Saturday, January 2, 2021


It was a damp, wintery morning in West Akron.  I was just about to start a quiet, early morning doing that for which it was intended: drinking coffee and mediating.  It was just then that the phone began to ring disturbing the peace and quiet that so rarely descended upon my rooms.  That didn't bode well.  Nobody called that early in the morning to tell you that you've won the lottery or to compliment you on your flower garden.  I picked up the call with trepidation.  But when you are in my line of work, that's what you do.

Of course there had been a crime committed. 2021 was already reminding me that crime doesn't take a holiday.  A cell phone and wallet had been lifted from the church during Mass.  It's something you learn living in this world: from time to time everybody goes to church.  Even crime.

I told the dame on the line not to worry.  Spangler and Valencheck were on the case.  If this crime could be solved, we were probably the ones who would spend Saturday morning trying to do it.

I recalled that earlier, when I was out walking my dog,Chester (named after G. K. Chesterton) we had come across a woman smoking a cigaret outside of the church during Mass, an odd time for that.  I didn't think much of it at the time and I wished her a Happy New Year.  Now it occurred to me she could be the New Year Robber.

Immediately I put word out on the street about the case.  Similar reports came in from around the neighborhood - trash cans being rummaged through, missing items.  A probable sighting came in from a neighbor up the street.  I grabbed my dog Chester and my trusty sidekick Spangler and we went investigating.

We covered the streets between the church and the supposed sighting, looking in gutters and culverts, bushes and trashcans, all the regular hiding places of things people don't want found.  It was dirty, grueling work, but when you are dealing with filth, one has to get dirty.
Persistence paid off.  We started finding a trail of discarded items: small electronic devices, papers and unrecognizable women's undergarments.

We traveled all over West Akron following the trail of brassieres.  But the trail gave out just like the elastic on those garments.  We were at a crossroads.  To go the wrong way could lead to a loss of valuable time and every investigator knows that minutes can make the difference between a solved case, and a case as cold as old pizza in the refrigerator that you keep around because it feels wrong just to throw it out.

All my instincts told me that we should go straight.  But there were dogs down that way and Chester was already growing anxious so we turned right and crossed our fingers.

"Wouldn't it be something," I said to Spangler, "if it was our guardian angel that made sure there was a dog in our path so that we would be forced to turn right."  "Stranger things have happened," she said.

We walked on doggedly, ruthlessly toward our meeting with the unknown - heedless of the danger and the shame of going through trash cans.  Then there was glint in the road!  It was the phone!  Another half a block was an abandoned cart!  In the cart was the wallet and credit cards and driver's license - everything except the $40!

"You did it guvna!  You done solved the case!" said Spangler.

"No, my dear Mrs. Spanger, WE did it.  Solving crime is not the job of just one person.  True, I may have spotted the cart, but it took you, the dog, and all the vigilant people of West Akron to solve this case."  
"Oh yes.  Of course.  And our guardian angles.

Thursday, December 17, 2020


For Christmas this year I got a new office and one of the perks of which is this automatic winter, coffee warmer!


St. Sebastian Parish is getting a new boiler (and chiller) for Christmas.  Right now that means being without heat until Friday but in the long run we will be happier, warmer and spend much less money on heat.  Here is the old boiler being chopped up in the basement of the church

I don't know what I was expecting but the inside looks like a giant radiator.  But now, thinking about it, I guess it makes sense.  After it was all (loudly) chopped up, a giant crane came by to haul it piece by piece out of the basement.

So here is a picture so you can not see what I don't see and why one must dress warmly for Mass this week!

And here are the new boilers, still wrapped in plastic, getting ready to go into the boiler room and start boiling!


Friday, December 11, 2020


Part of Christ's whole mission was to heal the divisions between us, that we might be one in the Body of Christ.  Part of the most insidious parts of the whole COVID situation is the division it causes (a sickness in and of itself) within the body that appears to be almost irreconcilable.  
No matter how helpful and diplomatic those in charge try to be, the nature of this beast just seems to make everything more difficult.
The diocese tries to do what they can which is mostly calling you to tell you somebody complained.
"Do you want me to kick people out?  Do you want me to hire security?"  "No!  You can't do that."  I wish it were that people on one side or the other were the ones who didn't come to Mass, donate, volunteer or offer encouragement.  At least then I could take sides.  
So I am doing my best to balance what is asked of us, what we are allowed to do, and what will make the sacraments available to the most people.  Of course, that makes nobody happy.  Including me.

May we look back on this time some day and say, "Remember when we were all concerned about masks?" as we unite once more around the Table of the Lord.

Friday, November 27, 2020


Two of us were exposed to COVID and were subsequently tested.  My friends tested negative.  It was a cause of great rejoicing for him!  He was not infected nor infectious!  It was like Lazarus risen from the grave.  Perhaps too much so.  After all, Lazarus would still have to face life with all its bumps and scratches and once more struggle with death.  Similarly, because of a negative diagnosis, there was still the mandate to quarantine, and after, there remained the possibility of contracting COVID and facing quarantine again. 

Bearing in mind all analogies limp, then there is my positive report.  I too went into a “tomb” of sorts but I will not walk out like Lazarus back from the dead, but more like the resurrection.  No longer will I have to worry (for 12 weeks supposedly) about contracting illness or passing illness along to others (at least COVID.)  No longer will there be a fear of going back into isolation.  It will be a great freeing.  A new life with a new freedom.

All of this had me thinking about heaven.  If I found the fountain of youth, I don’t think I would want to try it.  I am enjoying this life even with its hardships, but I only want to do it once.  No matter how rich you are, how powerful, how independent you will not escape such things as COVID in this life.  If you could live forever, the government upon which you rely will not remain the same.  The grand buildings that were built may not last.  There will still be forest fires, temptations, sickness and death, bad movies, mean people and tofu burgers.  

With a fountain of youth one has reanimation which is a renewal of one’s body.  Resurrection is a renewal of the whole of creation.  It is new wine in a new wine skin.  Ultimately it is the only fitting container.  It is that for which we were created and toward which Christ came to steer us and in which He desired to form us.  We were created for this and should want nothing less.  We are given an appetite for heaven that mere extending of life will eventually fail to satisfy.

Tuesday, November 24, 2020



So far being alone in my rooms hasn't been so bad.  I worry that I am prematurely positive about this.  Is there something for which I am not preparing?  I think of prisoners thrown into solitary confinement and wonder how they get started.  One can only sleep so long.  I know solitude is where one can find God and himself, but - well - I'm a planner.

So yesterday I sat down and made a plan.  I am not going to just sleep through this.  I put together a list of things that I will do every day so I don't end up on Monday (only Monday for Pete's sake) wearing 10 day old pajamas and covered in stubble and cheese powder.  
It helps to have some structure to the day.  And really, the amount of support that I have around here and the nice room that I do have makes it all quite fine.  It is really helping me come to appreciate how much I have (which is too much as I am discovering since one of my activities is cleaning out my room.  Where did all this stuff come from?)  

And the best part of the day is celebrating the Mass on my grandparent's victrola.  Notice that I can see the church where right now there is adoration going on and people praying.  And the little rose window replica is from the old St. Sebastian church and would have been what the priests would have seen when they celebrated Mass here before Vatican II.

Time for the next part of the day!  Forward!  Stay well!  Praying for all my readers.

Monday, November 23, 2020


In movie and television shows there is always that person who moves to the big city and lives in a tiny, two room apartment (from were I learned what a Murphy bed is) and is SOOOOOOO happy because they are living in the pulse of humanity.  But is it worth it to have to wash your dishes and your unmentionables in your bathroom sink and be charged with unreasonable rent just to enjoy this privilege?  

Funny thing about God.  He often listens and grants even minor prayers.

I mean . . . (cough) . . . thank you God.

I haven't blogged in a long time as other things became more pressing.  Now I am trying to structure my day so I don't get too squirrelly in my make believe NY apartment (aka my bedroom in the rectory.)  So I think that I will invite you along on my journey to help pass the time (if there are any readers left out there!) 

It took me FOREVER to remember how to sign in on Blogger and after I did - it turns out that this blogging thing has been COMPLETELY redesigned since I was last on.  This took unreasonably long and if it hadn't been for COVID I would have completely given up already!

Stay well.  Be safe.  Pray for me and I will pray for you!

Thursday, May 7, 2020


About a year ago, when I brought home the magnificent icon of St. Sebastian, written by Mother Iliana of the Christ the Bridegroom Byzantine Monastery, asked if I had another saint that I wanted because people were asking about commissions and there would be a waiting list.  (There is a waiting list now measured in years.)  I asked for St. Joan of Arc because I was ordained on her feast day and my class took her as our patron.

I received a phone call about a week ago that said that St. Joan was ready and that I could come pick her up!  Fr. Anthony and I, feeling a little housebound, jumped on the chance for a road trip to Burton, Ohio where the Monastery is.  

When we got there, the sisters were not quite ready to greet us so we went to visit the shrine which was technically closed (and VERY muddy) which made it nicer for us to pray.

The monastery is under quarantine by order of their bishop so we couldn't go in so Mother Iliana brought Joan out to us.  
 Here is just a glimpse of St. Joan.  I don't want to completely reveal her until her feast day.
But let me say this - this is a phenomenally gorgeous icon!  Well done!  I love it and am looking forward to praying with it!  It is the same size as our St. Sebastian icon which stands at the front doors of the church currently to remind to pray through the intercession of St. Sebastian who is the saint to invoke against the spread of contagious diseases.

Monday, May 4, 2020


FINDING TRUTH WHEREVER IT MAY BE FOUND:  "Bacons the best.  Even the frying of bacon sounds like applause."  Jim Gaffigan

QUOTE II:  When you have bacon in your mouth, it doesn't matter who's president or anything. Every time I'm eating bacon I think, I could die right now, and I mean it. That's how good life is."  Louis CK

QUOTE III:  "Life expectancy would grow by leaps and bounds if green vegetables smelled as good as bacon."  Doug Larson

QUOTE IV:  Bacon is so good by itself that to put it in any other food is an admission of failure. You're basically saying, I can't make this other food taste good, so I'll throw in bacon."  Penn Jillette

QUOTE V:  "Part of the fun of being Catholic is knowing the difference between an indelicacy and an indecency."  


If you need something to lift your spirits, today is Baconmas Day.  It is a day to celebrate our salvation particularly by celebrating the Eucharist and confession, to offer prayers of thanksgiving for all of the good things that God has given us, to gather together and eat different dishes of bacon.  

Scriptural underpinnings:  On the fourth Monday of Easter, the first reading at the Mass is about a vision that St. Peter had in Joppa where not only are all things that God has made declared clean, but that salvation is opened up to all.  (Acts 11:1-18)

Theological significance:  For the first time, outreach to the gentiles is taken up by St. Peter, the visible head of the Church, and is no longer just this odd, side thing that St. Paul is doing.  Not only has the Church become truly Catholic (that is, universal) but now all of creation is declared good.  This is an idea not shared by most faiths and not even among all Christians.  But all of creation (including you) is declared good and intended for good and, when we sin, can be restored to goodness again - that we are all called to be saints.

Ways to celebrate:  When possible, attend the sacraments of our salvation especially Mass and confession.  It is also a great day to review all of the blessings in your life and to offer prayers of thanksgiving.

Also important on this day is to gather (when possible) with those you love with general merry making and a meal of bacon prepared in different ways.  The reason for this is that, up and until this time, pork was declared an unclean food but with this vision of St. Peter, all of God’s creation is declared clean and good for eating (in responsible portions.)  Like eating blackberries on Michaelmas Day or Oplatki on Christmas, the eating of bacon points toward the greater truth of this feat day: that you were chosen to be part of the Body of the Body of Christ and recognizing the intended goodness and yourself and of your brothers and sisters in Christ, that we are wildly loved by God and that all of creation is good.

While not strictly necessary, the meal is generally to be held in the evening by candlelight since it was in a dream that St. Peter had his vision.

The host or main cook of the Baconmas feast is called the Baconista.

Although the day is to be one of celebration, the feast is NOT to become a bacchanal.  Prayer is to remain part of the day.  A general calling to mind of all the things for which each person is grateful is a noble practice.

As Hiliare Belloc said, “Where ‘ere the Catholic sun doth shine, there will be laughter and good wine.”


O Lord,
creator and ruler of all creation,
when You gave St. Peter his vision in Joppa
and declared all of your creation clean,
You helped us see all of Your creation
as a wonderful gift of your love
and an aid to our salvation.
On (this) Baconmas Day
we recall how very blessed we are
to be chosen as Your sons and daughters
and included in the One Body of Christ.
Help us to remain true to our calling to be saints;
to live a sacramental life;
and to appreciate all people as an image of Christ.

Baconmas Day Carols:

To the tune of Good King Wenceslaus 

Good St. Peter’s had a sight
on a Joppa rooftop
when the cloth revealed aright
the Creator’s workshop
Take and slaughter; all is clean
and is good for eating
No man is too lost or mean
on this bacon evening!

Bring me bacon; bring me wine
Gather all His people
Let us pray and let us dine
‘Neath the church’s steeple
Page and monarch all are called
let His grace none bypass
Our redemption to recall
on this bacon day Mass.

Traditional Baconmas Day Carol
(To the tune of “I Saw Three Ships Come Sailing In)

Peter (solo)
I saw a cloth come floating down,
come floating down, come floating down
I saw a cloth come floating down
in Joppa dreams in the evening.

And what was it that you did see
that you did see (etc.)
in Joppa dreams in the evening?

I saw arrayed all God’s great beasts
all God’s great beasts . . .
in Joppa dreams in the evening.

And what did God say unto you
say onto you . . . 
In Joppa dreams in the evening?

Take now and eat for all is clean
for all is clean . . .
In Joppa dreams in the evening.

And did you eat of that great feast?
of that great feast . . .
In Joppa dreams in the evening?

Not I (stomps foot), said I, for it’s profane!
for (stomps) it’s profane . . .
In Joppa dreams in the evening!

Do (clap) not call vile what I have made
what (clap) I have made . . . 
In (clap) Joppa dreams in the evening.

Then all is good and all are saved! (on the word “saved” all clap and shout, “Yes!”)
and all are saved
in Joppa dreams in the evening.

All & Peter
So shout “Huzza!” and celebrate
and celebrate and celebrate . . .
for we are saved this evening. 

This was sent in for the celebration:

Friday, April 24, 2020


Chris sent this in for Earth Day (yesterday) and I though to share it with you.

Hi Fr. Valencheck,

I hope this email finds you well.
My name is Chris Payne. I'm a parishioner at St. Sebastian and a biology professor at Malone University in Canton (transferring to Franciscan U in Steubenville in the fall). I've written an earth day reflection to share with my protestant colleagues at Malone, but I thought that maybe it was something you could share via your daily letter (or similar venue) to help brighten some people's days and remind them there's still a beautiful world out there!
(This Apr 22 is the 50th anniversary of Earth Day!!)
I'll post it below.
Thanks, and God bless!


Ever take a walk through the forest in the ealive?

arly morning when the forest just feels 
The birds are singing. Nocturnal mammals can be seen scurrying, climbing or flying back to their homes to rest for the day. Flowers begin to open, and the morning throngs begin to wake – chattering with one another and grabbing their early morning bite to eat. Insect wings can be heard warming up and buzzing about as the dew dries in the rising sun, and the army of ants has already begun its work for the day. The trees rustle in the gentle breeze, and the water trickles in the nearby brook. The sounds and sights are enough to keep your attention for hours! OH HOW ALIVE IT IS!
But, also, strangely familiar...
Walk outside and down a busy street and you might find similar early morning energy from hustling, bustling, people -- some heading home from their night shift while others are just starting their first cup of coffee. Maybe you catch a glimpse of a child at play or someone deep in morning prayer. The commotion in a bustling suburban home or on a busy farm are not much different than these. The sounds and sights are enough to keep your attention for hours! OH HOW ALIVE IT IS!
It’s funny how much we’ve pretended for so long that “our” world is any different from that of the deer or wood thrush. In the forest, everything relies on one another. A beautiful ecology unfolds the more intently you examine the patterns and processes going on all around you...But isn’t the same true in the city? or the farm? So many people leading so many different lives, and yet all somehow interacting with one another. Somehow all part of an amazing ecology – somehow all part of one human family. And yet, we still rely on the organisms and landscapes all around us…
As Christians, we are called to celebrate and rejoice in life! And there’s no better way to do so than through our calling to love our neighbor (Mark 12:30-31). But who is our neighbor?
Truly if we are to envision ourselves in the image of God – who is love between Father, Son and Holy Spirit – then we can understand neighbor through the image of family. Not simply through our immediate family, but through intricate layers of family all interacting and reliant on each other: love of parents and siblings, love of classmates, love of co-workers, love of people in our town, love of people in our political party, (love of enemy!), love of our countrymen, love of all human life – love of the entire human family!
Yet, is this enough?
Just as each of these “layers” of family rely on and build from one another (as if concentric circles emanating from the shared love of our Holy and eternally loving Father), they still rely intricately on the complexities of Creation all around us. Somehow, love of family is subsumed in the greater story of God’s life-giving Creation. (And, more mysteriously and gloriously, the entire story of Creation is subsumed in the truth of Easter!). Those early morning walks examining the wondrous forest landscape and the strolls down busy city streets lead us to know that “our world” is in fact a part of an intricate and beautiful Creation that extends beyond our city streets and includes and contains all living things. Our call to love neighbor, then, must surely include love of all of Creation. Just as God’s Son truly loved all of us.
Know that as we advance our fields of ecological, biological, chemical, and physical sciences that we learn every day how our decisions impact those we are called to love. And sometimes – in fact, much of the time – our decisions instead hurt the life that God called us to care for (Gen 1:26, Gen 2:15). Ask yourself: “Do I make my daily decisions and live my life caring about how I impact those I’m called to love? Is my lifestyle promoting the sustainability of life throughout our planet? Do I truly love all life?”
“Isn’t now as good a time to start as any??”
This Earth Day, celebrate family and celebrate life. Give praise for God’s unimaginably complex and glorious Creation! Celebrate the interwoven and intricate ecologies of humankind and the world in which we live. Rejoice in God’s love for all of us, and delight in His calling for us to love neighbor. And most importantly, reflect upon the role you’ve been chosen to play in caring for God’s Creation. Isn’t today a wonderful day to do something about it? Answering the call will surely keep your attention for hours! OH HOW ALIVE IT IS!!

Thursday, April 23, 2020


Yes.  COVID-19 is horrible.  But for the observant, there is good that can come out of it also.

Apparently pollution has been dropping precipitously in major cities around the world to unprecedented levels.  There has been so few car crashes that some insurance companies are giving payment breaks to their customers.  Never have so many dogs been walked so often and so far.  After generations of constantly speeding everything up, much of the world is taking a breath and chilling a little bit.  

It isn’t all gloom and doom although just about everything I read is about the horrible things going on (and there are horrible things going on.)  But if you only focus on the horrible things, you too will feel horrible and why add that to the mix?  It’s like the person alway pointing out how terrible the weather is.  My Dad was like that.  My Mother would always say, “Bill, you live in northeast Ohio.  Learn to enjoy it or you will be miserable and make everyone around you miserable.”  That’s good advice during a pandemic also.

Tuesday, April 21, 2020


FINDING TRUTH WHEREVER IT MAY BE FOUND:  "God is not a symbol of goodness; goodness is a symbol of God."  G. K. Chesterton


Last night we live-streamed Theology on the Rocks from the rectory.  Normally at Tangier's Restaurant, since we can't gather we thought this would be a "bandaid" to see us through until we can all get together again.

Seminarian Intern Ian Kelly and Seminarian Stage Hand Joe Menkhaus wired up the house and directed the chaos.  You would not have had most of these services if it had not been for their forced lab - er - I mean diligent work.
Thank you to everybody who has donated funds and equipment to make these things possible.  You are awesome!

The highlight on screen for me was Fr. Simone's Bongo solo.
If you get a chance to walk, notice that Fr. Pfeiffer NEVER gets distracted which is a feat because . . .
There were ALL KINDS of antics going on!  Seminarians crawling on the floor under cameras shots to fix things, equipment being moved around, dogs, people, conversations all a couple of feet away from the action.   
This morning, Fr. Simone and I were saying that, as much fun as we had last night, we are thankful we don't do this professionally every day.  But we are glad we got to try it.  

Here is the show if you are interested: