Monday, November 17, 2008


No day is a good that you almost asphyxiate some of your more active parishioners and burn the rectory down. No, not good at all.

I was having a meeting with the Couple to Couple Ministry and thought it would be nice to have it in the rec. room in the basement of the rectory. It has a fireplace in it. “How nice it would be,” thought I, “since this is going to be a long meeting with these nice volunteers to have it in this more comfortable room with a fire in the fireplace.” So I went out and bought one of those yuppie-prepackaged logs so that, not only would we have a nice fire, nobody would have to attend it. “Carefree ambiance.” A few minutes before the couples arrived I lit the fire and went upstairs to answer the door.

Funny thing about basement fireplaces; the chimneys are awfully long. Apparently, as I was informed after the fact, you need a pretty good fire going in a fireplace like this one in order to create enough of a draw to cause the smoke to go up. The phrase, “Better late than never,” does not apply here. As we began to gather the weather took a turn for the colder. A nice, crisp breeze began howling down the chimney. At first there was just a light haze in the room caused by the reverse flow of air in the fireplace; the kind of haze that you use to experience at parties before smoking in public became unpopular. The couples were so very polite and made little mention of it though after a while it became difficult to see all the way across the room.

Window were opened but I think it caused a cross draft which added to the problem by creating a cipher sucking more smoke into the room. I was trying my best to keep up appearances and praying that God would reverse the airflow in the chimney and suck all the smoke out of the room. But that hope soon went up in smoke itself.

Finally someone politely said, “Do your eyes sting?” With that we moved the whole kit and caboodle upstairs into a slightly more cramped, but much healthier room. Of course the basement still needed to be dealt with. So the men went down and covered the log until if finally went out. (If we wanted the fire to stay lit it would not have fought for life this strongly.)

Windows were opened and the house aired out as best as could be expected and a chimney sweep brought in just in case (though there have been a number of successful, larger fires down there.) This was a sure fire way to keep a meeting short. Luckily nobody was burning mad and they all have been polite enough not even to mention it for it was really quite bad (and I’m not blowing smoke at you.)


Anonymous said...


Lillian Marie said...

So, can we call you 'smokey'???

Anonymous said...

LM, Fr. V. has that horseback-ridin'-in-the-rain hat --it could pass for Smokey's, right? I can see him standing with one hand resting upon a shovel, the other pointing at the reader from a large poster above the fireplace, "Remember: Only YOU can prevent basement smog!"

Anonymous said...

I was on the floor laughing! My office neighbor knocked to make sure I was okay.

As bad as it seemed at the time, thirty years from now, that will be one of those great stories that gets told at your retirement dinner or at the dedication of "Valencheck Hall".

Elena LaVictoire said...

LOL! Father V.

I didn't even know we had a couple to couple league ministry!

uncle jim said...

dawn eden lives in the 'foggy bottom' area of DC

somehow i think it doesn't hold a candle to your place

Anonymous said...

Father, You're a good sport for telling us about your misadventure!