth to the idea of “the good.”  Preservation is just as much a selfish act as abuse.  So why not suck as much life out of this earth as possible?  Throw another log on the fire, drink out of Styrofoam cup, and rev up the gas generator so that you can listen to some tunes on your radio.  If you are abusing anything, you are not really present to it either.
 
But what if, as in Catholic theology, everything that is is good.  God created all from nothing and he holds it in being.  Then everything to some extent participates in God.  The computer screen on which you are reading this is good.  The paper, ink, persons depicted, and form of a porn magazine are good.  What man did with those things is bad.  (Hence the true perversion of sin!)  If the world is good, if there will be an accounting of how we handled the world (as there was with Adam and the garden,) then won’t we appreciate more, be better to, be more aware of, and be more present to the trees, the clouds, and the birds?
 
I had a skateboard once that I used on the parking lot across the street from my house.  I would skate down the hill and then kick the board back up.  My Mom stopped me one day to explain how expensive that toy was and how I was expected to take better care of it.  Knowing that my actions would be seen, and being taught about the value of my board, I was much more present to it.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

TUESDAY QUOTE OF THE WEEK CCCXCVIII

FINDING TRUTH WHEREVER IT MAY BE FOUND:  "Our lifestyles are a reflection of our priorities."  Matthew Kelly
 
QUOTE II:  "When Catholic feast we realy feast.  And when we fast we cheat."
 
IN OTHER NEWS:
 
From the Diocese of Cleveland Enewsletter:  Be good to yourself.  Confessions at all parishes Wednesday from 5 to 8PM.  Read more and see video HERE.
 
Did you know that the Vatican has a National Anthem?  I guess if they had an Olympic team (and won a gold medal) this is what we would hear.

Friday, February 27, 2015

FRIDAY POTPOURRI: WHEN THE ODDEST THINGS BECOME CONTROVERSIAL


This one would have seemed easy even five years ago.  Today it is almost heroic.  It is this: to live the life of marriage as it has been held by Christians for 2,000 years.  If it be one’s vocation, one is to give Christian education by word and example to children and to make use of Catholic opportunities for education.  Who would have dreamed that this would ever be controversial and hand in hand that human life would need to be defended as something to be held as special?  Yet it is.  This precept of the Church is more important than ever to be lived boldly and well.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

ON WHY IT IS A GOOD THING THAT I AM NOT MARRIED

I can't believe (well, actually I can) that I missed MY OWN ANNIVERSARY!  ADAM'S ALE turned eight years old this past February 9th.  Every few months I think about hanging it up.  I am surprised that it has lasted as long as it has.  Just when I start praying and asking God if this project has run its course, something happens - one of you will say something - and I take it as a sign to keep writing.  I do (most of the time) enjoy this little project.  Nothing like combining ministry with a hobby of sorts.  But it wouldn't mean anything without you.  Thank you for reading.
 
To date there have been:
 
328,352 visits
476,588 page views
About 115 unique readers each day.
64% of readers are from North America.  (Hello to everyone!)
2% are from Canada don't you know.  (I'll be up that way in September.  Canada is awesome.)
1% read ADAM'S ALE in Russian.  Dobroye utro!
1% read this in Spanish.  Hola!

The most read post of all time is "How Come I Don't Remember."  But it was not a great post.  I think it just got read a lot because of it's title.  See it HERE

China, United Kingdom, Ukraine, France, Germany, Poland, and the Netherlands all make it on the percentage board for reading this blog the past year.  Keep the faith brothers and sisters.

There have been 8,685 comments made.
2,081 post have been written.
 
Just for something fun to do on this day - here is a Lenten Game that sounds easy but requires some thinking and time.  READ THE INSTRUCTIONS.  Go HEREWARNING: Addiction level MODERATE.
 
THANKS FOR READING!
 
 

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

"PERSON"AL

I wrote a letter to the editor recently and it hasn't appeared so I thought I would share it with you.
 
 
Dear Editor,

 

In her letter, Maria Miranda (Resist Campaign to Restrict Abortion) states that “the decision to terminate a pregnancy is intensely personal and private. . .”  Unfortunately she does not tell us why this is so.  This statement is the same that has been used throughout history to shut down interference and conversation concerning the way husbands have treated their wives, how parents disciplined their children, and how persons have treated their slaves.  The only way Maria’s statement could make sense at all is if the being within the mother’s womb, that has all of the chromosomes and DNA of a unique human individual, is not a person at all.  That such a large percentage of citizens of the United States do recognize the humanity of the person within her womb makes the argument that this is a private matter as untenable in this case as it had at one time in those others mentioned above.
 
To quote Elizabeth Cady Stanton, a pioneer of the American Women’s Rights Movement, on her views on abortion, “When we consider that woman are treated as property, it is degrading to women that we should treat our children as property to be disposed of as we see fit."
 
Rev. John A. Valencheck


UPDATE:  I spoke about this letter in my homily this past weekend at it started some interesting philosophical debates after Mass.  One of the most interesting was a distinction between a personal and private belief and that of action.  Our government has always been involved when actions start effecting other people, but personally held beliefs and thoughts of the individual we hold sacrosanct.  So that a person believes that abortion is a good that should be available to anyone at anytime is a right in our nation, but what we focus on is when that belief is put into action (and in this case, an unique human person's rights are destroyed.)  To have it any other way would have our nation act as thought police.  Nice distinction.