Sunday, July 27, 2008


One by one we were called forth to kneel before the bishop and he laid hands on our heads. When we rose from that we walked around to the front of the sanctuary and knelt on the marble steps. The purpose of this was so that the priests of the diocese could file past us each laying hands on us in blessing. It was a long time to kneel on hard marble and a few of us secretly wore knee pads so that we would be able to walk after.

Some of the priests touched us so lightly that we barely felt it. Others clasped on vices perhaps in order to make the blessing soak in more deeply. I had lived with Fr. C. for a short spell and unfortunately he was deep into dementia, but he was more than aware with what was happening this day and he wanted to jump the line to come up to me and lay on hands. He could not remember my name or what day it was or even if he had eaten already, but something within him recognized me and knew that this was ordination. His escort had to gently guide him in the line and he came up, shook my hand, laid on hands, shook my hand again and continued down the line then.

Fr. Hilkert, a great man of whom I have spoken at length over the life of this blog, was not too much further down the line. It was with him that I was to spend my next assignment. He was already near eighty and had acquired that certain mystique that older pastors have. We had only met about a week before now we were to spend the next five years living and working together (but as it turned out, actually seven wonderful years.) He laid on hands, said in his gruff voice, “Looking forward to seeing you at Satin Ambrose,” and then, in the style of preconcicular confirmation, slapped me on the cheek. In that vast church the noise echoed and I heard gasps and giggles from the pews behind me.

Bishop Pilla then anointed our hands with Sacred Chrism and we slipped into the sacristy. A lady from my internship parish had made me a manaturge (sp?) with which to wipe my hands. It was a fine linen purificator with “My son’s ordination, The Rev. John A. Valencheck” along with the date. I presented this to my mother later privately and later when she died it was placed with her in the coffin.

Well, this was back when I still had hair from all the priests laying on hands I looked a bit like Phyllis Diller which is why I do not mind so much not having hair now. But it was all brought back under control and we headed back out to concelebrate Mass with the bishop for the very first time and join him in the final blessing.

After we met in the bishop’s parlor and he greeted us again, handed us our faculties and had his picture taken with us. We were then shooed out into the cathedral to greet the diocese and offer first blessings. That went on so long that I began to lose my voice.

My oldest nephew stuck around and helped me pack up all of my gear and took the hour ride home with me to my parent’s house. This was another fond memory as we talked about many deep subjects on that ride.

At home everyone was wiped out but there was more to do. There was to be a reception that night at Slovene Center. So we busied ourselves getting ready and then tried to steal a catnap as we were all running on fumes at this point.



Odysseus said...

Weird question, but your concelebration with the bishop reminded me of something I was thinking at mass yesterday.

During mass, we all pray for "Benedict, our Pope, and (N), our bishop."

What does the bishop say when he celebrates mass? "Let us pray for Benedict, our pope and me, our bishop?" Or does he have the deacon say it? Or does he just speak of himself in the third person? Use the 'royal we'?

I have been at mass with my bishop a couple times, but I can't remeber what he said at this juncture.

uncle jim said...

fond memories, indeed.

[can hardly wait for the new chasuble to be ready - hopefully for the feast of our lady on August 15.]

Anonymous said...

Ours says "and me, your unworthy servant".

Fr. V said...

That's what they say here too. Must be standard.